Neo Kei

For fans of Japanese Popular Music. From para para to visual kei and every genre inbetween!


Yasuda Rei’s First Album Distributed Digitally Worldwide

21 year old Yasuda Rei has released her first album Will. And it has now been made available outside of Japan on iTunes to 44 countries, including Brazil, Canada, USA, Sweden, UK, the Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Brunei, Macau, Fiji, Egypt and Qatar.

This feels like a news worthy item and yet shouldn’t be. I’ve seen the gap between the music available on the Japanese iTunes and UK iTunes, so it’s great that there’s more music available from new artists and their first albums. But on the other hand, why should it be so shocking? In this 21st century where international news travels so much quicker than before and the access to information and culture has increased, why should it not be natural to have this level of access to Japanese music?

But for now I guess it’s importance to celebrate this level of global music distribution. Also my guess is that the more Japanese music is bought in the UK, the amount of Japanese music available will increase. Albums from artists such as Dir En Grey is already available in UK stores like HMV. Wouldn’t it be great if there was Japanese acts scattered across the different music sections? There must be a point where the origin of the music stops being the definition of the music and songs can be recognised as pop, folk or rock regardless of whether it came from the US, Japan, Fiji or Sweden.

Have a listen to Mirror, one of the songs from the album

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Latest iTunes Purchases

So I mentioned that I’d bought a few songs recently when I wrote about my experiences with Japanese iTunes. Sorry it took me over 2 weeks to follow that post up with the music. But I haven’t been able to listen to the songs much, so for me they are still new, so that counts a little.

1) Gift  – ET-King

Watch Gift – ET-King

I hadn’t heard of this song or this group before. But I knew I wanted to buy the song when I knew it was hip-hop. I do like Japanese hip-hop, one of the reasons being that I like the vocal delivery and timings, it seems to work really well with the Japanese syllables. Of course that doesn’t mean that Japanese lyrics won’t have some of the same Anglo-American topics like sex, women, crime and money. But I don’t think I’ve come across any (although I wouldn’t know unless they drop in English words or I translate it!). I haven’t been able to find the English lyrics for this song. But I think it’s a song about appreciation, gratitude and celebrating life.

 2) 深夜高速 – フラワーカンパニーズ (Fast Midnight – Flower Company)

This is a group that I haven’t heard of before, so I’m relying on what information I can find online about them. They’re originally from Nagoya, which I really like because my friends spent their university year abroad in Nagoya and although I haven’t been myself they had such great experiences there. They’ve released music under both major and indie labels. I do find it very interesting how big bands can choose to remain on a indie label for such a long time. I’d like to learn about about Japanese labels and how they work differently to UK labels (seems like every label is owned by one of the major companies like Sony BMG or EMI). They released a lot of material in the late 80’s/early 90’s, but it looks like they’ve releasing new material and performing at festivals such as ap bank fes. Of course I didn’t know any of this before buying the song, I went on instinct based on what I heard in the short preview. I like how the verses were more stripped back before the instruments gain intensity in the choruses. I also thought the vocal delivery was interesting, not the melodic type and not the screamo/rock type but somewhere more in the middle. When I watched the video I had images of Oasis and Kasabian with his rock swagger attitude.

3) maruche – KICK THE CAN CREW

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the PV or a suitable video. If you search for the song you will probably find an AMV (Anime Music Video). What first struck me about this song was the Latin sample. I feel like I should recognise it, or it just might be typical of the Latin sound. Again it’s another hip-hop track that I wanted to add to my collection. When I play/record my mixes I’m always on trying to represent as many genres as possible, in order to show just how diverse Japanese music is. Whilst I did start off with some R’n’B/hip hop artists, they were more female singers like Koda Kumi or Namie Amuro. So the more hip hop acts I can get the better I feel about my mixes. What I realised when looking online for the video was that one of the members of KICK THE CAN CREW was KREVA, who is now an established rapper. He’s on the song STRONG – MIYAVI vs KREVA which I absolutely adore! It’s probably one of my top three Japanese songs of all time, so I implore you to have a listen to STRONG.

4) My Sunshine (2012 remaster) – ROCK’A’TRENCH

As soon as I heard this I thought I recognised it as a anime theme. There are some songs that just sound typical of rom-com / shojo programmes.  When I looked for the PV online I worked out where the song was from. It was the OP for a drama called Mei-chan no Shitsuji (Mei’s Bulter) which definitely falls under the shojo category and I will admit I watched (everyone needs escapism!). I have watched a lot of anime and dramas but for this one to be memorable shows the song stands on it’s own merits. It has that positive affirming style that will sound good this summer. The rest of their catalogue judging from their other PVs is more in the ska style, so they’re worth checking out.

