Credits

I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Superfly -- Vancouver (バンクーバー)


As I was going through Superfly's very first album, the aptly named "Superfly" from May 2008, I saw one track on there with the title "Vancouver". I wasn't quite sure whether vocalist Shiho Ochi (越智志帆)had ever been to the 3rd-largest Canadian municipality but I was intrigued nonetheless. To be honest, I guess I'm no better than the Japanese mass media. Those folks get downright ravenous whenever a Hollywood celebrity lands anywhere in Japan since they can then ask in great quantities about what the star thinks of their country. I have to admit that whenever someone in the geinokai has anything to do with my country or city, my eyes and ears do prick up.

As it is, though, Superfly's "Vancouver" doesn't drop local names like Stanley Park or UBC in the lyrics like the average geographically-titled enka song. In fact, the only reference in Bun Onoe's (尾上文)words is the city itself. However, Onoe rather describes Vancouver as a seeming city of intrigue along the same lines as Berlin or Hong Kong....the critical stopover in a journey that will irrevocably change fates depending on decisions made that night. Then-Superfly member Koichi Tabo (多保孝一)composed the appropriately suspenseful musical atmosphere which with the lyrics would imagine a latter-day Bogart and Bacall hanging about in a foggy Gastown. I told my hippie-culture-loving student in my class some days after buying "Superfly" about this particular song (the woman who actually introduced me to the band) and asked whether Ochi had any interest in good ol' Vancouver to which I got a hearty laugh and a quick conversational switch to San Francisco, the city that she really wanted to talk about.


In any case, tomorrow is indeed July 1st....i.e. to us Canucks, Canada Day. Happy 147th Birthday!


TOKYO GIRLS' STYLE -- Killing Me Softly





Sometimes I blame myself for covering so many 2014 songs on Kayo kyoku Plus recently, but it’s been a nice year for some aidoru outputs out there. The classy TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE (東京女子流), for example, just dropped their fourth full lenght album in June with a killer promotional song, the soulful “Killing Me Softly” (I admit that, at first, I thought it could be a Roberta Flack cover. I’m glad it isn’t, and that’s not because I don’t like Roberta’s song, as I actually do, but just because I wanted TGS to do something new, and not cover an old classic).


“Killing Me Softly” is a very interesting song in TGS’s history, basically because it’s been unveiled that the song is what everyone know as “TGS00”. What that means? It was the first song composed for the girls, back in 2010, before their official debut. Nevertheless, feeling that the girls were not ready to record “Killing Me Softly” at the beginning of their careers, the staff decided to keep the song until they felt TGS was ready to record it. The time has finally come, and the song is great! In fact, it’s one of my favorite songs from these girls.

Although not revolutionary by any means, “Killing Me Softly” is a song inspired by 70s R&B, funk and disco. The strings are great and, combined with the vocals, evokes a bit of tenderness. In the end, it’s the typical TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE formula, but I’m not complaining at all.

As a side note, the video for “Killing Me Softly” is gorgeous (mainly because of the color patterns chosen), but it wasn’t uploaded on Avex's official YouTube channel, unlike TGS’s past singles/promotional songs, which is a pity. Also, we all know how Avex is strict about letting people upload their content...

“Killing Me Softly” was included in TOKYO GIRLS STYLE’s “Killing Me Softly” album. The album reached #23 on the Oricon charts, selling 5,872 copies. As for the song, it was written by Chihiro Kurosu (黒須チヒロ), composed by Satomi Kawasaki (川崎里実) and arranged by Hiroshi Matsui (松井寛).

Akemi Ishii -- Je t'aime (Kanashimi no Mieru Mado) (ジュ・テーム ~ 悲しみの見える窓)


(from about 4:34)

I've got a few albums by Akemi Ishii(石井明美), one of them being her BEST release, but I have yet to get my copy of her debut album from November 1986, "Mona Lisa". Of course, from that one I know her smash hit debut single, "CHA-CHA-CHA" but that was about it.

Then, just by accident a couple of nights ago, I discovered this track from "Mona Lisa" titled "Je t'aime - Kanashimi no Mieru Mado" (The Window That Can See Sadness). Fairly depressing title but the song itself is pretty nice...has that nighttime urban contemporary feeling to it. "Je t'aime" was written by Hiromi Mori (森浩美)and composed by Akihiro Yoshimi(吉実 明宏).

The Japanese, generally seem to have a love for all things Gallic, and in the case of at least one former French president, the love was very much reciprocated. In terms of all things music, the expression "Je t'aime" has made for a popular title or lyric in a number of songs including Ishii's entry here. I recollect one aidoru song using it as a refrain and there was a Ruiko Kurahashi (倉橋ルイ子)song with that title, as well. Perhaps the other big French word in kayo kyoku/J-Pop usage would be "amour".

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Yuko Imai -- Airport


Well, up to about 10 minutes ago, I'd been thinking about putting up Miki Imai's (今井美樹)"Pride". Then as I was looking at some of the videos that were listed on the right side on YouTube after taking a look at Kingo Hamada's (濱田金吾)"Billie Holiday ni Se wo Mukete"(ビリーホリディに背を向けて), I saw another Imai. This is Yuko Imai (今井優子...no relation to Miki), and it's a name that I have vaguely seen somewhere but never really explored.

However, like the higher-profile Miki Imai, Yuko Imai is also a singer-songwriter who had come on the scene at about the same time in the mid-80s. After the Tokyo native was scouted at the age of 18, she made her debut as a singer with "Kanashimi no Pavement"(哀しみのペイヴメント...Sad Pavement)in July 1987, and has released a total of 8 singles and 11 albums up to 2012. The song that hooked me tonight was "Airport" which was the B-side to her 4th single, "Sayonara wo Iwasete" (さよならを言わせて...March 1990) and a track on her 5th album, "Do Away" which came out in April 1990. 

"Airport" was written and composed by Imai, and once again, the hub to all places is also the centre for all things heartbreaking and romantic and memory-filled. I think it may have been the time that I discovered the song but I just found her melody so fitting for night-time listening. Also, in a way, the music seems to trace a passenger's path from waiting at the airport to boarding the plane with the soaring refrain reflecting the final take-off to parts unknown.  One of the commenters at YouTube mentioned that it is a long song at 7:28 but he/she and I would agree that it's paced such that it passes by quite naturally. As a white-knuckle flyer, I wouldn't mind listening to this as my plane either landed or departed. Anything to keep my nerves from shredding.

