Tag Archives: Milk

Top 25 Releases of 2018: No. 25 – 21

2018 was a good year for new music releases in Japan, although as usual very little of it received much attention beyond the usual underground word-of-mouth circles. There were a handful of releases that I was anticipating intensely, like the Falsettos’ full length debut, and some nice surprises like the Doodless EP, but the story that ended up colouring this list most strongly was a number of strong releases in that loose category at the intersection of postpunk, post-hardcore, psychedelia, krautrock, industrial and experimental rock that for the sake of convenience I’m increasingly just bracketing all together as noise-rock. There were a lot of releases I enjoyed this year, though, and no doubt past visitors to this site will recognise personal favourites who keep cropping up in my year-end reviews.

In past years, I’ve posted these reviews individually, but this time round I’m doing them in batches of five. Partly this is because a fair few of these are very short as I wrote longer reviews over the course of last year, partly this is to accommodate a slightly longer than usual list, and partly it’s because a busy calendar with my own musical activities and those with Call And Response Records means I don’t want to still be posting these updates a month from now.

the neso - new me

Cassette, self-released, 2018

No.25 – The Neso – New Me
Tokyo-based trio The Neso finished the year out by shedding two thirds of their members, but not before finishing this top-notch new cassette EP featuring four new jittery postpunk tunes in a Delta 5/Au Pairs/Kleenex mould. The songs Fasting and Dawn also serve as powerful reminders of what an effective instrument the xylophone can be in a postpunk or new wave song (see also Electricity by OMD, Gone Daddy Gone by Violent Femmes).
The Neso – Dawn (live)

milk - all about milk

CD, KILIKILIVILLA, 2018

No.24 – Milk – All About Milk
Tight yet raucous punk rock is Milk’s stock in trade, dashing through a dozen songs in seventeen and a half minutes characterised by shouty, fist-pumping choruses and knocked off kilter by some delightfully wonky guitar solos and unexpected mid-song rhythm changes. It’s performed with the frantic energy of hardcore, but Milk never quite cross the line into the sort of sonic claustrophobia hardcore can often produce. Instead, their guitars twang with a reassuring cheapness and and there’s a bouncy energy to the drumming. A seriously fun punk record with a touch of weirdness.

subarashika - nimaime

CD, P-Vine, 2018

No.23 – Subarashika – Nimaime
Taking its musical cues from 1970s American folk-rock, and in particular The Band, Tokyo folk rockers Subarashika are a young, infectiously enjoyable band who revel in their retro influences and are all the better for it. There are a lot of young Japanese indie bands drawing on folk-rock influences, but they rarely explore beyond Happy End, so a band like Subarashika are a welcome expansion of the scene’s sonic palette with the deep infusion of Americana they offer.
Subarashika – Kakusou to Shiteru dake! (live)

manon - teenage diary

CD, CATICORN, 2018

No.22 – Manon – Teenage Diary
Teenage Diary is an unexpectedly charming oddball pop album from sixteen year-old model Manon and producer Yuppa (a.k.a. HNC/Hazel Nuts Chocolate). Sonically it takes a lot of cues from the lo-fi beats, playful sampling and post-Shibuya-kei mix of scattershot rapping and whisper-voiced melody of HNC’s 2009 album Cult, albeit with a touch more electro polish, the occasional glaze of autotune and more self-conscious lyrical nods to teenage life in the Instagram age.
Manon – Beat the Bad Luck

falsettos - falsettos

CD, P-Vine, 2018

No.21 – Falsettos – Falsettos
When this album came out, towards the beginning of the year, it was a shoe-in for one of the year’s best, with its combination of slightly deranged postpunk or off-kilter new wave and baroque J-pop melodies. Read my original review here.
Falsettos – Six

Leave a comment

Filed under Albums, Features, Reviews

Strange Boutique (November 2013)

My latest Japan Times column talks about the Tokyo Boredom event, which did a two-day extravaganza in Taipei alongside a bunch of Taiwanese bands this September, and which is gearing up for its next Tokyo installment on Saturday night in Shimo-Kitazawa.

It was all done from a very Japanese perspective, and I think it would have been interesting to get input from bands on the Taiwan side of things to see what influence or inspiration they feel they’ve got from Japan. Still, it’s good to hear of Japanese music actually having a tangible effect on musicians in other countries. It’s pretty obvious from listening that Hang in the Air had some influence from bands like Six O’Minus and Arakajime Kimerareta Koibitotachi E, for example. Mochizuki from Groundcover.’s comment that the scene there seems to have grown up a lot was interesting, although obviously when you’re talking about underground scenes in huge cities, it’s not always easy to put influences like that into perspective — Tokyo Boredom (and probably its counterpart in Taiwan) represents a very small fraction of what the music scene here is about. That said, comparable scenes influencing each other should be the norm in Asia, and this sort of international cooperation and willingness to exchange influences feels to me like a very positive thing.Groundcover.: io

Like any event run by a bunch of friends and scene insiders, Tokyo Boredom can seem a bit cliquey to outsiders (I’ve been involved in the scene for about ten years and have dealt with nearly all the Boredom bands in various capacities, but a lot of these guys go way further back with each other), but despite this, or perhaps because of this, there’s always a great sense of community within the show.

Also, some people have criticised the event for being to narrow and delivering too limited a range of music. I get the impression that the organisers recognise this and make an effort to broaden their horizons, but perhaps as a side-effect of the way the scene’s structured I think their capacity to offer a wider range of music is limited. I regularly try to book bands from different facets of the Tokyo underground scene together and it never really works: people simply won’t go to gigs unless everyone sounds the same. Add to that the fact that all the Boredom bands play in more or less the same circles, and their contact with different stuff (and more importantly their audience’s contact with different stuff) is limited. The truth is that they do a pretty good job of mixing things up within the restrictions of how the Tokyo (things are different in other cities) underground scene is structured.Subterraneans (including intro by Kaita Tanaka from Worst Taste)

Going back to my point about international cooperation, I’d just like to add as an addendum that these sorts of ground-level networks are exactly the sort of thing the government should be assisting. Touring overseas is a pretty much guaranteed money losing enterprise for underground bands. Big labels and name acts can afford it already, but ground level is where the real creative connections are made, and it’s a place where a small amount of money to assist bands with travel expenses could reap enormous cultural benefits in the long run.Milk

1 Comment

Filed under Features, Live, Live previews, Strange Boutique