5) B-Dash (Hanagoe Version) – tongarikids

I nearly debated using a different video, because I thought the PV looked ridiculous. To cut down the amount of ridiculous time, start the video at 1:16 when the music starts.  That being said, it quite a ridiculous song, but sometimes that’s what everyone needs. And this was a very very big song at the time.  The initial reason I bought was that I recognised the sample being used. I won’t say what it is as a small test! 😉

I thought it would be a great song even with a short edit, because of it’s techno sound and the sample. I would say based on the people that I know, that even if they’re not a fan of Japanese music, they are fans of gaming, so this would definitely make them pay attention.

6) グロテスク – 平井 堅 グロテスク feat. 安室奈美恵 (Grotesque – Ken Hirai feat Namie Amuro)

Watch Grotesque – Ken Hirai feat Namie Amuro

I saw Namie Amuro on the artwork and was instantly intrigued. Ever since I was introduced to Japanese music Namie Amuro was one of my favourite female singers. Her R’n’B/Hip Hop was similar to the kind of Anglo-American singers I listen to and her songs were great to sing along to (well attempt to, again I say I do not know Japanese!). Also I really liked her voice and style (it’s very rare that she’s not wearing knee high boots). I had a listen to the sample (as I do before every purchase) and really liked the high energy and sound. I also searched for the video and once Ken Hirai appeared I realised who he was. Although I don’t have a lot of the music, I know he’s been in the industry for a number of years and he has a very distinctive style (the white outfit with the hat wasn’t that surprising). The song is channeling the current house/dub step trend, this will definitely be included in future Neo Kei mixes.

7) AKB48 恋するフォーチュンクッキー (Koi Suru Fortune Cookie / Fortune Cookie In Love)

Ah yes, that one.

I didn’t learn about this song through the artist but instead through the fan videos. Not knowing the song, I was rather confused about why the AKB48 official channel was sharing all these videos. And then I realised they were all for the same song. These fans seem to love the song and love the opportunity to recreate the para para (dance routine). Plus in the official PV lots of people are performing AKB48 are teaching the moves (I think the orchestra and the kendo students are the funniest!). So again it’s very easy and tempting to fans to replicate the video. I won’t share all the fan videos, but there is an Australian version, a Venice version, an Enka version, one by Japanese fashion label Samantha Thavasa but I think you must see the Kanagawa Prefecture version 

And you HAVE to see the AKB48 staff version (who I actually think are the best dancers!)

Have you mastered the whole routine? Or have you found a better parody video? I’d love for you to post them in the comments section below.

 

I wouldn’t have gotten into Japanese music without the recommendations from my friends, and I will always welcome new suggestions. So if you think there’s some music you want to share or some recommendations based on these songs then please post them in the comments too.

 

Be Genki!


My thoughts on Japanese iTunes

It had been a while since I bought any music, so I went onto the Japanese iTunes to find some new songs to add to my collection.

On UK iTunes I like to take advantage of the ‘Single of the Week’, where they give away a free song from an up-and-coming artist or artist with new material (previous artists include Alex Clare, Foxes, Naughty Boy and Tom Odell). So I had a little look around to see if I could find something similar. Then I spotted a section that had 00’s songs for 150 yen (87 pence approx), compared with 250 yen (£1.46 approx).

Yes the songs on Japanese iTunes are more expensive than the UK. But the UK has extremely few Japanese songs. For instance AKB48 (one of the biggest idol groups) only had 1 song, and that was only because they were on the ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ soundtrack. There some new tracks I could find, which really helped me when I started DJing. But I couldn’t guarantee I would find the songs I wanted, and whether they were still current (no point buying a MIYAVI track 3 months after it was released in Japan). And even if I discovered an artist that I really liked (like Capsule or Aural Vampire), I wouldn’t be able to find any of their back catalogue. So the Japanese iTunes account is brilliant to have access to any artist I want.

Also I don’t have to worry about have to import music. Before iTunes I was purchasing my music through YesAsia. I do think it’s a brilliant site for the amount and variety of stock they have. But you pay the cost of importing. Literally. The prices are so much higher for albums and singles. For instance just looking on the site now, the most recent single of a artist I could find was SID’s  ENAMEL (Normal Edition)(Japan Version) is on sale at $14.25 (£8.44 approx). And that doesn’t include the DVD extras or photobooks they like to include. I couldn’t afford the latest music, so I would look at the reduced items of artists that I thought would be popular, even if the songs had been out of the charts for a while. I’d also buy music in bulk, because firstly it would take about 2-3 weeks at least to arrive, and also the purchases had to be over $39 to qualify for free shipping (which I’ve recently learnt can really bite, but more on that later).