In any case, as I said for my first article on Hamada, I'm once again curious about finding out a bit more about this singer. And the other Imai's "Pride" will be on the way, I assure you.


Kingo Hamada & Akiko Kosaka -- Billie Holiday ni Se wo Mukete (ビリーホリディに背を向けて)



(Unfortunately the original video was taken down but here is a cover version.)

When I wrote my first article for Kingo Hamada's (濱田金吾)"Jazz Singer", I mentioned at the end that I was interested in checking out more of his work. Well, thanks to the good people at CD Japan, I was able to purchase a disc of his "Golden Best" which I got about a week ago. Listening to the selections, Hamada swung from jazz to City Pop after leaving his folk roots with the band Craft in the late 70s.

One song from the disc is "Billie Holiday ni Se wo Mukete" (Turning Your Back on Billie Holiday). Initially I thought that the title wasn't exactly the nicest when it comes to the incomparable Lady Day, but perhaps even the legend herself will forgive Hamada since the lyrics have the protagonist weaning himself off the jazz records when he encounters a bigger priority...namely, the love of his life. Speaking of the lyrics, they were written by Akiko Kosaka(小阪明子), the same singer-songwriter who had a huge evergreen hit in "Anata"(あなた)over a decade previously.

Hamada composed "Billie Holiday" for his 7th album, "Fall In Love" (October 1985), but considering the title and his love of that particular American music genre, the song is not a jazz tune at all but a pop power ballad that probably wouldn't have been out of place in any of those 80s motion picture dramas. Y'know....something along the lines of "Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera or "Separate Lives" by Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin. According to the liner notes inside "Kingo Hamada - Golden Best", Hamada stated that even though he and Kosaka were old friends, there hadn't been any intention to make it into a duet. Certainly from my point of view, I'm glad that it did end up that way so that I could hear Kosaka again.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Pornograffitti -- Apollo (アポロ)




As I mentioned for the first article I did for the band Pornograffitti, "Saudade"(サウダージ), it's been the hook and Akihito Okano's (岡野昭仁)distinctive vocals that drew me into the group whose name sounds like something that shouldn't be painted on a wall.

Although it wasn't quite on the same level as the great "Saudade" and the super-fun "Music Hour", "Apollo", being the debut single of the Hiroshima group, was the one that introduced all of us to the Pornograffitti sound. The first time I heard the guys through an episode of "Countdown TV", I got a feeling that I hadn't had since I first heard B'z way back when. It wasn't necessarily a feeling that these guys were gonna take over Japan (which they did), but that voice and the somewhat mysterious melody had me thinking.

"Apollo" was released in September 1999 and was also a later track on Pornograffitti's debut album, "Romanticist Egoist"(ロマンチスト・エゴイスト). Guitarist Haruichi Shindo (新藤晴一)wrote the lyrics and ak.honma took care of the music, and on listening to the lyrics, they were pretty philosophical about how far people had really progressed since the Apollo space missions all the way back in the 1960s. Now that we are well into the 21st century, I sometimes wonder too. But despite Okano and I sounding like a couple of cranky geezers, the song managed to reach No. 5 on Oricon, thanks to support from fans from Hiroshima and publicity through programs like "Music Station" and a tie-up with a variety show. Selling 450,000 copies was nothing to sneeze at, either. It finished on the annual charts as the 63rd-ranked entry...not bad, but better was coming.



Mariya Takeuchi -- Camouflage (カムフラージュ)



Since the mid-80s, Mariya Takeuchi (竹内まりや)has been pretty content to go along with a contemporary pop sound after her early years of US bobbysoxer 50s/disco. If I were to make up a name for the sub-genre that she has mostly inhabited, it would be Neighbourhood Cafe Pop...the corner coffee place would be ideal to listen to some of those softly, softly ballads of hers with a mug of joe...or some chamomile tea might be even better.

One example would be "Camouflage", her hit from 1998 and the theme song for the Fuji-TV mystery drama, "Nemureru Mori"(眠れる森...The Sleeping Forest)starring Miho Nakayama and Takuya Kimura(中山美穂・木村拓哉). Written and composed by the singer herself, this song scored a couple of firsts. One was that it was the first Takeuchi song that featured its own music video....I remember the rarely-seen-on-TV Mariya traipsing through the forest in it. Another first was something that I couldn't quite believe in that "Camouflage" was the very first single by the singer to hit No. 1 on Oricon, something that she couldn't attain despite the fact that she had been in the business up to that point for almost 20 years. The closest she got up to that point was "Single Again" at No. 2 almost a decade earlier.

Released in November 1998, Takeuchi's 27th single would end up as the 64th-ranked song for 1999, and become a track on her 9th album, "Bon Appetit!" which came out in August 2001. That album also hit the top spot and would later become the 18th-ranked album.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kiyoshiro Imawano & Ryuichi Sakamoto/Asako Toki -- I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic (い・け・な・いルージュマジック)




The late Kiyoshiro Imawano (忌野清志郎)was a figure that I'd seen off and on over the 30-or-so years that I've been involved with Japanese pop music. I didn't get into his music when he was fronting RC Succession or his solo efforts, but he was one that stood out whenever he showed up on television. In his later years, he appeared as a mix between a Japanese Doctor Who and a retired glam rocker, but I also knew him for one excerpt from an old 80s performance that has been the video piece to show whenever 80s Japanese music or his music is discussed. The excerpt was him in Full New Wave mode prancing about the stage and kissing keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本龍一)while he was performing "I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic" (Taboo Rouge Magic). Those particular seconds have been shown so often that I wondered whether Imawano was tempted to strangle the host or the director of the show.

Imawano was born Kiyoshi Kurihara(栗原 清志) in Tokyo in 1951 and has worn many hats in the entertainment industry as rock singer, songwriter, producer and actor. Starting a band called The Clovers back in his high school days, that band later turned into RC Succession in 1968 with their official debut in 1970.

"I-ke-nai-i Rouge Magic" was born from a desire from both Imawano and Sakamoto to work together. And with Imawano taking care of the lyrics and Sakamoto creating the music, their New Wave-y love child was born on Valentine's Day in 1982. The two of them embraced their inner New Romanticism for the official music video above by wrapping themselves in what looked like shapeless quilts and putting on the full lip gloss, eye shadow and foundation. What also made the video stand out was all that money that was literally bursting out of their clothes. Supposedly, those were real 10,000-yen bills that were billowing out of them and then off the roof of a tall building one night. And then there was the kiss near the end. It certainly wasn't a boring presentation.


