The seven stages of grief: SHIINA RINGO and SUNNY ONWARDS

ringo

So recently, Shiina Ringo has made some questionable career choices that have left me as a long term fan, pretty damn annoyed. However, lately, that has calmed down and I’ve been able to accept what has become of her. This is my seven stages of grief over the death of what once was. (Also this is all a bit of fun, don’t take it too seriously)

Stage 1: Denial– When I first saw the track-list and cover: Oh it’s OK! Them old songs are pretty good, so what if it’s only got an EP worth of new tracks, they’ll be awesome!
Stage 2: Pain– Oww my ears! This is mastered so badly! Uggh!
Stage 3: Anger– How could she do this to us? After 15 years of loyalty and now she turkey slaps us with THIS!
Stage 4: Depression– It’s all over, Baby Blue. Shiina Ringo is a thing of the past, no way she’ll ever recover. RIP
Stage 5: The Upward Turn– Hmm I guess this LG song ain’t THAT bad. The music videos are sorta cool
Stage 6: Reconstruction/Working Through– So what if Shiina Ringo isn’t remotely what she used to be, there’s still plenty of other cool stuff out there!
Stage 7: Acceptance– eh whatever, her old stuff is good. It’ll be fun to watch future train-wrecks. It is what it is.

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The seven stages of grief: SHIINA RINGO and SUNNY ONWARDS

PERFUME- STAR TRAIN

star

STAR TRAIN is the latest single by Perfume, and is intended as a 15th anniversary release which also ties in with their latest DVD. So of course, this reviewer had to check it out and had few expectations. Unfortunately, this release would have been better left on Yasutaka Nakata‘s hard-drive and released as bonus songs.

Production wise, it’s Yasutaka Nakata, so on the very base level, there really is nothing major to complain about. Apart from the fact that his sound has become stale and quite frankly, uninspiring. There’s no new ground covered here, except maybe a flimsy attempt at creating a stadium anthem with the title track- which I will get into later. Other than that, it’s Perfume by the books and you can pretty much expect every moment on here.

A quick rundown on the three main tracks:
STAR TRAIN is sickeningly over-nostalgic. Feels like a Hallmark Card with it’s frivolity. An attempt at making a stadium filler ends up sounding like Perfume doing a wannabe One Direction track.
TOMEIKI LIGHTS is just plain yawn inducing. There’s not much to say here except that it’s almost skip worthy. Offers absolutely nothing new and is immediately forgettable.
IMITATION WORLD bores with its utter lack of charm. What once was a cute old Perfume song has become plagued by Nakata’s cold, sterile modern sound. RIP Imitation World.

The single does come with instrumentals, but who would want to listen to something so bland?

At this rate, Perfume will truly be as old and tired as they look on the single cover in no time. Either escape the clutches of Nakata or have Nakata take a break from his steady amount of overwork.

Feel that greed seeping from every nook and cranny. This single is unnecessary, trite and will probably go down as Perfume’s worst yet. A 15th anniversary release should be something to go down in the memory banks, not something to try and forget. Nothing can prepare even the hardest Perfume fan for the amount of disappointment Nakata managed to fit into these three tracks.

3/10 This Star Train wrecked

PERFUME- STAR TRAIN

QUICK THOUGHTS: NEW YASUHA KOMINAMI ALBUM DECEMBER

yasu

Yasuha Kominami, that girl we all were expecting great things from but never quite made it (yet) is still kicking!– after quite a silence (give or take the LiSA single she wrote for). She is set to release her second full length album on December 2. It’s entitled “僕を救ってくれなかった君へ” and is the first Kominami release since the iTunes exclusive Toshi Densetsu Club EP from June last year.

What could Kominami have up her sleeves? What has she been working on during the almost silence? Will Universal finally give her the breathing room and freedom that I know she so needs to release her full potential, instead of pushing her to be the next Shiina Ringo in sound? I sincerely hope so, I feel that she has been unfairly judged in the past and really is a highly talented and exciting musician, with an amazing and unique voice that I crave to hear more of. If not, I’ll be happy with another Soupy World, cause damn that song cooks! I wait fervently for this release and will be blindly ordering. Expect a review later this year!

