Neo Kei

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


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Happy from Harajuku Tokyo

I was recommended this little video from YouTube.

It’s a great display of all the diverse people in Japan and specifically Harajuku. I like how diverse the ages are, not just nothing but 20 somethings. There’s families, a couple of 40/50+ men, and even a sweet old business man that I guess might be about 70.

I also like that it supports but dispels some of the ideas of the Harajuku area. It’s probably best known for being “the center of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles” (taken from Tokyo Travel). So it’s natural to include a lolita girl, some cafe maids, a cross dresser and even a bear (why not!). But the majority of people in the video are “normal” people. Very bold, expressive, stylish people, but not the stereotypical image of who abides in Harajuku.

And that’s how it should be, a realistic reflection of the residents of Harajuku. It’d be like making a video in Liverpool with nothing but footballers and Beatle-wannabes. It’s not styled like a tourist video. Yes it has sumo wrestlers, traditional kimonos, chefs (and even an appearance from Asimo!) but there’s businessmen, shop owners and people at a hanami (flower viewing). But the majority of the participants in the video are fun, vivacious, stylish people. To me it looks like a realistic snapshot of life in Harajuku. And it just makes me want to visit even more.

 

Enjoy!

 

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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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Reaction to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu article in Austrailian Guardian

I happened to look at the Guardian website and I saw this article Kyary Pamyu Pamyu tinges J-pop’s cuteness with a touch of horror show. My instant reaction was “YES! Recognition for Japanese music in the Western hemisphere!” But the more I read it the more it frustrated me.

Firstly I don’t like the use of the words unsettling or grotesque. Yes there are some horror themes (especially appropriate for her PV Fashion Monster) 

But how is “running down a grey suburban street in pink platform boots with a slice of dry toast in her mouth” subversive (watch CANDY CANDY from about 0:14 to get the reference) 

Also she’s not as obsessed with horror as the article implies. If you watch her latest single (which isn’t, 2013’s Mottai Night Land as quoted in the article) but Yume no Hajima-Ring Ring from February 2014, you’ll find a very sweet song about graduation and growing up. What can be horrific about a polar bear playing guitar?!

Lady Gaga at GlastonburyIt should be a known fact that an artist’s earliest release may not be a true reflection of their artistry. It’s common to spot people like Christina Aguilera be guided by their label to what would sell and fit the market, gain the record sales and recogotion before changing the style and sound to what they actually want to do. I’m not saying that this happened to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. But she has been releasing singles for 3 years, it’s unfair to compare everything she does to her first songs. What if people constantly compared Lady Gaga to her glitter ball, Ziggy thunder bolt, disco stick past?

Yes she is similar to Lady Gaga as a female singer with strong visuals and creative expression. Kyary started in the industry as a fashion blogger and model so of course she’s going to have a strong sense of style. Also there are other performers that “grew up as the only child of disciplinarian parents” and either did become more extrovert in their style or just didn’t. It’s not an explanation for why she’s this creative in her looks, or a reason to dismiss how she can be this creative.

If you look at the rest of Japanese music, all bands have a very strong use of aesthetic, and in some genres like Visual Kei, it’s almost mandatory! If you’re engaged in Japanese music, you’ll soon realise that it’s part of the culture to have high value on the costumes, PVs, live staging etc. It’s an extension of their creativity. If you’re truly aware of Japanese music, you’ll realise quickly that the exaggerated costumes and images is part and parcel of the music and things stop being as shocking. I mean, my earliest introduction to Japanese music was this video! 

You react to seeing men in women’s clothing, crazy dancer costumes etc for about 2 seconds, and then you get over it and get back to enjoying the music.

Having said all that, the imagery doesn’t always reflect the music. Especially when more acts can bounce between the genre lines and aren’t pigeon holed, you can never assume the genre based on their looks. For instance if I said there was a three piece girl vocal dance group, you’ll probably think they have some very sugary, poppy cute music, right? Obviously you haven’t heard of BABYMETAL 

.

Yeah. I’ve yet to get my head around this.

But back to the article. “There are indications of a western pop influence upon Kyary’s videos”. Yes that’s easy to say about a lot of Japanese music and culture. There is a heavy mix use of English in lyrics, song titles and act names. It’s possible to say that until the influx of Western music after the Second World War and then the influence of Eighties rock bands, the Japanese music industry didn’t exist. One of the biggest Japanese acts of all time, X JAPAN, might not have happened if it wasn’t for Western acts like KISS to influence them. The characteristics of Japanese R’n’B and Hip Hop are strong similarities to their Western counterparts. And one of the biggest fashion styles in Japan, Lolita, has obvious ties to the Victorian era.

