Acidclank – “Addiction”

When Osaka indie-rock shoegaze band Acidclank popped up in 2015 with its debut album, Inner, the band showed a tremendous versatility in sound. The record essentially felt like a lo-fi exploration of 90s UK indie music, drifting from shoegaze to psych to pop.  On each of the two singles that followed, the band continued to give different looks into its wide range song-writing capabilities.  Acidclank’s latest full-length effort, Addiction, is more of the same, drawing on a variety of influences and styles, but featuring enough consistent elements that it never feels weird or disjointed.

There are some familiar titles in the track list, including a buffed up version of “Clever” from Inner and both of the singles that were released last year.  Just like the first album, Addiction features some very shoegazey tunes, highlighted by “Turning” and the very Loveless-inspired “Sleepwalk”.  On songs like “Wrong” and the aforementioned “Clever” Acidclank delivers some noisy but danceable indie rock, while “Disease” feels like a nod to Death Cab’s Transantlanticism.  Throughout the album, you get a lot of different but high-quality looks, as the band has shown a knack for consistently crafting catchy, well-written songs.  But Addiction really shines when it gets super trippy, particularly on “This Time” and “Overdose”.  The former has a very Dark Side of the Moon vibe to it with a slow-paced, steady groove setting the foundation for layers of spaced out guitars and reverb-soaked vocals.  “Overdose” is pacier, more of a free-form psych track with guitars, atmospheric synths, and harmonized vocals all blanketed over a droning bass line, waxing and waning in intensity.  While the album as a whole is consistently very good, these two tracks are the standouts.

Addiction CD versions can currently be found on Amazon is currently available on most streaming platforms.  You can purchase it via iTunes as well, and an LP version is due out at some point in the next month.  You can also check out some of their earlier work at Bandcamp.

The Return of Whisper Voice Riot

Roughly two years after unexpectedly disbanding, Osaka’s talented young shoegaze band Whisper Voice Riot recently announced out of nowhere that they’re starting it back up.  Despite having emerged as one of the really impressive young bands in the Japanese shoegaze scene, the then teen-aged Whisper Voice Riot decided to call it quits in 2016, with two of its members going on to form indie rock outfit Mississippi Khaki Hair almost immediately after.  

Roughly two years after unexpectedly disbanding, Osaka’s talented young shoegaze band Whisper Voice Riot recently announced out of nowhere that they’re starting it back up.  Despite having emerged as one of the really impressive young bands in the Japanese shoegaze scene, the then teen-aged Whisper Voice Riot decided to call it quits in 2016, with two of its members going on to form indie rock outfit Mississippi Khaki Hair almost immediately after.  

It surprised a lot of people when, on January 24th, WVR and MKH frontman Taito Kimura randomly posted “we’re back” with a link to Whisper Voice Riot’s sound cloud page and some photos of the defunct band.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, which doesn’t seem at all surprising given the band’s reputation prior to breaking up.  However, Taito and WVR guitarist/MKH bassist Usui didn’t intend to make that announcement that the time.

“Usui and I had been talking about wanting to start up WVR again for a while,” Taito explained. “I posted ‘we’re back’ on Twitter to mean ‘at some point we’ll be back’, and everyone mistook it as ‘we’re starting the band back up soon’.  The response exceeded our expectations.”  Believing it to be some kind of “fate”, Taito and Usui had to find members.  They brought back former WVR bassist, Shibata, and added a two new members to round out the band’s new lineup.  

When I talked to Taito after the breakup, he stated that he was simply no longer satisfied with Whisper Voice Riot.  Talking to him recently he clarified that the pace of the band was too slow, and there were some personal issues.  “We were a band that started in high school and broke up while we were teenagers.  A few of the problems were inevitable.”  When asked about what changed over the last two years, Taito responded, “I got the urge to be in a band that is personal and is active at a slower pace.  So I started WVR back up.”

While he mentioned that Whisper Voice Riot is here to stay for as long as possible, Taito also plans to keep Mississippi Khaki Hair going at the same time.  “I’m an egotist, so if I want to quit, I’ll quit.”  For now at least it seems that fans of both bands won’t have to worry about any more sudden breakups in the near future.

Since announcing its return, Whisper Voice Riot had its first gig on April 30th.  Things have been relatively quiet otherwise, perhaps just due to the slow pace that Taito has come to embrace.  Whisper Voice Riot seems very near and dear to his heart, and after talking to him I get the feeling that he never intended to let it go forever.  His current approach to and goals for the band seem much more laid back than before.  “I just want to write good songs.  My dream is to be singing songs I wrote as a teenager, even when I’m old.”

