Japanese Jams: New music releases from January 2020

Music has become a bigger part of my life recently for one very boring reason: I cannot focus at work without music playing in the background. It’s an office gig, so it’s a whole lot of running reports and staying seated. You figure I’m at a desk for 40 hours a week, so I’m listening to stuff in my headphones for a lot of that time…which means I get tired of the music on my phone pretty quickly. As a result, I end up searching for random new music to listen to online – I can only listen to Spice World so many times in a week, after all! 😉

To switch up my music routine a little bit, and to give myself a writing prompt for this blog I barely update, I thought it would be fun to check Bandcamp for new Japan release and write mini-reviews of things I found. I soon realized that it would be hard to actually figure out what music was ACTUALLY coming from Japan – apparently, every vaporwave artist who makes “chill anime beats” mixes lists their location as Japan, even though they’re probably over in Toronto or something. But, I did eventually findsome neat, actual Japanese music to listen to, so I thought I would share it with all of you!

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Nujabes, [adult swim], and Cowboy Bebop: How anime influenced my music taste as a kid

Have you ever found yourself watching a movie or listening to music and wondering how your tastes got to be what they are today? I enjoy mapping out my own taste-makers in my head: it’s fun to think about how one thing I liked as a kid would kick-start a full investigation into a new genre, a new niche, a new world.

I’ve been listening to a lot more new music lately – well, new to me, anyways. My desk job graciously allows me to listen to music as I work, so I’ve been seeking out more things to fill those eight hours with. I’ve been listening to lots of atmospheric stuff, lots of hip-hop and jazz, and lots of Japanese noise rock and J-pop influenced artists.

One day, I found myself wondering, “what makes me gravitate towards this type of music?” Most of my teenage music taste consisted of emo and scene kid music – stuff that I mostly can’t stand anymore. Where did this blossoming urge to listen to completely different music come from?

And then it hit me. So much of my current music taste has been greatly influenced by the anime I watched as a young kid.

serial experiments lain music yoshitoshi abe
Real picture of me, age 10, discovering the world of anime music. No, it’s not Lain, it’s me

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My Favorite English-Language Anime Rock Songs

serial experiments lain music yoshitoshi abe

There was something badass going on in the world of late 90’s/early 2000’s anime soundtracks. A decent amount of anime had these anthemic, sweeping rock songs in their soundtracks. Often, these songs were sung in English and performed by non-Japanese singers. I don’t know if this was because Yoko Kanno was out in full-force during this time period and giving us Steve Conte-fronted goodness, or if more anime studios were going for crossover appeal with Western audiences.

Whatever the case, these songs are all awesome, and the story of how some of these English language songs and collaborations came to be are actually very interesting. Originally, I was just going to do a quick listicle, but I got carried away reading about these various performers. It seemed like a disservice not to share all the fruits of my research, so here is part one of my surprisingly long list of favorite English language anime rock performances.

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From French Pop to Horny Cowboy: 13 Genre-Spanning Tracks From the Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack

Have I mentioned how much I love Cowboy Bebop? I really love Cowboy Bebop. It was one of the first anime series I ever watched, and it was definitely the first one I really fell in love with. The characters are all fantastic, the animation is stunning, and that soundtrack…

Yoko Kanno & The Seatbelts crafted such a magnificent OST. It’s one that critics and anime fans still gush over twenty years later. And for good reason! “Tank!” is a certified classic at this point, after all.

When it comes to the Bebop soundtrack, jazz is probably what comes to your mind first. It makes sense: songs like “Bad Dog No Biscuits,” “Space Lion,” and, obviously, “Tank!” definitely stand out. But it’s a disservice to the sheer diversity of this soundtrack to only focus on those jazz tracks. The entire soundtrack is filled with an eclectic assortment of genre-hopping jams. There ARE three soundtrack albums for the entire series, after all, plus one full soundtrack for the movie and multiple mini-albums.

Which is why I present to you – 13 of my favorite songs from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack that showcase just how expansive the soundtrack really is. Come, bask in the variety and worship Yoko Kanno’s majesty!