I am still a traditionalist and I like to own the physical CD (but oddly I’ve never been interested in vinyl). So if I want to buy an album of an artist I really like, I will still want to buy it in the future. But as much as I love owning as much music as possible, it’s not practical to buy a physical single at over 5 times the cost of a download song. Plus, whilst I might get 3/4 songs with the physical, half of them might be instrumentals or TV edits (because songs are so often TV OPs) and really what people will want to hear is the actual single, not the extra song that came with it. iTunes allows me to buy the 1 song that I know I will include in my mixes (or at least heavily listen to and build my own musical knowledge), so I’d say that  purchase would have a 100% success rate, compared with may 25-30% with a physical single.

I ended up buying 7 songs. I wanted to talk about them all, and what was meant to be a very short introduction into Japanese iTunes turned into another one of my short opinion pieces! So I’ll share this first and write a separate post that just focuses on the music.


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Reviving the Neo Kei blog

I was really surprised at the positive reaction to my Kyary Pamyu Pamyu article a couple of weeks ago. I’ll call it an article because I wrote a lot more than I expected!

 

I got praise and encouragement from my friends. And a big surprise was getting a real comment. I had been deleting the spam comments for so long I’d forgotten what they should be like!

 

So it’s encouraging to do more, even if it’s little and often. I was so keen on being a source of information and bringing together all the exciting news pieces, that I wasn’t being any different than a search engine.

I’m also going to vary the types of posts I make. So I might reshare a news article, then I might share a new PV and share my reactions. I might talk about favourite acts, new acts or my early introductions to Japanese music. I have a Japanese iTunes account, so when I buy a new song, I’ll tell you about it and my reasons why. I also will finally share my DJ mixes. I’ve sporadically performed over the last few years but haven’t been able to tell anyone else about them. I was very excited when I crafted these mixes as I loved the songs and was really happy that I could cross the genres I did within my sets. So I’ll share those, and also make smaller mixes of earlier more recent songs or certain genres.

 

I think I didn’t take for granted the importance that my early ‘teachers’ had in introducing me to the music, but I think I didn’t realise the amount of information I have about Japanese music. Probably not as much as someone actually living in Japan, or a reviewer who’s a lot more involved in the scene. But what I do know helps me in my new song choices, DJ mixes and choosing which news articles to share. And ultimately it will help me to better share information about Japanese music. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted, to share and to help those who are new to the music like I was helped in the beginning.

 

I hope you look forward to more posts from Neo Kei.

 

Be genki!

 

 


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Neo Kei – 13 June 2012

Ohayo,

How’s everyone doing? After the last couple of boo-boos on the posts I’m going to make sure all the news items are properly styled before publishing. But this week hasn’t left a lot of free time so if the post looks a little thin on the ground, don’t worry, it’ll be packed with lots of news soon.

This week there seems to be a lot about both anniversaries and break-ups and of course a healthy dose of new releases, including some for Europe!

Artist News

Line Up Change News – On 29/06/2012 Moran will have 2 new members, but Sleepy.ab are losing their drummer, TRIGGAH are losing 3 members, School Food Punishment have split and Kro:nos, Matenrou Opera are going on hiatus. YELLOW FRIED CHICKEN’z are also split with their last live YELLOW FRIED CHICKENz 煌☆雄兎狐塾 -破秘婆酒日解散祭-泣くのは辞めな、笑ってサヨナラしましょうねぇ- [Happy Birthday Break-up Festival ~ Don’t cry, let’s say goodbye with a smile] and on Gackt’s birthday (04/07/2012).

  • Japanese music company avex are offering a massive opportunity by auditioning for LA performers to be represented and perform in Japan and throughout the world.
  • The Birthday frontman Chiba Yusuke has a number of projects lined up, including a solo album with album-inspired film and fronting a supergroup as well as other The Birthday projects.
  • 10,000 people came to the Flower Tribute Ceremony to say their goodbyes to Dragon Ash bassist IKUZONE.
  • MONKEY MAJIK are planning an English Best of Album, and are opening the tracklist to public vote. So if you want to hear your favourite MM tracks in English, make sure you speak up!
  • Utada Hikaru has reacted to Yahoo Japan featuring her recent tweets as headline news. I know it’s a bit comical that I’m also reporting to, but I’ve also been missing her since she started her hiatus.
  • Tackey & Tsubasa are opening up their best-of album to public vote.
  • THE YELLOW MONKEY have set up their own YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations.

