Warning: cute bears ahead
Yo, and welcome back to another installment of J-Music Exchange/Rate! This is a blog segment I do with my good friend/fellow Japanese music enthusiast Leap250 where we recommend each other an album from our respective libraries, take a listen and then ultimately review them on our own blogs. Believe it or not, it’s been an entire year since Leap and I revived this little segment. And now that I look back on all of the reviews we’ve done since, it’s so cool to see the unique and fun albums we both gave each other over the past year, as well as our various thoughts on each of them. Even though I tended to procrastinate a lot and sometimes waited until the last week of the month to finish my reviews, I still had a blast learning about new artists/albums/genres and improving my ability to talk about music. That said, for those who are new to this segment or have been around for a while, thank you for reading our stuff! 😀
Anywho, back to this month’s review. As you may know, Leap and I base our album choices on a specific theme each month. With it being my turn for the month of May, I decided to pick a theme that was along the lines of “artists/albums that we’ve discovered through covers”. I apologize if that sounded vague, allow me to explain: I think it’s safe to say that a lot of Japanese music fans (and music fans, in general) tend to discover new artists through viral/popular covers on YouTube, for example. I’m sure Leap has had similar experiences with this but for me personally, there have been many times where I’ve listened to a cover online and was later curious about the actual song and artist whom these covers were based on. And if I’m being honest, YouTube covers have helped me discover many of the artists I now follow and listen to. So yeah, you can tell that it’s an important part of my personal Japanese music ‘journey’.
With that said, let’s get on with our choices. I went ahead and gave Leap the album Love Story by well-known Japanese rock band back number while he tossed over up-and-coming doujin artist Koresawa’s Shitsuren Scrap.
Let’s jump right in!
Known for her addictive vocals and lyricism that paints everyday life in a unique perspective, Osaka-based pop artist Koresawa made her national debut in 2015, with the release of her first EP Kimi no Band. She would later become a viral hit with, arguably, her most popular song to date, “Tobacco”. Since her debut, Koresawa has released four studio albums and several singles/EPs.
As you can probably tell, Koresawa prefers to not show her real face and instead, her appearance is represented by a bear character named “Reko”. Reko has been seen in many of Koresawa’s album/single covers, music videos and even live events.
Koresawa – Shitsuren Scrap / 失恋スクラップ
- Day by Day
- Saigo no Kanojo ni Naritakatta / 最後の彼女になりたかった
- Koibito Shikkaku / 恋人失格
- Kaeritakunaitte / 帰りたくないって
- Sentimental ni Sasareta / センチメンタルに刺された
- Yappari Nakuyo / やっぱり泣くよ
- Baka Desho / バカでしょ
Leap’s thoughts on Shitsuren Scrap:
I find that song covers have the ability to bridge gaps in generations, owing to their nature of always coming in succession of an already existing work. A song from five years ago for example can come across as new to a person who hears a cover of it made two weeks ago. In turn, a band/artist you might not have heard of before might all of a sudden become of interest because you liked a cover someone did of their songs. This month’s theme centers on just that; bands/artists that we discovered through covers of their songs.
One such artist for me is the enigmatic singer-songwriter “koresawa”, whose innocent and heartfelt songs have her popular among both the youth as well as those in the Japanese cover artist scene (as evidenced by the multitide of covers made of her songs thus far). Although not necessarily an artist from five years ago, what koresawa represents are the vestiges of Girls Pop/Rock, which is a genre that (arguably) reached its height in an era that has already since passed. “Shitsuren Scrap” feels like an ode to those times; whether it’s the ultra high energy “Day by Day”, the cheeky yet endearing “Saigo no Kanojo ni Naritakatta”, or the emotion-filled “Baka Deshou”. koresawa herself is a veritable throwback, whose songs allow those that listen to her a bit of a glimpse of why Girls Pop/Rock was so beloved in its time, perhaps even causing a resurgence for those listening today.
If you’ve been following this segment for a while now, I think it’s quite apparent that I review a lot of doujin-style albums on my side. That’s thanks in large part to Leap himself, as he absolutely knows his doujin artists and is great at suggesting some amazing music within that particular genre. And I happen to enjoy doujin music as well; the whole concept of self-published music that, in a way, exerts a bit more soul and passion is one of the many things I admire about this area of Japanese music. That said, I believe Koresawa falls into that particular category and it’s very much reflected in her songs.
