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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

With you in spirit

Well it seems Wes has been doing a good job of keeping this place updated as I've been busy running my and my wife's store... but just so you guys don't think I've gone off Puffy completely, here's a 100% non-set up still life from the top of my store CD player the other day:


Yes, sometimes their CD's are on top. We do play them quite often. Not only because I like them, but they suit the store's theme too.

And oddly enough, occasionally I catch one of our customers singing along. (Seriously!) CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Puffy Performance of 2009

Countdown Japan 0910 marks the last performance for Puffy of the year (or decade depending on how you count...). Puffy was the first artist to go on stage on Monday's openign of Countdown Japan and they are in good company as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Unicorn and Kaela Kimura also were performing later in the day.

To honor the memory of Fujifabric's Masahiko Shimura, who passed away about a week ago, Puffy changed up their set list to include DOKI DOKI. Masahiko Shimura wrote that song and Bye-Bye, both of which were tracks on Puffy's album Bring it!

Here is the complete set list from Countdown Japan 0910:

1. Jet Keisatsu
2. Ai no Shirushi
3. Boom Boom Beat
4. Tokyo I'm On My Way
5. Darekaga
6. Bring it on
7. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru etc.
8. Asia no Junshin
9. DOKI DOKI

Better yet, here are some fantastic pictures from Puffy's performance.













Photo credit: Rockin'on Inc.

CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Twelve Days Of Puffy

I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

For fun I decided to go through Puffy's back catalog and do a variant of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," but with Puffy songs. Each day has a corresponding track number on an album. I thought it would be easy... I was wrong.

Anyways, here are...

"The Twelve Days of Puffy"
1. Oriental Diamond (Honeycreeper)
2. Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi (Jet)
3. Tokyo I'm On My Way (Splurge)
4. Kokoro ni Hana wo (59)
5. Hataraku Otoko (Hit and Fun)
6. Asia no Junshin (AmiYumi)
7. Aoi Namida (The Hit Parade)
8. Stray Cats Fever (The Very Best of Puffy)
9. Koino Line Aino Shape (Fever Fever)
10. Tokusuru Karada (The Very Best of Puffy)
11. Mogura-Like (Hit and Fun)
12. Mother (The Very Best of Puffy)

I hope everyone has a great holiday season!
CONTINUED >>


Monday, December 21, 2009

Puffy's Word Of The Year

Not much going on with Puffy right now. The not-to-be US tour sort of took the wind out of my sales… sort of a blogging equivalent to being hung-over after a particularly bitter night of drinking. I have been noodling around with a couple of blog entries, but none of them are working out to be worthy of publishing… for free.

There must be a word for that, but in the spirit of made up words…here are Puffy’s first top made up words of the year via their MySpace blog:

10th place is "shishiko"
For Yunpoke readers, you may know already but
it's the name of the stray cat Yumi sees on her walks.

9th place is "Taxi kara no Koda" (Koda heard in the taxi)
AmiYumi & Manager Toshi were on the cab when they suddenly heard Kumi Koda's "Koi no Tsubomi".
It wasn't the radio or CD, it was....
the ringtone from the 60 year old taxi driver (LOL).
I wasn't there but heard it was so hard not to laugh.

8th place is "Kotona"
It's the word between "Kodomo (kid)" and "Otona (adult)".
An adult that's still a kid or a Kid that's turing into an adult
or it can even mean an adult that can't fully become an adult yet.
There's so many words AmiYumi create but this is by far a great one.


7th place is "Mitopuri"
This is the name of a hotel that the managers stayed at this year.
It sounds like the abbreviation of the famous hotel chain in Japan.
But it was not related at all.

6th place is "Hiro Mizushima"
This is the nickname of Shunsuke Watanabe, PUFFY band's keyboard player.
In Ami's "Tomodach Collection" game, he is married to Ami's daughter (LOL).

5th place is "RIEMO"
What is this....first check the picture...

This is a mysterious group that AmiYumi discovered while they were beat from all the promotion.
Every perfecture they went for promo...they saw flyers of these guys and heard them on the radio.
Now AmiYumi are huge fans of RIEMO (LOL).

4th place is "Tojitive"
The meaning was written in Ami's blog in March...
I was talking to Toshiko yesterday,
and found a really handy word.
"Not in the mood"
"Nothing is going right"
"Black cat walked in front of me"
If that is you!!!
It's ok!!!
It's alright to think that way!!
Until you feel like your in the mood,
Until things start getting better,
Until the day you own your own cute black cat,
Just face it as it is
cause you're just closed on positivity right now...This is,
"Toji-tive"!!!!

3rd place is "Kossetsu Musume (broken rib girl)"
This was Yumi's nickname when she broke her rib while driving.
Of course she's totally better now.

2nd place is "Kakatte Koiya"
This is AmiYumi's translation of "Bring it!" which was the title of the album released in June.

1st place is "Asesu"
This is the plural of "Ase (sweat)".
It was the word that was created when the summer tour was going on and
ever since everyone on the PUFFY team started using it.


I find this sort of silly and/or weird blog entries by bands to be wonderful. So many bands simply give release dates, appearances and generally dry material. Hat tip to the staffer who translated it.
CONTINUED >>


Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Flashback To The Past...

Sorry gang, other commitments have been eating away at writing time, but I came across this video today. Fairly dated but a version of Asia No Junshin one I have not seen....



I would probably describe this one as more fun than good, but it is for a TV spot so most of the problems stem from that. Hearing Glay and Ami do Asia No Junshin live, from roughly the same time was really great however.

Have a great weekend. Hopefully I will have more opportunity to write over Thanksgiving week. That also implies free time to listen to music, which is a major benefit!
CONTINUED >>


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Too Good To Be True

I did a quick follow up with Brigitte Wright who management for Less Than Jake... turns out Puffy is not touring with them. Puffy canceled two months ago. Why promoters, venues and ticket sellers have not updated was as much a surprise to my source with Less Than Jake as it was to me....

That means that I can say with a high degree of certainty that Puffy is not touring the US this winter. Sorry for the false alarm... There was enough to report on, after all this was big news for US based Puffy fans... but I definitely saw some oddities about the concerts. First no announcement via Puffy, they have always been proactive on concert announcements. Second the unevenness of promoters and ticket sellers with them on the bill.

Sorry to dash everyone's hopes.... Reporting good news as well as bad news is part of gigs like this. I suppose the only good thing I can take from all of this confusion is that Puffy still has some interest in playing US gigs. Hopefully this will translate to Ami and Yumi actually playing US gigs at some point...

That or I will have to sleep on my friend Karen's couch in Tokyo.


CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Unannounced Puffy 2009 US Tour Dates

(See the above... blog for more news... and bad news at that)

Commenter Robert got me on this trail, so he really deserves full credit. At this point I am excitedly trying to collate information and will add more when I know more. From what I can ascertain right now there are two concerts Puffy will be at as a support act for Less Than Jake.

It looks like this will be a four band concert, so I guess they will get one set.... which is a shame. My best hope is they will get the same amount of stage time The Juliette Dagger got on Shonen Knife's last tour.... but some live Puffy is better than the alternative.

At-any-rate here are the dates I can verify:

11/27/2009 - The Gothic, Englewood CO
12/04/2009 - House Of Blues, Anaheim, CA

Bad news is I know nothing more at this time. Less Than Jake has shows between these dates and after, so I do not know if Ami and Yumi are only doing these shows or not. The information is unclear. More surprisingly is that this is totally out of the blue, usually Puffy has update on forthcoming tour dates.

Now the really, really good news is, I happen to live in Denver... So, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be be at The Gothic (where I happened to see Shonen Knife...), which is a terrific venue.

