Saturday, November 21, 2009


A huge poster for a trendy fashion magazine in Shibuya Station...
Nuts. Damn.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Legendary Voices: 10) Maki Nomiya

Vocalist Maki Nomiya is best know for her work with the Pizzicato Five, the leading band of Japan’s Shibuya-kei scene. Shibuya-kei (literally Shibuya style) was a indy genre based on eclectic sounds and kitschy-cool aesthetics. Bands drew heavily on influences ranging from bossa-nova to electro-pop.

Nomiya, who had already released her own solo album, joined the Pizzicato Five in 1990. In the mid 90’s when other members left the group, Nomiya and lead musician Yasuharu Konishi continued on as a duo, achieving widespread success in Japan and overseas. The group’s first two American releases sold 100,000 copies each, making them one of the most widely known Japanese acts in the States. The group disbanded in 2001 with both musicians returning to their solo careers.

Nomiya is also known for her high sense of fashion and beautiful model-like physique. Ex-Billboard journalist Steve McClure writes, “Her stock-in-trade is adopting various retro personae with a studied, ironic cool. Sometimes she looks like she’s just stepped out of a 1960’s French spy movie, other times she wears outrageous get-ups that suggest a hostess in some intergalactic cocktail lounge.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Legendary Voices: 9) Tatsuro Yamashita

Yamashita is one of Japan’s most respected singer-songwriters. One of the most successful male recording artists, Yamashita has sold about 9 million albums. His first success was in 1975 with the influential band Sugar Babe. The group disbanded early on and Yamashita when on to pursue a solo career. His early work, while critically acclaimed, sold poorly, but 1979’s album “Moonglow” signaled the beginning of his commercial success. Another notable album was 1991’s “Artisan”.


I just found this video on YouTube and had to share. Chatmonchy is one of my fav Japanese pop-rock bands and I thought this video captured a piece of the action. Fast foward to 3:55 for one of my all-time favorite rock songs.
There is a rumor going around that the drummer pops by the Ruby Room once in a while. I'll keep my eyes pealed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Legendary Voices: 8) Yumi Matsutoya

Ranked #3 on HMV’s list of 100 great Japanese artists, Yumi Matsutoya has sold over 42 million records and charted 19 number-one albums. Originally she was known as Yumi Arai, before marrying her producer, Masataka Matsutoya. She debuted in the early 70’s and her first famous song was 1975’s “Sotsugyo Shashin,” [Graduation Photo] which was quick to become a Japanese pop classic. At times, her songwriting was influenced by American female stars like Joni Mitchell and Carole King.

Mos Def in Japan

If you've got some time, check out this videopod from Current TV following Mos Def on his recent tour of Japan. I think it is a pretty awesome outsider's look on the fascinating city that Tokyo can be. Mos gives his two cents on all the cool topics including Harajuku fashion, Tokyo baseball, the bullet train, and of course Mos Burger (Japan's aptly named burger joint). There is also quite a bit about The Ecstatic, Mos Def's most recent album which looks awesome.

Hip-hop's singular voice meets Asia's hippest city. What more can I say?
One thing I didn't like: there's a scene where a Caribbean sounding woman praises Mos for moving his Japanese audience on to their feet and grooving. She claims, "Nobody sat down during the whole show. That is so rare in Japan." I'm not sure which concerts she's been going to, but that's been far from my experience. Way beyond the stereotype, Japanese people know how to get rowdy.

And also, for clarification, the bullet train doesn't run on magnets yet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Prague - Slow Down

Prague, formerly known as Sound Coordination, is one of the best young indy bands in Tokyo. I've seen them twice and each time was blown away. I love their sound, totally up my alley. They are also on the same management as Bo-Peep. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sheep Metal: Bo-Peep

I told my friend I was going to see Bo-Peep this weekend. She knew of the group through my blog.

"Oh, those girls are cute," she said.

"Well, cute... more like scary middle aged women who play loud music."

