Sakanaction’s new single ‘Tabun, kaze.’ sets the bar high for new album.

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When someone asks me of the reason behind my love for Japanese music, Sakanaction is usually among the first few things that come to my mind. As one of the main Synth-rock/Electronic outfits of the industry, I’ve been enchanted by their sound right away, whom I discovered while driving by night through the highway connecting Kawasaki to Tokyo. The transition from the atmospherical intro Inori to the beautiful Music in their latest record, made me love their perfect hybrid of Rock merged with Electronic music immediately, giving me a pleasant sense of freshness and uniqueness.

That’s why every time Sakanaction releases new material, my day unavoidably gets better. And finally, after a two-months delay, the talented group led by frontman Ichiro Yamaguchi, released today its long awaited 12th single ‘Tabun, kaze.’ : As always, it didn’t disappoint.

The tracks in this single leans more on the Electronic side, a good choice after a series of (very good) singles that mostly relied on Rock sonorities. The title-track ‘Tabun, kaze’ is a fantastic showcase of the band’s sound, featuring synths perfectly merging with guitar melodies during the verse, developed on the solid bass lines provided by Ami; The whole track is incredibly atmospherical, and both the chorus and the bridge create immersive soundscapes, emphasized by Emi’s synths and Yamaguchi’s on-point interpretation.

This track is beautiful, emotional, huge, and a showcase of what Sakanaction can do best: impressive and atmospherical compositions disguised as simple, synth-rock numbers. Hands down one of their best compositions in the last three years.

The B-side moon will probably ring a bell to fans, since the track has been used several times in live shows from 2014 on, precisely during the highly acclaimed live sets the group always sets up halfway into the show: It’s an enjoyable, linear number that serves the purpose it was created for, which is to be implemented in mixes. The last track is a remix of the band’s classic Rookie made by Hiroshi Fujiwara, but except for a few passages here and there, it’s not something I could care about that much.

Overall, ‘Tabun, kaze.’ is yet another addition to a series of great singles from Sakanaction, who are now more than ready to drop their long awaited new album. The band never sounded this powerful and confident, and I’m anxiously looking forward to their next studio record. And if this series of singles is any indication to go with, it’s probably going to be amazing.

– Alex

Five songs to listen to while walking in the Tokyo night

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As a huge lover of Tokyo and Japan since I was a child, I’ve always been fascinated by the variousness and unique environment of Japan’s capital: From the contrast between tradition and technology to the magic atmosphere surrounding the streets, this beautiful city is a place where anyone can find something to love whatever your passion is, and more than anyone, passion is something Japanese people care to cultivate and keep close in their lives. This means there are many ways to enjoy Tokyo, and while today Music is the main engine behind my passion towards this city and country, it is also the art form that keeps me closer to the city I had the luck to visit twice. Music is the most powerful art form there is, its sound can create images and visions in our minds, and when this power is combined with the magic and particular aspect of Tokyo, the result is unique and magical. When I wasn’t strolling around or attending concerts with my friends, I loved to walk alone by night in Shinjuku, because there’s nothing more hypnotizing than Tokyo by night, and during my neon-bathed long walks in one of the biggest districts of Tokyo I always had my headphones on, emphasizing what I was experiencing one second after another with Music.

And so, these are the five tracks I listened to the most while I was walking surrounded by lights, skyscrapers and thousands of people. When I listen to them today I can visualize and feel the magic of that place inside me, and I hope you’ll feel the same wether you’ve been to the Japanese capital or not. Pur your headphones on and enjoy these tunes.


5. Ayumi Hamasaki – Monochrome (Remo-con Classic Trance Remix)

Sadly, only the instrumental version is available online. Try to get the normal ver. though, it’s awesome!

Even though I appreciate some of her earlier works, I can’t really say I’m a fan of Ayu. Still, the Trance remixes of many of her songs are a total blast, and the fact that I’ve always had a soft spot for this atmospheric genre (even in my metalhead days) helps a lot, and the compilations composed by DJs and producers that gave a different perspective on Ayu’s tracks are absolutely worth listening if you’re a fan of the genre. And what other than Trance can represent the neon-lights, Blade Runner-like streets of the Tokyo night the best? This revisitation of Ayumi Hamasaki‘s classic Monochrome is atmospheric trance at its best and a track that summons lots of images in my mind, particularly of Odaiba and the ride on the Yurikamome Line to reach it through the stunning Rainbow Bridge. That hook halfway the track kills me everytime.

