THE GROOVE MUSIC LIFE

Hello! Project

And Now, It’s My Turn To Go Through The Most Cathartic Thing A Diehard Fan Of Morning Musume Can Go Through.

First, thank you for your continued support.

It has been decided that, I, Reina Tanaka, will graduate from Morning Musume, as well as from Hello! Project at the end of next spring’s tour!

I have announced my graduation today on the stage in front of the fans and I introduced as well the 3 members of the band, I will now take off to a new stage!

I have been a 6th generation member of Morning Musume for almost 10 years and this year the group is celebrating its 15th anniversary. I think this is a turning point, a challenge for me to try another music activity, with the start of this band.

There is around 6 months left for me as a Morning Musume member, with the January Hello! Project lives in January and the next tour.

So please support Reina Tanaka as member of Morning Musume, which will sing in front of you and for my following activities as well!

2012/11/18
Morning Musume?
Reina Tanaka

Goddamn it.

As a devoted fan, I had a small inkling that this event was going to happen at some point in the future. I just thought at this point we’d have another year or two with Reina Tanaka still in Morning Musume, figuring that she’d get at least one album where she was he leader of the group.

Obviously, I look forward to her new project – in fact, I had been looking forward to it since it was first announced this past summer. But this is definitely a kick in the balls for fans like myself. I have been following Morning Musume since late 2003 and thus haven’t known a time when she wasn’t in the band. It’s just not what I was originally looking forward to.

Neither Reina nor Tsunku mentioned it in their messages to the fans this morning, but it was originally planned that Reina would be doing Morning Musume and her new rock-oriented group simultaneously. Apparently, her recent illness that forced her to sit out part of a promotional tour that was taking them outside of Japan made her give some serious reconsideration to that situation.

It kinda figures, though: I had finally devoted an episode of my radio show to Reina’s birthday, and this happens. My timing is fucking impeccable, huh?

REVIEW: MORNING MUSUME “13 Colorful Character”

MORNING MUSUME
13 Colorful Character
(Zetima)
Available on CD, CD/DVD, and on iTunes US and Japan
Rating: ★★★★★

The past two-plus years have definitely been a prolific period for Morning Musume. 13 Colorful Character (Juusan Colorful Character) is the band’s fourteenth studio album overall (counting their 2008 cover album Cover You), and the fourth to be released in less than three years time. The band has been consistently delivering four-and-a-half to five star albums for most of their career, especially in the past five years, but given some of the circumstances the band went through in the past year, including adding four new members and losing two in the wake of the release of 12 Smart last year, it’s understandable if one fears the turnover of personnel could negatively affect the quality of the band’s music – especially considering that it hasn’t even been a year since 12 Smart was released. I had my own concerns given that Tsunku was basically throwing the four new tenth generation members into the mix rather quickly.

Quite personally, I don’t know why the hell I was doubting the guy. The four newest members, Haruna Iikubo, Ayumi Ishida, Masaki Sato, and Haruka Kudo, manage to gel nicely enough with veteran members Sayumi Michishige and Reina Tanaka and less recent additions Riho Sayashi, Mizuki Fukumura, Erina Ikuta and Kanon Suzuki, along with veteran members Risa Niigaki and Aika Mitsui on two previously released single cuts. [A point of reference for newcomers – in Japan, singles are usually released in advance of an album, rather than be chosen as singles to promote the album like in most other countries.]

As for the album itself, it’s almost literally a two-faced affair. The first half of the twelve-song album, sandwiched by both sides of the band’s recent gold-selling single “One – Two – Three / The Matanero Show” is heavily influenced by electronic dance music. And while I’m not one to be bitching about synthesisers and drum machines in any capacity, it’s not like Morning Musume to lean so heavily on one style of musical arrangement for any extended period of time on an album. On Colorful Character, one wonders if either Tsunku and the band were heavily influenced or inspired by the success of EDM superstars like Deadmau5 and Skrillex, or if simply band and producer alike felt that front-loading the first half of the album with songs similar in some aspect to their biggest hit in some time (that being “One – Two – Three”) was a wise move. This is not to imply that the first half of the album is a bunch of indistinguishable soundalikes. After “One – Two – Three” kicks off the album, “What’s Up? Ai Wa Dou Na No Yo~” dispels that notion almost immediately with some gospel-esque group harmonies followed by energetic chanting and then the group’s usual trademark vocals and a good amount of rapping as well.

