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Patrick St. Michel
Patrick St. Michel is a Tokyo-based writer with a focus on Japanese music. He runs the blog Make Believe Melodies, which has focused on Japanese independent music since 2009. Besides The Japan Times, he also contributes to MTV 81 and The Atlantic.
For Patrick St. Michel's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Oct 6, 2011
Seiji
Dance-music maker Paul Dolby, aka Seiji, has played with many electronic genres since he began DJing in the 1990s. The Seiji coming to Japan this weekend releases club-centric tracks for free on his website while also putting his personal spin on artists such as Erykah Badu and Gorillaz.
CULTURE / Music
Oct 6, 2011
Second Royal
Record label Second Royal won't just be putting on a concert this Sunday in their hometown of Kyoto, but rather a state-of-Japanese-indie-music address. The imprint's event at Club Metro features some of Japan's most buzzed (and blogged) about artists going today. Past gigs point to this being a great live event, but it will also be a chance to see a handful of Japanese artists who are poised to grab attention both domestically and overseas next year.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Sep 22, 2011
Mop Of Head praises recent past on debut
Mop Of Head founder Takashi "George" Wakamatsu had a pretty standard musical upbringing. He studied piano from the age of 3, and says he listened mostly to classical music and old jazz. Then he heard a track that changed his life ...British dance duo The KLF's "F-ck The Millennium."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Sep 15, 2011
Ogre You Asshole "Homely"
Ogre You Asshole's "Homely" practically begs to be considered as the band's artistic leap forward. The band has traded in the guitar-centric, 1990s-indie sound of its previous releases for a slower-moving vibe featuring an abundance of bongos and saxophone. It's a challenging LP to dive into: the catchy immediacy of the group's past is replaced by random vocal samples and soft-rock signifiers. Yet Ogre's shift in sonic direction on "Homely" comes off like giving a flophouse a fresh coat of paint — new sounds trying to distract from plodding, go-nowhere songs.
CULTURE / Music
Sep 1, 2011
Miila and the Geeks "New Age"
Miila and the Geeks show a great aptitude for the past on their debut album "New Age." The generally fuzzy atmosphere of the whole record evokes 1960s garage rock, with lead singer Moe Wadaka's sinisterly sexy vocals conjuring up early PJ Harvey. The inclusion of a mind-of-its-own saxophone winds up linking the group to the jittery no-wave movement. But this Tokyo trio rise above just being a history textbook, blending bits and pieces of yesteryear together into a sound all their own to create one of the best Japanese albums of 2011.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Aug 18, 2011
Chili Peppers dominate Summer Sonic
It was clear on the second day of Summer Sonic that this year's event belonged to the evening's headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers. A casual stroll around Chiba's Makuhari Messe complex revealed a noticeable uptick from the day before in the number of shirtless dudes sporting tribal-band tattoos.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 28, 2011
Various artists Style Band Tokyo Compilation Vol. 1
Existing mainly as a live-music event since 2007, Style Band Tokyo has gone the recording route and released a CD featuring artists associated with its gigs. The compilation is a collection of great, noisy rock.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 21, 2011
Beach House live out teen dream by coming to Japan
Earlier this year, indie-rock group Beach House found themselves in unfamiliar territory. Two of the Baltimore duo's older tracks were sampled by much buzzed-about R&B project The Weeknd on their hyped-up debut mixtape meaning once intimate dream-pop was now serving as the soundtrack for drug-powered sex jams. Beach House lead singer and organist Victoria Legrand says she's completely fine with that.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 7, 2011
andymori "Kakumei"
Now three albums deep into their career, indie-poppers andymori still lean on youthful energy to carry their music instead of songwriting smarts. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as "Kakumei" ("Revolution") features a handful of energetic pop numbers that know how to leave an impression without lingering around in your head too long. Yet the trio's best moments on this release take up less than half of "Kakumei's" already anemic 29-minute runtime, the rest of which is filled up by ho-hum attempts at J-rock and meandering slow numbers.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jun 23, 2011
Bedroom ears: Japan's new D.I.Y. ethic
The dimly lit Bar Fabrica is an appropriate place to meet the four artists from Cuz Me Pain Records, who describe their music as "quite dark" and are known for being shrouded in mystery.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jun 9, 2011
Caroline
In another time, Caroline Lufkin could easily have ended up as a chart-topping J-pop star. After graduating from Boston's Berklee School Of Music, the Okinawa-born artist moved to Tokyo, where she began working on her first album. Her management at the time wanted Lufkin (who performs simply as Caroline) to go down the same road her big sister Olivia Lufkin did. Her path to the Oricon charts was being paved right in front of her.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
May 26, 2011
Gellers find a new balance with 'Guatemala'
The story behind Gellers seems like the stuff of made-for-TV movies. A bunch of kids meet one another on the outskirts of the city, and eventually form a band. They stick together and, despite a few setbacks, release an album and tour the country as adults. There are no scripts to be found here, though.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
May 19, 2011
MacDonald Duck Eclair "Kono Tokimeki Ima Sugu"
"Kono Tokimeki Ima Sugu" (which translates loosely as "This fluttering of my heart, now") serves as a bit of a homecoming for hyper-speed pop trio MacDonald Duck Eclair. Their third album and first in five years comes out on K.O.G.A. Records, the label responsible for releasing the band's debut single in 1999. Despite this full-circle move, MacDonald Duck Eclair's latest finds them sounding virtually the same as they did when they started at K.O.G.A. "Ima Sugu" flirts with poppier structure, but does so without forfeiting the breakneck pace established on earlier releases.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
May 19, 2011
Online Maltine learns old-school tricks
Tomohiro Konuta didn't have lofty ambitions when he and his friend Syem started the online music label Maltine Records in 2005. They were just two teenagers looking for a little attention.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
May 5, 2011
Oorutaichi
Osaka artist Oorutaichi has long tried to test listeners' ears by blending together many disparate styles, so much so as to render the concept of "genre" irrelevant when discussing his music. For an upcoming concert in Tokyo he hopes to further challenge the sensory experience through the addition of celluloid.

Longform

At the Akan International Crane Center, just north of the city of Kushiro proper, visitors can see the majestic red-crowned crane — a symbol of Hokkaido.
Faces of the north: A Hokkaido town grapples with depopulation