4. Sakanaction – Eureka

While Trance is a genre that suits the Tokyo night atmosphere perfectly, that doesn’t mean other genres can’t reach the same level of emotionality, and Sakanaction‘s beautiful Eureka is a great example. This track and its wonderful video (the band’s artistic peak in visuals) is itself a tribute to Tokyo, and it fits the atmosphere of the city in a more emotional and moving way, but not any less powerful. The hook at the end makes my cry a little bit every time: I see it as an hymn to this city, a declaration of love to its streets and majestic buildings and to all the people walking and giving life to it. The lovely Nippori and its little side streets full of shops are what comes to my mind the most when listening to this wonderful track.

3. Ayami Muto – Symphony N. 1 in B flat Major

This track from nostalgic Idol singer Ayami Muto is a masterpiece of synth-pop and one of my favorites of this year. Flawless composition with every single element at the right place, Symphony N.1 in B Flat Major‘s revolutionary and magic vibe makes this upbeat and exciting track a must when walking around in the Tokyo night, especially in the shining streets of Shibuya and Shinjuku. Pure excitement and energy, you need this pop masterpiece in your life.

2. Oomori Seiko – Midnight Seijun Isei Kouyuu

We all know this girl is as crazy as talented, and this track from her amazing second album Zettai Shoujo is the best showcase of her rebel yet lovely attitude. Midnight Seijun Isei Kouyuu is one of her best – if not the best – track of her vast musical portfolio: Its got a revolutionary vibe to it,  and the dreamy melodies and Seiko’s heartfelt interpretation make this piece one of the best things you could ever hear when walking around Tokyo, especially if you’re in a “I’m looking for a relationship” mood.

1. capsule – Never Let Me Go

This track is probably the least complex from a mere technical and annoying-music-journalist point of view, yet it’s the one that hits me right in the feels the most for a reason I can barely describe. It’s a song that summons images of Shinjuku’s Studio Alta, of Kabuki-cho, of water reflecting the neon lights, of a girl that will never come back. It’s probably due to a strong emotional bond that capsule’s Never Let Me Go is the track that almost brings me to tears and makes me feel the distance between me and Tokyo the most. It’s sad, but also good in a way, because it holds the power of memories that makes us go forward in life. Nakata’s fresh synths and the hypnotizing voice of Toshiko here represent the Tokyo night at its best to me, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.


What do you think about these tracks? Do they make you travel with your mind to the shiny lights of Tokyo, or reminisce your time in Japan? Let me know down here in the comments!

– Alex

5 Beautiful Japanese Music Videos you need to watch

The Japanese Music industry can distinguish itself from the rest of the world for several reasons: Its huge dimensions (it’s the second biggest music market in the world), its variety, the innovative concepts several groups can deliver, and much more. One factor that should’t be ignored as well is the quality of these groups’ videographies, which averagely sets on high levels if compared to the rest of the world, and several Music Videos bring so much innovation and creativity within that you’ll be surprised and overwhelmed by all kinds of feeling, wether it’s happiness, melancholy or simply fun.

Here’s a list of five music videos that rank among the best the industry has seen in the last years, and I will post even more in future articles. Be sure to stay tuned, and enjoy these beautiful MVs and songs!


5. Sakanaction – Aruku Around

One of the classics from the band that conquered the Oricon charts and shown the world how to fuse J-rock and Electronic Music with elegance and mastery. Not only Sakanaction‘s music is accessible and elaborated, their music videos are all up to the quality of their tracks, and with Aruku Around the band from Sapporo enriched their videography with a one-shot video (meaning there isn’t any kind of montage or cut) that’s a continuous stream of surprising moments, where lyrics are emphasized by the interaction of frontman Ichiro Yamaguchi with everything that surrounds him. Joyful, funny and breathtaking, a must watch and a great song to get into this particular band.