“Be Alive” deceptively starts off with ballad-like pacing and a beautiful lead vocal from Reina Tanaka before slyly shifting gears into more uptempo territory.

“Lalala no Bibibi” is a solo feature for Sayumi Michishige, who trades in her breathy Janet Jacksonisms from the past couple of Morning Musume albums for an arrangement more suited to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (of “PONPONPON” fame), complete with some of her vocals being deliberately washed with AutoTune vocoder to fit in better with the all-electronic arrangement.

“Dokkan Cappricio” is the most frantic track of the album’s first half, with the girls being thrown into a happy-hardcore-style blender. For those not so appreciative of getting five heavily electronic dance-inspired songs in a row, “One-Two-Three”‘s B-side “The Matanero Show” proves to be the perfect bridge towards the second half of the album, giving the band a modernized Soul/R&B framework for the entire band, Reina Tanaka and Riho Sayashi especially, to shine on.

“Zero Kara Hajimari Seishun” brings the second half of the album into immediate focus, with piano, strings, and acoustic guitar presenting both band and listener with a close cousin to the band’s 2009 hit “Seishun Collection”.

“Renai Hunter”, a hit single from earlier in the band and the last single with Risa Niigaki and Aika Mitsui, definitely smacks of the MoMusu camp having been indulging in the music of Deadmau5 and Skrillex during their off-hours. Seriously, those dubstep-like bass synth drops switching off into steadier house music territory had to come from somewhere besides thin air…

The guitar-driven “Chiky? ga Naiteiru” is rather serious-sounding despite the uptempo beat and Adam & The Ants-meets-Public Enemy drumming. The song’s title translates to “The Earth Is Crying”, and the lyrics seem to hint at both the 2011 Japan Earthquake as well as the environmental concerns that have been addressed in past Morning Musume album tracks.

Reina Tanaka takes her turn at a solo feature with the mid-tempo “Namida Iiteki”. Reina has always been one of the band’s best vocalists, and with this track she puts in her best vocal work yet – presumably Reina has been listening to Adele like most everyone else over the past year and a half, and it shows here. Anyone that was to ask me why she’s my favorite member of my favorite band only has to hear tracks like this to realize why.

“Waratte! You” is a feature for the younger members of the band, all of whom hold their own very nicely on an arrangement not unlike many of Morning Musume’s classic early singles like “The Peace!” and “Manatsu no Kozen”.

“Pyoco Pyoco Ultra”, the band’s first single of 2012 and the penultimate single for Risa Niigaki and Aika Mitsui, was, I originally thought, a slightly weak way musically for the band’s year to start with it’s bubbly Devo-gone-cutesy background – something more befitting to Morning Musume’s younger sister group Berryz Koubou in their early days – compared to past season openers from the band like “Resonant Blue”, “Naichau Kamo”, and last year’s “Maji Desu Ka Ska”, but it’s definitely grown on me as time has gone by, and as an album closer, it’s perfect. Now if I could only get those silly baby-duck outfits they wore in the video out of my mind…

5 out of 5.

An audio version of this review will be aired on Groove Music Life Radio this Friday. The show starts, as always since it premiered last month, at 8:30 PM EST on Rok Out Radio. Listen in at rokoutradio.com, by searching for Rok Out Radio on the TuneIn app for iOS and Android, or through iTunes Radio (look under Alternative Rock to find Rok Out Radio).

The Unsinkable Reina Tanaka

I’m sorry I didn’t comment on this a lot sooner (the news is about a day and a half old as I finally get a chance to write about this) – hell, I’m sorry I haven’t blogged as much as I would have liked to this year, what with everything from Resonant Blue and the formation of TGML Press to some medical chaos within my immediate family to getting back into playing in a band again – but if this isn’t a perfect topic for this little black duck to get right back into the swing of blogging things, I don’t know what is.

