For most of us in the English-speaking world, our first introduction to J-Rock/Pop is via anime opening and closing songs. Occasionally you might stumble across a few artists other ways (found Shiina Ringo and Gackt via youtube, and Ellegarden and Bump of Chicken thanks to a Pillows tribute album), but I’m not ashamed, nor should we be, to say we found an artist because of anime. (I think FLCL is enough said).
I plan to review my other favorite J-Rock/Pop artists in the future–some being mentioned above–but lately I’ve had nothing short of a rabbid infatuation with Asian Kung-Fu Generation (Ajikan or AFKG for short, depending on which language you speak). My first introduction to Ajikan was with Naruto and Haruka Kanata, the second opening song. I had it in my anime list on my iPod and liked the song, but thought nothing much more of the band. At the time I was more obsessed with the Pillows and Bump of Chicken (well, still am).
After hearing the full version of Haruka Kanata some time later, I fell in love with the style and vocals and needed more Ajikan. (I was also looking for more Orange Range at the time, Ajikan won out–not that I don’t still love Orange Range). Ajikan is a bit well-known in the anime world, currently for After Dark, the seventh opening for Bleach. Ajikan’s music can also be found on other anime, such as Fullmetal Alchemist, the fourth opening Rewrite, the theme song for Tekkon Kinkreet Aru Machi no Gunjou, and of course as mentioned Naruto.
But don’t think anime is all they’re good for.
The albums I’ve been listening to currently (as I like to take a few at a time) are:
Kimi Tsunagi Five M
Feedback File (2006) is probably my favorite of the list. It’s a mix of studio and live–the live portions being what really sold me on this album–though a great album overall. My favorite song on this album and current Ajikan favorite overall has to be Re:Re: I’ve heard it live and studio, and I have to say, get it live, it’s loads better. Sometimes you’ll get artists who sound good studio, but terrible live, this is definitely not the case with Ajikan. Often you’ll find they’re better live.
From Kimi Tsunagi Five M (2003) and Sol-Fa (2004) I’m loving the songs No Name and Yoru no Mukou. But it’s not like those are the only good ones. Ajikan just makes your listening time fun (and the commute by car or train less annoying).
Something else I admire about Ajikan is the fabulous album art. They recently did the Nano-Mugen festival album compilation art (and you can easily tell it was their art). And by the way, if you’re in Japan, you may want to check out the Nano-Mugen festivals in the future if you haven’t been going. This year (July) they had Third Eye Blind, Stereophonics, our boys Ajikan, Ellegarden, Phantom Planet and Art-School to name a few. This year it was held at Yokohama Arena.
So Ajikan comes highly, highly recommended. If I were going to name American bands to compare, I’d have to say Weezer meets Jimmy Eat World meets Stone Temple Pilots with a little bit of A Perfect Circle thrown in. I’d probably put it one or two notches above the Pillows in a “hard rock” scale, so not head banging, but not super light either.
And if anyone knows where you can get some sweet Ajikan shirts, bags, etc., please post a comment and leave a trail. I’m frequenting ebay, but none too successful as of late.
HOW TO LISTEN:
Pandora has one album. iTunes has got none. Amazon and ebay are probably your best bets album-wise, and there are a few of the songs around the net available to preview streaming. Friends from/in Japan are helpful as well, but however you do it, give this band a go. It will be worth it.
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