There are many great things about the summer season, but in my opinion… the high temps aren’t one of them 😛
Welcome back to yet another J-Music Exchange/Rate post; this is a segment I do on the blog alongside my good friend/fellow Japanese music fan Leap250 where, each month, we both pick an album from our libraries, exchange them and in the end, we review ’em on our respective blogs. It’s a fun little thing we’ve been doing for the past year or so, as it allows us to discover new music and in my case, improve my abilities in reviewing stuff. And hopefully you, the reader, also get a chance to learn about new artists and albums!
If you’re a longtime reader of this segment, you’d know that each month, we base our album choices on a specific theme/topic. So far, there have been some really interesting themes such as ‘music player mainstays’ and even last month, Leap and I gave each other albums from artists we’ve only discovered in the past couple months. By doing this, it definitely keeps things fresh each time we do a review… plus it makes it easier for us to recommend stuff to each other lol. I was in charge of the theme for July, which is ‘summer rock’. Basically, since a lot of Japanese rock bands like to put on big concerts during the summertime, I thought it would be cool for us to recommend each other rock albums that remind us of this particular, hot season. It just felt appropriate and to be quite honest with you, I got this idea from a SHISHAMO music video 😛
That said, here are our album choices: Leap went ahead and gave me Hump Back’s 2019 release Ningen Nanosa while I tossed over Magic Number by go!go!vanillas.
Let’s jump right in!
Inspired by the famous girl’s rock band Chatmonchy, Hump Back was formed back in 2009 from a high school’s light music club. The group, led by vocalist/guitarist Hayashi Momoko, participated in various youth music competitions including the “Senko Riot”, an outdoor music event showcasing teen bands around the country. However, due to some shuffling of group members and other matters, Hump Back took a hiatus. It wouldn’t be until 2016 when the band would officially form and have the lineup we know of now, consisting of Hayashi Momoko, Pika (bassist) and Misaki (drums).
While they did put out a few singles and mini-albums beforehand, 2018 was when they released their first single under a major label, Haikei, Shounen yo. A year later, the band released their first studio album, Ningen Nanosa. And on a related note, Hump Back is set to release their second album this upcoming August.
Hump Back – Ningen Nanosa / 人間なのさ
- Haiken, Shounen yo / 拝啓、少年よ
- Sunday Morning / サンデーモーニング
- Kojireta / コジレタ
- Ikiteiku / 生きて行く
- Orange / オレンジ
- Kujira / クジラ
- Koi wo Shiyou / 恋をしよう
- Night Theater / ナイトシアター
- Bokura ha Kyou mo Kuruma no Naka / 僕らは今日も車の中
Leap’s thoughts on Ningen Nanosa:
Hump Back has been a band, in the years that I’ve spent listening to them, that always seemed (to me at least) as being one of those bands that more than likely sound better on stage than they do if you listen to them on a music player. Not to say that they don’t sound good unless you hear them live, just that the kind of energy that the band brings, I feel really finds a home in front of a crowd more than anything else. This, I would attribute almost entirely to frontwoman Hayashi Momoko and her strong resonating vocal presence that I find just commandeers your attention everytime you hear her sing, with her voice that sounds as though she’s pouring her heart out in each and every song.
Ningen Nanosa presents a lot of what her and Hump Back as a whole have to offer with regard to both Hayashi’s powerful deliveries as well as the band’s youthful and lively approach to Japanese Girls Rock and, suffice it to say, their style just fits perfectly (in my opinion at least) with this month’s theme of bands and artists that just get you going with in a live setting largely reminiscent of Rock festivals in the summer.
Now that I look back at the four or so years of me being a Japanese music fan, I’d say that I’ve listened to a good amount of three-person, all-female rock bands. Hell, one of the very first Japanese artists I ever discovered is a fantastic example of an all-girl’s rock band; them being SHISHAMO (I’m still forever grateful to Spotify and its amazing algorithm). So while I haven’t been around/listened to this specific side of Japanese rock lately, I still appreciate the kind of music these groups put out. Plus, I feel like I’ve gained a decent understanding of how they compose music and their unique styles. That said, Hump Back is certainly one of those bands that I’ve enjoyed for a bit now.
Of course, I discovered this band through Leap a few years ago after being suggested one of their songs, “Hoshigaoka Kōen”, which I absolutely loved. Something about Hayashi Momoko’s voice and the overall youthful/emotional nature of this song just resonated with me, and I think those thoughts of mine definitely remained the same once I sat down and actually listened to their first studio album, Ningen Nanosa.
