Sentimental Scenery – There is Nowhere Else in the World

I was about to launch into a 1000-word essay on how good Sentimental Scenery’s new album is and why you should be listening to it but there are times when it’s a better option to just let the music speak for itself:


Beauty that delights.

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Misc listening roundup #2

I wish I had the time to write more than a few sentences about all of these…

Japanese
Boku no Baai wa. phatmans after school – Musical sensibilities not yet dulled or compromised by money being thrown at them now they’ve got a major record label deal, the Hokkaido-born rock kids continue the good work made on last year’s self-titled mini with another confident set of songs.

Sennen Koufukuron. amazarashi – To some, amazarashi’s brand of rap/piano ballads may be too sappy for the senses but a lot of its appeal lies in the stories frontman Akita tells through his lyrics. And boy, has he got a lot to get off his chest…

Love letter. AZU – I’ve always had a soft spot for this r’n’b balladeer but this album is just insanely dull.

which one?. Scars Borough – Drummer Takahashi Hirotaka used to be in ELLEGARDEN so you can see where they’ve picked up their emo-rock influences. The only difference is we’ve got a female vocalist here instead but the music’s frightfully generic – Hosomi’s the HIATUS is a far more interesting proposition.

VECTOR. Ito Kanako – If I had it my way, Kana-chan would be queen of the anisong world and everyone else made to bow down to her superior songs and voice…but of course, it doesn’t work like that. Perhaps it’s just as well that she operates mainly within the gaming theme-song industry, allowing her much more leeway with her sound & (non) image and some of those results can be seen on VECTOR, an excellent compilation of songs previously featured on 5pb. games.

Korean
6th Digilog 2/2. Dynamic Duo – I’m still taking baby steps into the world of Korean rap/hip-hop & this album’s been one of the better offerings in recent months. Pretty similar to LeeSsang’s excellent AsuRa BalBalTa, actually.

Beautiful Days. Lucid Fall – Korea seems to produce a lot more of these acoustic/bossa nova acts than I thought they did and it’s getting harder and harder for me to tell them apart unless they’re truly something special…and I don’t think Yun Suk Jo is quite my cup of tea. Far too sedate for my liking.

100% Ver. MBLAQ – Can’t help but feel the boys are trailing in the dust left behind by the likes of Infinite & B2ST..I just don’t hear anything here that matches up to the material that some of their compatriots are producing. At least, nothing on the level of Fiction or Paradise anyway.

Long Way Home. Cho Deok Hwan feat. Choe Seong Won & Ju Chan Gwon – My first proper taste of Korean-styled bluesy rock’n’roll – sound-wise, it’s not too far off the likes of Okuda Tamio or Saito Kazuyoshi and I do really like what I hear here. 수만리 먼 길 is one of the best songs of 2011 I waited too long to hear…

Snow Pink. A Pink – Oh dear. This really smells like the second coming of Girls’ Generation, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t mind so much if it didn’t resemble the music of the era that I absolutely loathed (ie. everything pre-Genie)…one can only hope that the group’s sound eventually matures to the level SNSD’s has.

Rika in Shining Day. Rika in Shining Day – I went into this one cold turkey, picking it up purely based on artist name. There’s a lot to like about this if you’re into the sort of late ’90s r’n’b pop that say, Utada Hikaru or Misia used to peddle I guess. The girl’s got a decent voice at least and the songs aren’t too shabby…I’ll try to at least retain the name in my memory bank for now.

Funky Town. T-ARA – Basically, I’ve given up trying to resist the ridiculous spell that T-ARA’s music casts on even the sanest of minds. CCM held back Lovey Dovey for this repackage and you can see the sense in that decision – the song is just so impossibly infectious, I find myself with the urge to scream with the force of Jiyeon’s fangirl at how I’ve been endlessly looping the song on my iPod.

Randomly, I’d like to give a special mention to Hyorin (or should that be Hyo Lyn) of Sistar – I got the opportunity to see her perform live with the rest of her group at the Golden Disk Awards in Osaka a week or so ago and I was really impressed by her vocals & stage presence. Her cover of ZOO’s 널 사랑하겠어 released a couple of days ago was beautifully done as well, and I’m now wading through her performances on last year’s Immortal Song 2 to hear more..and I’m definitely being blown away. That husky quality in Hyorin’s voice is just to die for – no amount of money or training could ever buy something like that.

I’ve still got plenty on my plate I’ve yet to explore, particularly on the Korean side – Idiotape, Garion, 9 & The Numbers, Crash, Park Joo Won, Sentimental Scenery, Trampauline & Jaurim are amongst those jostling for my attention and I can’t wait to get stuck in…once the busiest part of the Lunar New Year is over, that is.