Here’s a link to their first EP “Before the Morning Cleaves Our Night” on Soundcloud:

A Fond Farewell to Ether Feels

A lot of bands come and go.  The Japanese shoegaze scene has seen so many really good bands just disappear out of nowhere or break up without notice that I’ve become desensitized to it.  Late last night, however, Kansai shoegaze legends Ether Feels announced that its October gig in Taiwan was its last.  The band’s members would be splitting up, and Ether Feels would be going on an indefinite hiatus.  The news really hit home (enough to get me to come back and post after a few months away).  

A lot of bands come and go.  The Japanese shoegaze scene has seen so many really good bands just disappear out of nowhere or break up without notice that I’ve become desensitized to it.  Late last night, however, Kansai shoegaze legends Ether Feels announced that its October gig in Taiwan was its last.  The band’s members would be splitting up, and Ether Feels would be going on an indefinite hiatus.  The news really hit home (enough to get me to come back and post after a few months away).  

On a personal level, Ether Feels was an extremely important band.  I had been to various gigs since moving to Japan in the spring of 2012, but my first ever venture into the heart of the Japanese shoegaze scene was in January of 2013 at the Osaka leg of the Japan Shoegazer Festival.  The bill was headlined by the likes of like Lemon’s Chair and Cruyff in the Bedroom, but the band that blew me away was the lesser-known Ether Feels – then a three-piece.  The performance was mesmerizing.  It says a lot that Ether Feels was the highlight of the night, when Lemon’s Chair also played.  Since that night, the band’s founder Tomo, has been one of the coolest, most supportive people I’ve known.  He’s one of the really good guys in a scene in which the veterans aren’t always the most pleasant or sincere.  

 Ether Feels at the 2013 Japan Shoegazer Festival Osaka
Ether Feels at the 2013 Japan Shoegazer Festival Osaka

Shoegaze in Japan in the early to mid 00s – unofficially referred to as the “golden age” of Japanese shoegaze – was strong but derivative.  Shoegaze in the current Japanese scene is often criticized for being too poppy and melodic, and not strong enough.  Ether Feels’ sound combines the best of each of these periods.  They borrow the requisite “wall of sound” guitar waves from the forefathers of the genre, using that element as a backdrop for their signature melancholy.  It’s powerful and sad and the vocal melodies will rip your heart to pieces.  Ether Feels’ sound is unique in a genre where pastiche is praised, and that’s helped to establish them as one of the best shoegaze bands on the planet.  

I will say that a fair criticism I’ve heard about the band is that their songs can be a bit repetitive.  It’s totally true, but I’ve never found it to be a bad thing in Ether Feels’ case.  The repetition almost hypnotic (think The Fleeting Joys’ “Kiss a Girl in Black”)  The song that stuck with me from the first time I heard it was “Annabelle”.  It’s basically just two and a half parts played over and over, but the song hit me hard and showcases the dreamy sadness that made me fall in love with them in the first place.  

I’m biased and a bit emotional in light of the news, but the love I have for this band is genuine.  It’s been a bit disappointing seeing Ether Feels somewhat underappreciated within the Japanese scene.  There’s the perception that the scene here runs through Tokyo, and in particular Koenji HIGH, but Ether Feels managed to forego that step of the process en route to playing all over the country as well as in Taiwan and Hong Kong, while also being included on a massive international shoegaze compilation.  All the while, Ether Feels has also helped usher in a new wave of shoegaze bands in Japan, while encouraging the scene to continue to grow in the Kansai region.  

If there’s one bit of good news in all of this, it’s that Ether Feels technically isn’t over.  Some would argue that the most recent lineup was the band’s best ever, but the fact remains that Tomo is the brains of the operation and he still seems dedicated to continuing what he referred to as his “life work”.  It would appear that there is still hope for the future, but for now it’s a good opportunity to sit back and reflect on the career of one of the best Japanese bands in recent memory.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already familiar with Ether Feels’ catalog, but if by some chance you’re not, I recommend diving right in on their Bandcamp page and enjoying everything they’ve done.  Sadly, the Raindrop Sparkle CD – my personal favorite – isn’t up here, but the rest of their stuff is great as well.

 

 

 

The Best Japanese Shoegaze and Dream Pop Releases of 2016

There was a lot of new shoegaze and dream pop coming out of Japan in 2016, and , even more so than in previous years, album releases were way outnumbered by EPs, singles, and mini albums.  As a result I was faced with a couple of problems when putting together my annual “best of the year” list.  The first is that there weren’t ten full-length releases that qualified.

