I might switch permanently to Wordpress - Tumblr’s limitations are starting to annoy me.

https://j1muzak.wordpress.com as an experiment.

I wasn’t really paying CNBLUE any attention at all but that giant promo truck that’s been doing the rounds in Shibuya has done its job very well…

The only past experience I had with CNBLUE’s music in any form was Yonghwa’s Banmal Song from the WGM series, so this single was a chance to discover for myself what they had to offer. I at least hoped they wouldn’t be as cheesy as labelmates F.T.Island, whose bizarre mix of boyband pop, rap and rock never fails to make me laugh.

On first evidence, In My Head proves a very strong case for itself - with a confident Maroon 5-like swagger about it, its insistently catchy chorus line lodges itself inside your brain and refuses to move. I like it a lot!

The c/w tracks don’t manage to hit such heady heights though; the Beatles-esque MR.KIA trundles along inoffensively (and unnoticed) and I didn’t even realize it was in English until I looked the lyrics up LOL. Rain is Blessing can at least claim to have half its lyrics in English and half in Japanese, but it’s got that kind of cheesy ’90s overblown MOR rock-styled ballad feel to it - the kind of song I used to listen to when I was a heartbroken emo teenager. Not quite my kind of thing these days.

Still, I’m quite impressed by the single as a whole. Time to go dip into CNBLUE’s back catalogue and see if I can root out any other gems…

Wow, just wow. I can’t remember the last time I felt this strongly about a BUMP song…probably Planetarium. I wasn’t really aware of Zero's status as a Final Fantasy theme but that shortened, acoustic opening version found on this single just doesn't do the song justice IMO, lacking the majesty and grandeur of the original's arrangement.

If the world was fair then the boys would beat the crap out of NMB48 in the charts but well. When was the music industry ever fair?

Ahh, now to find out if I can grab a ticket to their December lives at AX. Fingers crossed…

Hooray for being based in Japan, where English-language albums regularly get released earlier than anywhere else! But first of all, let me make a confession:

I haven’t consciously listened to Coldplay since their X&Y album.

That’s more than 6 years ago now, both to my surprise (wow, that long ago?) and horror (oh my god, I’m inching ever closer to the big 3-0). 

I was really curious about Mylo Xyloto though, having chanced upon the first single Every Teardrop is a Waterfall a couple of months back and finding myself quite liking it. How wonderfully different it sounds compared to all those tiresome tinkly piano ballads! And what else have we got on the album…hip-hop beats, folk and…Rihanna? Very quaint indeed. Still, Chris Martin & co are very much in the business of crafting perfect pop - they’re just wrapping up their lovely little songs in prettier, more elaborate packaging. It’s something I can totally go for though.

Maybe I need to go fill in the gap and sample the Viva la Vida album to see if I missed anything in those 6 years…

Challenge for this post: remain objective.

I guess you could say I fall into the category of a ‘hardcore’ Soshi fan right at this moment, with pretty much every spare dollar I have going towards contributing to whatever amount of peanuts SM Entertainment is paying the girls, or putting money into their wig fund or helping out with fees for their English lessons. 

Having said that, I only really become a fan of the group since that stunner of a Japanese album they released so I was really hoping that The Boys would build on that good work - bringing their Korean music up to date with a mature sound to match their slicker, more sophisticated visual image.

The signs were promising - all that hype & publicity surrounding the Teddy Riley-penned title track was justified when the full version was unleashed and it turned out to be an absolutely stonker of a song with its relentless catchy, in-your-face hooks. I can’t say I feel the same way about the rest of the album though. As I feared, a lot of the songs venture into diabetes-inducing bubblegum pop territory, which was what made me loathe their music circa Baby Baby in the first place. Sigh.

Notes:
・The intro of Say Yes blatantly rips off Ben E. King’s Stand by Me, not to mention the opening English lines sound like something written by a lovestruck teenager with overly active hormones.
・I can only imagine that Lazy Girl was included for the sole reason of having dear Sica sing the ‘I’m a lazy girl’ line. It sounds like the sort of song my parents boogied down to in some dinky nightclub with a shifting mud floor, back in the ’70s.
Vitamin has the most epic instrumental opening of the tracks on the album, before we’re brought back down to earth by the cheesiness of the music from the Vita commercial. So misleading…
・The inclusion of the Korean version of Mr.Taxi is wholly unnecessary, the song just doesn’t fit in with the overall mood of the album.
・The ballads (How Great is Your Love, Sunflower) go down pretty well, but they’re not on the level of Complete or Mistake.
Telepathy is just so bad ’80s disco.
・Imagine yourself wearing a bright pink summer dress & a straw hat with picnic basket in hand, skipping through a field of sunflowers…My J would be your perfect theme song at that moment.
Trick is the best song (that is not The Boys) on the album by a country mile. It works the autotune to good effect, is snappy and has a purpose - to get you on the dancefloor.
・After Trick, I’d nominate Top Secret as my favourite album track - I like its retro feel, the harmonies during the chorus and most of all, Hyoyeon’s rap.
Oscar is nearly ruined by its similarity to the material of a certain someone named Britney Spears as well as its rather amusing nursery rhyme-like lyrics, but it just about works. Just about.

