J-Music Exchange/Rate — SHISHAMO 3 by SHISHAMO (Album Review)

We start a thing!

SO, as you all know or may have noticed, I’ve been going down a not-so-aniblogger path in the past couple of months where you’re now seeing me interact with other forms of Japanese media (which include translations of articles/interviews and Japanese music ramblings among other things). This isn’t so much me growing tired of anime or anything like that, but in a way you could say that this is a reflection my life right now in that I really just consume other forms of media more than I do anime.

In line with that do allow me to then to officially launch this little project that myself and Al (from SliceOfAlfredo) will have going on — J-Music Exchange/Rate! Thissun’s Al’s brainchild of a collaboration this time around (the name’s all I got, lol).

What it is is basically what you can surmise from the title itself; we give each other music to listen to from our own libraries, and then we rate/review ’em. We found out in our early interactions with one another that my and Al’s tastes in J-music appear to overlap quite a bit (if not by a whole lot) — so we’re gonna be putting that to the test, as I field him my own personal favorite albums and tracks and vice versa.

Of course, since these will be albums that we like enough to recommend to each other, automatically these are also albums that we would recommend to you guys as well!

This time I trade KinokoTeikoku‘s Uzu ni Naru EP for Al’s SHISHAMO 3 by SHISHAMO (catch’s Al’s take on one of my all-time favorites over at his blog!)

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SHISHAMO is an all-female three-piece Japanese alternative rock outfit. Starting activities in as early as 2010, the trio have since expanded their brand of “Girls’ Rock” from their humble origins in Kanagawa to now worldwide acclaim as a staple name in the highly regarded Oricon charts. The band is best known for their signature polish in both their instrumentation and in particular Miyazaki Asako’s reliably sound vocal stylings.

01. Gomenne, Koigokoro
02. Nakanoniwa Shoujoutachi
03. Ikiru Girl
04. Egao no Tonari
05. Tenohira no Uchuu
06. Suiteiidoukyori
07. Onnagokoro
08. Nettaiya
09. Tabigaeri
10. Kimi to Gerende
11. Minna no Uta

A l : “As a person who is an avid SHISHAMO fan and someone who has listened to all of their albums over and over and over again (even including the brand new one, SHISHAMO 5, that came out a few days ago), SHISHAMO 3 is still, what I believe is, the best one out of the bunch. Not only does this album show who SHISHAMO is as an alternative rock band in a superb way, but also their signature youthful style and vibe, thanks to various factors such as the lyrics in their songs or even Miyazaki Asako’s notable and, for a lack of a better term, ‘sweet-sounding’ vocals.

Whether it be a more somber song about reminiscing about the past like “Nakaniwa no Shoujotachi” and “Tabigaeri”, or your usual track revolving around a complicated romantic relationship such as “Kimi to Gerende”, I really do feel like this particular album provides you with a decent variety of music, both narrative-wise and stylistically, that a good amount people can find enjoyable throughout. I’m also very glad I got the opportunity to show Leap, as well as whoever is reading this review, a good glimpse of why I absolutely love this band. They’re definitely worth listening to! And if you ask me, some of my favorites from this album would probably be “Nakaniwa”, as mentioned above; “Egao no Tonari”; and “Minna no Uta”… it’s surprising that I could pick out favorites from this collection of songs.”

<Songs of Interest>

01 Gomenne, Koigokoro
ごめんね、恋心  /  “Sorry, my love.” (listen here!)
For me personally, the very first song of any album (that is to say not only for Japanese music, but for all music albums) is make or break for the artist/s. The first song is where they let people know what’s up; where they open the door to introduce and welcome their listeners to their world — ’cause really, who skips the first track right? (xD) At any rate, SHISHAMO 3 passes with flying colors (at least for me) with ‘Gomenne, Koigokoro’. This song is a good summation of what to expect from this album; a roller coaster of musical emotion that has peaks and valleys like the nervous beating of a heart’s first love.

The “Sorry, my love” here doesn’t mean they are apologizing to someone they love, but they’re apologizing to the the feeling of love that came to them in lieu of not being able to act on it; as per the lines: “My love, I’m sorry my love (koigokoro gomen ne koigokoro) and you were only just born too (sekkaku umarete kite kureta noni) I’m sorry for being such a weakling (konna yowamushi na atashi de gomen ne)“, accentuated by the refrain “I never want to be a bother (zettai ni meiwaku kakenai kara) so I won’t tell you to stay by my side, I won’t cry in front of you (soba ni itai nante iwanai anata no mae de wa nakanai) so please don’t cut me off (dakara onegai tachikirenai de yo); as well as the opening and ending lines “I have now decided to live a life of complete and utter solitude (mou kimeta atashi hitozato hanareta ikiteru no).

04 Egao no Tonari
笑顔のとなり  /  “Right next to that smile” (listen here!)
— So you know, it took the better part of three fast-paced/high-energy songs for SHISHAMO to finally calm down and give us a bit of mellower track in ‘Egao no Tonari’. Miyazaki Asako picks up an acoustic guitar for this one and, as I’ve previously mentioned in one of my monthly round-ups, I’m just a sucker for when that happens (you can even hear a tambourine in there too!). As much as I do like a foot-tapper like ‘Gomenne, Koigokoro’ and the tracks that follow it, I do like my Girls Rock on the slower side of things generally, and in that regard this song is definitely a stand-out for SHISHAMO 3.

