Ending off the year in a great way!
Hello and welcome back to yet another J-Music Exchange/Rate post! In case this is your first time checking one of these out, this is a segment I do with my good friend/fellow Japanese music fan Leap250 where we pick an album from our libraries, exchange and listen to them, and later give a review on our respective blogs. This is something that’s been going on for around three years now, and while this does give us the opportunity to expand our horizons/tastes when it comes to Japanese music, we also hope it helps you discover some new, sick stuff.
And this one in particular is a special one. As 2022 winds down, December gives us the chance to reminisce and think about all the great music we’ve heard throughout this past year. There was a TON of stuff I listened to in 2022, whether it was new releases or past songs I only found out about within the year. And while I’ll be talking more about my favorites in a later post, we think it’s fitting for this month’s theme to be our favorite albums of 2022. Records that were released in the past 12 months that we thought were some of the best (in our opinions).
There were a handful of choices that both of us could’ve chosen but we ultimately (and quite easily, may I add) came to these two: Leap went ahead and gave me indie rock band Chilli Beans’ self-titled album, while I tossed over CUE-SAI by the StardustPro idol unit BATTEN GIRLS.
Let’s jump right in!
Chilli Beans. (チリビーンズ) is a three-piece rock band featuring the trio of Moto (Vo.), Maika (Ba./Vo.) and Lily (Gt./Vo.). The band was formed back in 2019 when the members met in music school, and they made their indie debut with the release of their first EP, Dancing Alone. Described as a ‘neo-garage’ band, Chilli Beans strives to combine rock with modern-sounding melodies, all while also expressing their excellent abilities at songwriting, singing and performing from each member.
One of the songs from their debut EP, “lemonade”, became a massive hit in August 2021, when it reached the #1 daily spot on Spotify’s ‘Viral 50 – Japan’ playlist. Since then, they’ve released a handful of new songs; some even being featured in advertisements and TV dramas, such as the track “My Boy” in the show Motokare←Retry. As of this post’s publication date, Chilli Beans has released a studio album, three singles and two EPs. The group has also performed at a number of live events such as their own concerts, as well as at popular music festivals like SUMMER SONIC 2022 and ROCK IN JAPAN 2022.
Chilli Beans. – Chilli Beans.
- It’s ME
- This Way
- Andron / アンドロン
- My Boy / マイボーイ
- HAPPY END
- blue berry
- Shekirara / シェキララ
- call my name
Leap’s Thoughts on Chilli Beans.
I didn’t really realize just how much (like, play count wise) I ended up listening to this album ever since it dropped back in July up until my #SpotifyWrapped results came in. That said, I do remember having it on loop for a solid week, so I wasn’t *too* surprised (XD) Of course, me finding out about and subsequently falling hard for Chilli Beans. earlier this year also most definitely played a factor. Suffice it to say, this self-titled debut first album of theirs came just at the right time for me who was already just about yearning for more after running their discography (of a mere two EPs at the time) to the ground in the months leading up to its release. Let that be a testament to both my fascination towards the band’s relatively unique sound as well as how much this album in particular was able to live up to it. You could say, in that sense, the biggest worry one could have about them coming up with a lengthier release like this is if they can maintain the same kind of Garage-y Indie Rock energy that they had in their earlier songs. I personally (and as objectively as I can, lol) would say that Chilli Beans. nailed it and then some.
If I had to point to concrete reasons as to why, I do believe I can narrow it down to two key things that the band did perfectly right. One is that they never strayed away from what got them to the dance so to speak, and that’s continue to rely on one if not the band’s strongest aspect when it comes to their sound, which is their collective vocal work. Gang vocals are already pretty uncommon as it is, not just for Girls Rock but even for Japanese music as a whole, but to then utilize it the way that Chilli Beans. does. The way they’re able to play with melodies and give songs a sense of texture when they sing in chorus, like in “Tremolo” or “HAPPY END”, really shows you how special they are. More so even when it’s with tracks with relatively simpler compositions like “School” or “L.I.B.” where their vocals end up just taking over completely.
