Category Archives: J-Pop

New Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: “Family Party”

Look, the song here is just OK…for a phoned-in movie tie-in, its better than most but that’s a lousy standard to aspire to. It glitches and pops like a possessed SNES, and dares to be fizzier than, say, Perfume’s “Mirai No Museum.”

The video, though, is great as ever. It’s some strange sports match between Kyary and a robot (controlled by an…octopus?…version of Kyary) featuring a language I think nobody can understand. Talk about shooting for universal appeal…leave everyone in the dark. Anyway, it’s great, watch it above.

(Should take a moment to mention the B-sides to both her singles this year are really great pieces of music!)

Vampillia Teams Up With Idol Outfit BiS For “Mirror Mirror”

BiS are an idol outfit who have done wonders in making whatever they do seem not particularly shocking. A primer: they are sorta an “anti-idol” group within the world of J-Pop idol groups, although they still partake in plenty of idol activities. Though many times, they blow those actions up to an absurd degree, so that (if you give them the best interpretation) it’s like they are reflecting all of idol culture’s worst behaviors from a cracked mirror. Fans can practically grope them at meet-n-greets (they are “idols you can touch”), you can rent them out to clean your house and they made this video, which is like Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” but maybe actually criminal. For the most parts, their actions have been more interesting than the music – across their first two full-length albums exist some solid songs, but plenty of dreck too. Though this year, they went and released my favorite song thus far, the borderline-gabber terrorpop of “STUPiG.” Sonically, it pushes what one expects idol pop to be to the fringes…while, critically, still managing the most catchy hook I’ve heard in 2014 so far…and might be the most subversive thing they’ve managed yet. Thanks to them exploiting an idol culture where fans buy multiple copies of singles, they managed to sneak an Atari-Teenage-Riot-esque song that has no business in the same music ranking list as Arashi to number seven.

One of BiS’ other tricks are unexpected team ups, most notably with the group Kaidan. That’s the one that got international coverage for its bizarreness. Welp, they are at it again – they’ve hooked up with Osaka theatric metal group Vampillia for two songs on Vampillia’s forthcoming album, which has some sort of concept about “bombing” the music industry or something. It also has Jun Togawa on it! Anywho, the first taste of that album can be heard above, BiS sliding into the outfit’s typically dramatic music. This one goes from soft and pretty to…well screaming…complete with spoken-word sections and dramatic background voices. It might be the best constructed song BiS have ever been part of – Vampillia are very serious about the structure of their own black parade, and they aren’t changing just because idols are involved – and its various stages are quite compelling. Watch the video above.

New “Sakura Apparition”

Geez, man, I don’t even know, ya know? I tweeted out something about being the most based idol-pop group in Japan right now…a group whose background (or gimmick) is that the members all are former/still sorta are otaku, one of the more loathed sub cultures in Japan today. One of them, Moga, used to be a hikikomori. Yet here they are now, in an idol-pop group creating music that revels in being alive and, most importantly being themselves and spreading that message all over the world. Just…I don’t know, it feel so alive. Tara wrote something that really hits on it, read that. This is music for celebrating you.

Oh, and it sounds good! This isn’t the most manic they’ve been, but it still moves at a sugared-up hop. It’s less dramatic than either “W.W.D.” and less neck-wrecking than “Den Den Passion,” but it might be the most poppy thing they’ve done yet. With plenty of strange little twists to boot, whether it be the yells of “justice!,” the summer-festival-dance interlude or the way they say “breakdown!” before the breakdown. Thank you based Dempa.

New Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: “Yume no Hajima Ring Ring”

If every artist has to have a “sakura song” – a single (usually) that comes out around the time the cherry blossoms bloom and EVERYTHING CHANGES (school graduation, company reshuffling) – might as well not make it suck. Most J-pop artists stick to tepid ballads for this season, so thank goodness we have Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to make it bounce a bit. It’s her most reeled in track yet, which is appropriate given it is a song about graduating (“goodbye teacher/my friends”), but never melodramatic, just sort of resigned. But chin up. Plus, that understated guitar.

New Kindan No Tasuketsu: “Manatsu No Boyfriend”

J-Pop doesn’t need to be torn down and built back up. There are lots of bad projects selling lots of albums – this week, Kanjani8 moved more than 200,000 copies of a song, making it the highest-selling single of 2014 thus far – but plenty of great stuff appears on the charts too…and even just outside of it, on the prominent displays in music retailers and on the bills of big music festivals. No, what J-Pop needs is to have its borders expanded, because only a handful of acts are racking in impressive sales and (more importantly) appearing on festival posters. Basically, more acts should be sought out and given a chance…if nothing else, Bump Of Chicken can take a month off in the summer.

Kindan No Tasuketsu has been one of Japan’s best pop-music performers of the last year, releasing a flurry of fantastic songs (some hyper upbeat, other meditative) and a full-length album at the end of 2013. Her first new track for this year, “Manatsu No Boyfriend,” is a pumped-up electronic number featuring her familiar nursery-school-sing-song delivery and a big ecstatic chorus. It’s not quite as punch as some of her other dance-inspired cuts from last year…tough to keep that energy going for over five minutes…but still a very strong. And the video (below) is being pushed by TV station Space Shower TV. Here’s hoping this is an opening up.