Release News

  • The Bishi-Bishi group are giving two European album releases for seiyuu Horie Yui and Momoiro Clover Z on 04/07/2012 through their digital store and other stores like iTunes.
  • exist†trace‘s first full album VIRGIN is now available on iTunes in thirty countries, including the US and UK.
  • KinKi Kids will be releasing a DVD/Blu-ray of their 01/01/2012 live, King • KinKi Kids 2011 – 2012.
  • Seiyuu Minori Chihara (aka Yuki Nagato in Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) is releasing her 15th single ZONE//ALONE on 11/07/2012.
  • Johnny’s Entertainment group NEWS will be releasing their single Chankapana on 18/07/2012.
  • ONMYO-ZA  have a new album called Kishibojin, and through GANSHIN it will be released in Europe on 20/06/2012.
  • SPYAIR have recorded the theme for The Amazing Spider-Man 3D film. 0 GAME will have multiple releases, inclduding 28/06/2012 in Europe and 03/07/2012 in the US.
  • In time to celebrate their fifth anniversary, Versailles will release their single ROSE on 04/07/2012.
  • ZUCK will release their single Hoshi no Nai Sora online via dwango.jp on 18/06/2012 and via iTunes on 27/06/2012.

Live News

  • BUMP OF CHICKEN will be performing at the MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS JAPAN on 23/06/2012.
  • Record label Crow Music are celebrating their 15th anniversary with 2 lives featuring artists such as  RavanteD, REVINE, BORN and OZ.
  • The artist line up has been announced for GIRLS’ FACTORY 12 in Zepp DiverCity TOKYO.
  • MERRY will release a DVD of their 10th anniversary lives, entitled MERRY 10th Anniversary NEW LEGEND OF HIGH COLOR -6DAYS-
  • VAMPS will be getting into the summer spirit with their own beach party live BEAST ON THE BEACH in Aichi prefectures in August.

Be Genki (^o^)y


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Neo Kei – 6 June 2012

Hi Minna!

Firstly big apologies for publishing last week’s post with a lot of loose hyperlinks. In my commitment to keep the blog updated regularly I set a publishing timer, but didn’t finish formating before the deadline. In future I’ll make sure all the news and info is up-to-date before sending it out into the big wide world. And then once I took out the publishing deadline, I managed to skip a whole week! I will be more diligent with the posting in future.

Now onto the double-dose of latest news. It’s great that there’s so many artists not just celebrating their anniversaries in special ways, but also are open to their fan’s opinions and act on their voting. Plus check out an unsual cover coming soon. Enjoy!

Artist News

  • After the news about their single on Neo Kei XBOOM BOOM SATELLITES will be collaborating with video sharing website Nico Nico Douga for upcoming single BROKEN MIRROR for a remix contest. Fans can use track parts from the release and submit their remix via Nico Nico Douga: Zero, and in early August the group will choose the winning track that will feature on their upcoming remix album  due in September. Exciting stuff!
  • Kanjani8- have announced their plans to celebrate their eight year anniversary, with the Fan Gratitude CD Special Free Event at their hometown Osaka on 08/08/2012, and their fan festival 8 Festival ~Bokuramo 8cchai, 8cchake Matsuri in August.
  • Kyary PamyuPamyu has reached Number 1 in the ORICON Daily Charts, American, French and Belgium Electronic iTunes charts with her first album PamyuPmayu Revolution. She has also been featured in Jigoku no Misawa’s manga Kakko-Kawaii Sengen.
  • After their last world tour date on 31/05/2012 in Honolulu, the day was established as L’Arc~en~Ciel Day in the city. They are the third Japanese act to have a day established for them, after TUBE and Arashi. Also L’Arc~en~Ciel are letting their fans vote for which countries they visit on their next world tour. Voting started on 01/06/2012, check it out and vote for your country, or the UK!
  • On 25/05/2012 Moritaka Chisato announced a number of activities for her twenty-fifth anniversary. First she has her YouTube project 200 Songs Self Cover Project with archive and new videos, including cover videos of all the songs released between 1987 and 1999. Her singles are available digitally for a limited time in Chaku-Uta form through Recochoku. And finally her single collection album The Singles is out on 08/08/2012.
  • For MUCC-Day (MUCC‘s 15th anniversary live) on 09/06/2012, the band are looking for 69 reporters to cover the event and share on their personal blogs.
  • Acapella group RAG FAIR will make their December 2012.
  • Morning Musume‘s manager has announced a new project, an all-girl rock band for member Reina Tanaka.
  • Tokyo Jihen have launched a special website. It includes video clips, photos and liner notes, so check it out.

