I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube, Oricon charts are courtesy of and my research is translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Taeko Ohnuki -- Bleeker Street no Seishun (ブリーカーストリートの青春)

Dipping back into singer-songwriter Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)5th album "Aventure" (1981) for the track "Bleeker Street no Seishun" (My Youth on Bleeker Street). Considering her lyrics, I took this Bleeker Street to be the one in West Village, New York City. However, I couldn't help but feel a bit surprised when I first acquired "Aventure" and saw the title since there is a street with the same name here in Toronto (although it is actually spelled Bleecker). In fact, it was the north-south street next to my family's old apartment in St. James Town. Although I have been to The Big Apple twice, I don't recall ever getting onto Bleeker Street but I imagine that since it is located in the West Village, it is probably a whole lot more stylish than the very inner-city drab Bleecker Street of my memories.

Getting back to the actual song, however, "Bleeker Street no Seishun" may not be one of Ohnuki's more prominent creations but it is still quite appealing to me. By the time, she released "Aventure", the singer had created her unique niche as a singer mixing European and technopop sounds; sometimes they were separate and sometimes they were meshed together. "Bleeker Street" is much more of the former. In keeping with the setting of the title, the music has this somewhat artsy French-movie-like nature cropping up images of college students in black turtleneck sweaters (which are actually mentioned in the lyrics) commuting between their classrooms and the cafes. And perhaps among all those post-academics, there is young Ms. Ohnuki sitting in one of those coffeehouses just staring out the window as she mentally philosophizes about life. I think my university life was far more work-a-day. My buddies and I usually hit the local Pizza Hut or eatery in Chinatown after classes.

Tessei Miyoshi -- Namida wo Fuite (涙をふいて)

Tessei Miyoshi's(三好鉄生)"Namida wo Fuite" (Wipe Your Tears Away) is a song that I used to hear at Kuri, the old karaoke haunt in Yorkville during my university days. I hadn't known who originally sang it or when it was actually released. It was always recognized by me as that slow-strutting bluesy number which seemed to usually get the customers inside the bar singing in unison.

And why not? Written by Chinfa Kan (康珍化...who wrote all those songs for Anri and Omega Tribe) and composed by Kisaburo Suzuki (鈴木キサブロー...who I usually equated with sweeping string flourishes in his music), "Namida wo Fuite" is about a good ol' boy reassuring his girlfriend that better times are ahead so wipe that lacrymal fluid away, honey. And singer-actor Miyoshi does a great job with it due to his vocals which evoke that image of a lone wolf character driving that rig across America.

Miyoshi was born in 1951 and hails from Hokkaido. He debuted in March 1982 with his own self-made song "I Love You Kono Machi"(アイ・ラヴ・ユーこの街...I Love This Town)before his 2nd single "Namida wo Fuite" in August of the same year hit paydirt. It didn't hurt that the song was also used as the campaign tune for Shin-Guromont Vitamin Drink...gotta get that manly stamina in there.

If I'm not mistaken, the above is the karaoke video I used to see on the monitor at Kuri. I have no idea why it alternately featured the skyscrapers of West Shinjuku with some wild animals, but I guess that is how I will always remember "Namida wo Fuite".

West Shinjuku -- Future Diver

NOTE: After a long absence... I'm back, folks! \o/

I remember the first time I watched/listened to’s (でんぱ組.inc) “Future Diver” and how bad I felt after. The worst part was that I liked and watched/listened to it more times. In the end, I forced myself to erase it from my PC, because I thought it was too wrong for me to like something like that. It was in December 2011, almost four years ago.

My initial experience with was strange. Obviously, they were very different from AKB48, Perfume, or whatever aidoru group anyone wants to choose. In fact, the only group that could be mildly compared to was Momoiro Clover Z (ももいろクローバーZ), but even Momoclo was not that crazy.’s “Future Diver” was chaotic and the video kind of sexualized the girls in a strange way (not so strange for a moe fan, let’s say), but both the song and video were also very mesmerizing and catchy. I just couldn’t get enough of that, and the only thing I was capable of thinking was how seemed like a group in the darkest edge of the aidoru world. Like I said, it was wrong in so many ways... and no, I could never guess they would turn into a true strong force in the aidoru world a couple of years later.

“Future Diver” was not’s debut song, but it was the first one to really radicalize their Akihabara/otaku gimmick. And you know what? The song did its job very well, thanks to the arcade-like arrangement, exciting feeling and also the girls’ vocals, which were full of dramaticity and interesting melodic shifts. Let’s say it established’s style in a great way.

“Future Diver” is now one of’s true classics, and they show their affection to the song performing it at almost every concert. Also, based on the amount of energy the public disposes everytime the girls are performing it, we can really tell “Future Diver” is very loved by the fans. Here’s a live performance of it.

