Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas From Amiyumidas

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Here is a cool video of the RGW light display in Tokyo Dome City from a different perspective, beneath the dome.

As my Christmas plans have gotten messed up I may follow the Japanese tradition and get KFC this year. :)

(video h/t acho696)

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Contributor for Puffy David Myhr has a solo effort “Soundshine” that was released yesterday in Japan and for this Japanese version has two bonus tracks featuring Puffy songs and more importantly Puffy themselves. I guess the question is as he is the original co-writer of the music are these covers or are they out of sequence originals? Ami and Yumi are providing backing vocals for the songs, which makes a notable bit of Puffy side news into something a little more special.

Boom Boom Beat is the first bonus song Myhr has on the Japan release of "Soundshine," which he co-wrote the music with Anders Hellgren. The preview is from the recording session so there might be some changes in the final version after it goes through post production. I like it, though on this first blush it is definitely a touch more raw and unpolished. Neither are bad things and I generally like covers (for lack of a better word) that are not musically xeroxed.

Record Collection is a version of Happy Birthday, which Myhr co-wrote the music with Peter Kvint. I have no information about this song beyond this. If there is more information, please send it my way.... but I will begin digging.

P.S. Most of the information contained here in is from David Myhr's website, go read the whole thing it is a great read.

P.S.S. As a note, Myhr has ties to Andy Sturmer which as all of you know is a long time contributor for Puffy.

P.S.S.S. Soundshine is available at cdjapan, though much as the completest in me wants these two tracks… For now, I will probably have to control myself.

(h/t to Mauricamo6 for the find)

Monday, November 28, 2011

15 Album Review

The Puffy Best of album 15 was released last week and I got my copy on time (technically early as shipping beat out time zones). I went with the deluxe version of 15, it was only a few dollars more. If there are any differences in the booklet, I would like to hear what they are but for purposes of the review I am going with the version I have on hand.

Getting to packaging, the case for the deluxe version is big (not "Sunrise" with the model kit included big but like two old school double cd cases big), about half of which is take up by the discs and the other half the special Rodney Greenblat hand towel (that I have not opened because I am a colleting nerd…). The discs unfold out and in a pocket is the booklet. The graphics are light on Ami and Yumi and heavy on Rodney Greenblat’s art. I would have liked to have seen the inside of “15” have the same kind of whimsical energy that Rodney’s cover portrayed.

Overall the packaging is nice and I especially like Rodney’s cover art as it combines all the singles he did for Puffy into one cohesive piece. I would have liked to have seen more graphics or images celebrating Ami and Yumi’s fifteen years together which with the art Rodney created for "15" would have put the interior over the top.

The sound quality of the tracks for “15” are good and in some cases I would say sound better than the albums the originally appear on. Some of this might be tweaks for airplay as noted by a couple of the readers here. For the most part I did not hear any huge differences in the 38 tracks that have appeared on some sort of album.
Barring one track, I personally have all the music presented in “15” so for me it was not a huge value, but given how mice the packaging is and what amounts to a good collection of songs I do not feel cheated out of anything. For fans new to Puffy or looking to learn more about their music, “15” would be a must to pick up.

Rolling down 15’s tracks...

Disc 1
1. Someone
2. Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi
3. Oriental Diamond
4. Boogie Woogie No. 5
6. Hi Hi
7. boom boom beat
8. Red Swing
9. Nice Buddy
10. Ai no Shirushi
12. Circuit no Musume
13. Hiyori Hime
14. My Story
15. Mole-Like
16. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera
17. All Because Of You
18. R.G.W.
19. Happy Birthday
20. Asia no Junshin

Disc 2
1. Shall We Dance?
2. Kimi to Otobai
3. Radio Tokyo
5. Violet
6. Jet Police
7. Hazumu Rhythm
8. Puffy's Rule
9. Security Blanket
10. Bring it on
11. Yokubou
12. Wedding Bell
13. Friends
14. Kirei na Namida ga Tarinai yo
15. UREI
16. Jet Love
17. Kimi ga Suki
18. Tokusuru Karada
19. Bye Bye

Disc 3 - DVD
Asia no Junshin - Ami Yumi Emi version

At 39 tracks there is a lot of music on “15” but something seemed off. At first I could not put my finger on what the problem was, then after some talk in the comments I decided something was off in regards to what albums generated the songs on this best of compilation. Then it hit me. So in this review I am going to break down the review more by where the songs came from and some thoughts about them rather than talk about each track in any great detail.

Here is how the “15” breaks down via the albums the tracks came from:

"Amiyumi" – 2 songs (Asia no Junshin, Tokusuru Karada)
"Bring it!" – 6 songs (Hiyori Hime, My Story, All Because of You, Wedding Bell, Bye Bye, Bring it on)
"Fever*Fever" – 1 song (Kirei na Namida ga Tarinai yo)
"Honeycreeper" – 3 songs (Oriental Diamond, boom boom beat, Kimi to Otobai)
"Jet-CD" – 6 songs (Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi, Ai no Shirushi, Mother, Circuit no Musume, Jet Police, Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera)
Miscellaneous – 5 songs (Friends, Someone, Sweet Drops, Hazumu Rythum, Kimi ga Suki, Hi Hi)
"Nice" – 3 songs (Red Wing, Long Beach Nightmare, Urei)
"Spike" – 3 songs (Boogie Woogie No 5, Violet, Puffy’s Rule)
"Splurge" – 4 songs (Nice Buddy, Mole-Like, Security Blanket, Shall We Dance)
"Thank you" – 4 songs (R.G.W., Yokubou, Happy Birthday, Jet Love)

As a note for songs that were either originally singles or extra tracks on a single I have categorized them as miscellaneous (even if they appeared on a compilation album previously).

"Jet-CD" represents the high point of ami and Yumi's career and I think all the song choices are solid.

First thing that I verified from the comments to the track list blog entry for “15” was that Fever*Fever is all but ignored in this collection. It generated four singles for Puffy and is certainly one of their best performing on the Oricon charts and likely sales figures reflect this as well as Fever*Fever was released at the apex of Puffy’s career thus far.

The two songs from "amiyumi" are completely sensible, I would not have expected any other tracks to make it and was pleasantly surprised Toku Suru Karada made it on.

“Fever*Fever” also happens to be one of my favorite albums, so therein lies a bias, but I am perplexed at the speed bumping here. Stray Cats Fever alone should be on this collection as it is one humdinger of a song live or in studio (but then again I can’t recall them ever playing it outside of their support tour in Japan for “Fever*Fever” a reader corrected this notion as it has appeared in medleys and during the 2001 tour).

The songs I slotted into the miscellaneous category are some interesting choices. This version feels a little underwhelming and less engineered than the English version. It is a good effort, but also a missed opportunity to have a couple new songs anchor “15.”

For the rest of the miscellaneous songs, I cannot stand Hi Hi, so that was a disappointing choice. But Ami and Yumi still throw this into their set lists live… Going to the other side of the spectrum Kimi ga Suki is a really fun choice to have on “15” so this miscellaneous pile of songs is a mixed bag.

Likewise what we see from the “Nice” album is a nice surprise with Urei, which is a song I really like (so much so I would put it in my Puffy top 15). Long Beach Nightmare is also a bit of a surprise, not one of my favorite songs, but I have mixed emotions about the whole “Nice” album and this song represents that feeling perfectly. Red Swing is no surprise and it is one of the best songs from “Nice”.

"Spike" has four entries for “15” and while I have never been keen on Boogie Woogie No 5 I really like that Violet made an appearance as well as Puffy’s rule. All sensible choices here though Shall We Dance (from the Japan release) sounds
less polished than the English version and maybe falls a bit short of the mark.

The selections representing honeycreeper are sort of surprising more for what was not included. I am surprised Kuchibiru Motion was not included for "15."

