Neo Kei

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


NYE 2014 / New Year’s Day 2015 Playlist

Sure it’s a little late to listen to whilst counting down to midnight, this still sounds just as good to listen to at the start of 2015.

This is a hour’s work of great music with a selection of my favourite party tracks and songs from 2014.

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New Album from GLAY

Yesterday (5th November) GLAY released their latest album MUSIC LIFE

Keeping true to the Japanese way of not just having one regular version, there will be three versions of this album with two of these featuring a bonus CDs of the band’s best of ballads. BALLADE BEST – MELODIES has fourteen songs voted for by the fans, whereas BALLADE BEST – MEMORIES, has thirteen songs chosen by the band members themselves based on their own personal and emotional attachments. It’d be very interesting to see how similar the choices are.

It’s really interesting that the album’s artwork was designed by Klaus Voormann, who amongst other legendary things won a Grammy for his cover of The BeatlesRevolver. This is the first time he has designed for a Japanese artist, which I love. Klaus has a very distinct style that’s instantly recognisable.

If for some reason you’re still on the fence, listen to these two tracks from the album.


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JAPAN UNDERGROUND presents: TarO&JirO (JP), Asian Chairshot (KR) and Mayu Wakisaka

If you happen to be in London Town on 12th May, you can watch Korean rockers Asian Chairshot, guitar slap heroes TarO&JirO, and award winning singer-songwriter Mayu Wakisaka. A bargain at £5!

Japan Underground | JPU Records Ltd.

When:  Monday 12 May 2014 (7pm-10:30pm)
Where:   The Pipeline , 94 Middlesex Street, London, E1 7DA. ( map )
Nearest Tube/T rain:  Liverpool Street, Aldgate/East, Shoreditch High Street
Tickets:  £5 on the door.
Bands:  TarO&JirO (Japan), Asian Chairshot (Korea), Mayu Wakisaka (Japan)
DJ:  Japanese rock, punk, metal and alternative
Facebook event page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/232012583662620/

Are you guys in for a treat. Coming in all the way from Korea we have the indie rockers Asian Chairshot, produced by Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Jeff Schroeder, and nominated for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song at the 2014 Korean Music Awards. Then there’s guitar slap heroes TarO&JirO, winner of the Japanese leg of Emergenza, the world’s largest battle of the bands competition. And last, but by no means least, there’s the award winning singer-songwriter Mayu Wakisaka, fresh from playing SXSW and The Great Escape Festival this year. All that, plus authentic Japanese street…

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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 

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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 – 9 May 2012

Hi everyone, how you doing?

A lot of news this week relates to new releases. But I’m making the committment to weekly news updates, so it’d be better to get the latest news in small bites than have more news stories that are weeks ago. It seems to be all about the visual kei bands this week with lots of single, mini-album and full album news. But everyone can also be happy about more US and European releases, less importing required! As always it’d be great to hear your feedback.

Artist News

  • On 07/05/2012 it was announced that idol group Nogizaka46 will be the first ’sightseeing envoy’ of Oita City, joining AKB48’s Sashihara Rino in promoting the city.
  • Sowelu will be going on hiatus after her latest album 29 Tonight is released on 30/05/2012.

Concert News

  • Girl unit 9nine hosted their first hall one-man live at Nippon Seinenkan on 06/05/2012. As well as singing they also completed their first live band performance. Miura Daichi also held a first, his first live at Nippon Budoukan on 03/05/2012.
  • Seiyuu Miyano Mamoru (acted in Death Note and Mobile Suit Gundam oo) hosted a special live called ‘MAMORU MIYANO SPECIAL LIVE 2012 ~FIGHTING!~‘ at Pacifico Yokohama on 06/05/2012. The concert will be released on DVD and Blu-ray along with his summer tour from last year on 22/08/2012.
  • On 07/05/2012 YUKI celebrated her 10th anniversary with a live at Tokyo Dome. YUKI LIVE ‘SOUNDS OF TEN’ was her first solo concert at the Dome. Also celebrating a 10 year anniversary was Nakagawa Shoko, who held her  10gen Toppa! SHOKO NAKAGAWA LV UP LIVE Cho☆Yaonsai live for her birthday on 05/05/2012.

