Tag Archives: Hearsays

Top 20 Releases of 2014: No.4 – Hearsays – In Our Time

 In Our Time

CD, Dead Funny Records, 2014

While most of this album was released as a cassette in 2013 as the A Little Bird Told Me EP, this 2014 CD re-release with one extra track qualifies for inclusion here because it just does. Having missed out on the now sold-out 2013 EP but found their song The Blind to be the standout highlight of the Dead Funny Compilation Vol.1 label sampler, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to catch up with Hearsays this time.

It’s a curious irony that on In Our Time the Hearsays seem so busy with occupying every time except their own. There are echoes of the 60s, 70s and 80s throughout the mini-album, but it’s the 90s that it’s really about – in particular the way the 90s’ obsession with the past ended up recycling and reproducing influences spanning several decades of rock into a sound that is now recognisable as a distinct era of its own. Opening track When I’m Wrong is a 2010s take on a 90s take on an 80s take on 60s guitar pop, with the Byrdsian jangle underscored by distinctly post-80s rhythm guitar scuzz and lead vocalist Zebra’s disconcertingly Miki Berenyi-ish intonation – in fact if there’s one band that Hearsays really resemble on this track, it’s Lovelife-era Lush.When I’m Wrong

The Blind is still present and correct, and still a gorgeous song. The guitar riff is what stands out, echoing the melody of Happy End’s iconic Kaze wo Atsumete, but what really makes the song is the series of descending chords playing out just beneath the surface. The new song, You Couldn’t Do So Much Better, is like a greatest hits of all your favourite 90s indie rock songs distilled into one concentrated burst, with its opening riff that threatens to explode into Radiohead’s Just, although once it gets going the band settle back into the sort of mid-90s 4AD, Throwing Muses-esque sound that seems to be their sound.You Coudn’t Do So Much Better

I don’t deny that a lot of my reaction to this album is personal. With twenty years having now passed since the mid-90s, it’s a curious feeling for those of us who came of age musically in that era to find the same amount of time has passed since then as had passed between Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and Suede’s Dog Man Star, or The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and The Smiths’ eponymous debut. Listening to the Hearsays feels at once incredibly familiar and also strangely alienating, its present-day context emphasising the distance between the sounds we are hearing and the memories they evoke.

Whether any of this is intentional or whether the band have even heard any of the music I’m referencing here I don’t know and don’t really care (I really find it so dreary when bands feel the need to protest ignorance as defence against influence, as if the latter were somehow the more shameful option) but at the end of this particular twenty-year cycle, the sounds of 1990s indie rock are something that have undoubtedly formed a core part of the Hearsays’ sound. More importantly, the quality of songwriting matches up to the best of their sonic forbears.

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Top 20 Releases of 2013: No.14 – V/A – Dead Funny Compilation Vol.1

2013 saw a glut of new indiepop and shoegaze releases, and many of those were on the new Fukuoka-based label Dead Funny Records. This compilation can in a way stand for all of them, featuring as it does pretty much all the movers and shakers (or “standers and starers” as the case may be) in the world of Japanese 80s throwback indie guitar music. Highlights abound but standing out above all others is the gorgeous The Blind by Fukuoka’s Hearsays, with a guitar riff that hints at Happy End’s Kaze wo Atsumete, simple, catchy and affecting vocals, and a faintly dissonant underlying chord sequence.

But pop nuggets abound in Dead Funny Compilation Vol.1, with further highlights being Jappers’ jangly, uptempo Give It, Talk’s opening In Refrain Refrain, Old Lacy Bed’s Little Girl and The Paellas’ reverbtastic Fall Even Further. On the more feedback-heavy side, Nagoya’s Pop-Office have a winner with the driving, fuzz-soaked End of the Summer, The Earth Earth are another standout with the punky Empty Boy rather less of an obvious and direct My Bloody Valentine ripoff than some of their other material, and Azma Shoegaze Explosion’s (now just known as Azma) immense Thousand Lights a mind-shattering gut-punch of sound. Not quite fitting into either category is the Nephogram by Fancy Books, with its synth-led arrangement and distant vocals giving the compilation a bit of unexpected but nonetheless welcome Trembling Blue Stars-style romance.

Many of the tracks are incredibly rough, with the mix of Half Sports’ entry in particular almost indecipherable, but in many cases this serves to simply emphasise the naive charm that is such a point of appeal for much of this kind of music.