The tracks from "Splurge" I think are all good choices. I would have liked to have seen "Beginnings" included, but that is not taking away from any of the tracks.

It feels too soon to have tracks from "Thank you" on a best of album from Puffy. The selections are good, but I think it would have been better to have made room for older material. Not that "Thank you" is the biggest problem with older songs being left out.

Which brings us to the thousand pound gorilla in the room… “Bring it!” Six tracks from an album most Puffy fans (to put it politely) didn’t find to be their best effort. All three official singles from the album are represented on “15”even sadly All Because of You. Wedding Bell was used in a TV series so I guess that makes sense. Bring It On and Bye Bye are okay tracks. While I like My Story and Hiyori Hime and thier presence on "15" is justifiable, the rest of the tracks I have a hard time believing the deserved to be elevated to a best of album.

The DVD included in “15” is a disappointment. All that it contains is the video for Asia no Junshin the AmiYumiEmi version. While I like the video quite a bit, I think this was a missed opportunity and also very light on content that a more expensive edition of the album should have. I would have liked to have seen a full concert or at least 6-10 songs from concerts. Seems the deluxe version of Puffy albums is really hit or miss when it comes to bonus content. Much as the towel Rodney Greenblat designed is a great bonus item, this DVD knocks the deluxe edition down a notch or two.

It is hard to give “15” a grade like other albums I have reviewed on amiyumidas as it is a collection so I will tweak the categories.

Songs: B-
Packaging: B+
Bonus Material: C

Friday, November 25, 2011

Solo Solo

Just a quick post up for the long weekend. This is a really nifty concert vid* of Ami singing "Always Dreamin' About You" and Yumi singing "Watashi No Nozomi."

My best guess was this was from the Spike tour as their hair styles are similar. Anthony and Hareonna20 confirmed it was from the "2001: A Halfway of Space Odyssey." Likewise Ami and Yumi have done solo songs in concert as recently as Bring it. (I was wrong in my initial speculation, ergo some corrections Thanks guys!)

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving weekend (or for those outside of North America...a great weekend)!

(* also a nifty way to avoid doing my 15 post up... which I am still working on)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I got my copy of Puffy 15

Got my copy of Puffy 15 this morning (for me one day early as I think the Japan release date is tomorrow... which given time zones I guess it is not early by Japanese reckoning).

I have not dug through much beyond looking through my box from cdjpapan to verify contents.

Hopefully I will have a full post up this weekend. One good thing about this being a best of is that I could write about 75% of the review before it arrived. Until then comment away my friends!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Puffy Covers

Here are some Puffy covers...

Wait not those kind of covers, follow the jump.

Tokyo Dome City Winter Festival

This is at the Tokyo Dome City Winter Festival... and it is a lighting art installation choreographed with Puffy's song RGW. It's pretty nifty, watch for yourself.

(h/t to commenter holyfooljose for the find, and theatreamanoya for the original vid nice work!)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Puffy 15

This was originally a top ten list that we had punted around in comments... then someone suggested doing a top fifteen. Thanks for the extra work! But the benefit here was I had a few songs that I wanted to put into a top ten but for whatever reason they were pushed off it it.

In this whole process I got delayed for a variety of reasons. First reviewing a bunch of songs I had listed... Then boiling that down... Then going through my library to see if I had missed anything (and I had). Then I sat down and tried to quantify my song list, that too turned out to be a struggle as a bunch of songs I like for different reasons. End result is this list of songs which are not in any particular order in regards to my preferences.

Toku Suru Karada: Touching back on something Jeff said a long time back (I think circa Splurge or honeycreeper) is that this is a unique song that Puffy never has replicated. It is also one of my favorite concert songs as I think it can only be played one way. First track off their first album, it made an impression upon me.

Jet Keisatsu: Arguably "the Puffy song." I say that as it encompasses what a makes Puffy songs great. Great vocals, well produced, plenty of space for a variety of support musicians.

Mother: A sweet song about life not being so sweet. I love the nuances Mother has, but what I really like is the fact that Yumi gets to sings what I think are the more interesting parts of the song.

Mogura-like: Straight up rock and roll in the form of Puffy, a song I like in studio more than live. I will always be thrown off that it feels like a marriage of two songs, but sometimes that works... that and the wah-wah guitar sounds which I am a sucker for.

Beginnings: A song I think plays well live or in studio. It is another one of those songs that define Puffy.

Jet-Love: I really like the fusion of various pop/rock forms in Jet-Love and it is a very distinctive song.

Otomemoriaru: A song I have always liked as Puffy's vocals are dominating from the front and center. Again I always dig when Ami and Yumi vocalize on so many layers that a wall of Puffy is formed and falls upon me. This choice may surprise some of you as I tilt towards Puffy's more rock oriented songs...

Stray Cats Fever: Hands down my favorite song on one of my favorite albums. But like Fever*Fever Stray Cats Fever gets lost... which I do not understand.

Yokai Puffy: I love the craziness of Yokai Puffy (and generally I am no big fan of self referencing songs...). This song has a great set up and the piles on a rocking crazy like gasoline on a fire.

Oriental Diamond: I think Ami summed it up best (and I paraphrase) "uh oh here comes Puffy."

Sakura Saku: I have always like this song, it is well off the beaten path for a Puffy song... and I really like that. Japanese pop meets a country beat and something better than I thought possible is the effect.

My Country Road: Another Tamio-Puffy combination winds up on this list... I really like how the song is layered and Ami and Yumi's vocals are deep, rich and mature. Ami and Yumi harmonize differently which is something that took me a long time to figure out how their individual parts were being emphasized..

My Story: One of those songs that probably should not make it on the list, but all the moving fit together and the end result is one of those Puffy songs I wind up liking quite a bit.

UREI: A song I almost forgot about as it appears on the US release of Nice and the Sunrise single. Has a weird slow start and then bridges into one rocking song that reminds me of The Donnas.

Asia no Junshin: Honestly much as I love this song in its various iterations, it almost did not make the list. But then I recall like many of us, Asia no Junshin was the first Puffy song I heard... and a decade later I still am a fan. So maybe it it does deserve to be on this list after all.

Now it is your turn!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Puffy 15: Album Cover and Track List

Here is the news we have been waiting on the new album cover and the track list (h/t to the always great Hareonna20). Noticed things were finally starting to go forward as Team Puffy updated Facebook today and sent out the Puffy 15 album cover. I like what Rodney Greeblat did here, it is a nice throw back to all the covers he did for Puffy over the years.

Here are the tracks for 15:

Disc 1
1. Someone
2. Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi
3. Oriental Diamond
4. Boogie Woogie No. 5
6. Hi Hi
7. boom boom beat
8. Red Swing
9. Nice Buddy
10. Ai no Shirushi
12. Circuit no Musume
13. Hiyori Hime
14. My Story
15. Mole-Like
16. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera
17. All Because Of You
18. R.G.W.
19. Happy Birthday
20. Asia no Junshin

Disc 2
1. Shall We Dance?
2. Kimi to Otobai
3. Radio Tokyo
5. Violet
6. Jet Police
7. Hazumu Rhythm
8. Puffy's Rule
9. Security Blanket
10. Bring it on
11. Yokubou
12. Wedding Bell
13. Friends
14. Kirei na Namida ga Tarinai yo
15. UREI
16. Jet Love
17. Kimi ga Suki
18. Tokusuru Karada
19. Bye Bye

Disc 3 - DVD
Asia no Junshin - Ami Yumi Emi version

There are a couple surprises in this list for me, but with 39 tracks it is a huge wall of sound that we are getting and that is not even making mention of the DVD! From looking at Puffy's Sony site her emight be a bit of a disappointment. The only content listed is the Asia no Junshin AmiYumiEmi version. Hopefully there is more, but my gut says probably not...

I have not skimmed what the new tracks are as this is all on the fly so chime in friends!

