| Jul 20, 2003

Yokoyama's ship finally comes in

Ken Yokoyama is crazy. Crazy like a fox, that is. In the past year or so Yokoyama and his nine-member Crazy Ken Band have become the band to watch on the Japanese music scene, due to their brilliantly original fusion of high-concept parody and ...

Sophomores who shine in a new light

| Jun 15, 2003

Sophomores who shine in a new light

Second albums are notoriously difficult, especially if an act’s first album has been a success. But on “Modern Lights,” Kobe-based pop/jazz duo Orange Pekoe have avoided the “sophomore-album syndrome” by broadening their stylistic template to create a work that demands to be listened to ...

Kei Ogura has still got a lot to celebrate

| May 18, 2003

Kei Ogura has still got a lot to celebrate

Once known as the “singing bank manager,” these days Kei Ogura could be called the “singing recovering cancer patient.” Best known for his 1975 hit single “Shikuramen No Kaori (Scent Of Cyclamen),” singer/songwriter Ogura spent 26 years working for Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank before he ...

There is no escape from the silliness

| Apr 20, 2003

There is no escape from the silliness

It’s only April, but the silly season already seems to be upon us. The first sign was the recent announcement by Universal Music’s classical department that on June 11 it will release a single titled “Asagohan (Breakfast),” which is a rather unusual a capella ...

| Mar 30, 2003

Space Shower TV bangs a gong in style

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Space Shower TV, the Japanese homegrown equivalent of MTV. With its unpretentious presenters, high quotient of decidedly unslick, locally made music videos and low-key artist interviews, Space Shower has a strong “street” feel. Despite ...

Lowdown on rising stars

| Feb 16, 2003

Lowdown on rising stars

They sing low and they’re aiming high. Unlike the chipmunk-on-helium vocal style favored by most Japanese female pop singers, newcomers Asuca Hayashi and Ai have remarkably mature, almost husky voices. And in contrast to the squeaky-clean idol crew, they’re cultivating sophisticated public images that ...

| Jan 19, 2003

Independent music was the smart alternative in '02

2002 was not a vintage year, to put it mildly, for the Japanese music industry. Sales of CDs were down for the fourth straight year, and just one single — female vocalist Ayumi Hamasaki’s “H” (Avex) — topped the million-sales mark during the year, ...

Jan 1, 2003

Too young to fall in love?

2002 was an eventful year, to say the least, for superstar singer/songwriter Utada Hikaru. In March, she signed a international recording deal (as an English-language artist — she remains signed to Toshiba-EMI as a Japanese-language artist) with Island Def Jam. Utada told Billboard magazine ...

| Dec 15, 2002

Ann Lewis in driver's seat with new single

What happens to idols after their popularity has waned? Some manage to stay in the game by doing stuff like cheesy Christmas dinner shows (have you booked yours yet?). Some use their erstwhile fame as a springboard into politics. But most just sink into ...

Getting syrupy about music

| Nov 17, 2002

Getting syrupy about music

When I first heard the term “self-cover,” I thought it referred to errant politicians or bureaucrats making excuses for themselves when caught with their pants down, metaphorically speaking or otherwise. I later learned, however, that it refers to musicians doing new versions of their ...