My gut tells me this was all thrown together quickly... but when I know more I will pass it along! CONTINUED >>


Friday, October 30, 2009

Quiet & A Couple Of Wallpapers

Not much going on for Puffy news, Ami and Yumi seem to have a bunch of dates over the remainder of the year, but beyond that... little news. Not a bad thing per se, but it does nto give me a lot of blogging material...

Next review I hope will be up late next week... The process is taking longer than I thought. Some of this is due to other commitments, vacation and the wonderful distraction of family. Some of it is almost every album, aside from Bring it!, has been a rediscovery and in some cases changing of long held opinions I held.

It is good fun, but impossible to put a deadline on...

Until then a couple of wallpapers I made a while back.




Credit to the original photographers.
CONTINUED >>


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Album Review: solosolo

Calling solosolo a tale of two albums might be an obvious point if it were no more than Ami and Yumi each get seven tracks as a showcase of their individual talents as vocalists. There is, however, more to this observation than that worn cliche.

Each half of solosolo also represents different styles of recording which carry over to subsequent albums; Think Jet or Nice versus Splurge or Bring it! as examples of production style. Ami uses a number of producers and collaborators and has a more western set of influences. Yumi's half is helmed by a single producer and a smalled group of collaborators. The end result is that Ami's half is the slightly stronger effort. Some of this is because Ami at this stage in Puffy’s history is more developed as an artist, yet lackluster production Yumi's half of solosolo is also notable.

While a double album split into solo halves is an interesting idea, solosolo is also an interesting album for another reason. Ami’s half was recorded before Puffy was formed. As to when… I would hazard that Ami recorded her half sometime in 1995. It was a shelved solo effort and Ami was in something of a fugue state within Sony Music until she met Yumi. Then as they say, the rest is history.

Solosolo is a great snapshot as to where Ami and Yumi were at as singers before Puffy’s breakout album Jet. Considering Ami’s half was recorded well before Puffy’s formation, it is evident that Yumi’s vocals were not nearly as developed as Ami’s. This surprised me, I had always thought they were very close in regards to talent in their early efforts.

It feels odd to split the review of solosolo into two parts; Ami’s and Yumi. However, both halves represent distinct works that happen to share a CD cover. Let's get to the music itself.

Disc One - Ami Onuki
Produced by Tamio Okuda (1), Velvet Crush & John Lupfer (2, 4 & 5), Andy Sturmer (3) ,Frank Simes (6) and Yoshiharu Abe (7)

1. Onnanoko Otokonoko (Okuda & Sturmer)
2. Love Depth (Onuki & Velvet Crush)
3. Honey (Onuki & Sturmer)
4. That's Sweet Smile (Onuki & Duffy)
5. Be Someone Tonight (Velvet Crush)
6. Snacks (Onuki & Simes)
7. Tadaima (Abe & Bevoir)

Onnanoko Otokonoko has a 70’s sound that would not feel out of place on, say, the soundtrack for Rushmore. It is a nice enough song but it is not one that sticks. This track in particular illustrates that Ami can simply do things vocally that Yumi cannot, particularly at this early stage. I will say Yumi over time has become a good singer but as shown on this track, Ami had such a head start via her performance and penning four of the seven tracks.

Love Depth… listening to the drums this sounds like a Mathew Sweet song, but as I discovered Ric Menck is the drummer and one of the artists credited for the music. The end of the song sounds exactly like something Matthew Sweet would have done at about the same time. I am on the fence about Love Depth. Given my own musical tastes there is a lot I should like, but it feels a little dated and defined by the mid 90's power pop scene rather than rising above it.

One of those songs I am not sure about is Honey. It is synth heavy and percussions are exceptionally weak, it may very well be a drum machine. As you will see in later reviews, I am hit or miss with Sturmer. I would say when he becomes too exacting the effort feels synthetic and I think Honey falls into that category. Ami’s vocals sound slightly washed out and Honey would have benefitted from emphasizing them more.

That’s Sweet Smile is a well delivered song wrapped in a slight pop throwback package. Like the previous track, That’s Sweet Smile is a slower paced song. Between the two I think this track is miles better. Again it demonstrates where Ami is at even before Puffy was formed.
Be Someone Tonight is an English song and delivers the power pop sound better than the previous confab with Velvet Crush. Ami’s vocals are mostly spot on though I think she sounded slightly flat in a couple parts. The instruments are well balanced against Ami's vocals and I think this is the best overall song on solosolo in regards to singing, music and production.

I would swear Snacks was a Shonen Knife song. Ami’s singing is strong and steady but not remarkable. The music is well played but the engineering is not good. I dislike the bouncing of sound between speakers in Snacks, it is hard to communicate this, it just annoys me when I listen to it.

Tadaima starts off sounding like the Gin Blossoms… I intensely dislike the Gin Blossoms, but then the song combines with an early 80’s ELO sound that makes me forget the part I disliked. Ami’s voice is so very clear and I think displays good range and energy. It is a good enough song that it would make a better Puffy song.

solosolo: Ami Grades
-----------------------
Music: B+
Production: B
Performance: A-


Disc Two - Yumi Yoshimura
Produced by Tetsutaro Sakurai

1. Tennon no Bi (Sakei & Sakurai)
2. Tsuyoki no Hutari (Sakei & Sakurai)
3. Hanabi (Sakei & Sakurai)
4. V•A•C•A•T•I•O•N (Konishi)
5. Sorenarie (Suzuki)
6. Ai no Aura (Kuramochi)
7. Watashi no Nozomi (Suzuki)

Tennen no Beauty is a song that seems well timed musically, it has a grunge sound that compliments Yumi’s vocal delivery. There is nothing noteworthy about the instruments, which could have been a bit stronger, yet the slightly muted delivery does make room for Yumi, who especially in Puffy’s early days was overshadowed by Ami’s more developed sense of presence.
Tsuyoki na Furari the intro sounds like Yes merged with DEVO, but once Yumi starts in with her vocals another layer is added. It is a great song but the instruments again seem slightly muted and very, very recursive. Not that a looped sound is necessarily bad, but one of the things I have always admired in Puffy’s material is that the musicians have been given room to do their thing. In Tsuyoki na Furari it feels like a slightly phoned in effort.

Hanabi is poppy sort of song. The drums are nice, but it the synthesizers are a little think. Yumi’s vocal delivery is smooth right until she needs to go a little too high which really do not showcase Yumi very well. Hanabi is not really a song I care for, it is a style I am not inclined towards and Yumi’s range is tested and the result is mixed.

Next up
V•A•C•A•T•I•O•N which is a fun song… and very much a beach blanket bingo throwback. I also like it because in the Fever*Fever concert footage it is perfectly used as a comic foil. Pizzicato five’s main man Yasuharu Konishi wrote the lyrics and music on the track, which gives it a wildly different sound than the other thirteen tracks on solosolo. I like V•A•C•A•T•I•O•N quite a bit, but I also have to be in the right mood for to fully appreciate it.

I think Yumi’s vocals are strong on
V•A•C•A•T•I•O•N , but again when she needs to go high there are some issues but less so than Tsuyoki na Furari. I only note this because I am guessing Yumi received vocal training before Jet went into production, because from that point on she has no problem hitting notes and becomes the powerful vocalist between the duo.

Another fun but unremarkable song, Sorenarini . I thing the synthesizer part of the song does it no favors and is overbearing. Yumi is not displaying much range but her delivery is fine.

Ai no Auro has a 70’s sound at the start and drifts into a more pop sound. Yumi sounds like she is singing in a padded cave. The instruments are muted and the singing is a touch flat. Not a song a particularly care for in regards to styling or sound.

Watashi no Nozomi has a 70’s pop sound and unlike Ai no Auro I like this one by Yumi. Her vocals have more range and a softer touch to them. Some of this may be because she is harmonizing with herself, but it works.

solosolo: Yumi Grades
----------------------
Music: B
Production: C
Performance: B
CONTINUED >>


Friday, October 2, 2009

Quick Update

Sorry for being quiet, several other writing projects decided to land on my desk and compiled with some real world things... It does not help that Puffy seems to be in a between albums fugue state.

