I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Keiko Utsumi -- Chiisana Touhikou(小さな逃避行)

Once again, I've found another singer from the 1990s who I had never heard about but I've managed to pick her out of the bottom 9/10ths of the music iceberg.

This is Keiko Utsumi(宇都美慶子)from Mie Prefecture who debuted in 1990 and has thus far released 10 albums and 15 singles. Her 4th album "Renai Shosetsu"(恋愛小説...Love Novel)from September 1992 provided this bubbly pop treat, "Chiisana Touhikou" (A Little Elopement).

The reason that I picked this one out is that "Chiisana Touhikou" was written and composed by Etsuko Yamakawa(山川恵津子), a songwriter who can concoct some very nice pop songs. And this one has got quite a nice skippy hook to it...rather whimsical, I can say. Yamakawa's lyrics have Utsumi singing about a woman who is at a party (perhaps it's a shower before the wedding or a party early in the marriage with friends) and seriously/jokingly thinking whether to flee elsewhere...sans hubby/fiance. Perhaps she's thinking that the prospect of settling down is not all that it's cracked up to be. However, considering the upbeat tone of the melody, I think it's more of the not-so-serious What If type of situation. The guy ought to be grateful.

According to her website, Utsumi's influences include Diana Ross and Whitney Houston, and is currently into The Corrs and Natalie Imbruglia.

Yuuya Mori -- Uomi's Theme

Well, it's a Monday and the final day of winter (technically speaking, anyways) so I will confess to a guilty pleasure. Although this show was never part of my anime buddy's list, I have been watching the many excerpts from "Seitokai Yakuindomo"(生徒会役員共...Student Council Staff Members)over the past several months. This is an anime that's so overtly raunchy that various citizens from Springfield, Quahog in Rhode Island, and South Park, Colorado would probably drop their jaws at some of the gags. Heck, even the notorious Glenn Quagmire would most likely go "Whoa! Just how old are you kids?! Giggity-giggity."

The soundtrack from the show by pianist/arranger/composer Yuuya Mori(森悠也)is your usual run-of-the-mill music for a slice-of-life comedy anime but there is one track that has stood out. It is a very gentle and pleasant theme song for one of the semi-regular characters, the mild-mannered and somewhat pervy Chihiro Uomi(魚見チヒロ)titled simply "Uomi's Theme".

It's always nice to hear a clarinet. Not because I used to play one in high school for 4 years and I certainly don't miss having the ol' licorice stick, but it's just nice to listen to one in a jazz piece (and a bossa-influenced one at that) once in a while that's not connected with a swing number.

"Uomi's Theme" reminds me a bit of the theme song from "The Critic" which was a mysteriously underappreciated ABC prime-time cartoon from the mid-1990s ("The Simpsons", I believe, was already well on its way to success, and "Family Guy" was still a few years away). And the composer for that lovely theme was none other than Hans Zimmer, the guy behind "The Dark Knight" trilogy and "Inception", and one of the fellows who had a hand in The Buggles, famous for the anthem for 80s pop music, "Video Killed The Radio Star".

I guess I'm just a sucker for clarinet music that is reminiscent of the Gershwins' "Rhapsody In Blue". Plus, as we get further into "Uomi's Theme", there is even something there that reminds me of Vince Guaraldi from all those classic "Peanuts" broadcasts. Indeed, I have the soundtrack for "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

But lest I get a little too far off on a tangent, let me say that I like "Uomi's Theme" as a throwback to mellow music from decades past. Unless I have read the appearance of characters from "Seitokai Yakuindomo" wrong, I think 2012 might be the right year that the character first showed up on the show.

