I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

orange pekoe -- Gokurakucho ~ Bird of Paradise(極楽鳥)

The songs by orange pekoe that I've posted in the past have been categorized as both jazz and Shibuya-kei, and that's only two of the genres that identify this band from Hyogo Prefecture. Kazuma Fujimoto and Tomoko Nakajima(藤本一馬・ナガシマトモコ)have also brought Latin, Indie Pop and the general J-Pop to the fore, but this particular single is absolutely pure joyous jazz.

Being an old swing fan, I really like orange pekoe's 6th single "Gokurakucho" from May 2003. It's the type of song that would get me thinking of those days back in Japan when I really got into the swing (pun intended) of things when it came to jazz. I've always appreciated modern takes on the old stuff (yes, I'm fully aware that the single came out 15 years ago). And "Gokurakucho" is one of those numbers that probably could get the folks back in the day to snap their fingers and hit the dance floor.

If the usual pattern holds true, then Fujimoto composed the song while Nakajima wrote the lyrics and provided her snazzy vocals. "Gokurakucho" reached No. 25 on Oricon and was also included on orange pekoe's 2nd album "Modern Lights" from July 2003. That peaked at No. 6.

My Pace -- Tokyo(東京)

Less than 15 minutes ago, I just finished watching this week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン), and the theme was on all sorts of kayo about Tokyo (along with tributes to the two singers that left this mortal coil over the past week, Hideki Saijo and Yukiji Asaoka). I realized that the odes to the Big Sushi have been represented through different genres such as the pop/rock of Kenji Sawada(沢田研二)and the classic Mood Kayo of Frank Nagai(フランク永井).

Folk has also given tribute to Tokyo, and I discovered a song that I hadn't heard before from a group that I hadn't heard before either. My Pace(マイ・ペース)was composed of a trio of junior high school classmates from a small town in Akita Prefecture before it got amalgamated with two other towns to form the current Katagami City.

Mitsugu Morita(森田貢), Susumu Ito(伊藤進)and Tsugio Kon(根次男)released their first of four singles, "Tokyo", in October 1974 for which Morita was both lyricist and composer. It's a gently jaunty tune describing a fellow's happy trips to the Japanese capital since his beloved was living there. Singer-songwriter chay was the one who performed it on tonight's "Uta Kon" and I liked it so much that I decided to track it down. Happily, the original also has plenty of enjoyment.

"Tokyo" became a hit for My Pace as it apparently stayed on the charts for a long while and peaked at No. 28. Along with the four singles, the band released two original albums in the 1970s and a BEST compilation in 2009. According to J-Wiki, "Tokyo" has been covered by a lot of artists including BEGIN and Toshi Ito to Happy & Blue(敏いとうとハッピー&ブルー).

As for the band name, "my pace" is a form of wasei eigo(和製英語)that I learned back in my Ichikawa days. Basically, if a person is referred to as a "my pace" kind of guy, then he goes to the beat of his own drum and no one else's. To be frank, I'm that sort of fellow to a certain extent which has irked and bemused people around me fairly often.

I have a small P.S. here, since the kanji for the names of the three members of My Pace have a number of readings, I'm not totally sure whether I have gotten them right. If someone can verify the above names for me or if somehow the band members themselves read this and let me know, I would be eternally grateful. Also, I do love the video above for the original recording but that last scene is most definitely from Yokohama. :)

Setsuo Ohashi & Honey Islanders/Yujiro Ishihara -- Shiawase wa Koko ni(倖せはここに)

Back to the regular work week here for everyone including myself. So, perhaps back in Japan, that could mean the usual visit to the beloved watering hole after work. Time for another Mood Kayo.

I found "Shiawase wa Koko ni" (Happiness is Right Here) by chance last night, and it's an interesting blend of Hawaiian (courtesy of that steel guitar), jazz and Mood Kayo, according to the above video although I don't know what the original performance was like. Would love to see the cocktail that would go with this song. It was sung by Setsuo Ohashi & Honey Islanders(大橋節夫とハニーアイランダース)in 1959.

According to Ohashi's bio on J-Wiki, he has been seen as one of the pioneers for bringing in that Hawaiian sound into the Mood Kayo part of Japanese music; in fact, he also played the steel guitar, one of its representative instruments. He started up the Honey Islanders in 1948 and has been credited for arranging Yuzo Kayama's(加山雄三) trademark tune "O-Yome ni Oide"(お嫁においで)later in 1966. The Tokyo-born Ohashi was presented with the Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1995 and then a Distinguished Service Award at the Japan Record Awards in 2000. He passed away in June 2006 from respiratory failure at the age of 81.

"Shiawase wa Koko ni", which was written and composed by Ohashi, may sound rather melancholy but according to the lyrics, it seems like the song is about being content with that special someone in that special place...most likely the favourite bar. It's probably been covered by a lot of enka/Mood Kayo singers over the decades, but the J-Wiki article mentions Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)and Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎).