Later on in the week I will have my 15 Puffy songs posted up. Part of the problem with boiling down a deep catalog is picking 15 that are the best when there are so many songs I like. For now enjoy the art and hopefully we will get an official track list soon!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Puffy 15 Editions & Countdown Japan 11/12

CD Japan has updated it's site over the past couple of days.

The regular edition has: 2 CD's.

The deluxe edition has: 2 CD's, Bonus DVD and the hand towel designed by Rodney Greenblat.

The difference is about six bucks.

No track listing as of yet, but with two CD's of music I am not as concerned about some songs being left off and more piqued about new material being inserted into the track list. My hunch is this will be released sometime this month... but when I know you will too!

Puffy has also signed on for the Countdown Japan 11/12 concert. They play Wednesday 12/28, so kinda early in the festivities. That is also the same night that Tamio Okuda is playing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Puffy 15

As seen in the comments in the last blog enter (thanks hareonna20 for the scoop!) Puffy is set to release a greatest hits compilation titled "15" on November 23, 2011.

It looks like an extra will be a Rodney Greenblat designed washcloth-type-thing and rumor has it he is doing the cover art for "15." A nice flash back to the past and I eagerly await the cover.

The only track listed so far is "Asia no Junshin" but it is listed as a 2 CD set. Tokyo Hive is reporting that the limited edition will have a music disc and bonus video footage disc. Rekuru is reporting it is two music cd's. It could be either, it could be neither...

This can play out a lot of ways. If the second disc were bonus video footage, I would hope that the 15th anniversary concert was the bonus material. But Puffy could got he route of Def Leppard who's release Mirrorball had an impressive two music discs plus a concert DVD. (yes, I am a Def Leppard fan... we all have our own musical Waterloo's). I will also be interested to see if there are any new songs on "15" which might crowd out some old Puffy standards depending on how much music is being included in "15."

That said if there is only one disc of music for "15," that will make for some interesting choices as to what to put on the album and what to leave off of it.

Unfortunately no track listings or details have been released for "15" as of this writing. So when I know more... you will know more.

P.S. You can pre-order from CD Japan now.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Amiyumidas Interview: Rodney Greenblat

Hey Puffy fans! A fun treat today! Rodney Greenblat who created Puffy's iconic art took some time to talk to Amiyumidas. His art for Puffy I think is one of the most lasting impressions I have of Ami and Yumi and was something I immediately noticed when I started buying Puffy albums. He is also a seriously nice guy and one of the easiest interviews I have done.

There is some really great stuff here, so let's get on with it!

Wes J: Hi Rodney, how are you today?

Rodney G: Great!

WJ: Starting with the single “Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Michi” through “Atarashii hibi” your cover art for Puffy’s singles and the "An Illustrated History" compilation album gave Puffy a cohesive look and feel I have rarely seen in other acts. What was your process for doing these singles and how did the story telling for them come to be?

RG: It was so fun doing those mini CD singles in those cool packages. I don't even know if they still make those little CD single packages. The process was that Puffy's ultra cool manager and producer would send me some basic direction like "snow scene" or "beach" or "city" and then I would send a few sketches. From there the Puffy team would choose and I would get to work. Sometimes I would send them a completely different idea.

WJ: Which cover was your favorite?

RG: I think PUFFY DE RUNNBA was my favorite, with Puffy ice fishing. I thought the Aurora in the background looked cool.

WJ: After reading Andie Airfix’s blog about designing album covers it sounds like cover design can be a long drawn out process. What were the challenges of designing the single covers for Puffy?

RG: I'm such an easy person to work with there were few problems. Ami and Yumi are fans of my work, so they usually liked what I sent. The hardest part of all the art I did for them was getting their HAIR right. Their styles changed from tour to tour, and I had to keep up. Puffy's management would send me photos and I would try to get it right.

WJ: You did the set design for Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Puffy which I always thought really tied all of Puffy’s imagry together, what was that like to work on. How was that different than doing cover art for Puffy?

RG: It was SO GREAT working on that set. Maybe you know I am a gifted sculptor and designer, so it was wonderful to have a chance to work in 3 dimensions for a big audience. I made two different designs over the course of the show. There were puppets and all kinds of stuff in that set.

WJ: What are the challenges of designing a set versus an album cover?

I had to make much more detailed sketches. Detailed enough for the set craft people to make the stuff. Totally different than making flat art. It was a collaborative process to design the set.

WJ: Your art still remains part of the pantheon of Puffy and it was great to see your artwork coming back via a towel in the merchandise in support of Puffy’s 15th anniversary tour “A Time For ACTION.” How was it doing a piece for Puffy after what I think is a long break?

RG: I was really glad to hear from them again. They are big stars in Japan, so it is a great honor to be able to supply new stuff for their many fans.

WJ: Your art has appeared in all sorts of Puffy related products, like the skull and cross bones on a tour shirt I have in my collection. What of these smaller scale illustrations have been your favorite in regards to Puffy?

RG: I designed many plastic figure Puffy keychains. Some of these were my fastest selling products. They must all be collector's items now.

WJ: Over the course of fifteen years how would you sum up your working experience with Puffy?

I've benefited greatly from knowing Ami and Yumi. They are big stars, but have always treated me with respect and patience. Their enthusiasm for my artwork has allowed my work to be seen by millions of people.

WJ: Anything about your work with Puffy I might have missed or your would like to pass along to fans of Ami and Yumi?

RG: Did you know that Ami has written the translation for my Thunder Bunny picture books? Of course I can not read Japanese so I don't know what she wrote, but all the fans thought it was great. Ami helped me promote my books to an audience that might not have discovered my picture books.

WJ: That is an amazing bit of trivia I have never come across! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and fans of Puffy. I have enjoyed the imagery you created for them and wish you all the best.

RG: You are welcome! Thank You!

Check out Rodney's website Whimsyload
Also check out Rodney's Japanese site RodneyFun

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Puffy To Appear In Usagi Drop

Amiyumidas commenter hareonna20 found this bit of Puffy goodness and I have been meaning to post up. Looks like Ami and Yumi will be appearing in episode 9 of the Usagi Drop anime. Not a whole lot to go on, but the fun bit is the character designs:

A nice distraction and maybe I was wrong that it would be painfully slow for Puffy things between albums this go around!

For the full article (in Japanese) click here....

(h/t hareonna20 for the find)

(Image is of course copyright its original creators, etc. etc.)

Friday, July 22, 2011


We have been waiting for SWEET DROPS for a while now and been treated to snippets of the studio version. Over all I am very happy with the video and its production values are very high.

The production values snap me back to Hiyori Hime and the story arch reminds me of that as their relationship is adversarial with Yumi playing an angel and Ami taking on a devil. What I think ties the video together better is adding in the playfulness of Joining a Fan Club. It is also an interesting take to not have Ami or Yumi star in the video and rather tell the story of young love being supported or thwarted by Ami and Yumi. I am not sure if I entirely get the creepy robot guy at the end, maybe there is some sort of context or reference that went over my head.

The general sound of SWEET DROPS very much stays within the songs found on Thank You. It is tight and well produced. In my mind it sort of feels like an homage to Matthew Sweet whose throwback power pop resonates in the song. Probably not the case, but that has been how the single feels.

Overall Thank You and now SWEET DROPS makes me feel a lot more comfortable with the direction Puffy is taking and I am curious to see how that arcs into the next studio album.

P.S. One fun thing to noice in SWEET DROPS is that when Ami and Yumi are sitting back-to-back is that Ami is sitting on a cushion so it looks like she is slightly taller than Yumi (who is a slight bit taller in actuality)

(h/t to commenter hareonna20 for the find!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Time For Action Concert

As promised I did some digging around and found the entire concert uploaded to Youku. Watch, enjoy and comment away.