There was a lot of new shoegaze and dream pop coming out of Japan in 2016, and , even more so than in previous years, album releases were way outnumbered by EPs, singles, and mini albums.  As a result I was faced with a couple of problems when putting together my annual “best of the year” list.  The first is that there weren’t ten full-length releases that qualified.  Rather than making a numbered list this time around, I’ve decided to just name my favorite single, EP/mini-album, and album of the year, and then name a few honorable mentions for each category.

It’s a completely different feel from what I’ve put together the last couple years, but it serves the same purpose.  Enjoy, discuss, buy some music.

Note: I’d like to preface this whole list by saying that I’m aware of the new releases from Kinoko Teikoku, My Dead Ishikawa, Qujaku, and others, and I really liked a bunch of them.  Defining genres is tricky, but I decided not to mess with an already blurry line and include the releases that I felt qualified.  The aforementioned did not.


 ★ ☆ ★ Best Single ★ ☆ ★

“Planet Heaven/Perfect Lies” by Juvenile Juvenile

It’s no secret that Juvenile Juvenile is one of my favorite bands in Japan.  Their “Our Great Escape” album topped my 2014 list, and the band came back strong with its first recorded material in 2 years.  The single was produced by The Bilinda Butcher’ Michal Palmer, and further solidified their status as the finest dream pop band in Japan.  It’s also worth noting that Juvenile Juvenile also submitted a really good cover of “I Wish I Was Skinny” for The Blog That Celebrates Itself’s Boo Radleys tribute comp this year.

This was a pretty clear cut winner, but there was some quality in the next group of singles released, headed by Nagoya shoegaze newcomers Softsurf.  Their “Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day” single was a really solid debut.  If I was doing a “liver performances of the year” list, they’d be right at the top along with Juvenile Juvenile for their performances at Daydream Nagoya.  

Saitama’s Collapse was another newcomer to the Japanese shoegaze scene, and they put out a couple of releases in 2016, including their super-gazey “Curse/Drop” single.  More on them later.

Tokyo’s Youthmemory put out perhaps their catchiest track yet on the spring 2016 “April Kisses” release.  One of the more underrated bands in Japan walking the line between shoegaze and jangly indie pop.

Yukino Chaos – a band that’s established itself as a mainstay of the Japanese shoegaze scene, and one of the best young alternative rock acts in Japan – had a busy 2016 that kicked off with the release of its “Hope for the Future” single.  Despite a really positive 2016, the band has unfortunately announced it will be on an indefinite hiatus.


★ ☆ ★ Best EP ★ ☆ ★

“Night Falls” by Magic Love

At this moment, there may not be a better shoegaze band in Japan than Magic Love.  The Tokyo band left us wanting more with its 2014 “Dawn” E.P., and after a couple years they delivered.  On Night Falls, the band showed that they can deliver big walls of sound and more chilled out dream pop, switching back and forth between male and female vocals flawlessly.  “Midnight Baby” has gotten all the love, but “Ghost Novice” was one of the best tracks of the year.  

This one wasn’t as easy to pick, due in large part to the fact that there was so much quality released in EP format this year.  One of the pleasant surprises was that some of the best EP releases of the year were put out by brand new bands.  Collapse made the best singles of the year list, and they also appear on the EP list for their self-titled EP, which was released in February.  The Saitama band, not unlike a number of newcomers to the Japanese shoegaze scene, doesn’t shy away from big wall-ish guitars, citing metal among its genre influences.

Scale is another new band that has made the best EP list, but it’s important to note that since the release of its debut EP “Hidden Blue”, the band has changed its name to Waterblink.  A throwback to the early 2000s shoegaze scene, Scale goes in hard – its founding member also plays in post punk hardcore band Deviation – but also balances things out with some catchy melodies.

Shiga’s Yuragi turned a lot of heads with the release of their debut EP “Bedside” earlier in the year.  Their “Nightlife” EP, which made it in right at the end of 2016, was a massive next step.  The band’s second EP had some of the same pop appeal of the first, but also ventured off in a bit more of a darker, more exploratory direction.  

One band that’s remained a mystery to me over the last couple years is Sapporo, Hokkaido shoegaze outfit Edy Two Arc (formerly known simply as Edy).  Confined primarily to their hometown and Koenji’s HIGH venue, it’s been difficult to access the band from here in Nagoya, but that changed on Christmas Day 2016 with the release of their debut EP “Hide Intention”.  Released via Only Feedback Records, the EP boasts a perfect balance of blaring, fuzzed out guitars and beautiful, subtle vocals.  


