Hello there! It’s definitely been a while, hasn’t it?
I apologize for not that much activity being on my blog, it’s been a combination of focusing on school and not having much motivation/will to write anything. However, I still have some post ideas I want to write about, so I hope you stick around for a bit longer! I also realized I missed the last couple weeks’ J-song roundups but I’m making sure to get back on track with it with this post.
Going back to the roundup, I’ve been toying around with the idea of doing special editions of the weekly music selections and rather than doing a random lineup of songs every time, I sometimes choose a specific theme (whether that be an artist, genre, anime OP/ED, etc.). I think doing those kinds of posts occasionally will definitely be fun for me to discuss, as well as for you to read about… hopefully lol
That being said, here’s the first “special edition” post of this segment!
If you happen to be pretty into the Japanese music/rock scene, you probably have heard of the name Kawatani Enon. A guitarist, vocalist, and frontman of popular rock bands/groups he formed such as indigo la End, Genie’s High, ichikoro, and most notably Gesu no Kiwami Otome, he is considered as an incredible and well-respected composer and songwriter in this modern era of Japanese rock. His intriguing lyrics about love and sadness, the various styles of music he composes whether that be traditional indie rock or more of a fast pop-rock style, his unique vocal stylings that you can distinguish from the rest… Kawatani Enon is a special dude. He has also been a major part in other bands such as DADARAY, a band created by Gesu bassist Kacho Kyujitsu, by writing and composing most of their music.
You know that saying that goes along the lines of “separating art from the artist”? It has recently been in debate due to all of the sexual harassment/accusations American celebrities have been experiencing in the last few months or so. It’s definitely a hard concept to find an answer to, but I believe that saying can be used in Kawatani Enon’s case. If you didn’t know, despite all of the success from his musical ventures and his perception of being a great musician in the industry, he has pretty much shot himself in the foot multiple times and has been involved with some scandals that really dented his public image. From being caught drinking alcohol with a minor to cheating on his own wife with a celebrity and shortly after, pressuring her to agree to a divorce, these scandals have also negatively affected many people around him and even delayed a Gesu album a lot of fans were looking forward to. Even though I like the dude, I can admit that he has done some real scummy stuff in his personal life.
However, for me personally, I definitely don’t think about all of Kawatani’s personal problems whenever I listen to his music, mainly because I don’t see the point of mixing those two things together. As I said, I don’t respect the terrible things he has done in the past but most of the time when it comes to listening to music, I only care about the music and I try not to think about anything else. But, that’s just me.
That being said, I can say that I’ve been exposed a good amount to most of the bands Kawatani Enon has been a part of and I’d like to showcase a few of my favorite songs of his I’ve listened to 😀
indigo la End
Formed back in 2009 and officially debuted in 2012, this is Kawatani’s first successful indie rock group currently consisting of Kawatani on vocals/guitar, Osada Curtis on guitar, Gochou Ryousuke on bass, and Satou Eitarou on drums. Fun fact: Kacho Kyujitsu (nicknamed Manager-san), who now is a member of Gesu no Kiwami Otome, was a past member of this group.
Since their formation, Kawatani and Co. have created five studio albums, a few extended plays/mini-albums, and seven singles.
“Fuyuyo no Magic / 冬夜のマジック”
Let me admit that I don’t know indigo la End as much as I know about the other two bands in today’s discussion, but this particular group definitely is a lot different compared to Kawatani’s main band/project, Gesu no Kiwami Otome. ILE gives off more of a traditional indie feel rather than Gesu’s pop-rock, “hip-hop/progressive” genre. I think “Fuyuyo no Magic”, as well as the other ILE songs I’ll be showcasing, are great examples of an indie-rock style band, with Kawatani’s charm added into it. Song kinda gives off a melancholic vibe, both with the overall sound, as well as the actual lyrics revolving around the winter time and someone experiencing trouble in a relationship with another person. This is probably the first time I’ve actually read and (horribly) analyzed Kawatani’s lyrics, but I can see why people think he’s so good at songwriting.
Also side note, the lady in the MV reminds me too much of Aida Rikako (lol)
“Hitomi ni Utsuranai / 瞳に映らない”
If I can recall correctly, this may have been the first indigo la End song I’ve ever listened to. And I gotta give my thanks to my dude Leap (who also probably knows more about Kawatani Enon than me lol) for telling me about this track, it’s probably my favorite ILE song so far. Again, this song is more on the sad side of things but I think Kawatani took it a few levels higher since the lyrics deal with someone’s presence disappearing from a loved one’s life and them begging for that person to not forget them (the MV is even more heart-breaking to watch lol). But overall, Kawatani’s vocals definitely blend well together with the accompanying instruments, especially in the chorus.
“Aoito / 蒼糸”
Off their most recent album, PULSATE, “Aoito” significantly tones and slows it down from the previous two songs with their sound, while still maintaining that sad vibe. It’s a nice, light/smooth jazz-esque track to listen to, and is fairly different from their past works. The background vocals accompanying him is super fitting and you can tell this song is more on the emotional side of things.
Gesu no Kiwami Otome
Few months after debuting with indigo la End, Kawatani gathered up some musicians he had respected and performed with in the past at the Shimokitazawa Era live house, and created the band Gesu no Kiwami Otome. Other than Kawatani himself, the band consisted of musicians that came from other groups/musical units like bringing back his good friend and bassist Kacho Kyujitsu, as well as keyboardist ChanMARI (from the band Crimson) and drummer Ikoka Hona (from Microcosm).