The Tough Guy's rendition of the song was released in June 1967, and he brought out some of that typical Ishihara richness in his delivery. Still, I'm rather torn about which version I prefer: the Ohashi original versus the Ishihara cover.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Kinki Kids -- Aisareru yori Aishitai(愛されるより 愛したい)

Watching TBS' "Countdown TV" in the wee hours of Sunday morning in Ichikawa, I was somewhat impressed at how much the producers were able to crunch in those rankings, sometimes all the way from No. 100 to No. 1 within 45 minutes (although I've read that "CDTV" has now been expanded to 70 minutes). The No. 50 to No. 100 songs were always given that one-second exposure at such a speed that if I hadn't had my lights on, I would have been afflicted with seizures.

The other night when I was watching "VS. Arashi"(VS嵐), some of the Arashi fellows were reminiscing about dramas that they had appeared in years and years ago with one of them being "Bokura no Yuuki ~ Miman Toshi"(ぼくらの勇気 未満都市...Our Courage: Not Quite A City)back in 1997. Basically, this was a couple of years before Arashi even debuted as a singing and dancing Johnny's group. The sci-fi drama was actually a showcase for their senpai, Kinki Kids.

As they were referring back to "Bokura no Yuuki", the theme song was playing quietly in the background, but I heard enough of it to plunk myself on the head and go "OMG! I remember this one." It basically blew through the windmills of my mind all these years. The theme was "Aisareru yori Aishitai" (I Want To Love Rather Than Be Loved) by Kinki Kids.

Now, I did mention "CDTV" at the top there. Well, it turns out that I kept hearing excerpts of the song during the ranking reports on the show, and although it did very well on the Oricon charts (for which I will give the stats later), I could only remember the brief excerpts. I don't recall ever hearing the whole song.

Until very recently. As it turns out, "Aisareru yori Aishitai" sounds pretty darn good. As was the case with their hit debut single, "Garasu no Shonen"(硝子の少年), created by the veteran hitmakers Tatsuro Yamashita and Takashi Matsumoto(山下達郎・松本隆), Kinki Kids' 2nd single was also handled by a couple of vets, lyricist Hiromi Mori(森浩美)and composer Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二), and "Aisareru yori Aishitai" also had that touch of past music infused into it...perhaps some 80s disco. I only ever heard the main refrain but on hearing the rest of the song with that decade's melodic essence in there, I could only go "Where have you been all my musical life?".

I mentioned in the "Garasu no Shonen" article that even songwriting masters Yamashita and Matsumoto felt a really large sunlamp on them since Johnny Kitagawa slapped down the conditions that the Kinki Kids' debut had to be a No. 1 from the get-go and a million copies sold. The song did deliver in huge spades but now according to the J-Wiki article for the 2nd song, Mori related that he had felt tremendous pressure in helping make this song due to the huge success of "Garasu no Shonen".

He and Makaino needn't have worried. Although "Aisareru yori Aishitai" debuted in November 1997, it not only did two 2-week stints at No. 1 on Oricon by the end of the year, it became the 59th-ranked single for that year and even ended up as the 8th-ranked single for 1998. In fact, it sold half a million copies in its first week alone and would become the second-best selling single in Kinki Kids' career, just below "Garasu no Shonen" with over 1.6 million copies sold. This may only be the second time that I've mentioned that a song actually went Quadruple Platinum.

Mori and Makaino must have really celebrated with a goodly amount of libation on getting the good news.

Noriko Miyamoto -- Matenro Monogatari(摩天楼物語)

Cool and good.

Found this lovely number on the City Pop radio provided by Van Paugam.

This is "Matenro Monogatari" (Skyscraper Story) from Noriko Miyamoto's(宮本典子)1982 album "Noriko". Another urban and funky number by the divine Mimi, that voice, those horns and that bass can probably get the average stuffed-shirt politician from Parliament strutting down the streets of Tokyo. Perhaps it could even get included in the Japanese equivalent of the classic album "The Dude" by Quincy Jones.

"Matenro Monogatari" shares album space with the previous Mimi entry "Lovely City" on the 1982 album, so that tears it. I'm getting "Noriko" if it's still available out there. Mind you, I've just fired off a few bullets from my wallet so I have to exercise discipline and won't probably get it until later this year.

Riko Fukumoto -- Shoujo wa Ano Sora wo Wataru(少女はあの空を渡る)

To all those in Canada, Happy Victoria Day! Mind you, I'm not so indebted to Queen Victoria since I grew up calling the annual holiday Firecracker Day. And sure enough, when my friends and I were out enjoying a bucket of chicken wings at Wild Wings last night, there were some starbursts taking flight.

Had the usual anime outing for the first time in a few weeks, and yes, it looks like my favourites for this season are "Hina Matsuri"(ヒナまつり)and "Hisone to Masotan"(ひそねとまそたん...Hisone and Masotan). Both have a rather central fantastical element firmly planted within Japanese society, with the latter incorporating dragon/fighter jets battling for the Air Self-Defense Force. Not quite sure how the quirky but appealing show has merited in Japan itself but it looks like "Hisone & Masotan" has garnered a nice little audience. Plus, it seems as if a couple of memes have been generated from it including the Rain Dance thing above and even the dancing from the end credits.

