I appreciate any Bandcamp bio that simply states “Crosby, Stills & Nash meets Cap’n Jazz,” yet Moe Meguro go the extra mile and actually pull off the description. The three band members are based around the world and each musician brings part of their home to the blend. My guess: Joseph “Jojo” Brandel, from Yokohama, Japan, brings the math-rock emo riffs; Bernie Gelman, from Austin, TX, brings the hazy drive; and Logan Bean, from California, brings the sunny pop harmonies. Extra points to the band for covering ‘Walls And Bridges’-era John Lennon with “#9 Dream.”
From the band:
“With band members scattered over six thousand miles apart across two continents and a name borrowed from the Japanese Olympic curling champion, Moe Meguro is a melting pot of disparate styles. The 3-piece band consisting of Joseph Brandel and Bernie Gelman on guitars and Logan Bean on drums (with all three members covering vocal duty) convenes once or twice a year to write, rehearse, and record music back on their home turf in the Bay Area, California. Over that short span of time, the band collaborates on crafting intricate, sonically lush music drawing from Beatles-tinged power pop laced with harmonies to hazy shoegaze and a bit of math rock.”
“Kikagaku Moyo’s debut album exerts an elemental power. Enlivening their sound with sitars, percussive drums, theremins, wind instruments and ethereal vocals, the band manages to sound powerfully spacious and lazily serene all at once. Their songs can be light as air, or heavy as earth. Many evolve out of intense experiences of engagement with the natural world. The album’s first track, ‘Can You Imagine Nothing?’ was written over a night spent jamming on a suspended footbridge in remote mountains. As the song progressed the bridge began to sway, making band members feel as though they were floating weightless in midair.
Kikagaku Moyo started in the summer of 2012 busking on the streets of Tokyo. Though the band started as a free music collective, it quickly evolved into a tight group of multi-instrumentalists. Kikagaku Moyo call their sound psychedelic because it encompasses a broad spectrum of influence. Their music incorporates elements of classical Indian music, Krautrock, Traditional Folk, and 70s Rock. Most importantly their music is about freedom of the mind and body and building a bridge between the supernatural and the present. Improvisation is a key element to their sound.”
Takara Digital Records: Japanese hip-hop label that releases rare and unreleased music
Takara Digital Records is a Japanese hip-hop label that releases rare and unreleased music, founded last year by Yuzuru Kishi. The next release is ‘More Donuts’:
“‘More Donuts’ is a compilation of even more rare, remixed and unreleased instrumentals by the king of beats J Dilla. The release is seperated in two parts. Part 1 was recorded around 1998 and Part 2 around 1996, now digitally available.”
Number Girl was an acclaimed and influential Japanese emo band active in the late ’90s and early Aughts. The band’s second album and major label debut, School Girl Distortional Addict, came out in 1999, but it sounds perfect for 2016. Funny how certain albums come back into the spotlight with all these “revivals.” Read more on the band’s history via Pitchfork.
Remember the first time you heard ‘Kid A’ and all those sounds came out of nowhere and it was disorienting but beautiful and moving? I felt the same way listening to Metoronori for the first time, and the second time, and the 100th time. ‘Poolscape’is out now via Virgin Babylon Records and it’s only four songs long, but each song is so distinct and strange that you’ll want to hear more if only just to hear what else this artist is capable of doing.
“Divine Hammer” is an older collaboration between Universe Nekoko and Lovely Summer Chan, two great Japanese acts that don’t have a large presence on the Internet except for this new music video. The video was directed by Anise Mariko and Yumiko Kobayashi and stars Abi Laurel, a New York City-based art director, animator, and VJ. In the video, she takes a train to Tokyo and explores the city with Elleanor Yamaguchi to the sound of lovely Japanese indie-pop that wouldn’t sound out of place in Lost In Translation.
I agree with Make Believe Melodies in that the music video is refreshingly upbeat and not the typical downer you get with most shoegaze-sounding music. Superhero Mag also points out that this was a special international collaboration between artists in New York and Tokyo. Speaking of collaboration, where is this train that’ll take me from New York to Tokyo? I must find it now.
Last month, the news broke that FLCL, an anime that found cult fame in the United States during its lone 6-episode season in 2003, was getting two more seasons. This was a good time for me to sit down and watch the entire series, because FLCL (pronounced in English “Fooly Cooly”) is, like The Sopranos or The Wire, a show you talk about more than you watch. Upon my first full viewing and following another binge watch through the series, I could confirm that the show’s zany animation and surprisingly thoughtful plot lived up to its own growing hype.
FLCL is a coming of age story following 12-year-old Naota Nandaba living peacefully in a quiet Japanese suburb until an alien, riding a yellow vespa, crashes down to earth and hits Naota on the head with a bass guitar that opens up a magical portal in which giant robots come out and try to destroy the town. But of course it’s all an analogy for growing up and dealing with the awkward stages of puberty while juggling friends, family, and romance. Duh.
Like Neon Genesis Evangelion, the point of watching is not to understand the plot but to watch the interactions between all these characters, all of whom reveal plenty of emotional baggage that isn’t too far off from real life. It’s a lively and often surreal trip that may be too much for someone not familiar with anime (Cowboy Bebop might be more your speed), but the gonzo humor blended with a compelling and relatable plot makes FLCL a rewarding viewing. The fighting robots are fun to watch too.
Most of the show’s music, including its closing theme “Ride on Shooting Star,” was recorded by Japanese rock band The Pillows, and their guitar-driven J-Pop is a lot of fun to listen to, and it perfectly matches the animation. Now that Grimes has made J-Pop, or at least her interpretation of it, somewhat more popular among the hipsters, it’d be a good idea to get on top of FLCL now before it blows up in America.
About a month ago I shared the theme song to the greatest anime of all time, Neon Genesis Evangelion, a pleasant J-Pop theme that does exactly what it’s supposed to do: make you want to fight giant robots to save the world while working out your father issues (it’s a weird show). “Tank!”, written by Yoko Kanno and performed by the Seatbelts, is the theme song to the 2nd greatest anime of all time, Cowboy Bebop, but it might be the superior song. Compared to the just-good-enough Evangelion theme, “Tank!” is a fast and furious big band jazz jam that matches the fast pace of the popular anime about space bounty hunters.
Some would say Bebop is the better anime, with a more upbeat cast, a more beautiful and diverse universe of planets and characters, and a plot that actually makes sense. It’s for sure the easier anime to get into, and I’d go as far to say that Cowboy Bebop is the best introduction to the genre. Hope you dig the J-azz, man.
Yoko Takahashi’s “残酷な天使のテーゼ (A Cruel Angel’s Thesis)” is the theme song to Neon Genesis Evangelion, the greatest anime of all time. You might not believe me, but this show is more complex and emotionally engaging than The Wire or The Sopranos. It’s an anime that uses the popular mecha theme to deconstruct the idea of popular anime (why do we care so much about teenagers fighting monsters in giant robots?) while tackling themes of depression, faith, and parent-child relationships. It’s not for everyone – the show’s enigmatic writing refuses to spoon-feed all the answers – but this show is the best proof for anime being among the best television in the world. And like The Sopranos, NGE has one of the greatest WTF endings of any TV series (show creator Hideaki Anno received so many death threats for his absurd ending that Gainax studios pressured him to directed a companion film to give fans a “normal” ending, though the film is just as crazy as the show).
One day J-Pop is going to make it big in the states, so it might as well be now (hello Grimes).