Here is that famous TV performance I was telling you about earlier. Y'know, I'm not surprised that the excerpt was perennially shown during any retrospectives of the old Showa era music. Looking at the video, the music and the performers reminded me of all things 80s: New Wave, MTV and British musicians. Although growing up in Canada, I fully absorbed all of the above from the US and the UK, I don't think they became too mainstream in Japan, so I'm pretty sure several hundred folks at home probably choked on their food or drink when they first caught the scene of Imawano raggedly singing and skipping about like Mick Jagger and planting that big wet one on Sakamoto (along with several licks on his cheek). But that's why he has been called "Japan's King of Rock". I'm not a rock person but my impression of an ultimate rock singer is one who pokes holes in the conventional whether it's singing or stage performing without giving one care to what anyone thinks. I'd say that performance was one example of that.

With the word "rouge" in the title and a No. 1 ranking on the charts, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Shiseido would come knocking and use the song as the campaign jingle. It became the 20th-ranked song of 1982.

I remember when the media announced his passing away due to cancer in 2009. The following days had a lot of time on TV devoted to Imawano...more than what I had usually seen for departed celebrities in recent years. His funeral apparently attracted as many mourners as those for the late Hibari Misora(美空ひばり), perhaps the most beloved kayo kyoku singer in the early postwar period. A tribute concert was also held at the annual Fuji Rock Festival a few months later with artists such as Chara, UA, Tortoise Matsumoto from Ulfuls and Hiroto Komoto from the Blue Hearts performing.

Going back to the official music video for "I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic", whatever happened to all those 10,000-yen bills being thrown off the building? Who knows? Apparently a good chunk of them disappeared forever, which goes to show that the Japanese may be some of the most generally law-abiding folks but they also don't ignore it when opportunity knocks.


In 2011, Asako Toki (土岐麻子)gave her own cute cover of "I-ke-na-i Rouge Magic" via her album, "Light". There's a lot less of the rock and some more of the AOR feeling here.

The Peanuts/Ayumi Ishida -- Osaka no Hito (大阪の女)



On an episode of "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート)a few weeks ago, the theme for the night was Osaka. Of course, there were songs such as the raucous "Naniwa Bushi da yo Jinsei wa"(浪花節だよ人生は), but there was also this slow enka titled "Osaka no Hito" (Woman of Osaka). I had never heard of it but I enjoyed the song and was sufficiently interested in it to do a bit of research.

Well, much to my surprise, it turned out to be a single by The Peanuts(ザ・ピーナッツ). I had always known Emi and Yumi Ito (伊藤エミ・ユミ)for their snappy kayo kyoku and for their rendition of the Mothra song but never thought that they would delve into enka. According to the J-Wiki article on "Osaka no Hito", the author stated that it wasn't strictly an enka song, and yep, on a second and third listening, I think it is perhaps a bit more akin to just straight-ahead kayo pop....perhaps more on the level of the theme song of the "Tora-san" movie series. But considering their more famous hits, this September 1970 single is about as close to enka as it got for the sisters.

Now, for those like me who had never heard of this song before but have some knowledge of kanji under their belts, yep, that is indeed the kanji for "onna" (女...woman) in the title but the official pronunciation of it is "hito"(人...person)....just in case, it looked like ol' J-Canuck made a mistake up there. Around the early 70s, The Peanuts had released a "....no Hito" series of songs which incorporated a number of places such as Tokyo, San Francisco and even Rio. For "Osaka no Hito", the composer Taiji Nakamura(中村泰士), who would also later create a couple of huge hits for Takashi Hosokawa(細川たかし): "Kokoro Nokori" (心のこり)and my personal favourite of "Kita Sakaba"(北酒場), really wanted to incorporate a feeling of Osaka into the melody. However, Jun Hashimoto's (橋本淳)lyrics didn't do as much name-dropping of the famous Osakan landmarks which was the opposite of what a number of these geographically-based kayo kyoku did. Not sure how the natives in Osaka took that at the time of release, although I think by that time, The Peanuts were not quite as prominent as they once had been in the previous decade.


In 1978, another classic kayo kyoku veteran, Ayumi Ishida (いしだあゆみ)covered "Osaka no Hito" as her 52nd single. Her version has a bit more of a country swing feel to it although the delivery was still very relaxing just like in the original.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ayaka Hirahara -- Jupiter



Even without realizing it, I had been hearing excerpts from the various movements of Gustav Holst's magnum opus, "The Planets" for decades on TV and the radio. One of my earliest exposures was "Mars, The Bringer of War" which came from a viewing from....get this...an episode of that sci-fi show "Space: 1999" titled "Space Brain" in which Commander Koenig and his intrepid crew on Moonbase Alpha had to battle a massive wave of foam while "Mars" was playing (you'll never see a bubble bath the same way again). In retrospect, the final battle (as was much of the series) was pretty darn silly but Holst kicked major butt with that movement (yeah, those last few words don't sound that great together, do they?).

"Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity" was the other movement that I have heard the most. And I also heard it within the Japanese pop sphere via an episode of "Music Fair" when ALFEE was plugging their 1990 album, "The Alfee Classics with London Symphony Orchestra".

So several years later, when I heard the velvet tones of Ayaka Hirahara (平原綾香)sing for the very first time through one of the music channels, my brain automatically perked up in recognition. "Jupiter" was her debut from December 2003, and it became a regularly heard song throughout 2004 and most likely beyond. It was just one of those songs that perked everyone up and made them listen because of Hirahara's vocals. According to the J-Wiki article on "Jupiter", the singer herself was the one who had suggested placing lyrics onto the original Holst melody, and that duty fell to Yumi Yoshimoto (吉元由美)who had helped out on a lot of Anri's (杏里)R&B discography in the 80s and 90s. It turned out to be a great idea since Hirahara has that lower register in her delivery which isn't what I would call husky but a really mellow vintage of scotch. And this was an artist who had started her musical career as a saxophonist but was given her true calling when the president of her first label, Dreamusic Incorporated, discovered her via her performance in a high school re-enactment of "Sister Act II".