The opening theme for the show has also implanted its earworm. "Shoujo wa Ano Sora wo Wataru" (The Girl Crosses That Sky) by 17-year-old Osaka actress Riko Fukumoto(福本莉子)has that sense of an inspiring song with hints of a better tomorrow just beyond the horizon. I also have the impression that Fukumoto's delivery and the composition/arrangement by Taisei Iwasaki(岩崎太整)approach Studio Ghibli levels of soundtrack. Especially, the intro strings have dug themselves into my head as something quite epic, and that same introductory riff has been used in certain dramatic scenes in the episodes. Mari Okada(岡田麿里), the screenwriter for the show itself, provided the lyrics.

So far, I've only been able to get the song during the opening credits but I'm hoping that the full version will come out since this would be one anison that I would be more than happy to purchase.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Maison book girl in Brighton (2018.05.18)

When my boyfriend started getting into the alternative idol scene, one of the first groups I remember him showing me was Maison book girl. Before I knew it, I already had several of their songs in my phone in heavy rotation everyday, as I went from home to college and back.

The group, formed in 2014, is composed by 4 girls: Megumi Koshouji, the leader (part of the original formation of BiS - probably the most well-known alternative idol group ever), Aoi Yagawa, Yui Inoue and Rin Wada. Their producer, Kenta Sakurai, is also the composer and arranger of the songs. Their arrangements use similar sets of sounds, which match the overall minimalist image of Bukuga (as they're affectionately known), but the key to their uniqueness is the composition, which gives each tune its flavor.

Bukuga soon became one of my favorite modern idol and J-pop acts, as well as my boyfriend's, and as soon as we knew they were performing in the United Kingdom, we started planning a trip - to Brighton, the first date confirmed and the one more suitable to our schedules. This would be my first time leaving Portugal, my first live idol act, and an unforgettable experience.

Brighton Station

Our schedules left us with only two days to spare for our trip, so we landed in Luton before lunch and grabbed something to eat before heading to Brighton by train (a two-hour trip). We didn't really look up much about the place; we essentially knew it was a beachside destination with a pier. But it proved to be a very interesting and especially lively place, with a big Asian community and an active alternative music scene. The concert we were watching was part of a bigger festival, The Great Escape, with venues all over the city.

After checking into the hotel, we had some spare time. It went by really fast, since among other things, we had to go get our festival wristband and enter in the venue (The Arch nightclub, right in front of the beach) soon enough to catch a good spot.

From @maisonbookgirl on Twitter

We managed to see Maison book girl enter the venue, and we were positively surprised by how cuter they look in person, rather than in the pictures and videos we were used to see. And I got really embarrassed, lol. It's hard to admit, but it was the first time I really got into my head that the idols I see through a phone or computer screen are real people.

We got really nice spots, right at the front, but the venue didn't seem too packed, though I stopped paying attention a while before the live started. There were a few dedicated Japanese fans by our side, but zero wota dances or yells, understandingly. Bukuga's style makes them feel like they're not your usual idol group, but somehow they are.

The live started at 8pm and lasted 30 minutes. Besides the songs featured in their first UK single, bath room and karma (which opened and finished the show, respectively), they featured some other songs, such as lost age (covered by J-Canuck around the time they visited Canada) and faithlessness, the one I started this post with. There were short talk segments, where we heard the girls speak some English, and that allowed them some rest. (Being a person with little physical ability, I admire idols' well-maintained skills to simultaneously dance and sing for long periods of time.) The lightning complemented the experience, making for a great performance.

As for me... I was just there, almost standing still, smiling so much my cheeks hurt, and singing everything I knew by heart. I think that right until the end, I was trying to remind myself that that sight was reality, looking at my boyfriend and watching him enjoy it as much as I was. Until a few weeks ago, I thought seeing idols live was almost like daydreaming, that it wouldn't happen this soon.

I felt like in that venue, we were one of the "elites" that were there for them because we were their longtime fans. And the girls acknowledged that - I know they did.

The following act was Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, so I'm still tagging her in this post. Maybe some people will get mad that we didn't give her as much attention as Bukuga, lol, but we do like her, and we watched some of the concert, but from a further spot. The nightclub was tightly packed after we came back from buying merchandise. She sang her most famous hits, and the public was definitely as "decora" colorful as expected from your usual Kyary fan.

Pamyurin from a distance

Concerning Maison book girl, there were no pictures allowed with the fans. We were saddened, but still greatly satisfied for the amazing performance. But, it didn't end there. I won't disclose what happened since it concerns the girls' privacy. I'll just say destiny gave us two more chance encounters that night, which completed our experience.

One of the views from the pier

We had to leave the following day, but managed to plan things well enough to have some free time. That allowed us to walk by the beautiful Brighton Pier, some of the main streets, and calmly have lunch before heading back to Luton Airport and subsequently to Lisbon.

The blues have been quite tough on me since I boarded the plane home. It's proof that it was an excellent experience, but I'm sure it won't be the last. I became more passionate for Bukuga and modern idols in general than before... Way more. Also, I'll keep an eye wider open to J-pop performances in Europe, which I hope will increase in number in the future.