Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Album Rumblings...

This is gonna be quick - it's way past my bedtime!

Ami and the Puffy staff dropped a few more hints today that we're in for a new album fairly shortly - and like it or not, it sounds like it's gonna be another "guest" musician/producer album.

The relevant quote from Ami:
Anyway, lately we've been recording like crazy. Everyday at a different studio. Everyday with a different musician. So much to look forward too!

And from the staff:

The past few days we've been recording. One of the recording sessions with several different people, which I can't reveal yet.

Usually when they say that, it's just a matter of weeks. My guess is shortly after the release of "My Story", we'll have some substantive news.

Ami Sings with Ken Yokoyama

Once again, thanks to TBB for bringing this to everyone's attention, although apparently this song is at least 5 months old. So apologies if you've already worn it out by now, especially to my Japanese readers who have a lot more exposure to Ken's stuff than we do in America. But I hadn't heard this before, so maybe some of you haven't either.

I'm Not Afraid When I'm With You - Ken Yokoyama

That's Ami singing a couple bars with Ken, who you probably remember as the writer/producer of "Security Blanket" if not his work with his former band Hi-Standard, of which Ami is a huge fan. They're long-time friends.

Ken's accent is a little distracting to me, but Ami sounds really cute in this.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Story PV!

There's a high-quality version there if you pop the player. Tattoos ahoy!

One question - why is Yumi wearing shoes that are four sizes too big?

Great job on this one, girls. And kudos to the Merrymakers. This is the best Puffy single in a while.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Looking Back on 59: an Album Review

Let's all take a minute to think about the 59 album. It is a strange little piece of shiny plastic and aluminum, coming as it did at a weird time in Puffy's lives and careers. I've always wanted to know the full story behind its production. There was a lot going on in Puffy-ville, as Ami had just delivered her baby girl and "Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi" was being readied for US launch. But Yumi was also coming off a divorce that hadn't played well in the tabloids, and the band's previous album Nice. had not sold well at home. They had earlier taken about six months off so Ami could do the whole mothering thing full time - real life had temporarily interrupted their careers.

They called 59 a "mini album", which almost sounds like an apology. As in "sorry, we couldn't record a full album, but here's what we could manage."

Here's the track listing:

1. Teen Titans Theme
2. Sunrise
3. Joining a Fan Club
4. Kokoro ni hana wo
5. Kaze makase futari tabi
6. Forever
7. So Long Zero
8. Teen Titans Theme (Japanese version)

It is probably Puffy's worst album, but it's also under-appreciated. Japanese fans spurned it, and some of their less hardcore western fans may not even know it exists. It never had a US release, despite the fact that their previous two albums did. Instead, we got the soundtrack to the "Hi Hi" TV show, so the release of 59 got lost in that hoopla in the west. The "Hi Hi" soundtrack itself has four out of the six original songs from 59 anyway (depending on what you count), so Americans might not think they're missing much.

But they are! For one thing, this album has the Japanese version of "Teen Titans", which for some reason is actually tolerable to me whereas the English version really isn't. (This might cut both ways; my wife can't even listen to the Japanese version, she says the lyrics are so dumb.) It also has a somewhat different mix of "Joining a Fan Club" than we got on the "Hi Hi" soundtrack - though it's debatable which is better. (The US version is a little heavier.)

But the two real stars of the album are "Kokoro ni Hana wo" and "Kaze makase futari tabi", the former being a pretty straightforward but incredibly catchy rock song and the latter an electro sort of loungey bit of goofiness with some heavy guitars mixed in, which wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Spike album. And I still rank that album as my favorite Puffy release.

It is imperative that you hear - no, that you own - these two songs if you call yourself a Puffy fan. Both of these songs are as good as anything Ami and Yumi have ever recorded. You can visit CDJapan and listen to song samples there.

The rest of the album is not nearly as strong, being filled out by three animation theme songs ("Sunrise" and two versions of "Teen Titans"), a cover ("Joining a Fan Club"), a completely unnecessary second English remake of "Invisible Tomorrow" ("So Long Zero"), and the retro-inspired "Forever". Overall, it's a little sloppy sounding and it lacks any sort of distinguishable identity of its own. It seems an attempt to return to the eclectic era of Spike but, except when noted above, without nearly the same results. The problem is probably just that most of these songs aren't that memorable, or they sound like songs Puffy have recorded before (or they actually are). You can tell that even producer Andy Sturmer knew something was wrong given his copious use of fill synthesizers - it's pervasive throughout 59, and annoyingly noticeable. Unfortunately, this was the last full album he'd work with Puffy on.