One major thing that stood out to me was, like I mentioned, the youthful atmosphere within this album. Given that Hump Back started when founder Momoko was in high school, you can definitely get a sense of adolescence in many ways. Their style sounds very simple and straight-forward, yet the intended emotions and thoughts can get through the listener pretty easily. The overall loudness and rough nature of a lot of these songs, especially ones like “Haiken, Shounen yo” and “Ikiteku”, just feel like this band is putting it all out there and have the desire to show their true feelings. That’s kind of something I associate ‘youth’ with; given that a lot of teenagers and young adults have a lot of emotion built up inside of them and have the need to express it in some way, Hump Back does that through powerful, fiery rock music. While I can’t exactly say that that’s what this band was trying to do (mainly because it’s difficult to find good English-translated lyrics for these songs), that’s kind of the vibe I’m getting from it. Heck, “Haiken Shounen, yo” is about change and continuing to chase your dreams; things that many young adults, including myself, have thought about while going through life.
Plus, I think this kind of music fits really well with this month’s theme, as these songs contain a lot of energy, fun and excitement, which are all part of the overall nature of summer (and youth). And you know, Japanese summer rock concerts are supposed to be fun and lively, and I’d for sure love to hear the tracks from Ningen Nanosa at those types of events.
Another thing that I found to be nice about this album is that it has a bit of variety when it came to pacing. A lot of the tracks sound really fast and loud but surprisingly, Hump Back tones it down in a few songs like “Bokura ha Kyou mo Kuruma no Naka” and “Kojireta”. By doing so, it gives us a bit of a breather while still being able to express that emotional factor, whether it be sad or something more lighthearted/fun. Some may think that most of these songs sound a bit ‘same-ish’, which is a completely fair observation. But from my perspective, inputting these slower songs throughout the album is pretty noticeable and I can see/appreciate how it benefits the overall composition.
And going back to my point about simplicity, Hump Back’s instrument combination is something that is pretty standard: a guitar, bass and drums. A combination that is seen within many three-piece rock bands and just works so well despite its basicness. And Hump Back continues that traditional mixture of instruments within their music. I really enjoyed hearing the classic, distorted guitar riffs and fast strumming; the way Momoko plays guitar felt very genuine. Plus, a good handful of these songs immediately started off with some prominent guitar playing, such as “LILIY” and “Adm”, which certainly helped set the tone for the rest of the tracks. Other than that, I personally couldn’t pick up the bass that much but the drumming by Misaki was phenomenal. Her percussion melded perfectly with Momoko’s vocals and the rough-sounding guitar, and it definitely built on that emotional factor we’ve heard throughout this album.
Speaking of vocals, we gotta talk about that. If you go into this album blind, it’s more than likely that the first thing you’ll notice is the super loud and powerful vocals from Hayashi Momoko (it’s almost like she’s yelling at you lol). And while her specific vocal styling can be a bit too loud and repetitive, I personally thought it was one of the best aspects of Ningen Nanosa (and the band in general); I just love the way she sings. You can tell she sings with a ton of passion and it seriously pairs well with everything else. It really does feel like she can keep up with the loud atmosphere coming from the instruments and again, I may sound like a broken record but having Momoko sing in such a high intensity allows us to really understand the intended emotions of these songs. I mean, the beginning of “Haiken, Shounen yo” can quickly hook you in with how she immediately starts singing about dreams and giving up, all in a strong and vigorous voice.
It took a few years for Hump Back to make their official debut but despite their late start, Ningen Nanosa is a pretty damn good first album. It’s hard for me to not like it; not only because I’m already a fan of these kinds of bands but their specific approach at creating music and expressing these youthful/passionate emotions was something that really stood out to me. You can certainly tell that they have a lot to show and say, and they do so with some powerful, engaging songs that are catchy and enjoyable to listen to. I can understand if some people don’t like certain aspects of this album/band but the fierce-sounding combination of the guitar, bass and drums, mixed in with Momoko’s emphatic vocals, made for a nice collection of songs that I would definitely recommend.
Aaand that’s all for today! If you got this far, I really appreciate it and I hope you enjoyed this month’s review. Hump Back is a fantastic band and I’ve really enjoyed listening to a bit of their stuff these past few years. I’m also looking forward to their next album release!
On another note, not gonna lie but I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump lately so I apologize if this review was a bit iffy. But hopefully I can get out of it soon cause there’s a post that I’ve been wanting to write so be sure to stay tuned.
Well, now that you’ve gotten this far, you should head over to Leap’s blog and read his review on the album I suggested to him, Magic Number by go!go!vanillas. That album was a fun one to listen to!
Thanks for reading!! 😀