For those of you living under a rock, Morning Musume’s Reina Tanaka is, on top of becoming sub-leader of the band following the graduation of Risa Niigaki, embarking on a side project. Obviously, side projects are nothing new for the young woman I affectionately dubbed Her Royal Hotness back in the days of Stuck In A Pagoda With Motoko Aoyama – Reina was leader of the short-lived trio Aa! along with future Buono! members Miyabi Natsuyaki and Airi Suzuki back when Reina was still a new face and voice in MoMusu, and then there was High-King, which I would have loved to hear a whole album from. What’s different – at least, that’s what I am gathering from what I’ve already read – is that this is going to be a rock project!

I always figured that my favorite MoMusu, the personification of my writer’s muse, was a rocker at heart. Some of her playlist choices from her now-legendary Five Stars radio show as well as some of her cover choices when she was on Uta no Rakuen (the now-elusive clip of her singing SCANDAL’s “Shojo S” comes to mind immediately – she nailed that fucking song perfectly) did nothing to dispel that notion in my mind, and a lot of her best vocal performances in MoMusu are when she’s got a rock-inspired arrangement behind her (even though she can shine on just about anything Tsunku throws her way). So, in short, this is no surprise.

What is a surprise is that Tsunku and Reina are having open auditions for collaborators/co-conspirators for this project – a second vocalist and a guitarist. Speculation elsewhere aside, I don’t see Reina and her two side-project bandmates dealing with backing tapes when they perform live – rather, they’ll probably have a live backing band a-la Buono! (Coincidence department: All three former members of Aa! have gone from the TLC-style R&B they performed on the “First Kiss” single to rock-oriented material.)
I also don’t see this as the end of Reina’s being in Morning Musume – not by a long fucking shot. Not only has Tsunku emphasized that this is a side project for Reina and that she’ll remain with the mothership (undoubtedly, criticism over the rapid additions and departures Morning Musume suffered since the release of Fantasy Juuichi late in 2011, exacerbated by Aika Mitsui’s sudden departure last month, has weighed heavily on the songwriter/producer’s mind lately), but Her Royal Hotness herself has said in many interviews that one of her long term goals was to be the leader of the band at some point, a position she’s one heartbeat away from from now (and that doesn’t mean I want Sayumi Michishige out, either – her breathy Janet Jacksonisms have to be the yang to Reina’s Etta James-esque yin right now).

Irregardless of all that, it’s Reina’s time to shine now. With her in the #2 position in the band, finally releasing a new photobook after two fucking years, and Morning Musume about to release one of the best singles they’ve released in almost a year, a side project for her is just icing on the cake.

Um, Isn’t This A Little Too Soon?

Oy vey. Tsunku-san is really testing my faith in my favorite band.

I can deal with incoming goofball singles like the one coming out at the end of the month, “Pyoko Pyoko Ultra” (c’mon, it’s a parallel of “Hyokkori Hy?tanjima”, for chrissakes, even if it sounds more like a Berryz track than a MoMusu one).

This slew of personnel changes, though… enough already, man!

Risa Niigaki just became the leader of the band last September… and now she’s going to graduate at the end of the Spring tour? A translation of the statements from both Risa and Tsunku haven’t been translated yet, as far as I know (Hello! Online broke the news around 7:30 this morning; it’s 11:30 am as I frantically type this out on my iPad, mere minutes after waking up on a rare Monday off from work), but I’m sure the speculation is running rampant as to why we’re getting another personnel change so soon (and thus being denied at least one full album with Gaki-san as leader).

Like I said when Tsunku dropped the tenth generation members on us the day before Takitty’s graduation: Morning Musume are still my favorite band but wait a minute…

Let’s face it, folks: The Stable Nine lineup had us all spoiled. Some of you complained because that lineup was so stable, and now some of those same people are no doubt complaining because it’s the other way around now.

