Cyborgs, Puppies, and Steak: Meet BakuBakuDokin

Tokyo is the definition of sensory overload. The smell of neon lights burning fist sized insects. The touch of a drunk salary man sleeping on you, while you suffer the long journey home on the last train. The taste of the convenience store, because that’s pretty much the only place in Japan that will take your debit card. If you are in need of the sights and sounds BakuBakuDokin (バクバクドキン) is an electronic hip hop duo that provides all that and more; maybe more than you would want.

Yui and Naoko, like most best friends, became close because Yui never brought her own book to Psych class. Their relationship soon expanded past the classroom and they ended up spending every waking second with one another listening to CDs in Yui’s brother’s room, having sleepovers at love hotels, or just people watching from said love hotels. It wasn’t long before Naoko and Yui combined their musical talents and formed BakuBakuDokin. Their first show was at an old folk’s home in Setagaya. Since then, BakuBakuDokin has become a darling of Tokyo’s underground music scene.

A BakuBakuDokin concert is close to a religious experience, if your religion was some sort of cult that worshipped aliens that sort of resemble a mix between puppies and frightening computer generated cyborgs. A song about how fun haircuts are is played in the same set as a song about alien invasions. The beats are consistently funky. High energy dance synths meet chilled rap rhythms. The videos playing on screen call you back to your favorite early 90’s cartoon, but only after they have come back from hell as shells of their former selves. They aren’t afraid to jump into the crowd, point at you, and make you dance by the pure force of their own grotesque cuteness. The only thing you know you are going to get out of a BakuBakuDokin concert is that you never know what you are going to get out of a BakuBakuDokin concert. That chaos however, is extremely polished, like a diamond in a minefield.

Some of BakuBakuDokin’s most notable works are actually collaborations with some of Japan’s biggest names. They have been sources of inspiration for big names in Japanese music production like hip-hop greats “RIP-SLYME” and “Towa-Tei.” As part of their early career they even appeared internationally in the very Japanese video game “Touch My Katamari” as guest vocalists. “I’ve known I wanted to work in music ever since I was a little girl.” It’s no surprise that Yui, who works on the music production side of the group, has had musical aspirations from a young age. Aside from producing for “BakuBakuDokin” she has also recently acted as a producer for the Idol group “Ebisu Private Middle School” (私立恵比寿中学) with the song “Chupacabra” on their new single. “I think we originally attracted fans that were interested in cute and fun songs, but I think lately the crowds we are getting are also becoming very interested in the technical side of our music as well.”

Check out one of their music videos here:

Japan far and wide is known for its outlandish commercials, brightly colored cartoons and sexual eccentricity but few people realize just how much of this is considered subculture against the very conservative mainstream culture of Japan. By the standards of Japanese society these qualities are not often seen or acknowledged in the day in the life of an average salaryman, housewife or student. In fact these subcultural qualities are seen as quite deviant by the mainstream. That’s what make BakuBakuDokin, and other bands like it, hard to swallow for many people in the East Asian country.

However that’s where BakuBakuDokin draws much of their creative strength and inspiration. When the traditional cultures and customs are so strongly held by a people, the counter-culture will have no choice but to become just as strong. Its two sides of the same coin that can’t be avoided, and that is where a huge percentage of great art is born from. Japan is interesting because people of other countries see the Japanese people through the counter culture lenses immediately and have to be taught about the mainstream. There are very few other countries, if any that have to deal with an image like that.

American underground music has become very much the mainstream. If you want to hear the top 20 hits, these days instead of going to the pop station, you find yourself turning into, the now ironically named, alternative stations. When an alternative choice becomes a mainstream choice what does that say for the culture that is consuming said media? Will we eventually be listening to the Taylor Swifts of the world instead of bands like “Passion Pit” to piss off our parents and rebel?

I have found in my experience that Japan also has had similar transformations over the years. Idol music used to be considered music exclusively for a certain subculture who enjoyed obsessing over girls they would never ever in a million years get a chance to date. However those same groups that were once marketed towards a core audience of freaks and weirdoes can only be found performing on stage in your grandmother’s living room. So you have to wonder if bands like BakuBakuDokin will ever be accepted by your grandmother. Surely it’s a strange thought to have now, but in a number of decades you will be the grandparent.

BakuBakuDokin is a band that ranks performance as highly in importance as the music, and it shows. You can tell from their music videos that they aren’t only musicians but artists with a strong sense of what makes Tokyo and the humans that inhabit it unique. As for now they are continuing to be the freaky band you haven’t heard of yet, and I recommend you check them out in their freaky prime before they start getting airtime on the soft rock stations and lose their streetcred, as we all eventually will. If you have a penchant for girls in pajamas and dog masks rapping about how delicious steak is, there isn’t a band better suited for you than BakuBakuDokin; your guides through the beautiful glittering hell that is Tokyo.