★ ☆ ★ Best Album ★ ☆ ★

“Blood Music” by The Florist

Just like Juvenile Juvenile and Magic Love, 2016 saw The Florist release its first material in two years.  The band’s 2014 debut featured a couple of killer singles, but Blood Music is start to finish a more complete album.  In tracks like “Marigold” and “Ghosts” – my personal favorite off the record – Blood Music boasts its own signature tracks, and those weren’t even the album’s singles.  A very emotional eleven-track ride with some excellent guitar work and gorgeous tones.  

Picking the best album of the year was tough, as there were three that I felt strongly qualified.  The debut full length effort from Tokyo-based indie/dream pop outfit For Tracy Hyde was right there at the top.  Film Bleu is the culmination of the band’s hard work and development since it’s inception in 2012.  Featuring a number of tracks previously released on EPs and as demos, Film Bleu showcases some seriously good songwriting in the band’s signature sweet pop style.  “After” is a song of the year candidate.

Veterans of the Japanese shoegaze scene, and one of the best around, Osaka’s Ether Feels released a Greatest Hits album in 2016.  The nine-track record consists of two previously released EPs and three newly recorded songs, including a new version of fan-favorite “Annabelle”.  The melancholy shoegazers continue to pump out heart breaking, nostalgic tunes, with “She’s Wanderlust” highlighting the newest batch of music.  Toward the end of the year, Ether Feels also collaborated on a split EP with Yukino Chaos.

Last year, Plant Cell released a lot of quality tracks, but did so one track at a time and thus didn’t really have any material to qualify for a list of best EPs or albums.  This year, however, the band released a couple of demo EPs as well as a full album titled Flowergaze?, so their inclusion this time around is a no-brainer.  Some of the more beautiful shoegaze you’ll find, Plant Cell’s strength is the ability to weave subtle melodies through dreamy layers of synths and guitars.  “Snow and Luculia” is the recommended track off this one.

A Guide to Daydream pt. 2 – Kyoto Day 2

This time I’ll be looking at Daydream Kyoto Day 2, which will take place at Nijo Nano.  Follow the links below for event info and ticket reservations.

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.  I will be previewing each of the events as they come.  This time I’ll be looking at Daydream Kyoto Day 2, which will take place at Nijo Nano.  Follow the links below for event info and ticket reservations.

ここ数年京都シューゲイザーは日本のシューゲイザーを特集する一番大きなイベントになってきている。今年、12月から4日程3都市でイベントDAYDREAMを行う。このイベントに日本の高品質のシューゲイザー、ドリームポップ、オルタナのバンドが出演する。Muso Japanは各イベントをプレビューする。今回は12月4日二条NANOにて行われるDAYDREAM KYOTOのDay2!チケット予約は以下のリンクから!

Home Page/イベントホームページ

Ticket Reservation/チケット予約


Honeydew

Honeydew is a Tokyo-based alt rock power trio.  Originally formed in New York, the band’s sound is influenced by a number of 90s American alternative bands, and versatile enough to appeal to a wide range of fans.  Their live performances are ultra-tight, and their high-energy performances are absolutely must see.

Honeydewは、東京を拠点に活動するオルタナティブロックトリオ。元々ニューヨークで結成された彼らのサウンドは、90年代に活躍したアメリカのオルタナティブバンドより影響を受け、その多様性から幅広くファンを獲得している。タイトでエネルギッシュなパフォーマンスは必見だ。


me in grasshopper

With members based between the Kansai and Tokai regions of Japan, it’s only fitting that me in grasshopper will be performing at Daydream events in both Kyoto and Nagoya.  Over the past few years the band has become one of the flag bearers for the Nagoya shoegaze scene on the strength of their sweet melodies and subtle yet persistent guitar noise.  Their 2015 “NEW SATURDAY e.p.” was one of the best of the year.  In 2016 the band supported YUCK on their Japan tour, and they will be supporting Brooklyn’s Lazyeyes in Nagoya in January.