“Future Diver” was released as a single in November 2011. It was later included in their debut album “Nee Kiite? Uchuu wo Sukuu no wa, Kitto Osushi... de wa Naku,!” (ねぇきいて?宇宙を救うのは、きっとお寿司…ではなく、でんぱ組.inc!), from December 2011, and also in their second album “WORLD WIDE DEMPA”, from December 2013, but as a re-recorded version (there were some members changes between the original release and this one). The single reached #46 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Aki Hata (畑亜貴), while music was composed by Masaya Koike (小池雅也). As for the arrangement, Kenichi Maeyamada (前山田健一) was the responsible.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Yuki Saito -- Love

Y'know, could put on a few more lights.

I didn't think that I would ever feature a Yuki Saito(斉藤由貴)album. Although I did buy her 10th album, "Love" on ancient audiotape, I never considered myself a die-hard fan of the singer-actress and only listened to this particular album a few times before I left for Japan in 1994. Cracking it open again for the first time in over 20 years, I was surprised with some of the nostalgia and enjoyment along with the bit of dust that puffed out of the case.

"Love" was released in December 1991 so I must have gotten it through the "Eye-Ai" order form since I had already returned from Gunma by that point. I don't remember the particular reason for purchasing the tape aside from the facts that I enjoyed some of Saito's earlier hits and was interested in finding out what she was singing at the time.

One of the songs that I remembered as soon as the tape started rolling was "Itsuka"(いつか...Someday)which would incidentally also become her 15th single from January 1992. As was the case with all of the songs on the album, "Itsuka" was written by Saito herself, and then given its melody by singer-songwriter Mioko Yamaguchi山口美央子. It's a very comfy and folksy ballad which evokes images of traveling on a slow train through the countryside; Saito's soft vocals make a nice match with the gentle music. The single peaked at No. 50 on Oricon.

Compared to her aidoru days, "Love" is about Saito singing more mature arrangements in a mellow pop vein, somewhat reminiscent of Miki Imai and Reimy(今井美樹・麗美). And she's apparently added a whispery element to that high-toned voice of hers. "Yours" is definitely in that pleasant pop vein. It's another Saito/Yamaguchi collaboration about a young lady who very sweetly is putting a flame to her potential boyfriend's feet to get him to commit more. It may have been composed by Yamaguchi but there is something fairly Yuming(ユーミン)about the music as well.

The final song here is "Julia" with music by Akira Okamoto(岡本朗). I'm not sure if the girl from Ipanema was ever named that way, but it's chock-filled with enough bossa nova that to make me go "Hmmm...". Saito probably didn't scare Astrud Gilberto with her's not bad but some of those high notes...but I still have enough of a weakness for the genre that I like the song to a certain extent.

After re-acquainting myself with "Love", I think the songs are pleasant enough but perhaps the reason that I let it go for such a long time is that the tracks occupied the same sort of melodic space instead of dipping further into other genres, and I've come to the realization that my most favourite albums have been ones with some good variety. The album reached as high as No.16.

Duke Aces -- Kani Doraku (かに道楽)

During one lesson of marine biology in my previous semester at school, we were learning about the different species of crustaceans, crustacean anatomy, and what allows them to be considered crustaceans. The most incredible thing is that as long as the creature has certain features e.g. a carapace, that thing can be considered a crustacean, so the animals we got to know about ranged from the common prawn and lobster to the sessile barnacle (yep, they're part of the family too), from macroscopic to microscopic. But of course, a lesson on subphylum crustacea wouldn't be complete without the crab, which is probably the first thing you'd think of when the word "crustacean" is uttered. That being said, it was the first thing that popped into my mind, along with it came Duke Aces' (デューク・エイセス) commercial song for the popular seafood chain, "Kani Doraku", which is known for having a huge animatronic crab greeting customers at the front of each store. I remember seeing that in Osaka a number of years back.

I happened to come across "Kani Doraku", the song, about a week or so before that particular lesson and I remembered marveling at how coincidental and amusing this find was, and I also recalled finding it a little odd that I was actually enjoying a tune meant for a commercial as I would a regular song. But I suppose that was inevitable as just like most CM songs, "Kani Doraku" has a catchy melody that gets you hooked on. The strings and the harp makes it sound like you're taking a dive down into the sea where the crabs reside, probably dancing around with bright smiles on their faces (just adding a bit of my imaginary commercial), and then you have the wonderful voices of the vocal group's members as they sing about the exquisite flavours (I'd like to think so) of the fresh crab served up at the restaurant. I'm not a big fan of crab, but listening to this song and watching the commercial makes me want to get some.

Judging from the most prominent and hearty voice you hear throughout the song, it seems to me like former top tenor Yasumasa Taniguchi (谷口安正) was taking the lead here, but I'm not entirely sure. Sometimes I'd think that it's Michio Tani (谷道夫), but then I feel that the baritone's vocal delivery has got a richer and deeper tone.

