Thursday, December 30, 2010

Album Review: Nice.

There has been a sequence I had in mind when I started my album review project for Amiyumidas. The goal was to work the ends and meet in the middle. Nice and Spike were intended to be my last album reviews... but some things don't go according to plan and it was requested I do a review for Nice.

I am going with the American release of the Nice for this review. This is likely the version readers here are most likely to own... but if you are a completist like me you own both! The key differences are that the Japanese version has Red Swing but does not have Planet Tokyo and includes Brand New Days and Friends. The American version has Urei, Red Swing and the Teen Titans Theme as the bonus tracks. The cover of Nice is an homage to the famous John Lennon and Yoko Ono photo from 1969.


My theory is that with the relatively high number English language tracks that Nice was positioned as the album for which Ami and Yumi were to break into the American mainstream. It did not really work out that way, but that isn't a discredit of the album either.

Andy Sturmer produced the entirety of Nice and also credited with the lyrics or music on every track. Tamio Okuda contributes on one track and Ami and Yumi on seven tracks. While I generally feel a little Sturmer goes a long way (but that might be the off kilter 59 mini album affecting me...). When he is on point, Sturmer's collaborations with Puffy are great, but an entire album of helmed by him is worth exploring. Generally speaking Sturmer brings a precision to Nice's production that may never have been seen on previous Puffy albums and he keeps Ami and Yumi in key for the duration. Also of note is that neither Ami or Yumi have solo tracks on the album.

Nice was an album that I listened to a lot as I was still getting into Puffy and my back catalog of them has some holes (my how that has changed...). I maybe over listened to it, which might explain why it is not an album that hits my media player when I crave a full Puffy album. This makes for a great exercise in my Puffy album review project.

Here is the track list for Nice:

1. Planet Tokyo (words & music: Andy Sturmer)
2. Tokyo Nights (lyrics: Pierre Taki / music: Andy Sturmer)
3. Angel Of Love (lyrics: Shoko Suzuki / music: Andy Sturmer)
4. Sayonara (lyrics: YO-KING music: Andy Sturmer)
5. Invisible Tomorrow (lyrics: Puffy / music: Andy Sturmer)
6. Thank You (lyrics: Yumi Yoshimura / music: Andy Sturmer)
7. Long Beach Nightmare (lyrics: Ami Onuki / music: Andy Sturmer)
8. Your Love Is A Drug (words & music: Andy Sturmer)
9. K2G (lyrics: Puffy / music: Andy Sturmer)
10. Shiawase (Happiness) (lyrics: Tamio Okuda / music: Andy Sturmer)
11. Urei (lyrics: Puffy / music: Andy Sturmer)
12. Teen Titans Theme (words & music: Andy Sturmer)
13. Red Swing (lyrics: Puffy / music: Andy Sturmer)

Planet Tokyo is a rocking first track for Nice and sets the tone. It is guitar driven and the keyboards are all but swallowed up. Ami and Yumi deliver vocally. Like most of the tracks on the album, it has a tight production than fans of Puffy might be turned off by, but on the plus side Sturmer makes the girls sing in tune. A side note Australian teen stars Sophie and Kia covered Planet Tokyo (I am convinced that the only difference is the vocal tracks were swapped) and while not as good of a result it is still a fun take and a sign of a good song is if other people can sing it in an entertaining fashion.

Cross fading from Planet Tokyo comes Tokyo Nights, which is a slower rock effort, where guitars swallowed keyboards previously... it is the other way about on this track. It is a good counter balance to the opening track and delivers a thumping good song. Ami and Yumi are a little washed out at points as the instruments at points take the front, which takes a little away from the song.

Angel of Love is a slower poppy song that tilts towards a 60's girl group sound. It is a song that has a feeling of open space. It never quite works for me, it doesn't have a hook to reel me in.

Sayonara is another slower pop/rock track that is really excellently layered and Ami and Yumi's vocals do hook me. Musically it is a balanced effort guitars, drums and keyboards are all great and none particularly take the front... which as that is where Ami and Yumi.

Invisible Tomorrow is my favorite of the iterations of this song. It's music track has been used on two other songs So Long Zero and Friends Forever. Of the three versions this one I like best, but So Long Zero has some merit as it is not a traditionally happy Puffy song. Friends Forever... not so much. Ami and Yumi deliver powerful vocals here and while it is mainly a straight up rock song there are some fun syth laden vocal samples that twist the song in interesting ways.

Tilting towards a standard J-Pop track, Thank You was penned by Yumi. So far as the music goes a=on a compositional level it is nothing special, however the layers of Ami and Yumi's vocals is nifty. The musical arrangement for the song is also noteworthy as a lot of effects and instruments are used. Overall it might be a more interesting than great track.

Ami penned the lyrics for Long Beach Nightmare and it is a poppy and guitar driven, I want to say it has a 60's sound... but I am not entirely sure that is accurate. Unfortunately it is a track that I do not care for, as it tilts to a sappiness that I cannot rectify.

Maybe it is a function of listening to power poppy Your Love Is A Drug a lot when Nice came out... it is not one that has stuck with me over the years. So far as production and music goes it is the best put together track on the album. There are lots and lots of layers and everything feels balanced. I don't feel it is the best sung track on Nice, Ami and Yumi's vocals feel a tad washed out and maybe notch over engineered.

K2G is another guitar heavy track, that to me sounds like it has Caribbean tones, but also is the mix are horns which is a nice change. It is a fun track and one I like... simple as that.

Shiawase is a slower track with an acoustic bent and Tamio Okuda's single contribution to the album. I also think it is one of the better tracks so far as Ami and Yumi's vocal deliveries go. It might be a touch over engineered on the musical side but it is still as pleasant change-of-pace track, yet not one of the better Tamio collaborations with Puffy.

Urei starts off very slow, maybe too slow... it soon reveals itself as a barn-burner of a song. It is a great song by its own right and a fine example of when Sturmer is on point with Puffy the results are fantastic. I think this might be the one time we in the US got something very nice (pun intended) before Japanese fans as it appeared a year later on the Sunrise EP.

