Sunday is all about putting your feet up, turning the volume up and queuing some music to get wholly lost in. During the week music always seems to accompany doing something: programming, walking, writing, pretending you can’t hear the other people in the office talking about you. It seems somewhat of a lost past-time to simply sit and listen.
“there’s something alluringly infectious about this sentai inspired quintet”
What better way to celebrate this than the release of the Kids on the Slope soundtrack? Any Yoko Kanno release is a cause for celebration; that this has jazz ensembles from Takashi Matsunaga, a noted master of the genre, as well as vocal tracks from well-known artists such as Aoi Teshima is a special treat. I can’t claim to know the first thing about jazz or how to approach it for a better appreciation, but as the adage goes, I know what I like. It’s still on heavy rotation so my final opinion is still gestating but the tracks effortlessly blend easy listening and jazz sessions with Kanno’s signature background melodies – unique but not overpowering.
For a different take on jazz in anime Mayumi Kojima released a full length album for the opening to Ghost Hound back in 2007. It’s slightly more big band and blues than the smooth jazz numbers from Kids on the Slope but is far less challenging. Ghost Hound itself is a sonic treat and has to be heard loud to truly appreciate it. Also noteworthy is Ryouya, the father of the protagonist Taro, who has an entire room dedicated to jazz appreciation.
The opening single from Kids on the Slope was also recently released and has vocalist YUKI (not to be confused with the similarly capitalised YUI) taking the helm. It’s a lilting and forgettable tune and though pleasant, doesn’t really stand out when compared to some of the openings from Yoko Kanno’s other scored shows – Hemisphere (Maaya Sakamoto, RahXephon) and Go Tight! (Akino, Genesis of Aquarion) spring to mind.
The same can’t be said for the March released Bodacious Space Pirates opening single which is a vast, utterly bonkers track from idol group Momoiro Clover Z. I’ve shied away from the hyper-commercialisation of idol groups such as AKB-48 and their ilk, but there’s something alluringly infectious about this sentai inspired quintet and the monstrously titled Mouretsu Uchuu Koukyou Kyoku Dai Nana Gakushou “Mugen no Ai” (Bodacious Space Symphony 7th Movement “Infinite Love”). A true belter, but just as brilliant is the recent insert song Black Holy by Mikako Komatsu who also plays Marika in the show. It may have a twee verse but a stunning chorus elevates it and is instantly memorable. Truly befitting of the series.
If twee is your cup of tea (pun intended), the Hyouka opening, Yasahisa no Riyuu, was also released recently; that it book-ends a series that still seems to be trying to find its feet doesn’t stop it being a solid, but again, forgettable song. It’s similar in tone to Sankarea’s opening Esoragoto by the murderously punctuated nano.RIPE as well as HAPPY CRAZY BOX which is the thoroughly generic opening to Medaka Box.
None of that criticism can be levelled at Dusk Maiden’s opening CHOIR JAIL which could describe a very odd medieval torture device (“Get in the choir jail heathen!”). Mixing synthetic organs with strong vocals, it’s a akin to a lighter version of Yousei Teikoku’s (Fairy Empire’s) most recent album Gothic Lolita Alligator Agitator. Of course once you slip into the heavy rock and metal area of Japanese music it’s all too easy to get caught in the visual kei trap. Tofugu recently covered some all-girl metal bands which is worth a visit if not for the final video, Baby Metal indeed.
If female-fronted metal is a favourite of yours and you’re willing to step outside of anime’s sphere of influence, you can’t go far wrong with 101A who specialise in sultry, pitch-black tunes without the screamo of a group like Aldious. Slipping back to anime and away from garish Harajuku fashions, 9mm Parabellum Bullet is free from XX chromosome carriers and is best known for the opening to the critically underrated Real Drive, Wanderland; their album Vampire is similarly superb. Likewise for stalwarts LAST ALLIANCE who contributed the ending to Ouran Highschool Host Club (among others) but selected perhaps one of their worst songs for it, Shissho.
Finishing off Sunday with something a little slower paced than the borderline speed-metal of the above is the criminally unknown Lillies and Remains who recently released a cover album, Re/composition. This in itself would be unremarkable were it not for the covers themselves: everything from Toxic by Britney Spears to Everything Counts by Depeche Mode to The Cutter by Echo & The Bunnymen. It’s eclectic and wonderful to listen to and has neatly rounded out a week which has seen the spring season explode onto speakers with mixed results.