You can practically hear the flowers blooming ~
Hello everyone and welcome back once again to the J-Music Exchange/Rate! The spring is is all but in full swing now which, as we all know, is the season of new beginnings. Quite fitting I should say, as here we are yet to begin another album review 😀
If in case this is your first time here, the Exchange/Rate is of course the tandem album review series between myself and Al from Omunibasu.Blog, where each month we go and trade each other albums from our respective music libraries for the other to talk about and review in our respective blogs. We’re closing in one full year of consecutive monthly reviews if you can believe that (XD), and I believe I’m speaking for Al to when I say what an absolute ride of music discovery this project has since been for the both of us. A ride that you guys can always be part of by checking out the J-Music Exchange/Rate page, where you can see all the reviews we’ve done thus far.
Each month Al and I go back forth deciding on a theme that would serve as the basis for us to pick out which albums to review, and as it was my turn this time around to choose, I thought it’d be nice if we went and gave each other albums that remind us of spring! We’ve already done something similar in the past when we went and reviewed albums that reminded us of summer, so I thought now would be a good time to revisit that idea seeing as we only just got started with this year’s spring. I didn’t have too think all that hard with my pick, as there’s one album in my library that stands out among the rest with regard to this specific time of the year.
I am of course talking about Kinoko Teikoku’s Neko to Allergy which is an album very near and dear to my heart. Al, on the other hand, has given me Awesome City Club’s Catch The One. Despite being one of the first handful of bands that I came across when I first got started with the hobby, I haven’t had the pleasure of listening to their albums in full, so I was very much looking forward to this one 🙂
Originally a five-piece band Awesome City Club, is at present a three-man unit comprised of dual vocalists atagi and PORIN (also the band’s rhythm guitarist and keyboardist respectively), and lead guitarist Morishii. The band is best known for their high-energy City Pop that incorporates elements of Pop, Rock, R&B, Soul, and Dance Music, that make for a very modern style of music that is very much their own.
０１・Catch The One
０３・君はグランデ/kimi wa grande (you are grande)
０４・愛とからさわぎ/kimi to karasawagi (merry-making)
０５・燃える星/moeru hoshi (burning star)
０６・クリエイティブオールナイト/creative all night
１０・8月とモラトリー/hachigatsu to moratory (august and moratory)
Ａ ｌ : Funny enough, Leap was the one who ultimately introduced me to the band Awesome City Club and boy, was that one of the best artist suggestions he ever gave me. As a group that’s considered a part of the recent revival/modernization of Japanese city pop, Awesome City Club is all about making funk/pop/rock music that’s catchy and easy to enjoy. And while “Outsider” remains as my all-time favorite ACC song, the tracks on their 2018 studio release Catch the One are still pretty damn good, and definitely represent who Awesome City Club is and the kind of music they make. This whole album was really fun to listen to, ranging from the super upbeat tracks that genuinely put you in a good mood like “Sunny Girl” and “Kimi ha Grande”, to the more mellow songs that were highlighted by Porin’s gorgeous vocals such as “One Scene” and “Taiwan Romance”.
ACC honestly nails it when creating synthesizer-induced pop/rock music, and when they combine that with the vocal duet of Atagi and Porin… it’s just absolute perfection. As for why it reminds me of springtime: I guess the overall upbeat atmosphere of it (and admittedly, the traditional Easter-like colors on the album cover), to me, is reminiscent of this great season. Plus, this was one of my most-listened-to albums in 2018/2019 so me suggesting Catch the One for the J-Music Exchange/Rate segment was inevitable.
＜Ｓｏｎｇｓ ｏｆ Ｉｎｔｅｒｅｓｔ＞
In a bit of a departure to how I usually end up picking out songs to talk about for these Exchange/Rate album reviews (where I normally tend to start off with songs in the upper half of the album), the bulk of what I wanted to discuss this around just so happen to find themselves toward the latter half of Catch The One here instead, starting off with the seventh overall track Dancing Fighter. Of course, before I proceed, let me first say that this is not at all indicative of my thoughts regarding the first half of the album. The title track Catch The One and Kimi wa Grande for instance are two songs at the top of the batting order that I personally found very enjoyable after all.
It just so happens that these four songs in succesion, I believe best illustrates what exactly about Awesome City Club’s sound I find pleasing to listen to in the first place. This song here in particular is a good example of how ACC’s songs are just something you can vibe to (y’know, as all the hip kids call it nowada-). The energetic delivery of the band’s dual vocals atagi and PORIN, coupled with the band’s groovy Synth/Dance Pop style makes for a unique and modern take on an otherwise post-modern and more retro-inspired Japanese City Pop. One can surmise that the “City” in the band’s name is even an homage to this particular genre of music.
I would argue that ACC’s dual vocal setup is (in my opinion at least) what ultimately gives the band such a textured sound to them. There’s a nice interplay between atagi’s smooth and mellow singing style and PORIN’s bright and peppy vocalizations that just adds this extra layer of musicality to their songs with how the two’s voices both contrast and compliment one another. I feel that this in turn makes it so their songs end up giving off a sense of balance and wholeness when listened to which I thought was nice (and was really one of the things I liked about ACC when I first heard them), but by that same token, it does raise the question of how the two would sound individually.