The album is to be pressed as both a CD only and a CD+DVD version. Not much more information is available right now but I will keep this post updated periodically.

UPDATE November 5:

Tracklist:

【CD】
プレゼント
ぼくを救済するうた
蜘蛛の糸
NO-MAN
死ぬまで騙して欲しかった

次の日のうた
白闇
3355411
POP LIFE
ホームタウンシック
ブリリアントブルー
【ボーナストラック】
ニャンだ!あいつ
LET IT DIE

【DVD(初回盤限定)】
・3355411 Music Video
・NO-MAN Music Video
・オープンセサムービー ディレクターズカット
・“らせんの糸ツアー2015” ドキュメンタリー

QUICK THOUGHTS: NEW YASUHA KOMINAMI ALBUM DECEMBER

SA DINGDING- THE BUTTERFLY DREAM

Sa-Dingding-The-Butterfly-Dream-830x830

Sa Dingding‘s latest album is unlike anything she has released before. Infact, it’s not quite like anything you’ve likely heard before. This is a truly fresh, singular experience that DEMANDS your attention. It has a hard bite and refuses to let go for it’s entire playtime. Dingding could have gotten away with doing what she has done for the last three releases and I would have been happy- but no– she takes her blend of music to a completely different plain. It’s got a far more Euro/UK feel (and also is mixed with Indian flavor- parts of it were recorded in Mumbai) and it works WONDERS. This is a new, different beast for Dingding, so much so that you will possibly sit there wondering WTF for quite a bit of it on initial spins. In the best way possible.

Production is unlike other Dingding albums- whereas before she went for a more floaty, atmospheric mix, this time it’s direct, loud and crunchy. This is likely to the fact that production duties were given over to Karsh Kale. It punches you in the gut and sounds absolutely wonderful. Instrumentation is highly electronic based- of course, it wouldn’t be Dingding without the trademark mix of traditional Chinese instruments- but instead of being the forefront, they feel slightly less pronounced this time, and only become the highlight when they push a song forward. Beats are more intense and modern sounding, often verging (but never quite devolving to) trap and dubstep at times. There are times where it has a very Indian or Bollywood feel, and this adds some fresh new sounds. There seems to be a lot of direct ‘song’ structures (verse chorus verse) this time too, making it instantly more catchy and approachable– and this is a plus in this particular release.

Some of the biggest highlights:

The almost rock like single “Swallows” which has a beautiful melodic acoustic guitar as it’s main instrument. It almost reminds this reviewer of the most beautiful tracks by bands like The Tea Party, yet made even more beautiful by Dingding’s hypnotizing voice. It works as a single and is easily the most inviting song on the album. It soothes the soul and is hard to resist repeating right after it’s over.

The utterly cathartic opener “Ding Ding Sa“, making sure you KNOW she’s back and midway track “Play” which mixes intense, Mumbai style beats with traditional Chinese children’s games lyrics. This is the biggest departure for Dingding on the entire album, and she truly brings something new to the table with it. I have been blown away by her before, but I’ve never been this surprised.

So I Have Heard” is the most beautiful song of the album, and Dingding perhaps brings the very best vocals she has ever put to record. The song swirls and grows, Dingding’s voice reaches highs that most vocalists can only dream of. The use of layering really adds to the effect, it’s mind-blowing and heart-wrenching. It’s the kind of vocals that transcend language, you can feel the song without having to know a scrap of her dialect. And that truly is testament to the power of these songs.

For those who crave that rich, trademark sound of earlier albums, you aren’t fully left behind. Songs like “Oriental Beauty“, “Peach Blossom Fairy” and “Origins of Sound” indeed do invoke those earlier flavors, but add some new spice to the mix. You’ll still get them amazing, operatic and downright otherworldly vocals that have been an anchor in her music since the start, but this time Dingding is not afraid to push her vocal range to intense and jaw dropping new heights. I have never heard her get her vocals as high as she does in the little flourishes in “Origins of Sound” for example. It’s all great, great stuff.

