Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rocking the Seattle commute--J-MUSIC STYLE!



(Exhibit A: Commuting, you say?  LE BARF, I DON'T MORNING, PERISH THE FUCKING THOUGHT!!!)

HALLO every peoples!  So here I am, halfway through my first quarter here at the University of Washington, and holy crap, I have been nothing but busy AND SUCH. Slowly but surely (and in between unholy piles of theory and methodology homework), I'm catching up on all the news that is fit to print in the idol world--mostly thanks to the renewed awesomeness that is C-ute, waiting with bated breath for more Linda III Sei releases, and Kamonegikkusu.  Yes, yes all of that.

OLD NEWS IS OLD, I KNOW.

But between all that, I have actually had a bit of spare time on my hands...in the form of the dreaded commute.  Small townies like myself have all heard stories of the legendary monster known as the commute.  Oh yes...we hear tales of woe and strife...harrowing sagas of road rage and having to pee forever, of the looming threat of the great beastie swallowing you up in its massive jaws so that you may never see the light of day again (or at least the right exit).  We hear them, and we laugh our schadenfreude laughs until we just can't anymore.

But beyond occasional trips to Denver International Airport during rush hour, I have to admit, I didn't really GET it.  Until I got it.

The commute is an uffish, burbling, jabbering, wocking fiend, and I'm fresh out of vorpal swords.

So, if you can't slay it, you might as well live with it.  Normally, I take public transit to and from campus, which amounts to about an hour and 45 minutes worth of sitting on my educationed ass every day.  (To be fair, at least I'm not the poor sap in my program who has to commute from Tacoma every day...it could always be worse.)

However, some days I have to stay on campus after it gets dark, and, well, I'm just a little paranoid about public transit after a certain hour.  Not in that I'm going to get mugged or something, but being the only one on a bus for around 9 stops one night kinda left a bad taste in my mouth.  So on those days, I hop in my trusty beast of an SUV (which is the only Wyoming plate for a lot-of-miles radius) and have to hope I don't get creamed while Frogger-ing my way across I-5 for 9-ish exits.

(Note to Seattle drivers: nah, you guys are actually pretty awesome.  Trust me, I know how to drive in Denver.  Now those guys are dicks.)

It's not always easy to stay upbeat about life while driving in a cloudy, traffic-y mess, but I've got a few recommends for you guys to kick off some new blogging from THE ME!

(Here's a Sayanee.  Always relevant.)

Top 5 commuting tunes for sanity and optimism

5. Gackt: "GHOST"

This song was used as the opening to the Japanese version of the Sarah Connor Chronicles (which was probably met with better reception over there, but I digress), and it is, in my opinion, one of Gackt's more infectious songs, partly thanks to the PV.  Seriously, if you can escape the pull of that smoldering, sexy cyborg stare, you're either dead or just plain sexier than Gackt.  And that's a damn tall order, kids.

This song has been one of my driving addictions since it came out.  There's a steely quality to it that I can just about guarantee will keep your eyes on the road and your head in the game.  That being said, if you catch yourself speeding while this song is on...well...just promise not to sue me.  You have been warned.


Other great recommends: "CLAYMORE," "Episode.0," "Mind Forest."

4. mouse on the keys "Completed nihilism" & "Spectres de mouse"

This one found its way to my collection thanks to the ever-brutal Henkka over at metal/instrumental paradise, Beat Laments the World.  These songs are placed right next to each other on this amazing ensemble's 2009 album, "An Anxious Object," but for some reason I just can't listen to them separately anymore.  They just...go together.

I love this song because of it's almost supernatural mind-clearing powers. I kid you not--whether or not you consider yourself a particularly musical person, it's hard not to listen to the amazing drummer and try not to count every beat.  And when you can focus on something so brilliantly simple and mathematical for a while, you may be surprised how it helps you to organize every other little thought in your head.  This song is like playing Go, except you're listening.


Other great recommend: "Saigo no Bansan"

3. moumoon: "moonlight"

This song has been a perennial favorite of mine since it came out.  This is my chill-out jam. "moonlight" is actually a bit off the beaten path for moumoon--it's not as overtly upbeat as a lot of the rest of their repertoire, but that's partly what drew me to it.  Long story short, this song is an instant road rage cure.


Other great recommends: "Tomodachi/Koibito," "We Go."

2. sakanaction "Bach no Senritsu o Yoru ni Kiita Sei Desu."

There have been a couple of days since I've been here that I've driven to campus simply because I woke up on the gloomy, morose side of the bed.  Somehow, a good drive usually fixes that for me.  Then putting this song on fixes it even better.  (Screw grammar, I do what I want.)

This song was insanely popular when it came out, but don't let those naggy hipster feelers steer you away from it.  It's a great pick-me-up; especially when you can sing along to it.


Other great recommends: "Nantettatte Haru," "Sample."

1. LOVE LOVE LOVE "Cider (dancing ver.)"

If I were forced to live on a desert island for a year, and I could only bring one album with me to keep myself entertained, it would be LOVE LOVE LOVE's "KYOTOKYO" album.  And then I would probably listen to nothing but this song.  After that album came out in 2011 (the only album you can get this song on so far), it took me a good 2 years to hunt it down and make it mine.  Just for this song.

This is one of the only songs I've ever found in that I literally CANNOT be unhappy while I'm listening to it.  (Trust me, I've, um, tried.  You know how that is)  This re-write of one of their first singles is just a great listen, great to sing along to, and once you watch the PV and see the one guy just dancing around and grinning like a grand old fool, you won't be able to get it out of your head.

I promise you that.


Other great recommend: "Planetarium."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

On "furusato:" 10 idol songs that make me feel at home

(Pictured: spring.  No, seriously.)

As I prepare to leave Laramie for Seattle for grad school in a little over a week, I have been thinking an awful lot about what the concept of "home" really means, and as always, these mental musings come with a soundtrack.  :P

A very, very dear friend of mine and I had a conversation when I picked him up from the airport a few months ago.  We were talking about where we grew up, our families and such, when the conversation drifted to the "what does it really mean to be 'home'" realm.  It had been on my mind a lot before this, especially after reading a wonderful article by Maki Itoh (of Just Bento fame) called "My furusato, myself."  (seriously, if you haven't read this, go read it NAO!!!)

“Furusato” is my favorite Japanese word.  On the surface, it means “hometown.”  Truly, it means the place that grew you, the place that helped you become who you are, the place that shaped you, the place that helped you become fully human.  Though I have lived many other places in my life, Laramie will always be that to me, and the many, many people who came into my life here will always be with me.

And you know what the funny, amazing, cosmic thing about all this is?  It was literally mere moments after I dropped him off, after we had that amazing conversation, that I learned I got accepted to grad school.

So here is a very special list of my top idol songs for home!

