The Yoshiki Foundation Kick-off Party

Got this in my mail the other day from @jrockrevolution and it just broke my heart:

If  only it’s that easy to haul my ass off to L.A.

Apart from the chance to meet Yoshiki, a select few of the attendees could actually be part of X-Japan’s latest music video!! (can someone say 5 secs. of fame?)

But what is the Yoshiki Foundation anyway? According to the PR,

The Yoshiki Foundation America is a California nonprofit, public benefit corporation founded in 2010 by Japanese musician Yoshiki of the multi-million-selling rock band, X JAPAN. A number of personal experiences brought Yoshiki to the launch of his foundation beginning with the loss of his own father when he was just a teenager. Like so many people around the world, he read news accounts and was deeply moved by the devastating effects of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe; in 2009, he paid an emotional visit to an orphanage in Sichuan, still reeling in its recovery, with so many children still displaced and orphaned. Additionally and as a tribute to Yoshiki‘s late X JAPAN band-mate, Hide, who embraced the support of children with bone marrow disease, The Yoshiki Foundation America provides funds to offer assistance through music to children with this debilitating illness. Music is what kept Yoshiki moving forward with life after his father’s passing, and bringing music to children in need is at the heart of his Foundation. While he was thankful he was in a position to donate several pianos and other musical instruments to the schools affected by the Kobe and Sichuan earthquakes, as well as having the children in the local orphanages as his personal guests at local X JAPAN concerts, he wanted to do more, something permanent and enduring.

The Yoshiki Foundation provides funds in a variety of ways, from the purchase of musical instruments, to providing music lessons, to arranging for a child and his family to attend an opera or rock concert or other music-related event. Yoshiki has also partnered with several world-renowned doctors and researchers to explore the interaction between music and the human brain, and how music could be used as therapy.

Aww, how altruistic. But seriously folks, couldn’t they find a more, er, appropriate picture of Yoshiki?

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the day DespairsRay acknowledged my existence

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I must admit that I was really taken aback when I read this post. Mind you, it was not even addressed to them! And to think I was already having a bad day. So what does a scorned fan do? Give them a piece of my mind, of course! Well, not really. I just tweeted them back “have a nice day”. (^O^)

Then lo and behold, they (or whoever is responsible for their twitter account) apologized! The whole thing was blamed on an emoticon being inadvertently forgotten (@kenryoku Sorry, forgot to add a 🙂 to the end of my message. This is twitter after all!)

Ok then. No love lost there.

In hindsight though, instead of acting like an onion-skinned beyatch, should have just responded to their question (what more do you need?) with a resounding “how about a private performance in my room?” then punctuate it with an emoticon.

Better yet, make that a lot of emoticons: q(^-^q)(p^-^)p q(^-^q)(p^-^)p q(^-^q)(p^-^)p

maxi-single review – Yakusoku (MUCC)

A few posts ago I was waxing poetic on how haunting the songs from Kyuutai was. Now MUCC releases its 22nd single to date, Yakusoku and in the process brings out another testament to this band’s versatility.

Though not as danceable as Anjelier and FUZZ, Yakusoku still ranks among MUCC’s more upbeat tracks. The overall vibe is reassuring – it’s as if MUCC was trying to infect the world with a good dose of positivity thru Yakusoku (which actually translates  to “promise”). It is, without a doubt, a very joyful song, the type the could entice anyone to nod their heads in tune to beat. A very enjoyable track indeed.

Still, I couldn’t help but note that with Yakusoku, MUCC seems to be holding itself back. The short guitar solo by the time the song reached its 3rd minute is a reminder that this is still the same band responsible for hard-hitting hits like Mikan no Kaiga and Ageha. But overall, the song felt alienating. Sure, the band has dabbled with “happy” songs before but with Yakusoku, it’s as if MUCC has indulged in the happy pill too much then managed to throw up some of it afterwards.

Thankfully MUCC managed to find its way back thru the second track Gareki no Tori. It starts off with a superb guitar solo then was coupled with aggressive drum beats. The main rift throughout the song is very affecting while the chorus part was very, very infectious. Needless to say, I prefer this song by a mile over the main track.

The third track Freesia~Electro Mix was a surprise. While the title do suggest that it is a remix, nothing could have prepared me for how blatantly addicting this song is. With hints of new wave and good ol’ disco flavor throw in, MUCC has truly let themselves loose on this track resulting to their own brand of dance music.