I never mentioned it in the other articles I've written about Hirahara, but her family has got quite a musical background as well. Her elder sister, Aika(平原愛花), is herself a singer and saxophonist, while her father, Makoto(平原まこと), is versed in a number of woodwind instruments and her grandfather, Tsutomu(平原勉), was a trumpeter.


"Jupiter" went as high as No. 2 on Oricon and became the 3rd-ranked song of 2004, going Triple Platinum with 675,000 copies sold. It would continue to keep on selling, finally breaking the million barrier halfway through 2006. And Hirahara would also get that opportunity to perform the song at the 2004 Kohaku Utagassen.


And here is the original Holst take on the big guy himself.

Source: Gunma Astronomical
Observatory

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hibari Misora -- Kanashiki Kuchibue (悲しき口笛)


On this day 25 years ago, Japan lost one of its great singing legends in Hibari Misora(美空ひばり). 1989 was a year in which there was no Internet as we know it and there was no TV Japan cable service so news about her passing didn't have the immediate impact on us here as it would have if she had passed away today. Even so, somehow news of her death managed to reach us relatively quickly. I don't recall how we were able to know but I figure that Misora cast such a huge shadow on Japanese contemporary culture that perhaps international news services such as CNN had to have made some mention about it. I could only imagine how the news hit the Japanese population on June 24 1989.

On tonight's episode of NHK's "Kayo Concert"(歌謡コンサート), there was a full-length show devoted to the late Misora which featured a number of her greatest hits, some of which I have already profiled. When it comes to the genre of enka, it seems that my raison d'etre for creating this blog and watching shows like "Kayo Concert" is to re-discover some of the long lost songs of my childhood at home. And sure enough, lightning struck once more when singer Aki Yashiro (八代亜紀)paid tribute to the Grand Dame of Kayo Kyoku via her version of "Kanashiki Kuchibue" (Sad Whistling). As the song was performed, I remembered a lot of the notes from the old-style jazzy ballad.

But there was a lot of information about the song that I did not know about. It was released in September 1949 as the theme song for a musical-comedy movie of the same name starring a 12-year-old Misora. The video above has that little girl performing "Kanashiki Kuchibue" at what was most likely the climax of the movie. She was also wearing that full tuxedo and silk hat that has become one of the most famous images that everyone has of the singer. It was amazing watching that performance as this diminutive girl who looked younger than 12 sang in a voice and traipsed around the floor in a fashion that made her much older than 12. The song was written by Ko Fujiura(藤浦洸)and composed by Tadashi Manjome(万城目正), and was fashioned to describe Misora's hometown of Yokohama (the movie was also set there). The lyrics describe a somewhat melancholy night there as the hotel lights and the light in the protagonist's heart go out and the titular sad whistle is echoing through the dark like rain at the port. The song then progresses into the bittersweet aftermath of romance gone. "Kanashiki Kuchibue" is listed in J-Wiki as a ryukoka (literally, pop song in Japanese) but I thought there was so much atmosphere in it that I also had to label it as a Mood Kayo. Would love to have a drink to it.




The above video has Misora performing the song years later, and the vibrancy of her vocals is just incredible. It's how I remember listening to her. And this is how I had always seen her. Instead of the little wunderkind in the black-&-white movies, I remember seeing this glamourous middle-aged woman lighting up the stage and probably terrifying her fellow celebrities at the same time considering how big she was.

"Kanashiki Kuchibue" became the highest-selling record in the postwar era at the time, selling about 450,000 records. It was Misora's first bona-fide hit and currently resides in the 10th position in the Top 10 of her most popular singles.


Yokohama Chinatown

Denki Groove/POLYSICS/Rie Eto -- N.O.


Getting to know about those zany cool guys that make up techno unit Denki Groove(電気グルーヴ)from the late 1990s, when I heard that the boys were going to release a bunch of their best hits, I knew that I had to grab the album. Well, it turned out that "The Last Supper" from July 2001 was not quite a BEST album but more of a compilation of Denki Groove's different takes on some of their past tunes. No matter. I was quite happy to get it. Of course, being the goofy contrarians, Takkyu Ishino(石野 卓球)and company just had to release their album in a long silvery case which would just protrude out of my shelf.


One of the songs I enjoyed from the self-tribute album was this cute entry called "N.O. (Nord Ost)" which had multilingual singer Rie Eto (衛藤利恵)singing it in German. Not knowing anything about its past, I still thought the song had that not-so-serious whimsy typical of a Denki Groove entry although the techno was definitely toned down. As for Eto, I actually knew her more for her voiceover work, specifically on an old midnight entertainment show on TV Tokyo that I used to catch over the weekends, "Showbiz Countdown". Unfortunately, probably due to copyright reasons, the video below just has the opening sequence and Eto just saying the title.





Also on "The Last Supper" was another take on "N.O." by the techno-rock/new wave band POLYSICS. The folks there apparently like to describe their music as "technicolor pogo punk". Hey, whatever works. In any case, POLYSICS has been a band that I've seen now and then here and there on the video channels, and I figured that this group was the Japanese cousin to the new wave band Devo. There are the deadpan faces, the nuclear reactor jumpsuits and the thrashy guitars. Rie Eto is once again the voice here but she has got a lot more musical excitement surrounding her this time.



Some time after getting "The Last Supper", I finally got to hear the original version of "N.O.", and perhaps not surprisingly, this is the take I've enjoyed the most. Originally made by Ishino for the 1990 debut album, "662 BPM BY DG" during Denki Groove's indie days, it was re-made for the band's 4th album under Ki/oon Records, "Vitamin" in 1993. It was later released as their 3rd single in February 1994. What I liked about it was just the percolating synths that reminded me of the old days of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. Supposedly, Ishino's choice in title was from the initials of British band New Order, a group that he greatly admired, but somewhere down the line the title came to stand for "Nord Ost" by the time of "The Last Supper". The song peaked at No. 21 on Oricon.




The last video here is to show Ms. Eto through a commercial she did back in the 90s.


P.S. I also covered a song in an article from a couple of years back which was also on "The Last Supper".

Monday, June 23, 2014

Every Little Thing -- fragile



I think Every Little Thing's 17th single from New Year's Day 2001, "fragile" has one of the best intros I have ever heard in a J-Pop song. That mysterious and haunting synthesizer series of notes that starts off the song just puts that introspective mood into me: Who have I hurt in my life? What did I do wrong? And then there is that guitar crash right after the synthesizer and at the beginning of the refrain that hits the message home.