メンバーが関西・東海地方出身のme in grasshopperは、DAYDREAM KYOTO・NAGOYAの両日に出演する。美しいメロディーと緻密且つ鳴り響くギターノイズにより、この数年で名古屋シューゲイズシーンを代表する存在となった。2015年にリリースされた“NEW SATURDAY e.p.”は、その年の最高傑作の一つ。2016年、YUCKの日本ツアーをサポートし、来年1月にはブルックリン出身Lazyeyesの名古屋公演をサポートする予定。


Yuragi

Hailing from Shiga prefecture, Yuragi is yet another young, exciting band to emerge from the Kansai-region over the last couple years.  Their sweet but strong sound incorporates whispy vocals and big wall of sound guitars driven by uptempo pop beats.  2016 has been a big year for the band with the release of their “bedside” single and the announcement of their upcoming “nightlife e.p.”, which will be out on 12/27.  They’ve also announced they will be supporting Lazyeyes on the New Yorkers’ Japan tour.  

滋賀出身の「揺らぎ」は、ここ数年関西地方から現れた、とても若いエキサイティングなバンド。ウィスパーボイスとアップテンポでポップなビートに乗せられたギターサウンドとが合わさる、美しく力強いウォール・オブ・サウンド。シングル“bedside”のリリース、“nightlife e.p.”(12/27リリース予定)の発表と、2016年は重要な年となった。またニューヨーク出身のLazyeyesの日本ツアーでサポートすることも決定している。


Acidclank

Acidclank is another one of those exciting young Kansai bands.  The Osaka indie rock outfit put out a really impressive album titled nner in 2015, on which they demonstrated their ability to create a range of sounds from shoegaze to psych at a consistently high level.  Once a home recording project, Acidclank is now a fully functioning live band that has been gigging a ton over the last year or so.  These guys have a bright future ahead of them.  

Acidclankは、関西の注目すべき若いバンドのひとつ。大阪のインディーロックバンドであるる彼らは、2015年にアルバムInnerを引っ提げ、シューゲイズからサイケまで幅広いサウンドを、ハイレベルな領域で制作できることを証明した。ホームレコーディングプロジェクトに始まったAcidclankは、今や数々のギグ経験を積んだライブバンド。彼らの輝く未来が楽しみだ。


ether feels

There are few active shoegaze bands in Japan that have put out as much consistently good material as Ether Feels.  Their melancholy blend of pop and shoegaze has resulted in a sound that is all their own, and their quality has earned them a good amount of attention outside of their home country.  Their Daydream performances will wrap up a busy year that’s included gigs around Asia, the release of a greatest hits album titled hen The First Time We Met and an upcoming split EP with Yukino Chaos.  

日本でEther Feelsほど、コンスタントに良い楽曲をシーンに提供してきたバンドはそういないだろう。彼ら独自のポップとシューゲイズのメランコリーな配合は、日本国外でも注目を集めてきた。DAYDREAMでのパフォーマンスは、アジア各地でのライブ、ベストオブアルバムhen The First Time We Metのリリース、Yukino ChaosとスプリットEPの共同リリース、と忙しい年の有終の美を飾るだろう。


twelve fluffy chair

Local band Twelve Fluffy Chair offers a sparkly brand of shoegaze pop.  The Kyoto foursome recently released their second EP B A R, which features some cute guitar-driven pop tracks.  Their strength lies in their ability to write ultra catchy choruses and melodic hooks, as well as adding a little edge to otherwise light, playful songs.  

京都の地元バンドTwelve Fluffy Chairの特徴は、キラッキラのシューゲイズポップ感。ギターが効いているポップなセカンドEP B A Rを、最近リリースした4人組バンド。とてもキャッチーなコーラスとメロディアスなフック、そして軽快で遊び心のある曲にエッジを与える才能が彼らの強み。


boyfriend’s dead

Boyfriend’s Dead is a Kansai-area shoegaze veteran and a band that adds an element of fun to any gig they play.  Their sound is an upbeat, danceable blend of shoegaze and pop, and their energy and stage presence makes for a great live show.  The band’s most recent release came in the form of a self-titled EP released on local Osaka-based netlabel Thru The Flowers.  

Boyfriend’s Deadは、関西のシューゲイザーのベテランで、彼らが出演するギグはいつも楽しさ与えてくれる。アップビートで踊りたくなるようなシューゲイザーポップ、そして強いエナジーとステージでの存在感が素晴らしいライブ演奏を作り出す。最新作は、大阪のネットレーベルThru The FlowersからリリースされたセルフタイトルEP。


Cigarette in your Bed – “Nothing E.P.”

