Credits

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, August 21, 2018

Michiru Hoshino -- Discotheque ni Tsuretette(ディスコティークに連れてって)


Apparently, disco never died...it just went into the Witness Protection Programme. Not that I mind. I've always remembered and enjoyed the genre as being part of my childhood growing up. Heck, even the early morning kids' show that I watched on the Buffalo ABC affiliate "Rocketship 7" had a disco-dancing robot.

I gather that Japan was always a haven for disco. It's been unironically loved there and the arrangements have made their way into various J-Pop songs over the decades. There is Morning Musume's(モーニング娘。)megahit "Love Machine"(LOVEマシーン)from 1999 and another one is microstar's "Tiny Spark" which was the final spark for me to get their album "She got the blues" from 2016.


And then I found this one by ex-AKB48 member (graduated in 2007) and current singer-songwriter Michiru Hoshino(星野みちる). This is her 13th single from May 2016, "Discotheque ni Tsuretette" (Take Me To The Discotheque), and both title and arrangements fairly scream mirror ball and "Saturday Night Fever".

According to the JASRAC website, Hoshino came up with the melody while Hajimu Hase(はせはじむ)provided the lyrics. Although the singer was born several years after disco had allegedly gone into music history, it certainly looks like she had the disco style down pat when she thought up the music, although perhaps "Discotheque ni Tsuretette" has some aidoru-like lightness mixed in.


"Discotheque ni Tsuretette" was also the opening track on Hoshino's September 2015 album "You Love Me". It didn't make too much of a dent in the charts, going up as far as No. 123. Still, I haven't had a problem with the music that she has given us since there are some nice hooks in there, and I am still grateful to Marcos V. for first introducing Hoshino back in 2015 with her “Seikan Renrakusen ~Night Voyage~” (星間連絡船 ~Night Voyage~) which has a different but appealing vibe.


Since we're on the topic of disco, let's go back 40 years or so, shall we?

trf -- GOING 2 DANCE/OPEN YOUR MIND


As I said back in the very first article for the song-and-dance group trf, "Boy Meets Girl", it was a couple of siblings who had introduced me to the group and the song. This was when Tetsuya Komuro's(小室哲哉)creation had already been well into ascent into the pop music troposphere. So when I did hit Japan in late 1994, I had to play some catch-up to find out more about what made trf tick.


Strangely enough, after putting up a lot of their discography onto the blog over the past 6 years, I had yet to write about their debut single. So here it is, "GOING 2 DANCE/OPEN YOUR MIND" from February 1993.

Listening to "GOING 2 DANCE", I felt that at the beginning, trf and Komuro really wanted to HIT the dance floor running, jumping and all of that other athletic stuff. Komuro and vocalist YU-KI wrote the lyrics while the former took care of the melody. As the lyrics state, trf did go to town with "GOING 2 DANCE" that was definitely the most dance clubbiest of the singles that I've heard by them. Was gonna make me sweat (although at my size this summer, picking up a paper clip from the grass can do that).


"OPEN MY MIND" did open my mind since that music video was probably the sexiest and strangest take that I had ever seen of trf. I wasn't quite sure whether YU-KI was going for a hybridized look of the Borg Queen and Betty Boop, though. But like its companion song, it definitely had more of the dance music and less of the pop that I would hear when the group really hit their stride. Komuro took care of both words and music here. Both songs would make it onto trf's debut album "trf 〜THIS IS THE TRUTH〜" which was released in the same month as the single. It would peak at No. 14.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Goose House

This blog is about kayokyoku and so I’ve been thinking about whether I should be writing this piece for a while, as Goose House doesn’t fit in this category.  But I think over the years Kayo Kyoku+ has evolved into a blog about Japanese music in general and so I finally decided to write about Goose House.

I first stumbled upon Goose House around 2013 when I was, well, searching for AKB48 on YouTube.  It’s a pure coincidence because Goose House had a few videos covering for AKB48 songs.  This was one of them.



My first impression was that Goose House was extremely cute.  But it was also the first time I felt that the music industry has truly changed - how music is distributed, how music is marketed, and how everyone discovers music.  I am a great Akina fan.  When I was trolling through Akina’s TV appearances on the Internet, I couldn’t stop but think that Akina, and idols from that era in general, were just a product of their times.  TV was at its peak in the 80s, and along with that, created a perfect opportunity for Seiko, Akina and the like to stand on the perfect stage for Japanese music at that time.  It was an something that will never come again. Waiting for the next Akina or next Seiko is as fruitless as waiting for the next Charlie Chaplin. Times have changed, and we move on.