Koresawa and how she makes music definitely gives off indie and almost ‘pure’ vibes. The fairly simple instrumentation and the meaningful lyricism we hear throughout her discography; you can easily tell, or I guess, distinguish that these are ‘Koresawa’ songs. She makes music and writes songs that seem to reflect her true feelings and ideas, and I think that ‘unique’ aspect is something that is special about her as an artist. Whether that’s expressed through the music itself or her young-yet-mature sounding vocals, I think Koresawa’s one of the more pure doujin artists out there.
Prior to this review and listening to this particular album, I’ve heard some of Koresawa’s music beforehand. And I’ve really enjoyed her stuff! One thing I noticed is that she does J-pop/rock in two differing styles. Sometimes her songs are energetic and fast-paced while on the other hand, the tracks that are more about love and the difficulties of relationships are much slower and melancholic. And there seems to be a good balance between these two styles of music, popularity-wise. While her most popular song, “Tobacco”, is a more low-spirited track, a good amount of her other well-received songs like “SSW”, “Atashi wo Kanojo ni Shitai Nara”, and “Kimito Nuigurumi” are a lot more lighthearted and fantastic to listen to.
Why am I talking about this? Well, I think that is a perfect way to describe Shitsuren Scrap.
You really do get the best of both worlds (with the addition of some small changes) when it comes to this collection of songs. The album starts with “Day by Day”, a traditional, fun rock-pop song that has some classic guitar riffs and Koresawa’s vocals just fit perfectly, as she hits a few high notes really well. Same with “Sentimental ni Sasareta / センチメンタルに刺された”, another great rock track that kind of shows how much of a blast Koresawa is having while singing along with the music.
And of course, you got the more sentimental songs that she’s known to do a fantastic job at. “Koibito Shikkaku / 恋人失格” is the headliner, as it’s the most popular track in this mini-album, and I think it’s justified. A song about a relationship that didn’t really work out, the minimal instrumentation helps convey a strong melancholic atmosphere while letting Koresawa just go off with her vocal performance. It’s another great example of the sad love songs you hear around the Japanese music space.
Instrumentation in this album was pretty interesting, actually. Like I previously said, Koresawa has been known to just keep it simple when it comes to the actual music part of her songs. But it seems like she wanted to experiment with some new things when it came to Shitsuren Scrap. In fact, while Koresawa is known for beautifully playing the acoustic guitar, it actually wasn’t very present throughout this album, other than in the final song, “Baka Desho / バカでしょ”. Instead, there was a larger presence of the electric guitar, keyboard and even a touch of electronic-based instruments. Koresawa straying away from the more traditional way of doing music was an interesting choice, but I can’t deny that she executed those changes well. I really enjoyed one of the more unique songs, “Yappari Nakuyo / やっぱり泣くよ”, as it felt like a chill, electro-pop track with some added synths. “Kaeritakunaitte / 帰りたくないって” was another notable song with the keyboard having a strong presence throughout. In fact, it somewhat reminded me of, like, a milder ZUTOMAYO track which seems fitting (ZUTOMAYO is another popular doujin-style artist). But as I said earlier, Koresawa’s decision to spice things up with her music this time around was an interesting choice but still enjoyable.
And I think it’s a given that her vocals pair really well with all of the instrument performances. As shown throughout her other releases, Koresawa’s vocals definitely give off a youthful vibe, while at the same time sounding very mature. That might not be the best way to describe her voice but that uniqueness she displays is something that I love hearing every time I listen to her stuff. Her ability to sing in a low-pitched voice and convey sadness, while also being able to express a more lively side and hit high notes; both are shown pretty well in Shitsuren Scrap.
Even though Shitsuren Scrap is a mini-album, I think it still did a great job showing off who Koresawa is and the kind of music she creates.
The way she conveyed those two familiar, differing styles was nice to listen to, and I think there was a good balance between the two. Going back-and-forth between a fun rock-pop song to a track about broken relationships, while I can understand someone not liking that because of the lack of consistency, I personally don’t mind it. I believe it allows listeners to truly understand Koresawa’s particular approach to making music and there’s even a splash of variety within each song to keep it interesting each time. I also thought the changes in instrumentation styles was an interesting choice, especially when comparing this album to her other works. But it was most definitely shown that she still did a great job maintaining her usual tone, regardless of change. Solid album, overall.
Aaaand that’s all I got for today! Hope you enjoyed reading this post and if this is the first time you’re hearing about Koresawa, then I feel honored that I got to introduce you to this wonderful artist. I love her music and I would suggest checking out her other stuff (“Wareyo Otome”, “Kimi no Band”, “Back Up” are a few of my favorites).
Now that you’ve finished reading this review, you should go over to Leap’s blog where he reviewed my choice for this month, Love Story by back number. Probably one of my favorite albums that I listened to in 2020.
Thanks for reading!! 😀