4. toe – Goodbye

A beautiful, melancholic track and trademark tune from this excellent Japanese indie math rock band, the one that all their fans eagerly wait for when attending their concerts in Japan and around the world: Goodbye is a perfect representation of the toe sound, coupled by one of the very few Music Videos the band ever released, an impressive showcase of the stop-motion technique that’s second to no one, fitting the melancholic mood of the track greatly other than being one of the most particular videos you’ll ever have the pleasure to watch.


3. m-flo – All I want is you

While the Hip Hop scene in Japan is still waiting for its moment to truly come out and become accepted in the mainstream industry,m-flo are one of the rare exceptions that made this genre accessible to anyone thanks to the inclusion of electronic elements and female vocals, and one of their most famous tracks All I want is you brings one of the most fascinating Music Videos of the last years, whose message is clear: Despite being only one of billions of people in this world, we are all connected, and our life can change from one moment to another. An amazing video that will entertain you from the beginning to the end, every single second: A must watch!


2. Perfume – VOICE

The Techno-pop trio from Hiroshima is not only one of the most influent mainstream acts of the Japanese music scene, but also a quality guarantee when it comes to Music Videos: Bringing innovation, creativity and plain joy, Perfume‘s discography is one of the richest and most valid in the industry, and with VOICE the three lovely girls expose not only their cuteness and adorable personalities, but also the talent of the team of artists working behind the scenes that made A-chan, Nocchi and Kashiyuka’s talents reach stellar levels: A lovely and pleasant watch that will brighten your day!


1. Utada Hikaru – Sakura Nagashi

Utada Hikaru is an amazing singer and artist, and with the beautiful masterpiece that is Sakura Nagashi, she proved once again to Japan and to the world what she’s capable of, what stream of emotions her voice can still unleash inside of us despite the distance she voluntarily took from the music industry years ago. The emotions this song deliver are enormously emphasized by the Music Video, a beautiful montage of shots taken in nature and in other different places, focusing on heartbreaking moments in a crescendo of emotions that follows the vibe of the track perfectly, to the point you’ll find yourself in tears and realize how fragile we humans are. This is audiovisual art at its best, and no one other than Hikki could have delivered these strong emotions with such delicacy. Absolutely brilliant.

These were only five of the must-see Music Videos the Japanese music scene can offer, and more will come in my next article dedicated to this particular aspect of the industry.

What do you think about these videos? Did you like them? What are the MVs that deserve to be in this list? Be sure to leave a comment down below!
– Alex

Sakanaction – Natsukashii Tsuki wa Atarashii Tsuki – Coupling & Remix works – COMPILATION REVIEW

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Release Date: August 5th
Formats: 2CDs / 2CDs + DVD / 2CDs + Blu-Ray
Number of Editions (3): Regular Edition, Limited Edition w/DVD, Limited Edition w/Blu-Ray


One of the main reasons why I instantly loved Japanese music the day I discovered it was the innovation and the open minded attitude many artists have towards this medium, delivering unique and characterful compositions hardly comparable to what overseas markets can offer, especially in the mainstream scene. Five years have passed since that day, and the convinction that the music coming from the land of the rising sun has something special is still vivid in my mind, strengthen by even more bands that made their debut in the industry showcasing interesting concepts and improbable combination of genres that have proved to be not only successful, but also genuinely good.

One of the first bands that surprised me the most under this aspect was, and still is, Sakanaction, a five members group mixing accessible rock sonorities with deeper and complex electronic elements spacing from melodic synth-pop, ambient and even a classy touch of Dance elements, all of this in a masterful balance of sounds brought by the band’s main songwriter and art director Ichiro Yamaguchi and the extremely talented musicians that compose this band’s particular and unique sound. Now, after several nationwide tours, countless live releases, and six valuable albums under the belt, Sakanaction celebrate their ten years anniversary with a new release to add to their valid discography, a B-side and remix collection also featuring unreleased tracks named Natsukashii Tsuki wa Atarashii Tsuki – Coupling & Remix works – .