The other thing that I can point to (though this is something that’s closer to home on my part) is the way they chose to sequence their songs. Every and all major A-side tracks and songs from previous releases found in the album are spread out, with the album originals seamlessly spliced in between them. I absolutely love it when an album does that as it really just evens out the listening experience from the first track to the last, thus (in my opinion) making it all the more enjoyable to play in its entirety.
AND it ends on acoustic song. Like, c’mon.
Al’s Thoughts on Chilli Beans.
1 ► banger after banger after banger (seriously)
Similar to a handful of the albums you see me review in this segment, this is kinda the first time I’m fully experiencing the music of Chilli Beans. I did see Leap feature them a few times in his monthly roundup posts and interestingly enough, I had a bit of a different perception of this band than I usually do with Leap’s recommendations. I’ll get to what I mean by that a little later on, but for now, let’s just talk about the music.
Like the title of this section implies, this album truly has some fantastic songs in it. And what I noticed the most during my multiple playthroughs of the album is that there wasn’t really a time where it felt ‘dull’ or ‘lacking’. Each track was consistently great in quality, fun to listen to and had enough variety between them to be memorable in their own right. Those are some pretty big praises to give to a music album, I know, but I honestly think Chilli Beans nails it here with their first full-length studio release. That said, from what I can gather, I think I can break down why I would say those nice things about this album in three parts: one, its overall catchiness; two, the band’s approach/mindset towards making music; and three, their intriguing vocal performances.
1.1 ► its catchiness
Obviously when songs go viral, a big reason why is because of how catchy they are. By creating a melody that’s infectious or singing a chorus that can get stuck in people’s heads for the rest of the day, it’s bound to be something that blows up in popularity. And while the same certainly applies to Chilli Beans, specifically with their more well-known songs like “lemonade” and “Andron”, I truly believe that every song in this album, from top to bottom, has some extremely catchy parts in each of them. Maybe I’m the only one who experienced this but I couldn’t help but notice that observation, and it really is impressive how they managed to invoke that type of impression upon me.
While I won’t name every example of what I’m talking about, I’ll mention a few notable ones. In “This Way”, hearing the repeated line of ‘this way’ in a much deeper tone and how it meshed well with the rest of the vocals, as well as the sweet guitar riff, was a nice touch. Same could be said about “L.I.B” with it being a bit easier to remember, given that they sing the line, ‘life is business’, multiple times in the chorus. The more intricate examples can be heard in tracks like “My Boy” with Moto’s happier-sounding vocals, and when combined with the chorus’ upbeat melody, it’s hard not to follow along while being in a very pleasant mood. And while all those are mostly related to the vocals, there have been some instances where the instruments really shine and certain parts have gotten stuck in my head. Ever since I first listened to this album, I’ve constantly found myself whistling the opening sequences of songs like “It’s ME” and “Tremolo”.
There are two things that I like about Chilli Beans’ theme of catchiness. For one, every instance of this ‘catchiness’ I keep talking about were all pretty different. Each of them had their own sense of individuality and uniqueness, which definitely makes them all the more memorable. And two, I noticed that Chilli Beans never really wasted time to introduce those catchy elements in their songs. A lot of them, like I mentioned with tracks such as “Tremolo”, hit you with an amusing thing to listen to at the very start of the song, or at the very least, near the beginning. One good example is in “lemonade”, as its super fun and addictive chorus comes at only a little over thirty seconds into the entire track! I’m not sure if this was entirely coincidental, given that it is present in a good handful of their songs, but I thought that was a nice touch regardless. And maybe it’s somewhat needed, with how much our attention spans have deteriorated due to the changes in the way we take in media nowadays (lol).
1.2 ► the band’s approach towards making music
In an online feature Chilli Beans had with Ongaku Natalie, the group talked about some of their musical roots/interests and how that influences the music they create as a band. A few notable things I read from the interview is that despite each member having different tastes in music, it allows for them to discover mutual interests in artists/genres, as well as mix various styles with their overall theme of rock pop. For instance, with “Andron” (or “the peanuts song”, as I like to call it); while one can perceive it as a pretty fun-sounding song, it is actually quite dark in its atmosphere. But despite the fact, the band still wanted to maintain a poppy tone in the track, which I would say they pulled off pretty well (additionally, they sort of said that they were influenced by the currently popular Western singer-songwriter Dua Lipa, who does something similar with her own music/lyrics).
