Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Posts Tagged ‘ music ’

TV Cuts VS Full Versions

February 19, 2009 Editorial 6 Comments

A few weeks ago, “trust you” by Yuna Ito debuted as Gundam 00 S2‘s second ending theme. I’ve always considered Yuna Ito to be a good artist — her voice is very pretty and most of her melodies are nice to listen to. I liked the work she did for the two live action NANA movies, but I had yet to hear a song of hers that really struck me as being amazing. “trust you” was definitely a first love kind of thing, though I do think that the context of 00’s ending animation, as well as the themes of the series itself, helped a lot with that. It’s a very thoughtful package; both the song and the animation have a nostalgic, peaceful, and contemplative feel to them. It’s the best kind of ending theme: one that makes you reflect on the series in a serious kind of way. It’s especially appropriate for Gundam, even if I don’t really think 00 specifically deserves something so appropriate.

I found myself listening to the song pretty often and counting the days until the single’s release. That’s the wonderful marketing ploy of it all. Anime themes are always singles, and they always debut on air a month or two before the single’s due to release. That’s a month or two that you have to sit around with a minute to minute and a half teaser of a beautiful song. It drove me nuts. I actually really love the TV cut version of “trust you” though; it’s easy to tell where things are abbreviated, but I thought it was pieced together very well. It’s obvious that the intro is probably longer and it feels like the first verse extends directly into final chorus.

Well, the single’s still not due out until March 4th, but the PV released a day or two ago, so I got ahold of a PV rip. Finally! A full length version of the song! …Why doesn’t it sound as nearly good as the TV Cut?

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I Want Karaoke Tracks

January 23, 2009 Editorial 6 Comments

So I like to sing. Generally, if I know the lyrics to something, I can’t help but sing. Sometimes, even if I don’t know the lyrics, I’ll make something up and warble along. I don’t own an mp3 player, so I make up for this by singing a capella to myself when I’m on the go or waiting for the bus or whatever. I suppose I like to think I’m reasonably good, so sometimes when I need a break from work or have random pent up energy, I’ll have a recording session with Audacity and see if I can get anything half-decent recorded. As such, I really love the fact that many j-pop artists release off-vocal, instrumental, or karaoke tracks alongside their singles.

I don’t normally play the karaoke tracks by themselves, mostly because I get really self-conscious if I don’t have the original vocals to hide behind, but most of them will match up with the vocal version, so I can record myself alongside the original vocals, then trade the track for the karaoke to hear my own vocals. It works well enough. (Maybe someday, I’ll have something that’s decent enough to share here?)

Unfortunately, not all of the music I listen to and want to sing to provides karaoke tracks. I’ve noticed that most j-pop singers will provide them for their singles. Tommy heavenly6, angela, FictionJunction YUUKA, Nami Tamaki, Mika Nakashima, and Utada Hikaru all generally provide a karaoke track. ALI PROJECT usually has karaoke tracks (not like I’ll ever be able to sing their stuff anyway). L’Arc~en~Ciel, Gackt, and T.M. Revolution are also pretty consistent about including a karaoke version of their singles. But the further you venture from pop and the more into rock and alternative you get, the less likely there will be karaoke tracks.

I don’t expect -miyavi-, Dir en grey, or Maximum the Hormone to ever include karaoke tracks. Maybe it’s just because it’s much harder for the average person to sing along with their music, but that doesn’t stop them from appearing on karaoke machines in karaoke bars, etc, so clearly there’s some kind of demand for them. Most of the karaoke places I’ve visited have surprised me with the selection of music they have available. I don’t really know how the licensing on these things work, but I suspect that a lot most of the songs don’t feature “official” karaoke versions, only edited versions where someone has manually extracted the vocal track. Such methods usually leave a ghost voice, but at a karaoke bar, it’d be really hard to tell. This is probably how they manage to get karaoke versions of most English-language songs as well, ’cause really, when was the last time an American, Canadian, or British artist included an official karaoke track on their single or album?

It’s obvious from the word itself that karaoke originated in Japan, but I’ve always wondered why its popularity is so subdued in the States when it’s all the rage across Asia. I mean, it can’t be that only Asians like singing, right? If shows like American Idol can be so popular, why aren’t karaoke tracks more common on American musical releases? Why aren’t there more karaoke places outside of Chinatowns? The Asian population is Savannah is slim to none, which means there isn’t a karaoke place for miles and miles. This drives me crazy. I really want to go out to karaoke, but there’s no where to go!

I think the only English-language official karaoke tracks I have are for Disney songs. Everyone loves to sing Disney songs, I guess? Or maybe it’s because most of those movies are musicals? But if that’s the case, why isn’t there a karaoke version of every Broadway soundtrack? Why can’t I find karaoke versions of the songs from The Lion King on Broadway? Beauty and the Beast on Broadway? RENT? I would really love to see more official karaoke version of English-language songs since it’d spare me the trouble of making them myself. Plenty of songs are begging to be sung to, so come on.