Anyways I am working on my next couple of reviews and some of those conclusions might surprise you more than they surprised me. Or not... Who knows...

To keep you busy here is a TV appearance of a medley of their songs. Sung live which is a nice change. Nothing notable about the selection, more that I had not stumbled across this particular clip.


CONTINUED >>


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Different Take On Puffy

Sorry I have been a little less than a blogging machine, other projects and events sidelined fun writing about Puffy. But fret not I have been jotting down notes for the next album reviews and once I start stitching them together I will post them up.

Anyways, today we have a guest blogger of sorts... my oldest daughter Ying who truly adores Puffy. So far as role models go, I could not pick out two better women in entertainment to look up to. They are humble, accomplished, funny and genuine.

I sat down with her this week and asked Ying what her favorite Puffy songs are right now. Usually she listens to whatever happens to be playing and but there are some she is more enthusiastic about than others. Today we agree on songs, tomorrow maybe not.

The first is Mother, which has consistently been her favorite to listen to since she was a really wee lass. Maybe it is the stop motion animation of the video or Ami and Yumi. This has always been on eof my favorites too.



The surprise selection was Jet Police, which she started liking after I started going through the Shibyua-AX concert footage. Normally she leans towards Yumi in all things Puffy, but this particular rendition of Jet Police she flips for Ami.



Lastly is Tokyo I'm On My Way... which she has been crazy about... Particularly the Tour 10 Final concert verison, or as she puts it Tokyo I'm On My Way with the pink and blue dress. She is particularly impressed with Yumi's attire.



An unexpected joy from listening to Puffy is that their music and videos are something my daughter and I can enjoy together. When I hear her make a request for a specific song or get irked I hit next to bypass a song she likes, it makes me smile.
CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Places Puffy Led Me To

Puffy by themselves… soak up more time than I care to admit. When I sit down to listen to music it is good odds I will be listening to them. But Puffy is certainly not the only band I listen to regularly, but Puffy has afforded me the chance to discover more about a genre of music that I have come to greatly appreciate.... to the point of blogging about them and promoting them as serious artists.

Yet this article is not really about music I enjoy. Rather this is how I detoured into foolishness trying to find music inspired by my enjoyment of Puffy.

Not long after I discovered Puffy, I was combing YouTube and stumbled across a video for the song Harada Kinenbi, a multi-artist promotional effort for Sony’s Hit-n-Run label.
Speaking in generalities, I tend to hate group efforts, because they simply never seem to work. Harada Kinembi had been done the year before by Sony’s stable of stars and it was a complete train wreck of hack and pomposity… like We Are The World. The superb Lionel Ritchie could not have saved this one either.

What surprised me and tossed my musical sensibilities on their ear was that the 99 version of Harada Kinembi was dynamite! It is very well arranged and had a more humorous and playful undertone. It had a feeling that Sony’s talent was not shunted into a room and forced to kick out a song or be starved to death.




At this time my musical leanings were only beginning to shift to the east and while I was familiar with some of the artists in Harada Kinenbi, but there were many I knew nothing about that upon this first impression I knew I might like. I had to learn more about them.. One was the band The Wonder Soul Style, which is another blog... The other was a woman with dyed red hair and a stellar voice that merged beautifully with Ami and Yumi’s for a chorus. Google did not offer any pointers and I needed help.

As luck would have it, one thing I am not short of in life is associates who are fluent Japanese speakers. One e-mail to Dr. Doug and my question was answered. The singer in question was Izumi Tachibana. I had a name and I put Google went to work.

This is where I started to become grossly stupid.

Google tripped up Izumi Tachibana’s old website which redirected me to her new website. She had since married and changed her name. The site had a modest amount of information in English, but not enough to be useful. So I went to the Google well again…

One small problem however. I misread her new surname as Sakai and not Sakaki.

This one tiny mistake snowballed. There was a very well known Japanese singer named Izumi Sakai. Her back catalog had a number of albums that after mangled translations had very similar titles. As it turns out many Japanese artists have greatest hits albums with the moniker “Golden Best.” Izumi Sakai also had a very complete Wikipedia entry, which let me to what I thought was an unfortunite end.

Izumi Sakai passed away in 2007. While taking an early morning walk as a respite from chemotherapy treatments, Sakai suffered a head trauma after falling from an ambulance platform. Sakai had previously fought uterine cancer, but that had spread to her lungs. While Sakai’s doctors were encouraged with her treatments, due to this illness she had been on a hiatus. This chronologically corresponded with the hiatus that the singer who was really Izumi Sakaki. I closed the book on this line of investigation.

Fast forward a few months.

Something was not right. I intuitively knew I was wrong about all of this and it simmered in the back of my mind. One morning these thoughts boiled over and I went back and started looking into Izumi Tachibana again. It hit me that while there were parallels in these two performers… I had misinterpreted something.

An hour later, I put my hands were on my head. I had been wrong and I knew why: I had been intellectually lazy. I only looked at the things that were similar between these Izumis, not what was different.

What unraveled my patchwork research was that Izumi Sakai was the best selling female artist is Japan during the 1990’s and to this day Sakai remains one of the top five best selling female artist in Japan. Sakai was also eponymous with the Japanese band Zard, whom she was the only permanent member. Izumi Sakai only appeared on TV seven times. She was painfully shy, yet by all accounts kind and down to earth. Despite being wildly popular, she never received a single award for her work.

It is one thing to discover an artist and learn about them posthumously. It is another to discover them and grow with them. Together moving forward with their songs and forming a soundtrack for our life. I very much feel this about Puffy.

Yet this revelation is not completely sad. Izumi Sakaki (formerly Tachibana) is alive and well. Like The Wonder Soul Style she is no longer with Sony. While Izumi Sakaki went down a different path than the more famous artists who sang Harada Kinenbi she continues as working artist and has a good sized back catalog of her own.

The end result of all this is neither Izumi Sakai nor Izumi Sakaki appeal to my Japanese rock sensibilities. This was a lot of hard work for something that did not work out. That happens. Likewise I have found incredible artists like Puffy via effortless accident.

Without Puffy I also would not have found many artists that I also enjoy.

P.S. The Wonder Soul Style… they are my J-Rock Waterloo. I have liked everything I have heard from them. Which is precious little beyond Midbooster and Harada Kinembi… so if you know any more about them. Please get a hold of me.


CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Album Review: amiyumi


Good things can come in small packages… amiyumi is a great introduction to Ami and Yumi but it is either a long EP or a short album. I think an argument could be made for either. I consider it an album and I wish that I could have listened to in upon its release in 1996 rather than a number of years removed. Ami and Yumi’s voices are fresh and while they certainly have become better singers, there is something special that only happens once in a career, the beginning.

Technically this is Ami’s second album, her half of solosolo was (I believe) recorded before amiyumi… but combining with Yumi for Puffy marks the start of something special. Tamio Okuda produced amiyumi and this is another harbinger of things to come, the special musical relationship between him, Ami and Yumi. This is often stated by Puffy fans, but it is not hyperbole either. Without him, arguably Puffy would have become (...if anything at all) a footnote in j-pop.

In hindsight, amiyumi is a middle of the pack album in Puffy's catalog. That is no mean feat, many artists' first efforts are something they might be embarrassed by or prefer remain buried. Amiyumi is a good album and everything that is great about Puffy starts here and True Asia and Profitable Body remain high points for Puffy to this day.

For reference here is the track list for amiyumi, within the context of the review I will use the English title translations. I do not have any issue with using Japanese song titles and my reviews will shift back and forth. Part of my goal is to talk about Ami and Yumi and I think translated song titles might help reach a wider group of people.

