Also includes a coincidental girl’s rock theme!
Hello there and welcome back to another installment of the J-Music Exchange/Rate segment. In case you’re unfamiliar with what this is about, basically, me and my good friend/fellow Japanese music enthusiast Leap250 both pick out an album from our respective libraries, suggest them to each other and later review ’em on our own blogs. While this blog segment has helped me become a better reviewer and writer, it’s also supposed to be a way for you, the reader, to discover some new albums and artists within the realm of Japan-based music, because there are many amazing musicians worth checking out. Leap and I have been doing this for about a year-and-a-half now, posting approximately 36 reviews so far! Honestly can’t believe we’ve written that many, not gonna lie, but hopefully we’ll keep going for a while.
And for those who follow the segment on a regular basis, you would know that Leap and I choose our albums based on a specific theme each month. For example, last month’s theme was “artists that express a style/genre that’s different than what you’d expect”… something along the lines of that. Basically, choosing albums according to a theme allows us to, one, make our choices easier, and two, spice things up for each review so it’s not stale.
That being said, the theme for the month of November is ‘our favorite Best Of albums’. Based off the traditions of Thanksgiving (which is celebrated in November here in the United States), we decided to choose a ‘Best Of’ collection from a specific artist, in order to show our appreciation for their talents and music. If you don’t know what a ‘Best Of’ album is, basically it’s a collection of songs, curated by the artists themselves (presumably), that showcase the best tracks they’ve released. How they choose these tracks varies from artist to artist but generally, it’s their most popular songs or single releases.
So here are our album choices: Leap went ahead and suggested SCANDAL’s second best album ENCORE SHOW while I stuck with the ‘girl’s rock’ theme and tossed over SHISHAMO BEST by three-piece band SHISHAMO.
(overview taken from my previous SCANDAL album review)
Similar to many other all-female rock bands, SCANDAL started their musical journey in high school when the four members, HARUNA, MAMI, TOMOMI and RINA, met at a vocal/dance school in Osaka. The group started off doing street performances every weekend until they signed with indie label Kitty Records in 2008. Their first three released singles became instant hits, as Koi Moyou and Kagerou reached #1 on the Tower Records indie charts, while Space Ranger reached #2. SCANDAL would later officially debut with their first major single, DOLL.
2008 would certainly be a breakout year for the group, as they started to experience everything from going on international tours, having their music being featured in television shows and anime, an increasing amount of popularity, as well as the release of their first studio album BEST★SCANDAL. And ever since then, SCANDAL has released several albums, singles, and become one of the most popular and influential all-female rock bands in Japan, and even worldwide.
SCANDAL – ENCORE SHOW
- S.L. Magic
- Natsuneiro / ナツネイロ
- SO EASY
- HOSHI NO FURU YORU NI / 星の降る夜に
- Midnight Television
- Shining Sun
- Satisfaction / サティスファクション
- Want you
- Kimi ni Shittochuu / 君に嫉妬中
- Hikare / ひかれ
- Happy Collector / ハッピーコレクター
- Playboy / プレイボーイ
Leap’s thoughts on ENCORE SHOW:
SCANDAL’s ENCORE SHOW is perhaps one of the most unique “Best Of” albums that I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, primarily because of the songs that are on it. Where “Best Of” albums are generally comprised of a band’s or artist’s most popular hits and singles, ENCORE SHOW features anything but. That is to say, this album is has arguably some of the least known tracks by the band, by virtue of it essentially being a compilation of all the B-sides from all of SCANDAL’s singles leading up to this release. Songs that, unlike a single’s A-side that almost always find a home in a subsequent full album release, don’t end up seeing the light of the day outside of them being performed live during an album launch tour.
While one might think that this kind of album would definitely appeal more so towards long-time listeners of the band, there is quite a bit of charm to ENCORE SHOW in being able to showcase to potential new fans the many facets to their sound apart from the songs that are otherwise more readily available to the public. In truth, a lot of my favorite songs from SCANDAL are on this album; chief among them being the very fun and easy-going “FUTURE”, “Hoshi no Furu Yoru ni” which goes hard like no one’s business, and “Emotion” which is in my opinion to this one of SCANDAL’s best-written songs by a mile. Definitely an album I’d recommend in a heartbeat.
As I thought about and began this month’s review, I really started to understand and appreciate the concept of ‘best albums’. While I have had my issues with them in the past, there’s no denying that they serve multiple, profound purposes. Other than pleasing long time fans and making a quick buck, these compilations do a GREAT job showcasing the artist’s overall style/vibe and is even an ideal starting point for those who have been interested in listening to said artist’s stuff. Because all of their, well, best songs are in one single album, it’s super convenient and allows newcomers to take a glimpse at what this artist is about, their history and why so many people like them. And while they have, sort of, now been overshadowed by the user-oriented artist playlists on various music streaming platforms (i.e. Apple Music’s “Essentials” and Spotify’s “This Is” playlists), best albums still hold some significance and value, as they were curated by the artists/producers themselves. That’s gotta mean something, right?
And as I listened to SCANDAL’s second best album, ENCORE SHOW, I experienced exactly what I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Even though I did review a SCANDAL album a few months ago, it’s been a while since I last listened to them, plus I tend to have the memory of an elephant so I’ve kinda forgotten how they sound specifically. But thanks to ENCORE SHOW, an album full of the band’s B-sides from some of their singles, it gave me a refresher and made me realize new things/observations about their music. One thing that popped into my mind is that I don’t think I’ve heard a lot of this particular style of rock music, at least within my time as a Japanese music fan. Maybe it’s because I listen to more… modern Japanese rock artists like SHISHAMO and BRADIO or maybe it’s because I don’t listen to enough J-rock bands. But I personally found SCANDAL’s overall sound to be unique in the grand scheme of things and it was interesting to realize that.