I am not sure how I feel about the concert as a whole, touching back to the previous tour vids, there are times I feel that the tempo of the songs are being toned down. As you all can guess, I like more energetic performances and something is falling short here. I will add more comments and thoughts later but I wanted to get this up ASAP.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Time For Action Concert Clips

Not much to report, the Time For Action Tour is over and thus we enter the fugue state that is between Puffy albums. I will skim for Puffy news and while I hope Ami and Yumi will be doing news, erm blogging worthy things... Beyond maybe some summer festival appearances I am not sure what that might be.

Anyways here are a few videos from the 2011 Time For Action Tour. Hopefully more will crop up as it was broadcast on WOWOW. It doesn't look as polished a performance as Tour 10 Final, but then again it looks like Ami is hale and the weather is agreeable. Yumi looks great. I have no idea what Ami is thinking...

P.S. Back from Singapore. Only cool Puffy thing I encountered was Singapore Airlines on their entertainment system had both "Bring it!" and "Thank You" for on demand music selections. However the translation for the song titles I deeply suspect was Japanese to Chinese to Romanji... they were really, really odd.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Album Review: 59

59 marks the combined ages of Ami and Yumi at the mini album's release which was was a year after Nice and two years before Splurge. I do not believe 59 had particularly good sales as it peaked at 62 on the Japanese charts. This may be reflective of the ebb that Puffy seemed to be in at the time and 59 feels like something of a placeholder in Puffy's catalog consisting of left over material from Nice.

I have had my copy of 59 for quite a while. While on the trip home from Singapore I had a solid layover at Narita and hit the music/electronics/magazine shop between customs and my gate. I had stopped in before on other trips, but usually to check things out, my interest in Japanese music was very minimal before. I knew Puffy had this mini album out and decided to buy it if I saw it. They did, so I did.

59 marks the last time Andy Sturmer had a significant role on a Puffy album, but also the first time Tamio Okuda had nothing to do with an album. Ami and Yumi do affair amount of writing for the lyrics, which I think touches on their growth as song writers. I think in some ways having two albums produced by Sturmer was a detriment to Puffy, though I deeply suspect most of 59 was songs left on the shelf from Nice which was Sturmer’s baby start to finish and made for an easy release.

Here is the track list for 59:

Teen Titans Theme (lyrics & music: Andy Sturmer)
Sunrise (lyrics: Puffy, music: Andy Sturmer)
Joining a Fan Club (lyrics & music: Andy Sturmer, Roger Manning)
Kokoroni Hanao (lyrics: Puffy, Music: Andy Sturmer)
Kazemakase Futaritabi (lyrics: Puffy, music: Greg Camp & Andy Sturmer)
Forever (lyrics: Andy Sturmer, Puffy, music: Andy Sturmer)
So Long Zero (lyrics & music: Andy Sturmer)
Teen Titans Theme (Japanese Version) (lyrics: Puffy, music: Andy Sturmer)

I will cover the bookends of the CD in one go. According to Peace, Pop, Puffy the Teen Titans Theme is slightly different than other versions. Upon a closer listen, it does sound slightly less guitar heavy. Teen Titans Theme is not one of my favorite songs Puffy songs, so I never picked up on as this as I never seek out this song. Of the two versions I prefer the Japanese, which I feel Ami and Yumi better deliver. That said both tracks are at the bottom of the album for songs I liked.

Sunrise... I know my cohort Jeff is not a fan of Sunrise, but I have always liked it. It is fast and has a lot going on with instruments. The overall sound borders on being over engineered and I deeply suspect Sturmer threw keyboards at it to fix Sunrise. After hearing live snippets of Sunrise, I think this is a song Ami and Yumi could sing without being over processed but that said what is on the album I like. It is fast and has the unique vocals that Ami and Yumi deliver.

If you have heard the original version of Joining a Fan Club by Jellyfish (which I believe is slightly different) and recall what I think about Jellyfish’s musical stylings… You might think I hate this song. I will not go so far as to say I like it, but it is listenable and a better effort than the original. What has always impressed me about Puffy is their ability to take covers and make them their own. Sometimes the results are iffy (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds being a better example) but the delivery is at worst interesting.

What I find interesting with Kokoroni Hanao is that Sturmer lets Ami and Yumi deliver vocals that are not exactly in tune and touch back more to prior albums where I think they were a little more lax with the technical details of singing. This is not a bad thing as I genuinely like this Kokoroni Hanao. If feels and sounds like a Puffy song. There are some synthesizer effects way in the background that do not really ad much to the song, I think they could have been replaced with faint guitars or taken away all together. This is a very minor thing howver and this sneaks in as my favorite song on 59 and Kokoroni Hanao winds up being one of my favorite Puffy songs.

Kazemakase Futaritabi starts off really slow and engineered… but then it starts picking up steam as more vocals and instruments are added in then it is rolling quite nicely and Ami and Yumi deliver some very nice vocals in the process. There is an experimental feel to the track but it came together and is my second favorite track on 59.

Forever is a romantic girl group throwback track and it has problems. Ami and Yumi’s vocals sound off both in regards to pitch and volume and it never quite feels right. Where Sturmer’s usual productions feel very engineered, the instruments on this track feel unfinished and the overall the sound on the track feels muted like a demo tracks a group lays out in pre-production.

So Long Zero uses the same instrumental track as Friends Forever and Invisible Tomorrow. Like Forever this feels like a take that was shelved in production as Ami and Yumi’s vocals sound a touch unpolished. I suspect they picked the best two out of three for Nice and shelved this version. Ami does, however, play the guitar solo on this track. I like the track, but that said it feels incomplete.

To me 59 feels more like a place holding release and filled with material that did not fit with Puffy previous album, Nice. What I said about that album holds for 59. Generally I like the work Sturmer has done with Ami and Yumi, but I feel he is at his best when it is a track or two and not entire albums, particularly back to back ones. There are a couple of genuine gems of songs on 59, specifically Kokoroni Hanao and Kazemakase Futaritabi. The rest is middling to below what I would expect on a Puffy album, be it a full release or mini album.

Over All Scores:
Singing: B
Instruments: B-
Production: C

P.S. I just reread Jeff's review he did a long while back, read that as well. That was one of the first blogs here I commented on.

(h/t to Peace Pop Puffy for album facts and being awesome)

Friday, May 20, 2011

tbb's Sendai and Hibiya Show Reports

Darwin Sendai show – May 8th

The show started at 6pm with the doors opening at 5, but I got there a little earlier as the pre-sale of goods started at 3.30pm. The goods were being sold on a small space after the first flight of stairs down to the venue. I bought 2 of the tour shirts and then headed back out to the shopping arcade where the venue was located. By 5 o’clock they started to call out the numbers of the people who could enter the venue (there were 3 ticket lines 1-100, 100-200 and 200-300 (there was no one in the 200-300 lines and probably about 150 or so altogether around that time). The venue itself is only about 2 years old so although very small it was quite clean and had a pretty cool setup too.

I’m pretty sure the last time Puffy played in Sendai was for the 10th anniversary tour and that show was at Zepp Sendai (one of the many Zepp livehouses scattered across the country), just as well they played at Darwin as it would have been quite an empty show otherwise (Zepp holds around 2000 or so). There was quite a mix of fans at the show from teenage girls (which I found a little surprising as I didn’t think Puffy appealed to that demographic anymore) to some mid-twenties rockers, to middle age men who looked as though they’d come straight from work (suits and all) and of course a few die-hard otaku-lookin fans, and me! The only foreigner at the show (and as far as I saw, the only one in Sendai, which isn’t surprising given the circumstances).

The venue was about 80% full by the time the show started and I would say it reached about 90% capacity by the end. The show started with a familiar sounding dramatic orchestral piece accompanied by a video that is supposed to look like a backstage camera of Ami, Yumi and the band getting ready to get on stage. Each year of Puffy’s career was then played on the screen, each accompanied by a photo from that year.

