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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in the mix

In the Mix: Marteen Lu’s Whiteboardjournal Mix

As international coverage of Asian music is almost entirely dominated by the discussion of Korea, Japan and India – disregarding outliers like Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and the occasional pop idol from Taiwan or Hong Kong – to much of the world, the music scene in Southeast Asia is something of a mystery.

One of the most interesting things to happen in this rarely-acknowledged part of the musical world is a quiet Shibuya-kei revival; when the Thai indie-poppers in Smallroom covered Flipper’s Guitar’s Three Cheers for Our Side in its entirety, it could easily have been something of a random curiosity, but in SE Asian acts like IkkubaruChocopurin and Sacrophonic the spirit of Shibuya-kei is being kept alive – which brings us to this month’s featured mix, from Jakarta, Indonesia’s Martin “Marteen Lu” Lusuandie.

Serving as something of a Shibuya-kei primer, featuring both the genre’s influences (such as Francophone chanteuses Cathy Claret, France Gall and Vanessa Paradis) and a wonderful selection of Japanese artists, Lusuandie’s mix is intended as the soundtrack to a cultural revolution; bringing forth the lessons from Shibuya-kei’s heyday and applying them to contemporary Indonesia. And, of course, if you like what you hear, you can check out more from Martin at his Mixcloud page.

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music, news

Yasuharu Konishi and T-Palette Records releasing compilation album, we are living in the best of all possible universes

Some branches of parallel universe theory posit that there are an infinite number of possible universes, in which any combination of factors can be true – and now, we at Memories of Shibuya present you with incontrovertible proof that the universe in which we live in is, in fact, the best of all these possible worlds: the T-Palette Records and Yasuharu Konishi tribute album “Idol Bakari Pizzicato.” Produced entirely by Konishi and featuring T-Palette groups Idol Renaissance, Vanilla Beans, lyrical school, One Little Kiss and, of course, Negicco, the album finds the girl groups paying tribute to the legendary producer through a variety of cover songs that will be coming out on April 22, a day that will presumably come to be observed as a holy day throughout Japan in commemoration of the event.

(By the way, we’ve been on the fence about Idol Renaissance, lyrical school and One Little Kiss: comment if you’d like any or all three of these groups covered here.)

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Artist Spotlight: Original Love, music

Artist Spotlight: Original Love (week two)

Every month, Memories of Shibuya will be taking a look at a different artist or group, with featured songs – one per week – highlighting the peaks (and, occasionally, troughs) of their musical career.

Original Love underwent some dramatic changes along with the transition from an indie label to the major leagues, and one of the most dramatic changes was in the adoption of a completely new sound – one far more in line with the Shibuya-kei movement that was quickly picking up steam than the rock music that Tajima first made his name with.

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in the mix, music

In the Mix: BOY MEETS GIRL is the No.1 Pop Party in Tokyo!

Toshiya Sekine’s BOY MEETS GIRL, the longest-running Shibuya-kei event (still going strong after 19 years), is a veritable institution – and so here at Memories of Shibuya we are overjoyed to provide an exclusive mix straight from the man himself. Made entirely of Japanese artists (with the exception of the opening sample, which even then is technically taken from “Groove Tube” by Flipper’s Guitar), the mix is fun, upbeat and has a good mix of classics and obscurities; Sekine’s two decades of honing his craft most certainly haven’t been spent in vain. Featured artists include Original Love, Flipper’s Guitar and solo works from both Kenji Ozawa and Cornelius, Pizzicato Five, Kahimi Karie, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Hideki Kaji, and a host of other fantastic artists. Well worth a listen, and if you haven’t already we encourage you to check out our interview with Sekine as well.

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Artist Spotlight: Towa Tei, music

Artist Spotlight: Towa Tei (week two)

Every month, Memories of Shibuya will be taking a look at a different artist or group, with featured songs – one per week – highlighting the peaks (and, occasionally, troughs) of their musical career.

After leaving Deee-Lite and heading back to Japan, Towa Tei embarked upon a solo venture that found him taking his rightful place in the canon of Shibuya-kei artists. The Japanese scene welcomed him with open arms, bolstered both by his major-label connections from the Deee-Lite days and his own Shibuya-kei style, which could hardly have been more perfectly suited to the J-pop zeitgeist in 1994.

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music, news

Nananon’s debut single gets the 7″ treatment

Shout-out to Tokyo’s Coolest Sound for the scoop on this one – the first single from Yasuharu Konishi’s girl group Nananon just came out in the ultra-hip 7″ vinyl format, with title track “Nananananon” (video above) joined by a cover of Pizzicato Five staple “Baby Portable Rock” on the B-side, although lacking the CD version’s instrumentals (no great loss). I’m a musical blasphemer who doesn’t own a working record player (I do own one, but its needle is so blunted it gave up on being able to actually play records a while ago and I’ve yet to bother finding a replacement) so I won’t be grabbing this one, but interested parties can snag a copy of their own via Amazon.

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music

Tower Records and the Shibuya-kei revival

As any Shibuya-kei history inevitably points out, the HMV store in Shibuya was often considered the epicenter of the movement; hallowed ground where its staff recommendations formed the basis of a bold new sound that pushed aside the stagnant dregs of post-kayokyoku idol music and reinvented J-pop as the cultured realm of jet-setting musical pioneers who broke down boundaries and made defiantly new music by reappropriating the old. Whether this was in any way true is completely unknown, but when the former HMV closed down and was replaced by “fast fashion” retail giant Forever 21 in 2010, it inevitably seemed like the end of an era, the true death of Shibuya-kei.

While it is indeed true that the Shibuya-kei sounds of Flipper’s Guitar and Maki Nomiya-era Pizzicato Five (Adam and Eve, essentially) had fallen somewhat out of favour in recent years, HMV Shibuya’s former rival has been making a concentrated effort to bring sexy back, so to speak – if the first wave was HMV’s to claim responsiblity for, the new Shibuya-kei revival can call Tower Records in Shibuya its home base.

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music, reviews

Album review: Maki Nomiya – Miss Maki Nomiya Sings Shibuya-kei Standards

maki The latest from the former Pizzicato Five singer is a live album – recorded during her Billboard Live Tokyo performance from November 3 of last year (an event which seems to have become a yearly tradition – she did two encore shows this year as well). Miss Maki Nomiya Sings Shibuya-kei Standards finds her revisiting familiar territory with covers of songs from Cornelius, Original Love (whose vocalist, Takao Tajima, she had replaced when she joined Pizzicato Five), her own former band, and some oddities somewhat outside of the direct sphere of Shibuya-kei. Continue reading

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Artist Spotlight: Pizzicato Five, music

Artist Spotlight: Pizzicato Five (week two)

Every month, Memories of Shibuya will be taking a look at a different artist or group, with featured songs – regularly one per week, but as this first column is so close to the end of the month, this debut feature will feature two per post.

Last week we looked at P5’s beginnings as a larger group, now in this week’s entry we’ll be looking at a couple songs from their days as the duo of Maki Nomiya and Yasuharu Konishi. The two-piece outfit provided some of the tightest output in the long history of Pizzicato Five, so join with us as we look at two choice selections from this period.

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