When I came to Japan and started a blog about Japanese shoegaze music, I almost immediately found the Kansai scene to be the most accessible.  I have fond memories of a bunch of bands who were not only really welcoming but also supportive of the blog and zine, especially bands like Lemon’s Chair and Ether Feels.  The Japan Shoegazer Festival in Osaka was a very comfortable spot for me, and thanks to the bands and the community that grew around the event I was able to get to know some great folks and learn a lot about the Japanese shoegaze scene.

 photo from  http://cigaretteinyourbed.com/
photo from http://cigaretteinyourbed.com/

When I came to Japan and started a blog about Japanese shoegaze music, I almost immediately found the Kansai scene to be the most accessible.  I have fond memories of a bunch of bands who were not only really welcoming but also supportive of the blog and zine, especially bands like Lemon’s Chair and Ether Feels.  The Japan Shoegazer Festival in Osaka was a very comfortable spot for me, and thanks to the bands and the community that grew around the event I was able to get to know some great folks and learn a lot about the Japanese shoegaze scene. 

One of the bands who really helped me out was Cigarette in your Bed.  The band split time between Tokyo and Osaka, though around that time they seemingly played a bit more in Osaka.  They were a staple of not only the Japan Shoegazer Festival (in both cities), but the frequently held High Fader Night at Club Vijon in Kitahorie as well. 

In addition to being cool dudes, Cigarette in your Bed’s music resonated with me instantly.  Their style was really unique compared to a lot of what was going on in the Japanese shoegaze scene.  The name conjures the image of a My Bloody Valentine knock-off, but they were far from that.  They were far edgier than their peers, drawing as much influence from grunge and 90s alt rock as they did shoegaze.  Their live show was dynamic and brutally loud.  I’d made it a point to come down to Osaka to see them play whenever I could.

Cigarette in your Bed has come quite a long way since then, releasing their debut full-length Darkness in 2014 via High Fader and playing some big shows, including opening for Astrobrite in 2015, while also starting an event of their own called “THE FUZZ”.  The band’s since moved on from their previous scene and found a new home in the Koenji hard rock scene, but with the release of their new Nothing E.P. they’ve shown a dedication to their core sound.

The EP kicks off with “Nothing”, a track that plays like a straightforward rock song blanketed in quivering shoegaze guitars.  The verses are decent enough, paced by a steady beat and frontman Kazuya Saijo’s simple vocals, but the song really takes off at the explosive chorus.  The repetition of the vocals is pretty similar to “Let Me Out”, giving them an almost instrumental quality that’s secondary to the massive guitar buildup. 

“Ghost” is a three-phase track that cuts from a bendy guitar howl of an intro verse not too different from “Nothing” to an overdrive-heavy rehashing of the same.  The song feels like three different variations of the same basic line, with the first part being more “gazey” and the second a bit more grunge-y with super distorted vocals.  The track winds down in a sort of striped down version of the introduction.  It’s a short track, but interesting enough in that the band basically demonstrates its range while never really changing the parts too much.

Finally, “I Don’t Know” gets away from the intensity of the first few tracks, showing off the dreamier side of what Cigarette in your Bed can do.  The song basically goes back and forth between a sweet-sounding, reverb-soaked verse and a sort of disorienting few measures of a chorus.  The main part is really chilled out and comfy before the guitars spin out for a bit.  One other noticeable part of the song that’s a bit different from their previous work and consistent throughout the EP is the complexity of the basslines.  The band is showing some maturity with their new stuff, and it should sound even better once the production value picks up.

Overall I’ve enjoyed the EP.  It’s just three tracks and they’re pretty simple, but Cigarette in your Bed have always made some really great tracks with a simple approach.  Unfortunately for fans of the band overseas it’s going to be tough to get your hands on this, but if you happen to be in the Tokyo or Osaka areas for one of their gigs it’s totally worth it for the show and the goods. 

There aren’t even any samples of the music online apart from a few brief clips the band has posted on its Twitter account.  You can also buy some merch at their online store and purchase their debut album “Darkness” on Amazon.  Here is a video of a live performance of “I Don’t Know” uploaded by Club Kinoto.  The recorded version is better, but this will at least give you a bit of an idea.  Enjoy!

Mississippi Khaki Hair – “1st Demo”

It doesn’t feel like very long ago at all that I was gushing over a promising teen indie shoegaze outfit from Osaka called Whisper Voice Riot.  2015 was a great year for the band, who established themselves as one of the promising young bands to keep an eye on – and not just in the indie scene.

It doesn’t feel like very long ago at all that I was gushing over a promising teen indie shoegaze outfit from Osaka called Whisper Voice Riot.  2015 was a great year for the band, who established themselves as one of the young bands to keep an eye on – and not just in the shoegaze scene.  They put out their debut EP, Before the Morning Cleaves Our Night, last fall, appeared at Total Feedback and Kyoto Shoegazer, and seemed to be picking up steam.  It was therefore a bit of a shock that this past spring the band announced that their appearance at the 2016 Kyoto Shoegazer fest would be their last.  The news was pretty sudden, and I was personally really disappointed to see such a promising young band call it.  

