music

Memories of Shibuya year-end wrap: 5 songs for 2016

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Few people are sad to see 2016 go, perhaps justifiably so – but it wasn’t all bad. This year had no shortage of wonderful music released, and so Memories of Shibuya is looking back on 5 of the best songs to come out in 2016. Streaming options aren’t available for all songs, but links will be provided where available.

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music, reviews

Album review: METAFIVE – METAHALF

metahalf

The second release from Japanese alternative supergroup METAFIVE, containing members of Yellow Magic Orchestra and Denki Groove in addition to the likes of Cornelius, Towa Tei and Leo Imai, is a tidy five-song suite of new material. How is it to listen to? Review below the cut…

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music, news

Get hyped for the new METAFIVE with “Musical Chairs”

Boasting more of a dance-pop sound than most of what we’ve heard from the Japanese alternative’s biggest supergroup, METAFIVE’s “Musical Chairs” has been uploaded to YouTube in advance of their new album METAHALF. While the first METAFIVE album sounded closest to Cornelius’s solo work out of any of the high-profile musicians involved in the project, this one seems to be shaping up to bear more resemblance to a Yellow Magic Orchestra album; but, of course, we’ll just have to wait and see how the finished product turns out when it’s officially released tomorrow.

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Artist Spotlight: Hideki Kaji, music, Uncategorized

Artist Spotlight: Hideki Kaji (week one)

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Hideki Kaji’s name may be an obscure one to Western audiences, but as one of the architects of the Shibuya-kei sound, his influence on Japanese music would be nothing less than utterly irresponsible to overlook. While he is rightfully known as a songwriter first and foremost, the multi-instrumentalist Kaji has worn many hats across his four decades as a musician – and is every bit as notable as a solo artist as he is for any of the various other projects he has contributed to.

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music, The Canon

The Canon: Pizzicato Five – Bossa Nova 2001

bossa nova

Although the origins of the style we now know as Shibuya-kei can be traced back to the late 1980s (with acts like Original Love and the first incarnation of Pizzicato Five serving as the prototype), it is worth considering that the actual phrase itself wasn’t coined until the early ’90s – and that, despite Flipper’s Guitar being considered as the first Shibuya-kei group by many, the duo of Kenji Ozawa and Keigo Oyamada had already broken up before people were even calling their music “Shibuya-kei.” In this sense, Pizzicato Five’s Bossa Nova 2001, released in 1993, represents one of the earliest essential examples of Shibuya-kei as a musical movement with a name and defined ideology – and, as such, no attempt at forming a Shibuya-kei canon would be complete without it.

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music, news

New videos from Towa Tei and Negicco

The first video from CUTE is out now, with an appropriately old-school clip accompanying the star-studded “LUV PANDEMIC” – with Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi, Keigo “Cornelius” Oyamada, Leo Imai and actress Yuka Mizuhara providing their faces and voices to the incredibly bad song. It’s absolutely horrendous by all means, possibly the worst single Tei has ever put out, but just look at all those guest stars!

For those who prefer their music videos with far less wasted talent, Negicco and Sachiko Kobayashi recently revealed their “Niigata☆JIMAN!” video, a cute song made to promote tourism in Niigata city (soon to be home of the next regional expansion of Yasushi Akimoto’s ongoing 48G project). Negicco fans, rejoice! Everyone else, continue to be confounded by the continued presence of this only tangentially Shibuya-kei group’s presence on Memories of Shibuya!

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music, news

New album from Towa Tei? New album from Towa Tei!

His first full-length release since 2013’s Lucky, Towa Tei’s new album will be called CUTE – and the guest list  alone is certainly worth getting excited about. Boasting contributions from the likes of post-rock darling Leo Imai, frequent Tei collaborator YUI of Bakubaku Dokin, Yoshinori Sunahara of Denki Groove, and Shibuya-kei veterans Keigo “Cornelius” Oyamada and ASA-CHANG, he’s moving away from the international cast of contributors that had graced recent releases and focusing exclusively on Japanese talent – not, in any way, a bad thing.

