a public service announcement

In the interest of expanding my musical horizon, I am now exploring different bands beyond those that usually haunts the hallowed halls of my media library. As such, my subsequent reviews would mainly focus on the works of bands I encounter in my exploration. Most likely I’ll comment on their latest releases but might throw in an oldie for the heck of it.

If I like an artist enough then I might check out at least part of its discography, but expect that the focus of the reviews will be on the merit of the featured album/single per se.

All entries born out of this endeavor will be tagged with “Dora”. (Why? Just because). My review of rice’s latest single CICADA is actually the first and I’m now in the process of crafting my comments for a few others that caught my attention.

My day job is now on its hectic and punishing best so the succeeding entries could be far in between. If something came up though from an artist that I really like or is already in my elite list then you can bet I would move heaven and earth just to post something about it.

A quick look at my tag cloud would hint at where my musical taste swings to. That said, any suggestions are most welcome.

got anything for me?

maxi-single review – Senkou Type A (Alice Nine)

Alice Nine’s latest release is a fast-paced song marked by jaw-dropping guitar solos complemented with a vertigo-inducing pv to boot. Gritty and downright full of energy, Senkou stands as the malevolent twin to the band’s 2008 single, Mirrorball.

Save for the early inclusion of drumbeats in Senkou, the two songs seem to share the same intro. However, the comparison ends there. While Mirrorball was a soaring number infused with tempered pop sensibilities, Senkou is a genuine head-banger. Nao pounds on the drum like there’s no tomorrow while Hiroto and Tora outdo each other in letting loose rifts from hell. A few moments after Senkou hits its second minute, all semblance of restraint dissipates and we are treated to an aural orgy of awesomeness. I do have one pet-peeve though: Shou blundered his way singing the English lyrics but they are more discomfiting when read: “When swan sings lost song / The time for walk with you, I loved…… When I sings your song / At the end of the world, I loved…… When swan sings lost song / The time for walk with you, I loved.” (I swear that’s how exactly there were written in the booklet).

The second track, Le Grand Bleu picks up where Senkou lefts off. Frenetic drumming and guitar rifts open the song before launching into a full assault on the senses. Le Grand Bleu takes you in, dangles you all around, slows down by a notch then goes all out again. Furthermore, the addition of a second voice right around the chorus provides a very fascinating contrast. It’s an effort keeping up with the song’s helterskelter vibe but overall, Le Grand Bleu is a very rousing number and an apt progress from Senkou.

Solar Eclipse, on the other hand, features a prominent bass and some nifty guitar shredding but for some reason, I’m drawn to this song because of Shou’s vocals. To be honest, I’ve always been ambivalent towards his singing. Sometimes he sounds as if there’s something in his throat. In Solar Eclipse though, he is in full control. It’s difficult to stand out when you have guitarists dueling around you but Shou managed to hold his ground. I’m impressed by how he was able to shift from soft vocals to a more commanding one, even more so when he let out that high note 3:16 into the song.

The final track, Namida no Aru Basho, is a bit of a downer and it’s not because it’s a ballad. Alice Nine has released emotionally-charged slows songs before but this one sounds uninspired and dragging in some parts. Suffice it is to say, Namida no Aru Basho felt already empty even before catharsis sets in. After all the exhilaration provoked by the first 3 tracks, it would have been nice if a powerful yet soothing track winds it all down. Unfortunately, Namida no Aru Basho didn’t quite live up to it.

That aside, Senkou the maxi-single is a highly recommended release. It’s not just a glint. It’s a glistening fireball.

this just in: L’Arc is back!

L'arc en Ciel is back with a vengeance

L’Arc~en~Ciel will kick off their 20th Anniversary celebration with a concert on New Year’s Eve!

Billed as L’A Happy New Year, it will be held at Makuhari Messe International Exhibition Hall 9-11 on December 31, 2010. Doors open 22:00.

The downside? It’s for LE-CIEL members only.

For more info, check out the spankin’ newly designed OHP.

(thanks to ~listen the world~ for the heads-up)

we are coming to you live (via streaming)!

As I start writing this piece, the stage is being set up for MUCC’s performance at this year’s Jack in the Box. They’re the final act of the night and the crowd’s energy is palpitating like mad. Then suddenly the stage lights up. MUCC appears and the familiar strains of their hit FUZZ is heard. The crowd goes wild. And I got to savor it all – in real time, at the comfort of my own home about 2,966 km away.

Welcome to the wonders of live streaming.

Jack in the Box 2010

Thanks to the emergence of sites like myspace and ustream, fans like me from other countries could now attend jrock concerts albeit in the virtual sense. In fact, Jack in the Box is just the latest to join a rapidly increasing list of events being broadcasted live via the internet.  Two days ago, I was rocking with Miyavi in ustream for his Screaming Out from Tokyo tour. About a month before that, I joined a legion of hyperventilating fangirls who were singing along with VAMPS in their free live at Roponggi.

What makes the experience different from watching the performance in say, a YouTube upload, is that since it’s live, you get to enjoy it untainted by comments/reviews from fans who were fortunate enough to attend the actual concert. And as I’ve mentioned a while back, you get to savor the moment together with those who are in the venue itself. You get to be one with them in anticipating for the next act or the next song, share their slight annoyance over technical difficulties and their amusement over an epic blooper that no DVD offshoot could give justice to. Via live streaming, the excitement is not just contained in the club or stadium alone but is spread out across the globe.