They have a real early/mid 2000s pop rock style that’s super upbeat, lively and really fun to listen to. Like, you can tell that the way they play and perform their music has an ‘old school’ feeling to it, reminiscent of various early Western rock bands you’d hear in the United States and Great Britain. The fast pace, prevalent and almost metal-like guitar riffs, the deep vocals from Haruna; I’m terrible at describing things but SCANDAL’s music has a very ‘classic’ energy and even has a lot of adolescent/rebellious tones. Heck, there’s even a song, “Want you”, that has some familiar guitar riffs and even a line that goes, ‘Can’t get no satisfaction’ which is most likely a reference to that famous Rolling Stones song. And given that one of Mami’s musical influences are the Rolling Stones… it’s cool to subtly see the artists and styles that inspired SCANDAL’s work.
On the topic of the youthful and rebellious tones throughout this album, it makes sense since many of these songs were composed in the late 2000s, while the members of SCANDAL were young teenagers and still in high school. There are even some tracks in this album that have an ‘amateur’ feel to them and sound more simple than others, like “S.L. Magic” and “Natsuneiro”. Definitely not saying that because they sound simple, they’re not good; I actually found those kinds of songs to be very interesting, as they’re perfect examples of SCANDAL’s adolescent beginnings as a band. It’s really great to hear how they were when they first started, compared to later in the album where it displays a much more refined and different sound.
And not only was that sense of youthfulness expressed in the music itself but it most certainly is within the lyrics! We get to see a ton of perspectives and stories that deal with love, relationships, life and future aspirations, true emotions, just to name a few. There are so many themes in this album that definitely apply to younger people and I love how they’re expressed in a ton of different ways. Whether it’s about someone being sad while remembering precious summertime memories (“Natsuneiro”), having the strong desire to be loved (“Happy Collector”), or even a song that has a teen questioning the kind of society they live in (“TOKYO”); these are things that I can most definitely see a teenager and/or young adult enjoying and relating to. With aspects such as love and life and what the future holds, these come with completely new thoughts and emotions that many people experience at a young age. And I think SCANDAL does a dang good job displaying those feelings in a detailed and compelling fashion.
There are also some tracks that are more on the mellow/uplifting side of things such as “Want you” conveying a person who has an incredibly strong desire to buy a guitar but can’t afford it, as well as the very positive nature of “Shining Sun” with someone reassuring that their friend is important and mean a lot to them. So we do pretty much get a taste of everything, which is fantastic. (big thanks to thoseguiltyeyes on the SCANDAL HEAVEN forums for the song translations!)
And one interesting thing I found out while doing my research is that every SCANDAL member has written lyrics to some of the songs on this album and according to Reddit user Life_is_an_RPG, they all have their own styles when it comes to storytelling. Tomomi and Mami tend to write thought-provoking songs about relationships and love, Haruna prefers to write about confidence and empowerment, while Rina is more on the happy/positive side of things. And as I looked at the lyrics to these songs, what that Redditor said was true, which made me appreciate the lyricism even more. It’s pretty amazing to see this band take so many different ideas and beautifully convey all of them as a team.
Lastly, the vocals. Similar to what I said with the lyrics, all the members of SCANDAL provided the vocals throughout this album, and for a rock band to have everyone actually sing is really cool. Even though I’m not always sure who’s singing during certain parts, they all sound great and it seems like they have a ton of fun while performing these tracks. And as one would probably notice, Haruna does the lead vocals and has a deeeeeeeeep voice that fits splendidly with SCANDAL’s style of music. I really really really like her vocals; they’re powerful and is something I haven’t really seen from a lot of female Japanese vocalists, and I think she pulls it off extremely well. Especially in songs like “SO EASY” and “CUTE!”, the latter probably being my favorite track off this album.
Like I said earlier in this post, I’m not too knowledgeable about SCANDAL, despite me reviewing one of their albums in the past. However, because of the sheer convenience of best albums/compilations, listening to ENCORE SHOW helped me know them a bit better and made me appreciate them even more. Their specific style of pop rock music was extremely fun to listen to and I love how this album was a great look into their past, as we got to hear songs near their times as high school students. And while I don’t normally look into the lyricism when doing these album reviews (because it’s hard to find English translated lyrics most of the time), being able to actually read the lyrics to their songs and further understand them was really insightful.
Plus, given that this album was full of the B-sides from their early singles, hearing these, what I assume to be, underrated songs was a blast. Many people who have an interest in getting into SCANDAL’s music may overlook these tracks but I would say that they are absolutely worth listening to.
Aaaaand that’s all I have for you today!
This album review was super fun to write and I’m glad Leap, someone who has followed SCANDAL for a long time now, recommended me this collection of songs. Really solid album.
And for those who celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, hope you all had a good one yesterday! That said, we are now winding down to the final month of 2021 and the final review of the year. I believe Leap and I will be talking about our favorite albums from this past year so definitely stay tuned for that! Plus, I’ll be doing my annual J-Song Roundup and maybe a couple other random write-ups so December’s certainly gonna be a fun one.
And as always, go check out Leap’s review for this month! I gave him SHISHAMO BEST by the rock band SHISHAMO, and I truly believe that that album is great starting point for those who have an interest in their stuff. Click here to read it!
Thanks for reading!! 😀