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Archive for December, 2008

Looking back this year I was still immersed in Japanese music, culture, et al; but it appears HDTV has renewed my interest in Korean music. My cousin re-introduced me to KPop with the 9-piece group So Nyeo Shi Dae (소녀시대 or Girls’ Generation) — currently occupying my header up top. In addition to SNSD, 2 other groups stand out for me from the realm of KPop; but first…

group10

Now, as many people will say at first glance, that’s a whole lot of people for one group; at one time, I thought so too. Then over the next few months I see that each member brings a special part to the group and I think that this group won’t be the same if one (or more) left. Depending on the song performed on TV, there’s always great fashion sense from the girls every time, and they all look fabulous in doing so. JPop aside, it was my most listened-to album of this year, according to my iTunes play count. From all the CDs I’ve purchased this year, (English, Japanese, Korean or otherwise) it’s easily one of the best albums of the year, right up there with Shibata Jun’s album, “Shin’ai naru kimi e”. SNSD’s comeback is fast approaching, and it’ll be interesting to see what they’ll do to best what they’ve done the past year and a half. All the tracks from their first album are favourites of mine, so it’s hard to shortlist them.

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The next one is the all-male group SHINee (샤이니). Now, if you happen to come across my music library, you’ll notice a huge number of albums performed by either female soloists, duos, groups etc — far greater to the male counterpart. So it’s a bit uncommon for me to discover new male artists. Watching the performances, the combination of dance and song is almost mesmerizing. Their first album, The SHINee World, not surprisingly is a hit; incredibly catchy, much like SNSD; and much like them, their entire album is just too good to pick apart.

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and last but not least is Kara (카라). the once 4-piece, now quintet reminds me very much of a Hello! Project-esque group. Their appearance is very Hello! Project — cute and innocent-like, and their sound is reminiscent of SNSDs. 2 mini-albums have been released this year (1st Kara Mini-Album, and Pretty Girl) and as a whole, the latter was an overall better mini-album.
favourite tracks (in parentheses designate which album): Rock U (1st), Pretty Girl (2nd), Yoreullei (2nd), Honey (2nd)

JPop-related, Shoko Nakagawa’s new album is released on New Year’s Day. Will pick that up as soon as possible and review to soon follow. Keep listening!^_-

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Well, my 2 week Christmas vacation is underway (who knew I’d say that from a work standpoint), and I’m itching to do some light travelling around the country. The first stop: Osaka. The part of this upcoming trip which makes it extra special is that I finally get to meet my friend whom I haven’t seen in nearly 6 years. Let me explain; I know her since high school, but she moved back to Korea after I finished 9th grade. Since then, there was an occasional chat via instant messaging, string of emails, and a phone call or two. But we’d always exchange requests to visit one another in their respective countries — either in Korea or Canada. Fast forward to this year and we’ll meet again, but not in Korea nor Canada. After all this time, I’d never thought this would happen. One thing I hope is that it doesn’t end up like my Tokyo weekend a month ago. It’s gonna be fun! weeee!

stay classy.

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Payday could not come any sooner; much like my situation last month, but with far less money. Thank goodness I had bought enough groceries the week before, so no problems there. However, one more day of lessons before Christmas break, but it’ll be at a school almost 90 minutes away by train from my apartment. Return train ticket is ¥2560. Fortunately, I didn’t do much of the way of travelling this week, so a bit of a mini break there. So whats left is just over ¥800 until Monday. With a meeting/Christmas party tomorrow, I could buy…1 beer; well, I ain’t gonna stay out late anyway.T_T

Time to update my budgeting for next month. I wanna visit Osaka during the break, so I need to figure that in there somehow. Well, I just pray it’ll be a larger paycheque than last month. Here’s hoping. Stay classy.

