Review: Iromegane- 37.2℃

202900

Iromegane are quite an interesting group that are almost impossible to classify into one set genre. Their influences are vast and varied and it really comes across through their studio releases. It’s quite refreshing to get such a mixed plate of different tastes- and even more wonderful to know that this time, those tastes are fully perfected and delicious. 37.2℃ is the followup to last years “Ohanabatake ni Tsuretette” -and during that time, it really shows that the band have been working damn hard to hone all their sounds.

So, let’s talk about the sounds here- as that will definitely be the biggest talking point about this one. Here you are laid out a delicious series of highly different types of pop and rock. Opening with the gorgeous, sweeping rock ballad (and first single) “Yuuki wo Motte Goodbye“, the album takes many, many turns in style and sound from here. They range from super sweet bops (“Meshiagare” with it’s delightful, almost insane chorus complete with chiming keys and vocals, and the amazingly cute pop rock tune “Sora wa Mizuiro“)- to the hard hitting, early Wakusei Abnormal sounding second single “Kowai“- which blasts the listener’s face off with it’s astonishing energy and hard hitting guitar riffs. A lot of the fun comes from not knowing where the band is going to take the listener next- and the most interesting part is that despite the mixed bag approach the band have gone for here- it all flows brilliantly. Finally, I’ll mention my favorite track “shall we love?” which is a fun, goofy, super cute and silly (in the best way imaginable) ditty that has some of the most amazing (yet non-intrusive or overly showy) piano work I’ve heard all year. The playful use of tempo makes me smile and it’s become my latest addiction.

The production just sparkles here. Everything is present and never washed out. Nothing is muddy, and it’s just bright and bubbly throughout- even in it’s harder moments. Instruments work amazing alongside each other. Every guitar lick is as clear as each piano hit. Lead vocals are at the perfect level- they never drown out like so many albums of this ilk do- they just fit perfectly with and around the tunes. Then there’s the other things- like backing vocals- which now sound deliriously glorious and essential (instead of floaty and distracting like they did in the debut). Listen to the wonderful chants on “Shiroi Hashi” for example- they’re just at the absolute perfect volume- which raises an already gorgeous and sweet ballad to even greater heights. It all sounds truly excellent– and feels like a little bit of magic has been sprinkled all over the album.

Iromegane have really brought their mastery of a mixed bag to the forefront with this sophomore effort. It flows much better, has bright, wonderful production- and offers a lot of variety to thrill and entice listeners to keep coming back. It’s a major step forward to them from their debut effort “Ohanabatake ni Tsuretette“; it sounds absolutely professional and exciting- and truly has the potential to become a favorite of 2016 for fans and newbies alike.

8/10 Iromegane’s latest should be your latest album to check out.

Review: Iromegane- 37.2℃

Review: Ayumi Hamasaki- Made in Japan

202056

(yes, I know this isn’t the official cover- will replace when it is released)

A new Ayumi Hamasaki album is always quite the gamble for yours truly. Usually the end result is a pleasant mess, with a few great songs mixed in with a main body of decent- but ultimately forgettable tunes. Recent albums have not managed to get much playtime- and have usually been buried by whatever releases surround them. Indeed, the golden age of “New Ayumi Hamasaki OMG!” has passed for this reviewer- but I still keep up with her,  mainly out of pure respect. So, when Made In Japan was released last week via Avex‘s digital streaming service AWA (which, for whatever stroke of genius- is geo-blocked everywhere but Japan) I was already lining up the jokes before even listening to it.

However, I was shocked. Did I really just hear that? Peak era quality Hamasaki in 2016? Surely not! But damn it. I did hear it! It was from here that the album began to haunt me, creeping into my thoughts. Why had such a late game Ayumi Hamasaki album managed to affect me (and what looks to be many, many others) so greatly? The most obvious answer of course- is runtime. At only 43 minutes (including the bonus track cover of globe’s “Many Classic Moments”), it never manages to reach that cringe inducing level of fatigue that so many of Hamasaki’s later releases do. It has a well thought out, smart structured playlist that flows very nicely from start to end. The other main reason it works so well is that she didn’t try anything too “daring” or goofy this time. She just did what she should have been doing for the last 4 or 5 releases- taking a good look at what made her so good to begin with- and sticking to it. While this may be a criticism for some other acts- for a diva like figure such as Hamasaki- this is what works.

Whether it be a GUILTY-era esque hard rockers like “FLOWER” (with it’s breathtaking chorus complete with her best vocals in years), MY STORY level quality ballads like “Breakdown” (with it’s surprising rocky ending) and “Survivor” or it’s delightfully cheesy closing dance tracks like “Summer Love” and the aforementioned globe cover- everything here works in context as an album. Sure, there’s nothing ‘new’ here- but that is 100% truly fine with this reviewer. It will delight her fans and hey- that’s who really matters in the end, right?

Ayumi Hamasaki has worked a small miracle by simply doing something she has always had- playing to her strengths, cutting out the fat, and most of all- showing more confidence than she has for a long, long time. The listener can feel that Ayumi is legitimately involved with her project- and not a second is wasted during its runtime. Yes, the digital release method through AWA is questionable- and likely will be one of the main focus points for some listeners, but ultimately, what it comes down to, is that this is Ayumi Hamasaki’s best album in almost a decade. Fans will eat this one up. We can only hope that this seemingly sudden spark of inspiration will continue into future works. If not, enjoy this little gem while it lasts.

8/10- Ayumi Hamasaki fans, get ready to start typing “SLAY” anywhere and everywhere.

Review: Ayumi Hamasaki- Made in Japan

BOKUTACHI NO IRU TOKORO.- GOMI

811qipzmvjl-_sl1408_

You know them albums that you buy that are just amazing from start to end? The ones that you keep spinning and spinning until you know it like the back of the hand? Well, meet your newest addition to that collection, Bokutachi no Iru Tokoro.‘s “Gomi“. Yes. It’s that good. So good I need to swear. FUCKING GOOD.