Maybe lack of encouragement in the form of karaoke tracks can be my excuse as to why I know the lyrics to more Japanese songs than English songs. 8|

Christmas Gift

Kokia’s 8th album
12th November, 2008

I’ve not heard much about Kokia… most likely because I haven’t seen all too many series she’s done music for. She did a song for Origin: Spirits of the Past, but it must not have left a very big impression on me because I can’t remember it at all. In any case, I was looking for Christmasy music and came across this album, so I figure I’d give it a shot. I love my Christmas music, and I love my j-pop, so this has to be good, right? Here are my thoughts from an hour of just sitting and listening to music:

TRACK 01: Amazing Grace (YouTube it)
Kokia’s voice starts off eerie and soft, but it really does have a beautiful quality to it. Her notes are high and very sustained — her trademark ability, apparently — giving it an even more surreal quality. There’s a soft echo in the back, almost like a canon, but it fades out too quickly… oh, wait, there it is again after a brief silence. It still fades in and out, but it’s really interesting sounding when it’s there. Beautiful violin solo, keeps the mood nicely. It’s creepy, but it’s pretty soothing too. Good music for a quiet evening.

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Japanese Music You Aren’t Listening to but Should

December 1, 2008 Recommendations Comments Off on Japanese Music You Aren’t Listening to but Should

A majority of the music I listen to these days happen to be Japanese. Back in the day, my selection was limited to what I heard in anime opening and ending themes, as well as insert songs and the occasional character image song. These days, though a fair selection of my library have performed an anime song or two, there are quite a bit that haven’t. And I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten my hands on new, fresh-off-the-press artists too. So I like sharing, ’cause sharing is caring, and because it really surprises me that some of these artists aren’t better known because they certainly deserve the attention! Three artists in particular I’ve been a fan of for a while, and it continues to puzzle me that not many people I know listen to them regularly.

First up is ONE OK ROCK, a rock band formed in 2006 with a pretty modern and Western-influenced style. They usually sing in Japanese but are partial to incorporating a fair bit of English into their lyrics. The English is heavily accented, but once you figure out what they’re saying, it usually makes sense, so in that regard, it isn’t exactly Engrish. Their general style and some of their subject matter reminds me a bit of ELLEGARDEN also, but they’re hardly a clone; in particular, their vocalists’ voices have very different edges to them. Taka’s vocal range is also a bit more varied, I think; he tackles a good range of notes and has some pretty nice falsettos (I’m a sucker for falsettos, yes?). They’re a really energetic bunch all around and have a lot of energy. They’re something good to listen to when you’re working or in a good mood.

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So after an epic, ten-hour wait in line, I saw Dir en grey last night at the House of Blues in Houston (this is the link to my report of the concert on last.FM). The only down point about the entire experience was the whole cutting-in-line issue that has been prevalent both other times I saw them, and I’m forced to wonder, is this common? I suppose it really has nothing to do with being a gigantic weeaboo, but I’ve only ever attended five concerts, including last night’s. Three of those five shows were for Dir en grey, though to be fair, one of the Diru shows was technically a Deftones show. Of the other two, one was to see Muse at Madison Square Garden, and the other was to see Meg&Dia, a very indie band at a very indie venue. Since I didn’t have pit tickets for Muse and since Meg&Dia isn’t exactly a big deal, the Dir en grey shows are the only shows where I had to deal with lines.

I don’t understand people that don’t understand line etiquette since it seems like it should be common sense. When a line starts to form at the break of dawn the day of the show (and occasionally, the day or night before the show), it’s obvious that people will be coming and going a bit, but the point of getting there so early is to hold your own place, not someone else’s. Below are two rules that I think are fairly intuitive… if everyone followed them, I would have absolutely no quarrel with anyone in line.

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First Impressions: Dir en grey’s UROBOROS

November 12, 2008 Review Comments Off on First Impressions: Dir en grey’s UROBOROS

Dir en grey’s 7th album
12th November, 2008

I’m a bit ashamed to say that I hadn’t really been keeping up with Diru news for the last few months, and so the fact that they swapped US labels and were releasing the album a day earlier in the States was completely unknown to me. Thus, I wasn’t prepared with a preorder of the album. I’m not sure how early the leaks got online, but I know Kaoru was ticked about it. I know that it doesn’t alleviate my guilt any, but I downloaded it yesterday and held off on listening to it until today…? I’ll be picking the US release when I go see them in Houston on the 25th, so in any case, let it be known that this band is definitely getting my money in more than one way. ♥

I set aside an hour and half to sit down and listen to this album without distractions. The leak’s quality is definitely not the best, but it’ll do. The album’s cover is one of their best in a while, I think, though I do wish they’d take a break from the monochromatic color schemes. I guess Glass Skin’s cover had color, but other than that, when was the last time they had a ton of colors on their album art? six Ugly? Anyway, this isn’t really a review of the album — I think it’s a lot harder to review music because impressions change much more readily over time compared to other things like series and movies. So these are just first impressions, written as I listened, so the comments are also much more unpolished than they would be in a review. :3

1. Sa Bir: Starts off with some interesting bass buzzing, hushed whispers in the back, and a very haunting melody on some kind of string instrument I’m not familiar with. The feel is very traditional Asian or Indian sounding, which is appropriate considering the title (I have no idea what it means, but it looks Indian or Middle Eastern to me). The voices in the back sound like some kind of story that you only have a vague grasp of — there’s someone threatening sounding and someone defeated sounding. It’s very intriguing… the softness of it does remind me a bit of the first track on MARROW, but the strings and the voices really suggest that something different is happening here.

