Posts Tagged ‘music’


Connie: Last live

July 11, 2011

Yesterday was a summer concert held by the jazz circle. Our group appeared in the performance. As it turns out, it’s the last performance for both our vocalist and I – the band’s next gig is supposed to happen the same day I leave Saijo.

To be honest there have been times lately when I wasn’t sure where my relationship with the other band members fell, but on this day I was truly happy to spend the entire day with them. I think all of us are a little bit different from the rest of the members of the jazz circle, though I don’t really know how to clearly define why. At any rate, on this day we all talked and joked around easily. I think our performance was also very smooth – definitely the best out of all the lives we’ve done. We all had worries due to our lack of practice time. We sat waiting for our turn to play with everyone saying, “I’m so nervous!” in some manner or another. However, playing turned out to be truly enjoyable. It was definitely a good way to go out. That was the kind of memory I wanted for our last live.

Much to the surprise of the British vocalist and I, at the end of our performance one of the other members of the circle came out and announced that since it was our last live, we’d received flowers. I was honestly shocked and felt very happy. The card on the flowers was quite obviously Google translated, but perhaps that gave it a bit of charm.

Who got them for us was a mystery for most of the day – our band members certainly didn’t know. In the end it was revealed that a professor who plays in one of the jazz groups got them for us. Though we’ve never exchanged words with him, apparently he also went to our previous live at the cafe. What a lovely gesture!

That night was the last party I think I’ll be able to go to for the jazz circle. Though I talked only with those whose company I’ve come to enjoy, maybe that’s the best way to spend such a night.

Knowing I won’t be able to appear in any more lives with these people made me sad. Sitting alone in my room today became unbearable, so I did what any good American does – get out of the house and drown my sorrows in pudding. Which, in Japan, resembles flan more than it does what we know as pudding. Pudding, flan… it actually does help.


Connie: Days of Wine & Roses

April 17, 2011
About a month ago during one of the jazz circle jam sessions we played this song. One of the circle’s vocalists chose it. I had been typically unimpressed with most of the circle’s vocalists, so I didn’t exactly have high expectations for him either.

Until I heard him sing it. Not only was his English surprisingly comprehensible (he says only when he sings), but his voice was beautiful. It was calming in a way that’s hard to describe. I fell in love with the song and the unique interval used in the chorus, but the problem is, all the professional versions I’ve found don’t match up to the expectations his voice put in my brain (the one I posted is probably the closest, but also the least jazz-like).

In my own ensemble I’m playing it on flute, but I wish I could play it with that vocalist again.


Connie: Tokyo Telephone

April 1, 2011

I completely forgot to post my music suggestion on the last day of March! But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with posting it a bit late, right? I remember years ago in my hometown the popular radio station was meant to give away a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but someone at the station dropped the ball, so instead they gave away a post-Mardi Gras trip and called it Tardi Gras. This is something like that, only I’m not giving away anything that cool (or lame, depending on how you view it).

But I digress. I actually can’t believe I haven’t suggested this band before. I’ve been entirely infatuated with their music for a very long time now. Out of all the bands and artists I listen to, I truly believe that this group is one of the most skilled and stylistically creative. They are the lovely Merry, a band whose name is almost impossible to google.

While this band tends to be grouped with other visual kei bands, they are technically part of a genre called アングラ系 (angura kei), which is kind of a bastardization of the English word “underground”. So the genre’s name means “underground type” and, while groups in this genre are always lumped in with visual kei groups, their focus is a bit less on the visual and their music tends to be more approachable. Merry actually evolved into this angura kei after starting as エログロ系 (eroguro kei), which is another Japanized version of the English for “erotic and grotesque type”. This genre is actually not as much of a shock-genre as it might sound; there is actually a Japanese art movement from the 1930s with the same name. So while you might pick up one of their older CDs and raise an eyebrow at the cover or wonder why the vocalist slowly loses pieces of clothing as their live shows drag on, in the end it’s really a reference to an art movement. These days, however, they’ve toned it a bit down.

As for Merry’s music itself, they are heavily jazz influenced. This is why I find them so fascinating to listen to. You have all of the elements of visual and hard rock along with walking bass lines and swung percussion. The vocalist’s sound is a bit strange, and you realize that in any genre but the one Merry has concocted, it might sound off. However there’s something about his lilting voice that really rounds it off.

I also feel I should mention that the percussionist, Nero, is just about the best drummer I’ve ever heard. I’m sure if you search youtube for his drum solo you won’t regret it.

They played in Okayama yesterday, but unfortunately I lacked the funds to go see them. I’m hoping they’ll do a nice outdoors show somewhere in the summer. Everyone says they’re absolutely stunning live, and the clips I’ve seen suggests the same.

Here is the jazz piano version of my favorite song of theirs, Tokyo Telephone. If you like it then I suggest you try listening to the rock version as well.


Connie: Still a Shigure Virgin?

October 29, 2010

That’s actually the title of a CD I bought yesterday. It’s also by the band I’m going to suggest to you this month. Their name is 凛として時雨 (Rin toshite Shigure) and I liked them from the moment I heard them, though maybe they’re a bit strange.

A few weeks ago one of my Japanese friends invited me to go to an izakaya with him. Me and one other American went. Everyone else was Japanese. It was a good chance for immersion, though when it came to group conversations I was lost a good 80% of the time. I ended up talking one-on-one with several people, which was a bit easier. One guy I talked to got on the subject of music. I told him what I liked and he ended up suggesting this band to me. He wrote down their name and handed me the piece of paper. When I looked it up on youtube later I fell instantly in love.

