Kuroki Meisa – Wired Life

Kuroki may have all the charisma of a damp rag which comes across rather prominently in both in her acting and singing, but it’s nothing Nao’ymt can’t fix. Or should I say, Nao’ymt’s magic is something that not even a force of destruction like Kuroki can wreck. Yeah, Meisa’s no Namie but she does enough on Wired Life to easily ensure it’s the best thing she’s recorded in her (short) career so far.

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GOOD ON THE REEL – Schrödinger no Futari

I regularly find myself being overwhelmed by the amount of new releases greeting me upon my weekly sojourns to Tower Records – the indie section in particular forces me to spend hour upon hour at the listening posts just to ensure I don’t miss out on any potentially great new band out there, but I must admit that’s becoming increasingly difficult to pick out the wheat from the chaff these days. Too many sound-a-likes.

And that’s where GOOD ON THE REEL come into the story. Already showing plenty of promise on their first mini-album 世界分の一節 released earlier this year, the quintet build upon that potential with a fine follow-up in シュレーディンガーの二人, a record packed with the sort of catchy hooks and earnest melodies that have propelled Galileo Galilei and SEKAI NO OWARI to the upper rungs of the charts. Very pleasant on the ears indeed.

Who knows, with a bit more polishing and perhaps a little more diversity in their sound, these guys could be going places within a year or two.

UNDER GRAPH – Ao no Toki

UNDER GRAPH’s fortunes seem to have gotten stuck in a permanent cardiac arrest over the past few years, the light at the end of the tunnel remaining firmly off. Such a shame really – even if they don’t reinvent the wheel with Ao no Toki, it’s still the best record they’ve made in the last 4-5 years. かごめ is such an awesomely fun song! And female drummers rock.

Goonam And Yeo Riding Stellar – Vol.2: Friendship Motel

Cumbersome name to have, isn’t it? There’s nothing straightforward about the indie pair’s musical direction either, completely ignoring the bubblegum pop music their Korean counterparts churn out on a daily basis. Instead, Goonam + Yeo draw from a more diverse pool of influences, ranging from trip-hop to psychedelic-rock to Indian sounds; opera-like vocals against a backdrop of chugging guitars and electronic beats. If this all sounds like a recipe for disaster, rest assured – the duo do indeed manage to mash it together marvelously, creating a record that is both strangely intoxicating and incredibly charming.

Hard-Fi – Killer Sounds

Surely Archer & co. know that naming their record Killer Sounds is akin to setting up targets on their foreheads in front of a firing squad? There really isn’t anything here to suggest that they’ve recovered from the misfirings on that difficult sophomore record Once Upon a Time in the West – surely, this is not the end product one would expect from four years of hard graft. I suppose Hard-Fi will never be the those Stars of CCTV again.

ko-ko-ya – Ikoku Meiro no Croisee Soundtrack

‘tis a good time for this album to drop since I’ve been on a Gontiti kick in the last couple of days. While not exactly similar, both Gontiti and ko-ko-ya (brainchild of Choro Club’s Sasago Shigeharu) share a sound that is warm and comforting, like a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winters’ day.

It’s a style that perfectly captures the little charms of an anime as precious as Ikoku Meiro no Croisee. We also get a selection of wonderful vocal tracks courtesy of Toyama Nao, a.m.u. and Nakajima Megumi – Mamegu’s version of Tooku Kimi he in particular, is quite possibly the best anime-related song I’ve heard so far this year.

So fragile, so beautiful.

GONTITI – humble music

‘Humble’ is indeed a good way to describe the duo’s sound – no pretenses or frills about it; just honest-to-goodness, warm music designed to soothe the troubled mind.

humble music is apparently GONTITI’s first ‘guitar-only’ album in 10 years (since 2001’s GUITARS) and marks a welcome change from the bossa-nova forays of recent times.

Only one of the album’s 18 tracks exceeds 3 minutes in length so you can rest assured that no one song overstays its welcome…but then, you’d have to be fairly hard-hearted not to be drawn in by humble music’s charms.

Starting Third Debut

I really wish every label Kitamura Eri signs to would stop it with the ‘debut’ tag…

This fresh start with Starchild is Kitamura’s third attempt at the singing game after past failures with Pony Canyon & Lantis and I’m guessing she’s in the last chance saloon with Be Starters!. Thankfully the single sold enough (approx. 9,000 copies) to land her a spot in the top 15, so we’ll probably see a couple more releases from her yet.

Shame that this minor success had to come with a song so generic that you couldn’t tell it apart from the masses of pap that’s being churned out by the anisong industry these days. The c/w track 彩-sai- is really neat though – I hope she does more of those type of songs in the future.

SHOOT! me

In theory, SHOOT! has a lot of things going for it – a catchy tune penned by sat of fripSide with lyrics provided by KOTOKO, performed by some of the hottest young moe seiyuu talent out there right now.

So where does it all go wrong? Of the quintet maybe 1 or 2 of the girls have decent singing voices, but SHOOT! just doesn’t serve any of them very well vocally – we really do need a screechy Nanjolno or KOTOKO for this type of high-octane, made-for-Bemani tune. The hilarious rap sequence two-thirds into the song doesn’t help at all either; the words sound like they’re being chewed and spit out while they’ve got food stuffed in their mouths and up their noses – it’s a total mess.

And..I think..I’ll just avoid mentioning the PV altogether. Thinking about it gives me nightmares.

FY!Jung

Jung who? Sungha Jung is a 15-year old Korean whose genius re-arrangements & performances of popular Western and Kpop hits on the ‘tubes have made him a bit of a star. I’d come across this crazy-ass guitar kid before in past Youtubing adventures, but it’s some of his more recent works that have truly got me hooked.

His style seems is reminiscent of Oshio Kotaro (one of my personal fave guitarists) with all the tap harmonics and fingerpicking involved, but Jung really does make all the songs he’s picked his own – perhaps even more than Oshio himself ever did. His most popular video is a cover of Pirates of the Caribbean (21 million views) which he did when he was 12, but I prefer those he’s done in recent weeks.

Korean acoustic duo’s 오늘밤은 어둠이 무서워요 (Tonight, I’m Afraid of the Dark) was already plentifully tuneful in its original form, but Jung’s version makes the melody sing out even more. He’s also managed to make Chris Brown’s banal With You listenable and turned Soshi’s dance tune 훗 into an acoustic/rock number, amongst other things.

Seriously, this kid’s got mad skills. And his first album Perfect Blue is no slouch either – those covers of California Dreaming, Billie Jean and Wake Me Up When September Ends are just godly. No other word could adequately describe the sounds that Jung’s fingers make.