Enough nostalgia and sentimental comments.

Goose House was originally a project of Sony.  It started in 2010 as Play You House.  The concept was to find a place (House) in Tokyo and let singer songwriters get together and make music, with an eye on the Internet for marketing and distribution.  And so a 9-member “band” of some sort was formed.  The original members were:
  • d-iZe (an odd name indeed, it stands for dream-realized)
  • Takebuchi Kei 竹渕慶
  • Saito Johnny 齋藤ジョニー
  • Kudo Shuhei 工藤秀平
  • Kimura Masahide 木村正英
  • Kanda Rioka 神田莉緒香
  • Sekitori Hana 関取花
  • Takezawa Migiwa 竹澤汀
  • Nakamura Chihiro 中村千尋
d-iZe was the group leader and Play You House became Goose House in 2011. The video I posted above was from the Play You House era before they changed their name.  The name Goose in Goose House was chosen because geese have to stay together in order to survive, and thus carries the producer’s wish that something good will come out of a group of talented musicians.

After Play You House became Goose House, Kimura, Nakamura, and Sekitori left to start their solo careers.  They then added Manami (マナミ), Watanabe Shuhei (ワタナベシュウヘイ), and Sayaka (沙夜香) to make up for the loss.  Over the years, there were a number of changes among its members. Saito Johnny left in 2012 and rejoined in 2013.  Kanda Rioka left in 2013 right before Saito rejoined to start her solo career.  Then d-iZe left in 2014, and Kudo Shuhei took the leader role.  Most recently, Takezawa Migiwa left, and Goose House is now a 6-member group.
Goose House livestreams on the Internet once a month. Most performances are cover songs, like the AKB48 cover I found. Sometimes, all members participate in a song, but more often, a song is performed by a subset of members.

For example, this song called Tokyo 東京 by JUJU was covered by Watanabe and Saito. (By the way, did you watch the movie Inori no Maku ga Oriru Toki 祈りの幕が下りる時 starring Abe Hiroshi 阿部寛 and Matsushima Nanako 松嶋菜々子? I think it’s one of the best movie adaptations of Higashino Keigo’s 東野圭吾 mystery novels. Why do I mention the movie? Because this is the movie’s theme song)



And in this song Egao 笑顔 by Ikimonogakari いきものがかり, all members participated.



After a livestream, they would post individual song performances onto their YouTube channel.

Of course, being a group of singer songwriters, they have their own original songs besides covering for others. Here’s one of their original songs called Sky. This video was taken from one of their live concerts.



To this date, Goose House has already released a total of 7 singles and 10 albums (2 of them are only available online via mora and iTunes), had 15 concert tours covering major cities in Japan, and 47 “Unit Live Concerts”. These unit live concerts, unlike their concert tours, were concerts performed by only a subset of their members, just like what they did in their livestream.
Goose House’s music has the feeling of folk songs. And due to their age and appearances, they also feel like a university student band. The musical instruments are mainly guitar and keyboard, with occasional use of xylophone, drum, tambourine and other percussion instruments. Of all the members, I like Takebuchi Kei’s voice the most. Her powerful voice reminds me of Utada Hikaru 宇多田ヒカル and Ayaka 絢香. Her English is pretty fluent too, as she played the translator role during some livestreams and announcements. According to wiki, she spent 3 years in the US during elementary school. To be honest, I really enjoy many of the songs they cover, to the point that I like them better than their original version. I found their covers usually refreshing due to new arrangements, especially with guitars. I was often amazed at the simplicity of what a guitar can do to a Japanese song. I don’t think they’ve ever covered any enka 演歌, but I could be wrong as I don’t have time to go through all their videos. It’ll be interesting to see if they do something like that in the future, but I highly doubt it.

One thing I want to mention though. In their first album, Goosehouse Phrase #1, all songs were credited with the names of the songwriter and lyricist. But in all albums and singles afterwards, no individual was credited and they just said all songs and lyrics were by Goose House.

Today, their YouTube channel has over 2 million subscribers from all over the world (remember, this is the Internet). Unfortunately, in April this year, they announced that they’ll temporarily stop their monthly livestream. If you’re interested, search for Goosehouse and you should easily find their channel. Here’s their official web site goosehouse.jp

This song, #PhotoMomento #記念写真 (I think the pound sign is meant as a hash tag), is my favorite among their many original songs. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you also enjoy this introduction to some new musical scene that popped up recently in Japan (I guess 2011 can still be counted as recent :).









Miyuki Yokoyama -- Kirisame no Rouge(霧雨ルージュ)


I had bookmarked this song for some months but I've only finally gotten to it tonight. There's been quite a backlog that I've got to get through.