So who is actually going to be leader after this spring? Sayumi Mischchige, who is cute and has improved her singing quite a bit since she first came around, or Reina Tanaka, who’s already gotten a bit of bandleader experience as part of both Aa! and High-King? Come to think of it, in both of those units, Reina was the titular head of units that had predominantly younger members… Hmmm…

BEST ALBUMS OF 2011: #2: MORNING MUSUME “Fantasy! Juuichi” and “12, Smart”

MORNING MUSUME
Fantasy Juuichi

(Zetima)
Available on CD, CD/DVD combo, and iTunes

12, Smart


MORNING MUSUME
12, Smart

(Zetima)
Available on CD, CD/DVD combo, and iTunes Japan

Looking back, both of these albums represent two parts of a transitional period for the band. Eri Kamei, Qian Lin and Li Chun were about to depart the band when Fantasy! Juuichi dropped, while Ai Takahashi had already taken her bows before 12, Smart‘s release. The next album and the singles that precede it with the tenth generation involved should prove interesting, even if that first single A-side is too much of an anime theme for most people’s likings.

By the way, this ranking isn’t any kind of slur on Morning Musume – far from it. It’s just there’s one album that seemed to get played just a little more than both of these… Which album was that? Check in after midnight…

And another ex-W becomes a MILF…

Ai Kago, the most troubled ex-MoMusu, has just gotten some surprise positivity in her life.

She’s married AND pregnant. (Translation of her blog announcement at Tokyohive).

To my knowledge, she hasn’t announced who the culprit (er, lucky bastard, ahem, new hubby/daddy) yet, but I hope he isn’t some douchebag twice her age like the last loser she was involved with. More than that, I hope she’s finally found the happiness that she deserves.

ALBUM REVIEW: MORNING MUSUME “12, Smart”

12, Smart

MORNING MUSUME
12, Smart
(Zetima)
Available on CD, CD/DVD combo, and on iTunes US and Japan
Rating: ★★★★½

It took a couple of days longer than I expected, but I wasn’t about to not review a Morning Musume album for the second time in a row. (At least in the instance of Fantasy 11, I could blame the Christmas holidays.) Let’s do the math quick: This is Morning Musume’s third album in nineteen months (I can’t help but recall back when Husker Du dropped New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig, and Candy Apple Grey – solid albums, all – within a similar time frame back in the mid-80′s). And it’s the soonest they’ve followed up a studio album since the three-and-a-half month gap between Cover You and Platinum 9 Disc. (The second shortest gap was between Second Morning and 3rd Love Paradise). And this album is coming out on the heels of Ai Takahashi’s graduation from the band and the addition of four new members that have yet to see the inside of a recording studio, and that’s on the heels of four more members being added at the beginning of this year. Things are getting way busy over in MoMusu land, and that’s a good thing. They’re also changing a mite too fast, but thankfully, the new album is giving veteran MoMusu fans like myself a chance to catch up.

I do have to admit that I was a little wary of how the songwriting quality of the album was going to be considering the tough double act 12, Smart has to follow with the two solid albums that bookended 2010, the semi-experimental 10 My Me and the more group-centric Fantasy 11. [Which I still wish I had written a review of last December; If you haven't bought that album yet, go get it now 'cause it still holds up.] I also wondered how the 9th Generation members were going to mesh in an album setting, considering there were basically thrown front and center their first single in, before being reined in by Tsunku afterward (and quite wisely) on the two singles that followed.

Tsunku has had a pretty good game plan as far as sequencing the opening tracks of the past several Morning Musume studio albums – new studio track followed by one of the recent singles – and he adheres pretty much to that same operating procedure. “Give Me Ai” (sung as “Give me love” in the lyrics itself, if you didn’t know what the word “Ai” meant in Japanese) recalls both Platinum 9 Disc‘s “SONGS” and Fantasy 11‘s “Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game”, with an arrangement that mixes some of the best elements of both tracks.

“Only You”, one of the current lineup’s best single A-sides, follows “Give Me Ai” out of the starting gate. Tsunku’s songwriting for Morning Musume singles has been displaying a determination to have more than two strains of music (in other words, not just a verse and a chorus ad infinitum) in a pop song if he can get away with it. Here, he gets away with it in spades. Ai Takahashi, Reina Tanaka and Risa Niigaki are in excellent voice (even if some of Gaki-san’s vocals are deliberately effected with AutoTune in the song’s prechoruses).