After some consideration, I would say at least that The Boys is the best of their 3 Korean albums so far, music-wise. If I were to score it on a 10-point scale, I’d say a smack-in-the-middle 5 based on initial impressions. That opinion might change over time though, so watch this space to find out how much more I grow to love or hate the songs…when the inevitable repackaged album hits.

For now I’ll just sit back and re-watch the music videos, anticipating the day I get to watch some of these songs performed live (while waiting for my copies of the album to arrive >_>).

I have never been marble’s greatest fan. It seems the duo often are prone to choosing the path of least creative resistance, resulting in a sound that is far too lightweight to leave a positive or rather, any sort of impression upon me. Weak songs, weak melodies, snoozy arrangements…let’s just say the only purpose I find for their material is as a potential cure for insomnia.

Utatane gives marble a chance to remedy that though - take a bunch of classic anime theme songs, give them an iyashikei makeover…can’t go wrong, can’t you? And they certainly don’t, their gentle covers of Seikan Hikou (Macross F) and Sora kara Koboreta Story (Sherlock Hound) possessing an irresistibly quaint charm and dreaminess about them.

Ah, this year is certainly turning out to be an interesting one in terms of anisong releases…there’s so much more I have yet to explore though. お楽しみ~

Maybe it’s because this represents his ‘final’ release before his army enlistment next month, but Wheesung has really outdone himself with 놈들이 온다. About time too - he’s been giving away his best songs to the likes of SHINee, Seven and G.NA over the last few years after all.

Previous albums tended to be patchy affairs with the odd highlight here and there, but They are Coming is flawless from start to finish - kicking off with Ailee’s smooth rap on the title track, through to storming dancefloor-filler MUSIC and finishing up with the laidback reggae feel of Oh Lonely

I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a better Korean r’n’b release this year.

When I first read this arc in the manga I was really curious on how Tatsunoko would handle it in the anime - would the music the school bands played at the cultural festival actually turn out to be listenable? Turns out I needn’t have worried at all.

Have to say that I’m a little surprised they kept on the seiyuu to provide vocals for most of the acts (obviously apart from the pre-auditioned The Sketchbook), though I suppose it does help when you’ve got a rock superstar voicing one of the characters ie GACKT doing Dante.

Be it by luck or by design, Sket Dance is blessed with seiyuu who can actually sing - the likes of Toyoguchi Megumi (Yabasawa), Kosugi Jurota (J-son sensei) and Nojima Kenji (Shinba) breeze through their songs with no trouble and even those who can’t really sing (hello there Kayano Ai) get a helping hand by being autotuned beyond recognition.

With that troublesome ear-shattering vocal problem that permeates most anime character songs out of the way, what we get from the KAIMEI ROCK FESTIVAL is a really fun, energetic album, just as a school cultural festival should be. Especially love that YABASU! version of YABASAWABOOKS’s 豪華絢爛ヤバヤバス - mad respect to Megu for managing to make the phrase ‘Yabasu’ sound cool even when repeated endlessly!

I only needed 1 or 2 listens to Hiraku Uchuu Pocket to know for sure that it’s the best album KOTOKO’s made in her decade-long career thus far. That might not seem like high praise when you consider the fact that the four LPs that preceded it were…well, not very good.

This happens to be KOTOKO’s first album release since switching to Warner Home Video, a new label founded by Kawase Kohei, ex-employee of her former label Geneon. It’s also her first completely self-produced record (previous releases were handled by I’ve sound) so with greater control over proceedings, Hiraku Uchuu Pocket finds KOTOKO venturing outside the I’ve circle to experiment and expand her sound, collaborating with the likes of kz (livetune), Saito Shinya & DECO*27.

The I’ve tracks remind as typically I’ve as ever which should go some way to pleasing long-time fans, but it’s the less conventional songs like the excellent 8 & 1/2 minute trance track Command+S (in partnership with the multi-talented animator/illustrator/musician Hiroyuki Oda) and the dark, slow-burning masayoshi minoshima-arranged mirror garden that make Hiraku Uchuu Pocket essential listening.

When I ventured back into Kpop earlier this year, one of the first voices to catch my ear was that of Earip’s - sweet and lilting, like a gentle breeze (no, really). She’s a veteran in the Korean indie scene having released a couple of albums as part of Sweater as well as pursuing her own solo career, and Hawaaii is a side project featuring Earip and gipsy&fish guitarist Lee Ho Seok.

Their first album 티켓 두 장 주세요 was released in mid-August and I shamefully did not give it a good listen until recently - what a mistake. Such a gorgeous set of stripped-down songs, often with just 1 or 2 guitars accompanying vocals from either Earip or Ho Seok. Goes to show you don’t need to spend months & millions of won twiddling knobs to produce orgasmic sounds. Ahhhh, this album so deserves a spot on my quarterly best-of list…guess it’ll have to wait a few more months before I rectify that with my annual lists.

Word of warning though - finding info about Hawaaii (하와이) can be fairly hard what with how similar their name sounds to a certain popular holiday destination…but despair not! You can find some of their live performances on Youtube starting from here.