Music News

  • Visual kei group ALSDEAD will release their FLASH BACK single on 11/07/2012.
  • BONNIE PINK is making her single Machi no Namae available on 04/07/2012. The track was produced by by her current tour bandleader Suzuki Masato from LITTLE CREATURES.
  • Punk-rockers CLEAVE‘s mini-album The Circele EP is getting it’s European release on 16/06/2012 through Street Machine Records and the exclusive track In Our Times.
  • Post-hardcore group coldrain will release mini-album Through Clarity on 04/07/2012, which features the track No Escape that featured in the video game BIOHAZARD Operation Raccoon City.
  • Even before their single Dying Message on 30/05/2012, D have another single Danzai no gunner in 3 different versions out on 18/07/2012.
  • flumpool will release their single Because… I am, on 04/07/2012. This is also the name of their national tour which started on 31/03/2012.
  • May’n is getting US iTune releases of her albums HEAT, If you… and her single Chase the World on 16/05/2012.
  • Too old to be called a boy band really, pop man collective EXILE will release a new single on June 20th.
  • Visual kei band Mix Speaker’s,Inc. have their mini-album SEAPARADISE no Hiho due on 23/05/2012, with an untitled single in September and full album in November. Clearly for them Halloween is for life, not just October.
  • Momoiro Clover Z announced on 05/05/2012 (on Children’s Day) that their track MiteMite☆KoCchiCchi will be the ending theme for anime Pokémon: Best Wishes! and movie Meloetta no kirakira recital(Meloetta’s Sparkling Recital). Pika Pika!
  • Sakamoto Maaya will release the theme song More Than Words for anime film Code Geass: Boukoku no Akito on 25/07/2012. She worked with the same writer and arranger who composed her debut single.
  • Girl-punk-rockers Shonen Knife‘s new album Pop Tune is out on 06/06/2012, with a North American release through labl Good Charamel Records and European release through damnably.
  • Rock group STRAIGHTENER have announced details about their acoustic album. The tracks will be new arrangements of 14 previously released songs and 2 new songs, although no release date yet.
  • More visual kei news, THE SOUND BEE HD have their mini-album SOU available from 11/07/2012, which apparently is a return to their origins.
  • Visual kei-ers vistlip have their new single, simply called B, out on 04/07/2012, with the B-side PERFECT CRIME.
  • ViViD have completed their first full-album, due on 27/06/2012, which will include the latest single REAL out on 16/05/2012.

Be Genki (^o^)y


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Neo Kei – 2 May 2012

Artist News

  • I shared this on my Facebook page, but An Cafe have reformed and will be touring Europe at the end of the year. They start in Russia on 03/11/2012 and coming to London on 07/11/2012. An Cafe was one of my early introductions to Japanese music, so I hope I can find a live buddy to go with!
  • Dolly will go on hiatus at the end of this year to work on their solo careers.
  • Dragon Ash bassist Ikuzo “IKÜZÖNE” Baba passed away on 21/04/2012.
  • LAZYgunsBRISKY will disband after their final live at Shimokitazawa GARDEN in Tokyo on 12/05/2012.

Music News

  • There will be a third volume of CRUSH! V-Rock cover albums covering tracks from 90’s visual kei artists. CRUSH!3-90’s V-Rock best hit cover LOVE songs- is available from 27/06/2012. Amongst many brilliant tracks/artists, I love the thought of Inugami Circus-dan covering X JAPAN‘s Rusty Nail, and the session band including members from Guild, -OZ- and D. They’d be great tracks to play in a Neo Kei DJ set.
  • BOOM BOOM SATELLITES will be releasing BROKEN MIRROR, the theme song for Mobile Suits Gundam UC episode 5,  on 06/06/2012.
  • BUCK-TICK have another tribute album due for release, this time fo their 25th anniversary. PARADE II -RESPECTIVE TRACKS OF BUCK -TICK is available from 04/07/2012 and will feature artists such as Acid Black Cherry, MUCC and MERRY.
  • New wave group The Flickers will release their second mini-album WAVEMENT on 09/05/2012. Japanese New Wave? I like the sound of that!
  • Golden Bomber will release their best of album The Golden Best internationally on 18/06/2012.
  • LUNA SEA’s guitarist INORAN has his new album Dive youth, Sonik dive out on 27/06/2012.
  • LM.C‘s newest album STRONG POP will be released in Europe on 04/05/2012.
  • MIYAVI will release his new single on 11/07/2012. It’s tentative title is SAMURAI SESSION WORLD SERIES vol.2 – MIYAVI vs YUKSEK “DAY ONE” .
  • Having toured the UK last year, jazz group mouse on the keys will release an unnamed mini-album on 18/07/2012.
  • Amuro Namie has a new untitled album due on 27/06/2012.
  • Johnny’s Entertainment band NEWS let their fans vote on the tracklisting for their best-of album, which closed on 30/04/2012. Further details about album title or release yet.
  • Another anniversary now, as part of Plastic Tree‘s fifteenth anniversary they will release the single Kuchizuke will be out on 20/06/2012.
  • Even with the news about Raphael’s revival, ex-members Yuki and Kazuhiro will release their new single Acacia under their duo name rice on 06/06/2012.
  • The latest single from SCANDAL has been produced by ORANGE RANGE’s NAOTO.  Taiyou Scandalous” is available from 11/07/2012.
  • On 02/05/2012, SiM released their newest mini-album LiFE and DEATH. The special edition CD features artwork from manga artist Kaneko Atsushi.
  • The first album from ViViD will be released on 27/06/2012. No news on the title yet, but it will feature all the singles since their major debut.

 Live News

  • Jazz singer Jazz singer JUJU performed on MTV Unplugged in New York’s Time Square, the first Japanese woman to have the honour (Ken Hirai was the first singer).