More on these babes can be found at their spooky website: http://bakubakudokin.com/

Our guest blawger, Wolfgang is a hella gay senior at UW, currently lost in space and time (a side effect of living in Tokyo). He spends most of his time listening to noises, turning his jeans in cut-offs and looking at his blog and thinking that he should really write something at some point. The sad sad, excuse for a blog can be found at discowolf.svbtle.com. It’s about Japan and feelings.

birthday shoutout: Jermaine Lamarr Cole

it’s January 28th, so you know what that means.

and if you don’t know what that means, it’s rapper J. Cole’s birthday!

i’ve been following J. Cole since he released Friday Night Lights in 2010, so when he dropped 2014 Forest Hills Drive, i was ecstatic (probably an understatement).

and, with good reason. the album grew on me a lot, and i still listen to it pretty religiously, though it’s been out for over a month now.  i’ve gotta hand it to J. Cole, this album is, in my mind, a classic. i’m a sucker for clever wordplay, catchy beats, and Cole-style oversharing, so i guess it’s no surprise i feel this way.

since the album came out, i’ve been trying to write a “review” of sorts. i’ve jotted thoughts on each song, analyzed lyrics, yadda yadda yadda. and i have GIVEN UP. i can’t do it. it’s so hard to review something that you feel like no matter how many times you listen to it, you learn more about it and recognize new things, because whenever you start to review, you feel like you’re shortchanging the artist (i promise this is not just me).

so i’ve decided to “review” the album in a different way that speaks to its strengths: i’ve chosen my favorite* lyrics from each song. and i’m gonna share them. i’m doing this because if you haven’t listened to the album, you will definitely want to after catching this quick peek into the songs.

*my favorite for now, that is

here goes:

1. “Intro” 
“do you wanna be, free / Free from pain, free from scars / Free to sing, free from bars”

2. “January 28th”
“What’s the price for a black man life? / I check the toe tag, not one zero in sight”

3. "Wet Dreamz" 
“I’m thinking how that body look naked when you laying on the bed / Teacher, please don’t make me stand up”

4. "03’ Adolescence”  
“I got food for your thoughts to soothe your soul / If you see my tears fall just let me be /Move along, nothing to see”

5. "A Tale of 2 Citiez"  
“Anybody is a killer, all you gotta do is push ‘em to the limits / Fuck being timid in the Civic politicin’ with the pushers and the pimps”

6. "Fire Squad”
“While silly niggas argue over who gon’ snatch the crown / Look around, my nigga, white people have snatched the sound”

7. "St. Tropez" 
“Lately / It’s been hard for me to smile”

8. "G.O.M.D.“ 
"Why every rich black nigga gotta be famous / Why every broke black nigga gotta be brainless”

9. "No Role Modelz"  
“But then I thought back, back to a better me / Before I was a B-list celebrity / Before I started callin’ bitches "bitches” so heavily / Back when you could get a platinum plaque without no melody"

10. “Hello”  
“Reflection bring regrets don’t it / Rejection makes you defensive / So you protect your pride with your reflexes”

11. “Apparently" 
"Keep up, never sure where the words would take me / Niggas eat em up, and regurgitate me”

12.“Love Yourz" 
"It’s beauty in the struggle, ugliness in the success / Hear my words or listen to my signal of distress”

13. “Note to Self" *** 
“I don’t mind cuz I don’t matter”

*** side note: this is the, as Cole calls it, role credits. so it ends in a long monologue and he references Jonah Hill & Dale Earnhardt Jr. as playing a part in the album, and right after says:  "I’m just fuckin’ playin’, I don’t know either one of those two dudes. I don’t know either one of them niggas, I was in the moment. I just lied, I don’t give a fuck.“ that’s my favorite part of the whole album because he is so damn goofy, even after how awesomely deep and real the other songs were, and it’s just cool to see his personality displayed through talking, not even rapping. <3

hopefully this makes you want to listen to the album, or if you already have, maybe you like it more now. 😉 

happy january 28th! 

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xoxo, gnovs

Baby Artists are Adorable: Alex & Sierra’s “It’s About Us”

I’ve never really been a fan of vocal competition shows, especially in today’s day and age, just because I tend to fall in love with a lot of artists, and if they don’t make to the top of the show, or on the pop charts, they fall off the grid and I never hear from them again.

But that being said, a lot of shows have brought some good artists. Which leads me into topic of the week, some pretty people singing pretty songs.