While most of the bands out there fall back on the more accessible but not always convincing “Best of” releases, the five guys from Sapporo decided to bring a compilation that tries to satisfy first and foremost the fans by showcasing their sound through the less common (but not less valid) compositions, enriched by a vast number of remixes from various artists the band already collaborated with in various occasions; Not an easy task to accomplish, and definitely not something every band out there can actually achieve, but the attention for details that permeates every release of this band is reflected here as well, which is a quality guarantee by itself. The compilation, divided into two CDs (one for the B-sides and unreleased tracks, one for the remixes, plus a DVD filled with bonus footage) boasts an impressive 26-songs tracklist, enough material to make all the fans satisfied until the next record of the bands drop, and the newcomers to feel… kinda lost.

But it’s only a matter of time until everyone gets familiar with the bands’ sound, which is a goal well achieved by the first CD of the compilation mainly dedicated to the B-sides: From the “twin” track Ame (A) and its unforgettable melodies and pleasant rhythmic flow, to the synth-tastic Slow Motion that merges electronic elements and classic guitar riffs creating a unique atmosphere, the listener gets immediately familiar with such a various and layered sound from the first half of the album, reaching the top in tracks like the revolutionary-sounding and soothing multiple exposure, a six-minutes long composition that entertains and delivers feelings in the classic Sakana way, pleasing the fans and genuinely surprising those who are taking the first step into these complex sounds, recognizing the style of every single musician in the band: Emi’s charismatic synths and melodies, the punching, almost jazzy bass lines brought by Ami, the trademark drumming of Keiichi, and the delicate guitars of Motoharu and Ichiro all fit perfectly on each other like a puzzle, creating the unique, masterfully layered sound that led the band to success during the years.

Unreleased tracks and B-sides also translates into more experimental sounds, provided here by tracks like Modokashii Hibi, that brutally puts everything the band can in a track that’s an extreme representation of the band’s formula, to the point of sounding voluntarily messy and chaotic in certain sections, shifting from regular J-rock sonorities to pure club music; Eiga (Conté 2012/11/16 17:24), an alternate version of the track included in the band’s self-titled album, brings different samples and a slightly different structure in what is an almost genial (and kinda Pink Floyd-esque) mix of random sounds and piano notes. It’s also curious to see how, despite being a good showcase of the general sound of the band, this first CD slightly weighs more on the softer and soothing side of the band’s identity, mainly thanks to the atmospheric and ambient-influenced opener Holy Dance, whose recent Music Video graced the eyes of many people, and Years, an initially melancholic and painful track that blossoms into a relaxing electronic piece with great delicacy, to then move on to Neptunus, where Ichiro Yamaguchi’s interpretation reaches amazing levels. The electronic instrumental montage closes the circle of the B-sides of the first CD, in a maze of sounds that defines the attitude and the personality of this whole compilation, which is the complete freedom of composing, experimenting and simply jamming in the way passionated and professional musicians love, free of any imposition or commercial limit, an attitude clearly represented in these ten tracks and in the few remix and the 2006 version of GO TO THE FUTURE that close the first part of this compilation: It’s the pure Sakana sound people love, and it’s just pleasantly enjoyable.

The second CD dedicated to the remixes made by other artists, despite being particularly aimed at hardcore fans, brings some interesting reinterpretations of some of the band’s classics, with the amazing NEXT WORLD remix of Goodbye as one of the highlights, immediately followed by the club-ish Ame(B) -Sakanatribe x ATM version- and the delicate and wonderful remix of Music by Shibuya Kei pioneer Cornelius, which is pure gold. All in all, these mixes will find the fans jamming to the renewed sound of their favorite tracks, and despite the presence of a couple of mixes who actually break the mood of the tracklist with doubtful sounds and influences, this is an overall nice compilation that works greatly and fully represents Sakanaction’s music and all the enthralling details that compose it.


Verdict

Natsukashii Tsuki wa Atarashii Tsuki – Coupling & Remix works – does what every compilations of B-sides and unreleased tracks should do: To showcase the sound of a band in every detail while unveiling the most spontaneous and genuine side of it. The tracks on the first CD are all very valid, while the remixes will be a pleasant listen to those who already loved the classic tracks from this band, with some incredibly good reinterpretations that are just love at first listen. While the newcomers may want to check out the band’sDocumentaLy and Sakanaction albums as ideal starting points to get into this band’s music, here the fans will find everything they would expect from a Sakanaction compilation: Quality compositions and fantastically enjoyable music.