Great artwork, though (excuse the crease - it's a poster foldout):

You can't really blame anyone involved for any of 59's shortcomings given all that was going on at the time, and I'm just grateful for the two essential but tragically unheralded tracks sandwiched in the middle of the album. Sometimes there are more important things in life than work.

Oh, two of my favorite Puffy videos are also from this album, even if the songs aren't my favorites - see below.

Couple technical notes. 59 went out of print almost immediately after its release, but it was re-released sometime in 2006. Whether it's still in print now, I don't know - but you can still order it from CDJapan. The original release was one of Sony's experiments with copy-protected CD's (you may have read the wikipedia article on this album, which I mostly wrote). I'm not sure if the re-release had the controls lifted, but I believe that it did.

Final Grades
Music: B-
Performance: B-
Production: C+


Joining a Fan Club

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kimi to Ohtobai Live at Shibuya AX

I didn't upload this, and I wasn't planning on doing so. But since somebody else did, I'll link to it here since a) most of you will find it anyway, b) it gives me a chance to talk about it, and c) it's now out of print, so you probably can't buy it (CDJapan is out). Look around for it anyway. The DVD (from the "All Because of You" limited edition CD) is a lot better - the sound, the picture quality, the whole feel of it. It's way more immersive. Unfortunately there's not even a high-quality YouTube link for this. Watch it all the way through - it builds, just like it does on the album.

This is my favorite song on honeycreeper, and watching them play it live is almost like watching some other band. They're not the bubbly happy people they usually are (except for Shigeo Naka, who's working hard!). Something is happening to Ami over the years - she used to be the "cute" one, and she was always smiling, and so animated on stage. Now she's absolutely deadly sometimes, when the mood is right. I kinda like it.

[Yumi's just always been that way :) ]

By the way, the other videos from this show are also up - watch 'em while they last. But please, buy the DVD if you can!

Lavshuca TVCM featuring My Story

Finally! You guys in Japan have been able to hear the "My Story" ringtone for weeks now, but this is the first audible glimpse the rest of us have had of the song.

It hasn't hit the YouTubes yet (see below update), but the official Kanebo/Lavshuca web site has both versions of the commercial (click the "With PUFFY" nav button). It's kind of interesting - one has Ami singing softly over the song, the other Yumi. Makes it a little hard to hear the song itself, but it's always kinda cool to hear their individual voices untouched by studio effects.

What I can hear of the song actually sounds pretty good!

UPDATE: Here they are, straight from the Tube of You.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ami and Yumi Drive a Tank

Every once in a while, a new video from Puffy's erstwhile television show "Papapapa Puffy" turns up. I haven't seen this one before, and it's particularly crazy:

I'm not actually sure which one is driving, but they're not doing a very good job of it. The guy with them clearly says "ok, not so good!" in English at one point. It's pretty funny - it actually seems quite dangerous!

Another clip was posted by someone else just a bit before. Not sure what they're meant to be doing here; driving somewhere to eat barbecue, apparently. They always seem to get goofy in the car. Check out Yumi eating a whole frog on a stick near the end! Disgusting.

This is all by way of tiding you guys over as I work on another one of my "look back" reviews, so watch for that soon. (And here's a hint: I've decided to review the album you'd least expect!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Site Note - affiliate links

You may have noticed a couple of small changes around here over the past couple days - the most obvious being that I've finally changed those links to purchase honeycreeper over on the top right.

Not only has it been replaced by My Story, but that's now a CDJapan affiliate link. Along with the Amazon links below, I get a commission on those sales. (Before, I had just manually set up some purchase links, and I got nothing for them.) So I'd definitely appreciate it if you'd go through my links whenever you order Japanese imports - and it can be anything, not just Puffy. CDJapan knows where you came from. Amazon does too. I do put a decent number of hours into some of these posts and I buy all the stuff I write about, so it's just nice to get a little something back.

The cool thing is that's just a default CDJapan affiliate link there that can be generated for any of their products, and it fits that top corner space perfectly. That's going to make it very easy for me to change out whenever Puffy announce something new. Before, it was a pain to cut and resize images and add links myself, so I never really bothered. But it'll always be current from now on.

I can recommend CDJapan wholeheartedly and I wouldn't be their affiliate if I felt any different. They ship quickly, they pack everything extremely well, and their customer service is amazing. Little story: I ordered Splurge from them way back when, and stupidly I did not choose EMS or registered mail. There was no tracking number with the shipping method I chose. Of course, the package got lost in the mail - not their fault, probably got stolen by somebody at US Customs. Well, I sent them a note and they told me to contact them if it didn't arrive in a few weeks. A few weeks after that, they contacted me and asked me if I'd received it yet. When I told them no, they shipped me another one, free of charge. That's just above and beyond. Buy from them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ami and Yumi go to the movies

For some reason, this is big news in Japan today.