From 1993

As to when "Kani Doraku" was sung, it was probably in the early 90's since that was when the commercials were out playing, and Taro Kida (キダ・タロー), the composer to this ditty as well as many other CM songs, had released it in his album "Naniwa no Mozart Kida Taro no Subete" (浪花のモーツァルト キダ・タローのすべて) from 1992. Duke Aces had just released an album featuring commercial songs they had done over the years, including "Kani Doraku", just a few months ago called "Duke Aces CM WORKS" (デューク・エイセス CM WORKS). Writing the lyrics to "Kani Doraku" was Noboru Inoue (伊野上のぼる).

To wrap things up on this article, here's Yuki Tokunaga (徳永ゆうき) singing a bit of "Kani Doraku" with the guys. Ah yes, I should mention that Kazuhiko Yoshida (吉田一彦), the second tenor you see here in those shades and one of the longest surviving members, is no longer in commission as of early 2015 due to some health ailments. He is now replaced with this young fella by the name of Gen Iwata (岩田元)... Dang it, I like Yoshida... I already miss him.

Yoshitaka Makino (槇野義孝) was pretty cute then...
He still is now.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Nagi Yanagi -- Aqua Terrarium (アクアテラリウム)

Not all of the anime that my friend introduces at our biweekly functions gets past the gate. A couple of years ago, he showed the pilot episode of a series which featured the emotional ups and downs between civilizations living on land and on the ocean floor as represented by some kids from the latter civilization having to attend a junior high school on land. The anime was "Nagi no Asu kara"(凪のあすから)from 2013 or as it was known in English, "A Lull in the Sea".

To be honest, "A Lull in the Sea" lulled me and my friend to sleep. And so it was quickly forgotten. However, some time later, I was listening to my hard drive filled with anison and came across this haunting ballad which turned out to be the first ending theme for "Nagi no Asu kara" titled "Aqua Terrarium".

Sung and written by Kansai-born Nagi Yanagi(やなぎなぎ), her 6th single from November 2013 has that comfortable and somewhat New Age-y melody as provided by fellow singer-songwriter Chiaki Ishikawa(石川智晶). I think what especially sold me on the song were the "Hee, hee, hee, hee" and the whispery vocals by Yanagi which sounded like something that could have emanated through the sea. Strangely enough, although "Aqua Terrarium" has that hypnotic quality, I am more than willing to keep my ears awake for this song. It got as high as No. 22 on Oricon and is a track on Yanagi's 2nd album, "Polyomino"(ポリオミノ)from December 2014 which peaked at No. 7.

Pizzicato Five -- Happy Sad

It's probably been a bit of a happy/sad 24 hours for the "Doctor Who" fandom. As an old fan of the BBC sci-fi series, I've found that companions to the good ol' Doctor usually get polarizing responses, and last night with the tragic departure of the latest of his companions, Clara Oswald, a certain corner of the Twitterverse was exploding in reaction. As for me, I was sorry to see the lass go but at the same time, I was also looking forward to who would become the Time Lord's new buddy (and frankly a bigger shakeup in the series proper).

A bit of a tortured pop-cultural cross-pollinating start to this article "Happy Sad" by Pizzicato Five, I know, but I wanted to go with something. In any case, it had been a while since I came up with a Shibuya-kei song, and "Happy Sad" is a tune whose title I have come across for years but never covered. I'm glad to hear that despite the title, the song is a very happy tune throughout its measures. And as usual, the divine Ms. Maki Nomiya(野宮真貴)looks her retro-mod self (almost like the lost member of the B-52s) in the video above hoofing it up with the cool hipster guitarist.

Written and composed by P5's Yasuharu Konishi(小西康陽), I read from one of the YouTube commenters that "Happy Sad" sounds like something that the UK's Swingout Sister would do, and I have to admit that it would be interesting to hear Corinne Drewery's version of "Happy Sad". As for the song's lyrics, there is an English-language version in which Nomiya takes some playful pokes at her good buddy (maybe more) for bouncing quickly between emotional states, but despite the very un-Vulcan nature of her friend, she'll stick by his/her side no matter what.

"Happy Sad" was released as Pizzicato Five's 6th single from April 1994 which went as high as No. 66 on the Oricon weeklies. It was also a track on the group's 4th album under the Columbia label "Overdose" which came out in October of that year. The song was also apparently used in a 1995 movie about the modeling industry, "Unzipped" with Isaac Mizrahi. The above link features the English version of "Happy Sad" with the supermodels appearing in that film.

During an NHK news telecast this past week, I heard that Shibuya-kei may be making a comeback of sorts. It should be interesting how the music sounds.