BOMI comes back with new track 「A_B」, and it’s just plain good

J-pop singer/songwriter (and also model) BOMI is back with a new Music Video for her new track, A_B. And boy, is it one of the nicest tracks I’ve heard lately.

A_B is good and accessible Japanese Electro-pop as it gets. Building up on a linear structure, a solid beat with a 80’s touch is coupled by delicate electric synth, that get stretched in the bridge to lead to a wonderfully catchy chorus. While the instrumental makes a great job in being accessible and very well detailed, BOMI’s vocals are the highlight of the track, exposing melodies that give a boost to the overall catchiness of the track. The Music Video, too, features some very nice CG touches, that create a nice contrast to the overall simple but effective direction.

With A_B, BOMI comes back with a nice, upbeat and catchy Synth-pop track that will make your day nicer. Be sure to check out the MV at the top of the article!

– Alex

Utada Hikaru’s comeback is a convincing one: Impressions on “Manatsu no Tooriame”

The time has finally come: Utada Hikaru, singer, songwriter, and one of the most successful Japanese artists ever, is finally back from her six-years long hiatus today, with two new digital singles that instantly topped the iTunes chart. That’s right, we finally have the chance to listen to her new songs Hanataba wo Kimi ni and Manatsu no Tooriame.

I’m not even talking about Hanataba wo Kimi ni that much: I can tell you that the track is nice, but not outstanding either, and that Hikki’s vocals are always on point as you would expect. If you’re a fan, you’re gonna like it in its simplicity. That’s it.

What I definitely want to talk about though, is Manatsu no TooriameThis track brings back the Hikki I loved in that masterpiece called Sakura Nagashi, and despite not aiming at the same emotional levels of the Evangelion track, it still gets pretty close to it, despite more friendly vocal lines and a generally linear approach. Behind its apparent simplicity, Manatsu no Tooriame is indeed a beautiful melancholic piece and a remarkable comeback for Utada: Most of the track is basically a voice/piano duo that focuses on Hikki’s outstanding interpretation, that evolves towards the end with a dramatic arrangement, in a nice crescendo that gives a good emphasis to the track. What’s most admirable (and it comes as no surprise) is Hikki’s capacity of conveying feelings through her voice: I have no problem in saying I cried listening to this track, despite having no idea of what she was saying. I’m like that.

The track gains even more pathos if paired with its wonderful Music Video, that shows slices of different lives and moments, framed by an impressive care for details and an excellent direction: It pictures the simplest moments and things in a unique and emotional way, with a truly outstanding artistic result.

Utada Hikaru’s comeback is a convincing one: The emotional and beautiful Manatsu no Tooriame makes up for the nice yet unimpressive Hanataba wo Kimi ni, and nothing can be considered bad or disappointing here. The best thing I was happy to notice, is that Hikki is in great shape and more than ready to start a new chapter of her career. And I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.

– Alex

Tricot stroll around Europe and spread Math Rock goodness in “Setsuyakuka”

It’s always a good day when tricot unveil new music. The most remarkable skill of the all-female trio has always been its ability to make the complex layers of math rock accessible through a welcoming – almost pop-ish – approach, and the group’s new track Setsuyakuka is a great showcase of this refreshing style.

Premiered today through the group’s YouTube channel along with a new Music Video, Setsuyakuka brings the pleasant signature sound that made tricot one of the most interesting acts to follow in recent years: With melodic riffs and frantic drumming flowing progressively on a dynamic structure, every section gives a cohesive feel to the track, and Ikkyu’s vocals are always on point. It’s classic tricot, and it works great, especially for those who are taking the first step into the sound of this band, and of the vast Japanese Math Rock scene as well.

Setsuyakuka will be featured on the band’s upcoming KABUKU EP, set to be released on April 27th. You can be sure to find my review here on my blog on the release date.

Enjoy this new track above, and stay tuned for more!

– Alex

BiSH go punk and destroy everything in “DEADMAN”

Alternative Idol group BiSH released yesterday a new track with respective Music Video titled DEADMAN, and as easily expectable, the girls go wild in this one. As always.

The sound of the group famously spaces between raw sonorities – mostly Rock and Metal – and this time around the short track (barely two minutes long) sees the six girls going into full Punk/Hardcore mode with relentless guitar riffs and alternate verses featuring both clean and harsh filtered vocals. It’s a fast, punchy track that does the job fine and fit the sound and charisma of the group well, and it’s exactly what all the BiSH fans want from these crazy girl.

The video shows the group strolling around Asakusa and Akihabara by night armed with baseball bats, hammers and various tools, “destroying” everything they find with some cool effects that clearly remind of a certain Porter Robinson video. Despite this, several elements from both the track and the MV are a clear tribute to BiS’ infamous track IDOL is DEAD, which is pretty cool and shows once again how BiSH love to pay homage to their predecessors. Also, wait for that ending.

DEADMAN will be released on May 4th as the group’s Major Debut single. Be sure to check it out!

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– Alex

Perfume release short MV for FLASH, features lightsabers, but only for hardcore fans

Techno-pop legends Perfume released earlier the short version Music Video for FLASH, their newest track released digitally a few weeks ago that kinda split the fandom for… no reason, since it’s what they’ve been doing for a while.