Teen Titans Theme... I literally cannot hit the next button fast enough... I guess it is fun, but it feels like it was bolted onto Nice as a marketing move.

Red Swing is the Japanese rendition of Planet Tokyo (or vice versa)... lyrically a different song, but I am glad this was thrown onto the US release of Nice. Of the two versions I think this is the better. Ami and Yumi deliver much tighter vocals and again when a Sturmer song is good... it is really good.

Nice represents the last cohesive album by Puffy as Sturmer produced the entire album. Overall the album is tight though in some ways it feels inorganic as compared to other Puffy albums... Sometimes Ami and Yumi being a nudge off works out better.

An interesting comparison of Nice is to the album Spike, which was Puffy's first true multi-producer album. Neither are my favorite albums but I am uncertain which album I would like more. Nice delivers a steady sound, where Spike offers a diversity of songs. This might also have something to do with Sturmer, amazingly, playing the lion's share of instruments on the album. Sturmer more than earned his duckets on Nice.

The end result is Nice has a lot going for it, I believe it benefited from having a single producer at the helm, but on a track by track basis it probably had too much of Sturmer's direct involvement.

Overall Grades:
Singing: A-
Instrumentation: B
Production: A

h/t to puffyamiyumiworld for track information
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas From Amiyumidas

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas!


As a special holiday blog... I would have been content finding a Puffy themed photo... however I found this instead.

At the recent New York Anime Festival where Ami and Yumi performed, they also did an interview for Samurai Beat Radio.

Take a listen, listen takers!

Click Here.


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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

R.G.W. Bonus Concert Footage Review

Bundled with the deluxe version of the R.G.W. single were six songs from Puffy’s 2010 Gekidan Asesu tour. I am really enjoying that this single is jam packed with six concert clips, which is about double what previous singles had. From reading Puffy’s blog , this might be a function of Puffy being between albums and serving as a way to fire up fans. For me it works, but I am somewhat qualified in that assessment.

This concert footage is from Puffy’s July 11, 2010 show at Showa Women’s University Hitomi Memorial Hall.* The quality of the footage is on par with the clips from the Bring it! singles, though to me it looks like they are fewer cameras and some of the shots are not as well composed. Hitomi Memorial Hall looks to be a step down from Shibuya-AX (which is relatively close by) and my impression is mainly that it is not as loud of a venue. The audio is crisp and very well engineered.


My overall impression is if you like the slower and poppy Puffy songs you will be very happy with the Gekidan Asesu concert selections. I did like that guitars were the usual driving instrument but this is not nearly as pronounced as the past. Both lead and rhythm seem to be a little less aggressive and seem to default to a surf revival sound. Keyboards felt more subdued than the last set of concert selections. Drums and bass remained good, but the bass volume could have been turned up a notch. It could be the rest of the concert was electrifying. It might be the venue was not optimal for recording. For me there was something lacking with the songs selected, but I cannot exactly put my finger upon it.

A big plus on these selections is that Ami seems more engaged this go around. Yumi seems a little detached. That is just an impression based upon past selections. I could very well be wrong as this is a fraction of the concert. Both Ami and Yumi look great, but a totally different make-up style than previous tours. Think more like their Lavuschka adverts than Tour 10. Yumi is back to short hair, Ami’s just past halfway down her back. They are not trying to look older or younger than they are, which I find to be nice.

Continuing to drift in Cosmopolitan Magazine territory… I will note Ami and Yumi are dressed up as color blind sailors. While I appreciate they do their own thing when it comes to appearance, the fine line between eccentric and ridiculous has been crossed. I now miss the plaid overalls from Fever*Fever and I never thought I would hear myself say that. However the dancer’s costumes totally take the sting from a wardrobe selection I do not like.

The overall track selection is hit and miss for me and it goes as follows:
1. Nice Buddy
2. Ai no Shirushi
3. Circuit No Musume
4. complaint
5. Boogie Woogie No 5
6. Youkai Puffy

Nice Buddy is one of my favorite Sturmer songs of Puffy’s and this rendition is a bit slower and mellow. I like the dueling bass and electric guitars near the end. It is pretty rare (if at all) Puffy’s bassist ever goes front and center and I thought that was nifty. One of the nice things about Puffy is that they give room for their backing band to contribute. Over all I liked Nice Buddy.

Ai no Shirushi is song that plays tug of war with me. I enjoy the studio version and (going against my usual preferences) the remix on An Illustrated History / PRMX also. As a concert selection it rarely works for me, it is too little of a song in a big room. That combined with a more subdued performance it becomes a performance that doesn’t work for me.

Circuit no Musume was not a selection I was looking forward to… similar reasons to the above. But for whatever reason the tone of the concert made this one fun. It always cracks me up when Ami and Yumi mug to the camera and break the glass barrier as-it-were. Backing vocals were fun and different making Circuit no Musume is an unexpectedly great track. I like it very much when Ami and Yumi surprise me.

The studio version of complaint via honeycreeper is a track I have always liked, so I was looking forward to hearing a live version. Of the concert footage for the RGW single, it is the fastest paced and comes together nicely. The guitarists are slightly out of synch with their backing vocals, but that is a minor quibble. I could listen to live songs like this all day and be perfectly happy.

Ska without horns? It feels weird to not have Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra supporting Boogie Woogie No 5, I am feeling spoiled from the Tour 10 Final live version. With a flip to the more electrified verison, I found myself not missing the horn support at all. That came as a surprise.

Also lots and lots of backup dancers… which is an understatement for Boogie Woogie No 5. So far as a visual performance I can take or leave dancing, but as it is in the show, it was good. The dancers costumes are ridiculously awful however. Good synchronization with all involved and Ami and Yumi do more dancing than as they say, a drunk person could handle… This was very cool to see. Boogie Woogie No 5 fit the tone and tenor of the show well and at times was kicked up a notch.