First up though, “WHO THE HELL ARE BOKUTACHI NO IRU TOKORO.?” you may ask, if you haven’t been following my rants about them. Well, they’re a neat upcoming band that happen to make some of the best down and dirty rock in years. They have a truly amazing and VERSATILE vocalist named Jinsei Dame Ko who invokes elements of Mariko Goto and Jun Togawa, blended with her own signature growl. They also happened to have put out my personal favorite album of last year, “Kono Yo ni Umarete Kita Koto ga Somosomo Machigai Datta kara“.

What’s that? You want catchy? Accessible but not too accessible? Well it’s here, pal. All over this little beast of a record. It’s evident right from it’s energetic opener “Moeru Gomi” right to it’s Togawa in Yapoos’ era invoking “Yada Na“… and then of course there’s the amazing, triumphant masterpiece that is “Ai Towa“. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed with feelings both nostalgic and personal, with it’s amazing hook that seems like it was shot down from the Rock Gods themselves.

This isn’t a case of yours truly claiming “this band are so cutting edge! They’re so original”- no, not by a long shot. Infact, they’re the very opposite. Everything here has been done before. Many, many times. However– they are doing it with such amazing gusto that it’s hard not to be blown away. Think of every dirty rock band you’ve heard- every moment that made your jaw just drop- condensed- into a mere 30 minutes. That’s Gomi. And it will light that fire that’s been missing in your Japanese rock music catalog.

The production values here are insane considering how ‘indie’ the band are- it just feels great to blast loud without any distracting elements. It’s all ‘there’, punchy as fuck without losing any power through bad mixing choices. Major label rock bands should heed advice from this album- THIS IS HOW YOU PRODUCE A ROCK ALBUM. It makes me unbelievably happy to listen to. It has the power to just stop you eating on that greasy snack, close whatever porn you’re looking at and fucking listen to it.

If I was going to pick an element that *just* stops it from hitting the 10/10 league, it’s the slight jerk that the last two tracks give, they just seem slightly out of order. They’re great individually (an acoustic version of the aforementioned “Ai Towa” followed by the absolutely wild “Mushakusha Shite feat. Ishii Motako/Nakabayashi Kirara (from Oshiri Penpens)“), but don’t really end the album all that well- giving it the impression of it just ‘ending’ without any kind of real closure. But seriously, when the whole album is so damn good, you’ll be pressing play to listen once again once it’s finished anyway. So more of a nitpick than anything.

Overall though, Bokutachi‘s “Gomi” is almost unbelievably good, and while I may be the only one who shares this view- I feel that it’s safe to say that no Japanese rock album this year will remotely come close to the consistency of greatness that this little band have put onto disc here. It’s ridiculous.

9.5/10. A (near) perfect record that every Japanese rock fan should have ordered by now. Bokutachi no iru tokoro. remind us that sometimes all it takes is mastering simple things to make something extraordinary.

BOKUTACHI NO IRU TOKORO.- GOMI

DEMPAGUMI INC. – GOGO DEMPA

201319

Dempagumi inc. Dempagumi inc….. Dempagumi fucking inc. It’s the Twitter bait idol band, group, cult??? that litters my feed like a little mouse laying little presents around the house that I just cleaned. I know more about this group that I don’t really like than I do about some of the groups I do like. It’s just one of those things that are pretty much impossible to hide from. Just like another idol group that everyone knows that starts with B. Can you guess????

Anyway. FOCUS MAN. So their last album, WWDD was a pretty big success- and was pretty OK (Apart from the grating production, irritating vocals, wanky choices of genre to cover, people being insistent that it was “WAY MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER IDOL GROUP” and overlong running time) in my opinion. Of course.

So here we are, just over a year later (which is like an eternity in idol time- in which 1 minute in normal time equals 5 minutes) with their highly anticipated (I know because my tlist told me so!) follow-up, GOGO DEMPA. What improvements have we in stock? Which direction have they taken to bring the group to new heights? What’s different?

Well… nothing. Nothing at all.

Yep. It’s the same album again. No suprises. No frills (well, that’s not true. The frills are on the costumes the girls don). I’m treated to a wall of sound as soon as I press play, overwhelmed among the anarchy. I can taste the blinding neon of their dresses. There are no midlevels. There is barely any bass. It’s just everything set to 11- and it admittedly works for what it is. It’s fatiguing as hell. After what seems an eternity of utter ball smashing kawaii death crush I’ve melted into a squirming mass. I look down and send myself into utter shock- I’M ONLY AT TRACK 4- OUT OF 15. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS? Yes. It, once again, is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too fucking long. But it wouldn’t be Dempagumi Inc. if it wasn’t, right?

So congratulations Dempagumi inc….. you’ve totally voided this reviewer of any reasonable critical thought. Your album has drained my sanity to the point that all I can do is hope to never ever have to go through an ordeal like that again. But you know I will, when the next album pops along and decide it’s my duty to listen to something I don’t really want to but have to for the sake of being up to date with what the kids are into.

So yep. ‘It’s alright‘ I decide, as my teeth shatter into little shards. You owe me for my dental bill. Snaggle teeth aren’t as cute on fully grown men. I’d talk about individual tracks but I honestly found nothing stand out or really awful either. The album ends. I sigh a breath of relief. Give it a thought for a minute.

PEOPLE WANT A SCORE DAMMIT! THAT’S ALL THEY CARE ABOUT!

6-ish/10 I guess?– It’s Dempagumi inc. no more, no less. What that means to you is ultimately your opinion. You get what you expect.

DEMPAGUMI INC. – GOGO DEMPA