Miyuki Yokoyama(横山みゆき)was a singer that I had first gotten to know through her debut single,"Shuushifu"(秋止符)which was created by the folk duo Alice(アリス)in 1979. I was entranced enough by the song that I wanted to find out a little more of her discography and then encountered this track called "Kirisame no Rouge" (Rouge in the Light Rain) from her 1980 album "Yokoyama Miyuki Second"(横山みゆきセカンド).

As much as I love the funky beats of City Pop, I also have spared a soft spot for the light ennui-laden music of Fashion Pop. "Kirisame no Rouge" has that certain dramatic Fashion Pop sensibility with a small infusion of the exotic kayo that was also fairly popular in the late 1970s. I have also noticed that Yokoyama's delivery is somewhat similar to that of Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美). I couldn't find out who wrote and composed this song but it's possible that it could have been Ozaki.

Yellow Magic Orchestra -- Yellow Magic Orchestra (Follow-Up)


Well, I was only going to spotlight just one song from Yellow Magic Orchestra's debut self-titled album from November 1978 but decided that I might as well finish everything up as far as "Yellow Magic Orchestra" was concerned. I have already provided one article about the album so this is a follow-up, but just like the recent article that I did for Tatsuro Yamashita's(山下達郎)classic "For You", "Yellow Magic Orchestra" has been one of those releases whose tracks demanded their own individual articles, and they're already listed in the first article for the album. So it's basically cleanup time here.


Strangely enough, the story that I have to tell is an anecdote that I have yet to spell out in any of the other articles although I did hint at it in the original article for the album. During my trip to Japan in 1981 as part of the graduating class of the Toronto Japanese Language School, half of my journey involved staying with the relatives in Osaka and Wakayama Prefecture. One night when I was in Osaka with my uncle's family, they took me to the record shop since they knew I had been interested in Japanese music and I bought that 1978 audiotape of "Yellow Magic Orchestra".

And then, after I had said my goodbyes to my relatives, spent a few days at summer camp in the mountains of Okayama, and then returned to the Tokyo Prince Hotel for one last night before taking the plane back home, I broke out the SONY cherry-red double-deck cassette recorder (another purchase) and ripped the wrapping off of my tape and put it into my new device.

Much to my chagrin (and a number of YouTube commenters have said the same thing when they first heard the album), I got several seconds of computer game music. Why was I getting the theme from "Space Invaders" (actually it was "Circus")?! Now I knew that "Firecracker", the song that got me in love with YMO in the first place, was on the tape, but I did get worried about what else I was going to get. Was "Firecracker" going to be the only melodic track while everything else was game music, courtesy of Atari or Nintendo?

As it turned out, the bleeps and bloops did indeed make up the first track "COMPUTER GAME~Theme From The Circus", and it was indeed YMO who created it and not a game company. As I would later come to realize, Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣), Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一)and Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋ユキヒロ)had wanted to take some established genres of music in their early days and filter them through their various synthesizers and computers and dream machines, so why not even have some fun with computer game music itself?


"The Circus" launched Side A of the original tape and LP and the side ended with "Theme from the Invader" so you could hear the little digital critters inexorably make their way to the bottom. To be honest, there isn't a whole lot of difference between the two tracks but they do make some audio bookends of a sort. Plus, I reminisce about that time during the trip when all of us decided to play at the game kissa across from McDonalds near the Prince while drinking down our super-sweet iced coffees.


The end of Side B on the original Japanese album was "Acrobat" by Hosono who decided to add that synthesized music of a carnival to the game bleeps and bloops.


"Bridge Over Troubled Music" was the initial reason that I had wanted to create this article tonight. Coming between "La Femme Chinoise" and "Mad Pierrot", it acts as that nice little musical doodle seemingly to get everyone back from intermission and into seats again. I have some regrets that I didn't introduce "Bridge Over Trouble Music" in the article for "Mad Pierrot" since the transition is seamless.


However, I did find this video uploaded by Nobuo STUDIO with Nobuo himself providing a great version of "Bridge Over Trouble Music" and "Mad Pierrot".

As for my initial concerns about what I had purchased, when I got home from Japan and played both sides of "Yellow Magic Orchestra", I quickly relaxed. There was no need to worry about YMO anymore, and of course, the guys would continue to come out with some great technopop over the next few years.

