Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Awhile ago, I Googled the name "Ayumi Hamasaki" after it popped up at random in some political blog's comments section, and after downloading a couple of albums, I was a rabid fan. I now have her two-volume A Best 2 and her three most recent albums - (miss)understood, Secret and Guilty, which was released last month. (All these are Japan-only titles, btw.) The music's a wildly over-the-top blend of disco/dance rhythms, faux-metal guitars, and Ayumi's just-this-side-of-crazed vocals, with occasional dips into glutinous balladry. Naturally, if there's more J-pop like this out there, I wannit. So I started looking into the an idle and cursory manner, of course. Hamasaki, according to Wikipedia, had one major rival for the title of J-pop queen - I downloaded an album or two of hers, but found them distressingly indebted to bad American hip-hop/R&B, including improbable "street" postures. So that was a bust. I also checked out Tujiko Noriko, Maaya Sakamoto, and the enigmatic UA (the latter of whom I discovered via Fluxblog three years ago or so). All of those were interesting, particularly the Sakamoto tracks composed and produced by Yoko Kanno, the woman behind the music for Cowboy Bebop, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and numerous other anime shows. But none of it had the same berserk, gleeful exuberance of Ayumi's stuff. So I put out a request on ILM for similar stuff, and was recommended Shiina Ringo.

Well, upon dipping into the two albums that were suggested - Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana and Shôso Strip - I am finding myself once again disappointed. This stuff is much more on the UA, or maybe Björk, model. Strings, weird synth noises, blah blah blah. There's one song on Karuki I kinda dig - "Yattsuke Shigoto." It mixes Jetsons strings with a disco beat, and Shiina's vocal reminds me of Mexican electropop trio Belanova (whose cover of the Cure's "Boys Don't Cry" must be heard to be believed - it's on their Dulce Beat Live CD/DVD). But the rest of it, so far anyway, is quirky/assaultive. Interesting for sure, but not raw fun like I was hoping. Oh, well. Back to Guilty, I guess.

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