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Top 20 releases of 2013: Intro

I’ve put off doing this for plenty long enough, so before January ends, I’d like to get started on counting down my top releases by Japanese or Japan-based artists of 2013. As with previous years, I’m basically sticking to releases with three or more tracks, I’m not imposing any particular genre restrictions although given this blog’s focus, it’s obviously going to be more or less entirely indie-biased. In addition, it’s obviously limited to albums that I’ve had a good listen to, and finally, this list and ranking is entirely subject to my own whims and on a different day might look totally different.

This means that singles like Merpeoples’ excellent Silent Sleep and Miu Mau’s (last year’s top placed band) magnificent Monochrome/Spring 7-inch aren’t included. It also means that Hikashu, who released two albums this year if we include the one they did with Charan Po Rantan, don’t feature simply because I haven’t had a chance to listen to any of their new material yet. Likewise I can’t assess Fukuoka indie quartet the Hearsays who I’ve been very excited about for a long time, Yokohama postpunk weirdniks Sayuu, and Tokyo indiepopsters Boyish (who featured last year) because I haven’t copies of their albums.Sugardrop: Breeze Flower

Because I decided to keep this list as a strict Top 20, there were a few albums by bands I very much like that I didn’t have space to include. On another day they might have been in there, and they remain highly recommended, so Pop-Office’s Portraits in Sea is one well worth checking out, as is Ykiki Beat’s Tired of Dreams. Hotel Mexico’s Her Decorated Post Love was another fine album that didn’t make the cut but on another day likely would have and if you haven’t heard it, you should go out and do that right now, as you should Sugardrop’s superb, shoegazetastic Yeah Right. As I said earlier, there’s a strong indie bias to this list, and while Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Momoiro Clover Z both put out genuinely good and highly recommended albums, neither album really stuck with me enough to warrant a place among my top 20 of the year. Sakanaction also put out another very good album and remain consistently the best “mainstream” Japanese rock band, but somehow their stuff still doesn’t quite jive with me the way I feel it should. It’s a top notch album, brimming with creativity and thoroughly deserving of its massive sales and huge popularity, but I don’t know. It’s a model example of an album that does everything right and shows signs of maybe even being a classic, but doesn’t make my heart sing the way my real favourites did. It’s good so listen to it and a lot of you will feel it in a way I just can’t quite. It’s not you, Sakanaction, it’s me.Sakanaction: Yoru no Odoriko

Last of all, and again as with previous years, I’m obviously not including albums I released myself through my Call And Response label, which means the brilliant Я не могу без тебя (“Ya ne mogu bez tebya”, or “I can’t live without you”) by Mir and Hysteric Picnic’s fantastic Cult Pops are out of contention, although of course both would be right up near the top if I were honest about my feelings for them.

Anyway, now that you’re primed, I’ll be starting the countdown from tomorrow, so get ready.

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Strange Boutique (December 2013 Appendix): Five bands to watch in 2014

The other thing The Japan Times and I try to do every year is pick up five new or newish bands to watch over the forthcoming year, and this year there are five that I’m genuinely very excited about. Read my comments on the bands on The Japan Times’ web site here, and have a listen below:

1. DYGL — Really so hard to write about this band. They headlined my label’s anniversary party this autumn and they drove people crazy. I tend to go for edgy, arty, angular postpunk bands, but sometimes I just want something full of beauty and passion. I also like how the central riff of this song is the same as the theme from Twin Peaks.DYGL: Let’s Get Into Your Car

2. Sayuu — I’ve written about them on this site a couple of times this year. I first heard about them from Naoki from Tacobonds in January when he said there’s this very “Ian-type” new band that I should check out. He was right.Sayuu: Nakunaranai

3. Hearsays — I’ve never seen this band, but they’re one that my friends in Fukuoka couldn’t stop going on about this year. Similar genre to DYGL but very different atmosphere. I mention The Blind in the JT piece, and I think it might be my song of the year.

4. group A — Anything that sounds as much like Throbbing Gristle as this lot do is always going to be worth listening to, but it was after speaking to them and hearing about how they approach their music that it really started to come together for me.

5. Compact Club — I’m crazy about early 80s Japanese new wave and postpunk, and this group combine into one band almost everything I like from that period, plus their live shows are really fun. I’ve always liked Polysics fine but never really loved them because they were always too clean and polished, they look like craftsmen doing a job, but (and I know this is heresy for a lot of their fans) for all their spazzing about, there seems so little genuine energy to it. Compact Club aren’t as good musicians, but they’re plenty good enough, and they feel right to me in a way Polysics never have.Compact Club: Roommate


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