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When I explained the guidelines of my Year-end top 10, It doesn’t play out the way it seems. A late ’07 release and inserting it to the ’08 list seems a bit off, such is the case this time around, as Kusumi Koharu’s ( 久住小春 ) 3rd studio album, Kirari to Fuyu ( きらりと冬 ) — “Kirari and Winter”, was released (17th Dec) almost exactly a year after her 2nd album, Kirarin Land ( きらりん☆ランド ) was released on the 19th Dec ’07. Coincidentally, the list just happened to be posted during those times. So a bit premature but be sure to be on the lookout for this album to make the best of ’09:

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The nice thing and an advantage in my opinion of living in Japan is not having to pre-order new releases (except imports, but that’s another story). I just walk into the closest record shop (which, for me, is Tower Records next to Kanazawa Station). I had picked up “Kirari to Fuyu” on release day, something I like to take pride in — I like getting new releases as soon as they’re out. In this case, I wasted no time. The thing with a lot of JPop albums that are released nowadays is that they offer the listener more insentive than our North American counterparts by, for example, limited versions (that includes different cover art), bonus DVD, et al. Sure, you’d be paying an extra 500-700円 but why not? If it means you’d get a little extra in return. So for Kirari to Fuyu, different cover art than the CD-only counterpart, a bonus DVD was included with 3 music videos, 2 live songs and an anime opening video (for Kirarin Revolution) and a collectable card in the liner-notes.

Prior to the album’s release, 3 singles (plus 3 “coupled-with” songs) were released; so coming in I had already heard half the album — bit of a cop-out come to think of it. It doesn’t take anything from the album itself, the other 6 songs held its own. I’ve given the entire album a couple of listens already so here is a bit of the album at a glance.

The third track, Papancake ( パパンケーキ ), is a major energy track; the guitar riff starts up and then straight into the chorus. It keeps up the beat the entire song and the dance for it is too cute for words. It’s one of the singles released and by far my favourite track of the album. The 6th track, Mass Colourful ( マスカラフル ), shows once again an international-feel of Koharu (like the songs Ramutara, Balalaika and Olala before). It has a great salsa/flamenco sound to it and just seems to come together just nicely. Track 8, So La Mi Mi Do Re Mi ( ソラミミドレミ ) has some ska elements thrown in and it appears in the middle of the song you hear a mini rap of sorts — a nice, fun track. The eleventh track, SanSanGOGO ( サンサンGOGO ), is performed by the newly-formed group, MilkyWay, based within the Kirarin anime; with the girls, Koharu, Yuu, and Sakaya singing to their hearts content over some fast guitars and drums. Another energy track that’ll leave your feet tapping. Here’s the complete tracklist, 4 tracks are performed by the aforementioned group MilkyWay:

1.コイサイン (Koi Sign)
2.アナタボシ / MilkyWay (Anataboshi)
3.パパンケーキ (Papancake)
4.ラブチク (Love Chick)
5.Oh!トモダチ (Oh! Tomodachi)
6.マスカラフル (Mass Colorful)
7.パピーラブ (Puppy Love)
8.ソラミミドレミ (So La Mi Mi Do Re Mi)
9.ガムシャララ / MilkyWay (GamuShalala)
10.タンタンターン!/ MilkyWay (Tan Tan Taan!)
11.サンサンGOGO / MilkyWay (San San GOGO)
12.夢のバルーン (Yume no balloon)

2008-12-17
zip file; 63MB (all files @ 192kbps)
mp3 files properly tagged with album art
link via MF

Liked what you listened? Support Koha-chan, buy her album (via YesAsia):

CD+DVD ver
CD-only

’til then, keep listening.

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Old vs. New haircut…fight!!

I got my hair cut yesterday, yes stop the presses; but in all seriousness it’s a big thing for me. I get my haircuts only once every 3 months or so, and I’ve had my fair share of botched ones in years past, so I tend to pick and choose who and when I get my hair done while I was in Vancouver. A friend and former co-worker of mine, Julie, a stylist at Zootz in Kitsilano, Vancouver has done my hair the past year and might I say she’s done a fantastic job the times I went there. You know when you get asked, “What do you miss back home?”, Family and friends come to mind (that plus All-you-can-eat restaurants and English-language television) but really I also do miss getting a haircut there. It seems more of an event than anything — a couple of instances where I’d go with my fellow co-workers (who also wanted their hair done on the same day) to talk about work, life, etc. Needless to say, those were fun times.

Now that my hair was as long as it’s been in a couple of years, I needed to find a stylist who’ll do it right — and with my Japanese as rusty as it is, a tall order for complacency. A friend from work recommended me to get it done at his friend’s hair studio…in Toyama. Now those who are unaware, Toyama city is an hour away by train (or roughly 60km) from my apartment in Kanazawa. This is definitely a first for me; I never had to travel so far for a haircut. I’ll take broken English any day; well, safe to say she did a good job — no complaints, give it a week or two for it grow out a bit. But you be the judge:
before-after
the left taken on Saturday (13th Dec), and today on the right.