One of the unique things about the last Morning Musume album, Fantasy 11, was that the album was dominated by group performances, with only Ai Takahashi and Reina Tanaka getting solo cuts and no subgroup features to speak of. This time around, the band gets splintered around for four of the album’s twelve tracks. On “Silver no Udedokei” Reina is paired with Riho Sayaski (the only member of the 9th gen to get any solo lines on “Only You”) for a classic H!P urban R&B workout a-la the ROMANS one-off “Sexy Night”, with Risa and Aika Mitsui brought in to contribute rap-style vocals here and there. Although Morning Musume can pull off pretty much any style they are confronted with, modern R&B is one of their strongest suits.

Sayumi Michishige and newcomer Mizuki Fukimura take their turn at a subgroup cut next with “Suki da na Kimi ga”. Apparently Mizuki is cut from similar cloth vocally to Sayumi, and they get a heavily electronic track to play with.

“Kaiketsu Positive A” starts with traffic sound effects before a soul horn section (albeit a synthetic one) kicks in, bringing the entire group along for the ride. Here some of the ninth gen members hold their own very well alongside the veteran members, both with solo lines and harmonies.

Six tracks in and we get our first non-uptempo cut of the album, “Kono Ai wo Kasanete”, a sort of torch-passing duet between Takahashi and Niigaki. Given that the release date of this album was – somewhat stupidly – done a couple of weeks after Takahashi graduated from the band, its fortunate that then-leader and then-subleader were given a chance at a subgroup cut.

The one/two punch of the band’s current double-A-side single “Kono Chikyuu no Heiwa o Honki de Nagatterun da yo!”/”Kare to Issho no Omise ga Shitai!” follows. I’m glad the band and Tsunku retained the crossfade between both songs from the single version for the album. In my mind, this is the best double-A-side single since Husker Du’s “Makes No Sense At All”/”Love Is All Around”.

“My Way ~Joshikou Hanamichi~” combines rock guitar riffing and drum-and-bass percussion loops. That combination shouldn’t work, but here it does. The band members engage in some top-notch harmonizing over the somewhat frantic musical arrangement.

“Otome no Timing” starts with a Motown-esque double-time rhythm on the intro (and choruses) before giving in to a brighter pop arrangement on the verses. Back when Sexy 8 Beat was released, an 60′s-influenced musical bed allowed then-newcomer Aika Mitsui to have some solo space with veteran Eri Kamei. Now, Aika is in the veteran’s spot with a similar song and she has her hands full with newcomers Erina Ikuta and Kanon Suzuki, whose vocals are already starting to remind me of Ai Kago & Nozomi Tsuji circa 2000-2001.

“OK YEAH!” starts off somewhat weak then almost threatens to drown out the band members with its happy-hardcore sound (so much so that one would not be blamed to double check to make sure Anabolic Frolic’s name isn’t in the credits). Fortunately, saner heads prevailed at the mixing desk and the MoMusus are front and center.

“Maji Ka Desu Ska!”, the first single by the new lineup (review from when the single was first released here), closes out the album – not only a further reiteration of standard Tsunku operating procedure for sequencing a Morning Musume studio album of late, but a reminder of how the year started for the band in the first place.

If there are any weak spots on the album, they are when the newest, youngest members of the band are featured so prominently. Perhaps it is because we now have a MoMusu lineup that has members younger than the members of Berryz Koubou and C-ute. Fortunately, the songwriting and the vocal performances of the veteran members are still top notch and sustain the album. Hopefully the newer members will develop more vocal personality by the time the next band’s album drops.

4 and a half out of 5 stars.

Aibon, You Need To Change A Few Things…

 


Waking up to see any bad news is never what one wants to see first thing in the morning, especially on a weekend morning after sleeping in. But that’s precisely what happened when I picked up my Blackberry and read International Wota’s headline about her suicide attempt.

 

Putting the last two words of that last sentence in a paragraph with any entertainer is a sad thing to begin with, but when that name is attached to a Japanese singer associated with happier-sounding works, it’s even sadder.

Like everybody else that is processing this news and blogging or tweeting about it, I am wishing Aibon the best. Given that she was in Morning Musume when I first started to get into the band and also became a XXL fan of the side groups she was in at the time – hell, my Gmail address has been minimoniotaku since 2004! – this is only natural. Shit, she even inspired one of the characters in my almost-complete novel project (although I have no intention of giving her literary doppelgänger such a tragic ending)!