Release News

  • Singer/songwriter aiko is making her first release in two years with her tenth album Toki no silhouette on 20/06/2012.
  • An Cafe will be releasing their first mini-album in two and a half years on 08/08/2012. No title yet, but I am really looking forward to it, I might just pre-order.
  • After providing for the first game, Ayumi Hamasaki will be providing the theme song for the video game Tales of Xillia 2.
  • BONNIE PINK has a double release planned, with her single Machi no Namae due on 04/07/2012, followed by her twelfth album Chasing Hope on 25/07/2012.
  • A number of rock and visual kei artists such as MERRY, MUCC and Acid Black Cherry have covered BUCK-TICK tracks for their tribute album PARADE II–RESPECTIVE TRACKS OF BUCK-TICK, out on 04/07/2012.
  • Hip-hop group Caramel Peppers‘ third mini album LOVE LOVE LOVE SONGS 3 is out on 18/07/2012.
  • D=OUT will release their mini-album high collar on 15/08/2012 in three editions.
  • Denpagumi.inc will release their single Kirakira Tune / Sabotage on 18/07/2012. An idol group covering this Beastie Boys track?
    This I must hear.
  • The latest album from the GazettE will be DIVISION, out on 29/08/2012.
  • KAT-TUN‘s latest single will be TO THE LIMIT on 27/06/2012.
  • L’Arc~en~Ciel will release their best-of live DVD LIVE TWENTY and tribute album L’Arc~en~Ciel Tribute, both on 13/06/2012.
  • lynch. will make their major debut with the album INFERIORITY COMPLEX, out on 27/06/2012.
  • Another major debut is planned for Vision Factory performer Miura Ryosuke with the single Natsu dayo HONEY!! on 11/07/2012.
  • Moi dix Mois are releasing Reprise on 11/07/2012 for their tenth anniversary. It features new versions of songs voted for by their fans.
  • MUCC released two singles, ARCADIA FEATURING DAISHI DANCE and NIRVANA , digitally on 25/05/2012.
  • Female rockers Negoto will release their single Lightdentity / Re:myend! on 08/08/2012. Both tracks will be used as theme songs, Lightdentity will be in the CM for a nurse recruitment website and Re:myend! will be in the anime movie  After School Midnighters, out on 25/08/2012.
  • If there aren’t enough AKB48 sub groups, new unit NO NAME will make their debut with their single Kibou ni Tsuite on 01/08/2012.
  • Sadie have releases due, first their DVD with all their thirteen PVs since forming, CLIPS-13 is available from 11/07/2012 . Then the single METEOR will follow on 25/07/2012.
  • Morecover album news, V-ANIME ROCKS!, due on 01/08/2012, features some of the most current visual kei artists with themes from classic anime such as DRAGON BALL Z, Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion and YuYu Hakusho. I know not everyone who enjoys Japanese music enjoys anime, but I imagine a lot of people were introduced to the music like me through anime. I’d love to play some of these tracks at a Neo Kei event.
  • On 27/06/2012 ViViD will release their album INFINITY.

Live News

  • Her first dome tour in fifteen years, Amuro Namie will be embarking on namie amuro 5dai Dome TOUR 2012 ~20th Anniversary Best~ in November and December. Twenty of the set list songs will be voted for by the fans through the twentieth anniversary website.
  • Angelo will host their first featured event Angelo Presents – THE INTERSECTION OF DOGMA on 17/08/2012 at SHIBUYA-AX and will also include girugamesh, lynch., MERRY and Sadie with a live-battle. Fighto!
  • On 10/06/2012 BUCK-TICK will host their at the NIGHT SIDE 2012 performance at Hibiya Open Air Concert Hall and it will be available live online on NicoNico NamaHousou.
  • DJ Kentaro will appear at London’s XOYO on 14/07/2012 as part of his European tour.
  • GLAY have revealed they will release their live DVD s just revealed that they will be releasing a new live DVD on July 25th, GLAY HIGHCOMMUNICATIONS TOUR 2011-2012 ‘RED MOON&SILVER SUN’ at Nippon Budoukan exclusively through their mail-order website G-DIRECT from 25/07/2012
  • Between December and January, LUNA SEA will be touring with their one-man live LUNA SEA LIVE 2012-2013 The End of the Dream.They will be at Osaka-jo Hall and Nippon Budokan for the first time in twelve years.
  • Perfume will release their live DVD Perfume 3rd Tour ‘JPN on 01/08/2012, featuring footage from the second day in their hometown.
  • the GazettE, ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION and Perfume have been added to the line up for The RISING SUN ROCK FESTIVAL in Hokkaido.

Be Genki (^o^)y