Monday, May 02, 2005

CDs of Note

murmur's Good grief! Posted by Hello

When the mini-album Good grief! by murmur came out, we devotees of Tokyo pop band advantage Lucy had little choice but to check it out. That’s because on the cover of this CD was the ultimate Seal of Approval: there was a blurb by Yoshiharu Ishizaka, advantage Lucy’s guitarist, saying, “Here is the future of Japanese rock!! A must-listen!!”

With praise like that from Ishizaka-san, how could we not give murmur a try? And we did.

One of my Lucy fan friends, who bought Good grief! for the reason described above, said when he listened to the first song of the album, ‘The man’s wish’, he thought: “Wait, this IS advantage Lucy!” Indeed, with its bossa nova/pop sound, horn parts, and female vocals, it does sound Lucy-like.

But murmur creates its own world in the course of the rest of the album, with gentle acoustic parts and nice pop melodies. Murmur, according to the liner notes, is a girl named Mai Tsuyutani, who plays the guitar, pianica, bell and shaker.

My favorite song on this mini-album is the fourth, called ‘You don’t know’, which reminds me of the mellow-out shoegazer band Slowdive. It sounds like the sort of song someone would think up waking up from a nap in the evening. (And, looking at the lyrics, it is actually about awakening after a dream: “This melody is/ Wonder. Cute. Slow. Green. Sweet & Magic./ I met you in my dream./ I’m happy to see you here./ But you don’t know.”)

Well, Ishizaka-san, as I was told I must do, I listened to this album, and I’m happy to say your advice was sound. I also appreciate it that this CD, like other Japanese pop releases, has stylish album art: a bright orange cover showing a coffee-drinking, fez-wearing bear-like animal looking up at a green bird wearing a kerchief.

Bluebadge Label's guitar pop crazy! Posted by Hello

Guitar pop crazy! is the third compilation album to be released by the eminently cool Bluebadge Label. I don’t know the people behind Bluebadge, but I know that it is a relatively new indies label that brings together musicians with a love for guitar pop, neo-acoustic, British and European pop, the Glasgow scene, etc. etc. If advantage Lucy and Swinging Popsicle are among the major league Japanese guitar pop bands, the groups that Bluebadge assembles in compilations like this one might be thought of as the up-and-coming second string bands—but they’re fresh and good, with lots of promise.

Notable songs include: ‘Sunday Clothes’ by the Caraway, which is Swinging Popsicle guitarist Osamu Shimada’s other band; ‘view’ by Spaghetti Vabune, a Kobe-based band that is growing in popularity; winnie’s ‘starless’, their first song release in a couple of years; ‘sweep’ by rockers CleanDistortion; ‘magic rabbit’ by Hong Kong one-girl musical unit the Pancakes; and ‘path’ by humming parlour, which consists of my advantage Lucy fan comrades and friends Ito-san and Kawaie-san.

SP-Tsunagari Posted by Hello

Being a Spangle call Lilli line nut, I’ve been trying to buy everything that the Japanese art pop band has ever released (which isn’t all that much anyway: four full-length albums plus a live album, and a few maxi-singles). In the process of that quest to make my collection complete, I found this mini-album called SP-Tsunagari by Line And Meter Nova Society, containing one cover song by SCLL.

The song made me crack up, because it’s a very arty, mood-filled rendition of … Foreigner’s ‘Heat of the Moment’.

Maybe some people are too young to be familiar with this song, but in my teen years it briefly rocketed up the charts. For me growing up in LA, it was the song spoiled Japanese surfer kids listened to in the parking lot in the Toyota Supras that their parents bought them. I also considered buying the Foreigner album, but didn’t, probably because I didn’t have enough money.

It’s a strange feeling to be reminded of that era by this cover by Spangle call, with SCLL’s Kana Otsubo singing in her delicate voice, “Heeeeeeeat of the mo-o-ment”…

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