After that, Asia no Junshin! Ami and Yumi both wore the “What can we do?” tour benefit shirts, with fluffy animal shoes. I gotta mention how great they looked too, if I didn’t know their ages I wouldn’t have guessed over 25, even Ami whose age has started to show a bit lately looked amazing. The set list for the show is the same as the one that’s been posted except for “Bring it on!” which was omitted, which is understandable as in Sendai’s case, I guess its already been brought.

I'm terrible at remember details from movies and concerts but here are some of the things I do remember clearly:

My Country Road was absolutely amazing, both Ami and Yumi doing their own simplified versions of the harmonica parts.

The new song Sweet Drops is very cutesy and well…..sweet, maybe a little too sweet, all I remember is that they say “sweet drops” and “I just wanna make you happy"

Wake Up, Make Up, was quite a comical performance as playback was used and the bands members danced and attempted the rapping verses, while wearing their own ghetto outfits. Puffy also did their usual random, dorky dance moves.

The audience went wild for Puffy’s older classics, while the newer ones were received more quietly.

The medley was done in the same way as the Gintakei Drive Medley, all the songs being fused together. Here are some of the parts I remember:

Electric Beach Fever (main song, like how Jet Police was repeated in Gintakei Medley)
Stray Cats Fever
Umi Eto
Fish On
R.G.W (opener)
Puffy no Tourmen
Bye Bye
GUITAR PARTS – Urei, Kobojin, Ghost Puffy
Kore ga Watashi no Ikiru Minchi
Puffy de Rumba
Banzai (one line)
Nichiyobi no Musume

Overall it was a great show and it was nice to see Puffy in such an intimate setting, I was about 5 meters or so from Yumi and Ami, a good introduction to a Puffy live before the big show the next weekend in Hibiya. After the show I waited outside at the exit of the venue with a few of the other fans waiting for Puffy to exit. Although it was only brief we saw Ami (big sunglasses and all) walk to the van with the rest of the band, while Yumi (who was hooded and holding her hood over her face) hopped into a taxi. So it was a little underwhelming but at least Ami waved which was nice.

Hibiya Show - May 14th

The Hibiya show opened at 5 for the fans to enter the venue. I got to the venue around 4.00 as I heard Puffy music playing while walking to the Ginza, Hibiya, Imperial Palace intersection, so it was traveling some distance. Once I got to the venue there was already quite a big line, for goods, and it turned out the Puffy music I heard playing was the sound of Ami and Yumi rehearsing. Once entering the venue I got some of the tour goods then went to the CD tent and got some of the regular edition CD's I don't have. Since I spent over $30 there I got an autographed "Thank You" poster.

The open air venue was quite nice as your surrounded by the ridiculously green trees of the park and the sky, not to mention the fact that its an amphitheater so most seats are pretty good and you dont have to worry about someone blocking your view of the stage. By the time Puffy came on stage the venue was full and the same intro played as the other shows, except there were 3 screens in this show.

What I remember from the show:

The set list for the show was the same except Ai no Shirushi was added after the encore before playing Darekaga. Ani and Bose from SCHADARAPARR came on for the rap parts of Wake Up, Make Up which was again a really enjoyable and fun performance.

Sweet Drops has grown on me and its actually a pretty catchy tune, too bad I'm going to have to wait a while before I can hear it again.

Puffy talked about Japanese actress Maya Miki and did impersonations of her voice throughout the MC parts of the show (she also got a mention at the Sendai show too)

The best performances were once again My Country Road, Violet, Red Swing, Yokubou and Electric Beach Fever.

Overall I was blown away by the Hibiya show, I really didn't want it to end, Ami and Yumi were absolutely amazing. Definitely looking forward to the WOWOW broadcast in a months time, hopefully it makes its way onto the net and if not I'm sure there will be a DVD release of this concert sometime at the end of the year (hopefully in full, and not spread across single releases).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Compare and Contrast: Hataraku Otoko

Hataraku Otoko is one of my favorite Puffy covers. It is rocking Puffy wrapped around a core of Tamio Okuda. It is also one of the least faithful covers I have ever heard (though DEVO's cover of the Hendrix classic Are You Experienced is right up there).

Where I thought the original Unicorn version of Hataraku Otoko is from a point in time in rock music I have a lot of problems with, much of which you have heard me apply to Andy Sturmer's old band Jelly Fish. It is more liad back and maybe playful... but it rubs me the wrong way. That is not taking anything away from Tamio Okuda or Unicorn. Tamio is as close to a living legend as one can get in the Japanese music scene, but sometimes even a vastly talented artist can deliver a clunker. Just ask me how I feel about Puffy's Wake Up, Make Up.

Puffy's version disassembles the song and rebuilds it to something I can listen to over and over... The only resemblance it has is with the original promotional video which uses some of the same shots.

So I was skimming YouTube and came across a very recent version of Hataraku Otoko by Unicorn and a the version Puffy did slightly further back at their Shibuya AX concert. It was interesting to see how both Unicorn and Puffy tackled the song. I'll let you watch then sort it out in comments.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Very Early Puffy TV Appearance

Not a whole lot going on now that translates to blogging about Puffy. Which is only odd because they have a tour going on and new album out... that doesn't mean I didn't find anything...

I found this very early TV rendition of Asia No Junshin that I had never seen. It really hammers home what a great and lengthy career Ami and Yumi have had.

Doing some housekeeping for the site this week.... then I guess I will have to do some more album review features.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Linda, Linda, Linda" DVD Review

Off camera, an all girl band is formed to play for the annual autumn festival, which in Japan is a very big deal. Literally the school drops everything so students can do performances, set up food stalls, compete in athletics, declare love and display exhibits. Think every big and important event in an American high school condensed into a few days, double so for seniors as this is their last hurrah.

Still off camera, the lead guitarist Moe has injures her finger while playing basketball and lead singer Rinko jettisons her from the band. Keyboardist Kei (Yu Kashii) takes great exception to this and breaks up the band. The passive aggressive similarities between Kai and Rinko play out through the movie, but their differences are also stark. As Kei has a drive that Rinko does not possess. Kei takes drummer Kyoko (Aki Meada) and Nozomi (Shiori Sekine) and begins to cobble a band together… but Kei has to shift from keyboards to guitar and she cannot play and sing.

Kei needs a singer and new song selections and she has three days to pull it all together. That it the film right there. My wife was amused and dejected that this was the entire plot. To me a well told simple story is better than a complex story that is poorly told. The plot is air tight. Nobuhiro Yamashita’s direction of scenes are primarily static shots and they are very well executed and often emotively stirring… which gets us back into the film.

Linda^3 is set sometime around 2005, Kei, Kyoko and Nozomi are discussing music options while flipping through minidiscs in the school’s music practice room. Many options are rattled off by the pair, some get a pause for consideration others not so much. Kyoko offers up Puffy for consideration and Kei quickly tells her to be serious. As Kei is a keyboardist that surprised me, but then again maybe she knew Puffy’s arrangements are usually complicated and driven by guitar work she could not handle and the keyboards she had to abandon. They find an old cassette containing songs by The Blue Hearts (a band which Puffy has covered on several occasions) which proves to be the musical spark Kei was looking for.

The trio needs a singer and this leads to my favorite scene in Linda^3. Kei, Kyoko and Nozomi are sitting in the school’s grounds wondering who to pick as a lead singer. Kei decides that the first person who walks past will be the one. First person to walk by is a dorky, chubby and disheveled male student looking to buy something from a vending machine. Kyoko asks if they should pick a girl, Kei quickly answers yes. Next to walk by is Rinko… they decide to ask her but she and Kei passive aggressively dance around each other. One needs, the other does not want and questions the new direction, yet probably needs it too. Kei’s drive wins out and she makes a decision.