I was just minding my own business the other day, listening to Andy Grammer, getting ready for his show in February, and while checking out the show, I decided to take a listen to the opener, just to get a feel for them before the show.

And I feel a little grimy, and very white girl right now, but I had a bit of a fling with a folk pop duo. Please try not to cringe tooooo much.

Gang, meet Alex & Sierra.

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They won season three of The X Factor USA last year, and just this year in October released their debut album It’s About Us. And I’ve gotta say, it’s got some good tracks on it.

Let’s just start off with my favorites, because we all know I’m some weird moody, soulful ballad lover.

The first track off the album, Little Do You Know. Sierra has this incredibly beautiful velvet voice that has a pretty limited range, but I still think is very pretty. We’ve seen that I am not particularly prone to having a preference for female artists, because for the most part, little whiny girl voices tend to annoy me, but Sierra’s vocals when she intoned “Little do you know I’m still haunted by the memories/Little do you know/I’m trying to pick myself up piece by piece,” honestly draws me in. In this track, Alex doesn’t come into the song until the chorus, which he sings himself. The two don’t harmonize until the second crack at the chorus, and they fit together nicely (Thank god for that, because they’re dating, so…). But regardless of this point, it’s still a pretty mournful, song. It’s soft, a little sad, not very creative lyrically, but the two sing well together. Harmonizing well is difficult, but I think, just going off this first track that Sierra’s vocal are going to take lead in this vocal duo.

Let’s move on. “Bumper Cars” is probably my favorite track in the entire album, and probably because there’s a lot of simple piano melody throughout, and because the duo start off the track singing together, which highlights more of the chemistry and just well round harmony skills between the two. They know what they’re doing. This is also a sad love song, with a bridge that Alex cries out, “This was supposed to be fun/ This was supposed to be the one,” to which Sierra responds, “Maybe we stayed too long/Maybe we played all wrong.”

Okay, so yes, for the most part, this album is very piano pop, with a lot of love ballads (cue the track “I Love You”) that are unimaginative in lyrics, but very clean and pure in vocals. There are some other great songs on this record though! “Just Kids” is the one track on this album that seems to gain a little bit more of a mainstream pop feel, and I get a hint of LIGHTS or Ellie Goulding or something like that from Sierra. I liked this track because Alex takes some of the lead vocals here and he does some great things with the arrangement. It’s also a little different from the rest of the album because they’re not just expressing love or heartbreak, so I’m glad they experimented there a bit. “Broken Frame,” also a great track, has some more interesting instrumentals, and a little bit more overlay of vocals rather than choppily cutting up verses per person.

The record takes a weird turn when they hash out this country inspired track “Cheating,” which just seemed really strange and a little creepy since the lyrics were literally “Do you ever thinkabout cheating on me?” Honestly, that’s a strange song to write with someone you’re dating. They finally end the entire album on this jazzy, saxophone laden tune, that I like, but seemed very out of place. But they really used their vocals on this track, so good for them for trying something different there on the end.

By the way, you can listen to the whole album here:

Okay, verdict.

I like them. They remind me a lot of James Morrison or Kris Allen and Lenachka in their “Prove it to You” duet on his record Horizons. When they keep it simple with their voices and some piano, I think they do what their voices are good for. They definitely try to attempt every genre possible in this record with hints of indie, folk, pop, country, and jazz, and for some parts it works, and for other parts it doesn’t. Overall though, as a debut album, they did a solid job, and I’m excited to see what kind of future music they’ll create when they mature a little as artists and come into their own.

And hey, at least now I know I’m not going to see a crappy opener.

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Ariana Rivera

“Memrise”: the real Black Friday steal

well, this is it. what we’ve been waiting for. 

Frank Ocean finally dropped new music. *cue tears of joy*

it has been a full TWO YEARS since he released his last song, “Wise Man”, a ballad cut from Django Unchained, in December 2012. his last album, Channel Orange, was released in July 2012 (unless you count unreleased, MISC. in 2013). we Frank Ocean fans have been waiting a long time for this. 

Ocean posted his new single, “Memrise”, to his tumblr on Black Friday (November 28th, 2014). in the blog post, he provided lyrics with the track.

listen here:

lyrics here:

“I memorized the wayward expressions

Never look down 

Never let you see me down 

I memorized the way no directions

Can I come over now 

I’d like to stay a little while 

I memorized your body exposed 

I could fuck you all night long 

From a memory alone

I never forget a face 

Don’t go plastic on me 

Nothing’s set in stone 

You’re not dipped in gold

Dipped in gold

You can’t breathe if you’re dipped in gold

You are not on paper 

You are not a copy 

You’re so, you’re so..so thick, so thick”

the ballad flows between three different portions, the first being the melody build-up accompanied by Ocean’s soft and indistinct layered voice, the second being Ocean speaking over a scaled-down version of the beat, and finally, the third portion being Ocean’s lovely and authentic singing that we have so missed.

the song, only 2 minutes long, seems like a tease, as if there’s more to “Memrise” that he’s not giving us yet. if that’s the case, i’m just anxious to see what else he’s been hiding, and to hear that album he’s been promising to drop… 

nonetheless, keep your eye out for a follow up to “Memrise”, i have a feeling it’ll be great.