Thus started my quest to find their CD. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it at any of the used CD shops, and I had to pay full price. I don’t mind so much, because I really enjoy them. This is the first song of theirs I heard.

While we’re on the subject of music, I got 12 music posters yesterday. At YouMe Town if you purchase a CD you can feel free to take a poster. Then we went to a used book store called Book Off where I bought three magazines for very cheap. One of them came with a single poster, the other contained 10. My room looks like a record shop.

I think I’m going to develop a serious liking for the band The Kiddie. Maybe you’ll see them in this post next month.


Connie: Exploring Japan

September 27, 2010

Yesterday I had an abundance of free time. What do you do with free time while you’re in a city you’ve never been to on the other side of the world? You explore of course! The Japanese word of the day was うろうろ(urouro), which means wandering aimlessly.

I started out by having lunch at a cute little cafe near my hotel. My first meal in Japan was beef curry. I’m not a particularly large fan of curry, but this stuff was fairly good, fairly cheap, and it sure filled me up. That’s what I’m discovering about Japanese food—for some reason it fills you up, even if the portions aren’t as big as American ones.

After this I wandered down a large street, checking out the various stores. It was the middle of the day while most people were at work, so it wasn’t terribly crowded. Most of what I looked at was music or book shops, with a 100 yen store thrown in. My favorite was this cute little music shop in the basement of some building. It was tiny and completely FILLED with CDs and posters of visual kei bands. The Gazette’s new single “Red” was playing on repeat and I spent a long time browsing. It was my kind of paradise. I didn’t buy anything the first time, but I liked the place so much I ended up going back and buying a magazine… Even though I didn’t want to spend money. I’m not complaining. The old guy working there threw in a few fliers and told me about Piece’s concert.

After having sufficiently wandered up and down that street I got lost in some tangled back roads trying to head back to the hotel. When I finally emerged from the tangle this is what I was faced with:

Needless to say, it wasn’t going to be hard to find my way back since I’d wandered out right next to the Hiroshima Dome, a building that remained standing despite the atomic bomb so many years ago. Of course having wandered out here I couldn’t just head back to the hotel. I had to explore Peace Park (広島平和記念公園).

Despite all the people wandering about it was peaceful. It was so green and beautiful. Though fairly humid the weather was good for walking about. The park is right on the river, where you can see tour boats drifting casually by. There was also a ‘concert’ going on right on the bank. A woman with a lovely voice was singing older Japanese songs. I stopped to listen for a while before going on. I enjoyed the display cases they had filled with colorful origami—I would have taken a picture if it weren’t for the signs advising me not to. There were elementary school students running around all over the place, presumably on a field trip. It was a nice place to accidentally end up at.

After having tired myself out wandering around I laid down with a bento from a convenience store and watched some Japanese television. The highlights: a dubbed Billy Mays commercial, Pimp My Ride with Japanese subtitles that had amusing mistranslations of the slang, and a Pokemon episode. I think these things sufficiently tell you that I’m kind of a nerd. I also watched baseball for a bit, and some music show with Daigo Stardust.

Today I have to find my way to Saijo so I can move into my dorm. I’m excited. However, I don’t know when I’ll get internet; whether the dorm has wifi or if I’ll have to wait several weeks for a provider. So until the time comes for me to be online again, see you! じゃーまたね。



Trystan: Scandinavian music

March 21, 2010

Something’s afoot here. I’m sure you’ve experienced it before—the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenonbut it doesn’t make it any less surprising when it happens.

I listen to a lot of music. I’m almost always listening, in fact. What I’m generally not aware of is where the artist is from. Some folks can hear the name of a band and BAM, “Oh yeah, they’re from Michigan” or what-have-you. I’m not that guy.

But there’s a handful of bands that I’ve been listening to lately that have suddenly, to me at least, been from Scandinavia. I knew José González was, but that’s about it. I also recently found out The Knife (José covered “Heartbeats”) is also from Sweden—and, in another coincidence—that the lead singer (Karin Dreijer Andersson) is the singer of Fever Ray. I’d just started listening to Fever Ray a month or so ago, and this circle of logical doom blew my mind.

Before I came to Norway, I heard Sondre Lerche on 89.3 The Current and really, really liked him. Turns out he’s from Bergen! Kings of Convenience are also from Bergen. Here’s another: Did you know Röyksopp (I imagine most people will recognize one of these two) is from Tromsø?

A week or two ago I started listening to The Tallest Man On Earth. I’ve been digging him quite a bit, so I did some good ol’ fashioned googlin’ (do you still capitalize that, or has it drifted into common slang by now?). He’s from Sweden! Annie is another artist I came across randomly a few weeks ago. SHE’S FROM BERGEN, TOO. By now I’m starting to get a little aggravated that this is so common, so I end up on Wikipedia (let’s face it, most internet browsing ends up with you stuck for hours digging through Wikipedia). I found this: Bergen Wave. There’s a whole term for this!

I’m not making this up. I didn’t specifically trawl the internet for Scandinavian / Norwegian music. There are a handful of sites that I randomly download music from. The internet is a big place. What are the odds of running across this many Scandinavian artists so recently? At any rate, I’ve realized that Bergen is a huge music scene—I really need to start getting to more shows. I knew it was pretty happenin’ before (I mean, they’ve already had, what, 3 music festivals?), but now it’s getting crazy.

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