Top 10 idol songs for my hometown

10. "Furusato" Morning Musume



How could I start this list without including the "um, DUH" choice?  :P  Honestly, it wasn't until Kusumi Koharu graduated from Morning Musume that I really listened to this song.  I liked it so much for the translation that I recorded a cover of it--which stayed up for almost 3 years before The YouTube Popos found the OMG COPYRIGHT STUFF.  I relate to this song very much because I left for college two months after my 17th birthday and never looked back.  At times, I kind of was the epitome of "wagamama musume" when I lived at home, so I really related to that.

And sure, Laramie is SO NOT TOKYO.  But to me at that age, it might as well have been.


9. "Cha Cha SING" Berryz Kobo



This song was so perfect for the Berryz girls to cover.  I just fell in love with it the second the preview came out.  So much that I played it (and Bird Thongchai's original) on repeat for about two weeks while I ran the office by myself last summer.  Hey, when the boss is away, the idols WILL PLAY!

A lot.


8. "Jet Coaster Love" KARA




So, fun story with this one: I have a good friend here in Laramie who ran a radio show called Cognitive Dissonance for 4 years.  Last night was the last show because she, too is leaving for grad school at the same time I am.  I used to be a regular guest on the show, and even after I stopped doing segments, I would still go and hang out with people, and occasionally make requests.

Well, ONE FINE DAY, she needed me to help her out with getting her Adderall prescription filled.  Because being a broke college student is exactly and all it's cracked up to be.  In exchange, since it was very close to the time of the Tohoku tsunami (and all the proceeds from this song were going to the relief effort), I convinced her, the hip-hop, underground indie music lover that she is (COUGH HIPSTER LOLS J/K SORT OF), to play this song on her radio show.  In the middle of Wyoming.

BECAUSE I BOUGHT YOU ADDERALL AND YOU OWED ME :P


7. "Dakishimete Dakishimete" Berryz Kobo




This is my favorite Berryz Kobo song, and it was the first idol dance I ever learned.  Awesome sweaty times were had by all.


6. "Onedari Dai Sakusen" BABYMETAL




Very recent addition to my awesomeness list.  I, like, just got my copy of Megitsune.  And the b-side is amazing.  This song is amazing.  I have been driving around with it cranked up to 11 all week.  And I looked in my rear-view the other day and saw the guy behind me grinning and bobbing his head to the song.

Mehehe.


5. "Forever Remember" Idoling!!!




I love this song a lot.  It's just so nice and chill.

I first heard it a few years ago on my Ipod when I was coming back from a weekend field trip for one of my religious studies class.  The whole day was a pretty spiritual day for me (what with the nature and the meditation and the boonies and all that), and hearing this song somehow just made it all the easier to just sit and think about the universe on the ride back.

It happens sometimes.


4. "Sugar Rush" AKB48




My friends and I went to see "Wreck it Ralph" last year, and it was loved by all.  And my buddy Frank, who was a former roommate of mine, absolutely LOVED Sugar Rush.  Like, play-on-repeat-a-lot loved it.  I was so stoked that I got the chance too to point out all the girls to my friends and be all "OH MY GOD THAT'S MAYUYU AND THAT'S YUKO AND OMG TOMOCHIIIIIINNNNN!!!!" and things.

Yeah, they thought it was a little weird, but occasionally I'd like to think that's why they hang around me.  :P

And that's why I love them.  (LESS THAN THREE!!!!)


3. "Ookina Ai de Motenashite" C-ute



The song that, oddly enough, started my fiery tailspin into idol fan land!  You'd think that me, whose musical tastes usually land along the techno-metal-gothic-post-rock-epic instrumentals spectrum, that this would have turned me off quicker than immediately.  Yet...it got stuck on repeat somehow.  I blame Airi :P


2. "On the Way ~Yakusoku no basho e~" SweetS



Shortly after discovering C-ute, I discovered SweetS.  And I was super bummed when I found out that they had broken up almost three years prior.

One of the first songs on my now massive YouTube favorites playlist, and one of the first idol songs to find its way onto my Ipod, "On The Way" solidified my love for Haruna and Mai, and I had many lovely dancey walks to class to this song.  Which, during the year I discovered it, was massively important.


1. "UZA" AKB48



Okay, everyone loves this song.  How could you not?  I mean with the steampunk things and the phat beatzzz and the Jurina and the....

But this song kind of saved my ass.  No, literally.

Fun fact: driving in a blizzard in the dark along I-25 to Denver when you're already almost late for a crucial meeting with your mentor (one that got me a kick-ass recommendation letter for grad school) SUCKS MANY MEGA MOUNTAINS OF FIERY BALLS.  So, I turned off my audiobook I was listening to (Orientalism is fascinating, but really dry, let's be honest here...) and popped in UZA.

I then magically became too badass not to dodge all the ice-fucked semis in my way.  I am pretty sure I would have been road pizza were it not for this song.  Thanks, Jurina!!


That's all for now, everyone!  I will resume regular updates when I make landfall in Seattle!



Monday, May 6, 2013

UNMEI, THIS IS!


It has been WAY TOO LONG since a TGS post happened here.

So, have you all seen "Unmei" yet?  Because seriously, you need to.  Like right now.  TGS has not disappointed me with any of their releases yet, but this just might be, at least to me, their strongest in terms of vocals.  It's not quite as catchy as "Limited Addiction" or "Bad Flower," but the girls' vocals blew me away.

Ayano in particular is just a standout.  She hits those low notes better than just about any other idol I've heard recently.  I was also quite impressed with Yuri.  Her voice has never really stood out to me, simply because it's not distinct, but she's got it down in this.

Mei got quite a bit of screen time, which I was very pleased with.  She's quite adept with her facial expressions, and anymore, I kind of see her as being the "vibes" of the group in general.

I have to admit, I was really surprised by the lack of Hitomi vocals.  She has been the most heavily featured vocalist for quite some time, so to see her as just the face of the group was odd.  I suppose her voice can't quite reach the notes that Ayano and Yuri were hitting, which makes sense.  To be fair, her lack of lines were very much made up for  by her dance solos.  I'd never noticed what a talented dancer she is until recently.

Our girls are growing up, y'all!  Though it still seems like yesterday that they were cutsey-ing it up with Kirari, I love their mature sound.

FFS, EMBED CODES WTF

http://youtu.be/Vhbq65WcH3o

Sunday, May 5, 2013

On Bully, on yin and yang, on change and love.



Sometimes, I feel there are non-idoly things on my mind that are too important not to share.  As with a couple of other posts of this nature I have done in the past, I will take this down after a time.

I posted a less-polished version of this as a Facebook status a few weeks ago, and it hasn't left my mind since.  Sometimes, there are things in life that deeply affect us in a way we can't articulate with a few words or gestures.  There is a little thing I watched a little while ago, and it made me think about life, the universe, and everything.  I kept it to "myself" (and those I'm connected to on FB) for quite a while, but a few things have happened in this past week that made me want to share this with you.