The album comes out July 29 on Tei’s own MACHBEAT label, and Natalie has a full tracklisting.

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music, news

New videos from Cornelius, Original Love and color-me frog

If Keigo Oyamada seemed a little less busy than usual last year, he’s more than making up for it in 2015 – the latest update to his Kokakua Sound page is a “studio live” version of his laid-back Ghost in the Shell theme song “Mada Ugoku”, featuring vocalist Maaya Sakamoto and the Cornelius band. No YouTube mirror as per usual, but thankfully Kokakua Sound’s generic video player works perfectly fine. Which is a lot more than can be said for some pages, or anything that ever used RealPlayer. Why did anyone ever think that program was a good idea?

If soul is more your thing, Takao Tajima has you covered – a digest version of the upcoming Original Love album Lover Man has been helpfully made available to the most popular video-sharing site on the web, containing previews of each song on the new release – including Tajima’s own version of “Sunshine Nihonkai”, a song written for Negicco and previously featured on the girl group’s Rice&Snow album.

Perhaps most excitingly, Shin-ichiro Aoyama’s color-me frog has released their first music video, a sparingly-animated clip set to the binaural sounds of Aoyama’s most musically daring work to date. Echoing the work of Shibuya-kei pioneers like Takako Minekawa and Kahimi Karie, “Sky Holic” marries Sayoko Nagamuu’s gorgeous vocals to a warm, summery musical backing that only makes the vocals’ unconventional mixing that much more striking. Girl on the Train is yet to have an official release date, but it should be out by the end of the Summer – definitely a release to look out for.

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music, news

News from Negicco, Cornelius and Konishi

Something for everyone here, no matter what permutation of Shibuya-kei you find yourself preferring. For those who favour the quirky, unconventional alternative sound that characterizes Shibuya-kei’s more experimental extremes, Penguin Cafe Orchestra has just the thing. They recently did a cover song exchange with Shibuya-kei pioneer Keigo “Cornelius” Oyamada, and have shared a video for their cover version of Point highlight “Bird Watching in Inner Forest”, rechristened  “Birdwatching in Silent Forest” and accompanied by footage of birds in silhouette against a striking backdrop of fluid imagery.

If the pop kitsch of Negicco is more your speed, they recently released a live album as an exclusive to Japanese music destination OTOTOY – happily free of any pesky DRM and regional restrictions. Titled “Negicco to Gakkou”, the album captures the girls’ performance at the “alternative art space” 3331 from October 10 of last year, available in a number of lossless formats as per OTOTOY standard. The girls also have an announced release date for their next single, which is as yet untitled and will be coming out on August 11. As with all of Negicco’s recent singles, it will be available on 7″ vinyl in addition to CD and DVD options, although, in an unconventional move for the group, both A and B-sides will be getting the music video treatment. A version with a bonus disc containing three remixes will also be available, as was the case with Hikari no Spur – most likely this version will make its way to OTOTOY, as such was the case with the aforementioned single as well.

Old-school fans should get a kick out of the announcement of Yasuharu Konishi’s new album as “Pizzicato One”, his second full-length under the name and first release as P1 since 2011’s One and Ten Very Sad Songs. The new album, titled Watakushi no Nijuu Seiki (“My 20th Century”, for those of whom are understandably miffed by the fact that Memories of Shibuya never translates titles for things) features contributions from a guest list that, true to form, is dominated by fashion models and actresses – Konishi is, after all, still Konishi – and is written and produced in its entirety by the man himself.

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music, news

New “Ghost in the Shell” music video from Cornelius

If you liked Cornelius’s previous work with Salyu (as Salyu x Salyu) for the Ghost in the Shell ARISE series, this new one should be right up your alley. Available exclusively on the official Ghost in the Shell music page, the song “Anata wo Tamotsu Mono” features vocals from Maaya Sakamoto (who provides the voice for Motoko Kusanagi in the anime feature) and a suitably odd music video to accompany its chic minimalism. The single will be released on June 17, and Amazon is taking preorders.

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