Youkai Puffy… of the six songs I was most looking forward to this one. As some might recall from my review of honeycreeper that this was one of my favorite songs from that album. Or I paraphrase it was a barn burner of a Skooby Do episode on meth. This version is something of a missed opportunity and while I still liked it… there were things I did not. The aforementioned dancers are en masse on stage then peel off to a pair. Then about a third of the way through the selection Ami and Yumi go off stage and their dance choreographer comes on stage.

There are a couple of funny tidbits to be had, but end result is she goes through a Youkai Puffy dance for the crowd. However you know something is padded when the producers of the DVD literally fast forward through the grindingly slow bits. I won’t say this killed it for me, but Youkai Puffy is a song built for speed not pit stops.

Ami and Yumi come back on stage and with a slow lead in Youkai Puffy gets back on the rails. The only benefit to the padded dance instruction is the crowd is now moving in synch with everyone on stage. I wish this selection has been more cohesive because the two parts were both great it was that middle part that put me off.

The bonus concert clips from R.G.W. were good fun. I would not categorize it as my favorite live footage as it felt slightly toned down. After watching the selections a half dozen times I was still thrilled to see Ami and Yumi's live performance. Their stage presence and ability to sing live are things I have greatly appreciated over the years and here is not exception.

Overall grades:
Music: B
Performance: B+
Production: B-


*say that five times fast…

h/t to the great Peace. Pop. Puffy for some of the concert details
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

R.G.W. Single Review

I finally got my copy of Puffy's 30th single R.G.W. and after a few listens through I can finally put some thoughts down on a page. I am very pleased that the two extra songs are not an instrumental, karaoke or remix. Double so that Yumi and Ami wrote the lyrics for the extra tracks and co-wrote with Tamio for the title track. Anyways, here is the track list:

1. R.G.W. (lyrics: Tamio Okuda & Puffy, music: Tamio Okuda)
2. Jet Love (lyrics: Yumi Yoshimura, music: Shigeo Naka)
3. Koi no Yama Arashi (lyrics: Ami Onuki, music: Taka Aoki)



R.G.W. is readily identifiable as a Tamio Okuda collaboration with Puffy. He offers up his signatures of a throwback sound, modern sensibilities with a Japanese wrapper. This is something that has been overlong so far as Puffy songs go. Maybe it is a good thing his return to Puffy is a holiday song, which as a gimmick sort of song has slightly lowered expectations...

Tamio delivers a rocking song with what I believe are elfin boot stompin rockabilly tinges. The back 40 seconds of the R.G.W. sort of gets a little lost, think padding as opposed to wrapping up a present during holy Christmas time. The lyrics tilt a little to the listing of colors, and listing of stuff has worked better in other songs* (Oriental Diamond or Beginnings come to mind). Also Ami and Yumi's voices feel slightly over processed. End result is I am a tough sell for a holiday song but I liked R.G.W.

The first ten seconds of Jet Love hooked me and in a totally good way dragged me into the rest of the song. Of the tracks on R.G.W., Jet Love I think is the most cohesive in regards singing, instruments and production. The sound comes closest to a 60's beach movie, but interspersed in the chorus is a tinge that I can only compare to the 1970's UK band The Vapors. Ami and Yumi deliver with Jet Love, but sometimes the instruments feel are tad a touch strong and every so slightly wash out their singing.

For the life of me I was trying to figure out where I had heard Koi no Yama Arashi before. I rooted around YouTube and it dawned on me to look up Pink lady songs. The nail in my head was struck by the hammer (the Pink Lady song I stumbled upon was UFO...). Of the three songs on the R.G.W. single Koi no Yama Arashi is the one that I think Ami and Yumi deliver the most notable vocal performance of the three tracks on R.G.W. The music backing them was a mixed lot, however.

I appreciated the heavy 70's guitar sound in Koi no Yama Arashi but I felt the rest of the instruments were either over powered or too quiet. While decent, of the three tracks production fell slightly short by comparison. There is a weird hiccup or change of pace at the three minute mark, not certain what they were trying to do. It is almost like the song was short so they bolted on an extra minute which was also a slight issue of mine for the R.G.W. track.

Overall R.G.W. is a good effort but I am happier that it is a consistent effort. I am not sure if all three songs shared producers or were even supported by the same musicians, but the three tracks felt that way. I wound up liking the Jet Love and Koi no Yama Arashi b-sides (now kind of an anachronistic term given the format...) slightly more than R.G.W. itself.

Grades:
R.G.W.
Singing: B
Instrumentation: A-
Production: B

Jet Love
Singing: A-
Instrumentation: A
Production: A-

Koi no Yama Arashi
Singing: A
Instrumentation: B
Production: B

h/t to PuffyAmiYumiworld for the track info.

* edited to clear some confusing writing.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Chameleon Diamonds In The Rough

Just a couple of videos that I came across while mining for Puffy material. The end results may be a touch rough, but I really admire these kids trying to wrangle Puffy songs.








Unrelated notes... A full RGW single review will be done over the weekend, so look for that next week. I have a slew of reviews in process that I will hopefully firm up when I have the end of the month off from my day gig.
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Puffy RGW PV and Single



The new Puffy single RGW dropped last week and I finally got around to seeing the PV for it via YouTube. I have a few thoughts on RGW but I have not picked up the single yet. While mostly for the DVD, the other tracks may be songs I will wind up liking more. That is a different blog for a different day.

To start, it has been far too long since Tamio did anything with Puffy, so it is really exciting to see him working with Ami and Yumi again. I have mentioned in previous blogs there has been something missing with Puffy’s recent songs and that it Tamio.



Musically RGW tilts towards a rocking Christmas song, which is my personal preference for Puffy songs. The instrumentation is what I come to expect with a Tamio song, which is to say a layered, expressive and precise song that makes generous call backs to sounds of the past. Ami and Yumi deliver a straightforward and well harmonized duet but in the chorus it feels as if they are listing lyrics rather than belting them out. There is a nice balance that is struck, but I there are better Puffy/Tamio songs where both instruments and singing were both stellar (Oriental Diamond comes to mind).