While the same could be said about any other artist that I’ve talked about in this Exchange/Rate segment, actually reading about Chilli Beans and their overall perspective towards music makes me appreciate them even more. I think it also perfectly explains why their music is exceptionally good. Just something about their attitude and strong insistence of expressing what they want to express in their music; when listening to their stuff, it shows how much they’re passionate about this whole journey as a band.
1.3 ► the impressive vocals
Another cool thing that I noticed about this group, and I’ve told Leap this in the past, is that Chilli Beans does not follow the usual girls rock band formula of only having one vocalist. All three members actually provide vocals throughout the entire album, which I thought was a great breath of fresh air.
Obviously with Moto being the frontwoman and the only member who doesn’t play an instrument, she’s the main vocalist in the band. And she truly is an great singer. I love Moto’s voice, as she has a really cool demeanor, yet can take it up a higher pitch when needed. There are certainly a lot of good examples but one of my favorite Moto performances is in the track “HAPPY END”. The way she just bursts with a rush of energy in the chorus, you can definitely feel the passion in her voice and it really does feel like you’re soaring in the sky (like the lyrics suggest).
However, like I said, the other two members of the band also sing, and they’re also fantastic to listen to. As Leap alluded to in one of his roundup posts: compared to Moto, Maika’s vocals sound more technical, while Lily has a lighter tone. And hearing their solo/backing lines or the harmonization between all three of them, I think it just adds another reason why Chilli Beans is so intriguing as a band. While I’m certainly not knocking other girl rock bands that don’t feature multiple vocalists, I personally haven’t seen many groups do such a thing, with the exception of bands like SCANDAL, so it is a nice thing to experience.
Going back to what I said in the beginning, I actually was kinda put off by this band, specifically because of their name (I know, I know, it’s dumb lol). Not to say that there’s anything bad about the name ‘Chilli Beans’, but it certainly is a bit strange, especially coming from a Japanese band of all things. However, as I was realizing how good their music is, I also read that their name was apparently inspired by the American rock group Red Hot Chili Peppers. Which, not gonna lie, made it a lot easier to ‘digest’ (unintentional food-related pun). Being someone who likes RHCP somewhat (I grew up listening to them a bit, songs like “Can’t Stop” and “Dani California” are absolute fire, and “Under the Bridge” was one of the first RHCP tracks I ever listened to!), I then understood the meaning/intention behind the naming of Chilli Beans.
That said, just like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chilli Beans also makes some sick bangers of their own. There was a lot to like about this album, and it really is an impressive display of what this band is about and is able to do. I loved all of the tracks, as they were super catchy and just had a fantastic sense of variety to them, making the overall listening experience feel satisfying and something you just want to go back to again. Alongside the sometimes vibrant, sometimes easy-going natures of the band’s vocals, Chilli Beans. was a fun album to listen to and I can definitely tell why Leap picked it as his favorite of the year.
Aaaaaand that’s all I got for you today!
With that, we now close off the J-Music Exchange Rate’s 2022 collection of album reviews. Similar to these past few years, it’s felt like a literal rollercoaster but I appreciate all of you who have checked out me and Leap’s posts these past twelve months. I truly do enjoy writing these album reviews, despite me having trouble sometimes and even being super hard on myself with the quality of these posts. But regardless, I wanted to say thank you! I hope you enjoyed reading my write-ups, and I gotta also thank Leap for giving me a whole bunch of fun albums to listen to. They’ve definitely widened my tastes! I’m looking forward to seeing what 2023 holds for this segment 🙂
And now that you’re done reading this post, head on over to Leap’s blog where he reviewed my personal pick for album of the year: CUE-SAI by the idol group BATTEN GIRLS. I love that album and that group, so please go check it out by clicking here!
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you later for my yearly roundup! 😀