We reach the album’s finale and hardest hitting track, “Good Luck Song“. Harking waaaay back- right to Dingding’s Zhou Peng roots, it goes on a simple, almost trance style melody and gradually builds and builds as the vocals reach an almost punishing climax. You are left crushed, drained and utterly blown away by what you just heard. You take a breather to let it all sink in and enjoy the brief silence you have.

Then you go and press play on track one to start it all again.

9.5/10 An experience like no other. Serious AOTY contender material.

Edit 20th November 2015: Now that the album has been released, the placeholder artwork has been replaced with the official album artwork, which may I say, is really beautiful!

SA DINGDING- THE BUTTERFLY DREAM

QUICK THOUGHTS: SA DINGDING IN LONDON 2015

SaDingDing-Vantage

So, recently, Sa Dingding has revealed that she is currently in London working on a new album and preparing for a tour (no dates yet but I assume they will be revealed soon). It wasn’t until the studio rehearsal pictures starting showing up that I have gotten really, really excited about the prospect of getting a new album- and all the memories of my experiences with her last album The Coming Ones have come flooding back in. That album, to me, is her masterpiece and if this follow up is remotely of that caliber, then count me on the edge of my seat.

Also, on a side note, looks like she was invited to a dinner hosted by British PM, David Cameron, whether he actually knows her or not is another question (or she was just invited because of the current visitation of China’s president and Cameron mustered up all the Chinese celebrities he could find)- but it, to me is quite surprising.

dingding

Anyway, however long it takes, I’d be expecting Dingding album 4 by the end of 2016 at the latest. TAKE MY MONEY!

22 October 2015: An update. Sa Dingding has revealed the name of her new album, which is to be “The Butterfly Dream” and will be launched on November 20. It’s lead single, “Swallow” is to be released tomorrow!

QUICK THOUGHTS: SA DINGDING IN LONDON 2015

Maron Hamada- Seijuku no Marble

hamada

A few years ago, Maron Hamada quietly unleashed her first album, Huryo Shoujo Elegy onto the scene. It was a smoky, sexy collection of jazz rock tunes that evoked the excitement of an affair- but also managed to pummel the listener with all the feelings of regret that comes from it. It was contagious and addictive- and like nicotine, was nearly impossible to stop listening to. It had its faults- occasionally it lost momentum and the production was limited. However, overall, it was one of the better releases in the genre for quite some time.

Now, in 2015 she returns with Seijuku no Marble, her sophomore album after a few standalone singles after her debut. It takes everything great about the first album, cuts out the fat and adds even more spice to the mix and turns out to be one of the most exciting listens of the year.

It opens with the groovy as hell Miren Batufurai, which instantly sets the album’s tone. Sexy, smoky and genuinely intense. The instrumental work is impeccable, and the audio
mix is gorgeous. Hamada’s vocals are as hard hitting as ever, not one note missed. The studio recording brings the power of her live performance to the forefront and it’s just an utterly compelling experience.

The highlight of the album, the lead single Mayakashi no Blues, still lives up as one of her greatest tracks. It’s perfectly welcome in the set and it’s hard not to repeat it the second it’s over. Brilliant, sad and poignant, noone delivers it quite like Hamada does here. From there the listener is treated to an ever exciting, varied and all killer-no filler mix of tunes that is ultimately as satisfying as the best lover.

If I have one complaint about this album- I could have done with a few more new songs (a constant complaint I have with Japanese albums in general), however that said, the songs we’ve already heard are so strong that it’s really just a minor complaint in this case. It’s a shorter album than her first, which might be a little off-putting to some, but for this listener, it just makes it far more easy to digest and just start it over at the end of it’s running time.