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Kero Kero Bonito PhilaMOCA, 10/18/2018: This show made me the happiest corporate flamingo alive!

The past few days weeks months have been pretty shitty, and I knew that I needed to figure out a way to get some healing in. One thing I absolutely love to do is go to concerts. Not to sound cliché, but it is an incredible feeling to go to a show and get completely lost in music for a while. The ability to escape is something I need more than ever now that I’m working at an office full-time. The work itself is fine (and something I enjoy doing, even), but the co-workers…I believe Arsene_Lucifer said it best when he commented, “co-workers can be more draining than any evil anime villains.”

So when I saw that Kero Kero Bonito was going to be playing near me, it was like the Lord Herself had shone a beacon right down on me. A peppy, J-Pop inspired band playing songs about flamingos, taking breaks, and bouncing away your problems on a trampoline? That was EXACTLY the kind of escapism I was lookin’ for.

I wish I took more photos at the show but I DIDN’T so you’re gonna get their WEBSITE PHOTOS!!!

Continue reading Kero Kero Bonito PhilaMOCA, 10/18/2018: This show made me the happiest corporate flamingo alive!”

15 Jazzy Anime Openings That Aren’t Tank!

Well, here we are. It’s Friday, and I haven’t caught up on my seasonals or watched any of my backlog, which means I don’t have a good essay lined up for the day. You know what that means! It’s listicle time!

I’m actually extra cheating with this post, because I  wrote this before I started this blog. I posted it on GoBoiano, just to flex my anime writing abilities, but for some reason it got deleted? Which is fine, because that just means I can re-use it here! It was actually kind of fun to look back at something I wrote almost a year ago and spice it up to make it a little more “me.” Not to toot my own horn (toot), but my writing and voice has improved quite a bit since then…anyways, I hope you enjoy this quickie. Here we go!

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Saturday Soundtracks: 5 Funky Songs from 1980s Japan

Now that my Very Full-Time Job cuts into my regularly scheduled study time and I’m no longer in school taking Japanese classes, I’ve been listening to a lot of Japanese music at my desk and in the car. I read that the best way to motivate is to completely immerse yourself in a language, and that listening to music exclusively in the language you’re trying to learn is the best way to do it. At this point, I’m pretty much hoping to learn Japanese through osmosis…

Usually, I’ll listen to a bunch of anime soundtracks and openings for ~immersion purposes~, but when I’m at work, I want to listen to more poppy, easy-listening type stuff. You know, something upbeat that will keep me awake and happy, but something that isn’t too distracting. And so, through the wonderful website that is YouTube, I discovered the world of funky Japanese 80s music, which is now accidentally my passion.

I feel it is my duty to share my five favorites with you. It would be a crime to keep such stone cold bops to myself.

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Great opening, meh show: 7 times the opening was better than the actual anime

I wracked my brain for a really long time (like five whole minutes!) trying to think of a title that didn’t sound super clickbaity, but alas…

Anyways. To the point.

Have you ever watched an anime solely because you saw the opening and thought it looked awesome? If you’re like me, you check out an anime’s opening before you decide to commit to the show, just to get a feel for the tone and the style. I remember a few years ago I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch Serial Experiments Lain, so I looked up the opening on YouTube and…yeah, I was sold. It captured the feel of the show while still keeping an air of mystery, and it didn’t have any of those “character running by the ocean” or “all the girls jump into the air and freeze frame” opening cliches. It was an awesome opener for an awesome show.

But what about when an opening is awesome but the show sucks?? Have you ever sat through an entire anime that you didn’t like just because the opening was a banger? Because I have. There are shows with absolutely amazing openings that duped me into thinking I was in for an enjoyable experience. Darling in the Franxx almost got me hooked with its sultry opening (I’m a sucker for when the OP/ED has characters mouthing along with the words), but I know better now than to trust the opening when I know I don’t like the show…

Here are a few times I thought an anime got a waaaaay cooler opening than it deserved. Most of these I didn’t end up finishing, but some of them fooled me with their pretty visuals and catchy songs. Curse you, J-Pop!!!
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