NOTE: In case you don’t know, the song Yakusoku is the intro to the anime series “Senko no Night Raid”. Two other versions of the single are available. The version reviewed here is the limited edition that comes with the DVD.

Below is a side by side comparison of the cover artwork for all versions (Limited edition with DVD, Limited pressing featuring TV edit and Karaoke version, Regular edition):

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Album covers courtesy of CDJapan.

Details for VAMPS’ 2nd album BEAST

I must say the cover for BEAST is a huge improvement from the first album’s. The first album’s cover (simply titled as VAMPS) was just plain horrible.

The track list (courtesy of the ARK MESSAGE BOARD) reveals really interesting titles:

1. PLUG IN (music: Hyde)
2. DEVIL SIDE (music and lyrics: Hyde)
3. ANGEL TRIP (music: Kaz, lyrics: Hyde)
4. MEMORIES (music: Kaz, lyrics: Hyde)
5. EUPHORIA (music and lyrics: Hyde)
6. VAMP ADDICTION (music: Kaz, lyrics: Hyde)
7. REVOLUTION (music and lyrics: Hyde)
8. THE PAST (music: Kaz, lyrics: Hyde)
9. PIANO DUET (music: Kaz, lyrics: Hyde)
10. RUMBLE (music: Kaz, lyrics: Hyde)
11. GET UP (music and lyrics: Hyde)
12. SAMSARA (music: Kaz, lyrics: Hyde)
13. MY FIRST LAST (music and lyrics: Hyde)

But nope, I’m still not buying it.

Sorry HYDE. There was a time when I would lap up almost anything that was associated with you. I draw the line however on VAMPS. It was enough that I bought the first 3 singles and the first album.

Paging L’Arc~en~Ciel. Please get your act together soon.

(UPDATE: BEAST is already available for pre-listen on iTunes. Preorders for both Limited and Regular editions are still available on CDJapan)

single review – ANGEL TRIP (VAMPS)

It took me quite a while to warm up to VAMPS’ first 2010 release DEVIL SIDE. I frequently enjoy listening to it now but still there is this nagging feeling that it’s just HYDE recycling. After all, the chorus part sounds very much like COUNTDOWN. Same goes for ANGEL TRIP. Although it didn’t evoke a “sounds like (insert old HYDE song here)” notion as much as DEVIL SIDE did, the first listen failed to generate a positive response from me. ANGEL TRIP sounds too – safe.

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Subsequent listening has convinced me that ANGEL TRIP is a fun song. The beat, I must admit, is catchy. But beyond that, there seemed to be nothing more to the track. Granted that this is not the first pop-esque song to come from HYDE, but at least his previous releases have some sort of profound playfulness in them. Case in point, WORDS OF LOVE (from the album 666) has a catchy hook. However, it had the saxophone and excellent wordplay to give it an impudent yet seductive vibe. With ANGEL TRIP, all we have is a feel-good chorus that begs to be sing along with.

Then again, perhaps I’m just too biased against this song because I had the most unfortunate experience of seeing the pv BEFORE hearing the song for the first time. And boy, was the experience so gut-wrenching. HYDE, pray do tell what the hell happened to you? You as a blonde Jack Sparrow might be too great a fantasy but in reality, it just doesn’t cut it. I have yet to see the pv in full and I don’t think I’ll ever will. Seems that there’s nothing to going on anyway, just you and KAZ cruising somewhere in Thailand (?).

Back to the single, VAMPS did manage to hit the bulls-eye in their version of KYUKETSU – SATSUGAI. Great job on this one! Although let’s face it: VAMPS did a great cover but Johannes Krauser II still owns it! Go D.M.C.!!!

single review – Frontier (DELUHI)

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An impressive mix of superb guitar work and furious drumming gave Frontier a very gripping start. Then Juri started singing and the momentum was lost. Ok, so maybe not.

I have thoroughly appreciated Juri’s brand of growling in DELUHI’s previous releases, notably REVOLVER BLAST and NO SALVATION. I thought it suited the songs’ frenetic energy perfectly. Sadly in Frontier, instead of complimenting the song, Juri’s vocals functioned as more of a distraction. Right off the first verse, the growling was at the very least, startling. Juri sounded as if he was in pain – and my ears felt it too. He managed to redeem himself during the chorus though, only to revert to the part growling-part clearing his throat-part being possessed “singing” a few minutes later. Sad, really.