It’s a bit flat from wearing a toque home, maybe that’s why I feel a bit uncertain. I’m still unsure if I’ll go that distance again for a haircut. Tough call. stay classy.

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Well, with the year gradually winding down and during the time of Christmas shopping and the endless loops of holiday music piercing your brain (a relief I don’t have to put up with). Music releases take a holiday as well; with only a handful of new albums in December — save for Christmas releases. You patiently wait for the New Year to arrive for new music; but before you do that, you look back at the year that was. You look at your CD library you’ve accumulated (or downloaded for some of you) and you dwindle down to the truly best in your honest opinion; what you couldn’t stop listening to all of 2008.

Now, as I’ve done in the previous year, my guideline is that new releases starting from the posted date (generally mid-December) up to the most current “best of”. Aside from one exception in this list, the rest were released sometime in 2008. And much like my list in 2007, it’s an all Japanese Pop “best of”. Only fitting since I’ve been in Japan since September. I thought of splitting the top10 to 2 parts, but it would look odd in the grand scheme that #10-6 would be below #5-1 (if you get what I’m saying).

10:

The Voice – KOKIA
Her voice alone is warranting enough to be top 10 worthy — classically trained, pleasing to the ear. She does it with ease and done wonderfully. And although her voice is incredible, on certain tracks, the instrumentation doesn’t fit the vocals ( eg: ごめんね。 ). It seems it’s taking away the emotion of her voice — that’s the way I see it.

>Favourite tracks: 穏やかな静けさ~浄歌 (Odoyaka na Shizukesa), ave maria

9:

Kingdom – Koda Kumi ( 倖田來未 )
When I first listened to her 2006 album Black Cherry earlier this year, I held it to a high regard. It all came together, and Kingdom had almost the same formula for a great album. Sultry voice with some bumpin’ beats. She threw in a couple of decent ballad tracks. I think there’s something good in this album for anyone to like.

>Favourite tracks: 愛のうた (Ai no Uta), 恋の魔法 (Koi no Mahou), Wonderland, Black Cherry [INTRODUCTION Full Ver.]

8:

Hikari Nadeshiko ( ひかりなでしこ ) – Shimamiya Eiko ( 島みやえい子 )
I had high anticipation for Eiko’s new album early in 2008 since her previous record, “O”, was hands-down a top 3 album of ’06. And there in lies the problem, I held it too high of regard and compared it too much to “O” that “Hikari Nadeshiko” was an anti-climax of an album in the end. Although not bad of an album in itself, there were a lot of chill-down tracks that I wasn’t used to hear from her.

>Favourite tracks: ひかりなでしこ (Hikari Nadeshiko), all alone, 奈落の花 (Naraku no Hana), 十四の月 (Juuyon no Tsuki)

7:

Himitsu ( 秘密 ) – aiko
aiko makes it too easy now; cheery love songs comprised of piano, strings, and guitar. She can come up with a song like that in her sleep it seems. And there is a 2-prong effect to it; in certain tracks she always re-invents the cheery, happy love song and always finds a way to make it sound different without making it sound, well, different (get what I’m saying?). But in some cases, it’ll sound very similar to her previous work. I mean, 10 years and 8 studio albums later, it’s not always gonna be perfect. aiko’s albums always seem to be very consistent; no real standout tracks. It’s a real treat for me to see a new album from her. A fan of hers since 2001 when I first heard “September”; keep at it, aiko!

>Favourite tracks: 二人 (Futari), 横顔 (Yokogao), シアワセ (Shiawase)

6:

VOICE – Nakashima Mika ( 中島美嘉 )
Just made the cut-off for the year-end review, and not a moment too soon. I liked her ’06 work, “YES”, and I like “VOICE” much more. As the album title implies, Mika’s voice is the main focus and if you look closely at the album cover, she has a tattoo on her right wrist, which says, “Trust your voice”. It’s a very nice touch all things considered. a good blend of soft tracks, danceable tracks, even a couple of rockin’ tracks towards the end — which does show the range of her voice from beautiful to pure raw. My favourite track of this album, 声 (Koe – “Voice”), is written by one of my favourite Japanese artists, Shibata Jun. Paired with Mika’s vocals on that track and it’s a match maid in heaven!