If you search for Japanese music on YouTube your first results are enka, shamisen and other types of traditional music. Kyary’s first song PON PON PON is only 18th on the search list. This probably does reflect the general impression of Japanese music in the Western world. It’s why when I talk about my interest in the music I have to quickly explain it’s the rock/pop/R’n’B that I’m interested in.

But when they say that Lady Gaga influenced elements like the masks in Tsukematsukeru it’s really frustrating. The ones wearing the masks (appearing at 2:24) are representations of Kitsune, foxes from Japanese mythology that are often represented with masks. The masks have come from Kyary’s own culture, not adopted from the Western world.

Can I explain all the references and elements of her videos? Of course not! Some elements have grounding in anime, fashion, sci-fi etc. I’m not a particularly arty or cultural person, but I would say that not all art can be referenced, explained or identifiable. You just accept and enjoy it as it is.

Kyary says “I always look up to artists who blend their music with fashion, and I want to be one … I am not just trying to imitate what they are doing. I want to express my own version of music and fashion with a happy spirit.” Is that a universal opinion of musicians? Who doesn’t acknowledge their influences, their predecessors, but who doesn’t intend to be their own auteur?

It is great what Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is doing in raising the profile of Japanese music outside of the country. But it’s very narrow minded to just base the reactions based on Western comparisons, like Katy and Lady Gaga, and on a few known elements of Japanese culture, like Harajuku (even that might not be known of if it wasn’t for Gwen Stefani’s Love.Angel.Music.Baby album). Kyary is a gateway to learn more about the richness and depth of Japanese popular music.


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Neo Kei – 8 Apr 2012

Artist News

  • Potentially an April Fool on 01/04/2012 but happily not, AN CAFE will resume actitives this summer with a new release and a 2-day performance at Yoyogi National Stadium in September. This band was one of my first introductions to Japanese music, so I’m very happy they’re back together.
  • Front man of BLOOD Hayato will be leaving the band for new opportunities.
  • On 08/04/2012, the duo CHEMISTRY disbanded to focus on solo activities.
  • Record label Dear Dolce will close on 05/06/2012, affecting the future of many bands.
  • Golden Bomber members have been incorporated into the Square Enix online game TorisetsuIXA. By completing quests players can view videos from the band as rewards.
  • Ikimonogakari will be arranging the theme song for NHK’s broadcasting of the London Olympics.
  • NightingeiL will disband after their final performance at Harajuku ASTRO HALL on 03/06/2012.
  • On 07/04/2012 and 08/04/2012 Perfume had a promotional music box at Shibuya 109 playing their new single Spring of Life. The 4 metre box had 40 earphone plugs to listen to the song, with 3 of those having special messages from the band members.
  • After previously being hospitalised, Plastic Tree’s drummer Sato Kenken has been discharged and will perform with the band at Nippon Budokan on 14/04/2012.
  • After the rumor shared here on Neo Kei on 04/03/2012, it has been confirmed that Raphael will be reuniting. They will host 2 lives on 31/10/2012 and 01/11/2012 to commemorate the death of their guitarist Kazuki.
  • X-JAPAN have been nominated in the “Best International Artist” catergory at GOLDEN GODS AWARD 2012, Americas biggest award for hard rock. This is the first time that a Japanese act has been nominated in this catergory.
  • There are a number of releases due from YUKI on 02/05/2012. First there’s double-A single Play Ball / Sakamichi no melody, the live DVD YUKI tour “MEGAPHONIC” 2011 featuring her Yokohama Arena performance from November, and the PV collection YUKI Video 3.