This week has been very good to me, while being very cruel to others in my life.  I recently returned from a conference for the non-profit I work for, which teaches a 5-point ear acupuncture protocol for trauma response treatment, drug and alcohol recovery, and stress management.  I met lots of incredible people, learned many things about the light and darkness in the world, and did my best to atone for a big slip-up I made last week.  And it was hard to do all this while a dear friend of mine was back in Wyoming, afraid to leave her home because of death and rape threats.

But the biggest thing I learned was not at the conference.  I was talking with my oldest friend and truest soulmate, Eric, this week about my upcoming move to Seattle.  Eric and I have known each other for over a decade, and we've seen the best and the worst of each other, sometimes at the same time.  But through it all, he is one of the few people on the planet I feel I can expose my worst flaws to and not be arbitrarily judged.

(Oh, don't get me wrong, we do openly judge each other, but in ways that help us to grow and not be assholes :P )

We were sitting in the park in Denver just being with each other, when he told me that he was happy I got into grad school somewhere else, even though it meant I would be moving a long way.  His penultimate piece of advice to me was this: "Create new habits and get out of old patterns. A new place will be a good way to start doing that."

I have lived in Wyoming since I was 10, and these past almost 16 years have seen me through both the best and worst years of my life.  I have learned many things here, some good and some really, really bad.  And some of these things were learned as a kid.

They follow me.  But some must stay behind and change for good.

*   *   *

So, I finally watched "Bully." (Because not only am I hip, I am WITH IT, YO.) It was masterfully put together, mind-twistingly informative, and even pretty damn poetic in places.

But above all, it was incredibly painful.

Like many people I know, watching "Bully" was a deeply personal experience on many levels.

I was NEVER a kid who was liked by other kids. Not ever, with the POSSIBLE exception of a couple years in high school when I just couldn't be bothered to give a fig. I had very few friends, and many of them didn't even want to be seen with me.

The list of adjectives and nicknames people used when referring to me is quite extensive, and I have not forgotten a single one of them. I know when and why each one was born, and in many cases, I remember the first person who used it.

But I remember so much more than that. For many people, time heals many wounds. Not so with me. One thing not many people know about me is that I have an exceptional memory. Not photographic, but it feels that way some days.

I remember: it was the last class of one particular day in eighth grade. One person spotted something I was drawing (Pokemon, if you must know), and that was all it took. Names, adjectives, looks and observations started coming from every person in the class save one, who looked away in either shame or embarassment. I crouched down in my chair and closed my eyes, trying to take the counselor's advice and "just ignore them." When it became too much, I sat up straight and opened my eyes. And everything was LITERALLY washed in red.

The next day, I faked being sick so my mother (who of course knew I was so very full of shit) would come take me home.

I remember every single first name and every single last name. I remember what classes we had together. I remember what some of their favorite animals, favorite shoes and favorite subjects were. I remember what shows they weren't allowed to watch on TV.

I remember the color of their hair, the unique downturn each one got in one corner of their mouth when they looked at me, where their bus stopped. I remember some of their favorite sports, where they went to church, and where they smoked after school. I remember some things that they were really good at.

I remember seeing some of them get hurt and cry. I remember seeing some hurt themselves. I remember how some of us learned to lie to get attention and praise, and I remember feeling horrible whenever we did.

For some of them, I remember how they were a friend to me for a while, and then one day, as kids are wont to do, they either left or betrayed me. Some of them, I have long since forgiven, and they know it. For others, most of whom I know I will never see again, I hold a deep grudge.

But beyond all of MY personal memories, I also remember something else: I remember THEIR pain. No matter how badass they tried to appear when juxtaposing their place on the totem pole with mine, I could ALWAYS see it. And some days, I know I contributed to it, whether out of wanting revenge, a desire to get even, or just plain old thoughtlessness.

*   *   *

I remember: There were two boys in fourth grade. I remember both of their names, every single line on their face, how many freckles one of them had, and their favorite spots and imaginary games to play at recess. They were exactly one link above me in the food chain, and they knew it. Though they weren't safe from peer shaming either, they took advantage of that one link every chance they got.

But there was one day when the three of us had a single, blinding moment of understanding. One day, we met on the playground.  For a while, we threw our peers' nicknames at each other, until I got fed up and threw a school counselor favorite at them:

"How would you feel if someone called you a name like that?"

The freckled boy replied simply: "We DO know how it feels. We get called XYZ every day." At that moment, we just looked at each other, bobbled our heads, and walked our separate ways. This moment changed nothing on the outside, but it opened my eyes forever, even if showing it in front of the ravenous children was verboten.


I remember: There was a boy in junior high whom I ended up having a crush on for four years, and who was also pretty mean to me. I knew he would never ever feel the same way about me, even without overhearing a conversation of his in which the words "no way!" were uttered.  I had resolved long before that day never to say a word to him unless I had to--I was a dreamer, but I wasn't stupid.

I was talking to one of his best friends in class one day. Though this boy was also usually standoffish toward me, he was merciful, and could feign niceness long enough to get me to shut up. Somehow, we got to talking about "crush boy," and as a defense mechanism, I pulled a 90s classic: a "yo momma" joke. His friend looked at me and said only 4 words: "His mom is dead."

"Oh," I said. I turned red and went back to making my clay cow-lion thing.  I went home and cried for him that day, and I never mentioned my feelings for him to anyone else.


I remember: I'd grown a spine at one point in high school. Some boys were bringing up "old shit," as it were, in the middle of class, when I got up to use the pencil sharpener. And one boy, one who didn't usually participate in group shaming sessions, started laughing with them.

At me.

Instead of just letting it slide, as I was pretty good at by this point, I took my newly sharpened pencil, raised it over my head, and jammed it into his back. He bled. He yelled. Loud. I glared and sat down. The class shut up.

*   *   *

Bullying begets bullies. Bullying is both a symptom and a contagion.

You know what the red landscape and the pencil incident have in common? Both times, the teacher in the class, the person who had studied for so long to help mold the minds of the future, did absolutely NOTHING.

In one case, an entire class got away with torturing me for what felt like 10 solid minutes. In another case, I got away with flat out assaulting another student, who was a good kid, because I was feeling fucking froggy.

None of the adults in the education INDUSTRY who were featured in "Bully" did a damn thing to protect the children, much less teach them.

Watching "Bully" was, for me, like watching a horror movie that wasn't directed by Joss Whedon.  I hate horror movies.  They do things to my head.  But the reason I've never been good with a lot of horror movies is not because I can't deal with gore or with being startled--it's because the gravitas of people being cruel to one another literally makes me sick.

I have both taken it and dished it out. Few did anything meaningful to stop any of it beyond tried-and-tried-again platitudes.