1. Tokusuru Karada / Profitable Body (Lyrics & Music: Tamio Okuda)
2. Usagi Channel / Rabbit Channel (Lyrics: Ami Onuki & Tamio Okuda, Music: Tamio Okuda)
3. Sakura Saku / Cherry Blossom Blooms (Lyrics & Music: Tamio Okuda)
4. Simple (Lyrics: Puffy
and Shinichi Yakuma & Music: Shinichi Yakuma)
5. Nagaiki Shite ne / I Want You to Live a Long Time (Lyrics: Yumi Yoshimura & Tamio Okuda, Music: Tamio Ok
uda)
6. Asia no Junshin /True Asia (Lyrics: Yosui Inoue, Music: Tamio Okuda)
7. Puffy no Hey! Mountain (Lyrics: Tamio Okuda & Puffy, Music: Tamio Okuda)

amiyumi opens with Profitable Body and it is a track in some ways I appreciate slightly more than True Asia. That may sound like heresy given True Asia is Puffy's signature song. I enjoy the guitar work and the recursive manner in which it is played, which is a consistent theme in the Puffy songs I like. The harmonizing that Ami and Yumi display in Profitable Body is wider ranging and showcases the "Puffy sound" better than any other track on amiyumi and puts the Puffy stamp on the album from the start.

Rabbit Channel, is the first of two solo tracks, Yumi’s follows later in the album and both have a throwback pop / lounge sound. It is a slower paced song and when translating lyrics it is also surprisingly silly. Of the two solo tracks Rabbit Channel is the better, if only because the engineering and instruments are better implemented. It feels like Okuda wanted to give Ami and Yumi similar songs as to not differentiate either too much and thus both sound similar in regards to style and pacing. Where Ami’s Rabbit Channel is a middling effort, the solo by Yumi misses the mark.

I Want You to Live a Long Time is a solo track by Yumi and is not a song a care for. I understand the throwback sound that she and Okuda were trying to replicate but it sounds awkward. The instruments do emulate a vague throwback which was interesting in theory, in practice the music is bland and the production over engineered to the point of sterility.

True Asia is inarguably the best song on amiyumi and arguably one of their best songs spanning 13 years of work to date. Guitars, drums, keyboards and vocals all tightly integrated in one declarative package wrapped with stellar sound engineering. I would say one subtle delight in True Asia is that drums, bass and keyboards are lead instruments and yet they are not overpowering. They are given a lot of range to roam but still give a solid foundation for Puffy’s singing. Every time I listen to True Asia I am mesmerized by it on so many levels.

Three tracks that fall just behind True Asia and Profitable Body are Puffy no Hey! Mountain Simple and Cherry Blossoms Bloom. The former is a slower paced interlaced with soul and funk, it is pleasant but not a distinctive track. Simple is a rocking alternative sounding track that is my third favorite track on amiyumi. It has nice energy and showcases a wide vocal range from Ami and Yumi.
Cherry Blossoms Bloom is a nice song with with a vague western vibe to it. I find it listenable but it is not a track I gravitate towards either.

Amiyumi is an album that is a harbinger for things to come. Unlike many early efforts by a band, amiyumi is a good album in its own right. Ami and Yumi deliver a sound that can only be experienced and I wish I would have started with this album and been able to experience two of my favorite albums that follow closely on the heels of amiyumi. Talking about those are a subject for later review.

Final Grades
Music: A
Production: B+
Performance: B
CONTINUED >>


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wedding Bell "live"

Someone - maybe TofuUnion? - posted a link to this in a comment a little while back, and it's probably worth dedicating a late post to:


This is actually one of my favorite songs on Bring It!, and this "live" video is well shot, but the lip-syncing really bothers me. They never used to do this, but I'm seeing it more and more... it's not just them either, but it seems industry-wide in Japan. They're following our lead, which is pretty unfortunate in this case - one of the things I always liked about Japanese pop music was that even the biggest, most popular and often least-talented singers always had to sing their own songs live on TV. So you'd finally get to hear how awful Leah Dizon really was without any studio tricks to back her up. (Go ahead, click the link and fast forward a bit - but I warn you, it's painful. It's saying something that AKB48 is actually the more talented bunch in that video.) Really separated the wheat from the chaff.

Anyway, what's the point of watching somebody just mouth the words to an album track?

But this is not really the case any longer, at least not with some shows, and even Puffy are now lip-syncing through most of their TV appearances. This performance seems to have some live instrumentation and possibly vocals over it, but it's mostly just them trying to look like they're singing. Which wouldn't have been so obvious at the time it was filmed, but is now.

EDIT: Anthony pointed this video out in the comments, and I thought I'd add it here because I think it's kind of hilarious. Puffy + SMAP singing the same song (all together), and this one sounds like it's not lip-synced - although it may have just been re-recorded in advance for this show. It still looks a little too effortless.

CONTINUED >>


Monday, August 17, 2009

Puffy's Summer Concerts

Ami blogged the set lists from two of the summer concerts Puffy Performed at, Rock In Japan FES and Summer Sonic 09. For a festival set list, it looks like a decent and long selection of new and classic Puffy. Sometimes festival set lists are curtailed so seems like a nice surprise.

Rock In Japan FES
1. Tokyo I'm On My Way
2. Ai no shirushi
3. DOKI DOKI
4. Dareka ga
5. Bring it on
6. Asia no Junshin
7. Nagisa ni matsuwaru etc.
8. My Story

Summer Sonic 09
1. Tokyo I'm On My Way
2. Ai no shirushi
3. Bring it on
4. Dareka ga
5. Hi Hi
6. I Don't Wanna
7. Asia no Junshin
8. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru etc.
9. My Story

Ami also posted a number pictures from Summer Sonic 09 via Puffy's MySpace blog. Here are a couple from that blog.





Photo credits: Summer Sonic 09
CONTINUED >>


Friday, August 14, 2009

Album Review: Bring it!


Puffy’s first album in nearly two years, Bring it! mostly delivers an album I like… but as Jeff reviewed previously it is an album that I have to put a few qualifications and come to some similar conclusions, albeit via a different route.

Overall Bring it! is definitely structured more as a pop album (re a mishmash of musical stylings, ergo pop as in popular) rather than leaning towards rock which I would categorize honeycreeper and Splurge without hesitation.

While structured like earlier Puffy albums and after listening to Bring it! I am not convinced that Puffy can (or should) snap back to 1999. There are a lot of reasons for this, be it simply their voices changing over the years, song selection, change of musical support or simply whatever Ami and Yumi are interested in doing musically is now different.

One serious absence is any song by Tamio Okuda, whom I think writes the best Puffy songs and more importantly his songs get the best out of Ami and Yumi as performers. The synergy between the three is remarkable and only one song on Bring it! matches that kind of synergy.