With reference to one of the first posts IW linked to, I don’t believe Aibon needs a permanent break from the entertainment industry. What she needs a permanent break from is the guy she’s been living with for the past couple of years. From what I can tell, he hasn’t been much of a help or a positive influence on her, and his much-reported associations with organized crime certainly don’t help.

Aibon, have a safe recovery, get the fuck away from that guy you’ve been involved with, get in touch with some friends (we all know you’ve been in contact with fellow ex-MiniMoni Mika Todd through Twitter), and by this time next year you should be ending the year on a high note, not a low one.

Happy Birthday!

…to Miyabi Natsuyaki of Berryz Koubou and Buono!, who turns 19 today (and who’s shirt on the “Yuki Yuki Monkey Dance” single inspired this blog’s name)…

…to Elvis Costello, who turns 57…

…and a special Happy 60th Birthday to the Metal God, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, seen here with the Metal Son of God, aka The Man Who Should Be Idol (that’s right, I’m still not letting that one go, folks…):

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A Hot Mix and a Cool Beverage

Summer is my favorite season of the year, and a lot of things remind me of that season: Nice hot weather (which has made me a bit of a masochist in the past decade and a half, because of how easily I get heat prostration as I get older), air conditioning (which I used to leave on 24/7 all summer when I lived at home; now my wife draws the line at that), ice cream (which doesn’t agree with me anymore – I’m seriously lactose intolerant to the point where I should just say fuck it and turn vegan)… and maybe I should stop there because this is starting to sound like a rant on how much it sucks to get older, except I left out one favorite thing about summer… mixtapes! (I know, another remark where I reveal that I’m twenty years younger than Iggy Pop. Sorry!)

OK, I know that nobody outside of the hip-hop world calls them mixtapes anymore considering that the primary sound carriers of these things are either CD-Rs or iTunes/iPod playlists, but the concept is still the same. You make a mix that you’ll be playing on the regular when you’re driving to the beach, lying on the beach, driving home from the beach, going on vacation… you get idea. The kind of tape where, if immaculately mixed and sequenced, will stay in your car all summer – maybe even during the fall and winter, too – until it either gets lost, borrowed, or left on the dashboard absentmindedly (where it’ll get fried by the sun).

And there is an art to making good mixes. You don’t just throw together eighty minutes worth of songs and call it a mix. You make the sequence as perfect as possible. You try not to be clever by putting ten-minute track from your brother’s favorite Yes album, or hip by slipping some American pop tartlet like Katy Perry inbetween tracks by Anthrax and Bright Eyes.

It’s been said by some aficionados of mixtape culture that mixtapes are going the way of the Edsel, thanks to the presence of iPods. Given that there are still plenty of participants on sites like Zen Running Order and Art of the Mix, that isn’t true. In my case, iPod/iTunes playlists have served to be the perfect test lab for making mixes. Ever since I first started using the program in 2004, I’ve used iTunes to do multiple drafts of mixes, playing the sequences on either my iPod or right on my laptop, fine-tuning the tracks until I have a sequence that a) flows well, and b) fits within the limitations of an 80-minute CD-R. That last parameter is of utmost importance – I’ve lost track of how many cassette mixes I’ve done back in the day where the tape ran out just as my carefully-chosen closing track was prematurely ended by the sudden appearance of the cassette’s plastic leader. Of course, if one could still find blank cassettes and the machines to record and playback with, one could pre-master their sequences on CD-R’s and then transfer those to cassettes – but unless one was being a retro hipster, why would you? (Hmmm… maybe I should do an eBay search for a good stereo reel-to-reel recorder and some blank reels… that would really be retro!)

Anyway, since this is the IntlWota Summer Refreshment Program we’re dealing with here, I’m contractually obligated to display both the refreshment that this program funded for me (in this case, a can from case of Arizona Green Tea – about the only goddamn thing I drink regularly thanks to being both straight-edge and lactose intolerant) and the tools that helped put this article together – my loyal laptop and one of my two iPods. Wait a minute, you’re asking: Two iPods? Yeah. They’d both be in the shot, but I had to use the other one just to take the picture.