Vote: 8 / 10

Tracklist

[CD 1 – Tsuki no Namigata: Coupling & Unreleased Works]

01. Holy Dance
02. Ame(A)
03. multiple exposure
04. Years
05. Eiga (Conté 2012/11/16 17:24)
06. Slow Motion
07. Modokashii Hibi
08. Spoon to Ase
09. Neptunus
10. montage
11. Night Fishing is good (Iw_remix)
12. Music (Ej_remix)
13. Identity (Ks_remix)
14. GO TO THE FUTURE (2006 acoustic ver.)

[CD 2 – Tsuki no Hen’yō: Remix Works]

01. Goodbye (Next World remix)
02. Ame(B) (Sakanatribe x ATM version)
03. Rookie (Takkyu Ishino remix)
04. Mikazuki Sunset (FPM Everlust Mix)
05. Light Dance YSST Remix 2015 (Remixed by Yoshinori Sunahara)
06. Eiga (Aoki Takamasa Remix)
07. Sample (Cosmic Version)
08. Sayonara wa Emotion (Qrion Remix)
09. Yes No (Aoki Takamasa Remix)
10. Yoru no Odoriko (Agraph Remix)
11. Music (Cornelius remix)
12. Native Dancer (Rei Harakami Heppoko Re-Arrange)

[DVD / Blu-Ray – Tsuki no Keshiki]

01. Documentary of “GO TO THE FUTURE 2006 ver.”
02. GO TO THE FUTURE 2006 ver.
03. Years (Music Video)
04. Slow Motion (Music Video)
05. Holy Dance (Music Video)
06. Eureka (Minimal Demo)

Sakanaction – Sayonara wa Emotion / Hasu no Hana | SINGLE REVIEW

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Many artists of the Japanese music industry differentiate themselves from the rest of the world thanks to the uniqueness in combining several and completely different genres into one and make them work greatly, and the guys from Sakanaction are one of the main acts keeping up with this open mentality with some brilliant musical offerings born from a masterful fusion of rock, pop and pure electronic/club music, that guaranteed to the five musicians from Hokkaido the definitive consecration with their last album reaching the top of the Oricon chart.

With the melancholic and oniric Goodbye/Eureka behind, Sakanaction are back with a long awaited new single to bring some more quality music to our ears, and it’ll be interesting as usual to see what Ichiro Yamaguchi (mastermind of the group) came out with. After all, in all their their talent and great personality, it’s always a mystery to foresee these guys’ movements… and that’s really exciting.


Sayonara wa Emotion

If there’s a key word that represents this first song at its best is, guess what, emotion. The song kicks off with a delicate drumming and the shy melody from Emi’s piano, as a touch of fresh-sounding synth leads to Yamaguchi’s first verse; The singing is minimal and not invasive, following a clear and precise metric in the main part to then delicately evolve in the chorus, directly linked to the verse with no bridge or any sort of structure change but represented only by an higher and more emotional tone of voice and emphasized keyboards that delicately divide this section of the track. The second verse follows the same pattern, with shy guitar notes now enriching the whole plethora of details forming the verse. The aggressive guitar riffing and the drum roll break through the second chorus giving new life to the song, summoning a more emotional atmosphere leading to a short instrumental section that sounds almost like an improvisation. A short keyboard break leads to the last chorus, followed by a typical Sakanaction ending section with all the members singing together: Lots of emotions, in name and deed.

The whole song, despite adopting a very simple structure and featuring distinct sonorities, it flows well and doesn’t weigh to the the ear of the listener: The first part, with few delicate details and calm singing perfectly leads to the second, lively but more emotional section full of emphasis, marked by aggressive guitar riffing and the rolling rhythmic part coupled by higher notes in the bass line. Despite not being technically a masterpiece, in its simpleness, Sayonara wa Emotion summons a lot of feelings while entertaining with its wide range of sounds and layer of details: Simple, but very well executed.