Visually RGW is very much an inverted Tokyo I’m On My Way via the use of a black rotating stage combined with Mogura Like’s physical performances. There is a ribbon of plot with a little girl celebrating Christmas with the help of Ami and Yumi. It is sweet to the point of making my teeth ache, but way more chipper than Aoi Namida. The production design for RGW is simple and I think that it works well.

After watching RGW a few times, I am really starting to miss Ami and Yumi’s shapeless plaid jumpsuits circa Fever*Fever. I realize it is only a video and they are performers and costumes must be worn… but stylish hobo does not work for me. The rest of the costuming is great for the video and completely literal. If they sing out pink, a pink costume is forthcoming. This might be why they are dressed in patchwork, they might get lost in the color of the other performers.
Here is the video… until Song decides it has been on Yahoo long enough…

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Puffy FETES 2010 Concert Clips

Just a quick update. I was skimming YouTube and came across a couple video snippets from the recent NYC concert from the user Kaykay007. So big thanks (and video credit) to them for the enjoyment via internet osmosis of the Puffy FETES 2010 concert.



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Monday, October 11, 2010

Show report - Irving Plaza NYC October 10, 2010


Last night at the conclusion of the combined New York ComiCon/Anime Festival, Puffy had their first New York concert in four years, along with Echostream, Zazen Boys and Boom Boom Satellites. Collectively this was known as the "Far East to East Showcase", although the Irving Plaza marquee and my tickets listed only Puffy Amiyumi. This was a show put on at least in part by the convention itself, although no real mention was made of this fact during the show. Odd.

I didn't get to go to any of the pre-show convention activities, which included a panel and signing on Saturday, but I did go to the concert. This is my third Puffy concert now and I confess I'm becoming a little jaded about certain things. But it is always great to see Ami and Yumi on stage, which has always been and still is where they belong.  They rocked it, as they always do.

Unfortunately in a major dick move on X Japan's part, that band scheduled their own show at Roseland on the same night - after FETES had already been announced. X Japan is a huge band with a lot of crossover in their audience, and faced with the choice I personally know of a lot of people that chose X Japan over Puffy. There aren't many Japanese bands that play in New York, and there are 365 days in a year - why the hell would X Japan choose this date, knowing that another major Japanese concert was already scheduled for the same night? That would be like Weezer playing a club show in Tokyo and all of a sudden Foo Fighters swooping in and booking Budokan for the same night. My wife is a huge X Japan fan herself and was torn between the two shows, but ended up sticking with Puffy because she knew I'd rather go to that, and because we already had bought our tickets. Me, I'd have stuck with Puffy just because X Japan are jerks.  It was a cloud hanging over the whole thing for us, though, and it was all the fault of X Japan.

Anyway, so we were happy to see that there were actually some people still lined up for the show when we arrived, and that eventually the line stretched around the block. It wasn't a complete sellout - no big shock, given the competition - but to me, anyway, it was surprisingly well-attended. I'd say that eventually the hall was about 2/3 full, and Irving Plaza holds 1,200 people.

I'll just spend a few sentences talking about each of the opening bands before I get to Puffy - it seems like some of you guys liked them too.


Echostream


I'd never heard of this band and they were clearly the smallest of the four - and they also seem to be western (unless they just have a few Americans playing with them). But they were pretty good, playing some straight-ahead melodic guitar and piano-based indie rock, with a female singer with one of those angelic-sounding voices. They played about four songs, and I enjoyed them. Afterwards one of the guys in the band threw a bunch of free t-shirts into the crowd. I'll probably check out some of their stuff on YouTube and see if they're worth pursuing further.



Zazen Boys


This is one of those bands that I respect more than I like. I hadn't heard them before either, but they basically sounded like a Japanese version of Primus on stage. Progressive rock mixed with dance music and hard rock. Lots of non-standard tempos and tempo changes, not a lot of melody to their music. They played very well and their music is obviously technically difficult. My wife really liked them and the crowd seemed to as well. I wasn't sure how I felt. I got yelled at by one of the event staff members for taking video while they were playing.

By the way, the photo above is the only one that came out clear - and I love that it's just completely non-representative of their show.  It looks like they all just stood around like a bunch of dorks at a wedding reception - no, they were pretty into it at all other times (except when I snapped this photo, which is probably why it's the only clear one).



Boom Boom Satellites



I knew of this band but had never really listened to them before - but they practically tore the place down. I wanted to ask my wife "who needs X Japan?" but the music was too loud. Their recorded music is pretty good (my wife bought the CD they had on sale there) but they really just tear it up live. Most electronic-heavy bands are the opposite, standing around on stage and pressing buttons (even Zazen Boys did this a bunch of times), but Boom Boom Satellites amp up the guitar and bass live (they really can play), and their new drummer, Yoko Fukuda, is AMAZING. She brought an impact to those songs live that you just don't really hear on their recorded music. They just filled that concert hall with sound and energy. Definitely go see this band if they ever come back. You don't even need to know their songs - I didn't.

Update: just check this out. Make sure you watch all the way until the end - Yoko Fukuda kicks ass! (Compare to the studio version - good too, but just not as crazy, and with oddly muted drums!)



Puffy


And now the main event! Puffy didn't go on until a bit after 9:30 - the show started at 6PM! By this time, especially after Boom Boom Satellites, I was kind of worn out. It was too many bands - it was like a little mini-festival. That's ok if it was billed and organized that way, but I didn't feel like it really was unless you went to the con panel - everything just said "Puffy AmiYumi", which I always assume means "and guest", but I wasn't really expecting four bands total and 3 1/2 hours of standing around before Puffy even took the stage.

Once Puffy did take the stage, though, all was pretty much forgotten - as it usually is when the headliner finally begins playing. Here was their set list (thanks to cm and Cerahbes for helping me with two songs I didn't remember):

JOINING A FAN CLUB
NICE BUDDY
Interlude #1
HIHI PUFFY AMIYUMI
CIRCUIT NO MUSUME
AI NO SHIRUSHI
Interlude #2
TEEN TITANS
MY STORY
DOKI DOKI
DAREKA GA
AJIA NO JUNSHIN

Encores:

Interlude #3
JET LOVE
NAGISA NI MATSUWARU ETC.