Bo-Peep. Mika, Ryoko, Take, Tokyo's three queens of the underground rock circuit. They are one of the most genuinely aggressive bands that I know. Even as a three-piece, their sound is absolutely huge. To my ears, they cross the middle ground between punk and arena hard rock, using Jimi Hendrix blues scales with overdriven guitars. But their originality is all in their compositions, highlighted by complicated rhythms and Mika's signature piercing vocal sound. There is no one quite like them in town. Listen for yourself.


"Spiral Revolution" - This song highlights their expanded sonic palette.
"B級モーション" [B-Level Motion] (first of the Is It Good For You? samples) - This is Bo-Peep's signature track, displaying a fierce guitar sound, Mika's wild screaming, and an intense guitar solo at the end.
"Crazy Bomb" - This song proves that Bo-Peep can take it up to %110, but fortunately for our health, general well-being, and innocent souls, they don't crank it to this level all of the time.

This past show at Shimo-kitazawa Garage was the third time I've seen Bo-Peep take the stage this year. I think it was their best performance. Mika told me they played 4 new songs, all of which were fantastic, completely proving to me that this isn't your average noise-rock act.

I joined the girls for a few drinks after the show. Their onstage act would certainly suggest a life of debauchery, but unplugged and out and about, all three girls are sweet, cute, and wicked friendly. It's a surprising contrast. But I won't make the mistake of trying to keep up with them.

"She izu doreenka." [She is [a] drinker] Ryoko said pointing to Take. We goofed off for a few hours, but I was out of there before I could start any trouble. I took the last train out of Shimo-kita. God only knows what went on afterwards.

I made it home around 1:30AM. My clothes still smell like sheep and cigarettes.
Ryoko on drums, Mika on guitar

Take on bass

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tance Boy and Crowdnine: Success!!

Crowdnine belting some tunes:
Tance Boy vs. Crowdnine in a Beer Pong demonstration!
Tance Boy getting ready to take the stage...
Yun, Yoshimi, and...Prince...
Yun and her charismatic energy...
Yoshimi on bass:

Thanks to everyone who came out to the show the other night. It was definitely a success. Stay tuned for more Werewolf events!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tance Boy this Saturday at the Ruby Room!!!!!!

Tance Boy and Crowdnine
Saturday November 7th
Ruby Room, Shibuya
Doors 8:00, Start 8:30
¥1500 (drink included)

Tance Boy (箪笥ボーイ) is one of my all time favorite Tokyo indy rock bands. They in turn invited their favorite band, Crowdnine. This show is going to be insane. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Legendary Voices: 7) Momoe Yamaguchi

Yamaguchi was a famous Japanese singer and acclaimed actress throughout the 1970’s. She had an extensive recording career and appeared in numerous films. Her rise to fame was typical of many of the pop idols of her day, but unlike so many others, she was able to take her career into her own hands. Her later music became quite sophisticated and her lyrics often featured strong female characters. At the height of her career in 1980, she married longtime co-star Miura Tomokazu and officially retired from the business. News of a potential comeback has remained in the rumor-mill.

"Rock 'n' Roll Widow"

Monday, November 2, 2009

Legendary Voices: 6) Keisuke Kuwata

Kuwata is best known as the lead vocalist of Southern All Stars, ranked the #1 on the HMV list of 100 great Japanese pop artists. As a band, the group has charted 16 number-one albums, selling a total of over 47 million units. The group has lasted through the years, originally forming in the early 1970’s, debuting in the 1978, and going strong through the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s. Kuwata’s style is heavily influenced by 60’s Western rock and classic American folk. Part of Kuwata’s longstanding appeal can be attributed to his unique voice, reputed to sound as if he was singing Japanese lyrics with an American tone.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Legendary Voices: 5) Hibari Misora

Hibari Misora was the greatest Japanese female star of the 20th Century. As an actress, she appeared in over 160 films. As a singer, she recorded 1,200 songs and sold 68 million albums. Due to her enormous popularity, she was dubbed the “Queen of the Showa Era.” Misora was the iconic singer of enka, Japan’s most traditional genre of pop music. At her death in 1989, 42,000 people attended her funeral. Her song, “Kawa No Nagare No Yo Ni,” [Flowing Like the River], was voted the greatest Japanese song of all time by 10 million people in an NHK poll.

Misora singing Kawa No Nagare No Yo Ni in her later years: