Sigh, another summer over…onwards into the fall and then the miserable, stupid winter. First though, some music!
AKB48 “Gingham Check”
First, if you haven’t watched the video for “Gingham Check,” you really should because it is miles away the best thing AKB48 has ever done, and is also surprisingly smart considering the group in question. I’m not joking – here are my thoughts on the clip.
Today, though, let’s concern ourselves with just the song which…well, I’m conflicted. AKB48 has been topping the charts for nearly three years now, and, save for a few exceptions, every single they release sounds the same. “Gingham Check” is no different, relentlessly chipper with arcade-worthy electronics and a typical all-together-now chorus from a group who only speaks in them. It’s not terribly memorable…unlike the surprisingly good “Manatsu No Sounds Good!”…but at the same time the constant barrage of AKB music has rendered “Gingham Check” as sounding very…tolerable…to my ears.
Which is to say “Gingham Check” is neither particularly good nor is it particularly bad (though it IS better than a lot of other AKB songs). It shouldn’t be praised but it also shouldn’t be held up as yet another excuse for critics to huddle together and let out a collective “these guys? FUCK THEM” which has become the common level of criticism reserved for AKB48. Which is ridiculous, considering that they are one of the most important aspects of contemporary Japanese pop culture going right now, and if anything they should be examined closer. Unremarkable song (but amazing video) from a group deserving of deeper critique.
Sakanaction “Yoru No Odoriko”
This song ends up being a bit trickier than an initial listen might hint at. Sakanaction’s latest single seemingly follows the same songwriting pattern they’ve been toying with for the majority of their careers – dancefloor-ready verses erupting into a big, cathartic chorus. “Yoru No Odoriko” definitely features those two hallmarks of Sakanaction’s songwriting, but with a few twists. The big, cathartic chorus actually doesn’t come until about two minutes and 30 seconds into the track…before that, the band teases with a similarly dramatic build-up, complete with some well-placed keyboard notes, but holds off on the actual pay dirt for a bit. When they get to it, though, it’s great, especially the repeated guitar note that sort of just echoes off over and over again. Factor in the lovely female backing vocals – the best new touch here – and you have a great overall tune.
Tackey & Tsubasa “Koakuma Juliet”
Oh rejoice I can’t find this anywhere. Just listen to the Sakanaction song again…or watch the AKB video and take note on the great action-movie names.
Naoto Nana “Naitetate”
“Hello, and welcome aboard your cruise, I’ll be your director of good times Naoto Nana! C’mon, put on this lei and these oversized sunglasses. Look at that, someone better tell the captain we have good times off the starboard bow! OK, anyways, I’ll make sure you are having fun during the duration of your stay on this vessel, and with my unrelenting upbeat-ness and forced smile you will have no choice but to have a good time! Or strangle me, one or the other, because I’ve been told this gets old fast. But what do they know! See ya for ping-pong at 7, bring your biggest grins!”
Funky Monkey Babys “Life Is A Party”
To Funky Monkey Babys’ credit, they added some new tricks to their sonic warehouse. Unfortunately, they picked up lazy Auto-tune and club beats that expired in 2009.
Yoshii Kazuya “Tenbyou No Skikumi”
The beat hints at this being interesting, and when the guitar slides in at the very worst, ya think, this will just be ho-hum rock. And that’s pretty much what this ends up being, except Yoshii Kazuya’s voice is pretty annoying, especially on the verses where he sounds very nasally.
Winner Of The Week: Sakanaction