Walking down the stairs at the far end of the school and carrying a box is Son (Doona Bae), a Korean exchange student who is set up earlier as more than a bit isolated and lonely in her Japanese school (given the long standing disagreements and mores between Korea and Japan this is not a surprise).

Kei yells to Son, asking if she wants to sing in a band. Son yells back, yes. Kyoko rushes across the school to explain what Kei really asked. All we really hear is abject shock from Son, whose Japanese is rough around the edges. Whatever misgivings she has seem to boil away at the chance of making friends. What comes around is that Son needs the band too. Maybe more than Kei. Son who had tremendous trepidation winds up wanting this more than the rest as evident when Nozomi forgets her bass and she insists they retrieve it regardless if they are late, regardless of the monsoon rains at the end of the film. Son also dubs the band Paranmaum, which in Korean translates to Blue Hearts.

For a Japanese film, Bae Do Na (who is Korean) steals the show and runs away with it. She is given most of the funny lines and there are a couple of scenes that are priceless and she delivers a very soulful performance as a fish out of water. Her scene at the karaoke bar is another part of the film she knocks out of the park.

Kei Tachibana the former keyboardist and untried guitarist is played by Yu Kashii . Her character is, as Son describes, scary but sweet and is more worldly and has a life outside of secondary school. She has older boyfriends and performs music in local venues and like many young Japanese artists she has dreams of Tokyo… as the film takes place in the Japanese equivalent of Kansas. Kei also learned guitar specifically for this role.

Aki Meada plays the drummer Kyoko. At this point of all the principle actors on the set in Linda^3 she is the most experienced and accomplished. Her career has certainly had some ups and downs. Kyoko comes from a reasonably well off family and is the emotional glue of the group. Like Yu, Aki learned to play drums specifically for Linda^3.

Shiori Sekine plays Nozomi who is a Japanese every girl character. She slightly belittles Son’s Japanese, scolds the other girls for spending too much on a group dinner and demure. Shiori’s performance on the surface is wooden, but I think there are some subtlties therein. She does have a few gems of scenes of her own. What many viewers many not realize is she is not an actress per se as this is Shiori's first film. She is the bassist for Base Ball Bear. In the music the band plays, it becomes apparent, she is the most talented musician of the bunch. The sad part is she does not sing, which from her work in Base Ball Bear it is apparent she is a good singer. Also her band Base Ball Bear was formed for a secondary school festival… they liked it so much they continued as a band. The rest is history…

I will not discuss any more of Linda^3 until the end scenes… which are what I saw first. I was skimming YouTube for videos. As it turns out Puffy’s cover of Oranai Uta is also covered by the band that Son coins the name Paranmaum, which is Korean for Blue Heart ala The Blue Hearts. They play two songs at the festival the previous and Linda Linda. Both are superbly played and completely listenable outside of the context of the film.

The performance scene uses a lot of angles and reaction shots. These make more sense after the movie particularly when it comes to a wistful teacher, dejected boys, an excited girl and a very relaxed Moe.

As the performance is about to start Nozomi and Kyoko are ready, Kei then looks to Son who appears to be scared beyond belief. Kei delivers a stare than were it to physically manifest would push Son off the stage… but in that Kei gives a reassuring nod. And. They. Are. Off. First with Linda Linda then Owaranai Uta.

Linda^3 cuts to black before the second song is over. Like the abrupt start of the film, whose circumstances are filled in as it goes along it ends in the perfect spot. The movie wasn’t about these girls’ dreams, friendships or finishing their senior year. Linda^3 was about getting to this spot in time.

The music in Linda^3 is a combination of an original score by American-Japanese musician James Iha (formerly of Smashing Pumpkins), songs by the cast and Japanese rock-pop. Songs by Base Ball Bear are also included, so you hear Shiori Sekine play in two bands… It is all great and well worth acquiring for your music library.

Linda Linda Linda is not burdened by an expansive plot, but it is executed well and the payoff in the end is satisfying and deeply touching like few movies I have watched. This isn’t just a movie that I like, it is a movie that likes me.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Live So Pure

Pardon the pun.

Once in a while in my dredging for Puffy material I find something darn interesting. I would not have bet Ami and Yumi ever did Love So Pure live, slightly less so were it Violet that I stumbled across.

A funny thing happened while driving around last week with my older daughter, we were listening to Jet Love and she came to the conclusion there were at least two different songs combined there. I could not have been more proud as we have never discussed the structure of Puffy songs.

Not a hole lot of news worthy stuff I have been able to find. Ami and Yumi are involved with disaster relief stuff, which does not surprise me, but as always if you have a scoop post it in the comments and I will follow up.

P.S. No word from amiyumidas founder Jeff and believe me I have tried. I was really hoping for his take on Thank You, as it is his writing that got me inspired to contribute to this blog.

P.P.S. Big hat tip to OP for the vidcap.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gingakei Drive Video Medley

Not the concert footage video, but groovedog did a mountain of video editing work to match clips from concerts and PV's to the songs used in the Gingakei Drive medley from the Happy Birthday single.

Barring slightly annoying adds at times Youku is really a source of Puffy material second to none these days.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Album Review: Thank You

First impressions are key to any album and opening up with Country Road sets a tone and feel for Thank You that I cannot shake off. So much so I have listened though the album a dozen times, which for a Puffy album has not happened, for me, since honeycreeper.

Between the two singles released to support Thank You and the associated b-sides, slightly over a third of the album is material we have listened to. Par for the course with Puffy and j-pop as a whole. One thing that had been worming its way in my brain is that there are some similarities in sound between all six songs that were heard previously. When I read the liner notes from Thank You, lo and behold Michael S. Kawai produced the entire album. Puffy keeps production in house (so to speak) as Kawai was a percussionist on Jet, which is an effort most of us point to as one of Puffy greatest.

A single producer, maybe, explains why Dareka Ga was left off of Thank You, it had nothing to do with the effort and I think would have been out of place. Both Jeff and I previously have made comments about Puffy going the multi producer route in recent years. For Splurge the effect was astounding and also to a slightly lesser degree with honeycreeper. Bring it! was a very pedestrian effort by Puffy standards… so it was great to see an entire album helmed by one producer. Double so as I like all the songs for Thank You that I had heard over the course of the singles.

Kawai uses very definite and big layers in Thank You, guitars keyboards, bass and drums all feel very defined and shift like a chunky mosaic. For the most part this works really well and comes together nicely… Then there is Wake Up, Make Up. However one awful song does not make an album. Kawai keeps Ami and Yumi in tune and quite frankly makes them sound like… well Puffy. Though out the album are odd starts and breaks, most of the time these work just fine, the keyboards on Jet Love are a good example of this use of pacing.

Also of note there are no solo tracks by either Ami or Yumi on Thank You. I think this works, as very often these are the weakest tracks on their albums and their singing is the definition of the whole being more than the parts. One thing that is apparent to me is that Ami and Yumi share the load throughout the album, but at times it sounds like Ami is emulating Yumi’s style (as noticeable in solo parts of R.G.W.). Puffy has not sounded this vocally strong and cohesive in the nearly ten years since Sturmer produced Nice.

Ami and Yumi take a much more predominant role for lyrics in Thank You. Ami pens five tracks, though one is a shared effort. Yumi wrote four tracks. As the Puffy amalgam they contributed to one with Tamio Okuda and penned the lyrics on one entirely themselves. While there might be contractual as well as experience issues writing the music, it is nice to see an album largely written by Ami and Yumi. Tamio Okuda wrote one song (My Country Road) and worked with Puffy on another (R.G.W). The former sounds less like a Tamio song than the former, but both are great songs and he is an essential component of any Puffy album.

I bought the deluxe version of Thank You with the bonus DVD (which I have not watched yet). The jewel case is in a photo frame cardboard slip, which as you can see above is gilded and it does stand out. The insides have well executed studio shots of Ami and Yumi in the same sort of style as the cover photo. The liner notes and track information is detailed. Over all nice packaging, especially as compared to the blinding colors from the Bring it! album.