Still, Frontier was definitely NOT a track to be cast aside easily. The guitar work in this track was more than enough reason to endure Juri’s screeching. The main riff was phenomenal and the solo – shit, the solo – midsong was simply jaw-dropping. Leda was clearly in his finest element. Coupled with the pumped-up drumming, Leda’s impressive command of his guitar in this track makes Frontier one of DELUHI’s most technically gifted releases.

If only there was a vocal-less version included.

album review – Missa (L’eprica)

l_eprica It was truly an epic moment the first time I heard the band L’eprica. It was Tuesday morning and I was in a cramped train, still groggy due to lack of sleep. My earphones were streaming the latest addition to my  playlist: XVIII File Vol. 1, an omnibus album I mistakenly downloaded the day before. I was about to doze off when I heard the initial strains of the song, Sephirothic Tree. It was simple, it was poignant…it was perfect. By the time the song reached its chorus, I was already picking up my jaw from the floor.

I remember spending a good chunk of that morning searching for anything I could find on the band who sang it. Unfortunately, the internet reveals nothing much about L’eprica. I’ve learned that the band is still quite young, having been formed only in 2004, thus they are still in the process of building up a respectable discography and fanbase. But if the 3 singles and 1 mini-album they’ve released so far are any indication, I firmly believe that this band will receive the recognition they deserve in no time.

The album Missa regrettably does not contain my personal favorite Sephirothic Tree. Still, it is a powerhouse compilation of 8 tracks strong enough to stand on their own.

As with any VK album, Missa is opened by an instrumental track, FALL ‘prologue’. Its intro is somehow reminiscent of MUCC’s haunting ballad Sanbika. But 40-seconds into the song and all comparisons end. FALL ‘prologue’ is a great opening track, aptly setting the heart-wrenchingly emotional mood reverberated by the whole album. Heavy drum beats and guitar riffs signal the start of the second track, Ruin. It is without a doubt a showcase song, should there ever be a term, as it successfully displays the band’s capabilities. Ruin starts off as a power ballad only to change pace mid-song as a head-banging treat. All throughout, vocalist Raya’s strong voice effortless rises above the heavy beats. Even at this point, it is already established that Raya’s voice is one of this young band’s main advantages. Devoid of any histrionics and the usual growls associated with the VK sound, Raya’s heartfelt vocals is refreshing indeed.

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glossy is one of the Missa’s fast paced songs. The guitar solo halfway into the song sets this track apart. I personally think of glossy as an effective perk me up song, perfect for mornings when you just have no choice but to bolt out of bed. The song though pales in comparison to the next track, Arch. Undoubtedly the gem of this album, Arch is distinguished by its groovy beats that would have one dancing. If glossy could get you out of bed, Arch could definitely get you through the entire morning in a good mood.

Easing the album back to the somber mood is calm sea. To me, calm sea parallels Sephirothic Tree  in intensity and quality. Listening to both songs is truly a cathartic experience. Draw Pain follows suit and admittedly, I have misgivings about this song. If Missa would have a weak spot, Draw Pain would be it. I can’t quite pinpoint what is wrong with it, only that the track seems all over the place.

Fortunately, L’eprica more than makes up for it by the second to the last track, follow a dark road. I could listen to this song repeatedly and not get tired of it. It begins with a choir-like sound (think Versailles) then Raya’s voice softly blends in…slowly…a guitar rift is heard then drum beats…and the whole adventure begins. If there’s one word to describe follow a dark road, it could only be “glorious”. All the elements in the song effortlessly blend in to a soaring finish. I particularly like the last few seconds of the track that had Raya singing “この せかい で、せかい で” repeatedly.

Closing the album is rubble. One could truly feel the angst in this one. Raya’s voice actually breaks in some parts but it only proves the very emotional tone of this track. rubble is an interesting song, no doubt. Still, follow a dark road would have been more effective as a closing song.

Overall, Missa is a fantastic album that had certainly made me wanting for more of what L’eprica can offer. With bated breath, I look forward to their next release comforted by the fact that things could only get better.