Hasu no Hana

The previously released Hasu no Hana now comes in its single version, and after the emotional emphasis of the previous track, this song brings a more thoughtless and light approach to the package: With the main chorus kicking off the track, the whole song rotates around the main section’s catchiness and pleasant sound made of delicate riffing, evocative synths and bass lines, coupled by Yamaguchi’s catchy and relaxing singing. The structure, as the song itself, is really simple and catchy: The verses focus on the lyrics with a background as usual made of details made of guitar notes and a continuous synth, to then add samples and Ami’s bass line in the second verse. A pre-chorus bridge following the same main melody leads to a break and the final chorus; A final instrumental section brings us to the end of the track.

Hasu no Hana is a very simple song that doesn’t stand out for anything in particular, and it’s undoubtedly a bit under the Sakanaction standard, but it doesn’t fail under any aspect at the same time, giving the most of it in the chorus and its pleasant and positive vibe. Far from being an unforgettable track, it still represents a nice occasional listen for the fans of the Hokkaido guys.

[Extra Content] Ame(B) – SAKANATRIBE x ATM version – / Music (Cornelius remix)  

Sakanaction always put a lot of effort in bringing value to their releases, and this single isn’t an exception: The acclaimed and absolutely amazing Sakanatribe version of the band’s classic from Shinshiro (performed in their last tour Sakanatribe 2014) is finally available as audio track, this time enriched by the collaboration of AOKI Takamasa, and it’s fair to say that the difference with the original version performed live isn’t that much (luckily), where the only changes reside exclusively in the lyrics, this time sang by all the band’s members without any effect, and in the focus in the singular parts of the song, leaving behind the more club-ish elements and all the effects that came with it; The live version was genuinely more cool and entertaining than this one, but yet, it still remains an amazing piece of track that you won’t stop listening to. Moving along we find the curious remix of Sakanaction’s classic hit Musicmade by Shibuya Kei pioneer Cornelius, that brings us an acoustic version of the track with slight electronic influences: It’s surprising how the lyrics and singing of this song actually fit perfectly in such a different execution, and the result is very good and a pleasant listen to those who loved the original track (who didn’t?). The rich video footage contained in the Limited Edition is worth the extra money, showing different collaborations of the band with other artists as they play in the studio, plus featuring interviews (Japanese only) with Ichiro Yamaguchi and the guest musicians.

These new propositions of Sakanaction’s classic tracks are an interesting and entertaining feature that enrich the whole package of this single in an important way: The fans will appreciate it and love both of them.


Verdict

Sayonara wa Emotion / Hasu no Hana pretty much follows the atmospheres and the vibe of Sakanaction’s previous single, represented by predominantly calmer and more reflective sonorities while leaving behind the more electronic influences that guaranteed the uniqueness of the band’s core sound. But this doesn’t mean this single isn’t good, at all: Sayonara wa Emotion is a well done and executed track, with an evocative and revolutionary feel and great pathos in its final part where all the members’ talent and attention for details comes out, while Hasu no Hana, despite not being an unforgettable track nor the best offering for newcomers, it’s still a pleasant listen that fans will love to come back on once in a while. The two extra tracks and the rich video footage (this one exclusive of the Limited Edition) included in the package are worth all your time and money, elevating the value of this overall release that, while it doesn’t reach the same level of most of Sakanaction’s previous singles, it still has lots of value and great music for everyone.

Vote: 7.5/10


 

Tracklist

[CD]

01. Sayonara wa Emotion
02. Hasu no Hana – Single Version-
03. Ame(B) -SAKANATRIBE×ATM version-
04. Music (Cornelius Remix)

[DVD – Limited Edition only]

01. Good-bye Session featuring Tamaki Roy (Originally broadcasted on Ustream on 2013.11.28)
02. Yamaguchi Ichiro x Tamaki Roy Talk Session
03. Sample STUDIO LIVE guest Sasaki “SUNNY” Yukio (Originally broadcasted on Ustream on 2014.8.5)
04. Sasaki “SUNNY” Yukio Interview

– Alex