I have spent many a night over the course of my short 25 years on this planet wondering what I did wrong. How did I become such a shit-magnet?

Most days, it's gotten pretty easy to say to myself  "You know what? It's the past now. You grew up. You made it. You're going places now, honey child." But other days, it's far easier to regress into a state of constant "You have always been too weird; too showy; too impulsive; too this, that, the other thing."

And still other days, it's "you deserved it. Karma, bitch."

I don't think any child should have to grow up thinking like this. You know what skill that the children, the HUMAN BEINGS in miniature, who are bullied and who learn to bully have honed the sharpest? It's not hurting others. It's not having a thick skin. It's not sneakiness or street smarts.  And it's not attention-seeking.

It is the constant state of learning to walk, to strive and to EXIST completely and utterly alone.

*   *   *

I also remember some others who were unlucky enough to be on the same social rung as I. I remember their stories, some of their likes and dislikes, and, in some cases, their family life.

I remember: A blond-haired, blue-eyed girl in elementary school. Not only did she have to be "the new kid" at one point, but she was totally different in every way. Her voice was deep, and she snapped at people when she got angry, but above all that, she was blind in one eye and moved her mouth sideways when she talked. And we became great friends.

I went to her house for a sleepover. After meeting her two gorgeous high school age twin sisters, we went and played. Then her stepdad came home. There was a movie playing on the TV, and one of her sisters took me to watch it as her stepdad marched back to her room.

I pretended to watch the movie, but all I heard was him yelling. Her talking. Him hitting. Screaming and crying. Hitting more. Begging him to stop. Over and over again for 15 minutes. He came out, grabbed a beer and left.

I lost contact with her when I was 15.

*   *   *

Watching "Bully" reminded me that there are some kids who are bullied at home, at school, or both. Some who were in far worse situations than I. I felt so unworthy of having made it out alive and stronger, because of their stories.

But I also know that their sacrifice must be made worth something.

This continues into adulthood, whether we know it or not.  Their sacrifice must be made worth something.

I am a deeply flawed human being. Those who hurt me, and those whom I hurt in return, are deeply flawed human beings. And we still treat this as something that should push us away from each other. But this is really the reason we need to pick up all the puzzle pieces of humanity, realize that none of us has all the right pieces, and love the crap out of each other.

This is what "Bully," this week, and those I love, once loved, and still love, have reminded me of.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Idol blogging and social networking: Don't be a TOF

(Pictured: A prime specimen TOF in its natural habitat.)

We all have our very own That One Friend.  

You know, the TOF who still refuses to text because "well, 'tis just a TERRIBLE communication method, sir!" 

The TOF who still refuses to get a Facebook page because "it's just for 'collecting people.'"

Or conversely, the TOF who is all like, "I used Facebook before it was cool, and now it's just too mainstream and corporationey, duuuuuude."

The TOF who won't use Twitter because "PSSHAW, the truly erudite simply do NOT express things in 140 characters or less."

The TOF who refuses to get a cell phone because reasons.  (Yes, those still exist.)

The TOF who won't use Tumblr because "it's a slippery slope of stupid." (Okay, I'll let that one slide)

Well, until very recently, I was 100% guilty of being a huge TOF.

(Pictured: A GIGANTIC FUCKING SNOB!!!)

When I first started doing the idol blogging THING in late 2010, I had no clue what I was doing.  Before that, this blog housed a mishmash of political posts (UGH) and creative non-fiction that I was too embarrassed to post on Facebook.  But during a couple of dark, heavy quarter-life crisis years that hit me like a brick shithouse after I finished my first B.A., I dove headfirst into idol culture and discovered an honest-to-jeebus passion.

And for a while, it confused the crap out of me.

On one hand, I was taken aback by the weird love-ban rules and the mostly male fanbase and the gravure photobooks and all the institutionalized fuckery those imply.  But on t'other, I was ineffably drawn to the happy fun music, the adorable girls and the complete otherness that comes with being both an idol fan and living the West.  I blame my Gemini-ness, truly.  And that's how fly in the f*ing wine was born!

(Exhibit A: Occidentally in love)

As an idol blogging nooblet, I just kind of just "wrote stuff" in the hope that someone would stumble across it eventually.  I knew that wasn't how the big bad interwebs really worked, but, well, I was too much of a TOF.

What was I to do to get the word out?  Well, playing WoW (yeeeeeeeeeah... yeeeeeeah...) "taught" me that forums are the playground of small-minded 12-year-olds, so that was out...even though I did leave my blog URL in my signature on H!O, and continued to post occasionally.

I also thought about doing Twitter, and I did for a while, but then I came up with some big sophistic rant about how our culture is sloganizing everything to cater to THOSE SILLY COMMONERS, and decided to float away on my big fat cloud of smug to LANDS MORE SOPHISTICATED MMMMYES.

Tumblr was fun for a while, but I got annoyed with how easy it was to just reblog stuff and not come up with original material.  "Well, HARRUMPH TO THAT," I said, twirling my sexy moustache over a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, "I SHALL TAKE MY PHENOMENAL COSMIC SMARTNESS ELSWHEAH!"

(Fitting that this cat is black and white, ne?)

When someone on International Wota found a post of mine and plugged it (probably by finding it through SOME SORT of social media), I felt like a newly discovered starlet.  But I'm not going to lie, I also felt a little smug.  "FINALLY," I huffed, "THE WORLD SHALL KNOW OF MY GREATNESS."  And what happened then?  Well, in Meville, they say, Mara's BIG HEAD grew THREE SIZES THAT DAY!  

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but replace "head" with "confidence," and you've got it spot on.

I decided to try using the "recommend a post" function to promote some of my posts (while, of course, making it clear that that was exactly what I was doing), and I got addicted to surfing the recommended reading section and reading all the awesome stuff idol bloggers have to offer.  I felt icky every time I promoted a post, but in the end, I wanted to participate in a community more than I wanted to NOT look like an arrogant prig.

In addition to being a bit technophobic, I also had some really strange ideas about modesty when I started out as an idol blogger.  For some reason, I had it in my head for the longest time that if I tried to promote myself in any way for any reason, whether I was good at the thing being promoted or not, then I was bad and I should feel bad.  


Thankfully, as time went on, I felt less and less bad about plugging my writing.  But that pesky TOFness still remained.  I got comfortable just coasting along through that one medium.  My audience had increased quite a bit, and for a long time, I thought I was happy with that. But then I joined a few idol fan groups on The Facebooks, and my mind changed almost overnight.  Through the Facebook groups, I got to know a bunch of other idol fans, including some fellow idol bloggers.  And they were cool, hang-out-with-able people!

I've always been someone who likes talking to people.  Any people, about anything, at any time.  That's just who I am.  But *emo flashback noise* I'd also had some confidence issues in that area as well, so it took me a little while to really start participating in conversations.  But once I did, it was fun!