There was some consolation, however, upon hearing that three of Whisper Voice Riot’s members, including frontman Taito, would continue making music under a different name.  The direction of the new project, called Mississippi Khaki Hair, was a bit of a mystery, but one thing was made perfectly clear: this wasn’t going to be a shoegaze band.  

Mississippi Khaki Hair got right to gigging in early May and this past Friday released a 3-song demo EP.  They released two-thirds of the EP a week or so in advance on Soundcloud, and my first thought was that it wasn’t a massive departure from some of the dancier WVR stuff.  There is much more of a groove to the new project, though, but it didn’t seem different enough to necessarily warrant a completely new project.  “True Love” is a romantic, synth-laden blend of new wave and shoegaze, while “Phone Call” has a distinctly Strokes-y vibe to it, with overdriven vocals and prominent guitar lead paced by a consistent four on the floor beat.  “Silence Like A Shout” is a bit more along the lines of the latter – another lo-fi indie rock dance track.

The demos are really rough, and Taito acknowledges this along with the fact that this is pretty much just a sample to show people what the new band is all about.  When I asked him why he scrapped Whisper Voice Riot to start a new project, his answer was simple:  “I couldn’t be satisfied with WVR.”  In addition to members being busy and it being difficult to consistently write music, there were creative issues as well and Taito stresses the goal of MKH is to make music that’s more original.  “Whisper Voice Riot’s music was derivative, and I didn’t want it to end there.  The two new songs we posted are really traditional, but, combining shoegaze, post punk, and pop music, we are getting ready to show people what we’re all about.”  

This is just the beginning of Mississippi Khaki Hair as a band, and, just like WVR, they’ve gotten off to a pretty fast start.  Physical copies of their demo EP are only available at gigs at the moment, but there are plans to release it digitally on Bandcamp and potentially sell physical copies online as well.  In the meantime, the whole thing is up on Soundcloud.  It’s still a demo, but you can get an idea of what the band is going for, and it’s a lot of fun.  My personal favorite track – it’s probably not a coincidence that it’s also the song that most resembles WVR’s music – is “True Love”.  You’ll be wanting to keep an eye and an ear open for these guys, so be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.  

Juvenile Juvenile – “Perfect Lies”

In the Japanese indie scene, the mingling of indie pop and shoegaze is something that happens pretty frequently.  The former has been riding a steady wave of popularity for a while now, and the latter is oft-misunderstood but nevertheless enjoying an ever-growing resurgence of its own.  These two genres, vague as they may be, are a perfect marriage.  However, like a lot of bands who dabble in shoegaze, there are plenty who scoff at being called a shoegaze band.

In the Japanese indie scene, the mingling of indie pop and shoegaze is something that happens pretty frequently.  The former has been riding a steady wave of popularity for a while now, and the latter is oft-misunderstood but nevertheless enjoying an ever-growing resurgence of its own.  These two genres, vague as they may be, are a perfect marriage.  However, like a lot of bands who dabble in shoegaze, there are plenty who scoff at being called a shoegaze band.  In situations like these, we just slap on the “dream pop” tag and voila, tricky genre debate averted.  Osaka has consistently produced top notch indie pop bands in recent years, so its no surprise that it’s also the home of Japan’s finest dream pop band.  The foursome is as good as anyone at creating jangly pop tunes and drowning them in reverb and hazy background noise.  Their latest mastery of the style has come in the form of a new single titled “Perfect Lies”.  

“Perfect Lies” is one track off the upcoming double A-side 7-inch single – the opposite side is titled “Planet Heaven” – that was announced last week.  It will be the band’s first single release, and first new music since 2014s Our Great Escape album (which, for what it’s worth, topped my best releases of the year list).  The single, which will be released on August 10th in clear blue vinyl via Flake Records, was produced by The Bilinda Butchers’ Michal Palmer and will be accompanied by a bonus CD featuring remixes by Jesse Ruins and Teto 2.  

“Perfect Lies” is a pretty, thickly layered, melancholy track, consistent with the vibes of the ultra-dreamy “Just Like You Do” from Our Great Escape.  The most attractive element of Juvenile Juvenile’s sound is the depth that they create, not only with their big, lushly layered guitars, but with frontman Masami Tsuchiya’s breathy vocals.  What they lack in edge (only mentioned here because of my general affinity for the super loud) they more than make up for in their desire to fill every last square inch of space with sound.  On “Perfect Lies” they do just that, even keeping the leads that normally carry their tunes a bit more subtle.  Juvenile Juvenile is back at it, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing “Planet Heaven” in the near future.