For reference, here is the track list for Bring it! (also please note my Japanese is awful as I am not a speaker of the language, so generally speaking I judge lyrics often by sound and feel…)

1. I Don't Wanna (Lyrics & Music: Butch Walker & Avril Lavigne)
2. My Story (Lyrics: PUFFY Music: Anders Hellgren & David Myhr)
3. Bye Bye (Lyrics & Music: Masahiko Shimura)
4. My Hero! (Lyrics & Music: Roger Joseph Manning Jr.)
5. Shuen no Onna (Lyrics & Music: Sheena Ringo)
6. DOKI DOKI (Lyrics & Music: Masahiko Shimura)
7. Twilight Shooting Star! (Lyrics & Music: Sawao Yamanaka)
8. Hare Onna (Lyrics & Music: Kazuyoshi Saito)
9. All Because Of You (Lyrics & Music: Butch Walker & Avril Lavigne)
10. Anata to Watashi (Lyrics: PUFFY Music: Yuta Saito)
11. Hiyori Hime (Lyrics & Music: Sheena Ringo)
12. Bring it on (Lyrics: Ami Onuki  Music: Takeshi Hosomi)
13. Wedding Bell (Lyrics & Music: Yoshiaki Furuta)

My Story is flat out the best song on Bring it! and I cannot get enough of it. Ami and Yumi both deliver on the vocals and the instruments and engineering are tight. If there is one song that will survive the binges and purges of my mp3 rotation, this is the one. In some ways My Story captures the singing style of Puffy that I enjoy, when they harmonize and sing together. It may not sound like anything from Fever Fever, but it feels like it and more importantly brings it. (pardon the pun)

Of the two offerings by Butch Walker and Avril Lavinge, I Don’t Wanna is the better of the two. It is listenable but I would not call it a great song. All Because Of You on the other hand is really, really not a good song. I find it painful and soul crushing to listen to. From a Japanese perspective there are probably good reasons why a couple tracks credited to Avril Levinge would have popular and marketing appeal for Bring it!, but as an American music fan it makes me shake my head in disappointment. That said, my niece in Singapore loves Avril Lavigne and maybe I am being a grumpy old man telling Lavigne to get off my musical lawn…

The pair of songs by Sheena Ringo (however she chooses to spell it) Shuen no Onna and Hiyori Hime are decidedly better than the Walker and Levigne offerings. Shuen no Onna, to me, has a jazz and fifties vibe to it that I find pleasant and a nice change of pace song. Hiyori Hime is a song that took a while for me to enjoy, but to my surprise I have come to feel that way about it. I think there is still something missing and a it is a bit sloppy in the instruments, specifically the drumming and guitar work and the keyboards are a touch overwrought. Yet Hiyori Hime has a great flow to it with some very good up and down tempos. Jeff is spot on in that this probably is more Puffy performing a Sheena Ringo song rather than Sheena Ringo writing a Puffy song.

A song that feels out of place is Anata to Watashi and looking at the contributing artists for instruments… I have to wonder if this is a song that Puffy needed to clear off the shelves and fill out Bring it!... either way it is a bad song and mimics a sound by Puffy that is not amongst my favorites to begin with.

Wedding Bell was song that surprised me on Bring it!. After listening to the original I was concerned that this was not going to be a cover by Puffy I would particularly enjoy. I was wrong. As Jeff noted in his review, it does have a snap back to 1999 feel and an effortless one at that. Tempo wise, it would not have been a song that would have leapt out at me under most circumstances, but for whatever reason Wedding Bell works for me.

Boiling down the rest of Bring it!... My Hero is a decent but it is not a distinguishing effort. Twilight Shooting Star is a song I liked well enough, but I think the singing effort comes off a bit more rough than I would have liked. Doki Doki is another song that probably slides under the radar for many listeners it is a mish-mash sort of effort that I could see people not liking but to me it is different and sometimes I like an offbeat song. Bring it on is another mish-mash song with pop, rock and punk influences that I think is a fun listen but it does not exactly stick in my brain either. Hare Onna also has a snap back feel, but it is a song that feel is unpolished and incomplete, particularly in the chorus which to me is very muddled.

The cover for Bring it!, is not one I especially care for. I can see what the idea was, but I generally do not like heavily altered pictures... they creep me out. I am not sure what cover might have tied the album together, but this is not it. My wife’s comment after looking at the cover and flipping through the liner notes was they are trying too hard to look young. So far as the liner notes go, they had the usual information with imagery I did not care for.

Bring it! is an album that is listenable and on the balance I enjoyed it, but it is not a distinctive effort by Ami and Yumi either. Ami and Yumi both sing well on the album regardless of the song, but behind them the effort seems mixed. There might be a reason for that, but that is another blog.

For fans of Puffy, Bring it! is worth picking up, but it is not an album by I would suggest someone new to Ami and Yumi start with either. There are some very good songs on the album, and regardless of there being a few subpar tracks that cause that split distinction.


Final Grades

Music: B-
Production: C
Performance: B-

As a note, I will review the bonus concert DVD separately as I have not had a chance to watch it beyond a cursory viewing.


CONTINUED >>


Monday, August 10, 2009

New single! Dareka ga

PUFFY have a new single out, and pretty quick after the release of BRING IT! It's the theme song to some new Naruto anime, I guess, and I haven't had time to read much about it yet but it'd surprise me if it wasn't a cover. I'll have a bit more on it tomorrow, but here's a live version of it below to tide you over (and sorry about the low, somewhat out of sync audio - the options on YouTube are limited):


btw, unrelated but I have been waiting a long time to see this again:

CONTINUED >>


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beginnings

When Jeff put out the call for some help blogging here at amiyumidas, I had to jump at the chance. Jeff has put together a blog that meshes with a lot of my own opinions and general view points about Puffy. I enjoy smaller, more personal discussions about a band I seriously enjoy.

This is the place for the writing I want to do and the discussions that stem from it. I have always had the desire to blog about Puffy, but never felt that I had enough material to go forward… now joining up with Jeff to help deliver a blog about Puffy… that is another story.

Writing about music presents a new challenge for me. My writing gigs have always revolved around humor, politics and gaming in a couple media formats, but truth be told… music is a passion of mine that I have yet to really express and Puffy has a special place in my music library. If I were going to branch out and talk about music it would be about them.

What songs and albums by Puffy do I like? That would be giving up the farm in one blog…. As to what future blogs hold, I have a number of ideas that have been percolating in my brain. Some of this involves reviewing Puffy’s albums, some of this is discussing finer points of their music but outside of that, if news items or such come up that I can gin up a blog about…

Anyways, there is no shortage of things I would like to blog about and I look forward to sharing these with other fans of Puffy.

Yet before I go forward, maybe I should take a step back.

How I began listening to Puffy stems from a conversation at work on a slow day at the oil and gas company my friend Doug and I were freelancing at during the summer of 2002. The conversation turned to music a subject both Doug and I were passionate about… but until that day there has been no overlap. I had a middling interest in Japanese rock as I had been a fan of Shonen Knife since college and had listened to snippets of other artists. Doug being fluent in Japanese and having a long held interest in J-Pop (not to mention had lived in Japan and is married to a Japanese friend of my wife’s) emphatically told me I should check out Puffy.

I bought An Illustrated History that afternoon and never turned back.

All that said, I want to thank Jeff for the opportunity to blog at amiyumidas and look forward to sharing my thoughts on Puffy.

CONTINUED >>


Monday, August 3, 2009

New blogger!

Ladies and gentlemen, we now have a new face around here. Some of you may know him as commenter darkurthe, but he'll be posting under the name Wes.

We'll have to see what he's got planned. In any case, he'll hopefully help fill in some of the gaps when I'm busy with my little store, although he won't be a full-time blogger here either and I'll probably still do the bulk of it - assuming I can ever get some free time. I really want to get back to spending more time here, but it's just not easy at the moment. (I *will* have a few more posts soon.)

Anyway, join me in welcoming Wes! And look forward to his first post shortly. CONTINUED >>


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An idea - you can help around here!

It's no secret that I've had a lot less time to spend around here lately, and I've missed things that I definitely would have posted up in a more timely manner just a few months ago. (Like, uh, the current tour that's going on as I write this?)

So, I'm going to open it up a little bit. I know I have some regular readers and commenters who are mature, well-adjusted, and seem to be pretty competent writers. If you're interested, you can help write for this blog. I'll give you a login and you can enter posts directly into the Blogger interface. You'll get your own byline - I've never actually tried this so I haven't seen it work, but I know it's possible. Somehow, your posts will be labeled as being written by you - they won't look like they're written by me.