The more music a band produces, the harder it is to really critique their set list because there will always have to be things left out and things that they're probably just tired of playing. I will say that I felt like they played a short set - and checking back, it was four songs shorter than when I saw them in 2005. When they played Ajia no Junshin - traditionally the closing song at their shows - I was thinking "what is this doing in the middle of the set?" I was disappointed when I realized no, that is the end of the show (except for the encores), but only because I wanted more.


Doing some of their old choreography for Ai no Shirushi.
They seemed extremely amused any time a song called for choreography.

I was very happy that I finally got to hear them sing Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Etc. live, which has always been awesome on their DVD's but rarely gets played in the USA. I was not disappointed! (Except, again, in that it was the last song.) This is always one of their most energetic songs live.

Some other thoughts on their set list (I know, I said I wasn't going to critique it):

a) no songs at all from Nice (unless you count Teen Titans), none from Honeycreeper, just one from Splurge (and not the one I'd have expected).

b) they still seem to be tailoring their US sets to American audiences, with mostly harder songs. All the times I've seen them they've just thrown one or two older, lighter songs in, and it always sounds really jarring compared to the rest of the set.

c) as someone who's seen them three times, I was really hoping they'd do something a little different for this one-off show in which they're not really promoting anything - like they did in Japan a while back - and play some songs that they rarely ever play, or play some of their own instruments again. Alas, it was a pretty conventional show, much like the others I've seen. Though they did play some songs I'd never personally seen them sing, so that was good.

They sounded great, as usual, and had the same energy they usually do. Ami looked happier and more energetic on stage than she has in videos I've seen in the past couple years - she wasn't letting Yumi carry the show like she sometimes does. Yumi was the same as always, or at least the same as she has been since I first saw them. She obviously just loves performing, and no longer seems nervous in the United States.

Their famous banter was there too, although like in 2006, they repeated a couple of things from the previous concert. Last time they asked, "what's the hottest place to go in New York right now?" And the punch-line is that someone apparently answers "my house!" which they then act surprised and mock-disgusted by. They did the same bit this time, and no, I didn't actually hear anyone give that answer before they reacted to it. They did keep it all in English this time - in 2005 and 2006, they slipped into Japanese a few times and the English-speaking crowd grew impatient. (That annoyed me; American audiences don't seem to realize that the banter is part of their act, and whenever they'd slip into Japanese, people would yell for them to get on with the music.)


They still had to read from notepads, though.

I'd love to tell you who was in the supporting band, but I'll have to edit this post once someone lets me know in the comments :) I do know that Shigeo Naka of Surf Coasters was on guitar, and I recognize the drummer although I don't recall his name. The keyboardist was Shun-chan. The second guitarist was new, and while most of the crowd seemed to know him, I didn't. If anyone can fill in the rest from these pics of the band being introduced, let me know and I'll edit this paragraph.


The new guitarist.  His name, please?

The drummer had some kind of equipment malfunction during his intro.

Shigeo Naka, the one guy whose name I know.

Ami introducing Shigeo Naka, who they called something else that I forgot.  Who is the bassist in the background?

As I mentioned in an earlier comment, Ami also said they were "working with the band" on their new album right now. I thought that was interesting phrasing - it implied some more collaboration than normal for them, and a more regular band lineup. (Or, it could have just been unintended nuance in her English, but her English is pretty good.)

I can't forget to tell you about the merchandise! As they sometimes do, they had a little bonus for those who got there early - an autographed poster if you bought a CD and a t-shirt! And this was a big poster and a big autograph - by far my biggest Puffy autograph yet. I have a feeling these were leftover posters from what was supposed to be the meet & greet session at the con (that was apparently canceled). They only seemed to have about ten of them, and I snagged one along with my t-shirt and another copy of the Hit & Fun CD.



I hadn't planned to buy Hit & Fun again and only did because of the poster, but it turns out this is the 2010 Hong Kong release with a full honeysweeper tour concert DVD included! I didn't realize this at the time, nor did I even know this version existed. So I was pretty happy when I got home. I haven't watched the DVD yet, but my guess is this is the same footage as we got with a few of their singles in 2008 or 2009... but there could be additional songs? My memory is fuzzy on this whole thing, and whether we talked about this release here earlier.


Hong Kong version on the left, original Japanese version on the right.  You can see the track listing.
And yes, the color is slightly different too.  It's not that dramatic in reality, but it's there.


They were also selling Splurge at the show, oddly enough, though I believe (and could be wrong!) that it was just the regular US version that I already have. It all seemed kind of hastily put together - they also announced literally days before the show that both Bring It! and honeycreeper are now available in the US, but only for download. So they weren't selling those albums at the show - meaning their only CD's for sale were from 2006 and (originally) 2007, along with tour shirts from 2009, with that year displayed prominently. Weird.

Anyway, the show has had the effect of putting Puffy back into the forefront of my consciousness, which is of course part of the point of playing live from their perspective, so job well done on that front. I need to see a band in person every once in a while after that initial discovery phase is over or I kind of forget about them; I need to feel that real connection. I admit that this show didn't have quite the same impact as when I saw them in 2005, but there were just a lot of planets aligned just right to make that show seem really special. I can't say they were really any different this time, although I do wish they'd played a bit longer.


CONTINUED >>


Sunday, October 10, 2010

NYC show report is coming...


Just back from the Puffy show tonight - and boy are my arms tired! Just kidding. Anyway, I'll have a full show report, complete with whatever pics are clear enough to make out human beings on the stage, within the next day or two.

In summary, it was a good show, but the other bands were too long and Puffy's set was too short. Maybe I'm just biased.  (Though there were four bands - it seemed excessive.)

Watch for my report soon! Not sure if Wes made it to give you his own report, but he can answer to that.

P.S. - I have another Puffy autograph to add to my collection!