Music News

  • Even though announced on 01/04/2012, A (エース) will have their album Tales For The Abyss available on 06/06/2012.
  • AA= will be releasing his third album, creatively titled #3 will be released and available for download on 10/04/2012 through GANSHIN.
  • The only other multiple A act I know, AAA will release their yet-to-be-titled single on 09/05/2012.
  • Applicat Spectra made their major debut with their album Spectacle Orchestra on 04/04/2012.
  • Counteraction -V-Rock covered Visual Anime songs Compilation- is visual kei artists covering anime themes. Artists either covered or recorded include GACKT, X JAPAN, Golden Bomber, SID, DaizyStripper and Nightmare. Great stuff.
  • Visual kei band D will release a new single titled Dying message on May 30th.
  • The new single from Dolly will be Niji Iro no Canaria , out on 25/04/2012.
  • EAT YOU ALIVE will release their new single Lily on 25/04/2012.
  • Singer-songwriter Fukuhara Miho will be collaborating with Miura Daichi (I love his track ‘The Answer’) on the single Dream On on 16/05/2012.
  • GLAY will release their single Bible, with B-side Ano hi no shounen and chairty song Thank you for your love on 23/05/2012.
  • Kaya  has a single due on 20/06/2012 called SALOME, based on the Oscar Wilde play of the same name.
  • Kyary PamyuPamyu will have her first album PamyuPamyu Revolution, out on 23/05/2012. She will also make her acting debut as herself on the TV drama Kazoku no Uta.
  • Leda (ex-DELUHI guitarist) has announced plans for his debut solo album due in the autumn, although no title yet.
  •   mihimaru GT will release their latest best-of album THE BEST of mihimaru GT 2 on 30/05/2012.
  • As part of Mr.Children‘s 20th anniversary, they will release 2 best-of albums on 10/05/2012, entitled Mr. Children2001‐2005 [micro] and Mr. Children2005‐2010 [macro]. Before then, they’ll release a triple A-side single of Inori -Namida no Kinou- / End of the day / pieces on 18/04/2012.
  • Sadie have their new mini-album Red Line is available now (released on 04/04/2012).
  • Tokami will release best-of album on 06/06/2012, featuring songs re-recorded and re-mastered versions of songs released pre Starwave Records and tracks only available from their lives.

Concert News

  • As part of their 25th anniversary, BUCK-TICK will be holding their own open-air festival BUCK-TICK FEST 2012 ON PARADE in September.
  • Whilst DIR EN GREY are on hiatus due to injury, they’ll be releasing 2 documentaries in June/July, called TOUR2011 AGE QUOD AGIS Vol.1 (Europe&Japan) and TOUR2011 AGE QUOD AGIS Vol.2 (US&Japan).
  • Already making their Christmas plans, Princess Princess will be hosting lives at the end of the year, including 2 days at Tokyo Dome on 23/12/2012 and 24/12/2012.
  • MISIA performed on 25/03/2012 as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington. http://www.tokyohive.com/2012/04/moriyama-naotaro-sings-sakura-at-ueno-park-surrounded-by-cherry-blossoms/
  • Yesterday (06/04/2012) MIYAVI was the opening act for Lenny Kravitz during his BLACK AND WHITE JAPAN TOUR 2012.
  • On 28/03/2012 SCANDAL hosted SCANDAL JAPAN TITLE MATCH LIVE 2012 -SCANDAL vs BUDOKAN-, their first performance at Nippon Budokan.


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Neo Kei – 21 Nov 2011

21 Nov 2011 – How is everyone doing? Firstly I know it has been forever since I’ve updated here, I resigned from my full time job and started interning so my focus has been elsewhere. I’ll post what I collected, then I’ll post a catch up from the last couple of weeks.

I’ve been having a play around with the blog format and thinking of extra features to share more information about Japanese music. I might also shorten the bulletins. Any suggestions would be welcome, and if anyone fancies designing a header logo let me know too.