There’s not a whole lot of info on where the single will be available, but be sure to follow the band on Facebook and Twitter for more info.  And if for some reason you haven’t heard their previously released music, you can find it on Juvenile Juvenile’s Bandcamp page.  

Standing on the Moon with Whisper Voice Riot

By 1996 the shoegaze genre had sort of peaked in terms of popularity in its first go-round and made way for grunge and Britpop, while slipping away into relative obscurity.  In Japan the so-called ‘first wave’ of shoegaze had already come and gone with the country’s founding fathers of the genre long disbanded or still working out a release.  1996 would be the year that Luminous Orange released its debut album Vivid Short Trip, and a mere two years before Supercar would release Three Out Change and effectively kick off a new wave of shoegaze bands in Japan.  That’s a very brief glimpse back at the year 1996, but one to just put things in perspective.

By 1996 the shoegaze genre had sort of peaked in terms of popularity in its first go-round and made way for grunge and Britpop, while slipping away into relative obscurity.  In Japan the so-called ‘first wave’ of shoegaze had already come and gone with the country’s founding fathers of the genre long disbanded or still working out a release.  1996 would be the year that Luminous Orange released its debut album Vivid Short Trip, and a mere two years before Supercar would release Three Out Change and effectively kick off a new wave of shoegaze bands in Japan.  That’s a very brief glimpse back at the year 1996, but one to just put things in perspective.

1996 was also the year that the first of Whisper Voice Riot’s members were born.  The Osaka shoegaze band’s lineup consists of members born in ’96 and ’97, prompting comments about how they’re the future of the Japanese scene and whatnot.  The concept isn’t just based on the fact that they’re all still in high school, though.  They’re actually really, really good.  Right around the end of last year they put out their first track “Stargaze” and prompted a whole bunch of Tweets by people who were surprised that it was made by teenagers.  Admittedly, I was a little curious, if not skeptical, about how things would go from there.  Having witnessed first-hand how little free time high schoolers have and experiencing how tedious arranging band practices can be, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they just fell victim to the pressures of university entrance exams and disappeared entirely.  

That wasn’t at all the case, however, and Whisper Voice Riot has had a great 2015, during which the band been a part of some pretty good gigs and put out some new material – the first of which was a danceable follow up single aptly titled “Let’s Dance and Sink Down”.  Their songwriting ability once again grabbed a lot of attention, resulting in an invitation to perform at Hata Yusuke’s monthly Total Feedback event at Koenji HIGH in Tokyo – something of a rite of passage for Japanese shoegaze bands.  However, it’s in the Kansai-area shoegaze scene that Whisper Voice Riot has quickly become a mainstay.  Their emphatic performance at the Kyoto Shoegazer vol. 3 event at Annie’s Cafe this summer showed a level of confidence and poise beyond their years that impressed the hell out of me and just about everyone else at the show.  

The highlight of the year for Whisper Voice Riot was undoubtedly this past weekend in Osaka where the band had a supporting slot at the Tokenai Namae album release party.  They had teased a release of their very own with a new track on their Soundcloud page, but the show in Osaka was where they officially put out their debut 3-track EP Before the Morning Cleaves Our Night.  As a further testament to their increased standing in the Osaka music scene, the maiden release was produced by Post Modern Team’s Kishida-san.  

With their first two singles being pretty different, I was a little curious whether Whisper Voice Riot would go the way of the first and choose the indie pop/shoegaze path or if they might just choose the pop route.  Naturally, as a fan of the former I had my own hopes, especially seeing how their aggressive live show would be an asset to a Japanese shoegaze landscape that could use a bit of a jolt.  Needless to say, I am pleased with the balance of the EP and the fact that they, along with Kishida-san, did not shy away from the loud side of things while still keeping the catchy pop melodies in tact.

There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said in terms of Whisper Voice Riot’s potential.  There’s still room for growth, but they’ve shown that they should be capable of filling out their sound even more as time goes by.  I still wonder about the effect that their formal education may have on their creative passion, but to this point it’s done nothing to slow them down.  I had them on my list of bands to keep an eye on in 2015, and it’s reasonable to extend that claim for the foreseeable future.

At the moment Whisper Voice Riot’s EP is only available at shows, but they’ve announced that it will be available via mail order in the near future.  Stay tuned by following the band on Facebook and Twitter.