The Music Fix J-pop Mix (Vol. 3)
おかえり. Thanks for continuing to listen to our little mixes, designed to help promote Japanese music overseas and bring something interesting to those who might not ordinarily tune in! Admittedly, it has been a little slow lately on the J-pop Mix front but we do hope to keep them running, along with more tailored specials. Enjoy!
Masami Okui began her musical career as the eighties drew to a close, featuring as a backup singer for popular artists such as Yuki Saito, Harada Tomoyo and Wink. This led to her solo career which began in 1993, seeing her perform songs for a number of anime series. Still very much active on the music scene, Masami also continues to push her own label, hoping to present exciting young talent to the industry. Taken from her 1995 debut album Gyuu, ‘Moonlight Angel ~Ashita ni Mukatte~’ [Facing Tomorrow] is a self-cover of a song she wrote and composed for the OVA series Tekkaman Blade II.
‘Fantastipo’ features as the opening song to Shogo Yabuuchi’s 2005 comedy of the same name. It stars TOKIO’s Taichi Kokubun and Kinki Kid’s Tsuyoshi Domoto, who teamed up under their character guises as Toraji Haiji, to record what would become one of the biggest selling singles of the year.
Next we’ve an interesting story in the shape of The Pink Panda. Sure they had a cutesy, cuddly name which would have slotted into the idol scene that they were supposedly manufactured for (lead singer Suzuki ‘MAYU’ Mayuka and bassist Michiko Koga having already done gravure work) but this belied the mildly punk attitudes that the girls ultimately put across. They were known to put on stomping live sets and could have gone on to become a much bigger force in the punk scene. However, after the release of their Tower Records exclusive ‘best of’ album - they only ever released one full-length studio and mini-album - the group disbanded.
The Pink Panda’s members didn’t wait around long before making another go of it. They re-branded themselves and became almost unrecognisable; Koga would join the nauseating Gacharic Spin and MAYU, NANA-A and RINA would form BLiSTAR, with a more friendlier sound in mind. It’s safe to say that the music died a little that day. ‘Fly-UP!’ is taken from the band’s 2006 debut Pxx & Axx.
Anzen Chitai is one of Japan’s longest serving pop bands, famed for their delicate ballads. Although formed around 1973, they underwent several transformations before finally finding their feet at the tail-end of the decade. Initially their members had been performing backup duties for Yosui Inoue, but they put together their first single in 1982. An album surfaced the following year titled Remember to Remember and both it and album II generated a string of hits that would start them on a very successful run throughout the eighties.
The beginning of the nineties saw Anzen Chitai slow down as various members pursued solo careers but it continued to tour and record briefly, releasing just one album before making another big comeback in 2002. In 2008 founder and predominant composer Koji Tamaki, who had carved out a great music and television career, announced his retirement. It didn’t last long though; the group were back in the studio recording one year later, releasing album XI STARTS "Mata ne..." in 2010. Featuring in this volume of The J-Pop Mix, ‘Hansei’ appears on 2002’s IX.
More familiar within gaming circles, Genki Rockets is the product of developer Tetsuya Mizuguchi, famed for producing Lumines, Space Channel 5 and Rez. It debuted in 2006 on Lumines, which featured the singles ‘Heavenly Star’ and ‘Breeze’. A full album followed two years later, with several songs later being remixed for Mizuguchi’s directorial debut Child of Eden in 2011. That same year saw the release of Genki Rockets’ second album: No Border Between Us. ‘Touch Me’ appears as track three.
In the three years between their debut in 2002 and their unfortunate disbanding in 2005, Day After Tomorrow were one of the hardest working bands in Japan, producing three studio albums, two mini albums and a successful tour. They were produced under the care of Every Little Thing’s Mitsuru Igarashi and it came as no surprise that their synth sound would share similiarities. However, Day After Tomorrow wasn’t basking in Every Little Thing’s shadow; they put out an impressive assortment of singles, ranging from ballads to catchy pop/rock hybrids.
Controversy ultimately surrounded their split, although it didn’t take too long for its members to recover. Vocalist Misono Koda (younger sister to Kumi) pursued a solo career; guitarist Masato Kitano formed part of strobo and keyboardist Daisuke Suzuki currently works with Girl Next Door. The song ‘FUNNY DAYS’ is taken from their debut studio album Elements.
Inspired by good ol’ American Rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop, The Checkers made their chart debut in 1983, which led to ten studio albums and 31 single releases. The seven-man group were likened to manufactured idol bands via their colourful wardrobes and marketing, yet they were serious musicians, producing all of their own material and breaking records in the process. After their split, lead vocalist Fumiya Fujii started a solo career, which is still going strong, while his colleagues have made less of a dent. Sadly drummer Tokunaga Yoshiya passed away at the young age of 40 in 2004. ‘Namida no Request’ is their second single, taken from their 1984 debut album Zettai CHECKERS.
Rocket or Chiritori (a.k.a. Satoko Shibahara) is a shining example of pure indie pop. At the end of the nineties, at around 15 years of age, she began writing melodies and recording them with friends using a basic cassette recorder. On the face of it it doesn’t sound particularly intriguing but Satoko, with her early albums Love Eyes and Tokyo Young Winner, created sweet, feel-good music which captured an innocent charm via the outtakes, chuckling and an array of unusual, random noises which accompanied some otherwise routine guitar and bass lines. After the issuing of Tokyo Young Winner in 1999, Satoko finished her schooling and went out into the big world. Still unsigned, she returned in 2009 with the release of Left sounds; staying true to her roots with an album that still felt a little rough around the edges, it ensured an air of unpredictability and most importantly the kind of fun that resonated last time out. ‘Smells of Your Skin’ is taken from that release.
Anyone who knows anything about Japanese music should be able to tell you about Mr. Children. They began in 1988 as a political group known as The Walls but soon decided to change their name as success was not particularly forthcoming. Several years were spent trying to entice record companies, until Toy’s Factory finally snapped them up and had them support some of their major artists on tour. The rest as they say really is history. Mr. Children currently stands as the second largest selling band in Japan, with fourteen albums to their name and a remarkable thirty consecutive no. 1 singles. They’re also highly respected for their long-standing charity work. The song ‘Seesaw Game’ is their ninth single, which is taken from their sixth studio album: Bolero.
Bringing this instalment of the J-Pop Mix to a close is Pigeon’s Milk, who made their major debut in 2003 with the release of the single ‘Ringo’. They put out just one full-length studio album in 2005 titled Quilt, with a mini album following in 2008. It’s a shame that they never quite made bigger waves as lead singer momo has a stunningly beautiful voice which could just about reduce anyone to tears. She still does live performances despite slower activity elsewhere.
Until next time,