The words of despair and hope in a relationship were written by vocalist Kaori Mochida (持田香織)and lyricist Kazuhito Kikuchi (菊池一仁)while guitarist Ichiro Ito (伊藤一朗)came up with the melody. It was one of those songs that seemed to stick around throughout the year, no doubt partially in thanks to that synth intro. And then there was the music video for "fragile" which was just Part One of a drama that extended into the band's video for the following single, "Graceful World". The rushed taxi ride, the rain and Mochida & Ito hovering over the scene like a couple of dark angels made for a pretty atmospheric mood, but again it was the beginning when Mochida appeared and seemingly came down from the heavens like a Harbinger itself while those eerie opening notes were played that made the video for me. There was also something about that very scene which almost resembled an opening credits sequence from a James Bond movie.

"fragile" quickly reached No. 1 and went Triple Platinum, becoming the 13th-ranked song of 2001, selling just under 830,000 copies and winning a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards. It also got ELT its 5th invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen.




Minako Yoshida -- TOWN


After reading nikala's 80s Playlist at the beginning of 2014, I have to say that although I liked all of the entries on her list, the one song that grabbed me by the ears and has yet to let go has been Minako Yoshida's(吉田美奈子)"Town".

To quote nikala herself on hearing "Town": "This is a big city!" I would go further and place that quote in full caps. Written and composed by Yoshida, this was the launching track for her 9th studio album, her 1981 "Monsters in Town" and would get its own release as her 7th single in April 1982. I'm not sure whether the singer-songwriter was indicating New York City or Tokyo or even if she wanted to celebrate every one of the world metropolises (although that is indeed The Big Apple on the cover of the album), but for me, I have always imagined Japan's capital city to be the subject of all those urban sounds (sirens wailing, traffic rumbling over steel plates), the beautifully beefy bass and that tight horn section (arranged by Tatsuro Yamashita/山下達郎).

Even in post-quake Tokyo....my last months in the city, there was still quite a buzz emanating from all that neon and the commuting masses. One of my students once told me that she and her husband would go to Hong Kong annually to regain their energy, but for me, Tokyo at night has been my own power supply....not in terms of any particular restaurant or bar but just walking through the streets of bustling areas like Ginza, Shinjuku or Shibuya. To use a flashback, when the limousine bus carrying me and the other tired JET teachers finally trundled into the Shinjuku area in July 1989 after a very long flight, it was as if the drowsiness miraculously lifted from the weighed-down eyes and faces, and my traveling companions suddenly pulled out the cameras and started shooting away at all of the vertical signs and the waves of people flowing over the sidewalks through the shimmering heat like they were at a true Jurassic Park. Monsters in town, indeed!

That scene I described (somewhat floridly, I confess) took place in the late afternoon of that torrid July day. But if it had taken place a few hours later, Yoshida's "Town" would have been the ideal song playing. Her lyrics are brief but they concisely describe the excitement and the rhythms of being in the big city. However, ultimately it's the music that captured me. The bass right from second one brought me in from the city limits and as I got closer to the center of town (pun fully intended), the sounds and the horns jumped in accordingly before Yoshida gave out the verses like a verbal drum roll rising up to the boom and echo of "TOWN!!!" And then the latter half of the song was one big jam session and dance party involving all those urban noises and the musical instruments with the highlights being Yasuaki Shimizu's tenor sax solo and whoever was manning that electric guitar like a laser blaster. "Town" is one of the great City Pop pieces, and it alone was the trigger for me to get "Monsters in Town".





Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kazumasa Oda -- Moon River


I was finally glad to track down Kazumasa Oda's (小田和正)cover of "Moon River" on the Net since rumour has it that it was because of his listening to the Henry Mancini classic on a record or through a viewing of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" that he was nudged into a career in music. If anyone can deny/confirm that for me, I'd be eternally grateful.

In any case, when I listened to Oda's short-and-sweet version at the end of his 2nd solo album, "Between the Word & the Heart" (March 1988), I was just touched by his vocals although I think having something warmer and more organic than the standard synths would've been better. But if those rumours are indeed true, then we can all thank the man behind "The Pink Panther" and "Peter Gunn", if indirectly, for years of wonderful Off Course songs and Oda's solo efforts including "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni".



And hey, let's show what Oda may have seen and been inspired by.

Ruiko Kurahashi -- Mihatenu Yume wo Oikakete (果てぬ夢を追いかけて)



Although I was never a huge fan of the anime "Lupin the 3rd"(ルパン三世), the character's theme song has become one of the Japanese pop songs that has embedded itself permanently in my memory as well as being one of the most recognizable anime themes. 

However, it isn't the iconic theme for the James Bond franchise alone that has helped support each of the individual movies. Of course, there has been the incredible "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey and "Live and Let Die" by Paul McCartney. So, the jazz classic that is Lupin's theme probably has had its own other songs for each of the franchise entries on TV and on the big screen. Case in point: I found a lovely little tune by one of my favourite singers, Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子), which actually was a theme song for one of the Lupin the 3rd TV specials in 1991, "Napoleon no Jisho wo Ubae!"(ナポレオンの辞書を奪え!...Steal Napoleon's Dictionary!).

I have Kurahashi's album from that year, "Out on a Limb" which showed the singer with a dramatically different appearance. She looked almost as if she were going for a k.d. lang look. Her hair was reduced to a brush cut and she sported jeans and a leather jacket. Although, as I remember it, her singing didn't really change along with her looks, it was still a pleasant surprise to hear this brand of sophisticated Riviera-friendly bossa pop. "Mihatenu Yume wo Oikakete" (Chase the Impossible Dream) makes for a light hand stroke across the water when compared to the action blast that is the main theme for Lupin. In a way, I can compare it to the "Pink Panther" theme and the smaller incidental themes in the original movie by Henry Mancini. And I can't think of anyone better than Kurahashi to sing this ballad since she has always had a flair for these songs with a romantic European bent.

"Mihatenu Yume wo Oikakete" was the coupling song or B-side to Kurahashi's 13th single, "Cosmos Kaze ni Yurete"(コスモス風にゆれて...Swayed by the Cosmos Wind)which came out in July 1991. The singer provided the lyrics while Yuji Ohno(大野雄二)composed the music. Ohno is also the man who came up with the famous Lupin theme.