In a rather cute contrast with how the previous song’s narrative went, the song now talks about being content with seeing their loved one’s smile and nothing else; with the opening lines “I don’t want ‘good love’ (ii koi nante shitakunai) I don’t need a ‘good man’ (ii otoko nante iranai) it’s fine if you don’t come from money (okane nante nakute mo ii) you are absolutely good enough for me (watashi wa kimi ga zettai ii)“, and the succeeding lines such as “You might be kinda clumsy (chotto busaiku dakedo) You might be a bit lame, but (chotto dake dasai kedo) the only thing I want from this world is for that smile to be mine and mine alone (sekai ni hitotsu dake no sono egao o watashi dake no mono ni shitai).

Cover for “Nettaiya” (2015) [single]

熱帯夜 / “Sweltering Night”
— First, let me just say that I absolutely love the fact that the Japanese have a specific word for an otherwise mundane phenomenon such as an uncomfortably hot evening of all things (xD). ‘Nettaiya’, was, for the longest time the only SHISHAMO song I knew prior to trying this album out (came across it randomly one day). I really just adored this song well before this project between myself and Al was a thing and even now after getting to hear more of their stuff I can confidently say that this is my favorite track off of SHISHAMO 3. This track is so addictively sultry and chill at the same time with its nice mellow riffs and Miyazaki Asako dialing it down with the high notes a notch respectively — which just melts me really.

This song is hot — in more ways than what one would initially assume by going just off of what can be seen from the PV (with the girls clad in loungewear staving off a seemingly unbearable heat). The opening lines go something like “In this hot and sticky weather (jittori to nurui shimeta kuuki) the wind blowing won’t even change my body temperature (kaze ga fuitemo kawaranai watashi no taion) I always want to touch you (itsudatte kimi ni sawaritai) especially on hot nights like this (konna atsui yoru wa toku ni)which sorta gives you an idea how… uncharacteristically suggestive this song is compared to all that precede it.  Though I suppose intimate would be the more apt word to use here as the imagery never does go beyond just wanting to see someone at the end of the day (lol).

11Minna no Uta
みんなのうた / “Everyone’s Song
— In as much importance I claim to give an album’s opening track (as the song that welcomes in its listeners), I believe the last song bears equal responsibility in sending us off, so to speak, and ‘Minna no Uta’ is perfect in every aspect for that role. I honestly cannot laud the creative decision of making this the last track enough to the point where I’d even go so far as to say that it can’t be placed anywhere else but at the end. SHISHAMO rounds up SHISHAMO 3 with some light rock with a fair bit of Ska-ish trumpet action in a cheery song about pressing forward despite whatever life throws at you; a sentiment echoed in the PV as well in its light-hearted (and actually hilarious) depiction of a hardworking salon girl.

The lines “That’s why today too (dakara kyou mo) I’ll smile in front of the mirror (kagami ni mukatte warau) even if I’m the only one who knows I’m working hard (ganbatteru watashi wo watashi shika shiranakutemo) this is not the time to whine (goneteru hima wa nai na), to me really evokes a sort-of “Good Job Everyone~!” kind of congratulatory feel after a hard day’s work, and in the larger context of SHISHAMO 3 I actually felt rewarded almost. We witness the persona of this album go through tumultuous phases of love (and life) over the entire course of SHISHAMO 3 (we even start off with a the imagery of unrequited first love!) and to hear the narrative end on a self-reassurance that everything will be fine despite all that is just wonderful in my opinion.

<What I think of SHISHAMO 3>

My personal litmus test as to whether or not an album is good or not generally is if it can weave both an auditory and a thematic narrative through one continuous playthrough. The latter should be self-explanatory, and as I already alluded to just moments ago, SHISHAMO 3 does markedly posses a strong thematic narrative so suffice to say it gets top marks on that for sure. The album’s auditory narrative on the other hand, that is to say the way each song flows into the next, is to me what ultimately makes or breaks SHISHAMO 3.

Now, just to make it clear, I’m not saying the songs that I didn’t feature here are bad and these four here are the only good ones (‘Nakanoniwa Shoujoutachi’ and ‘Ikiru Girl’ are straight up bangers, and ‘Suiteiidoukyori’ is like a fun little cross between a Souteiseiriron and a TokyoJihen song that just makes me smile inside). I suppose my main gripe (?if you could even call it that) with the album is in large part due to how good SHISHAMO is as a band from a purely technical standpoint.

Before the cut I chose to describe SHISHAMO as a band known for their polish — and they are, almost to a fault. The almostuniform cleanliness of each song made (for me at least) some plateaus in between the highs and lows of the album (notice here the spacing of my featured tracks).  Again, that’s not to say that songs that fall between tracks 4 and 8 for example are bad, and listening to them on their own I actually do like ’em, so ultimately it’s mostly an arrangement thing if anything.

<My Rating>

4 out of 5, and
8.5 out of 10

I’m hard-pressed to say anything bad about such a solid release. SHISHAMO is a very sure-handed band that rarely if at all drops the ball. My weird rambling about song order aside (the only reason why I’m not giving this a perfect score), SHISHAMO is a really nice listen from the first track to the last.

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Are you a fan of SHISHAMO as well? If so, what are your thoughts on SHISHAMO 3? If not, how’d you like the selection of songs up top? Let us know in the comments down below!