Have y’all some great mahjong sessions!

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – BEST HIT AKG

BEST HIT AKG is Ajikan’s first hits compilation CD, the tracks culled mainly from their single releases over the years with the odd album cut here and there. Unfortunately the band has never been known for being innovative, having steadfastly stuck to a tried-and-true formula of emo-charged, riff-heavy ‘edgy’ rock over the past decade or so – after all, why bother changing things up when it brings so much success eh?

This lack of imagination is made painfully obvious on this best-of disc which follows up each vapid, upbeat rock number with another even more vapid, upbeat rock number albeit with a different chord progression, and so on. It wasn’t so obvious to me at the points each song was released – in fact, I do still treat songs like Kimi to Iu Hana & Kimi no Machi made with a certain amount of fondness (tinged with nostalgia), but 5-6 tracks in, the samey-ness of it all kills my attention stone dead, cures my insomnia…however you want to describe it.

Granted, BEST HIT AKG‘s tracklisting isn’t exactly to my liking in the first place (if it was up to me, stuff like Sono Wake o & Re:Re would be on here) but as a representation of the ‘best’ of what ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION has had to offer since debuting, it’s hardly a shining example.

I’d love to say ‘back to the drawing board, boys’ but probably not. They’d just come up with the same old rubbish again, wouldn’t they?

Kill Me Baby


…what the hell was that.

Kill Me Baby is the live PV for the theme to an anime of the same title and I can assure you the show is as weird as this song and video would suggest. I can’t even begin to describe the song – it has no structure or a discernible melody line, you get random spurts of can-can music, weird beeps and obnoxious half-sung, half-spoken lyrics…yet it’s oddly compelling. Especially with those bizarre visuals – scooters, katanas, watermelons…thanks for the entertainment, Japan.

Tokyo Jihen – color bars

At long last, Shiina Ringo has decided that Tokyo Jihen has run its course and will disband next month. Some might be rejoicing over the thought that this will mean getting back on track with her solo career but on the evidence of color bars (where members contributes a song each), I’d much rather listen to Ukigumo & Hata Toshiki solo albums than Shiina’s or Kameda’s.

Konya wa Kara Sawagi is what you expect from Shiina when writing for Tokyo Jihen, the song being another one of those dolled-up jazz-pop hybrids that offers little of her talent we don’t already know. I guess the same can be said of Kameda Seiji’s utterly soulless cheese of a ballad Time Capsule, its lazy melody line sounding more befitting of a teenage pop star’s debut record than of a band of Tokyo Jihen’s standing.

So it’s up to the other three to save color bars from falling apart and they manage to…just. Well, maybe not Izawa’s drunken-attempt-at-waking-up-the-dead effort Kai Horror Dust but certainly, Ukigumo’s sleek electropop effort sa_i_ta has enough groove in it to get everybody in Tokyo down on the dancefloor while Hata’s Honto no Tokoro (which he sings himself) is what I’d imagine a Shiina Ringo x BORIS collaboration to sound like.

color bars may not be the perfect swan song that Tokyo Jihen fans may have been hoping for, but I doubt anyone’s feeling too sad over the band’s demise – we all know Shiina will always find a suitable channel for her musical aspirations.

Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler – This Is Christmas

Hooray for procrastination, it’s a week past New Year’s Day and I’m listening to a Christmas album.

Wheeler & Moss make a cute couple so rather fittingly, the first album they’ve made together is ridiculously cute, cheery, sugary, sentimental, schmaltzy, [insert other diabetes-related nouns]. I mean, liberal lashings of sleigh bells? Guitar solos that crib their melodies off We Wish You A Merry Christmas? A song titled Sleigh Me? I should be sleighing & tearing apart This Is Christmas with a bright-red machete but…I just can’t find it in my heart to hate anything on the album. It’s just so shiny, so bubbly, so…heart-warming. Now damn, I shoulda listened to this before my Christmas descended into a haze of frustration over the lack of turkey-related dishes available at eateries.

(Off topic, but did you know that in Japan, it’s somewhat of a tradition to eat KFC during the festive period? There are absolutely ridiculous queues snaking outside of stores on Xmas Eve and you can even pre-order special Xmas Roast Chicken barrel meals a month or so in advance.)

So, Happy Holidays (belatedly). Now let’s hope these two won’t be singing Fairytale of New York come December 2012…

10cm + Yoon Il Sang

Oh where does time go – a week into 2012 and I’ve barely had time to catch up on any new music as I get busy packing ahead of my return home.

The one thing that has caught my ear is 10cm’s cover of Cool’s 애상 which will be part of producer/composer Yoon Il Sang’s 21st anniversary project:

If you know the original…well. That’s certainly a brilliant way to turn a song around on its head.