Melodies from Japan and AAPI Artists, Vol. 7
I’m back for November, ready to share the music that makes me thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to shamelessly use this platform to bang my fists on the table and insist on my dear readers to like my music. This month, let’s listen to some classic and influential rock bands!
We are not sponsored by any of the bands mentioned in these posts, and all opinions expressed are of myself, Brian Hsieh!
Asian Kung-Fu Generation
From left to right Kensuke Kita (guitar), Masafumi Gotoh (vocals, guitar), Kiyoshi Ijichi (drums), and Takahiro Yamada (bass). Image from Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s Facebook page.
Formed in 1996, this year marks the 25th anniversary of this highly successful and influential 4-man Japanese rock band. They are perhaps most well-known to western audiences as the composers of opening themes of popular anime such as Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Bleach. Their musical style is reminiscent of indie/alternative rock, with powerful, emotional riffs and grooves that always make me feel hopeful. From technically impressive songs such as Blue Train to songs that make me want to cry, like Mustang, AKFG is a true pillar of the 2000s Japanese rock scene, and is guaranteed to come up in conversation with any Japanese rock fan.
Why I’m a fan
The drums, guitar, and bass all always have unique rhythms and their own standout moments in each song, meaning none of AKFG’s songs sound alike, and are distinct from other mainstream bands. Blue Train is a great example of why AKFG is different.
The main singer doesn’t really… “sing” traditionally (I think he sounds like he’s talking) but somehow it works out and makes some songs more melancholic.
This was middle-school Brian’s fuel for his essays (along with a lot of Jason Mraz).
THE ORAL CIGARETTES
From left to right, Akira Akirakani (bass), Takuya Yamanaka (Vocals, Guitar), Shigenobu Suzuki (Guitar), Masaya Nakanishi (Drums). Image from The Oral Cigarettes’ official website.
The Japanese rock scene is heavily saturated with a ton of melodies and the same four chords. Unfortunately, many of these bands stay away from showing off their instruments in their music, perhaps to make it more palatable to most people.
The Oral Cigarettes is definitely a mainstream band, but they have something special - Shigenobu Suzuki, lead guitarist, shredder of steel and one of the best guitarists in Japan. When I had the pleasure of watching them live in 2016, he pulled off one of the craziest solos I’ve ever seen. With immense energy, powerful riffs, and intensity, The Oral Cigarettes is a high-octane band that will get your blood pumping more than any other rock band.
Why I’m a fan
While Shigenobu is a monster, bassist Akira Akirakani also quietly pulls off tight bass lines, especially in Hey Kids (also linked above).
This band demonstrates 200% of their potential live because of their fun showmanship and rowdy crowds, so if you get a chance, check them out next time you’re in Japan!
Mmm… deep, husky singing voices…
Their 2016 album, Fixion is my personal favorite, so I’d shamelessly recommend that to start with. Their most famous song is by far Hey Kids, linked above, but Black Memory is also a stand-out piece. Check them out on their YouTube and Spotify.
AAPI Artist Highlight: The Linda Lindas
From left to right, Eloise (bass, vocals), Bela (guitar, vocals), Lucia (guitar, vocals), and Mila (drums, vocals). Each member plays different instruments depending on the song. Image taken from the Linda Lindas Instagram page.
The Linda Lindas are a punk-rock band formed in 2018, composed of four girls in elementary to high school. Despite their young age, the group has become recognized for their bouncy, infectious stage energy. They rocketed into stardom at the AAPI Heritage Kick-off event held by LA Public Library (Punk-rock at a library? Awesome.) with their breakout single, “Racist, Sexist Boy”, and since then they’ve made songs for Netflix shows. While they’re still very raw, they’re a ton of fun to watch, and they break ground by being an all-female Mexican/Asian-American punk rock band, which is definitely inspiring kids everywhere.
Why I’m a fan
As an aspiring drummer, 11-year old Mila’s kickass energy on the drums inspires me.
Although I think Eloise needs some more work on her vocals, her energy and pure, unfiltered voice still has me glued to the screen.
Asian-Americans have a stereotype of being bookworms, so I love that The Linda Lindas are breaking the norm and reviving interest in punk-rock.
That’s it for this month! Japanese rock is my personal favorite, so expect to see more along these lines in the future. Stay safe for the holidays!