We all traded Twitters and Tumblrs and various other social sites, and everyone was super-excited about it, so I decided to give it a shot and see what everyone was up to.  And you know what?  It wasn't so bad.

Twitter in particular is quite useful.  Yeah, posts are short, sure, but you can post a lot of news in a short amount of time, as well as read about it if you don't feel like clicking the link.  You can have themes to your tweets if you want, where you just post about one thing and give it a short, pithy intro (my current obsession is posting songs I listen to while I write with the intro "Songs to Write to."  Maybe not super original, but simple and fun).  Tumblr is also a great time-waster, and while I do not use it much myself, I follow a lot of my friends that way.

I also started exploring the world of fanfiction recently (as well as writing it myself), and have talked to some fun people while reading some fun stories about how they see their favorite fandom.  People have some neat ideas, and even if they're not the most expertly crafted pieces of literature EVAR, I still have fun reading them.

SO, WHAT'S THE MORAL OF THE STORY?!?!??

In short, the world of social networking has not just been a great tool for me to get the word out about my idol blog, but a great growth tool for me personally.  The internet is scary, kids.  This is a fact.  But not all people out there are trollbags.  In fact, most of them aren't.  And not all fanfiction is JUST FOR THE FAPS.

If you're a new blogger and you want to get the word out, get out and talk to people.  There are people out there who want to read your stuff!  I promise, we don't bite, you're not a conceited jerk for promoting yourself, and you'll have fun.

Give stuff a try!  Don't discount something new just because it's not brainy enough for your face, or you've had bad experiences with it in the past.  Don't wag your cane at the kids on your lawn just because they do things differently.  Don't be that guy who just won't.

Don't be a TOF.




P.S.: Whoever is reading my old gnu jokes post, you make me smile :P

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The wait is over! Ieiri Leo: Message



Since Ieiri Leo released her debut album back in October, I've been impatiently waiting for her to release another single.  I should have figured that it was going to be a while, what with her starting her tour and graduating from high school and all (with flying colors, I'm sure).  She's had a busy life recently.

Ieiri's new single is entitled "Message," and will be released on 5/22.  (STILL TOO LONG TO WAIT, DAMMIT!)  The 18-second preview was released a couple of weeks ago, but the full 1:30 preview was released about an hour ago.

So far, I am pleased as punch with how it sounds.  Ieiri is going into that sexy lower register near the beginning....OH GAWD HURRY UP AND RELEASE ALREADY JEEZ.  (so eloquent, yallz)  There are quite a few first presses left up for pre-order, all of which come with a clear file (and they are gorgeous.)

Check out the gorgeous PV preview below: it is looking like it will be her best one yet.  (I will embed the video as soon at the code works--it's giving me issues...)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gow6T6i_1B4

Sunday, April 7, 2013

When kamioshi depart...


In my time as an idol fan, I've not had the emotional experience of a true favorite, an honest-to-god oshimen, leaving a group. Until today.

While Erika of C-ute and Akari of Momoclo are still close to my heart, it was too late for me to really get to know them by the time I'd become a fan of those groups.  I really liked Linlin, Aichan, and Kiyomura Kawane, and Aika will forever be my baby.  But even they never found the place in my heart that Sayaka has.  And that she will always have.

I can make a good and convincing case for saying that I was not shocked at her graduation announcement.  I can go on and on about how we all saw it coming after the team shuffle last year that traded Sayaka for  Oshima Yuko as Team K captain.  I can lament about how her decreasing rank in the glorified pageant senbatsu election was a sign of the times for her.  I can happily observe that she has been very active outside of AKB48, and know that she does, in fact, have much better things in store.  And I can also see the correlation with several other popular first, second and third generation members graduating, and make the argument that their *expiration date* has passed, and it is time for them to go.

But even still, I was shocked.  For the past year or so, Sayaka has been one of three reasons I've really bothered paying attention to AKB48 as a group (the others being Mariko and UZA, lol).  And now that she is leaving, I really have no reason to continue.  I adore the sister groups, but for me, AKB48 has become a black hole, and I don't have much left to say about it aside from cynical quips and calculated jabs.

I know now how it really feels like to have the impending loss of an oshimen looming on the horizon.  And it feels icky.  But I really do feel better knowing that Sayaka has lots of better things in store for her.  And I am looking forward to seeing them.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Album review: Ieiri Leo "LEO"



Welcome to my first album review!  I hope to be able to do lots more of these (and acquire lots more albums in the process EEEE!) in the future.  I plan on reviewing S/mileage's latest, as well as a couple non-idol related albums: Bahashishi's "Luminescence" and Sweet Vacation's "pop save the world!!"

It's been a long time coming for this one, but I wanted to give it its due no matter how long it took.  "LEO" is Ieiri Leo's debut album, released on October 24, 2012.


Track 1: Sabrina (サブリナ)

What better way to kick off the album than with this beauty.  Her debut single, released in February of last year, introduced listeners to Leo's distinct, bell-clear vocal style and quirky-fast vibrato.

There have been very few singers who at first encounter have caused me to stop and say, out loud even, "Wow, who is THAT?"  Hamasaki Ayumi and Amy Winehouse were among the first.  Because of this song, Ieiri is now in that group.

Rating: 4.5/5

Track 2: Last Stage

I mentioned before that this song was my favorite of Leo' repertoire so far, and I am happy to say that it still is. I grew up listening to a lot of 70s folk and rock, and while this song certainly doesn't fall into the "just like that" category, there are a lot of elements to it that remind me of just such tunes, like the viola and the minimalist, thumb-picked sounding guitar.  This song also has some sexy swells of orchestral goodness.  I really can imagine her doing this song with an orchestra.  Not a full one, perhaps, but a decently-sized one.

While this is probably not the strongest track on the album, it is my favorite because of how much energy it exudes when Leo performs it live.  In the couple of live performances I have watched of hers, this song was the most intense and alive of her set.  I'm looking forward to watching her perform this on her Quattro Club Osaka performance.

Rating: 4.5/5

Track 3: Say Goodbye

"Say Goodbye" was released as a digital single a week before this album's release, but I kinda wish it had gotten a physical release too, if for no other reason save my WANT MOAR GOODS!! impulse.  (don't we all, though?)

This song is a powerful yet calming ballad--a mix Ieiri does very well with.  I can see this song being very good live...we shall see now, won't we?

Rating: 4.8/5

Track 4: Shine

Chances are, this is the song you think of when you hear mention of Leo's music.  Her best selling single by far, this track was used as the theme song for the drama Kaeru no Oujo-sama (which features AKB48 center Oshima Yuko in a prominent role).