Ichiro Toba -- Kyodai Bune (兄弟船)



As I may have mentioned before, I've seen enka cover a number of themes: lost love, gainful drinking and manly men gutting through adversity, and perhaps some of those songs have covered all three at the same time.

Ichiro Toba's(鳥羽一郎)"Kyodai Bune" (Ship of Brothers) is definitely an enka song for that final category. It's about as shibui as one can get in the genre...two fishing brothers arm-in-arm battling towering waves and relentless sea spray to make that grand catch for the family, especially dear ol' Dad. The music of Toru Funamura(船村徹)with that heroic fanfare to signal the sea to make way for a vessel on the hunt has that samurai warrior feeling to it, and the lyrics by Tetsuro Hoshino(星野哲郎)would probably get a couple of drunken siblings to wail the song away at a karaoke box or nomiya. I've seen Toba perform the song a ton of times on various shows, and it has never failed to put a bit more steel in my spine and sit more erect in the armchair. It has not actually kicked me to call my own brother for a drink, however.

"Kyodai Bune" was Toba's debut in August 1982. The song probably has special meaning for the enka singer since he was born in a fishing family in Toba City, Mie Prefecture in 1952 under his birth name of Yoshihira Kimura(木村 嘉平). For about 5 years, the young man toiled in the Indian Ocean and around Panama as part of a fishing crew going for tuna and bonito, so he actually lived the lyrics although I'm not sure if his own brother had been with him. However, that brother, who would himself become enka singer Yutaka Yamakawa(山川豊), had already started his own career in music up in Tokyo (he debuted in 1981). Toba, who had entertained his own desires to become a singer, then decided to head up to the big city at the age of 27 in 1979. For 3 years, he did a different type of toiling under the tutelage of composer Funamura until coming out with "Kyodai Bune".



Toba's debut eventually did fairly well in the rankings, reaching No. 66 on the year-end charts in 1983. But the song became one of his most well-regarded over the decades with Toba getting his first invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen in 1985 to sing "Kyodai Bune". He would make a total of 20 appearances on the NHK special of which 7 were to sing his debut.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Frank Nagai -- Tokyo Gozen San-ji (東京午前三時)



It's Friday night, and Tokyo on Friday nights, as would be the case in most places on Friday nights, has got its myriad bars and other watering holes working at full speed into the wee hours. I was never quite the barhopping type in all of my years in the Japanese megalopolis, though. Sometimes, I would meet up with a few of the teachers and students on a Friday night and then hit one of the izakaya in Shinjuku or Ginza; perhaps afterwards there might even be a round of karaoke nearby before I had to race other late-night commuters to catch the final subway back to Ichikawa City. In my early years there, that meant a literal dash at Iidabashi Station some minutes before midnight! And that explanation mark at the end of the previous sentence is indeed there since I'm sure some of you may find it hard to believe that one of the largest, most modern and safest cities on Earth would close down so early. However, things improved temporally speaking since then. I wasn't running nearly as hard in my final years there.

Back in the early postwar years, there was a certain romanticism about life in the bright lights and big city of Tokyo which was coaxed out frequently through the songs in the Mood Kayo genre. Probably the master here was none other than the late Frank Nagai(フランク永井). His "Tokyo Gozen San-ji" (Tokyo 3 A.M.) has been listed as his 9th single from March 1957, and as created by the famous tandem of Takao Saeki and Tadashi Yoshida(佐伯孝夫・吉田正), Nagai is our guide as he croons about seeing a beautiful young lady in a red dress getting into that Cadillac in the wee hours somewhere in the city (I'm assuming Ginza here) and wondering about the possibilities. It rather makes me want to nurse that glass of Old Parr on the rocks. The saxophone and the ancient strings takes me back to those old nights in the tiny nomiya although when the song was first released, a lot of folks in Japan were probably wondering about a potential new life enjoying the night in Ginza or Akasaka.


I can count on one finger the number of times that I actually stayed up to/past 3 a.m. in Tokyo. A few of us ended up doing a marathon karaoke session in Shibuya one Saturday night that took us to 3:30 a.m. The subways and JR trains had long ceased service for the day, so we had to crash at our buddy's house which was thankfully nearby. There was nothing really romantic about an empty Shibuya, though. It looked pretty grungy actually with only the overnight buskers reassuring us during our brisk walk out of the area that things were perfectly safe.

Neither Ginza nor Shibuya
but the more suburban neighbourhood
of Jiyugaoka.

Kanako Wada -- Dessert ni Hoshikuzu no Jelly wo (DESSERTに星くずのゼリーを)

Happily re-discovering Kanako Wada (和田加奈子)through her 6th album, "dear" in 1989, I wasn't nearly as hesitant when it came to purchasing another Wada album the following year. Given the far longer title of "Dessert ni Hoshikuzu no Jelly wo" (Stardust Jelly into your Dessert) and seeing the cover of Wada looking up from a pool, I wondered what I was in for. Released in September 1990, her 7th album would be her final full album up to the present day. All of the tracks were written by the singer.


The first track is the dreamy "Tsuki no Hotel"(月のHOTEL...Moon Hotel)which was composed by TSUKASA. If it hadn't been so, the song should have become a fine theme tune for some sort of anime or game about a fantastical quest, especially at the end when Wada and company give an Enya-like greeting of "Welcome to the Moon Hotel". Methinks that the accommodations referred to here isn't anything like a Motel Six but something more along the lines of a place that the kids at Hogwarts might end up in on a field trip.


Aside from the ethereal "Tsuki no Hotel", the rest of the songs seem to weave the overall theme of a woman's life with all of the ups and downs in whatever community she resides. The 2nd track, "Good Luck Factory" is my favourite entry for "Dessert". Composed by Kumiko Sawada(沢田久美子), the song just blasts open with a cheerful set of horns representing the start of another day in the life of a working woman rushing off and making her way through Tokyo corporate life. I could say that it's a musical 4 minutes and 38 seconds of a late 80s trendy drama.


"Convenience Boy" stands out from the other tracks due to the slightly techno-funky beat which perhaps may have been more her style in her earlier albums. The music by Chika Ueda (上田知華)describe a comical recon mission by a woman who sees a potential rival with the man of her dreams or fantasies.


