Yearly Archives: 2003

Remioromen releases new single in March


Remioromen will release a new single titled “Sangatsu Kokonoka” on — not surprisingly — March 9. (“Sangatsu Kokono” translates to the date “March 9”.) The ballad was written by Remioromen singer Fujimaki Ryoota to commemorate a friend’s wedding. Remioromen recently released its major label debut album Asagao.

Quruli releases new album in March


Quruli will release its fifth album of original material on March 10. Details of the album have yet to be determined, but new drummer Christopher Maguire is expected to appear on the recording. Till then, Quruli will release a new single, “Rock ‘n’ Roll”, on Feb. 11. The band recently released a soundtrack to the film Joze to Tora to Sakana-tachi.

Stuck in a moment

If I were facetious enough, I could reprint a review of Yaida Hitomi’s previous album, I/Flancy, in this space.

To quote:

I/Flancy shows Yaida has clearly chosen to maintain chart success at the expense of her creative growth. She deviates not one bit from the template that’s brought her fame. She’s working with the same producers, she’s playing with the same band.

Why reinvent the wheel when the facts are just the same?

But where I/Flancy still provided some interesting tunes, there’s not much engaging about Air/Cook/Sky, Yaida’s fourth album.

Sure, the first few tracks display Yaida’s talent for melody, but it’s not anything special that she hasn’t done better.

The Celtic touches of “Mienai Hikari”, while pleasant, aren’t new. (See “I can fly”, “I really want to understand”.) “Hitori Jenga” and “Kodoku na Cowboy” are obvious singles from the album but don’t hold up next to “Buzzstyle” or “Ring my bell”.

Perhaps even more depressing is just how lifeless Yaida’s music has become. Before, it was exuberent to the point of manic. Now, it’s predictable and generic.

She tries to toughen things up with the some heavy guitars on “Are you ready? boy” and “Mama to Daddy”, but they’re not enough to offset the 70s SoCal misstep of “Keep on movin'” or the lack of distinctiveness on “Hello” or “Slide show”.

Yaida is stuck. As much of a skilled songwriter she may be, she’s boxed herself in. Initial comparrisons to Shiina Ringo were indeed premature — Shiina has grown progressively daring, while Yaida is content to dole out the same album again and again.

At this rate, there’s not much point in paying attention to what she does next.

Kicell releases new album in February


Kicell releases its third album titled Mado ni Chikyuu on Feb. 18. Itsuka Mashiko, who worked with the duo on its latest single “Hakobune”, is expected to produce. A preview of the full video clip for “Hakobune” is available on the band’s official site with Speedstar Records till Jan. 7. Kicell released its previous album, Kinmirai, back in October 2002.

UA performs with new band


Alaya Vijana, a new band featuring UA, tabla player U-Zhaan (of Asa-Chang & Junray) and sitar player Yoshida Daikiti, releases its self-titled debut album on Feb. 4. The band combines ethnic elements with electronica, with UA singing freely throughout. The album’s jacket also features Tezuka Osamu’s painting “Hi no Tori”.

UA will also be featured on a soundtrack for NHK’s children’s show Do Re Mi, and she will also release a new single, “Lightning”, in February.

A well-done sophomore slump

Shiratori Maika’s second album, Toogenkyoo, is something of a conundrum.

It’s actually a pretty decent album, and at the same time, it’s also an obvious sophomore slump.

Shiratori’s 2002 debut, Hanazono, sifted the folk-pop sensibilities of Bonnie Pink through the alt-rock muscle of Cocco. Not surprising since Cocco’s producer, Takamune Negishi from Dr.StrangeLove, helmed the album.

Toogenkyoo, which means “Shangri-la” although Shiratori alters the spelling of the word, loses the edge of Hanazono. It’s a pretty album, almost genteel.

And that loss of muscle makes Toogenkyoo hard to accept at first.

Shiratori possesses a classic folk singer voice, sweet and powerful, a direct descendent of Joni Mitchell. Without the rough edges, that voice threatens to get lost in prettiness.

She first sounded like the apparent heir of Cocco. Now, she sounds like yet another Suzanne Vega.

And while the songs on Toogenkyoo may be buried in arrangements that don’t heighten their brute power, they’re still very well-crafted songs.

“Someday” may sound too much like a hit amongst the Lilith Fair set, but “now or never” has a chorus that could make even Bono proud.

“Circle” deceptively starts off as an earnest piano ballad, but half-way through, it expands to inhabit its full breadth. “Hoshi no Michishirube” keeps a tempered feel, but its four-on-the-floor beat gives it some real momentum.

The lyrics on “Practically dead”, meanwhile, are incredibly direct.

Toogenkyoo reaches its apex on “Yoru no Hitomi”. The song originally appeared as a coupling track on the single “Anata no Ude wo”, but the “in the city mix” on the album fleshes the song out into something remarkably engaging.

Takamune reprises his role as producer on most of the album, so it’s surprising to see his usually rocking production work scaled back so significantly.

Even on songs where Takamune unleashes the wall of shiny guitars, they don’t possess the same kind of majesty as on Hanazono.

But if the quality of Shiratori’s writing can shine through despite its less direct arrangements, then Shiratori and he shouldn’t have held back.

In terms of songwriting, Toogenkyoo holds up to Shiratori’s strong debut, even if its trappings don’t.