Rating: 4.6/5

Track 5: Ashita Mata Hare Masu You ni (明日また晴れますように; Tomorrow As You Shine)

A LiveJournal translator of Ieiri's lyrics commented that they liked this song "more for the lyrics than the music."  I can agree with this assessment.  This song is very lovely and very simple in its construction.  One feature I really like is the little almost-leitmotif at the end of the chorus, used mostly to highlight the thematic title of the song.  It's really quite lilting, and provides a nice transition.

The lyrics are lighthearted and spiritual, but in a somewhat eccelsiastical way (LERN SOME WORDS OF THE DAY!! :P ), like many of her spiritual themes are.  In learning her lyrics, I've found myself wondering more than once whether Ieiri is Christian.  Christianity is not a huge thing in Japan, but there are so many little skywardly-directed spiritualisms in her lyrics that I can't help but wonder.  Cool stuff!

That being said, I think this is a song you have to be in the mood for.  It's a little simplistic for my regular listening habits.

Rating: 3.8/5

Track 6: Second Dream

On of the greatest challenges I've found with reviewing this album is the problem of favoritism.  Not just "playing favorites," but the -ism that arises from deeming material and ideas which you feel are the most comfortable and perfectly palatable the best and the strongest.  Since some very harmful "isms" have arisen from having this attitude toward other ideas (e.g. thinking that all hip-hop and rap is about thuggery and bitches), my goal in reviewing this album was not to let favoritism dictate which tracks I deemed the strongest in terms of musicality/ology.

Is my thinking little too scholastic for an album review?  Eh...yeah, maybe :P

After a lot of thinking, I've concluded that "Second Dream" is the strongest track on the album.  The instrumental arrangement is damn clever.  In true Leo style, never is one group of instruments or one motif overused or exaggerated.  While exaggeration is not always detrimental, in this song it would have been because of how key the lyrics and the vocals are to the song.

In some of her other songs like "Fake Love" and "Ijiwaru na Kamisama" (b-side to "Bless You"), the instrumental and the vocals drive each other equally, but not so with this one.  The instrumental, while detailed and gorgeous, is still meant to live in the background.  And that's why it's damn clever, kids.

Rating: 5/5

Track 7: Kimi Dake (キミだけ; Only You)

The best words I can find to describe this track are "absolutely freaking lovely." (Very technical and musicological terms, mind.)  This lilting track features a fairly modest instrumental backing, which highlights Leo's voice in a way many of her previous songs have not.

Rating: 4.8/5

Track 8: Bless You

Ieiri's 3rd single, while being a strong track, flows more abruptly than many of her other songs.  Be that as it may, I still hesitate to call it a weak song.  Because it's not.  Leo's vocals have a kind of raw power not seen in her previous singles.  This song clearly has some deeply personal meaning for her, yet she conveys it in a way that draws listeners in and helps us to relate.  (Seriously, go watch the PV...)  That and the octave-jumping is quite impressive.

"Bless You" is a fantastic song, but the abruptness threw me off the first few listens.  I very much like Leo's edgy songs, though this one is not one of those I could put on repeat for hours.

Rating: 4.4/5

Track 9: Fake Love

Is it just me, or do angry songs suit Leo exceptionally well?  This driven, brightly colored track is my second favorite off the album.  Her vocals do get quite gritty...and it's mighty sexy.

Beyond the musicality, my favorite feature of this song is Leo's clever wordplay with "You lie" and "kirai" (basic crappy translation: I hate you).  "Fake Love," more than almost any other song in her current repertoire save "Hello," demonstrates Ieiri's ability to be quite creative, and shockingly deep, with the English language.

Rating 5/5

Track 10: Hello

Hello is the b-side to "Shine."  I have waxed lyric about this song before in a previous post, and I still feel much the same about it.  When up against  many of the other tracks on this album, it comes out as being one of the weaker ones, but that is not a bad thing.  The fact that this popular song looks a bit dim compared to the other tracks on the album is not a bad sign for the song--rather, it serves to show how Ieiri has grown as a composer and songwriter since this song's original release.

Rating: 4.2/5

Track 11: Mister (ミスター)

"Mister" is cute.  Terribly cute.  Almost too cute for Ieiri.  But she pulls it off.

 When the song first started in, I wasn't really sure how much I'd like it, but of course, I turned to the dark side eventually. It's very cute and flirty, which is a quality I tend not to like as much unless it comes from Ga In.  But with all of her songs being so mature and worldly, it is safe to say that Ieiri had to take a break and just be lighthearted for a bit.  She is only 18, after all, yeesh. (^ω^)

Rating: 4.4/5

Track 12: Lady Mary

This song, as you can see by the title, is one of those ecclesiastical-ish pieces I was talking about earlier.  The lyrics are quite tragic and moving, but even those with no connection to the Virgin Mary, whether by lore or by religious practice, can connect to this song.  As well you should.  It's kind of amazing.

That being said, I thought long and hard about whether this track and "Mister" should switch places on the album.  It originally felt like the transition from this kanashimi ballad to the girl-anthemy, kinda punkish sounding "Linda" was too abrupt.  But going over it again and again, I had to concede that my initial feeling was wrong.  This song has such gravitas to it that you really need something completely, antithetically  different to pull you out of the experience afterward, and "Mister" just doesn't fill those shoes.

One of my favorite songs of hers by far.  I actually recorded a cover of it at one point, but I took it down because it was hastily thrown together and I ended up hating it :P

Rating: 5/5

Track 13: Linda

If you needed any more proof that Leo can indeed ROCK OUT, listen to this.  This is one of those songs to listen to when you need a pick-me-up.  It's 3 1/2 minutes of no-nonsense badassness, guys.

Vocally, I would have to say that this song best demonstrates the scope of Leo's skill.  She can hit all those notes spot on, she can gliss all over the place, she can wail, she can...yeah you get the picture.

I am very curious about her use of the word "Linda," though.  Is it used as a name?  Is it used in the Spanish/Portuguese meaning?  INQUIRING MINDS, IEIRI-SAN!!

Rating: 5/5



That's a wrap, folks!  Now you know why this album will probably be on my Recommended Listening list for the rest of time :P Forgive me for wandering off into bookish nerd land at times...it's just how I get my music appreciation groove on!  (Not to mention my undying love for this girl.)


Monday, April 1, 2013

60,000 pageviews NO FOOLIN!! Thanks, everyone!

(My #1 H!P girl totally brought this to my door today...then I woke up.  Best April Fools EVAR :P)

Today of all days, I checked my stats and was thrilled to see that fly in the f*ing wine has now reached 60,000 pageviews!

In late 2010, I quietly joined the idol blogging world, and a few months later I was found by (and thus I found :D) International Wota.  Since then, I've had the pleasure of getting connected to many other idol and J-music bloggers, and it's been a wild ride.  