MUSIC RELEASES

  • Visual band 9GOATS BLACK OUT have a new single called Draw available from 09/11/2011. The third single from the band will have two editions, with the limited only available through their concerts and mail order.
  • The visual kei act AND will have their single Liberate available from 28/10/2011. After their single BLAZE, this is their second single release through label Victor Entertainment.
  • Crisis is the fourth single from the five month consecutive campaign from Acid Black Cherry. Due for release on 21/12/2011, the rock track will be accompanied by BELIEVE, originally performed by Watanabe Misato.
    Queen of hip-hop Amuro Namie will have a double A-side single available on 07/12/2011. Sit!Stay!Wait!Down! is another track produced T.kura and Michico, whilst Love Story is a ballad being used as the theme to drama Watashi ga Renai Dekinai Riyuu.
  • DIR EN GREY will have re-mastered their album UROBOROS which will be available along with their Blu-ray UROBOROS -with the proof in the name of living- AT NIPPON BUDOKAN on 01/01/2012. The new edition will include new and Japanese versions of album tracks originally released in November 2008. The Blu-ray will feature videos from two concerts consecutively held at Nippon Budokan in January 2010.
  • Dolly released their best-of album on 09/11/2011 to celebrate their 6 year anniversary. PRIVATE SHELL-Complete The Best 2005-2011- will have 22 tracks from the visual kei band.
  • DuelJewel‘s new album Luminous will include the March single Vamp Ash and the July single Polaris. The release on 07/12/2011 will be available as a regular edition with a new recording of Akatsuki andthe limited edition will have a DVD with live and bonus footage.
  • After the news about her FFXIII-2 single (announced here on Neo Kei IV), Fukui Mai will have a mini-album available on 14/12/2011. As yet untitled, it will have six tracks including the singles Ikutabi no sakura, Yakusoku no basho and acoustic Ai no uta. There will be an CD edition and a CD+DVD edition, which will have the PVs for Ikutabi no sakura, Ai no uta  and a promotional video for FINAL FANTASY XIII-2. The first press bonus is a special download code for the game.
  • The industrial rock duo HimemaniK, will their mini-album Ruler on 30/11/2011. This will be the first release with the new formation signed to Kiwamu’s label Starwave Records. The CD is available for pre-sale at concerts from 30/10/2011 and will be limited to 1,000 copies.
  • Johnny’s Entertainment group Kanjani8 will release their album FIGHT on 16/11/2011. The regular edition will have bonus songs from some of the members, and the limited editions include a tall case, a 48-page booklet and a DVD with various PV, making of and recording session footage.
  • On 19/10/2011 two singles from kanon x kanon have been given their European release by Gan-Shin Records. Koi no Doutei and Calendula Requiem are now available from the pair described as a “mystic female cello-vocalist and Akiba-kei Otaku male sound creator”. I have loved Calendula Requiem for ages, as soon as I heard I downloaded it straight away!
  • As part of a consecutive release campaign, Kuraki Mai will release Strong Heart on 23/11/2011. The R’n’B track will be the theme to drama HUNTER ~Sono Onna Tachi, Shokin Kasegi~. Pop-rock Ikimono-gakari will also release their single on 23/11/2011, entitled Aruite ikou. And Porno Graffitti will also have their single Yuki no iro available from 23/11/2011.
  • Model/singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has her single Tsukema tsukeru due on 11/01/2012.
  • Gan-Shin Records released LM.C‘s best of album across Europe on 08/11/2011. Entitled  ☆★Best the LM.C★☆ 2006-2011 SINGLES, it will feature 15 tracks from the last 5 years.
  • Another visual kei band, Megaromania will have a live album and a Christmas single available on 21/12/2011. Both called BLESSING MYTH, the album will cover the emergence the kingdom concert held at Shibuya O-WEST on 29/09/2011.
  • Another sister group of AB48, NMB48 released their single Oh my god! on 19/10/2011. The three editions will have the single, a B-side, a bonus track and karaoke versions of the tracks as well as a DVD.
  • Metal band Onmyo-za have a story concept album called Kishibojin avaiilable from 21/12/2011.
  • PASSPO☆ have a new single and album due for release both on 07/12/2011. The single Kiss = Suki will have a DVD with the PV, and the album CHECK-IN will have three editions.
  • The latest Johnny’s group has now been announced as Sexy Zone, made their self-titled-single debut on 16/11/2011. The youngest ever Johnny’s Entertainment group, the single will be available in five different editions, and like Kanjani Eight’s releases will have various video content.
  • Another Idol group S/mileage eighth single Please Mini-Skirt Postwoman! (random title!) will be released on 28/12/2011. The five editions’ content has yet to be confirmed. In artist news the four sub-members are now official members of the group, which consists of Wada Ayaka, Maeda Yuka, Fukuda Kanon, Nakanishi Kana, Takeuchi Akari, Katsuta Rina and Tamura Meimi.
  • Currently part of X JAPAN, LUNA SEA and JUNO REACTOR, guitarist SUGIZO will be releasing two albums on 07/12/2011. FLOWER OF LIFE and TREE OF LIFE will each be released with CD and CD+DVD editions, and feature the singles PRAY FOR MOTHER EARTH featuring Toshinori Kondo and ENOLA GAY.Further information about the albums is expected to be revealed closer to their release date.
  • THE SOUND BEE HD will release a mini-album on 14/12/2011. Called A-De, the tracks will mix electro, heavy rock and the Japanes style. This is the fourth part of the act’s gothic concept series and will be limited to 1,000 copies. I’d better pre-order fast!
  • Another sub-unit of AKB48, Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 will release ther single Kibou sanmyaku on 30/11/2011. This will be used as the opening theme for anime Crayon Shin-chan.