Track List:
1. My Country Road (lyrics & music: Tamio Okuda)
2. Jet Love (lyrics: Yumi Yoshimura music: Shigeo Naka)
3. R.G.W. (lyrics: Tamio Okuda & Puffy music: Tamio Okuda)
4. Hoshi Girl (lyrics: Yumi Yoshimura music: COOZi)
5. Wake Up. Make Up. (lyrics: Ami Onuki, Makoto Koshima & Yousuke Matsumoto music: Masaaki Asada)
6. Haru no Uta (lyrics: Ami Onuki music: Linus of Hollywood & Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.)
7. Koi no Yamaarashi (lyrics: Ami Onuki music: Taka Aoki)
8. Ai no Odyssey (lyrics: Yumi Yoshimura music: Shunsuke Watanabe)
9. Banzai! (lyrics: Yumi Yoshimura music: Yusuke Fujita)
10. Fish On (lyrics: Ami Onuki music: Hiroharu Kinoshita)
11. NO! (lyrics: Ami Onuki music: Makoto Ogata)
12. Yokubou (lyrics: Ami Onuki music: Yusuke Fujita)
13. Happy Birthday (lyrics: Puffy music: David Myhr & Peter Kvint)

My Country Road, penned by Tamio opens up Thank You and the album’s sound is definitely set. Kawai nearly nails the production of the song perfectly, though I would say the harmonicas might come in a bit too strong in the front half. To me it does not sound much like a typical Tamio song, but like virtually every collaboration with Puffy he does, I do like it. Puffy haev not sung this fine in a while and it is largely an entire album of that goodness to follow.

The first ten seconds of Jet Love hooked me and in a totally good way pulled me into the rest of the song. Stylistically Jet Love is all over the map, I hear 50’s beach rock, 60’s girl group and late 70’s rock. It is a fun sounding song and Puffy is a duo that not only needs happy, sometimes silly music… it is what makes them Puffy. As I will discuss later, Jet Love feels like an extension of the sound Puffy cultivated in the late 90’s and detoured around many albums in the process.

Jet Love I think is a very cohesive in effort 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 ever so slightly wash out their singing.

Tamio delivers a rocking song with what I believe are elfin boot stompin rockabilly riffs. 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.

Taking a turn to 90's rock, Hoshi Girl is a very listenable track, but I would not call it outstanding. The production of Hoshi Girl is really outstanding, Kawai assembles a very balanced effort. The back up singing might be punched up just a notch too much.

Had I the choice to not talk about Wake Up, Make Up, Wake Up I would. This is easily the worst song that Puffy has ever released and that is counting the much aligned (by others) Sunrise. It is an inorganic morass of autotuned vocals and largely synthesized instruments melded together with ham handed production. Wake Up, Make Up makes All Because of You look brilliant by comparison. It is still better than anything by The Black Eye’d Peas, from which it gets virtually all its inspiration, but unlike any member of the later, Ami and Yumi can sing. All the more sinful that they used an autotuner to do it. Added on top of this it took three people to pen the lyrics, but then again that was the least of problems for Wake Up, Make Up.

Tilting heavily to an easy listening style with a country tinge, Haru no Uta is not an outstanding track. It is delivered well, but it doesn't have any sort of hook to make me seek out the track. I don't skip over it, so my feelings are largely benevolent.

I appreciated the heavy 70's guitar sound in Koi no Yamaarashi but I felt there were some issues in regards to instruments either being over powered or too quiet. There is a weird hiccup or change of pace at the three minute mark, not certain what Kawai was 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. Cristicisms aside I do really like this track.

I can almost smell the hairspray from the 80’s hair metal homage that is Ai no Odyssey. I will say it generally tilts to that genre towards a sound I was not all that fond of then, but revamped by Puffy I find it to be a reasonable track. Some of Kawai’s engineering gaffs hit here, particularly the keyboard (or sample) effect that permeates the track. Sometimes his laying of sound feels too thick and awkward and this does detract slightly from Ai no Odyssey, it is not a track on Thank You I am overwhelmed by (it is still miles better than Wake Up, Make Up).

Banzai! is sort of a honky-tonk come do wop come poppy ditty. It is a fun song and one of those tracks where Puffy being all over the place stylistically works so well.

I cannot put my thumb on what Fish On sounds like, but it is a really well sung effort by Ami and Yumi and catchy. Japanese fans likely heard more as it was in the film Greedy Planet, but it was worth the wait from the snippet I (think I) heard.

No! is a song that originates somewhere in the 80’s, but less metal than Ai no Odessey and more straight up rock. Of these two harder songs I prefer this one.

Yokubu to me sort of sounds like Puffy singing like Glay, it is a rocking track and is a song I like quite a bit. The production is slightly more muted and more reflective of the past few albums.

Happy Birthday closes out Thank You and in spectacular fashion. Like My Country Road, where Kawai gets the layers of sound right… the effect is spectacular. Some of this might be due to the songs that Myhr and Kvint of the Merrymakers write and in turn Ami and Yumi deliver a nice sounding set of vocals wrapped in a birthday package of power pop.

What makes Thank You a Puffy album more than anything else is the fact that it touches back to albums like Jet or Fever*Fever in that there is no one style across the album or in most songs for that matter. In songs like Jet Love or Koi no Yamaarashi there are genres mixed together, which is part of Puffy’s charm. Thank You sounds like an extension of what I thought would follow Fever*Fever at some point, I did not count on having so many albums detoured to get to this point as few songs from the album between act as a stepping stone to Thank You.

Ami and Yumi’s vocals throughout are kept, I will not say restrained, but deliver a more mature and professional sound that is a natural extension of their vocal deliveries from the late 1990’s. Yumi’s voice comes through in a lot of songs and she seems to have more emphasis in the harmonies. That said, as I heard in R.G.W. Ami is singing very much like Yumi throughout. The only way to tell at points in Thank You is that Ami can ululate her vocals. Yumi has a distinct sound though, however Ami can sing virtually any way she wants… which adds to the sting of having to use an autotuner in Wake Up, Make Up.

Puffy sings with their current band line-up throughout the album and I think this helps with Thank You's consistent sound. What makes Puffy stand out it they are gracious and give their support band plenty of room to perform and help drive the album. Really good effort by the guys here, I cannot say that enough.

The sound quality of Thank You is clear and generally well executed. Kawai gets a bit heavy handed at times, but most of the time he is moving layers of sound back and forth in ways that please me to no end. Ami and Yumi I think benefitted greatly in their vocal performance as Kawai keeps their singing clear and powerful but overwrought to the point they warble (which is cute too, don’t get me wrong).

Thank You is the Puffy album I have been waiting for... and for longer than I thought.

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

P.S. Puffy topped out at 25th in the Oricon charts which is a disappointment, but Oricon also does not track all sales, just physical cd’s. Looking at Amazon Japan’s metrics it remains in 4th and 11th, so I suspect the Oricon charts do not tell the complete story (as mp3 sales are not included for example)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thank You... for your patience.

I am finally putting brain to keyboard for reviewing Thank You. I will only tease that there is a lot I genuinely like (if not love) about the album and one thing I cannot stand.

Between some personal events (mostly via osmosis, things are fine with me) and current events I have had writer's block and bad. I have been writing for most of my life and I know when this happens it has to be ridden out. The events in Japan have touched me and worried me to no end, but it is now time to get back to work.

Look for the review in the next couple of days and take care.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Today We Are All Japanese

That might be the best thing said about the disaster that struck Japan, thanks to George Takei for that and getting out the word on how people can help. It will be trying times for in the days and weeks ahead and I sent in a donation to the American Red Cross this morning.

Via Reuters

A devastating tsunami triggered by the biggest earthquake on record in Japan looked set to kill at least 1,000 people along the northeastern coast on Friday after a wall of water swept away everything in its path.