I will maintain overall editorial control, but as long as you're not abusing things, I'll probably pretty much leave you alone. (I'm a blog editor at work, and this is how I treat the bloggers who already work for me.) I may correct typos and obviously poor grammar if I catch them, but this is just normal editing that editors do. I'll also continue to post, probably at about my current pace.

Things I don't want here:

  • A lot of dumb, superficial "isn't Yumi cute in this picture?!" posts. Though once in a while is actually not something I'm against :) It helps if the context is that it's a new photo, and it's a slow news day/week/month.

  • Almost any post phrased in the form of a question. In other words, "what's your favorite Puffy album??" is not a blog post. Though it could be a call for comments at the end of a blog post (something a lot of bloggers do, but I usually think is a little cheesy. Still, if that's your style...)

  • Anything obviously illegal, like music and video downloads. I really am not in this to get arrested. Embedding video from somewhere else is ok.

  • Anything that trivializes or belittles Puffy as a group, or Ami and Yumi individually. One of the things I've tried to do here is to elevate them to "real band" status in the west, and to get them out of the stigma of being one-dimensional cartoon characters. I don't want that editorial focus to change. Sometimes it's difficult, because you can argue that some of the things they do themselves are pretty trivial and belittling (hawking yogurt that keeps you "regular"??), but, well, if it's really news, then it's ok.

Other than that, it's wide open. If you've wanted to write about them but didn't feel like you had the time or wherewithal to start a blog on your own, then this is your chance. You can write as much or as little as you want, even just a post or two that you've wanted to get off your chest. No pay is offered, just the eternal adoration of all of the western Puffy fans who have actually heard of this blog. :)

Email me
if you are interested. Not saying I'm going to accept everyone, or even reply to every offer, but I have a feeling a few good people might want to do this, if only to help keep this blog going as a resource. Because I know it's probably not serving that purpose too well right now. CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BRING IT! Album Review

Well it feels like I'm taking my own sweet time with this, so I'd better write something up.

First, track listing once again:

1. I Don't Wanna (Words & Music: Butch Walker & Avril Lavigne)
2. My Story (Words:PUFFY Music:Anders Hellgren & David Myhr)
  *Kanebo "Lavshuca" TV commercial song
3. Bye Bye (Words & Music: Masahiko Shimura)
4. My Hero! (Words & Music: Roger Joseph Manning Jr.)
5. Shuen no Onna (Words & Music: Sheena Ringo)
6. DOKI DOKI (Words & Music: Masahiko Shimura)
  *Morinaga Milk Eskimo "MOW" commercial song
7. Twilight Shooting Star! (Words & Music: Sawao Yamanaka)
8. Hare Onna (Words & Music: Kazuyoshi Saito)
9. All Because Of You (Words & Music: Butch Walker & Avril Lavigne)
10. Anata to Watashi (Words: PUFFY Music: Yuta Saito)
11. Hiyori Hime (Words & Music: Sheena Ringo)
  *Animation "Genji Sennenki" opening theme song
12. Bring it on   (Words: Ami Onuki Music: Takeshi Hosomi)
"Bring it back !"
  Wedding Bell (Words & Music: Yoshiaki Furuta)
  *FujiTV drama "Konkastsu" theme song

This is PUFFY's first album in a year and nine months - a seriously long time for them. Worth the wait?

I'd say yes. But (there's always a "but") this still isn't the PUFFY of old, which is probably pretty much gone forever at this point. There are at least some nods to the past on this album, though, which were sorely lacking from their last full-length release honeycreeper. These throwbacks are not always successful - sometimes it feels like the two of them are grasping for something that's no longer within their reach - but occasionally they hit it just right, and for at least a brief moment it feels like 1999 again.

Which isn't to say that there's nothing to like about the new-style PUFFY on this album. As with honeycreeper, there's a lot of hard rock and some of it's just as catchy as anything else they've ever released. There's also some jazz, some punk, and some light rock - complete with horn sections. This album's got variety, and that's something we really haven't heard from them on an original album in in a while now.

I'm gonna surprise some of you now: I love "I Don't Wanna". Yes, even though it's written by Avril Lavigne, and even sounds like her singing. You know, something happened to me on our last Japan trip. As we were walking through the Algonquins offices (Algonquins is Japan's largest punk clothing brand for girls), picking out clothes to sell, they were playing Avril Lavigne on the office stereo. And it made total sense. Three of us, all in our late thirties and two of us guys, walking through an office building in Tokyo looking at punk clothes for girls and listening to Avril Lavigne. It was kind of absurd but completely perfect. I got it.

That doesn't mean I'd ever listen to her here. She fits in perfectly with Japanese culture, where street cred is basically meaningless and cute is everything. So I understand the Japanese fascination with her. And that makes it a lot easier to listen to PUFFY singing her songs.

I still don't like "All Because of You" - a bad song's still a bad song, and that's still a soulless piece of tripe that just sucks the life out of me whenever I hear it. But "I Don't Wanna" is fun. It makes me want to sing along, and it did from the first time I heard it.

Other highlights for me: the previously-released "My Story", Kazuyoshi Saito's "Hare Onna", and the cover of "Wedding Bell", which, surprisingly, sounds like vintage PUFFY to me. This is the one "retro" song on the album that doesn't sound like consciously reaching back, but which I could actually picture on one of their early albums. The way they sing it makes all the difference - it's neither that screeching hard rock style they've had lately, nor is it the self-consciously cutesy mousey voicing they sometimes do when trying to sound like they used to. They really just sound... younger. Without even trying. And the song is fun! I miss the fun of the older PUFFY albums after the more serious Splurge and the occasionally outright dour honeycreeper.

I'm also trying to convince myself that I like Sheena Ringo's (that's how she spells it here!) jazzy "Shuen no Onna", and I think that I do, but it's gotta seep in a little bit. This is another song that at least invokes the old PUFFY, though it doesn't have quite the same feel. Sheena's other track "Hiyori Hime" has already been reviewed here, and my thoughts on it haven't changed much.

As with honeycreeper, there's one track near the end of the album that sounds like PUFFY repeating themselves. In this case, it's "Anata to Watashi", which sounds like a poor-man's "Talalan" combined with another song that I know I know but can't place. Same rhythm, same vocal style, same horns. It's such an obvious similarity that I know someone else will chime in.

The rest of the album I could probably live without. I know, seems like almost half the album, and it's true that I find myself skipping a lot of songs. "My Hero" comes close to being good (and it's from Andy Sturmer's old bandmate, which is interesting), but it's just too simple and basic of a tune, and too repetitive. "Bye Bye" is just nothing at all, it never really gets started. "DOKI DOKI" and "Twilight Shooting Star!" were both reviewed previously and I didn't much like them then. And "Bring it On!" is another punk track, but this one doesn't sound very convincing. And the production of it is grating and shrill.

I would not say this is PUFFY's best album. But I appreciate certain things about it maybe more than I actually like the songs themselves. I like the fact, first of all, that there's only one cover on this album and it's a bonus track. I also like the fact that they're trying to get out of this hard rock rut that they were in for a little while - there are definitely a lot of different styles here. In that way, it is more like the older albums than the more recent ones. The problem is the music just isn't as good, and that comes from working with all these disparate songwriters who don't always know their working styles that well and who aren't experienced in getting the best out of them. It's always hit or miss. (They got a little lucky with Splurge, which clicked as well as any album like this could.)

I think they're probably between a rock and a hard place, and doing the best they can right now. On the one hand, they really can't go back to who they used to be - they don't have the same personnel, so it wouldn't work even if they tried. On the other hand, they can't go too far in a new direction or their fans will get restless, as I think started to happen with honeycreeper. At the same time, their budgets can't be what they used to be. The best they can really do is work with all these different people, many of whom I'm guessing are doing it out of friendship, try to give the fans at least a little of what they expect and hope some magic happens sometimes.