In 2013, they debuted with the mini-album Dress no Nugikata and since then, they’ve released four albums, two other mini-albums, and nine singles.
“Killer Ball / キラーボール”
As you can tell, a way different sound from indigo la End, right? One of the main reasons why I love Gesu is just how unique their sound is. Things like how Kawatani now added a keyboard/piano in his style of music, the great background vocal performances by the ladies, and even being able to hear each and every instrument clearly thanks to everyone’s incredible abilities when playing their respective instrument, those are only a few reasons why Gesu intrigues me so much and keeps me coming back.
“Killer Ball” is a great song from Gesu, since it definitely shows what the group is all about. The extremely fast pace, the keyboard and Manager-san’s bass skills having a big presence in this song, all mixed in with Kawatani’s vocals and lyrics… it’s probably one of my favorite Gesu songs out of all of the ones I’ve heard so far.
And ChanMARI KILLED it with the keyboard, especially that classical piano solo towards the end. Her skills on the keyboard and piano are also note-worthy, and how she can mix classical style piano with pop-rock.
“Kokochi Adayaka ni / 心地艶やかに”
Kawatani’s voice goes significantly higher and quieter in this pretty mellow and almost mysterious-like song. I’m not really sure how to talk about this particular song, it kinda jumps around a lot (which isn’t a bad thing at all) and the background vocals of ChanMARI and Ikoka were absolutely perfect.
“Mou Setsunai to wa Iwasenai / もう切ないとは言わせない”
A song released in honor of Gesu no Kiwami Otome’s six year anniversary, hands down it’s gotta be my all-time favorite Gesu track.
There are so many things I love about this song from that piano sequence you hear throughout the song, Manager-san’s smooth bass line, to the appropriate inclusion of the violin… everything mixes together so well. But what takes the cake for me is probably the way Kawatani sings in the chorus, it’s so GOOD and it really sounds like he’s pulling his all into singing that particular part. For some reason, I get a pretty emotional atmosphere when listening to this song… maybe because it reflects the close relationship of this band (given that this was released on their anniversary and also the MV might imply that) or the sweet-sounding lyrics. But whatever it is, this song is amazing.
(also side note, here’s a really nice cover of this song by the cover duo, Groovy groove)
While Gesu was on hiatus in late 2016-early 2017 due to Kawatani Enon dealing with a scandal at the time, Kacho Kyujitsu formed a side band of his own called DADARAY, consisting of Manager-san himself, and pianists/keyboardists REIS and Etsusha (Etsusha is also a supporting member of both indigo and Gesu). Kawatani actually is also a part of this band, not as a singer or guitarist like usual, but as a composer/songwriter/producer.
Their name comes from a combination of “DADA” (derived from the popular art movement Dadaism) and “RAY” (meaning light)… there’s a more thorough explanation about the band’s name somewhere, I apologize (lol). But since their formation, they’ve released an album, a mini-album (DADAX, which I highly suggest listening to), and two singles.
“Ikitsukushi / イキツクシ”
DADARAY debuted with this song on January 31st, 2017, and it’s probably their most well-known track so far… and for a debut song, it’s a really good one.
DADARAY definitely has hints of Kawatani Enon and his style of music (obviously b/c he’s a producer of the band), but the instrumental and vocal performance of REIS and Etsusha give this band a more distinct sound compared to the previous two bands we’ve discussed. There are tons of things to love about this group; REIS’s incredible vocal abilities (I don’t know much about her past band experiences, but I feel like she was born to be a frontwoman for a band), the two keyboard combo and how it mixes well with Manager-san’s already great bass playing… I personally believe they need more attention from people who enjoy bands like Gesu or indigo la End.
(there’s also a sick remix of this song that the band featured on their mini-album DADAX, which you can listen to here!)
“Bokura no Minority / 僕らのマイノリティ”
This DADARAY song is more on the unique side, since it gives off a more electronic/remix vibe thanks to the drum beats and noises. But other than that, it’s a great song from the group and almost has a emotional/melancholic atmosphere to it, maybe from the way REIS sings or the overall composition.
“Utsukushii Shiuchi / 美しい仕打ち”
So far, I gotta say that this song is my all-time favorite DADARAY song. The mellow vibe it gives off, REIS singing in more of a relaxed way, catchy chorus, and how can I not mention Manager-san’s mind-blowing bass solo in the middle of the song… makes me want to try playing the bass now (lol).
I recently discovered a live version of this song when DADARAY performed on the J-WAVE radio station, which you can check out here. I absolutely loved listening to this very much different version of the song, since it’s essentially only the keyboard and bass being played. The slightly slower pace is an interesting change from the original and I’m stuck on which version is better (lol).
I could go on and on and on about DADARAY right now and I really wanted to feature a few more great songs on this list, but maybe I’ll save it for another post. 😛
So yeah. I hope you enjoyed this Kawatani Enon-based song list. I could talk about his other groups like Genie High, but I haven’t really taken a good listen to those bands.
Aside from his personal life issues, I really do love the creative mind of Kawatani Enon, the great groups he has formed and the songs that he’s produced, written, and performed in the past years. I can definitely see why he’s such a musical icon in the modern Japanese rock era. I hope he continues to create enjoyable songs for us to enjoy… and stay out of trouble (lol). But thanks for reading this pretty length round-up for this week! If you enjoyed any of the songs on this list, I’m glad I could introduce you to these groups and I definitely suggest diving into the rest of their discography!
I’ll see you guys in the next post, whatever it’ll be 😀