ARTIST NEWS

  • On 21/09/1987, BUCK-TICK released the video tape BUCK-TICK Genshou (LIVE) at THE LIVE INN, hit the stores on September 21st 1987. To celebrate 25 years since their debut, they have created a 25th anniversary website, and announced they have started their own label Lingua Sounda.
  • Special events will be held in December to celebrate the late X JAPAN guitarist hide on 13/12/2011. On the day hide Birthday Party!!2011will feature artists such as Kimura Seiji&YANA, CUTT electric, defspiral, MADBEAVERS and more. On 15/12/2011 there will also be a special  end of year club event with DJ Hiroaki Asai and VJ SHRIMP. There will also be a hidefashion doll released in collaboration with fashion doll manufacturer GROOVE as part of their TAEYANG series in 2012.
  • Following on from their single news, S/mileage member Maeda Yuuka will graduate on 31/12/2011 to concentrate on studying for university.
  • Korean girl band SNSD – GIRLS’ GENERATION will be making their USA debut after being signed to international label Interscope Records of the Universal Music Group. Their Korean album release has been postponed to focus on their US and worldwide promotion, but they have released The Boys on iTunes worldwide.

CONCERT NEWS

  • Following on from her musical news, Amuro Namie will have a live DVD due on 21/12/2011. namie amuro LIVE STYLE 2011 will be available in Blu-ray and DVD format, and will feature the Tokyo performance from her national tour of the same name, tracks from her collaboration album Checkmate! and her triple A-side single.
  • DELUHI will have a live DVD released on 21/12/2011. LIVE:VANDALISM will cover the disbanded visual kei band’s last live at the C.C. Lemon Hall on 07/08/2011.
  • exist†trace will be touring America in 2012, stopping off in Boston, MA, New York, NY, and Philadelphia, PA.
  • GACKT will be releasing a photo book from his 2010 European tour. Entitled GACKT in EUROPE, it will inlcude stage and backstage photos and a making-of DVD, it’s due in December, but no exact release date release.
  • Following on from their latest single, Ikimono-gakari will release a live DVD and Blu-ray. Ikimonomatsuri 2011 Donata Summer mo Tanoshimima SHOW!!! ~Yokohama Stadium~ will have footage from the 23/07/2011 and 24/07/2011 lives at Yokohama Stadium, as well as interviews, making-of and additional content to  to be confirmed.
  • L’Arc~en~Ciel have announced their world tour dates. Their first date is on 03/03/2012 in Hong Kong, before going to Thailand, China and Taiwan. They then go to the US for 23/03/2012, then they’ll be in the UK at London’s indigO2 in London on 11/04/2011, before ending in Paris on 14/04/2011. Their 20th L’Anniversary LIVE from Tokyo Ajinomoto Stadium on 28th and 29th May 2011 had it’s cinematic screening in Tokyo on 06/11/2011, with more screenings due across the world.
  • Visual kei band Lin will release their first live DVD on 28/12/2011. Entitled an epidemic of “OVERTURE” -2011.8.07 OSAKA BIG CAT-, this limited release will be available at their web shop and lives. It will feature a deluxe jacket, a random autographed trading photo card and the first press editions will include PVs. As an extra incentive, the first 500 people who  pre-order before 21/12/2011 will receive an extra DVD of the band’s concert at Osaka BIG CAT and off-shot footage.
  • A PV DVD called FILM LOTUS VIII by Nakashima Mika will be released on 11/01/2012. The eighth collection released so far, it will feature PVs, making-of footage, studio footage and from MIKA NAKASHIMA CONCERT TOUR 2011 THE ONLY STAR.
  • Idol group Momoiro Clover Z have a new DVD due on 21/12/2011. Being the third release, it’s current title is Momoiro Clover Z 3rd LIVE DVD and will feature the concert from 20/08/2011 at Yomiuri Land East.
  • VAMPS will release their VAMPS LIVE 2010 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST ARENA live DVD on 15/02/2012. The DVD will feature their VAMPS LIVE 2010 BEAST tour. The regular edition will have one disc with special documentary footage, whilst the limited edition will be as a digipak with three discs, containing the main concert, a Japanese and world documentary and a special booklet.

VIDEO NEWS

  • A preview has been  released of 2NE1‘s first Japanese single Go Away, released on 16/11/2011.
  • AI will be releasing the single Happiness on 14/12/2011. The PV will have her in various cosplay outfits, including a house keeper, a student and a salary man. The single is going to be the new commercial song for Coca Cola, which is big considering this is the first time in 10 years a Japanese artist has been involved in the Christmas promotions. Catch the CM here.
  • Ex-Morning Musume member Goto Maki revealed her PV for YOU, with a single being released on 02/11/2011.
  • J-Rockers Matenrou Opera have released the director’s cut for the PV to their single Otoshiana no Soko wa Konna Sekai.
  • Talking about Fukui Mai earlier, here is the preview PV for her single Yakusoku no Basho.

ORICON CHART WEEK  42-43

Be Genki (^o^)y