For the uninitiated, you’re in for quite the treat- highly recommended if you’re into the more cabaret jazz end of the likes of Shiina Ringo (think Assassin’s Assassin but as
an entire career sound focus), for those who are in for their second round- this album provides no new major revelations in Hamada’s sound- but does nicely expand and tighten up the screws on her tried and true formula, making for an even more compelling and satisfying experience than her debut.

Ultimately, if you’re really after something exciting to listen to, this is worth checking out! And don’t forget to check out the music videos too- pretty damn cool!

8/10 Maron Hamada really brings a constant sense of danger to the mix, it feels playing with fire and it bites hard. Unforgettable. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait so long for the next release!

Maron Hamada- Seijuku no Marble

SEIKO OOMORI- <3 Bakuretsu! Nana-chan to Iku Love Love Sennou Tour <3 ~Nostalgic Nakano Sun Plaza~

oomoridvd

It is no secret that I like Seiko Oomori just a little bit more than the average person. She currently, in-fact, is my number 1 musician. So it should also be no surprise that I’m reviewing her latest treat- “❤ Bakuretsu! Nana-chan to Iku Love Love Sennou Tour ❤ ~Nostalgic Nakano Sun Plaza~” live DVD/Blu Ray. It should also come as no surprise that I absolutely adored the disc- BUT even I was surprised by how amazing it turned out to be. Not only on Oomori’s performance side, but also the audio and video presentation that AVEX adorned on it. Which I will get into later. But first… the juicy stuff:

The show gets off to a wonderfully breathtaking and uncomfortable start- an opening run of acoustic Oomori solo tracks. Starting up with the intense PINK, few times have I been taken aback by an opening song choice. Oomori plays messy and goes a million miles per hour. Everything is both warm and inviting, but also gives a real sense of tension to the proceedings- you’re just waiting for her to explode. This continues for the first five songs- and then explode she does! Zettai Zetsubou Zekkouchou bursts into life as her truly talented backing band kicks in and she starts throwing herself around the stage. It’s wonderful and makes the viewers heart skip a beat. This is where the real fun truly begins.

If I were to talk about the highlights of the concert- I’d likely be able to say something about every song. And having 26 tracks, I would be here for quite a while. But I MUST mention a few major key moments such as- the ending of Amai (amazing, extended and near free form, Oomori going absolutely bonkers on her keyboard), the live version of Imitation Girl (what an ingenious version, what they have done for the dubstep ‘drop’ is undeniably clever), the looooooong, slow groovy version of Ongaku o Suteyo, Soshite Ongaku e, the debut performance of Magic Mirror (where indeed a giant mirror is revealed to show the crowd) and my personal favorite moment- this version of KITTY’S BLUES.

One thing particularly exciting about this release, is that it’s the first Oomori release to get the HD treatment- and what a job AVEX have done. It’s easily the best live recording to date- and it looks and sounds gorgeous. Never has an Oomori show been this warm. Everything is clear and punchy. Oomori’s vocals sound wonderful in the mix, never too loud or too soft. It offers room for guitar and keyboard solos, or the frequent amount of vocal freakouts. Whether it be acoustic, full band or even acapella, every moment of this recording is beautiful to watch (yes, even when she’s licking the stage :-p).

In the end, what you have here is one of those rare lives that you cannot believe you just watched. If you do decide to purchase, feel confident that you’re purchasing something that easily has it’s place among all the Dynamite Out‘s, Hatsutaiken‘s and East Gate Toulenes‘ of the world. Not only is the best live video release of Oomori’s career (so far), it’s one of the best live concert videos I have ever experienced. So, if you are a Seiko Oomori fan, why the hell don’t you own this already? For all the people still wondering WTF when it comes to her- then this disc will surely be the make or break point.

Definitive, daring and unforgettable. A must see.

9.5/10
Oomori’s best live show recording yet.

SEIKO OOMORI- <3 Bakuretsu! Nana-chan to Iku Love Love Sennou Tour <3 ~Nostalgic Nakano Sun Plaza~