The special edition of the CD comes with a near full-length DVD of their live performance from the "GO WEST" tour in 2005, shot at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I have to say that on a purely selfish level, I'm a little disappointed that they didn't instead include the New York show from the "GO EAST" tour that same year, which I know they also filmed (we were warned before going in) and which, I can say without hesitation, was a better show. (And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that Yumi was making non-stop eye contact with me all through the show! See my first-ever post about PUFFY, which originally appeared on my old non-PUFFY blog, here.) Ami herself said on her blog that that was the best show they'd ever had - and no, she doesn't say that to all the cities!

This DVD reminds me in some ways of "Rolling Debut Revue", which probably sounds harsh to those of you who've seen that, but I don't really mean it to be. They do seem a little bit out of it, though, and disconnected from the crowd. No doubt they were a little nervous, as I don't believe they'd been back to the US at this point since "Rolling Debut Revue". I would have actually preferred to get the rest of the Shibuya AX show that was included with the previous three singles - it was a better show (at least on DVD) than the concert at the Fillmore.

Actually, having said all that, watching this show makes me a little wistful. It wasn't the same show or technically even the same tour as when I saw them the first time, but it was only a few months in between, the set list and stage setup was the same, and of course it was the same year. It takes me back, even if I do claim that my show was better. I was never more into them than I was at this point, I don't think they were ever better than they were at this point, and I wish that I could have just frozen that moment in time.

(screenshots of the DVD coming soon.)

Final Grades
------------

CD
Music: B-
Production: B-
Performance: B+

DVD
Music: A (still love the set list)
Production: B- (it's pretty lo-fi by today's standards)
Performance: B-

CONTINUED >>


Friday, June 19, 2009

Bring It! In hand...

Literally.



I'll have my review in a couple of days - haven't even finished listening to the CD the first time yet.

On another note, I know I'm not posting as much these days. I just don't have a lot of time anymore, what with the new business my wife and I have got going on. We actually just got back from Tokyo last week, on a combined vacation/buying trip, and stuff's just been happening so quickly that I can barely keep up lately. (I do still have a full time job too!) Doesn't leave much time for this blog, unfortunately, or for keeping up with PUFFY in general as much as I used to. I honestly feel almost like an outsider at this point.

I did look for PUFFY merchandise while we were there, but didn't find much of anything that I didn't have. They've been out of the public eye a bit even there for a little while now, so I didn't see nearly as much PUFFY-related stuff as I did last time. By contrast, Kimura Kaela was everywhere. (She also has an album coming out this month.) I wish I'd taken a picture when we went to Kinokuniya - literally every other magazine cover in the women's fashion rack was a shot of Kaela.

Anyway, I'll have a review of Bring It! up soon, along with some screen grabs from the DVD. (Yes, the limited version does have the green cover.) CONTINUED >>


Friday, May 22, 2009

Bring It! and other updates

No, I'm not dead. I know, it's been more than a month since my last post. I'm now literally running four blogs (including a professional one for my day job), plus an online store. I'm spread pretty thin right now.

I've missed quite a bit of news. Or rather, some news I missed, other news I didn't miss but just didn't have time to post. Like, for example, this:



That's PUFFY hawking Bifidus yogurt. They're Japan's version of Jamie Lee Curtis. (Hope they didn't have an unhappy accident during filming.) Want more? No problem!



In the background, you can hear one of the songs from Bring It! No, I don't know which one. Maybe somebody else does.

What I do know, because it was released like a month ago now, is the track listing to the album. I've never posted it, though, so I may as well do it now:

1. I Don't Wanna (Words & Music: Butch Walker & Avril Lavigne)
2. My Story (Words:PUFFY Music:Anders Hellgren & David Myhr)
  *Kanebo "Lavshuca" TV commercial song
3. Bye Bye (Words & Music: Masahiko Shimura)
4. My Hero! (Words & Music: Roger Joseph Manning Jr.)
5. Shuen no Onna (Words & Music: Ringo Shiina)
6. DOKI DOKI (Words & Music: Masahiko Shimura)
  *Morinaga Milk Eskimo "MOW" commercial song
7. Twilight Shooting Star! (Words & Music: Sawao Yamanaka)
8. Hare Onna (Words & Music: Kazuyoshi Saito)
9. All Because Of You (Words & Music: Butch Walker & Avril Lavigne)
10. Anata to Watashi (Words: PUFFY Music: Yuta Saito)
11. Hiyori Hime (Words & Music: Ringo Shiina)
  *Animation "Genji Sennenki" opening theme song
12. Bring it on   (Words: Ami Onuki Music: Takeshi Hosomi)
"Bring it back !"
  Wedding Bell (Words & Music: Yoshiaki Furuta)
  *FujiTV drama "Konkastsu" theme song

As previously announced, the limited edition version ships with a DVD of their 2005 concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

A few random thoughts on this:

1. No Tamio Okuda! Pretty disappointing. Is this the first time they've ever released an album without either Tamio Okuda or Andy Sturmer contributing at least one song?

2. By my count, I already know (and own) five of the 12 songs through singles.

3. Not one, but two Shiina Ringo songs! Makes me wonder, though. "Hiyori Hime" is not my favorite, either among PUFFY's or Shiina Ringo's body of work. Were they holding back the better song, or is it more of an afterthought?

4. Similarly, two "Butch Walker & Avril Lavigne" songs, which I think we probably know really means two Butch Walker songs, with some vapid teen-friendly lyrics by Avril Lavigne. I don't have my hopes up (especially with a title like "I Don't Wanna").

Overall I am obviously looking forward to it, though I feel a strong danger of slipping into the typecast of one of those annoying fans of any band that's constantly going on about their "old stuff". I hope that doesn't happen.

BTW, the limited edition album cover is (currently) above and to your right - the regular is below.



Thoughts? I'm still deciding. I do understand what they're going for, design-wise.

I'll see what else I've missed recently and post any more updates as warranted and as time permits. CONTINUED >>


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The big news - here's the deal

Making an announcement of an announcement almost always results in a little bit of overhype. If you ask me, announcing an announcement should really be reserved for truly Earth-shattering, head-exploding news. This isn't that.

The big news announced at 8AM today was that PUFFY's going to be doing a cover of a 1980 hit called "Wedding Bell" that will also be used as the theme song for a prime-time TV drama. And "Wedding Bell" will appear on their forthcoming album Bring It! And it sounds like it may in fact be their next single too - it'll be released as a ring tone on May 2, with the release of the full song (to mobile phones) a few weeks later. No word on whether a packaged release is coming (separate from the album, that is), so it may or may not be an actual single. They may be seeing how it goes.

Now, all this probably is fairly big news in Japan, where a lot of their fans likely grew up with this song and where having a prime time TV theme song is a big deal. And it is good news for them. I'm obviously looking at it from a little different perspective, so I can't help but be slightly disappointed that the "important news" today was the announcement of yet another cover song after we just had an album full of them (I'm officially suffering "cover fatigue"). My big hope was for word of a world tour, or some "Bring It!" artwork, or a new TV show (starring them), or some song samples or something.

Guess all that'll have to wait.

By the way, if you're curious, this is "Wedding Bell":


Depends on what PUFFY does with it, I suppose. Maybe they'll call in Enapou and go all "Nantettatte Idol" on its ass.

UPDATE: Well, not quite. Here's PUFFY's version (thanks Bonsaipark!):

CONTINUED >>


"Important news" Monday at 8AM?

Just a heads up that Puffy have announced... something... coming at 8AM on Monday. That's only about 9 hours from now given the time difference. Check their site later to see what they've posted.

Of course, I'll have some commentary on it here, whatever the news is.