Live streamings hold even greater significance for us fans from countries that have slim chances of being included in a world tour itinerary. It’s our only chance to wholly experience the visual in visual kei. It won’t be an audacity to think then that I’m not the only one that’s extremely grateful for the opportunity. I’m sure nothing beats experiencing a live in the venue itself but for now, this would do. And besides, at least we don’t have to worry about our feet being stomped on or someone’s elbow hitting us in the face. Our biggest concern is the speed of our internet connection but that’s another story already 🙂

whose version of GLAMOROUS SKY do you like the most?

Got my hands on Acid Black Cherry’s latest album and was surprised to find out that the band also had its own version of GLAMOROUS SKY. As many would have known already, GLAMOROUS SKY was specifically written for the movie adaptation of popular shoujo manga NANA. HYDE composed it while Yazawa Ai penned the lyrics. Since Mika Nakashima released it as single in 2005, a few artists had done their respective covers. To the best of my knowledge, Acid Black Cherry’s version would be the 5th.

Listed below are the links to the different versions and my two-cents on each of them:

      • NANA starring MIKA NAKASHIMA version – Arguably one the highlights of the first NANA film was when Mika Nakashima was “singing along to the song that didn’t even have lyrics yet”.  The song, of course, was GLAMOROUS SKY. Later onto the film, she and the Black Stones would perform GLAMOROUS SKY to an obviously impressed audience. What’s so good about this version is how Mika Nakashima’s vocal performance was able to inject a lot of soul into a rock song. While I highly doubt that GLAMOROUS SKY is the type of song a band would stake their career for (the song was pivotal in the film as hearing it convinced Nana to reignite the Black Stones), the NANA starring MIKA NAKASHIMA version is a very stirring piece buoyed by Mika Nakashima’s soulful crooning. To date, this was the only version of the song with female vocals.
      • girugamesh version – I find girugamesh’s cover uncharacteristic for the band as it was totally different from what their sound was back then.  If I’m not mistaken, this was recorded during their 13’s reborn days during which girugamesh embraced a darker, more aggressive sound. Their version of GLAMOROUS SKY, on the other hand, is very pleasant to the ears and is more upbeat by a teeny bit than the original. Toshi’s voice is also surprisingly subdued, just honest to goodness singing. Of all the versions, I must say I like this one best as it fully embraces what GLAMOROUS SKY is all about: a pop-rock song with a catchy chorus.
      • HYDE (VAMPS) version – Having composed the song, HYDE had all the right to alter the arrangement and this he did by transforming GLAMOROUS SKY into an edgier rock song. His version is also the most sensual of all given the breathy vocals and numerous moanings he showcased in the song. Another advantage is the fact that it had English lyrics. To HYDE’s credit, his enunciation was acceptable. Overall, it was a cover that’s very hard to pass up.
      • Bentley Jones version – The version of gaijin tarento Bentley Jones is distinct because it turned GLAMOROUS SKY into a seminal dance track.  It’s definitely an interesting take on the song but requires getting used to.
      • Acid Black Cherry version – Despite the minor alteration in rhythm, Acid Black Cherry’s version sounds the most faithful to the original. But as Acid Black Cherry was behind it, GLAMOROUS SKY was infused with good ol’ rock n’ roll vibe.  Still , this version has yet to muster enough panache to topple the other versions.
      • BONUS ENTRY: pseudo-HYDE version – Before HYDE officially recorded the song for his compilation album, a GLAMOROUS SKY cover floated in cyberspace purported to be done by him.  While there were some who praised the version, a number of fans slammed it for not being the real deal. Sometime last year, it was revealed that the version was in fact, not sung by HYDE but by a impersonator.

So there you have it. As mentioned, my vote goes to girugamesh’s. How about you, what’s your favorite?

single review – Cicada (rice)

Initiating me to the band rice is their latest single Cicada. Instead of listening to the title track, I headed straight to track 3 will as it intriguingly runs for more than 6 minutes. will starts off daintily with just the sound of the piano. Then the vocals started and BAM! I almost fell off my chair. Yuki’s voice is stunning! With VK, almost anything can happen but I was certainly not expecting Josh Groban-esque vocals! Yuki’s singing voice has a rich timbre that suited the piano ballad perfectly – it was deep yet still able to effortlessly hit the high notes.

regular edition

As for the song itself, will sounds interesting up to the chorus where it begins to sound too melodramatic for its own good. Obviously, there was an attempt to make the song epic but it’s not quite achieving that. The song should have faded off earlier than it does considering that the last minute is just instrumental. Better arrangement could have salvaged the song for the extended outro is just plain overkill.

Cicada, on the other hand, is a rocking song with a rather nice intro. The vocals plus single guitar strumming act has been done numerous times before but it doesn’t sound stale in Cicada. Again, Yuki has to be credited for giving the song its own unique flair. The use of what I assume is a pan flue likewise imparted the song with a touch of class. Not sure though if the same adjective could be said of track 2, simply titled as ice cream.

Ice cream is certainly the most upbeat of the 3 tracks in the single. This allowed Yuki to shed the amazing control he displayed in the 2 other songs and let loose with a few vocal acrobatics. However I find the song a bit campy – how else could one describe a song whose chorus consists of repeated mentions of the word ice cream? Nevertheless, the cello as an accompaniment was a nice touch. Still, I couldn’t make up my mind up to now on whether to love or hate the song.

Bottom-line, Cicada is a good release in the sense that the songs were able to showcase Yuki’s mellifluous vocals. Though it has yet to convert me as a fan, I’ll definitely be on the lookout now for more releases from this band called rice.