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-gnovs

Album Review: “Alone For The First Time” by Ryan Hemsworth

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HAPPY RYAN HEMSWORTH WEEK!

the canadian prince of future vibes and dope remixes dropped a new album November 4th named Alone For The First Time. the album is fairly short, just 7 songs totaling 27 minutes. 

TRACKLIST:

01 “Hurt Me”

02 “Walk Me Home” (Feat. Lontalius)

03 “Snow In Newark” (Feat. Dawn Golden)

04 “Blemish”

05 “Too Long Here” (Feat. Alex G)

06 “Surrounded” (Feat. Kotomi & DOSS)

07 “By Myself” (Feat. the GTW & Little Cloud)

the album is a super chill collection of songs that have great beats accompanied by really pretty and sometimes sad lyrics, a perfect follow up to last years album, Guilt Trips (which you should also check out if you haven’t). Hemsworth told vogue “Maybe it’s[Alone For The First Time] a reaction to all the party music out there now, but I just needed to do something a little quieter — every song I do is in a minor key.” this makes the album really flow together- i think it sounds best just played in order. Check out the stream below:

the first track, “Hurt Me”, is minimalistic with a bubbly electronic beat and simple lyrics (the only words are “don’t you hurt me”). how much more representative of Ryan Hemsworth’s style could that be…

“Walk Me Home” is that classic internal battle between wanting to be with someone but knowing they’re not good for ya. put those lyrics over Hemsworth’s spin on what sounds like a ballerina music box and it’s an amazing song; you’ll find yourself torn between dancing and curling up in a ball of sad- the best kind of sad.

“Snow in Newark” was the album’s first single, released September 22nd, 2014. this track is ESSENTIAL. this song is a sincere and relatable piece, you can’t help but wanna give ryan a big ol’ hug because he’s just so adorably glum. “I call my music happysad, one word, no spaces,” Ryan Hemsworth says, and that’s exactly what this is. 

“Blemish” is an instrumental electronic track, which is very different than the typical, crazy instrumentals that start to sound repetitive and almost aggressive, because Hemsworth’s mellow and unique style is so vibe-able. 

“Too Long Here” opens up with the lyric “Who ever thought of a big train / Going right in your mouth”. it’s a lonely song about feeling lost, but in a really common and not necessarily sad way. i think this is my favorite song on the album because the meaning isn’t really clear, so everyone’s gonna interpret it differently. and Alex G’s voice is dope, so that always helps.

“Surrounded” is great. the voices, one computerized-sounding, one soft and very classic, create a cool contrast with the electronic beat and bass. you really notice Hemsworth’s DJ skills on this track- they’re impossible to ignore.

finally, the last hoorah, “By Myself”.  this is such an amazing song, and i love the way Hemsworth, GTW & Little Cloud worked together, because the song seems accessible. you can relate to the lyrics and the beat, and you can be alone but with someone else, as the song is saying. it’s a cool way to end the album because when it finishes, it winds down to nothing and you do almost feel by yourself. 

overall, the album was a really successful project, and i think Ryan Hemsworth is just on the come up. he’s been touring around the world, doing big festival appearances and college fling concerts, but he’s had time to make this album and be really involved with his fans. he replies to a majority of the tweets he receives, and answers all of his tumblr asks, which reveals how humble and, honestly, timid he is. when a fan complimented his performance at the University of British Columbia, he replied “i felt funny at ubc for some reason.. i dunno if i’m good at like big college spring fling parties? or just 2 self conscious lol.” it’s essentially impossible to dislike Ryan Hemsworth as a person, which makes his music that much more attractive. 

Hemsworth detailed his reasoning for making this album shy away from the typical electronic club music on his tumblr: “i think just a lot of the places i found myself in the past year (big weird EDM festivals, etc) kind of pushed me to make something quieter / separate from that world. and also just the combo of never being home but meeting cute nice people on the road lots added up to a newfound appreciation of a lot of music i’d forgotten about.”

basically, you should totally check out his new album. and his instagram, which is where i pulled this picture from:

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gnovs