I'm so happy to be part of this great community.  Thanks for reading my weirdness, and I promise I will do my best to stay with it even while I'm busting my ass in grad school.   Huh, I guess I'll have to pick a cake day now, won't I? :D

ARIGATO GOZAIMASU!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Precious, hot, hot mess of the week: Linda III Sei


There's a new group in town, and, well, hooooooo boy...they are terrible.

Amazingly, awesomely, supremely terrible.

I LOVE IT!     *sparkles*

Linda III Sei (Linda Sansei) is a new indie idol group whose members are all of Brazilian-Japanese descent, and their average age is 13.5.  "Linda" is a feminine word meaning "beautiful" in Portuguese.  Meet the members of Linda III Sei:

(Super high-tech graphic courtesy of moi.  And yes, Shiori and Sayuri are *confirmed* twins.)

Anyway, as you can see, they're all freaking adorable.  As far as idol skills go, though, that's about all they've got going for them at the moment.  They have no idea when or where to look at the camera, they can't dance...like...at all...and they need some serious work on their acting/expression skills.  They have no idea how to sing as a group, and they are really bad at lip syncing in a convincing way.  I am gonna go out on a limb here and say that these girls have probably never performed anything more complex than a school play in their lives.  

Normally, this degree of badness would make me run for the hills.  However with this group, that is partly what drew me to them.  

There is something so...idoly...about their badness.  Idols are generally supposed to be unpolished works in progress, as we know. In that respect, this group has completely captured the purest essence of being an idol.  Yet for me, there's more to it than just that.  There are plenty of fairly bad idol groups out there, and I'm willing to bet that these girls may land near the top of the bad list just because they aren't "as Japanese" as some of the others.  

Linda Sansei has a very different vibe to them, and I hope that difference helps them succeed. They have a unique chance to bring real diversity to the idol movement, as well as to introduce a whole new group of people to idol culture.  But while many fans may really get into their different-ness, it's very easy to see many being put off by it.  There is an ingrained fear of change in the idol fan community both in Japan and overseas, and I fear that this, rather than their lack of skill, will be their downfall.

But I really don't want to see that happen.

The PV for their first single, Mirai Seiki EZ ZOO, was released about a week ago, and it is some kuh-razy stuff, let me tell ya.  Take a looksee/listensee!  Trust me, it starts out sounding pretty messy.  Okay, REALLY messy.  But give it a chance.  It will grow on you.  I know, I know, I don't get it either :P



(Is Naomi not the cutest?  SRSLY.)

This PV makes me wish now more than ever that my Japanese was even remotely decent.  It is so weird, and not in that usual kooky non-sequitur-ish charming "typical" Japanese way we're accustomed to seeing from the likes of (for example) early Perfume or Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.  It's weird in an off-the-wall borderline morbid satire-looking way. And for that reason alone, I wish I could understand the lyrics better.

I really want to understand what possible connection there could be between the zombie dudes in a jail cell, the tennis balls, the farm animals, the nurses drinking wine, and the steampunkish outfits that look like they were pulled right out of a Georges Méliès film.  Seriously...I am SO confused.  And delighted.

If you're one of those people who really likes to watch the performance skills of your idols grow over time, I guarantee that you will love the pants off of this trainwreck.  Although I bet you will anyway.

Their first single is getting a DVD release on 4/24.



Lnda III Sei




Saturday, March 23, 2013

Better late than never: Juice=Juice


Between crazy weather, running a cyberpunk pen and paper RPG, a big conference coming up at work, breaking my ankle (to those who know me: it was the OTHER one this time...), and...aaaaand...GETTING ACCEPTED TO GRAD SCHOOL YAY!!! (After two years being out of academics, even! Now to get mah money together LOL), idols have been taking a bit of a back burner to life.

But I love Juice=Juice, you love Juice=Juice, everyone loves Juice=Juice.  The logical premises line up perfectly, guys.  Juice=Juice is relevant to our interests.  Always.

The blogosphere was all glitterfarts and squeebombs when this group was announced.  The Kenshuusei are not going to suffer the same fate as the Eggs, it seems (mass expiry of 2011, anyone?).  And of course, the biggest hoorah I noticed was people praising baby jeebus that Miyamoto Karin is *finally* debuting.  No longer an immaculate vessel of perpetually unrecognized talent; she has now claimed her place as Lordy Lordy and Saveyourz of the ever-sinking sheepness that is H!P.  And lo, her noodly loli appendages shall redeem Tsunku from the darkest depths of...


All ever-scathing sarcasm aside, I am very glad Karin is in a group now.  I never saw her as a soloist.  She's just too social and cute to be all by her lonesome.  And what a frontgirl she will make!

If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend watching the clip of the live Hinamatsuri performance of their debut indies single, "Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakeshimenakya ne."  The performance is really great, and this lineup is nothing short of magical.  We have the very obvious choices of Karin and Takagi Sayuki, both of whom have been in the Eggs/Kenshuusei for quite some time.

It may seem easy to some of us who are sick to death of ragey Karin fans whining about her lack of debut and abundance of talent to start hating her right off the bat, but I'm here to tell you NOT TO DO THAT. THAT IS A TERRIBLE DECISION.  Karin is one of the most charismatic performers in Hello! Project, and she is all bite.  I feel no smugness or arrogance in her performance whatsoever--though even I think she would be entitled to a little bit considering her tenure as a trainee.  She is sweet and huggable, and she kicks ass at what she does.

Sayuki, another longsuffering Kenshuusei, seems to be taking a leader figure role already.  I am incredibly impressed with her performance.  She is not a powerhouse, but her vocals are very focused, and her expressions are always spot-on (of course those chipmunk cheeks and eyes don't hurt either :P ). She is easily the best dancer in the group.

Then we have Otsuka Aina and Uemura Akari, both kenshuusei since mid-2011.  Most of us probably remember Aina from the 9th-gen auditions, and a lot of us were rooting for her.  But when she made it into the Egg program instead, I think we were just as happy.  Aina has come a LONG way from those auditions.  Now one of the main vocalists in Juice=Juice, she can hold her own with Karin and Sayuki, no sweat. She has a very fresh aura to her, and there is just something about her smile that I find very unique and cute.

Uemura Akari is arguably the weakest performer in the group, but every group has to have one of those, unless you're C-ute or something.  Her vocals are a bit shaky, but she has a welcoming and strong presence on stage that I wish the camera guy had focused on more. I can see her being the sexy one of the group in a year or so.  She has a very mature vibe for her age--she fits in perfectly.

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, we have the two newcomers, Miyazaki Yuka and Kanazawa Tomoko.  Yuka was one of the darlings of the S/mileage auditions.  Even if you weren't rooting for her to get into the group, you loved her anyway because she's just so damn sweet and giggly and genuine.  Her vocals are quite precious--it is apparent that she has grown quite a bit since those auditions.  I was so very happy to see her in Green Fields with Aika, and now she is in a for realsies group.  The world is AWESOME (oshi alert, can't you tell, now).

