Tag Archives: Sugardrop

Shoegaze in Japan

I wrote an article for MTV 81 a few months ago about the current state of Japanese shoegaze, which seems to have got a bit of a shot in the arm from the My Bloody Valentine comeback and with Slowdive on their way to Japan this summer that little wave of interest perhaps hasn’t quite crested yet. Anyway, it took ages to be posted, which means it missed the Lemon’s Chair album release that I wrote it to coincide with, but it’s up now and a lot of what it says is still current. You can read the whole article here.

One of the things that came out of it was the way that shoegaze seems to have bled out into a lot of other genres now, and it’s especially interesting how many visual-kei musicians are involved in shoegaze as well. I suppose this has some parallels in the way bands like Deafheaven have drawn metal and shoegaze together.BP.: Goodbye Love

The article has a few embedded videos of some of the bands I talk about, and looking back, it’s worth noting that the Sugardrop album is one I definitely keep coming back to. The BP. album is probably the more interesting of the two though, mixing more styles together. On Goodbye Love you can hear it in the way it suddenly goes all metal at about the two-minute mark.The Earth Earth: Beautiful Future

I also really want to draw attention to the two new bands I mention in there. I’ve talked about The Earth Earth before, and they proudly wear their MBV influence on their sleeves with that perfectly recreated Kevin Shields distortion. When the vocals come in, however, it sounds more like Lush, without the washed out textures MBV drench their vocals in.Azma: Thousand Lights

Azma are less of a pastiche and perhaps a bit more musical in the sense of being technically minded. The Earth Earth feel essentially like a garage-punk band and their songs like pretty conventional pop tunes whereas Azma have that post-rock mindset that puts them more in the ballpark of local Fukuoka indie scenesters macmanaman. Both bands are good, but in different ways. The fact that they come from opposite ends of the country and have such contrasting approaches to the style made them a nice choice for the examples anyway.

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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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