We celebrate a thing!
Hello and welcome back to a very special J-Music Exchange/Rate review! In case you’re new here and/or don’t know what this is about: this is a segment I do with my good friend/fellow Japanese music fan Leap250 where we pick out an album from our respective libraries, exchange and listen to them, and later give our final thoughts on our own blogs. May 2020 is when we restarted this whole project, and 74 reviews later (!!!), we’re still going strong. And not only do we intend to make these album recommendations to each other, but we hope that you, the reader, are able to find some cool new music or artist to listen to as well.
And as always, we base our choices on a specific theme each month… is what I would normally say. But as you might’ve caught on in the last paragraph, it is now the month of May, which makes it three entire years since we started doing the Exchange/Rate reviews again. I honestly didn’t think we’d make it this far and there were certainly times where I struggled with writing these reviews, but I’m glad both Leap and I stuck with it and made it a consistent thing we both do on our blogs. Not only does it allow me to listen to some sick music but it does genuinely help me become a better writer, even if the improvement is gradual. And I do have to thank Leap for sticking with me throughout this three year span; I’m not the best writer/reviewer but I do have a ton of fun giving him suggestions and listening to whatever he throws at me.
Which leads me to the albums we chose: I came up with the ‘theme’ this month, and as a celebration, I figured we’d play a bit of a game to determine the way we pick out our album choices. I thought it’d be a good idea to let fate decide what albums we’d be listening to, and I’ll allow my notes to explain further:
Hopefully you get the gist of it. While not all of it was by random chance, as we both had the opportunity to pick out some great albums to ‘choose’ from, I think this is a cool and unique way for us to celebrate the special occasion. I also made the stakes fairly high, as we did end up agreeing on doing the ‘risky but fun’ method that I came up with.
That being said, Leap gave me a list of albums to input into the wheel of chance, and here are all of them:
- Kokoro by Harusaruhi
- 2 by 2&
- (en) by RYUTist
- Green Light by Furui Riho
- STORY STORE by phillfeak
- T.B.D. by The Burning Deadwoods
- SOMEDAY IN THE BREAKFAST by Charlotte is Mine
- TICKETS by Takeuchi Anna
- MaruriToRyuga by MaRuRiToRyuga
- formula by CICADA
And as you can probably tell from the title, I landed on and ended up going with SOMEDAY IN THE BREAKFAST by Charlotte is Mine (I will explain how I got it a bit later on). Also, I have to mention: Leap and I decided that it’d be fun if we didn’t tell each other what we both landed on/chose until the day we publish our reviews. So if you’re curious about what list of albums I gave him and what he ended up going with, you’ll have to check out his post!
That being said, let’s jump right in!
Charlotte is Mine is a Tokyo-based solo project run by Furuya Nana. CiM was originally created as a group, consisting of Furuya, guitarist Sugiyama and a drummer (as well as a few other musicians being added and leaving later on). They released their first EP, When the Daybreak Comes, in 2017 as a venue-only release. Charlotte is Mine has also been chosen to support/perform alongside U.S. indie bands that visit Japan, such as Into It, Over It and Petal.
Heavily influenced by similar artists overseas, Charlotte is Mine has been known to express an shoegaze/dream-pop, indie and emo rock sound. Furuya also takes huge inspiration from artists with prominent female voices, such as Julien Baker, Japanese Breakfast and Jay Som.
As of when this post was published, Charlotte is Mine is run solely by Furuya, and they’ve released eleven singles and two albums.
Charlotte is Mine – SOMEDAY IN THE BREAKFAST
- ROAD MOVIE
- Gunjyo / 群青
- FEELS LIKE (FALLING)
- Someday in the Breakfast
- A Bird in a Cage
- in your room
- Fading / Spotless Mind
Leap’s Thoughts on His List
*because we don’t know what each other picked, Leap will be briefly/generally talking about how he came up with his list of ten albums and why he chose them
Talking about my picks for the wheel real quick; in general I tried to go with albums that I either passed up in favor of others for previous Exchange/Rates as well albums that I would’ve liked to put up for review but couldn’t think of a theme to go along with them. I also went with a healthy assortment of styles and genres (at the very least, as best as I could, lol) as well as a mix of bands and artists, some more relatively known than others, that have all yet to make an appearance on the Exchange/Rate. I also snuck in a couple of albums that I consider as like my personal guilty pleasures, or albums that might be an… acquired taste for some but are albums that I otherwise very much like for one reason or another. All in all I do feel this selection that I came up with makes for a very high impact wheel where any wedge it lands on is sure to be quite the experience, and I look forward to seeing any of these getting spun.
Al’s Thoughts on SOMEDAY IN THE BREAKFAST
0.5 ► how we got here
Alright first off, I’d like to briefly explain how I ended up with this album.
As per the rules of the ‘risky method’, both of us had the chance to stick with our first or second result, rather than entirely relying on fate and forcing us to go with whatever we got on our third spin. While Leap might’ve did that, I actually didn’t go towards that route (lol). In short, my first spin landed on phillfeak’s STORY STORE, and for my second and final spin, I got the Charlotte is Mine album we’re talking about right now.
To be completely honest, and I know it kinda takes the fun away from the riskiness… I was really hoping to get this album. Not to knock the other ones Leap gave me but he featured a song of theirs on one of his roundup posts which I enjoyed a lot, so when he presented a CiM album to me, I was gravitating towards that the most. And luck was (legitimately) on my side and I ended up landing on it on my second spin. So just like some contestants on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I just felt it’d be best to walk away with the album I have now.
1 ► a mellow collection of tracks
To continue what I was saying, the song that Leap featured in a post of his was one that’s actually included in this album, it being “A Bird In A Cage”. The acoustic and calming sound within that song made me immediately enjoy it, and even reminded me of a certain American artist that I also admire (I’ll get more into that later). That said, it’s hard not to say that my initial perception of this artist, as well as my expectation from an album of theirs, was heavily based on this one track.