Shino Shimoji & Aoi Yuuki -- Harvest Moon Night

It's been a pretty calm and comforting Winter 2018 season of anime, except for a rather harsh episode of "Ryūō no Oshigoto!"(りゅうおうのおしごと!...The Ryuo's Work is Never Done!)that I caught last night (started so nicely in Hawaii...). One big reason for this is the series "Hakumei & Mikochi"(ハクメイとミコチ). The slice-of-life story of two best friends living together in a tiny fantasy land is so laidback that it would be dangerous watching it immediately following dinner. Luckily, it was the very last feature last night so I could stay awake, and that is not a backhanded compliment to the show. Considering the poor lass on "Ryūō no Oshigoto!" collapsing at the end of the most recent episode, I was more than happy to see "Hakumei & Mikochi" live life before the end of the evening.

So far, it's been the ending theme that has caught my ears. Alternately folksy mellow and folksy jaunty, "Harvest Moon Night" is the type of number that would be performed at the town pub or at a seasonal festival. Performed by seiyuu Shino Shimoji(下地紫野)who portrays the level-headed and culinarily talented Mikochi and Aoi Yuuki(悠木碧)who plays slightly uptight and musically inclined semi-regular Konju, the shortened version played over the credits is wonderful. However, listening to the full version with that wood bass and percussion thumping away really makes it worth buying. And in all likelihood, my anime buddy, who is in thrall to "Hakumei & Mikochi", will indeed get it.

"Harvest Moon Night" was written, composed and arranged by Mito(ミト)from the band Clammbon(クラムボン). It's as hearty as a welcome bowl of harvest vegetable soup.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Some Pages to Make You Happy by Commenters

In the last couple of days, I've heard from a couple of commenters about sites that have a good connection with what we always talk about here, so I've decided to let all of you in on the secret.

First off, from Daemonskald who has introduced a couple of reference sites (both of them are in Japanese, though):

This is by a fellow named nabeji who seems to have put up an entire collection of debut singles from the 1960s to the 1980s here. It is categorized by year and kana for the singers. However, if going by the singers, I should warn you that pressing the link will not take you to the debut single by that singer directly but just to the year of his/her debut, so you may need to do some scrolling once you arrive. Quite the labour of love...just like this blog. ☺

Over here, this page is more specific in that it centers on the B-class aidoru who debuted between 1979 and 1986. According to Daemonskald, the list is also useful in that it apparently also provides the various stage names that the singer had taken on, and it also has a full list of singles and albums. The person who created this site may have a very wide view of what makes an aidoru since I also caught sight of Miharu Koshi in the 1979 file, and I've always seen her as a City Pop-turned-technopop chanteuse instead.

Now, secondly, within the last hour or so, Chasing Showa was kind enough to inform me of a couple of playlist sites on Mixcloud where all of us can listen to some of the good stuff.

Tokai by Julie has a goodly dollop of City Pop. I listened to several minutes of it and I was able to hear Rajie, Hi-Fi Set and the like.

Then there is Megane-kun who has his Drink Cold #5 -- Oh! So Vintage which goes into the 1970s kayo represented by Momoe Yamaguchi (in fact, I just wrote about the first song on the playlist), Linda Yamamoto and Candies.

For both fellows, Chasing Showa informs me that their tastes in Japanese music run all over the map, but that's fine with me personally since naturally, I'm all over the map as well with this blog. :)

Anyways, enjoy the bounty and many thanks to Daemonskald and Chasing Showa.

Momoe Yamaguchi -- Tasogare Matsuri(たそがれ祭り)

Ahhh...blessed be the commenters! They have always come up with the hot tips. Chasing Showa sent me some information right now (which I will be sharing in its own article very shortly) about a Mixcloud page of the vintage kayo by someone named Megane-kun.

The first song on the playlist hit me with some Saturday night-friendly piano as part of an old-fashioned kayo/City Poppy number titled "Tasogare Matsuri" (Sunset Festival). And it is sung by none other than Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)herself. There is always a certain level of joy celebrated by me whenever I initially think that I may soon becoming close to exhausting a veteran singer's worthier part of his/her discography only to discover a new unheard fun number.