P.P.S. did anyone buy the meet & greet package with them at NYAF/ComiCon? I would have had I known about it, but alas, I did not until it was too late.

CONTINUED >>


Friday, October 8, 2010

Puffy Winter Single

Caught this on Puffy's Twitter feed, but from what I can gather it is called R.G.W. and it is a Christmas song and I think literally so.... The song is written by Tamio Okuda (which is as huge of news as the single itself... it has been far too long) with lyrics by him and Puffy.


Edited... got some new info! Looking at Puffy's website, it has been updated with more info. I cannot read Japanese, so bear with me. The second track is Jet Love that was used on the show Don! The third track is Koi no Yama Arashi. (thanks Anthony!)

The bonus DVD for the limited edition will have 6 songs from the 2010 tour. (edited again, thanks Anthony!). These tracks are:

1. Nice Buddy
2. Ai no Shirushi
3. Circuit no Musume
4. Complaint
5. Boogie-Woogie No. 5
6. Youkai Puffy

The song I am really excited about in this bonus DVD is Youkai Puffy, which I am curious to see how it translates from a fantastic studio track to a live performance. Anyways, both editions should be released on 11/17/2010.

When I know more...you will know more. CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2009 Japan Expo

Just a quick update. There is a single slotted for the fall, but I have not found any meaningful information, but when I do I will pass it along. In 2009 Puffy performed at the Japan Expo in Paris.

My French is ridiculously bad, so I won't try to translate, but here is a synopsis of thier performance in Paris. Hopefully this means there is a full concert video lurking out there.



CONTINUED >>


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Puffy Rock In Japan FES.2010

Puffy played at the Rock In Japan Festival. Looks like another off beat time for their set, 1:35 in the afternoon doesn't seem to me to be an optimal time and feels like a trend for a lot of the festivals they do as of late.

As for Ami and Yumi's inverted dalmatian leisure suits... I am not sure what to make out of them. They remind me of what octogenarians wear in Singapore. Yumi's Hawaiian shirt does crack me up, but all of this does tie back to why I like Puffy is that they do have fun with their image.




I have not been writing much as of late, I apologize. I am stuck on a few albums I want to review but I have a had a tough go of it putting some ideas to words.

All images are courtesy of Rock In Japan FES.2010. CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

PUFFY finally return to NYC!

I somehow have a feeling this is going to be every east coaster's last, best chance to see Puffy live.


Puffy are coming to the New York Anime Festival (nee Comic Con) this fall. Hard to believe, but this will be Puffy's first appearance in New York City since 2006. Why, I remember that show like it was yesterday...

But this is not only a concert. Say the organizers:


Puffy AmiYumi will be appearing at the New York Anime Festival and New York Comic Con throughout the weekend for panel discussions and autograph signings before taking the stage on Sunday night at Irving Plaza. Tickets to FETES are $22 in advance and $25 at the doors. Tickets can be ordered at Irving Plaza's Box Office or via Ticketmaster starting July 9th.

Panel discussions and autographs! Sounds like they're trying to make up for lost time here.

The ticket prices for the concert event are quite reasonable, however I'm sure you'll need to buy tickets to NYAF separately for the discussions and signings.

As I've got a business to run these days, I actually can't guarantee I'll be there - but I'm buying tickets on the 9th, and I'm gonna try my best.

UPDATE: Tickets are now on sale!

CONTINUED >>


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Follow Puffy on Twitter

Puffy has started tweeting on Twitter, not only updates but they are also posting up a slew of pictures of their latest tour and so on. So even if you do not read Japanese this is a win-win situation for everyone.

Puffy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/PUFFY
Puffy's Twitpics: http://twitpic.com/photos/PUFFY

Here are a couple pics from Puffy's Twitpic feed. It is really great to see Ami playing guiter and Yumi smiling is always heartwarming.






CONTINUED >>


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Image Down Live

Here is a gem of a live performance that the always awesome bonsaipark tracked down on YouTube.

Like him, I cannot recall ever seeing Ami and Yumi perform Image Down from the Hit Parade cover album. Paul Gilbert is a guest guitarist for the performance, which makes it more distinctive than the usual TV performances they have done over the years.



Now another vid... a funny commercial from Ami and Yumi for J-Oil Mills that was also uploaded by puffyvino125 on YouTube. As Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi is playing in the background it must have been shot somewhere between 2005 and 2007.



I like this commercial maybe because of its low budget and quick production… rather than in spite of. It shows a more normal walk of life of Ami and Yumi during a promotional gig rather than a heavily produced and choreographed commercial.

Been really quiet on the Puffy news front, but the back half of the year looks to be busy.

P.S. Thanks again to bonsaipark! CONTINUED >>


Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Puffy Mow Advert

This looks to be the new Mow advert by Puffy. The new song Banzai! being used in the advert... I think I need to hear the whole thing but I am a little iffy.



Hat tip and thanks to BonsaiPark! CONTINUED >>


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dareka Ga Promotional Video

Just a quick post up. I had not seen Puffy's Dareka Ga video. While not new, it is new to me as I never saw it come across my YouTube trawling. I like the video for Ami and Yumi's silliness, but it also reminds me of Sunrise which was a touch too artistic. So I am kind of mixed over all, but I like the music itself... then again I liked Sunrise too.


PUFFY - Dareka Ga - MyVideo CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Banzai!

Hopefully this is a sign that a new Puffy album is gaining some traction. On Puffy's English blog they announced that the new song Banzai! is slotted to be used in a series of commercials featuring Ami and Yumi for the snack Eskimo Mow*.

The lyrics for Banzai! are by Yumi with music by Yasuke Fujita.

A ringtone for Banzai! should be available on April 21st.

Based on the releases over the past few months I would say that Puffy is close to the half-way-mark for a new album. The likely tracks, so far, are:

Dareka Ga
Banzai!
Jet
Love
Fish On

So hopefully the next album, like the 10th anniversary of Puffy, is being timed for later on this year. When I know more I will relay that along!

P.S. The last round of Mow! adverts by Puffy can be found here...


CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fish On / Jet Love

Via their MySpace blog* Puffy announced that one of their news songs, Fish On, is the theme song for the science fiction comedy film Uchu de Ichiban Wagamama na Hoshi**. It is directed by TV Asahi producer and Papapapapuffy alumni, Hiroaki Ito. Fish On is a confab between Ami and Puffy’s bandmaster Kinoshita which I imagine is the usual Puffy arrangement of Ami doing the lyrics and Kinoshita doing the music. Ami promises Fish On to be Puffy like, which hopefully is a good sign for the next album.

I will see what I can do to track it down, but no promises. As the only time anyone has heard this was at two screenings at the Okinawa International Movie Festival. Those of us on this side of the Pacific may not be hearing it for a while.

Here is a teaser for Uchu de Ichiban Wagamama na Hoshi, and a very cool snippet because Ami and Yumi both appear at the 20 second mark!



Also in other news, Puffy's other new song Jet Love is slotted to be the theme song for the afternoon variety show DON!, which is a retooled version of Omoikkiri DON! which began on March 29th. Of the two new songs this one I imagine is the one we Puffy fans here in the states will hear first.

* honestly Puffy's blog is the only thing that keeps me on MySpace…
** Selfish Planet

Sources:
http://www.tokyograph.com/news/id-5954
blogs.myspace.com/wearepuffyamiyumi CONTINUED >>


Monday, March 8, 2010

Site note: upgrading comments

Hey all,

So Wes has obviously been handling most of the posting duties lately, but I'm still paying attention and have seen that the comments are still very active. Blogger hasn't updated their comment system in years, though, and it's pretty archaic by modern standards. It's difficult to really carry on a conversation. So within the next week or so (or possibly even today), I'm going to move the comments here onto the Disqus platform.

People are often scared of change, but this is only a good thing for you guys and for the blog. There is no real downside to this at all - all of the current comments will be imported into the new system, and the new system has many, many more features than the current one. For example, it supports profiles and logins from more popular systems (blogger, facebook, twitter, etc. plus guest accounts if you don't want to sign up), it is threaded so you can actually reply properly, it will let you post media and links, and it will even let you rebroadcast your comments to social networking sites if you feel like doing that.

I use Disqus right now on my two other blogs if you want to see it in action - my personal blog and my store blog.

You'll see the new system here within a matter of days. CONTINUED >>


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Album Review: honeycreeper

In many ways Spurge was expected to be a great album, Ami and Yumi pulled out the stops and delivered an experience that encompassed their first decade as a duo. But how does honeycreeper serve as the bookend for another decade of Puffy? As it turns out... remarkably well.

Honeycreeper is a multiple composer and producer album which is not uncommon with Puffy particularly at this stage of their careers. Despite having so many moving parts in production honeycreeper is an integrated listening experience the tracks flow well from one to another. To me it is an album that plays best from start to finish, sans randomization in one sitting. The track layout is superlative.

Sometimes an album can be defined by what is missing, which is not always a bad thing. It is noticeable that Andy Sturmer is nowhere to be found on honeycreeper. I am not sure how I feel about this and I will leave it at that. Also missing are solo tracks by Ami and Yumi. Which I think is okay. Ami and Yumi are talented enough on their own, but the magic that is Puffy only occurs when they sing together and sometimes their solo tracks do not work well for me.

Here is the track list for honeycreeper.

1. Oriental Diamond (Lyrics and Music: Yosui Inoue/Tamio Okuda)
2. Ain’t Gonna Cut It (Lyrics and Music: Butch Walker/Robert Schwartzman)
3. Kimi to O-tobai (Lyrics and Music: Chiba Yusuke)
4. Kuchibiru Motion (Lyrics and Music: Yoshii Kazuya)
5. Hayai Kurima (Lyrics and Music: Mashima Masatoshi)
6. Sayonara Summer (Lyrics and Music: Yamanaka Sawao)
7. boom boom beat (Lyrics: PUFFY Music: Anders Hellgren & David Myhr)
8. Youkai Puffy (Lyrics: Kudou Kankurou Music: Taku Tomizawa)
9. Closet Full Of Love (Lyrics and Music: Butch Walker/Kara DioGuardi)
10. Hasanjiyauze (Lyrics and Music : Mashima Masatoshi)
11. complaint (Lyrics: PUFFY Music: Yamanaka Sawao)
12. Ohedo Nagareboshi IV (Lyrics: Pierre Taki Music: Anders Hellgren & David Myhr)
13. Island (Lyrics and Music: Chiba Yusuke)

The lead in track for honeycreeper is best summed up by Ami*, "Oriental Diamond makes you feel like 'Here Puffy comes!' “ Even before looking at the credits it screams Tamio Okuda. It is also is the only track he participated on for honeycreeper. Which if Tamio can only have one song on a Puffy album, this is a really great one to have. It is a fantastic lead in track. Oriental Diamond has mostly a rock focus but like many of Tamio’s Puffy contributions it is hard to pin down one specific influence which exemplifies why Tamio Okuda is the best Puffy collaborator.

The arrangements and production for Oriental Diamond are top notch and Ami and Yumi both deliver stunning vocals via harmony and in-and-out singing. To me this is the spiritual snap back to Asia no Junshin and no surprise that penultimate Puffy song was by Tamio Okuda as well. What might might surprise you, this is my second favorite song on honeycreeper.

Ain’t Gonna Cut It is Butch Walker’s marriage of 60’s girl pop and rock which delivers a fun yet unhappy song. I think some of the metaphors for failed love might be a bit off, but it is a song I enjoy. It is well arranged but maybe just a hint of being over produced particularly on the instruments. Ami and Yumi both sound very natural and deliver a good vocal flow to the track.


Kimi to O-tobai to me has a late 70’s rock feel in both engineering and delivery. Think more like The Knack or early Cheap Trick for sound design , there is an open feeling to the sound. The song itself I think is a touch padded in but overall I like it in regards to Ami and Yumi’s vocal delivery and musical flow.