While the ‘acoustic’ part was really only present in one song, I think the ‘calm’ aspect was definitely something that was shared throughout this album. And I believe it’s thanks to Charlotte is Mine’s really nice expression of Western styles and genres like shoegaze, alternative and dream-pop. Despite many of these songs having a common, prevalent rock sound to them, they all still evoked a laid-back vibe to all of them in one way or another. The slow-paced guitar riffs, strumming and/or plucking heard in “ROAD MOVIE” and “Gunjyou” were very low-key and made them easy to listen to. “Someday In The Breakfast” had that familiar pattern within alternative tracks where they switch from quiet to loud sections of the song, making it feel very emotional and gloomy. And even “Fading / Spotless Mind” took on a more shoegaze-y feel, with Furuya’s distorted vocals and dream-like instrumental performances.
On the other hand, songs that felt a lot brighter still had that same effect to me. And I think one reason why is because of the slew of other instruments being added into the mix really gave it it a poppier feel. The way the flutes and trumpets were eased in into “FEELS LIKE (FALLING)” was a great touch and something that continuously got my attention every time I went through this album. And of course, the acoustic-focused “A Bird in a Cage” was executed extremely well (having the flutes imitate the sound of birds chirping was elite) and made it a very pleasant and beautiful song to listen to. In fact, the instrumentals during this song, especially the acoustic guitar finger-picking and percussion, reminded me heavily of something John Mayer (the famed American artist) would come up with.
That last point kinda also proves that Charlotte is Mine does have a good grasp on Western music and the kind of stuff that’s heard around the world. At least for me, I haven’t heard much of the low-key rock heard in “ROAD MOVIE” or the more complex, relaxing acoustic guitar sound in “A Bird in a Cage” within the realm of Japanese music, so her taking on those unconventional styles was enjoyable, and most importantly, done really well.
2 ► the english vocals and gaining a different perspective
As you can probably tell by now from hearing some of these songs, Furuya writes and performs the majority of the lyrics throughout this album in English. It’s more than likely that she does this as a way of showing her appreciation and love for Western music since, as said earlier, she takes massive inspiration from bands and female vocalists from around the United States.
I know I usually praise vocals in these Exchange/Rate reviews, however… this was one of the rare times where I felt very conflicted about what I wanted to say. To keep it somewhat ‘good-natured’, it honestly took me a while to get used to Furuya’s English singing. Even after multiple run-throughs of SOMEDAY IN THE BREAKFAST, I genuinely had trouble trying to hear and decipher what she was saying in a lot of these songs.
In no way am I trying to say that Furuya is bad at singing in English or that she shouldn’t because of what I personally heard; not ALL of her vocal performances felt off and, let’s be real here, willingly writing and singing lyrics in a language that’s not your native tongue is an incredibly difficult and courageous thing to do. But I feel like in my case, when I find out that a Japanese artist decides to sing in English, I am much more inclined to actually listen to what they’re singing about, compared to the majority of Japanese songs. However… it’s difficult to do that when the artist’s English pronunciation isn’t exactly the greatest (on top of that, it didn’t really help that the music in certain songs kinda drowned out her voice at times).
It does feel insensitive for saying all this about Furuya’s efforts and I really do apologize if anything I said felt offensive in any way. But at the same time, I also have the opinion that her English performances are supposed to cater more to the Japanese market than foreign ones. Rather than Charlotte is Mine focusing on bringing in English-speaking fans like myself and Leap, it does seem to lean more towards the opposite (or if anything, would have the potential to be more effective towards the area around her). Not only can it ‘make more sense’ to the JP audience, but an album like this can really help build and share a better image of what lesser-known Western music is like. And given that Furuya is genuinely a fan of that kind of music and expresses it well in SOMEDAY IN THE BREAKFAST, it’s a very good attempt at doing so. I think the Japanese, in general, do a decent job at diversifying the music scene with new styles and genres, especially in recent years, and this would be another good example of that.
This was a complicated one. 😅
On one hand, Charlotte is Mine does a really nice job of displaying their goals of expressing a Western-inspired emo rock/dream-pop sound. Many of the tracks on this album were genuinely nice to listen to, and even made for a good and calming thing to put on in the background while I do work or just chill out. Ranging from full-on feel-good acoustic vibes to a more ethereal and dream-like sound… SOMEDAY IN THE BREAKFAST had a very solid collection of compositions that I’d be willing to put on from time-to-time.
But I’m not gonna sit here and say that listening to this was the greatest experience for me personally, because the vocals really were a glaring aspect of this album. In no way was every line that Furuya sang incomprehensible, but I do have to admit that it took me a number of playthroughs to actually get what she’s saying in these songs (without needing the assistance of the lyrics, which were provided by Apple Music). But again, you might need to look at this in a different perspective, given that it’s more than likely that this kind of album is more geared towards the Japanese audience. However, it’s easy to imagine many English speakers who pick up this album, not particularly enjoying how Furuya sounds and thus not experiencing its full potential.
Heh… well, that’s all I got for you today!
This review was a weird one but nonetheless, there were many great things to like about it. And again, I apologize if I had a bad take regarding Furuya’s vocals! It truly was not meant to be a jab at her (she is very talented, no doubt), but rather a personal observation.
Also, thanks for being here to celebrate the Exchange/Rate anniversary! As I said, it’s been a fun three years so far and hopefully Leap and I can continue this segment for years to come.
Anyways, now that you’re done with this review, go check out Leap’s post for this month! I have no idea what he ended up reviewing from the list I gave him so it’ll be a complete surprise to me as well.
Thanks for reading!! 😀