James Eldred

Formerly Out-Of-Print Japanese Albums You Need Now

I write about Japanese music a lot, but I’ve been motivated to write about it even more as of late. I’ve recently covered the whole “city pop” thing a few times now, mostly to the extent that I just don’t get it. It’s fine, and there are some artists in that scene that I definitely do dig, but to me it just seems like such an odd subgenre of J-pop for people to be interested in, mostly because there’s just so much more interesting stuff out there, especially in terms of Japanese synthpop (or, as they call it, “technopop”).

And no, I’m not just talking about YMO and their related acts (although, for fuck’s sake listen to YMO and their related acts) but other artists too. The early-80s was simply jam-packed with amazing Japanese synthpop, and now, finally, a lot of the better stuff that was lost to time is being re-isssued, many for the first time on CD. So I thought I would take a quick look at three amazing artist worth checking out whose albums have recently gone back into circulation.  Continue reading

It’s 2018, ironic use of the F-word (no, the other one), isn’t okay.

 

I have never been a fan of the word “queer.” Wasn’t a fan of it when I was in junior high and called one. Wasn’t a fan of it when it became popular term for LGBT people to use to describe themselves. Wasn’t a fan of it when I started college and heard it in academic circles. I forever associate that word with bullies making fun of me for my perceived…queerness.

But whatever. That word has transcended its original meaning and is now used in a positive manner for those who identify as it. It’s not a word you’ll hear me say often, but the masses have spoken. Queer is an okay word to say (in context). I’m not going to argue that one.

But I won’t give “faggot” the same courtesy. Continue reading

Sniff This: Tokyo’s Smell Exhbition

You live in Japan long enough and the whole idea of “weird Japan” kind of goes away. What was once “weird” just becomes life. Oh, there’s a giant mascot shaped like an onigiri standing outside the station? Must be Tuesday.

But then your boyfriend says “I want to go to the smell museum,” and the weirdness jumps right back in your face. Continue reading

A Guide To Buying City Pop In Tokyo

A while ago I wrote a comprehensive guide to record stores in the greater Tokyo area. Ever since then, I’ll occasionally get an email from someone about to visit Tokyo, and they want to know the best stores to find their targeted genres. 

These emails used to be comprised of people asking about soundtracks or heavy metal. Now they’re almost entirely from people asking about city pop. I was right, this is becoming a thing.

So I thought I would save everyone the trouble and just detail here the best stores in Tokyo to find city pop.  Continue reading

Blown Opportunities and Taking Stands

I was in a record store in Shibuya today (as am I most days) and there was a television crew there interviewing some white dude. I couldn’t hear everything they said, but I could tell they were asking him about why he came to Japan and about record stores in the area.

I was really hopping to get my chance on camera too. So after they finished up his interview, I casually sauntered over to them, hoping they would ask me too.

It turns out they were really mostly interested in tourists, but when I showed them my blog and my massive guide to record stores in Tokyo, they really wanted to talk to me. Before committing, I wanted to know more about what show/network the show would be on. 

They told me TV Asahi, so I let out a heavy, depressed sigh and told them I couldn’t do it.

TV Asashi is the home of London Hearts

And fuck London Hearts. Continue reading

City Pop: Big In Japan?

One of my favorite releases from last year was Tokyo Nights, a compilation featuring Japanese disco and pop from the 80s. I love it because it’s just so upbeat and fun. The tunes just bounce in a way that I don’t hear that often. The best tracks on the CD remind me of early Madonna or Sheena Easton – unabashedly positive pop music made 100% for dancing.

I adore this record, and wanted to hear more from the artists on it, so I went down to Mecano, a record store located in Nakano. Mecano specializes in 80s music, so I figured that it would be the place to go to get my 80s J-pop disco fix. I talked to the owner, reading off some of the names I was looking for, like Hitomi Tohyama and Junko Ohyashi. 

He laughed.

He laughed a lot. Continue reading

The Star Wars Trailer Sound Tape – What The Hell is This Thing?

I bought this tape and I don’t know what it is.

I picked it up at a local record store last month. It had literally been there most of the year. First it was priced at 5,000 yen. After a few months with no takers, they sliced it down to 3,000 yen. At that point it became tempting, but I held my ground, telling my boyfriend that I wouldn’t buy it for any more than 2,000 yen. Cue a few months later, and they cut it down to 1,500, so I snagged it. 

But, like I said, I don’t know what it is. Continue reading

Nothing’s Easy When You’re Big in Japan

One time a student told me that he saw me walking around Shibuya. I asked why he didn’t come up to say hi and he said that he couldn’t because I was about two blocks away.

What I’m saying is, that as a nearly 2 meter (six-and-a-half foot tall) white dude living in Japan, I kind of stand out. Continue reading

A Collection of Strange Japanese Band Names

I go to Tower Records almost every week. I never know what I’ll find there, whether it be a deluxe edition of a classic album, a Japanese edition of a new release that includes exclusive bonus tracks, or an amazing album by a Japanese artist I had never heard of. It’s a smorgasbord of audio delights that keep my ears happy and my wallet empty.

An auxiliary reason for my frequent travels to the store is to check out the latest in the never-ending army of wacky Japanese band names. You’d think after four years that this shit would get old, but it doesn’t.

Here are some of the odder ones I’ve seen in my time here. All photos were taken from displays at either the Shibuya or Shinjuku Tower Records. Continue reading

YMO 101: The Protégés, Associates and Etc.

This is part six of my guide to Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Part 1: The Studio Albums
Part 2: The Live Albums
Part 3: The Compilations and Remix Records
Part 4: The Solo Records
Part 5: Pre-cursors and Side Projects

Yellow Magic Orchestra were a lot like Prince, (except less purple and horny – and I assume taller): they used their success as a means to launch a near-endless cavalcade of proteges, pop starlets, and associates into the the mainstream (or at least try). They even launched their own vanity label, Yen Records, the logo of which is featured above.

I couldn’t possibly write about every single artist that YMO was associated with, that would take far too long (and this ran long as it is). Instead, this focuses on acts who I found noteworthy in one way or another. Either they had impressively long discographies, a strong connection with someone in YMO, were a substantial success in Japan, or were just damn good.

Of course, this list is entirely subjective, so if you think I left out an act worth mentioning, please tell me about them in the comments!    Continue reading

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