PUFFY have gone to see "Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny". Yes, the 2-year old Jack Black movie that's just now coming out in Japan. Why is this news? I don't know. But it's all over the entertainment news sites. This one, for example. Here's another. And another (login required for that one).

Ok, obviously, this was a well-orchestrated media event. And I guess PUFFY are as good a choice as any to be the focus of it.

Here's the gist of one of the more amusing/interesting of these articles:

* Ami and Yumi are never interested in the same guy. Their "types" are completely different. (I don't really know what either of their types are, though.) This came up because a reporter asked each one "who is your favorite in the movie, Jack or Kyle"? Ami answered Jack, which meant Yumi had to answer Kyle. But she couldn't, so she asked "just two choices??" She answered Jack too, but she wasn't happy about it.

* Along those same lines of questioning, they were both asked who their favorite Rock Gods are. Ami answered the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Yumi answered Saito Kazuyoshi. (She worked with him on "Rakuda no Kuni", aka "Cameland".)

More on this breaking story as it develops. Perhaps Ami and Yumi will stay at the theater and see another movie!

Friday, July 11, 2008

For those of you reading the RSS feed...

I'm just updating the All Because of Live roundup post, not posting new ones, so if you're reading via RSS, you probably won't see it unless you check the actual blog every once in a while. I've finally got some actual reports in there, along with a set list.

The rest of you, carry on...

Monday, July 7, 2008

All Because of Live Tour Roundup

UPDATE 7/15/08: This may be my last real update, although I'll do at least one more search sweep before I close this out over the next couple days. I think that most people who would've written reports from this tour would have done so by now.

There is one more report from Osaka Namba Hatch, which is great - not too many of those down there. Still only one from Nagoya. If I've missed any, as always send them in.

On to the show reports!

7/08/08 Osaka Namba Hatch (大阪府 なんばHatch):

7/09/08 Nagoya Diamond Hall (愛知県 名古屋クラブダイアモンドホール):

7/11/08 Tokyo JCB Hall (東京都 JCBホール):

Below is the set list that was posted on the Puffy staff blog. (I originally had reprinted a translated version from the Royal Milk Tea entry, but it's just better to have something official. Thanks to the writer of that blog for the original list, though!)

1. Pool Nite
2. Umi e to
3. Nagisa ni matsuwaru etc.
4. Frontier no Pioneer
5. Sumire
6. Kuchibiru Motion
7. Oriental Diamond
8. boom boom beat
9. Circuit no Musume
10. Kimi to Ohtobai
11. Security Blanket (Ami solo)
12. Kimi ga Suki (Yumi solo)
14. Toku suru karada
15. All Because Of You
16. Yokai PUFFY
17. Akai Buranko
18. Boogie Woogie No.5
19. Tokyo I'm On My Way
20. Jet Keisatsu

1. My Story
2. Hazumu Rizumu
3. Asia no Junshin

All I can say is, awesome. A lot of unexpected stuff in there, and a lot of older stuff in there, including some b-sides! A few of those songs have never been played live by Puffy before. Some old favorites have come back, too - I am so happy they're playing "Toku suru karada" again. I understand a little bit better now why Ami wanted to keep the set list secret - there really were some surprises. I should learn to trust her a little more :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"My Story" Ringtone Released

So those of you in Japan can now download the "My Story" ringtone. I don't know how this works there - if it's just 30 seconds of the song or what - but to my knowledge, this is the first and currently the only way to hear the new single. If anyone's bothered downloading it, what do you think?

By the way, while this info's been out there for a while now, Puffy have just now officially announced the track listing to the single. Like their last few singles, I'm actually more interested in the b-side than the title track. Here's the listing if you haven't seen it already:

1. My Story
Lyrics:PUFFY Music:Anders Hellgren & David Myhr (The Merrymakers)
2. Twilight Shooting Star!
Lyrics and Music:Sawao Yamanaka (the pillows)
3. All Because Of You (DISCO TWINS Remix)

Limited Edition DVD
「PUFFY TOUR 2007 honeysweeper 2007.12.19 SHIBUYA-AX Vol.2」
1. Sayonara Summer
2. Oriental Diamond
3. Akai Buranko
4. Nagisa ni matsuwaru etc.

Some of you may know the pillows' own song "Ride On Shooting Star" - the titles are a little close, don't you think? I wonder if that's intentional.

In unrelated news, Puffy will apparently be appearing at Avril Lavigne's upcoming show at the Tokyo Dome, along with Ai Otsuka. Might not be a bad move for them, but it's still not enough to convince me to sit through an Avril show.