I should explain about the two iPods – the one in the picture is a 160GB iPod Classic; a 64GB iPod Touch that is basically used like a miniature iPad/phoneless iPhone is what I took the picture with, and it’s been a rather handy device. I was on a first-anniversary weekend trip with my wonderful wife Tara and was using the hotel’s free WiFi to catch up on e-mail with the iPod Touch, when I got the go-ahead from International Wota to do this. I immediately started putting together the initial sequence right in the iPad Touch, sequenced it, and even gave it an initial spin via a very useful and very fun DJ app – wherein I discovered that my original track sequence was over 90 minutes long. Barely OK for a cassette mix – but we’re dealing with CD limits, so at least ten minutes of music had to eventually be chopped.

Summer, itself, was the basis for picking out the tracks. If it came out in summer, had a summer memory attached to it, or just reminded me of or even sounded like summer in some way to me, it went in. And, befitting this blog’s general ethos – that ethos basically being putting J-Pop and Western music on equal footing – I didn’t restrict my choices to just J-Pop material.

Once I was back home, I got myself the aforementioned fresh case of tea (I’m already halfway through it as I write this – it’s been one of those fucking hot weeks up here in Pennsylvania), sat down with the laptop, and got to editing and resequencing. Below is the final result: My soundtrack for the rest of the Summer of 2011.

1. WHITEBERRY “Natsu Matsuri” – A no-brainer of a logical choice to kick off this mix. When I started to get more seriously into Japanese music, it was Whiteberry that led me on my current path. I owe them a great deal of gratitude for that. I’ve long since heard the Jitterin’ Jinn original and I must say, Whiteberry’s version has the upper hand. Yuki Madea’s voice reminds me of J Mascis as far as her somewhat raw delivery goes; her post-Whiteberry recordings, first with the band Yukki and currently with The Husky have seen her get better with age.

2. REINA TANAKA “Manatsu No Kousen” – Yep, the idol who drives my wotahood (to paraphrase something Ray said at American Wota a few years back). It’s probably no surprise that all of her recently released solo singles are on my hard drive (thank you, US iTunes!) – the surprise is how well she pulls off her solo rendition of the early MoMusu summer classic.

3. HUSKER DU “Celebrated Summer” – Another no-brainer of a selection and the first representation of Western music in general and classic punk/indie in particular on this track list. It was probably my reading Bob Mould’s recent autobiography See A Little Light as well as a book about the Huskers from earlier this year that spurred me to include this choice a lot quicker than I otherwise would have. But then again, I miss the Huskers big time and wish they’d never split up in 1988.

4. BUZZCOCKS “What Do I Get?” – Yes, this is one of those tracks that reminds me of summer – specifically, one time back in the summer of 1994 when I found a copy of their box set in a used CD store in Bloomsburg, bought it on sight, and listened to it in the car on the way home. Plus, I’m starting to make some serious plans for getting a new band together – first time for me since 1997, first time back on guitar since my first band split up in 1984, and first time ever singing lead vocals full-time – and this is one of a long list of candidates that are going to be on the prospective band’s set list.

5. MORNING MUSUME “Souda! We’re Alive!” – Throwing one of my favorite songs by my favorite band of all time into the mix, specifically one from a classic lineup of the group. Gotta love those big powerchords in the intro/chorus/outro.

6. ROKY ERICKSON “Bermuda” – I threw this classic in – specifically this superior version from the Don’t Slander Me album – to add a bit of travel-related paranoia to the proceedings. Yes, this is another selection from my soon-to-be band’s list, too.

7. SAN NIN MATSURI “Chu! Natsu Party” – I had to throw in at least one of the Hello! Project Shuffle Units, and this classic collaboration between Ai Kago, Rika Ishikawa and Aya Matsuura was begging to be heard.

8. BORIS “Hope”Attention Please and Heavy Rocks 2011 – both reviewed a month or so ago here at TGML – came out just as summer was unofficially starting. With lead guitarist Wata singing in a fragile manner over her own driving Jesus And Mary Chain guitar riffing, the song is a perfect fit.