The MV is your typical “indoor” Perfume video, focusing on the girls in beautiful black outfits dancing and doing martial art moves with a few – but functional – CG effects: The whole thing is simple yet very classy, and the dark color palette kinda reminds the oppression of the Spending all my Time MV, which is definitely good. A sneak peek of the full MV has surfaced on a Japanese TV program, showing the trio enriching the dance with lightsabers (traditions are important) while showcasing their outstanding dance skills as usual. Bless the Twelve I’m part of the chosen ones that pre-ordered the Limited Edition with the Blu-Ray, so I will be able to enjoy the video in its full version, while all the other fans will look at me enviously, cause no thing such as the Internet, Full MVs and 1080p exist if you don’t get the most expensive version.

The track is a Techno/Dance number with a few EDM build-ups opening the way to a catchy chorus, and while structurally it surely sounds a bit rushed, I think it’s very enjoyable and does the job right, even though I’m expecting more depth in the upcoming album mix.

Perfume will drop their new studio album COSMIC EXPLORER on April 6th, and you can expect a review of it here on my blog on the release date, so stay tuned!

– Alex

BABYMETAL’s kickass Music Video for “KARATE” is exactly what the world needed

Promoting their long awaited second studio album METAL RESISTANCE out on April 1st, Idol Metal trio BABYMETAL released today the Music Video for KARATE, the group’s newest track released just a few weeks ago as digital single. As the first original (non-live) MV in almost three years, I was genuinely excited to finally see this.

First off, the video is clearly on a much higher budget than anything we’ve seen so far from these girls: the quality, the effects, the lights, the overall editing are really light-years away from their previous video releases, as natural consequence of their huge worldwide success that made the group grow impressively in the last few years, and it makes the whole thing very enjoyable to watch.

Conceptually though, the video is pretty standard and doesn’t really represent anything special, but it’s still got its fair share of pretty kickass moments, and overall the girls’ charisma is showcased greatly, in a successful balance that satisfies the hardcore fans while adopting a concept and style more friendly to the global audience they aim at. Yes, it’s kinda missing that japanese touch that made their pre-global debut videography special, but it’s still one heck of a good video that the fans will undoubtedly love. This stuff kicks ass, and that’s all the group needs right now.

BABYMETAL are delivering convincing material and good quality in what is probably the most important moment of their career: The consolidation of their global success. And with the new album and a show at the Wembley Arena coming in just a few weeks, the future for these three girls looks brighter than ever.

– Alex

Japanese labels, Music Videos and Singles: The nonsense marketing that will unavoidably end

I could spend all day listing all the things I love about Japanese music, and thankfully they represent a good 80% of the overall opinion I have on the world’s second biggest music market. The annoying facts representing the remaining percentage still come to bother me from time to time though, one of these represented by the controversial method of the Short Music Videos and all the nonsense marketing behind videos promoting Singles, a type of release still alive and pretty well in the Land of the Rising Sun.

If you’re familiar with Japanese music, you probably know the pattern used by pretty much most of the artists and labels: One or two weeks prior the release of a new single, a Short MV that usually varies from thirty seconds to two minutes is uploaded on the group’s YouTube channel in order to give the fans a sneak peek and “promote” the upcoming release, an uncommon method that rarely gets adopted in other music markets. While anticipations are always welcomed by fans, a question still automatically raises from everyone: Why not just upload the Full Music Video?

The answer is to search in the release itself. Most singles in the Japanese market come in two editions, Regular and Limited, the latter usually featuring a bonus DVD with the Full Music Video for the A-side track, and here’s where the problem lies. By uploading short MVs on the web, labels keep the Full videos exclusive (or so they think) to the above mentioned DVD, in the hope to boost sales for the most expensive version of the single. Now, let me ask you: how on earth is a low quality Music Video on DVD, an almost dead format created twenty years ago, the selling point of a release? Simply, it’s not. Yet labels are convinced this is a legit commercial method, and as a huge Perfume fan owning all their Limited Edition singles, I can tell you that I’ve never ever put one of those useless DVDs in a… oh wait, I don’t have a DVD reader since 2009.

It’s pretty clear that this dead format is a counter-productive choice for labels and an useless addition for fans. They just don’t need to be there anymore, except to make the price of a Limited Edition higher, or, more precisely, to be the Limited Edition. Singles are still a strong entity in Japan, so wouldn’t it just better for anyone to drop this DVD ridiculousness and for the sake of technology adopt Blu-Rays with real exclusive content and upload the Full videos on YouTube to gather new fans? Certain artists (mainly from the Idol world) started to feature Blu-Ray discs in singles with HD quality footage, while others are slowly starting to upload Full music videos to their channels (making the Limited DVDs absolutely useless) but still, it’s clear that the difficult relationship between Japanese labels and video quality and this thing called Internet is an actual problem afflicting way too many artists. There are still many official Music Videos released in low quality, and groups that heavily rely on visuals like Sakanaction and Perfume made the jump to high definition only in the last few months. Again, this year some niche artists like pop singer Ayami Muto released Live shows exclusively on DVD format shamelessly sold at the price of a Blu-Ray, for the will of labels milking money as much as possible without investing on the quality, which is unacceptable and also disrespectful other than being a commercial suicide. Fans are not stupid as labels like to think. Who on earth would pay 8,000 Yen for a 360p video in 2015? No one. So I hope they’ll realize that video quality is not a selling point for releases, where legit content in an acceptable video quality (for our times) is the only thing that matters if you really want to keep it old school and sell physical copies of singles.

