Hamish Downie’s News Sushi #127: Morsels of News From Japan and Beyond

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Editor Note:It is Friday and that means it is time for the World Famous, soon to be Intergalactic Famous, News Sushi from our very own, Hamish Downie. Hamish brings us a decidedly different slant on Pop Culture as viewed through the lens of a non-native living in Japan.



Thank you (ありがとうございました) Hamish, for your insights.


 
こんにちは!Which means “Hello”!

We’ve been having a heatwave here in Japan, but we have finally had a week of rain with some respite from the 30+ degree days (90 degrees for the Americans). So, it’s been hard to get any motivation to do anything… but, I did manage to take a small holiday recently, so at least I’m not feeling burnt out anymore!
 

via GIPHY


 
You’ll be reading this the day after Tanabata, which is the Japanese star festival where according to a Chinese legend, the two stars Altair and Vega, which are usually separated from each other by the milky way, are able to meet. But, only on a clear night. I’m unable as of writing to tell you if they were able to meet, but the forecast seems to suggest that they won’t be able to. My first year in Japan, Tanabata was pretty special, seeing the colourful lanterns and bamboo with wishes from children hanging on them. It’s not a public holiday, but to me, it’s my favourite Japanese festival. So, in a wish that the celestial lovers can meet this year, here’s Unite from the soundtrack of “Matcha & Vanilla”:
 


 
Speaking of which, this month, we released two new music videos from the soundtrack of the film. The first of which is “Breathe in, Breathe Out” by the Sentinels, which features the artwork of Bec Sestasial (my podcast co-host, and one of the artists featured in the film):
 
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I also made this visualiser for the b-side of “Write”, “Make Me Dance”, which is a fun, The B-52s inspired dance track, created by DJ OzYBoY and The Geminiac. While not strictly NSFW, it’s probably safer to watch this at home:
 


 
Available here: https://blueorbproductions.bandcamp.com/

Deron and I also featured on Lito’s podcast (band member of the Sentinels) to talk about the soundtrack:
 


 
Speaking of Deron, his new music project will be coming out July 31, and I’ve been given an advanced copy of his EP, so I’ll be doing a rundown of my reactions to each of the tracks.
 

via GIPHY


 
As promised, here is part two of my reaction to the new Strays of the World album, CHAOS ALL.

FLYING HIGH

Says Eloy, “I called up a friend of mine, Layloni Ghee, and she joined me on “Flying High”. It’s a huge first for Strays of the World to bring in such a talented collaborator, but definitely not the last. “Flying High” is a bouncy love song that rocks and you can dance to, but also has soul. You gotta hear it to believe it!”

This is a lovely song, one of my favourites on the album. I love the idea of being in love and being creative together. There’s nothing better. Eloy and Layloni’s voices blend so well. If you are interested, please check out Layloni’s music:
 


 
WHAT I WANTED

Says Eloy, “Ready for a funky time? “What I Wanted” is a letter to a lost love, one lost because you gave in to fear, outside pressure, or just self-sabotage and ended it. This is what you wanted, this is something YOU did. Does that make it okay? Maybe, maybe not. It does make for a wonderful song though!”

This has the relaxed early Sunday morning funk of something like Macy Gray’s “Do Something”. A beautiful heartfelt, but relaxed and funky track. I hope Eloy includes the story in the final release, or has spoken word tracks between the songs to explain the story. The reason this song is placed here is that paranoia we sometimes get in a happy relationship after being in so many bad relationships. Do they really love me? Could this be real? And the paranoia picks at the fabric of the relationship and we self-sabotage a good relationship.

That’s the issue with concept albums, understanding the story. The meaning behind Prince’s epic “Love Symbol” album got somewhat lost on critics because he cut some of the spoken word parts in favour of including the thumping, should have been a single, track “I wanna melt with U”. OK, back down from the soapbox, and onto the rest of the album.

I AM NEON

Says Eloy, “It all looks so glamorous from the outside. “I Am Neon” is about celebrating the highs, but understanding all the lows that lead up to it, and then of course, the eventual lows that’ll follow. It all looks easy. It all looks so cool. But is it real?”

With “I Am Neon” Eloy takes us back to rock, and with it, anger. The song is about the feeling of achieving all your dreams, and realizing, as they say, “without love, I am nothing”. I can certainly hear thematic references to the Prince song “Gold”. Again, I do think such a raw song as this is better in the demo, but if you call a song, “I am Neon” it really does need synths, so I understand why Eloy went in the direction he did.

HEAVEN

Says Eloy, “Losing someone is hard, whether it’s a relationship ending or a life reaching its ultimate conclusion. “Heaven” is a beautiful song paying tribute to the loss, while simultaneously shouting to the heavens for their obviously wrong choice.”

A beautiful, psychedelic song about loss.

WRONG NUMBER

Says Eloy, “ Have you ever been so alone that you’d reach out to anyone, boy or girl, friend or stranger? “Wrong Number” is about an experience like that, where you just need connection to see value in your life, and without it you might not be able to go on. Does the ending feel hopeful to you?

Eloy continues on in the psychedelic vein of “Heaven”. It has been described as more of an experience than a song, which is a good analogy. It reminds me of how Paul Mac closed out his first album with a similar ethereal track, “Stay”.

CHAOS ALL

Says Eloy, “The album ends with an epic rocker. “Chaos All” is a realization that the world will not do anything for you. You must create your own triumph over the darkness, over the chaos that exists. It’s “Chaos All” but you will make it through.”

It’s hard to escape Eloy’s Prince influence, and I think that’s apparent with this album closer, “Chaos All”. An uplighting Rock Anthem with an epic guitar solo and a wailing vocal? Check. “Around the World in a Day” psychedelia mixed with the ethereal synths of “Art Official Age”? Double Check. Reference to the Prince lyric, “the only love is the love we make”? Check, Check, Check. Eloy has been a great student, and yet, I would say that this mix of references with his own artistry has made something both unique and great.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Eloy promised that the second half of the album was better than the first, and he certainly delivered on that promise. The psychedelia of the second half of the album reminds me a bit of my favourite Meshell Ndegeocello album “Comfort Woman” (although she mixed Reggae with Psychedelia). I love this direction that Eloy is taking, and I can’t wait for the next release and evolution of Eloy as an artist!

As a concept album, I do wonder how listeners will get the full experience without the accompanying story. In the old days there would be a physical release with linear notes that would create that experience, but in this day and age, I do wonder what a listener who hasn’t gotten the full Chaos Experience will think.

I also wonder if Eloy is reacting to the feedback from the first album from the fans of his “Prince’s Friend” youtube channel. I know many people were expecting more funk, and less rock. And in this release, he’s delivered a very cool, easy-going funk mixed with rock and psychedelia.

STANDOUT TRACKS: One more for Obscurity, Flying High, What I Wanted, Heaven, Wrong Number, Chaos All

Keep up with Eloy here: https://straysoftheworldmusic.com/

I’m looking forward to the Album being released to everyone and hear what you all think.

Online Album Listening Party scheduled for the 9th:
 


 
So, until next week, stay safe. Peace and Be Wild (for any Prince fans reading).

HOT LINK OF THE WEEK
 


 

「またきんようびね!」


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