I didn't know much of anything about Tomoko--she literally JUST joined.  But the little elves in the UFA tree  apparently have quite the nose for talent, because this girl smells like FREAKING ROSES (and also like terrible metaphors).  Tomoko is quite a good singer, and she sounds a lot more mature than the other girls.  I'm kind of in love with her voice, actually.  I was a bit skeptical of such a newcomer being right for the group, but she blew me away.  Aaaaaaand she's gorgeous.  Kind of like a Maeda Yuuka/Suzuki Airi hybrid.  The best kind of hybrid.


(starts at 26:30 ish)

The song is already concert staple material, too.  Upon first listen, I was a little wigged out by the looped saxophone, but the fact that it wasn't synthesized really helped it grow on me.  I did have to give the song a couple listens before deciding how I felt about it, but those listens were worth it.  I adore this song.  It is very unique and fresh, and it has a bit of a retro (LOL 90s) feel while not sounding dated.  That and the saxophone is my favorite instrument of all time to play.  I miss my band days...

I'm already more interested in this group than I was in S/mileage when they first got together.  Don't get me wrong, S/mileage was made of perfection, but Juice=Juice already has a professional, yet rough-around-the-edges vibe to them that I just dig.  The original S/mileage girls seemed like they came right off a factory line.  They were TOO polished.  I like that this group isn't.

The single drops on 4/3, and it's dirt cheap, as indies releases are wont to be.  Go support this great group RIGHT MEOW.



Juice=Juice



Thursday, January 31, 2013

For Mii-chan



Dearest Mii-chan,

They told you that you broke the rules.  There are hundreds upon hundreds of men and finger-wagging mothers who are now making it clear you that you broke the rules.  You yourself feel that you broke the rules so thoroughly that you stripped your outside bare, if only to match your pain inside.

You feel broken.  You feel like you betrayed them.  And that is EXACTLY what they wanted.

You have suffered enough.  You, and Sasshi, and Tomo, and Sayaka, and Yuttan, and so many others before you, have suffered enough.



I am sorry that you are forced to live behind a mask.

I am sorry that you are marketed as a wife for so many who do not truly appreciate who you are.

I am sorry that you are treated like property.

I am sorry that you have no rights.

I am sorry that your existence is treated like a plaything.

I am sorry that it is okay for people to say they support you and then turn around and burn your photos to thunderous applause.

I am sorry that you have been made a slave.



Your life, your spirit, your beauty, your body, your vision, your truth, is worth so much more than the venom of fake fans.

One of my favorite singers here in the states, India.Arie, sang something beautiful:

You are not your hair,
You are not this skin,
You are not their expectations,
You are not your hair,
You are not this skin,
You are a soul that lives within.



Friday, January 18, 2013

Group you need to meet: Silent Siren

(l-r, Ainyan, Hinachuu, Suu, Yukarun)

So, I've figured out my new year blogging resolution: when I find something awesome, I need to post about it right then and NOT HOG IT ALL TO MY BAD SELF!

I was scrolling through the new releases section on CDJapan last year because reasons, and I came across a mini-album release by a group with an interesting name: Silent Siren.  When I looked their newest indie single up on YouTube, I was quite impressed, as I am equally so with their second major release: stella☆.

Silent Siren (SaiSai) is a 4-member girl band.  The two founding members, Suu and Hinachu, are CUTiE magazine models, and they came up with the idea for the band during photoshoots.  Originally, their friends Aina and Yana joined the group, but Yana dropped out in July, after the release of their second indie single, and was replaced by Yukarun.  Yukarun had approximately no keyboard experience beyond school music classes, but has been studying night and day to catch up with the rest of the group.

I'm rather fascinated by Silent Siren.  While they are definitely a legitimate band, they also seem like they could fit in with the idol scene.  In a way, they remind me more of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu than SCANDAL, if only in the sense that they are a group of stylish model girls with tons of charisma, and they have a very wota-friendly (*twitch*) vibe to them.

It is possible in the future, that they could become media/advertisement darlings (also like Kyary, and also Perfume) simply because of their modeling roots.  While the rah-rah-solidarity-fist part of me wants to pooh-pooh that possibility and root for them to become stylish, independent girl power icons, the part of me that wants to bump fists with Taku "Jpop SUCKS" Takahashi thinks it could be great if they became widely known in Japan's consumer culture.

There are two reasons I think consumer media exposure for these girls would be great.  First of all, it would help chip away at the idol group hegemony in popular culture.  Specifically, the more popular ***48 (and a certain ex-48) idols are some of the highest-earning celebrities in Japan, partly because of all their endorsement/CM deals.  But their exposure does not bring attention to innovation in music.  It brings attention to pretty girls, some of whom just so happen to have a modicum of talent.

Which brings me to the second reason I would love to see SaiSai reach SCANDAL levels of popularity: reinforcing women's presence in non-idol music. I love my idols as much as the next person, and there is a lot of real creativity and innovation coming out of the idol world these days in the form of fun themes (e.g. Steamgirls, PASSPO), genre-bending (BABYMETAL, Naaboudoufu@Nana), and aural time-travel (SanMyu, Nogizaka46).  However, we all know the members don't have a hand in the creation of their performance material, and that's not good for establishing an authentic female presence in the music industry.

While I've still not heard word on whether SaiSai writes their own songs, they still formed on their own, play their instruments on their own, and are genuinely, openly invested in what they do. I like to think of SaiSai as being part of a new movement in the music industry.  Thinkers like them, and like BiS, AeLL, SCANDAL, exist†trace, Ono Erena and Ieiri Leo are creating a new niche for female musicians.  Whether they are naturally talented, or just have a really great vision for something they would like to make happen, the fact that they are out and doing it is great for the music industry and for re-inventing female space in Japanese popular culture.

So without further delay, meet the members of Silent Siren:




Yamauchi Aina (Ainyan)

DOB: 7-3-1988
Birthplace: Kanagawa
Harajuku Kawaii Style model
Bass player









Umemura Hinako (Hinachuu)

DOB: 3-13-1991
Birthplace: Tokyo
CUTiE exclusive model
Leader, drummer









Yoshida Sumire (Suu)

DOB: 12-28-1992
Birthplace: Fukushima
CUTiE exclusive model
Vocals, guitar







Kurosaka Yukako (Yukarun)

DOB: 6-6-1989
Birthplace: Saitama
Ray exclusive model
Keyboard





You can also check out their Kawaii Girl Japan interview from last summer here.

CDJapan links (their newest single comes out on 2/20):



Silent Siren




Silent Siren


Check out the PVs for their two major singles and *gasp* THEIR B-SIDES *heart* below.  My personal favorite is the b-side to "stella☆:" "Filter (フィルター)":