Hideki Saijo -- Blue Sky Blue(ブルースカイブルー)


Saturday night was the 50th annual presentation of NHK's "Omoide no Melody"(思い出のメロディー...Melodies of Memories), the show that's been called the Kohaku Utagassen of the summer with the focus on the oldies. Aside from the fact that the special celebrated its half-century, this year's "Omoide no Melody" was notable in that a couple of stars had left this mortal coil earlier in 2018, 70s aidoru star Hideki Saijo(西城秀樹)and actress-singer Yukiji Asaoka(朝丘雪路). However, the proceedings didn't take on a somber tone at all, by my estimation; it was quite celebratory.


Arguably, the highlight of this year's "Omoide no Melody" was the performance of Saijo's 26th single "Blue Sky Blue" with a joint performance between his contemporary and friend Goro Noguchi(野口五郎)and Saijo's voice. The performance left singer Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし)and actress Yoshino Kimura(木村佳乃), who were co-hosting the show, bubbling over in tears.

Up to that performance, there was a short presentation on the creation of the song which was composed by Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二). The lyrics were created by the late Yu Aku(阿久悠), and one clip of that presentation had both Aku and Saijo appearing on an interview program from years ago where the legendary lyricist stated that he had declared to the singer that he would write a song for him that would signal, at least in terms of Saijo's career (Saijo was already 23 at the time), his transition from teen aidoru to a man.


"Blue Sky Blue" has that tone of someone finally coming out of that dark tunnel triumphantly. In a way, it reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water", as Saijo sings about remembering that day when a romantic relationship came to its end, although there is no sadness or bitterness but perhaps the appreciation of what had gone before and what is to come. There is that anthemic feeling to "Blue Sky Blue" that has now taken on a proud elegiac layer because of Saijo's passing and now Noguchi's tribute last Saturday.

Released almost 40 years ago, in August 1978, it reached as high as No. 3 on the Oricon weeklies and won a Gold Prize at the 20th Japan Record Awards that year. On that same night that Saijo won that prize on New Year's Eve, he got to appear on the Kohaku Utagassen for the 5th time in a row to sing the song. "Blue Sky Blue" would end the year as the 51st-ranked single. The song was also a part of his live album "Eien no Ai Nana-shou"(永遠の愛7章...Eternal Love, Chapter 7)which was released in February 1979.

Dance for philosophy - Dance Founder (ダンス・ファウンダー) / Just Memories (ジャスト・メモリーズ)

It's been a while since my last article. I've been trying to enjoy my summer vacations to the most - there's not that many years left until my long vacations start to get shorter, so I ought to make the most of these three months.

Me and my boyfriend have been compiling a playlist of modern idols and it's been a lot of fun. I've been opening up to more genres, while becoming aware that modern idols have been covering way more music genres that what I thought. The current trend seems to be shoegaze and light rock, but there's also rap and hip-hop, punk rock, metal, electronic, folk music... You name it. Still, there are some unique groups, such as the one I'm presenting today. 


Dance for philosophy, also known as The Dance for philosophy and Philosophy no Dance (フィロソフィーのダンス) (the group itself jokes about using several names), is an idol group formed in 2015. It's composed by four girls: Otoha Totsuka (十束おとは), Haru Hinata (日向ハル), Mariri Okutsu (奥津マリリ) and Maria Sato (佐藤まりあ).

They describe themselves as a contemporary funk and R&B group. And from what I've seen, they are one of the only idol groups (even J-Pop groups) tackling that genre, and the most solid one at doing so. Every release sounds like a refreshing tribute to the popular sounds of the late 80's and 90's, particularly in American music. It wasn't until I finished writing the article that I noticed Marcos already did a write-up on their first album "Funky but Chic", but the songs I'm presenting are part of their second one "The Founder", released in 2017, which I personally prefer.

"Dance Founder" is one of the best idol releases of this year so far, in my opinion. The song had been released in "The Founder", but was re-released as a single this year, with a new arrangement. It is a funky dance tune accompanied by a music vídeo that pays tribute to several decades of pop culture in a very fun fashion.


I thought about covering only "Dance Founder", but I would be missing the R&B part of the group, and the best way to showcase it is with "Just Memories". This 6-minute long ballad was also included in "The Founder" (it's just a great album). Me and my boyfriend usually call it it "the Mariah Carey song", because it's essentially how it sounds, in a positive way. Haru Hinata's vocals making for the powerful chorus parts, it's other of the staple songs of the group, in my opinion.

Dance for philosophy seems to be quite underrated in the West, so I hope to get some more people listening to it, because I think it's a group that can appeal to almost anyone. Besides the nostalgia factor of the funk and R&B sounds, the mix of different and unique vocals of the girls, great songs, as well as their group dynamics as a whole, make it worth of giving a chance.