Where other tracks by Puffy might be purely cute, purely honest or purely fun… Kuchibiru Motion is pure sex. The corresponding video from the single I enjoy because it reflects the sexy fun of the track and usually Ami and Yumi don’t particularly eschew to sexy in a such a straightforward manner. That makes for a nice change up stylistically. Kuchibiru Motion may not be the most intricate song, but the lyrics are great and the song is fast, fast, fast!

Hayai Kurima feels a slightly like a space filler, but it is not a bad song. I like the fact that Puffy’s vocals are raw and under produced. This makes sense given it is by Mashima Masatoshi from The Blue Hearts which is a band whose style to me is not overly engineered. Their impact upon Puffy is also noteworthy. Hayai Kurima's placement on honeycreeper is a good bridge between Kuchibiru Motion and Sayonara Summer but it is listenable on its own.

A poppy ballad, Sayonara Summer is well placed. Ami and Yumi sing very well on the track and the sound comes off as tightly produced. It is not a remarkable song to me and is not one I dive into my pool of music for, but it is nice sounding and that is enough. not every track can or will be a homerun.

Boom boom beat is another fast rocker, which you would think would be a song I would immediately glom onto… but there is something missing. The back story is the Merrymakers churned this out very quick and it feels this it did not expand when it went to production. It is a song I like, but I think it could have been a song I love had it been filled out. Again boom boom beat plays against the happy Puffy image, which is something I do like about this track.

If I had to describe Youkai Puffy I would dub it a barn burning rocker meets Skooby Doo meets a 50’s beach monster movie… on meth. The track starts off with a radio skit which even given my lack of meaning ful Japanese linguistics skills, is fairly straight forward. After reading a translation, it is hilarious… not only as a bit but as a corollary to Puffy’s good girl pop image.

The back half of the Youkai Puffy track is the song itself . While it is self referencing which under other circumstances I intensely dislike. For Youkai Puffy this works as everything is a reference to ghost Puffy in the skit. While the skit might be a touch slow to play out, once the song starts… hang on! The flow of Yokai Puffy is really remarkable. It feels all over the place between screeching synthesizers, screaming vocals and up and down tempos… yet it all ties together like Ami and Yumi’s vocal cords in their delivery. This is my favorite song on honeycreeper, Kankurou and Tomizawa craft a Puffy song that is stunningly different yet maintains the qualities of a Puffy song all the same.

Somewhat buried on honeycreeper is Closet Full of Love and of the two Butch Walker contributions this is the one I like more. It is also the one that became a single, so maybe there is something to that line of thought. I think the metaphor’s here while maybe reflect a less ambitious effort, are also better.
Closet Full of Love is an interesting combination of hopeful and personal fears in regards to love, when married with a straightforward rock/pop template is a song that delivers the goods.

The second contribution by Blue Hearts’ Mashima Masatoshi, Hasanjiyauze is very different sounding and mimics an earlier Puffy sound. It is a very drum and synthesizer heavy track, bass and guitar are mostly far in the background. End result is a fun track that would not have been out of place ten years ago yet still sounds fresh.

Complaint, like Sayonara Summer is by Yamanaka Sawao. It is less polished but it is also a faster paced rock track and continues in a theme of the second contribution by a composer on honeycreeper being the better song. Ami and Yumi are in harmonic lockstep and sound great. I would also suggest that complaint has a throwback Puffy sound and would not have been out of place ten years ago. It is not a complex arrangement, and instruments are guitar heavy and I cannot pick up a trace of synthesizer on the track.

Ohedo Nagareboshi IV is a silly song crafted by The Merrymakers for Puffy. Like Oriental Diamond this is a very Puffy song and also is the second song by a composer which I like more. The sound in Ohedo Nagareboshi IV is a mix of girl Japanese pop with a 60’s girl ground undertone, particularly in the chorus. The women in my life love this song and dance along be they six or thirty six. I do like it, but via osmosis... I had no choice.

The last track of honeycreeper is Island which is more than a bit inspired by Celtic folk music. Like Youkai Puffy it is a more experimental track and it honestly leaves me flat. That is not to say it is not well executed, it is not my cup of tea.

Honeycreeper wound up being a surprise for me. Had it been a let down I would not have been surprised as Splurge was a great album. Ami and Yumi in many ways deliver an effort I liked more than Splurge, but this could never have been released as a tenth anniversary album either. Splurge I thought best represented Puffy’s collective sound for their first decade. Honeycreeper is a rocking kickoff to their next decade and me represents a focus that I want to hear more of.

Final Grades:
Music: A
Production: A
Performance: A+

* h/t to puffyamiyumiworld
CONTINUED >>


Friday, February 12, 2010

Countdown Japan 0910: Asia no Junshin

A quick post up. A clip from Countdown Japan 0910. Ami and Yumi are in pretty good form, though they go off key at a couple points their energy is great. I am not sure how I feel about their current band, I was just getting used to the last one... Anyways, enjoy Asia no Junshin... I will be doing final edit for the next album review and hopefully get that posted up on Monday.



(h/t to bonsaipark for finding the vid)
CONTINUED >>


Friday, January 22, 2010

Lavshuca's 2010 Spring Collection

A bit of news today, Ami and Yumi are once again spokespeople for the Japanese make up firm Lavshuca.

More details here...

While my interest in cosmetics is not appreciable, it is great to see Puffy still has commercial* appeal.

Also a couple of Puffy wallpapers for Lavshuca's 2010 collection to boot!




* Pun intended... CONTINUED >>


Monday, January 4, 2010

Congratulations To Yumi!

News had been percolating on a couple of Japan news sites, but Ami posted up a blog via MySpace conforming that Yumi had, in fact, tied the knot. Her husband was a long time friend of Yumi's and they began seriously dating last fall. Looks like it was a very low key marriage as they registered for marriage on New Years Eve and do not have plans, at this time, for a wedding ceremony.

A wonderful end to 2009 and a wonderful start to 2010. All the best for Yumi and her husband!

(h/t to Anthony for pointing out the good news!)
CONTINUED >>



 
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