I’d really love to see labels in Japan shifting away from this prehistoric method and start treating fans with more respect, a necessary move to make a step forward that would benefit for both sides. And even though they’ll keep going on with this ridiculous trend made of short Music Videos, 360p footage and DVDs, the Japanese industry will see itself shrinking in no time together with their “World’s second biggest music industry” title if they don’t start keeping up with times. This old school approach is a comfortable guarantee for easy cash, but people is not stupid, and no matter what, times will change in Japan too.

– Alex

The mysteries behind Perfume’s “Spending all my Time”

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Sometimes I need a break from all the new music my ears absorb everyday, and despite being one of the things I love the most in my work, I think our “favorite artists” perfectly fit in this need of laying down with familiar sounds, which is basically the reason why yesterday I found myself watching the entire Perfume videography. I didn’t watch some of these Music Videos for years, and looking at them again I still feel that unique sensation you get when discovering something special, representing a pleasant and much needed revisitation imposed by the fact that my favorite artists are the ones I listen to the less. While this may surely sound like a contradictory statement, I’m convinced that an artist permanently looped every single day kinda loses its charm, at least in the way we perceive it once our ears get overly used to it.

And so, while browsing Perfume’s YouTube channel to watch their most recent videos, I stumbled upon 2012’s hit Spending all my Time, second single under Universal Music and the one that divided the entire fandom for its western sound and notorious repetitiveness. Despite loving overly repetitive compositions (‘sup Daft Punk) at first I couldn’t enjoy this track as I was failing in finding a real meaning in it, but once I listened to a decent quality of it (e.g not a radio rip) and finally watched the Music Video, I totally fell in love with it.

The video in particular is the main reason why the artistic value behind Spending all my Time was and still is so stuck in my head today: It’s hypnotizing, cryptic, mysterious, all qualities that are a magnet for the fans eager to understand the concepts behind a group. Just trying to grasp the several meanings and messages both these girls and their artistic team tried to convey blows your mind, and shows not only the talent of Team Perfume, but also the artistic power of visuals applied to music, a field where the three girls from Hiroshima represent Japan’s finest.

This song and its music video were released shortly after Perfume announced their label shift and finally opened to the world, releasing their singles globally other than finally being present in Social Networks, all basic actions denied after years under a label that helped them be the huge act they are today but also clipped their wings when they tried to avoid the stagnant routine of Japanese groups.

The Spending all my Time music video is (probably) the representation of their pre-Universal situation, and it’s made in such a cryptic and detailed way that after three years fans still haven’t completely figured out all the meanings behind this greatly shot video. Several interpretations of these looped (but slightly different every time) scenes have surfaced over the years, though: A-chan knocking and trying to open a locked door is seen as a metaphor of the girls’ will of spreading their music to the world yet finding themselves trapped inside a room, where the room itself is a metaphor of the dangerous stagnation of the artists’ routine in the Japanese market, that sees several acts struggling to spread their works overseas due to some labels’ rigidness. A-chan and Nocchi joining their hands can be interpreted as the will of getting in touch with their fans outside Japan, while Nocchi and Kashiyuka doing cryptic gestures with their hands to each other is seen as the impossibility to communicate with foreign realities due to language barriers. Kashiyuka’s hands movements destroying objects (pointing several times to her head) translate into the power of their music and love tearing down the barriers between different cultures, while her hand movements on the table and the consequent oppressive look at an imposing figure in front of her implies the will of “flying away” and adventuring into new territories denied by someone higher and more powerful than her (that can be interpreted as their previous label). Lastly, the scene where A-chan is making objects fly while staring at them is particularly interesting: I see these objects (the flower in particular) representing the identity of Perfume as one of the biggest and most influential groups in Japanese music, manipulated by A-chan as the founder of the group: In a particular scene, she’s sitting down with the flower floating in front of her while she’s looking the other way, a metaphor of A-chan acknowledging the power of what she created in her country yet still looking somewhere else (overseas) to then look back at the flower, showing the desire of expanding the project she created abroad.

There are more and more details to be analyzed in this video (the numbers on their arms, Nocchi’s powers, and so on) and yes, trying to find the real meaning behind this cryptic music video it’s genuinely funny. When music and visuals are merged with such synchronicity and offer a wide interpretation of an artistic output it’s not only pleasant and satisfying, but also a great representation of the group’s personality, conveying feelings in an indirect way to let the fans use their imagination and consequentially making them feel closer to the artist. It’s pretty fantastic.

Oh, and I’m glad they finally unlocked that door in the end.

– Alex