Thousands of residents were evacuated from an area around a nuclear plant after radiation levels rose in the reactor, but there was no word on whether there had actually been a leak.

Underscoring grave concerns about the Fukushima plant some 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. air force had delivered coolant to avert a rise in the temperature of the facility's nuclear rods.

The unfolding disaster in the wake of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and 10-meter (33-feet) high tsunami prompted offers of help from dozens of countries.

Via Puffy's Twitter feed (babel fished):

It is to take and the [so] [gi], [amiyumi] is safe. Everyone who worries thank you. How, as also only every place is safe. ST

I communicated with the folks at cdjapan, they are okay.

Until then, if you have friends, family and acquaintances in Japan I hope they are safe and well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Time Zone Warp

Relative to Japan, it is March 10th, but there exists a time zone warp when shipping and traveling to Denver. Hopping on a plane in Singapore, I get home a few hours later... despite grinding out 24 plus hours of transit.

Anyways, I technically have Thank You on day of release... but it is kind of a numbers game.

Big kudos to cdjapan for shipping out the order early enough to get the CD's today. I am really impressed with how they do business and have been for a few years now. Packaging was to a very high standard and they are prompt in getting back to customer questions. If you need a Japan based source for music, I recommend them without hesitation.

Anyways here is a mini gallery of the big day... Because I am totally padding. :)

The packaging for Thank You is really great, the liner notes (or booklet... I am showing my age) are huge, but I have not delved into them just yet. Will see how listening and reviewing goes over the next couple of days.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Next Week, SMAP, Drive and Rhymes

Hopefully my order from cdjapan will be well on its way... my fear is the delivery will roll to Monday and not Friday... I am hoping time zones, getting my shipment out early and no hiccups from Fed Ex all work to my favor.

My goal is to have something up by early the following week. There are a lot of moving parts here... so no promises as many things can gum up the works.

Found this medley that Puffy did with SMAP on February 21. No idea who SMAP is beyond a quick wiki look up which they seem to be a boy band that rotates members in and out... not my cup of tea, but I always find it interesting to see Puffy perform with other artists.

In the meantime I have listened to Gingakei Drive (I know what I said and I could not resist... much of this verbiage will be reused for my Happy Birthday single review). It is a medley, though definitely different in form and structure than what I am accustomed to. A couple of you have speculated if it is a re-mix or mashup done in post production from their 2009 Gekidan Asesu Tour. I am convinced that PUFFYsanjo has the right of it and this is was performed beginning to end as a single song.

I donned headphones and turned Gingakei Drive way up. I came to this conclusion as there are no unnatural breaks to the music and at times the guitars jump mid-beat to the new song sample. Also Ami and Yumi's vocals did not sound like the vocals were being lifted from samples of other songs. There were just enough pauses, speeding up or slowing down to suggest this.

Not saying I am right, but from what I heard after a couple of careful listen throughs (which precluded me from enjoying Gingakei Drive... which ultimately I do and a lot) that is what I hear... which makes it a lot niftier of a song.

It also begs the question... When is Puffy going to release a live album? The sound quality for Gingakei Drive is superb.

My wife and I were listening to Puffy in the car... going to a Singapore party here in Denver and my daughters were happily singing along to Mother. She came upon a really great comment. Japanese music sounds great and is easier to sing and rhyme because vowels always follow consonants... even if you are guessing you have a one in five chance of hitting the right vowel.

She quickly made up a mock Japanese song to prove her point.

I am lucky I did not crash the car from being stunned by her proving of a point.

P.S. Edited to accredit of PUFFYsanjo credit for coming to the same conclusion well before me about Gingakei Drive.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Video From Way Back

Going with something not related to "Thank You" for the weekend...

I am very shaky on the song and more important the line up in this particular live vid. Maybe you all can fill in the blacks.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Thank You" Album Covers

The album covers for Thank You are up on Puffy's website.

They look a little similar to the style on the Hit & Fun cover, but both versions of "Thank You" feel very tongue in cheek.... which (to me) has always been part of Puffy's charm.

Anyways, here is cover for the CD + DVD Bonus version of "Thank You"

And the CD only version of "Thank You"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

J!-ENT Puffy Article Collection

Just a quick entry, J!-ENT magazine has a collection of their Puffy articles from 2000-2010.

Pretty nifty and definitely worth reading. There are some things I knew, but also a few surprises.

Note you need a reader to see the PDF.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Live

A live performance of Happy Birthday. Like with many Japanese TV appearances the instruments are previously recorded and Ami and Yumi are singing along with the track.

My take away is that Happy Birthday should be pretty good live.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Very Lengthy Puffy Interview

From the show A-Studio in November of 2010, this is a really long interview with Puffy. Too bad my Japanese is not at all good enough to keep up. At any rate, enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

15th Anniversary Tour

Puffy has a special website for their fifteenth anniversary tour supporting the forthcoming album Thank You.

April 2 OSAKA Namba Hatch
April 3 FUKUOKA Drum Logos
April 8 NAGOYA Diamond Hall
April 10 TOKYO Shibuya-AX
April 17 HIROSHIMA Club Quattro
April 24 SAPPORO Penny Lane24
April 29 SHIZUOKA Iwata-shi Bunka Kaikan
April 30 KANAGAWA Hadano-shi Bunka Kaikan
May 4 HYOGO Tatsuno Bunka Kaikan Akatombo Hall
May 7 NIIGATA Lots
May 8 SENDAI darwin
May 14 HIBIYA Outdoor Music Hall

For those going, I hope you have fun! For the rest of us hopefully there will be a DVD like Tour! Puffy! Tour! 10 Final, hopefully sans the monsoon.

For more info click here....

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Birthday PV

The PV for Happy Birthday.

Puffy Ami Yumi - Happy birthday

My first impression: Very happy.

P.S. Re-did the embed as the original was pulled from YouTube.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thank You Track List

Here is the translated track list for Thank You (via cdjapan):

1. My Country Road
2. Jet Love
3. R.G.W.
4. Hoshi Girl
5. Wake Up. Make Up.
6. Haru no Uta
7. Koi no Yamaarashi
8. Ai no Odyssey
10. Fish On
11. No!
12. Yokubou
13. Happy Birthday

With a fair amount of tracks that have not been released, I am very excited about this album. Dareka Ga seems to have been left out, which is a shame as I liked that single.

I back ordered Happy Birthday and Thank You... the limited DVD editions, so I should get my order from cdjapan in early March.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Puffy Album: Thank You

Coming March 9 is the New Puffy album Thank You. I am guessing that the sentiment ties into their 15th anniversary, the theme seems to extend to the forthcoming single Happy Birthday, which ships a month earlier.

The listed songs on cdjapan are for Thank You are RGW and Happy Birthday in addition to 12 more that are currently unlisted. I imagine some recent singles and their b-sides will be thrown into the mix, which given that many of us really liked them that it should be a very interesting album.

The single Happy Birthday is being released February 9th, the deluxe version will have a DVD with more Gekidan Asesu tour footage. Here is the track listing for the single and bonus DVD:

01. Happy Birthday
02. Banzai!
03. Gingakei Drive~PUFFY TOUR 2009 Medley @Nagano・Santerasu Hall

02. My Story
03. Asia no Junshin
04. Dareka ga
05. Jet Love
06. Bye Bye
07. Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Et Cetera

When I know more, I will pass it on. It is going to be an expensive month or two... in a totally good way.

Also Puffy's official website has gotten a new look, check it out. I think the redesign is very nifty.

P.S. A gigantic version of the above pic can be found here... another cool 1t anniversary entry background pic here... of course all images are copyright Sony/Ki oon

P.P.S. Thanks
to amiyumidas readers PUFFYsanjo for the heads up and tbb for the cd/dvd track lists)