Thankfully we do get to answer said question (or at least half of it) with one scene here, as the only song out of Catch The One to be fully song by PORIN. My thoughts on the ACC’s twin vocal setup aside, I’m honesty partial towards PORIN’s singing than I am to atagi’s. Something one would be quick to notice when first listening to this album (and a fair number of ACC songs in general) is that PORIN’s voice ends up overlapping with the band’s use of Synth a great deal, which I do believe undermines her otherwise clear vocal work as you’ll hear her doing in this song. In as much ‘whole’ as ACC sounds with the two’s voices working in tandem, hearing PORIN sing like this is nice too.
One of the first songs by ACC that I remember listening to was a song called Namida no Shanghai Night, which I first heard roughly over five years ago. Now, with that at the back of my mind, I was surprised to find out that it was part of this album, as I would have thought it to be an older song for it to be part of a 2018 release… Or so I thought. Turns out, I was misremembering Namida no Shanghai Night with Taiwan Romance here… I mean, it’s an honest enough of a mistake to make right? (at the very least, it’s a purely innocent one that I’m both readily and embarassingly admitting to XD). That being said, I did also end up taking away something from this revelation myself.
The primary reason why I never would have second guessed that Taiwan Romance was the song I remember hearing from a couple years back is because Awesome City Club for the most part is a band that has largely stayed consistent in their sound ever since then. Not to say that ACC’s songs all sound the same, but rather there’s a certain familiarity that’s born across the band’s songs the more you listen to them I feel. They have an arguably sought after quality to their style where, whether its the jig or the jive of what would be their now-textbook brand of City Pop, once it reaches your ears you can say without a shred of doubt “Ah, this song is by Awesome City Club!”
１０・8月とモラトリー/hachigatsu to moratory (august and moratory)
The last song I wanted to talk about, Hachigatsu to Moratory, is the only song off of Catch The One to be fully sung by the other half of Awesome CIty Club’s dual vocal center in atagi. I thought it would be fitting that I do so because I did the same for PORIN when I talked about one scene. That, and remeber that I did mention at the start of this review that these four songs in succession, I think best sums up both my thoughts on the album as a whole, as well as what I think of ACC in terms of their sound and them as a band. To that end, this song couldn’t be placed any better, as I now get to highlight what I consider to be that which holds all these things together.
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch of the imagination to say that atagi himself is the cohesive glue that keeps everything intact for the band in almost all aspects: from his work as the band’s main composer, his energetic presence (whether in PVs or their on-stage performances), his guitar-playing, and of course his singing; which is on full display here. I found it interesting in that regard, based on my rudimentary research on the origins of ACC, that atagi never intended to be the band’s vocalist in the first place for some reason or another. He did, however, become it and I for one am grateful that he chose to do so, as I believe ACC would be wholly different without him.
＜Ｗｈａｔ Ｉ ｔｈｉｎｋ ｏｆ Ｃａｔｃｈ Ｔｈｅ Ｏｎｅ＞
If you’ve been following the J-Music Exchange/Rate for what is now almost a year (!!!) since the project first became a regular fixture on both my and Al’s respective blogs, or if you have at least read a fair bit of my reviews in the time since then, you would know that something that I tend to bring up more often than not when it’s time for me to talk about a particular album as a whole are the times when the songs on said album “bleed” into one another. That is to say, the occurrence when I let an album play out from the first track to the last, where at times it becomes hard to tell apart which song is playing at a given point in time owing to how similar they sound from each other.
Traditionally, this is something that I end up sort of holding against an album, but by no means do I think of it as a bad thing per se. Rather, there is definitely some merit in a band that has that sort of consistency and uniformity to their sound, and Awesome City Club’s Catch The One here is one such release where you can see the fruits of that. There is an undeniable sense of sure-handed familiarity in almost if not all of ACC’s songs, which is something that I do believe directly translates to the experience that one has listening to them (as I mentioned earlier). Consequently, I find this to be the greatest strength of both this album as well as the band.
A lot of the times we misconstrue consistency with being unchanging and stagnant, but I would like to think that that’s not at all the case for ACC here. I do believe (in my own personal opinion) that the band will instead more than likely go down in the books as one of the most consistent-sounding bands in contemporary Japanese Pop in being able to continuously put out good song after good song, all while continuing to make a name for themselves in this modern era of Japanese music not just in their native country but I surmise also the world over, with what can be considered as ACC’s own brand of “City Pop” in the years to come.
４.７５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ ５
９.５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ １０
As someone who has since adopted the practice of listening to whole albums at a time as opposed to individual songs, Catch The One looks to be one of only a good number of albums that’s quite honestly very hard to resist in the times I end up wanting to listen to something, whether if it’s on my daily to commute to work or when I’m in my bed getting ready to turn in. That to me is a very indespensible quality to have as an album. I would much rather have an album that I can put on, bobbing my head along for up until its last track, then have to think about which handful of songs I want to listen to. That is what Catch The One gives me, and I appreciate it a good deal for that.
That’s gonna do us for today. If you’ve listened to Awesome City Club’s Catch The One in the past, let me know your thoughts on them down in the comments section. Likewise, if you haven’t yet, what do you think about it after reading this review? We’d love to hear it all the same!
Also, what are some albums that remind you of summer? Link them down below! 😀
Before I let you go, again, don’t forget to check out Al’s review of Neko to Allergy by Kinoko Teikoku over at Omunibasu.Blog