Okay, okay, okay, what is with the Jrock web-world just committing seppuku simply because half the bands are on tour? I know you’re all depressed that they’re not touring in your continent/country/town, but really, pull yourselves together!
I really cannot believe how bloody fast time goes by. It’s unbelievable… You think that it’s still the middle of March, only to wake up one morning to the rude realization that it’s actually the middle of April already. Suddenly it becomes inefficient to continue avoiding the ominous To-do-list dated from March 24th, and you understand fully that although there are buds on the trees that may or may not bloom shortly, there is no avoiding the inevitable thought, “I exist in an arctic hole”.
In any case, it’s actually starting to feel springish here. I’m feeling nostalgic about the fact that cherry-blossom season is probably in full swing now in central/northern Japan. I guess it’s time to pull the hanami (cherry blossom-viewing) playlists out, and the first artist that I would start shuffling on there: Remioromen.
The very image of spring cheer...
I discovered Remioromen not long ago, suggested by someone whose music tastes I really have a lot of faith in: GACKT. GACKT covered their flagship song, Konayuki (“powdered snow”) for an all-covers, guys-only Christmas live session he did in December ’09. This song, one of the ballads of the century, was initially made extremely popular due to its use in the drama Ichi Ritouru no Namida (One Litre of Tears)–yeah… it is as sad as it sounds.
Without knowing much about them at all at the time, I started listening to the original version of the song, and, surprisingly, was interested enough in their rough-around-the-edges indie feel and unusual vocals to go through the serious hassle of locating a copy of their 2006 album HORIZON (just to get this clear, tons of their stuff is unavailable through sources such as YesAsia or CDJapan. I’m not sure why exactly, but it mostly seems to be out of print.). If I started out with the consolation story of “if all else fails, Konayuki is great,” then I was in for a majorly pleasant surprise. This CD’s success with my play-count led me to look into more of their stuff, and well, it just went from there.
Although the three-member group may just look like the boys next door jamming away in Otousan’s cramped tool-shed…well, I was going to plunge ahead boldly with “actually they’re anything but,” however, now that I look at them…that’s sort of more or less what they are. At least on first appearances. Despite having only moderate renown (probably because they aren’t affiliated with Johnny’s Entertainment.), these indies are a surprisingly unique, refreshing breath of fresh air, dishing up a musical scramble that neatly bridges Jpop and Jrock.
Speaking of GACKT, I already mentioned this in the tour announcement I did this past week, but this is one of the most frustrating names ever. Say “Remioromen” out loud ten times fast. What the hell, I mean, I can’t even say it two times fast! I just do the typical linguistically-frustrated-Japanese thing and skip the middle syllable. It comes out inevitably something like “Remiorem” (although, I think they are just referred to as “Remio“). Again, this is a repeat story, but I felt a lot better when GACKT says in a video that the first time he saw the name, he pronounced it “Remiomeron“. At least my version doesn’t make them sound like some sort of exotic variety of star-fruit.
The first thing that you will probably have to adjust to, is the guitarist/vocalist’s, Fujimaki Ryouta’s, voice. And that’s not a warning, by the way, the guy has a great voice. But it’s probably not the kind of voice a lot of Jpop junkies are used to hearing. There’s nothing of the ultra-melodic, nasal, faintly gruff a-typicality featured on so many albums these days. Fujimaki’s vocals are slightly high, strained, gentle, and a bit rough around the edges. This is a great contribution to the band’s overall unique and indies feel.
Fujimaki’s splendid strumming is accompanied by fellow bandmates Maeda Keisuke on bass, and Jinguuji Osamu on drums. All the guys are great musicians, and yet their music retains a sense of self-consciousness in some way, a slight hint of awkwardness that lends a particular quality to the music, a simplicity, a sense of daily-life, as it were.
The god-father to laid-back pop-rock acts such as Flumpool, Remioromen isn’t as young as you might guess. The band was started in 2000, and is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year with a massive nationwide tour spanning over several months, and many uncountable prefectural cultural citizen’s former war pension assembly center (big hall). [it’s an inside joke]. The band has done moderately well, with 6/7 albums staying in the top 5 of Oricon charts. They are best known for their songs Konayuki, Tsubasa, and Sakura, which probably a lot of you have heard without realizing it…
Their most recent releases include the singles summery Starting Over (July ’09), heart-torn Koi no Yokan Kara (Nov ’09), and sweet Kachoufuugetsu (Feb ’10).
With strong drums, simple yet satisfying guitar riffs, great bass, and unique vocals working together, Remio create catchy, laid back, heartwarming pop-rock pieces packed with feeling. To me, at least, their music is highly nostalgic of being in Japan, and I don’t think this is just my dementia kicking in. Truly there seems to be a kind of cultural sensitivity to their music. It has realism, humility, charm, and confidence all in one. With that, I think they make an awesome trio.