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There’s been a lot of political gossip going around since Sarah Palin was put on the Republican ticket. Even before that though, McCain was comparing Obama’s rampant popularity, especially among the 18-24 generation, with a celebrity status. This, along with the recent live action movies I’ve seen involving j-musicians, got me to thinking about how most Japanese celebrities are very, very secretive. Japanese people seem to be really into privacy in general though. They rarely put names on personal websites, are gung-ho about blurring out faces in photos, and prefer anonymous BBS to member-registration-required forums. Celebrities, particularly musicians, seem to be take it a step further. For one, most j-rock artists operate under stage names and aliases.

Who knows what 雅 -miyavi-‘s real name is? Pata, hide, Yoshiki, Toshi, and Heath of X Japan — at least three out of five names are obviously fake. The real name of Dir en grey‘s 京 (Kyo) has been a topic of much speculation as he signs his name as Tooru Nishimura in his poetry books, but some sources claim his surname to be Niimura instead. Magazines and fansites love listing supposed real names, but it’s incredibly difficult to find any sort of reliable documentation. Gackt’s full stage name Gackt Camui, but it’s still a far cry from whatever his real name is. Birthdays are similarly difficult to find. Gackt’s birthday is July 4th, but the year is still a big question mark. hyde did not confirm his birthday to the public until an interview in 2002, more than a decade after L’Arc~en~Ciel‘s debut.

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Oh, man. So being the super nostalgic loser that I am, I totally spazzed when my brother shared this amazing find with me. I love oldschool Sonic like whoa. All those hours I put on the Sega Genesis? Probably 75% of it was for Sonic. I’ve never really known about this apparently awesome music arrangement community, but it really makes me feel good to know that there are people out there that still remember these old tunes and are actively remixing them and re-arranging them for the times.

The site, Overclocked Remixes, among other video game titles like Super Metroid and Chrono Trigger, features three Sonic-centric remix albums. They are albums for music from Sonic 3 & Knuckles (best game ever), Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and… an entire 18-track project album dedicated to the music from the Ice Cap Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, lol. All the tracks also stream for free on last.fm. It’s all very awesome.

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Review: Oresama

August 26, 2008 Review 1 Comment

Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of 雅 -miyavi-. This led me to suddenly realize that I haven’t seen Oresama, which I found kind of strange until I went hunting for the movie. Subbed versions of this movie are, apparently, near impossible to find. There is no official subbed DVD version either, so I couldn’t even go and buy the damn thing. Subs on both YouTube and Veoh, in addition to be of poor quality, are all incomplete. (I found an amateur subbed version where seriously, half the subs read “I have no idea what he’s saying here.”) I could find subs in French and freakin’ Malaysian though. Poor miyavi. He’s apparently not popular enough around here to get a finished sub. What gets me the most is the fact that this film’s only about an hour long. Come on. How hard could it be?

(this review contains no spoilers; honestly, there’s not much to spoil)

After about an hour of rampaging around the Internet and finding nothing, I decided to watch it raw. A weeaboo’s knowledge of the language gained from a decade or two of watching anime, however advanced, doesn’t get one very far, sadly. I could pick out greetings, some numbers, some exclamations, some questions and answers, but little more than that. Nevertheless…


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This is something I’ve always been kind of curious about. Dozens of j-pop and j-rock stars are catapulted into successful careers because of songs they provided for various anime (as well as video games and live-action adaptations for anime). Gundam SEED propelled Nami Tamaki into international stardom, and she was one of the first Japanese artists to attend a convention in the US, along with T.M. Revolution, at the Pacific Media Expo in 2004. Similarly, SEED Destiny debuted Hitomi Takahashi. Fullmetal Alchemist certainly did not hurt Nana Kitade, and NANA pushed Mika Nakashima to the top of the Oricon charts along with Yuna Ito. Even well established artists benefit greatly from contributing to anime. I’m sure many people went and looked up Nightmare and Maximum the Hormone for the first time after their respective stints for Death Note, and artists like L’Arc~en~Ciel continue headline anime theme songs even after being around for more than fifteen years.

It’s obviously a mutually beneficial relationship. An opening theme by a popular artist can draw people in that might not otherwise be interested, as loosely related as the themes sometimes are. Honestly, despite being a Gundam fan, I was initially drawn to Gundam 00 because L’Arc~en~Ciel’s single for it, “daybreak’s bell” is absolutely gorgeous. And SOUL EATER drew me in from the very beginning thanks in part to the sheer awesomeness of it’s opening theme, “resonance,” by T.M. Revolution. In turn, flocks of loving fans pick up the corresponding singles, often rushing them to the top of various charts. As well, many people are introduced to artists for the first time and subsequently hunt down other songs by them. For an emerging artist, that kind of attention is invaluable.

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