>Favourite tracks: 声 (Koe), LIFE, SAKURA ~花霞~ (DAISHI DANCE), FOCUS

5:

HEART STATION – Utada Hikaru ( 宇多田ヒカル )
This is another solid effort by Hikki. A few tracks still have that experimental-esque beats like her previous album, ULTRA BLUE. It seems to suit her well; they have a smooth flow to it. The ballad version of “Flavor of Life” is the crown jewel of this record — used in the Japanese drama, Hana Yori Dango 2 (Boys over Flowers), shows the true talent in her vocals as well as incredible instrumentation of strings and piano.

>Favourite tracks: Fight the Blues, HEART STATION, Flavor of Life -Ballad Ver-, Stay Gold

4:

5 (FIVE) – Berryz Koubou ( Berryz工房 )
A seven-piece idol group with staying power only bested by Morning Musume has to warrant for something and Berryz’s new album is their best yet. As with their previous albums they either have 2 or 3 members do vocals only on certain tracks, or even just a solo member singing for one track. There is so much versatility in this group and they find the right combination in doing so. Cute beats and cute vocals will leave you smiling.

>Favourite tracks: HAPPY! Stand Up, この指とまれ! (Kono Yubi Tomare!), バカにしないで (Baka ni Shinaide), REAL LOVE, 付き合ってるのに片思い (Tsukiatteru no ni Kataomoi)

3:

Kirarin Land ( きらりん☆ランド ) – Tsukishima Kirari starring Kusumi Koharu ( 月島きらり starring 久住小春 )
So yes, the exception of this list as it was released on 19 Dec 2007. Now you may be asking, “an anime-based album ranked this high? You must be crazy!” Well, be that as it may, but if I were to sum up this album in 3 words (which I won’t), it’d be “Upbeat, Happy, & Cute”. Every track on this album will make you feel good about yourself. From the ongoing anime “Kirarin Revolution”, the female lead, Kirari, aspires to become an idol after falling in love with a fellow idol which throughout the series thus far, she spreads her spirit of joy and happiness to everyone she encounters, while trying her best as a 14 year-old idol.

>Favourite tracks: ハッピー☆彡 (happy), チャンス!(Chance!), はなをぷーん (Hana wo Pu-n), 恋の魔法はハビビのビ! (Koi no Mahou wa Habibi no Bi!)

2:

Communication!!! – Leah Dizon ( リア・ディゾン )
Now, Leah has really grown as an artist this past year. She’s shown how capable she is as a singer from her last album, “Destiny Line”, and now she has taken it to another level with this new album. I had ranked Destiny Line at #10 in ’07 because while the songs were good on its own, for some reason it didn’t play the same result as an entire album – the flow wasn’t there. Leah’s Japanese has vastly improved and thus a major improvement when it comes to some of her songs, which she sings in Japanese. It’s a great danceable album by all accounts with some surprisingly good ballads in there (Without a Goodbye, Lost at Sea).

>Favourite tracks: Love paradox, LOVE SWEET CANDY, Lost at Sea, Communication!!!, Not Too Bad

1:

Shin’ai Naru Kimi e ( 親愛なる君へ ) – Shibata Jun ( 柴田淳 )
A familiar place at the top for her as she topped my “best-of” in 2007. The first track, カラフル, (colourul) showed an upbeat, carefree version of Shibajun; reserved for only a handful of her tracks. It’s all business from there as her ballads are delivered superbly; amazing instrumentation to boot. Right from the jazzy-feel of メロディ (melody) to the beautiful piano -laden track, ふたり, (Futari — Two People) this album will truly amaze you and you’ll feel the emotion from every note and lyric — whether you know Japanese or not.

>Favourite tracks: カラフル (Colourful), 椿 (Tsubaki), 愛をする人 (Ai wo Suru Hito), メロディ (Melody), ふたり (Futari)

*Images courtesy Amazon JP

Kusumi Koharu’s new album releases next week (17th). You know I’ll be getting that on release day and a review soon after.
Love it or hate it? Would you change anything different? Any additions you’d put? Do let me know.

Keep listening.

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YGC's new blog

Welcome! I decided to create a seperate blog for any of my music purchases/discoveries/reviews, etc. This is so not to confuse my other blog which is a compilation of daily life living in Japan. Over the course of a few weeks, I have a few CDs I’d like to buy, and you’ll know which one(s) I get as I will write up about them. In addition, with the year drawing to a close, I will post my JPop top 10 of 2008 very soon. So, with that said, welcome!

Keep listening.

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