9. SCANDAL “Koi Moyo” – That opening chord sequence sounds very summery, even beachy. I find myself playing it on guitar a lot when I’m warming up.

10. 11WATER “BE ALL RIGHT!” – the second representation of the H!P Shuffle Groups in this mix. Eleven H!P members take on some Bosstones-esque ska punk. Love this one even though I’m a little more used to MiniMoni’s version from their second album.

11. THE BEATLES “All You Need Is Love” – This one is here for a very personal reason: The day Capitol Records put this 45 out on the racks is also the day I was born.

12. THE MINUTEMEN “Search” – When I got into my first semi-pro band after graduating high school – this was the Summer of 1985 – one of the tapes I frequently carried was the My First Bells compilation tape of all of the Minutemen’s releases prior to Double Nickels on the Dime. I find myself associating that tape with summer weather and car travel a lot.

13. SCANDAL “Secret Base” – The Osaka Four covering the Zone classic. Sometimes I think the basic story line as seen in the Zone PV reminds me of a summer romance that never got off the ground any more come September. The keyboards, however – no matter whether it’s the original or SCANDAL’s retake – remind me of early King Crimson. And I got my first King Crimson records in the summer of ’81, too, if that counts for extra credit…

14. JUNIOR MURVIN “Police and Thieves”
15. MAX ROMEO – “War in a Babylon”
I’ve been in a serious reggae mood lately – the recent Peter Tosh reissues are partly to blame – and so, rather than slip 7nin Matsuri’s “Summer Reggae Rainbow” into the set list, which would have been a little too obvious, and even though I love the song, I opted for putting some more authentic classic reggae in instead. And one can’t get more authentic and classic with reggae without gravitating towards the Bob Marley canon, than by culling from the work of the great Lee “Scratch” Perry. Both tracks sourced from the great box set Arkology – do yourself a favor and find a copy.

16. AKB48 “Heavy Rotation” - One of the best things AKB48 did last summer, if not, all of last year.

17. BUONO “My Boy” - This single might have come out a month early for the Summer of 2009, but by the time the last weekend of May rolled around, it was a perfect fit and stayed that way for the whole season and then some, making it one of Buono’s best ever singles to date.

18. BERRYZ KOUBOU “Waracchaou yo BOYFRIEND” – Likewise, this came out while there was still one month of summer left in 2006, but the 50’s style musical arrangement never fails to evoke summer nights, car hops, crusing, and the like… even if, at the time the song was recorded, most of the girls weren’t even old enough to get learner’s permits.

19. THE SEX PISTOLS “God Save The Queen” – Another deliberately personal summer memory creeping in here, this time of more recent vintage: When Tara and I were finalizing our first-dance and bridal-party song selections with the DJ we hired for our wedding reception last year, he told us to feel free to e-mail him if there were any specific songs we wanted him to play that night. Tara didn’t think of anything, but I asked for this song – admittedly, my favorite song of all time, period point blank – and got it, and got Tara to dance with me to it near the end of the night. Afterwards, our wedding photographer came up to us and said, “I never thought I’d ever hear the Sex Pistols at a wedding reception – that was fucking awesome!!”

20. THE BEACH BOYS “All Summer Long” – Yes, picking a Beach Boys track is pretty obvious for a summer mix, but I needed a good closer, and since this track closes out the American Graffiti soundtrack double-album (a favorite album since I was 7!) it was the perfect track to use. Also, there’s another summer memory attached to this song and the entire soundtrack album – the movie was available on an early pay-per-view hotel system when my family and I stayed at the Inn On The Park hotel in Toronto in 1974 (Around the same time Glenn Gould was using one of the other rooms in the building as a makeshift tape-editing studio for his recordings, I later found out), which is when I first saw the movie and heard most of the music from it. Ironically, while the movie takes place in 1962, this song didn’t come out until two years later. Go figure.

Have a good summer, everyone!

BONUS: Here’s a streaming version of the mix as I originally did it with the dJay app on my iPod Touch, before I discovered that I had to chop at least ten minutes off of the track sequence. Can you pick out the songs that didn’t make the final cut?

IW Summer Refreshment Test Mix 1 by TGML/IW Summer Refeshment