"Baby Class no Grandmother" (Baby Class のGrandmother...Baby Class Grandmother) is something that I'd never seen in a song before. This composition by TSUKASA again has a bit of the comic with some synth-Latin thrown into the pop mix while Wada's lyrics describe a plucky grandmother who wants to refresh her life by trying new things despite some of the congenial discouragement by the folks around her. The baby class of the title refers to the fact that Nana is basically starting from square one. Considering what is happening with the growing ranks of the elderly in today's Japan, perhaps there was some unintended prescience on Wada's part.


My final track of the article is "Kaze no Oka"(風の丘...Windy Hill), a poignant ballad by Ueda that has Wada reminiscing about the old days and dreams. A saxophone that sounds like it came straight off of a Carpenters' song sets the mood here. Perhaps, it can be a thematic relative to Yuming's "Sotsugyo Shashin"(卒業写真). By the way, there is one more track from the album that I did cover on her BEST album, "Heart de Furimuite"(Heartでふりむいて).

After purchasing "Dessert", it would literally be years and years before I found a new Kanako Wada album which turned out to be her BEST album, although I later found out that she had released one more mini-album, "Yakusoku no Eve"(約束のイヴ...Promised Eve)just in time for the Holidays in 1990. After that, I did play a near-successful bit of catch-up by getting all those late 80s albums of hers. But I still have yet to get "Yakusoku no Eve". I'm not sure whether Wada will ever release a new studio album after over 20 years but the impression I get is that "Dessert" was a farewell of sorts. The power pop singer behind all those songs for the anime "Kimagure Orange Road" was finally settling down and at least some of the tracks described her transition back into civilian life.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ego-Wrappin' -- Neon Sign Stomp



A couple of nights ago, I wrote an article on a theme song for an old detective show titled "Bad City" by the band SHOGUN. As soon as I finished that, I found out that Ego-Wrappin' had come up with a theme song for a present-day hardboiled private eye program. In fact, "Neon Sign Stomp" got released as part of a mini-album (though the band is calling it their official 5th single) titled "Bright Time" last month.

"Neon Sign Stomp" was created by the band for the late-night TV Tokyo drama "Reverse Edge - Okawabata Tanteisha" (リバースエッジ 大川端探偵社...Okawabata Detective Agency...ongoing as of this writing). Yoshie Nakano and Masaki Mori (中納良恵・森雅樹)have sometimes gone off on a weird tangent from their jazz but I was happy to see in the video that they were back to their bohemian swing roots. Mori still has the Django guitar chops and Nakano still has that expressive vocal style that's perfect for those beatnik cafe surroundings instead of a huge stadium. Speaking of the video, there's plenty of that gritty downtown atmosphere with the band performing in the actual offices of the detective agency while the cast from the show are doing their own thing. And the quirkiness is there, too, with a disco mirror ball and Nakano in the fright hair and sporting that red light (maybe she's referring to the geography where Joe Odagiri's character, Muraki, prowls). By the way, the new song here isn't the first detective show theme that Ego-Wrappin' has done. They also came up with "Kuchibashi ni Cherry"(くちばしにチェリー)for the show "Shiritsu Tantei Hama Mike"(私立探偵濱マイク)back in 2002....hard to believe that the band has been around for over 15 years.

I've liked the different forms of jazz whether it be Big Band, 50s Bop or Dixieland. Ego-Wrappin's stuff always reminded me of those traveling jazz bands that zipped among the small towns and big cities in America back in the 20s and 30s. There was nothing slick nor sophisticated about those guys....but they could cook up some fine sweaty jazz at whatever dilapidated hall they played in. Nakano, Mori and their group bring some of that nearly-century-old desperate energy through the vocals and instruments, and that's also true with "Neon Sign Stomp". The song just galomps along like that not-so-young fellow racing among the old-style neon to look for a friendly watering hole.

Not sure how "Bright Time" has done on the charts but I wouldn't think either Ego-Wrappin' or their fans (including me) would care that much. Like the detectives they musically describe, they'll do whatever they like without having to worry about who listens to them.




Ujo Noguchi -- Shojoji no Tanukibayashi (証城寺の狸囃子)


I heard a grand orchestral version of this children's song being played on the musical interlude just before NHK News several minutes ago. "Shojoji no Tanukibayashi" (The Raccoon Dog Forest of Shojo Temple) has a special place in my memory (although it wasn't until those minutes ago that I finally found out what the title was) since it was a song that my mother used to sing to me when I was a little raccoon myself. Mom put me on her lap and sang it while she had me clap my hands together. I was rather bemused at the time but I have always remembered the first line from the song, "Sho-sho-shojoji..."

"Shojoji no Tanukibayashi" was written by Ujo Noguchi/野口雨情 (1882-1945) who was famous as a poet and as a lyricist of children's songs. Around the mid-1920s, Noguchi visited Shojoji Temple (which is actually depicted under different kanji...證誠寺) in Kisarazu City, Chiba Prefecture which inspired him to write "Tanukibayashi no Densetsu"(狸囃子伝説...The Legend of the Raccoon Dog Forest) in a children's magazine in 1924. Later on, composer Shinpei Nakayama (中山晋平)created some music around the words to finally make one of Japan's most famous children's songs.



Strangely enough in 1955, the late Eartha Kitt released an English version titled "Sho-Jo-Ji -- The Hungry Raccoon". 


We got plenty of raccoons here in Canada, even within the city limits of Toronto. The usual response from residents here would probably be something like: "AAUGGGGH! Raccoons! They're eating my begonias!" Apparently, raccoon dogs are somewhat different animals since despite the resemblance, they and raccoons actually belong in different families according to scientific classification. And over the centuries, a legend has grown around the beer-bellied tanuki that show them as sly shapeshifting entities that have evolved their own parallel society alongside humans. The most recent example of this that I came across was through the anime "Uchoten Kazoku"(有頂天家族...The Eccentric Family)whose wonderful ending theme song I've covered here.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hi-Fi Set -- Eien no Sunny Days (永遠のSunny Days)


"Eien no Sunny Days" (Sunny Days Forever) was another track from Hi-Fi Set's "White Moon" album from 1990 which also has the tracks of "Angels Fly" and "Moon Highway"

And like those songs, there is this congenial middle-aged beat for all those who are into enjoying their school reunions and cruises along the shoreline. Written and composed by Masamichi Sugi(杉真理), there are the two words in the refrain: "Bring back..." that probably would hearken folks back to a relatively less complicated and more economically bountiful time. Junko Yamamoto's (山本潤子)vocals and that harmonica set the relaxing lemonade-friendly mood as the sun dapples down onto the hammock that you could be lying in. No need to worry about the mortgage....just enjoy life.


