Listen Back with Japanator 08-12-10


Welcome to the very first installment in what we hope to make a regular weekly feature here on Japanator. Listen Back is a place where a few Jtor staff will get together and talk about the music that's been playing non-stop on our hi-fi's and Victrolas for the past week.

It's pretty informal and loose, open to both new and old music, underground or mainstream, hell, we might even play some original soundtracks from Japanese brand animations and/or electronic TV games! Who knows? I don't know! We're crazy!!

All I do know is that this is going to be fun. So crank up the sonic amplification and get ready for some musics! Oh! And of course we really want to know what you've had revolving in your brain for the past week, so make sure to tell your tale in the comments.

Zac Bentz

Mass of the Fermenting Dregs
Zero Comma, Irotoridori no Sekai


I've really been looking forward to this new one of Mass of the Fermenting Dregs. It's their first full album on major label EMI, so fans were a little worried about whether or not their sound would change. Their sound is the same, but after several listens and some deep thinking (gotta love it when sitting with your eyes closed and listening to music real loud can be called "work") I'm not sure the songs are really all the great. "Zureru" and "Hikizuru Beat" have the same epic energy and dark intensity we've come to love from the band, and the title track "Zero Comma, Irotoridori no Sekai" is fun, if a maybe a little too happy and poppy, but overall it feels lacking, especially when held up to past mini-albums like World is Yours. But that's a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Zero Comma, Irotoridori no Sekai is indeed good, just a little weak. And I do keep listening to it, so that's got to mean something. What does it mean?!

Jeff Chuang


If you watch a lot of Japanese music TV programs these past couple years, you might have noticed this handsome kid from America doing these enka covers in Japan. He is Jero, and he can sing. Now enka is very different than what we normally cover here but this guy is a class act, and I got curious and picked up his first album during a Kinokuniya sale. If you want to either check out what the best of America and Japan combined has to offer to the genre, or just want to find out more about enka, this is a safe bet. The covered songs are all timeless enka hits. It's a short CD with just nine tracks, and Jero plays it too timidly for some of the pieces, but he hits "Yozora" out of the park, which is also one of my fave with or without Jero anyways.

Ben Huber

Iwasaki Taku
Katanagatari Official Soundtrack

Recently I've been enjoying the latest work from Gurren Lagann composer Iwasaki Taku. His work has been pretty similar in a lot of aspects, but with Katanagatari he's doing at least several new things. "Bahasa Palus" and "Gettouka" are stellar tracks that occasionally incorporate Taku's favorite stylings (like rap), but also create perfect mood-setting pieces for the show. On the other hand, "Baion to Kanshou" isn't particularly fresh, but I love it so much I'm giving it a free pass. Nanami's self-titled theme is a good example of how Taku integrates some traditional-sounding Japanese music with the more standard movie soundtrack-esque themes. While there's a few tracks in here that could be easily exchanged with his other works, for the most part Taku does a good job at evoking the feel of medieval Japan while creating a soundtrack that stands well on its own.

Colette Bennett

Boku no Miteru  Fukei

I know, I know, it's Arashi. How obvious am I to make this my first entry into Listen Back. That being said, the boys have a new album, and it's a lot of fun to listen to. "Monster" and "Troublemaker", the already-released singles, are still the strongest tracks, but there's lots more solid pop to discover on the 2 disc set as well. On the other hand, there's a couple real stinkers ("Magical Song" is maybe the worst Arashi song I've heard in a while -- did I just warp into 1992?). Yes, the album is not deep at all -- definitely the kind of thing to shake your ass to while you clean the house, but it's a lot of fun for what it is.

Shimizu Shota
Utsukushiki Hibi Yo

R & B flavored pop that uses the Chrono Trigger theme as a backdrop. Enough said.

Mike LeChevallier

Asian Kung-Fu Generation
Magic Disk

When Magic Disk showed up on my desk back in early June, I hadn't even realized AKFG was coming out with a new album. I knew "Maigoinu to Ame no Beat" was the OP for Tatami Galaxy, but that's about all I had been keeping tabs on regarding this band. So, when I finally got around to listening to the entirely of Magic Disk, I was a little surprised at what I heard. The album is a bit scatterbrained in its delivery, it's not very tonally cohesive as with past AKFG records. That being said, there are some standout tracks here that make this work worth listening to, even if you are not a dedicated fan of the group. The opener, "Shin-Seiki no Love Song", is just a damn good time. Goto implements a hip-hop style lyrical delivery (he's almost rapping) while lightly muddled percussion and angular guitar riffs provide a solid backbeat. The titular song, "Sayonara Lost Generation," and "Daidai" are also standouts. If you've never delved into an Asian Kung-Fu Generation record, I wouldn't recommend Magic Disk as a starting point (try Sol-fa or Fanclub). It's still a relatively decent effort, and with this being their sixth full-length, it paints a picture of a band showing minimal signs of aging. Can you believe these guys have been around since 1996?

Josh Tolentino

Shoji Meguro (with Kenichi Tsuchiya and Ryota Kozuka)
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona Official Soundtrack

This OST is really the thing I like most about the original Persona game, rather than its gameplay or story. So yes, call me a noob convert or someone who can't appreciate the original, but if nothing else, this music's very much 21st-century composition layered onto an older game. It serves it quite well, really, and feels more experimental than the OST for, say, Persona 4, if not as catchy.

There's an example in the MAD above. It's especially relevant to my interests, in that it features the music I like alongside the game I prefer. The bad Engrish is just icing on the top.

Tim Sheehy

Scars Borough

After Ellegarden went on indefinite hiatus back in 2008, its members started solo acts or joined various bands, such as The Hiatus, and Nothing's Carved in Stone. Founded by Ellegarden drummer Hirotaka Takahashi, Scars Borough released their first mini-album back in April of last year, and have recently followed it up with their first full album, Stroke. It's rare for me to find a female fronted rock band that doesn't adhere to the stereotypical high pitched vocals that plague Japan's pop industry, but when I do, it makes me very happy. Thankfully, Scars Borough's vocalist Kyoko, is quite tolerable. Their album is enjoyable for the most part, with a number of catchy tracks like "Bedspring Symphony," "Honey Cherry Pie," and "Fallen Star." I should also point out that they don't sound much like Ellegarden, so if you're a fan, don't be expecting more of the same. 


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Zac Bentz
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Filed under... #Japanator Original #music



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