"Tasogare Matsuri" is it. Written by Yoko Aki(阿木燿子)and composed by Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二), it is one of the few times that I've observed a song written by Aki that wasn't also composed by her husband Ryudo Uzaki(宇崎竜童). But no problems here since veteran Makaino has whipped up a rollicking beat in a Latin style that is reminiscent of Junko Yagami's(八神純子)"Mizuiro no Ame"(みずいろの雨), an old favourite of mine and one of the first songs that I had written about on the blog. Furthermore, I am also reminded of Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" which I believe came out at around the same time.

It may have that Latin spice but instead of the bright lights of Rio, "Tasogare Matsuri" is such that I can only envision the streets of Tokyo as Momoe tackles this one with aplomb. Cherry blossom season is upon the metropolis right now so this would be a nice accompanying track to all of the drunken hilarity in Ueno Park.

One reason that I had never heard of this one before is that the song was never released as a single and except for one album, I don't have anything of a Momoe collection outside of her BEST collections. Instead it made its debut deep within one of Momoe's other BEST compilations (her 8th to be exact), which I don't have, called "The Best: Playback"(THE BEST プレイバック)which came out in June 1978. The original LP peaked at No. 8 on Oricon while the tape cassette did even better by placing at No. 3.

Miki Sato -- Egao kara Hajimemashou(笑顔から始めましょう)

Nice Saturday out there! Finished up two-thirds of a rare weekend translation assignment so now taking it easy in the afternoon.

Found another one of those singers from the bottom 9/10ths of my music iceberg that I've analogized about over the years. Pretty much zero in terms of information about Miki Sato(佐藤美樹)aside from the fact that, according to this site, she released only two albums in 1994.

Still, I like this pop song from her 2nd album "Private Colors" from November of that year. "Egao kara Hajimemashou" (Let's Start from a Smiling Face) has that bubbliness which would almost land the song in the aidoru area. Still, I hear a bit more sophistication in the arrangements so I'm reminded of some of the other chanteuses from around that time such as Eri Hiramatsu(平松愛理)and Miki Imai(今井美樹). Sato and Anju Mana(真名杏樹)wrote the lyrics while Hitoshi Haba(羽場仁志)took care of the melody.

Keep chipping away underwater. You never know what you'll find.

Ko Nakashima - drop

Hi, nikala here. I wouldn't say that I officially retired from blogging, but my life isn't the same as it once used to be to allow me such a luxury. The funny thing that in between all the outings, housework and a taking care of a baby I do listen to a lot of music, Japanese too, that livens up my apartment. It's just that I have no time to actually sit down quietly and write about it. On the plus side, I read articles Kayo Kyoku Plus a few times a week and am very impressed at how much this blog has grown thanks to new collaborators and the expansiveness of Japanese music itself. I'll try to blog here and there without neglecting my real life obligations.

I've noticed that within the past half-decade or so there has been a surge of musicians and singers reviving and modernizing the nostalgic sounds of City Pop: Especia, hitomitoi, Junk Fujiyama, just to name a few. One such artist that particularly impressed me is Ko Nakashima (中島孝), a young singer-songwriter from Saga Perfecture now based in Tokyo. I came across his name in mid-2016 when I read that he shares the same management company as Especia and Suiyobi no Campanella, Bermuda Entertainment Japan. I was led to his Soundcloud page where I listened to a bunch of his songs and became impressed. His approach to modern City Pop contains the right balance of acoustic and digital elements, though his later work has more of the later. The song I'm focusing on, drop, is from that earlier period. It was released in December 2015 as a Tower Records exclusive single and collaboration with an Indonesian City Pop band called ikkubaru (more on them here). A lovely song right here, with that really urban mood in the verses and the indie rock treatment in the refrain and especially the bridge. Not sure what the lyrics are about, but I welcome the introspective mood especially with Nakashima's soft and emotive voice.

From what I gather from his Facebook page and this Rooftop article, he got his start in 2010 under the pen-name Nakakoh and released several independent EPs before switching to his current name in 2015 and moving to Bermuda. You can pretty much listen to his entire discography on Soundcloud. As of late 2016, he also has been working as part of a synthpop group called INDEEA that includes members of another City Pop backup band Hi-Fi City.