Yumi Matsutoya -- Cinderella Express (シンデレラエクスプレス)


I think within the vast discography of Yumi Arai/Matsutoya(荒井由実・松任谷由実), "Cinderella Express" is probably the most snuggly-cute romantic little ballad that the singer-songwriter has ever written that I know about (I don't have all of her studio albums so there may be some hidden gems that I have to yet to hear). And once again, she had her fingers on the pulse of Japanese pop culture when she created this one for her 17th album "DA-DI-DA" (November 1985).

I'm not sure whether it was Yuming who came up with the actual phrase or she learned of it while overhearing kaffeeklatsches of young women in those fine trendy cafes of Aoyama or Omotesando, but Cinderella Express most often referred to the Japan Railways Shinkansen (Bullet Trains) running between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka Stations. Due to the demands of work, a romantic couple may find themselves separated by hundreds of kilometers for which the only temporary cure is the weekend commute by one-half of the couple for that 48-hour long-term date (if they can get even that much time). Now, J-Wiki only talked about the last train leaving for Shin-Osaka from Tokyo which departed at 9 p.m. I could only assume that there were probably a ton of tearful gals and guys frantically seeing off their significant others on the platform (while the married middle-aged station staff smirked at the naivete of youth, no doubt).

As for the song itself, in spite of the frantic chase to get to that last Bullet, Yuming's "Cinderella Express" seems to musically describe a languid and girlish walk through the park. And it also reflects how high and nasal the singer's voice had been becoming over the years. Perhaps in a way, the singer was expressing her thoughts as a married woman after years have gone by to reflect in a more relaxed manner at all of the craziness surrounding this specific form of commuting wrought with her and her beau every Sunday night.


Well, it took Japan Railways long enough, but the corporation finally picked up on this phenomenon and released a series of commercials to promote itself in 1987. As for the album "DA-DI-DA", it hit the top spot on Oricon and became the 4th-most successful album for 1986.







Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Perfume -- Spring of Life



Oh, yes. “Spring of Life” and its catchy and refreshing sing along melody. I remember when Perfume announced this single back in 2012, right after changing labels and such. It was a big time for them, mostly because the "JPN" album, which was released in late 2011, was a hit and they were signed to Universal music, which meant more budget and exposure.

“Spring of Life”, which was oficially released in April 2012, came under these circunstances and didn’t fail to impress me, even if the amazing “GLITTER” was still pumping strongly on my stereo. While the chorus is irresistibly lifting, what’s most interesting about “Spring of Life” is its arrangement, a very well done techno piece put together by Yasutaka Nakata (中田ヤスタカ). Want a proof? Just wait for the bridge! If I had to explain it, the bridge starts with a techno edginess that is not present during the whole song and, after a few seconds, it dilutes itself in a bright and happy synth melody that mixes itself with the last chorus until the end. It’s just amazing. This song really takes me to heaven!!!


More than one year after, in October 2013, "Spring of Life" was remixed and put into Perfume’s "LEVEL3" album. The “album-mix” is a clubby version similar to the remixes Nakata usually plays during his DJ sets, which is interesting to hear. The little techno blips thrown here and there are very nice, but the most interesting part is surely how the edgy part of the bridge is placed not just during the beginning of the song, but also near the ending, while also mantained in it original place. The result was really nice and can be seen as an example of how Nakata takes the best parts of a song to reutilize them in a successful remix.

For one last treat, here’s a special cover of "Spring of Life" made with vintage synthesizers.


“Spring of Life” reached #2 on the Oricon charts, selling 116,014 copies. Lyrics, music and arrangement were all done by Yasutaka Nakata. As for the "LEVEL3" album, it reached #1 on the Oricon charts and sold around 255,106 copies.


Kirinji -- Aliens (エイリアンズ)



I think there are a certain number of people who, on hearing a singer's or band's past hits for the first time, kinda slap themselves up the head and exclaim "Why didn't I hear these folks sooner?" And I get that twang in my emotions as well from time to time. However, I've also learned to become a "Better late than never" guy. Moreover, there is the joy of discovering previously hidden (from me) wonderful gems from years past. This blog hasn't been just a platform to showcase the songs that we've known and loved for years but it's also turned out to have been a key to open up these lovely tunes that we hadn't heard about.

My case in point? Kirinji's (キリンジ)"Aliens". During my frequent visits to places like Tower Records and HMV and Yamano Music, I had seen that band's name along with others but had never been brave enough to check these unknowns out. The cost of CDs was one factor stunting my sense of adventure. But last night, when I was listening to the tracks of a just-released J-AOR CD through a YouTube video ad, I finally got to hear Kirinji (aka Takaki and Yasuyuki Horigome (堀込高樹・泰行)and their band) and their most famous tune. And I found it just beautiful.

Created by Yasuyuki Horigome, "Aliens" was the duo's 6th single from October 2000. I just didn't fall in love with the mellow melody of horns and guitar and vocals that brought back memories of Steely Dan and Japan's Original Love, but there were also the romantic lyrics by Horigome. Imagine comforting a loved one on the top of an apartment building at night under a huge full moon among the city lights and providing reassurance that the bad things will go away. As for the "Aliens" title, Horigome states quite starkly in the lyrics that "We are aliens". My impression is that the man and woman are simply misunderstood folks against the world but at least one of the two is more than willing to stand up to the challenge for both of them. Perhaps there is a "Romeo & Juliet" quality, but I hope that the couple's fate is far less tragic. And to quickly get back to the literal from the literary, "Aliens" can perhaps make for a fine make-up or healing song. It's definitely a nice song to listen to late at night.


The Horigome brothers originally came from Saitama Prefecture and first formed in 1996, with their first 2 singles under an indie label and their major studio debut being "Futago-za Graffiti"(双子座グラフィティ...Gemini Graffiti)in 1998. As for "Aliens", the single peaked at No. 42 on Oricon. According to the J-Wiki article for the band, Yasuyuki retired from Kirinji after their Kirinji Tour 2013 ended in April of that year.