By the way, I've been trying hard to get my hands on a copy of the latest Soup Cruise, on which Puffy appears on the cover, but have had no luck - my local Japanese book stores aren't carrying it this time. If you want to see the pics from it, though, just head to the Sumairu Puffy BBS. CONTINUED >>


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Puffy's Uniqlo T-shirts

You may have seen this weekend that Puffy have announced a collaboration with clothing retailer Uniqlo that involves eight t-shirt designs for eight corresponding songs on the upcoming album BRING IT!. Supposedly they'll even be available overseas - though I don't really believe that. Uniqlo generally doesn't sell the exact same products in the US as Japan. (Sizes are different, for one thing.)

Anyway, they also mentioned that you might see the first t-shirt if you "type in UNIQLO". Well, try it - doesn't really work. You need to actually go to the Japanese version (not the US version!) of Uniqlo's "UT" site, which is not easy to find on Uniqlo's confusingly-laid out main web site (I ended up just Googling it and getting there that way). I only realized later that it's right there at the top right - there's just too much going on at that site.


Hopefully they will have a couple geared more towards guys - I think they probably will. And I do at least hope that they'll be on sale here (at least through the web site), because I can tell you from experience that Uniqlo's "XL" in Japan ain't the same as an XL here. CONTINUED >>


Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Album: BRING IT!

Well, that's about all we know so far. That and a release date: June 17. Pretty soon! And about what I expected after the tour date announcement.

Quick update: I should check my email once in a while! CD Japan already has some more details:

Description:New full-length album release from Puffy. The songs composed by Butch Walker and Avril Lavigne, Anders Hellgren & David Myhr (Merrymakers), Ringo Shiina, Sawao Yamanaka (the pillows), Masahiko Shimura (Fujifabric), Yuta Saito and more. Limited edition includes bonus DVD featuring footage from their US West Coast tour in 2005.

Arrrrrrrrrrgh - why can't the 2005 footage be from the show I went to?? Well, in any case, it should be great - though it's strange that they're mining a tour four years ago for footage. How about giving us the rest of the Shibuya AX show from last year? Well, I shouldn't be so picky.

The title... are Ami and Yumi gonna don boxing gloves for the cover? It's a little weird. But whatever. I kind of figured that'd be the title after the tour was announced - usually their tour names have some relation to the album titles, and there aren't very many possible variations of the phrase "bring it!"

I'm just happy to have some new music from them, and more than just a single (those shipping costs are adding up!).

CD Japan purchase link to the right. (I appreciate all the orders, those of you who have been using my links!) That "no image" will hopefully be replaced soon. CONTINUED >>


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

PUFFY AMIYUMI X PUFFY Album Review

After more than a year since their last original album and the apparent (though never announced) cancellation of the US honeycreeper release, it was honestly a little disappointing when PUFFY announced that their next album would be a cover album in the same vein as The Hit Parade. Worse, it would be mostly filled with tracks most fans have heard before, and probably already own.

Luckily that disappointment has been tempered a bit now that the band has reiterated that an original album is still coming, and in time for a July tour of Japan. That makes it a lot easier to take PUFFY AMIYUMI X PUFFY for what it now seems to be: a little side project designed to both collect a lot of their more obscure tracks in one place, and probably to collect a little bit of extra money for the band too.

Here's the track list, this time with info on where PUFFY's version of each track originally appeared:

1. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper - We Love Cyndi tribute album (2008)
2. 日曜日よりの使者 (Nichiyoubi yori no Shisha) - The High-Lows - new recording
3. BASKET CASE - Green Day - Japanese Splurge bonus track (2006)
4. フロンティアのパイオニア (Frontier no Pioneer) - Shi-taka version - Tamio Okuda - "All Because of You" single b-side (2008)
5. JOINING A FAN CLUB - Jellyfish - 59 album (2004)
6. 天使のウィンク (Tenshi no Winku) - Seiko Matsuda - Jewel Songs tribute album(2006)
7. Lucy in the sky with Diamonds - The Beatles - Happy Birthday, John tribute album (2005)
8. 人間はもう終わりだ! (Ningen ha Mou Owari da!) - MAGOKORO BROTHERS - Magokoro Covers tribute album (2004)
9. Radio Tokyo - Marvelous 3 - Splurge album (2006)
10. 健康 (Kenkou) - Tamio Okuda - Tamio Okuda Covers tribute album (2007)
11. Not Listening - Snuff - YOWAVINALAAAAFINCHA? - A Tribute to Snuff album (2008)
12. 東京花火 (Tokyo Hanabi) - NEW ROTE'KA - A.I. Company - Tribute to New Rote'Ka (2004)
13. CAN-NANA-FEVER (環七フィーバー) - Guitar Wolf - I Love Guitar Wolf Very Much EP (2005)
14. ひと夏の経験 (Hito Natsu no Keiken) - Momoe Yamaguchi - Thank You For... tribute album (2004)
15. Don't Bring Me Down - E.L.O. - "Hataraku Otoko" single b-side (2006)
16. 雪が降る街 (Yuki ga Furu Machi) - Unicorn - "Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi" single b-side (1996)

17. [BONUS TRACKS] Hi Hi Spanish (スペイン語ver.)
18. [BONUS TRACKS] Hi Hi Portuguese (ポルトガル語ver.)
19. [BONUS TRACKS] HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU


There's no really coherent way to review an album of cover tracks recorded over the span of thirteen years for different purposes. It's not a coherent album. I'd planned to go track by track, but with 19 tracks, that'd be an epic post. So to be brief, I'll just separate the wheat from the chaff:

WHEAT
フロンティアのパイオニア (Frontier no Pioneer) - Shi-taka version
Lucy in the sky with Diamonds
健康 (Kenkou)
Don't Bring Me Down

CHAFF
Everything else, for one reason or another.

Not to say all the other songs are bad. Just that maybe they're already pretty well-worn and staples in any PUFFY fan's collection ("Joining a Fan Club", "Radio Tokyo"), or the version on this album isn't the best available ("Basket Case", which is better live on Hit & Fun), or yeah, at times the execution isn't what it could be ("Not Listening"). Some songs themselves really just aren't very good, which is obviously not PUFFY's fault, but just a failing of Japanese pop music in general (though they probably didn't need to choose those songs to cover).

In fact, "Frontier no Pioneer" is only on my wheat list because the original's drum machine has been re-recorded with live drums - it's not like it's some obscure track that needed to be on this compilation for anyone to find it. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is also on the bubble. I had expected it to be a train wreck - you just don't remake that song! - but it's really pretty faithful, if a little stiff.

Take those songs out of the mix and there are really only two tracks worth buying this album for, unless you're just a PUFFY completist (though if you were, you'd have all these songs already!). The Andy Sturmer-produced "Don't Bring Me Down" is such a good rendition that I'd put it on a mix CD for anybody I was trying to introduce to PUFFY. Of course, those of you who have the "Hataraku Otoko" single already have it. I'm not sure if the irony of recording that song is lost on them or not (with the obvious similarity to "Asia no Junshin", the song that launched their careers), but they seem to sing it earnestly. And "Kenkou", despite (or maybe because of) its horns and laid-back feel, sounds like a Tamio Okuda-penned PUFFY song from the old days.

The CD itself is a little low-rent compared with most PUFFY releases. The girls didn't even bother scheduling a photo shoot. There are liner notes and lyrics for all the songs, which is nice, and some neat artwork (one panel of which is a bit ecchi). But it's a foldout insert in a cheap American style jewel case, and again, there are no photos.

I have to say, though, that I didn't really expect more than this. In fact, on balance I think this album is better than The Hit Parade, their other cover album and one of my least favorite PUFFY releases. If you'd never heard any of these songs before, then you'd probably get hooked on about half the album. My only real problem is just that I already own most of the best songs, so for me and a lot of PUFFY fans, it's probably just not completely essential.

Final Grades

Music: B- (judging solely on quality, not ubiquity)
Performance: B
Production: B CONTINUED >>



 
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