Note: This review covers both volumes of Omoide In My Head 2 ~Kiroku Series~.

Number Girl live albums don’t not offer any new insights to the band’s music. There are few extended jam sessions to capture, fewer wild departures from what’s heard in the studio.

Number Girl live albums don’t serve the same purpose as, say, Grateful Dead or Phish live albums do. They don’t capture singular moments never to be replicated at other performances. They don’t commemorate audience reaction.

Number Girl’s performance of “Toomei Shoojo” from one show is bound to sound the same as another performance months or years later.

So why is a Number Girl live album such a commodity? Pretty much for one reason — the chemistry of the band’s four members reaches far beyond the stage, the amplifiers, the magnetic tape, or the digital bits.

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Reaching out

Higurashi Aiha formed her band first, then learned to play an instrument. It’s that kind of adventurousness that drives her work.

She can be noisy and brash, tender and tuneful, and she’s not afraid to try new things.

That said, Higurashi’s second solo album, platonic, is all over the place, and that could be good or bad.

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I’m in trouble (or maybe not …)

iTunes launches in Japan.

According to various sources, iTunes is working with 15 Japanese labels to offer its songs. Sony Music has a competing service, so it’s not on board. Nor, does it seem, Victor. So I guess no Quruli or Hajime Chitose downloads for me.

Toshiba-EMI and Avex Trax, however, are signed up, and a quick search for some out-of-print CDs by Fleming Pie and Heart Bazaar turned up.

Hell, they even have Zazen Boys.


UPDATE: … if you live in Japan, that is. iTunes only accepts credit cards from the country of origin. The Japan store only accepts Japanese numbers, the Swedish store, Swedish numbers, etc. In short, Yankees out now! Such untapped leverage. Those wacky music industry executives.

Nomiya Maki releases new album in October


Former Pizzicato Five singer Nomiya Maki releases her fourth solo album, Party People, on Oct. 12. The album is expected to include Nomiya’s forthcoming collaborative single with m-flo, “Big Bang Romance”, coming out Sept. 7. A release party is scheduled for Oct. 28 at Shinkiba Ageha. On Aug. 25, Nomiya’s early solo album, Pink no Kokoro, gets the reissue treatment, with digital remastering. Nomiya recorded Pink no Kokoro before working with Pizzicato Five and an earlier band, Portable Rock.

I could rule the world if I only had the parts

A one-sentence item in ICE magazine announced reissue label Hip-O Select is releasing the complete recordings of the Waitresses on Aug. 19.

I haven’t been able to find any additional information on this release, but I am so there if this turns out to be true.

The Waitresses are responsible for those ’80s staples, “I Know What Boys Like” and “Christmas Wrapping”, although the two albums they recorded for Island Records are pretty smart.

A 1990 best-of collection was replaced in 2003 with a 20th Century Masters edition, which lopped off a few tracks from that earlier release. It’ll be nice to hear both complete albums and anything else Hip-O-Select may uncover from its vaults.

In the meantime, check out Future Fossil Music, the website of the Waitresses’ mastermind Chris Butler. He made the Guiness Book of World Records for recording the longest pop song (“The Devil’s Glitch”, running more than an hour) and recorded new songs using old technology such as wax cylinders. Now that’s lo-fi for you.

UPDATE: It looks like this recording was originally scheduled for a March release, then bumped to June. Now there’s report of the August date. I’ll be hitting up the Hip-O-Select web site regularly till I find more information.

Art-School releases new album in October


Art-School will release a new album on Oct. 5. It’s been two years since the release of the band’s third album, and since then, Art-School traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, to work with producer Tony Doogan (Quruli, Mogwai, Belle and Sebastian). The still untitled album includes guest appearances by Barry Burns of Mogwai, Emma of the Delgados and Japanese art-pop singer ACO. Art-School performs at the Rock in Japan festival on Aug. 5.

Break the cocoon

On the surface, Yorico’s music doesn’t seem all that remarkable. It’s the kind of piano balladry endlessly compared to Carole King.

But there’s a quality beneath the surface, something seemingly intangible but attributable only to Yorico — much like how Utada Hikaru’s R&B had a maturity beyond her years, or how Onitsuka Chihiro’s unchallenging pop had a rough edge.

A previous review on this site name-dropped these same pop figures, and the comparrisons are still worth exploring.

Yorico was 16 years old when she released her first independent album in 2002. She managed to sell 80,000 copies and even scored a minor hit with “Honto wa ne”. After taking a break in 2003, she re-emerged in 2004, still sounding freshly-scrubbed but more seasoned.

And so she released Cocoon in January 2005, her first album for a major label.

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Sing a song

Who would have thought when Cocco made a comeback, she would return as a country artist?

And not just a country artist — an alt-country artist.

When Cocco teamed up with Quruli’s Kishida Shigeru to record a Japanese version of her English song, “Sing a Song ~No Music, No Life~”, she transformed an alt-rock anthem to a country-rock jam session.

The band from that recording session became Singer Songer, and that free-wheeling spirit was channeled into an additional nine songs on the group’s debut, Barairo Pop.

Cocco takes sole songwriting credit on the album, but it’s evident the singer who announced her retirement in 2001 is not quite the same person who brought two-thirds of Quruli and their support musicians back with her in 2005.

Perhaps it’s Kishida’s affinity for American roots music that gives this music a brighter feel. Dr.StrangeLove’s Takamune Negishi highlighted the intensity of Cocco’s work. Kishida brings out her exuberence.

It takes some effort to adjust to the shift in styles. The prominent banjo and half-time backbeat of “Amefuri Hoshi” shows off its country flavor with pride. “Ame no Lullaby” bears a striking resemblence to “Tennesse Waltz”.

(“Oasis”, on the other hand, sounds a bit too much like the brilliant green’s “Tsumetai Hana”.)

With a few more diminished chords, “baby, tonight” could have felt more like Delta blues.

Cocco hasn’t totally abandoned the muse that marked her early career. She still includes a children’s song (“Home”), and she offers tunes both majestic (“Millions of Kiss”) and rocking (“Shoka Rinrin”, “Romantic Mode”).

The band produced the album itself, and its sound has a lot more breathing room than Takamune’s dense arrangements. Cocco’s voice is as alluring as ever, and the brighter tone suits her just fine.

In short, she sounds like she’s enjoying herself, and really, she deserves to. There’s a trade-off, though — the intensity so intrinsic to her earlier solo work has no room for this new collaborative dynamic.

As such, it sometimes feel like Barairo Pop is all appetizer or dessert — no main course. Breezing by at a brisk 40 minutes, the album ends before it’s really had a chance to take off.

But Barairo Pop is a Singer Songer album, not a Cocco solo album. The fact Cocco would take a chance on a drastic creative makeover is admirable in its own right, and really, it’s refreshing to hear joy so prominently in her voice.

Tabuchi Hisako side project releases first album


A side project featuring ex-Number Girl and current bloodthisrty butchers guitarist Tabuchi Hisako releases its debut album in September. Tabuchi thought about forming her band, toddle, before she was drafted into bloodthirsty butchers as a full-time member. Three years later, toddle debuts with I dedicate D chord, in stores Sept. 22 . A nationwide tour in support of the album begins in October.