Mix Market is back!
Well...actually, they returned to action at the end of 2006... But only in the last few months has this female vocal indie band splashed back into my consciousness. A few years back I was really into these guys, but after a while they dropped out of my mind, and the group itself entered a “recharging period” starting 2004 during which they were inactive, until this year they released a best hits album (Zoo Zoo Zoo) and a new album (Shiawase No Elephant).
Just out of curiosity I bought Zoo Zoo Zoo, and, wow...ever have those moments when you find a CD or book or a video that's gathering dust, you've never even unwrapped the plastic, and when you try it out—you're KO'ed cold? You think—why didn't I know about this Treasure? That was the case with Zoo Zoo Zoo. I dug up all the Mix Market CDs I had at home, bought their new album, and downloaded all the old songs I didn't have.
One big thing sets these guys apart—the vocals by Yutty. She's got a singing voice that's natural-sounding but also has flair, a voice that shoots out and fills you up, and that drives forward the band's catchy, ska- and punk-influenced indie rock tunes. She may just have the perfect Japanese girl rock voice. (Taking it for granted that this is an entirely subjective judgment...)
In any case, on Friday night I got to see Mix Market again for the first time in several years. They played at the Shinjuku Red Cloth with three all-girl bands: Falsies On Heat, Noodles, and Pop Chocolat. Falsies: I most liked their fast, punk-ish numbers. Noodles: I hadn't seen live in a while, and frankly, I already thought I'd gotten my fill of their shoegazer rock, but seeing them on stage I was reminded that they're good, especially vocalist Yoko, who pours plenty of emotion into their songs. Pop Chocolat: they were last, and I took a pass on their show this time.
Up third was Mix Market, and vocalist Yutty came on the stage dressed like a day-glo Native American dancer, wearing a golden headband, a big butterfly-shaped cloth ring, and a dress that seemingly contained every color in the spectrum. Raising her arms above her head she unfurled a turquoise-colored towel saying 'Mix Market', and then the quintet dove right into their first song, the guitarists collapsing onto the stage from the very first minute of their set. Between songs, Yutty said that unlike the other three bands, which are all-girl groups, Mix Market is her and a bunch of musai guys—'musai' being short for 'musakurushii', which the dictionary translates as dirty or filthy, but in this case means, jokingly, something more like 'coarse guys that don't have a shred of elegance in them'.
Musai or not, they put on an exciting show; the best song of the set was the title track of their latest album, 'Shiawase No Elephant', which means, 'The Elephant of Happiness'. Her explanation of what the song was about was a bit fuzzy: something about it being about peace, at a time when there's a lot of trouble in both Japan and abroad. But she put a lot of feeling into it, and it was a great rendition of one of my favorite Japanese songs this year. They will be playing again at the Shelter on January 26—I won't miss it.
Here's a music video of their song "Monster", brought to you courtesy of JapanFiles.com.
Happy New Year!