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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Album review: Scha Dara Parr – 1212

The 25th anniversary release from Shibuya-kei’s foremost hip-hop act, 1212 finds the now middle-aged Scha Dara Parr returning once again to bring their cool, easygoing rap styles to contemporary audiences. The question is, of course, “have they still got it?”

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Album review: Negicco – Rice&Snow

Shibuya-kei leaning idol group Negicco is unquestionably the jewel in the crown of Tower Records’ T-Palette label, both their best-selling act and the one the label consistently takes the most risks with. It would be unthinkable to hear anything as sonically varied – without ever falling into the trap of “weird Japan” wackiness like too many contemporary idol groups – as Negicco’s output has been from any of T-Palette’s other acts, but, within the hallowed ground of a new Negicco album, anything is possible. Their second full-length on T-Palette (following 2013’s cheekily-named Melody Palette), Rice&Snow sees a host of new producers and a few returning talents collaborating with the label’s signature act. The multitude of divergent styles, from Koushi Miura of Kuchiroro’s stark minimalism to the sugar-high ecstacy of Takao Tajima’s twin seasonally-themed contributions, could have potentially led to a “too many cooks” scenario, but how does the album hold up?

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Single review: capsule – FEEL AGAIN

The first single from capsule’s upcoming WAVE RUNNER, “FEEL AGAIN,” finds capsule entering a new arena, trying to capture the zeitgeist with a healthy dose of trendy EDM sounds. It’s not Shibuya-kei by any means, but we’re covering it due to producer Yasutaka Nakata’s pedigree – which is discussed at length in the review. Check it out!

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Album review: pertorika – You’re Not Alone EP

Released earlier this month, pertorika’s You’re Not Alone EP represents many changes for the still-young band. As their first release to benefit from SPACE SHOWER MUSIC‘s distribution, their first album on indie label KOGA Records, and their first holiday-themed release, the group was entering new territory in more ways than one. As You’re Not Alone EP brought with it wider exposure than pertorika had ever seen before, how did the band fare?

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Album review: Various Artists – Why Not Clammbon!? ~ Clammbon Tribute

Shibuya-kei and cover albums have a very peculiar relationship; while tribute albums are the bane of most musical genres, most commonly the province of artists using their versions of familiar songs in the often-vain hope of sparking interest in their original material, tribute albums often serve as a useful “who’s who” of Shibuya-kei at the time of their release. The Shibuya-kei tribute album also serves as an endorsement of the artist whose songs are being covered; Gainsbourg Made in Japan is just one of many examples of this phenomenon in action. So, for veteran Shibuya-kei outfit Clammbon, whose Why Not Clammbon!? celebrates 20 years, the accomplishment is doubly significant; it lets them throw a musical reunion of sorts, while also passing the torch to a new generation of Shibuya-kei inspired performers. How do the performers fare, though?

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Single review: Negicco – Hikari no Spur

(Note: review based on digital version from OTOTOY, which includes bonus tracks only available on disc in the 2-disc special edition. The single is also available in a vanilla version, on both CD and 7″ vinyl, and in another version which adds a bonus DVD that features the “Hikari no Spur” music video as well as a making-of feature for said clip. Memories of Shibuya tries to obtain the most complete version of any release to be reviewed, so album or single releases with bonus tracks will always be favoured.)

As the flagship group for Tower Records’ T-Palette label, Negicco has been instrumental in bringing Shibuya-kei sounds to the wasteland of “idol group” music ever since their debut on the label in 2011. Having performed songs composed by Shibuya-kei luminaries such as Cymbals’ Hiroyasu Yano, Pizzicato Five’s Yasuharu Konishi, and Asako Toki and HALCALI collaborator Gouta Nishidera in the past, this latest release finds them working with Original Love frontman (and former Pizzicato Five member) Takao Tajima.

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Album review: Asako Toki – STANDARDS: In a Sentimental Mood

After her band’s dissolution in 2003, former Cymbals frontwoman Asako Toki reinvented herself as a jazz singer; this year’s STANDARDS: In a Sentimental Mood is a commemoration of the 10-year anniversary of STANDARDS, her debut as a solo artist. Like that 2004 album and its 2005 follow-up STANDARDS on the SofaIn a Sentimental Mood finds the singer performing light jazz versions of English-language pop standards – much as Maki Nomiya’s live album from earlier this month tackled Shibuya-kei selections with a jazzy touch.

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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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