From Scandinavia With Love - For Café Après-Midi
I used to think Hideki Kaji's songs had a more rock feel, in comparison to many songs by current j-pop/Shibuya musicians (i.e., Hi-Posi, Cubismo Grafico, Losfeld, Fantastic Plastic Machine), which have a more obvious pop or upbeat/dance element to their records.
This latest album highlights the calmer side to HK's music. The title is a play on the James Bond film From Russia With Love (perhaps HK intended on giving the album an international-sounding title).
Café Après-Midi is a popular Tokyo hangout, and I can picture Hideki meeting up with his many international collaborators there. This album features work with French producer/Tricatel-owner Bertrand Burgalat, Sweden's Eggstone, Keigo Oyamada (Cornelius), some stars of the Escalator Team (Cubismo Grafico, Yukari Fresh, and Hirohisa Horie), and Hideki's brother, Ash, among many others.
Four songs are newer versions of older tracks (#2, 4, 9, 12). I really do love these new takes, namely My Love, My Milk Part 2 (track #2).
- Co-written with Bertrand Burgalat, Wallpaper + Updike features a perfect, lush string arrangement that is not too over-the-top. It goes well with the keyboards and gentle, acoustic guitar melody, giving the song a general romantic, easy pop sound.
- This is an awesome swaying, jazzy pop song that I felt a connection to immediately. The original version sounds more like a sweet indie pop tune with strange synthesizer sounds and heavier drums. Keeping the original melody, this rendering is a lot more soothing, with great flute sounds and no obvious lyrics, except for 'dah ba dah's. Absolutely lovely.
- Collaborating with Sweden's Eggstone, Hideki Kaji creates a perfect, catchy, international, pop shopping fantasy (perhaps a little bit like Arling & Cameron and the German Popshopping comp, but this is more carefree than kitschy). The 'cho cho cho' lyrics and the birds chirping toward the end are incredibly cute. The lyrics are in English, and they're about shopping with your beloved (holding hands, of course!)
- An acoustic instrumental co-written with Hideki Kaji's brother Ash.
- On the whole, this is my favorite instrumental on the album, especially since it features flutes, twinkling xylophone sounds, casitones, and one of those wooden scratching instruments kids play in elementary school.
- Ramlosa isn't exactly one of the standout tracks on the album. It begins with simple beats from a drum machine. Then, keyboards and xylophone are used to create a tender melody, which is reminiscent of some tunes typically heard on Siesta Reverie releases (Algebra Spaghetti and Simultaneous Ice Cream). After 1:30, vocals enter, but not for very long.
- I don't know why this song is called Angry Men. What an ironic title! This is the cheeriest song I've heard all year! This short track is made up of great 'bah bah bah's and 'do do do's, which I also love hearing in Sunshine Day, Dolly Mixture, and Spearmint songs. The results are delightful. Too bad this one is over in 25 seconds!
- Co-written with Cornelius, Forever Young has a more American western sound to it, including lots of harmonica.
- Teaming again with his brother, Ash, HK uses trumpets to achieve a soft, beautiful, boss nova-influenced pop sound (for fans of Birdie, Ladybug Transistor, Essex Green).
- (What a) Fairday, Today sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a children's cartoon or storybook cassette (including charming whistles). An easy favorite.
- Like #9, this has gorgeous trumpets and horns that are absolutely heart-warming (only 40 seconds!).
- A take on a Cornelius song with more of a jazz-influence sound, which is apparent through the double bass, Hammond B3 organ, and the light brushing on the drums (the latter was performed by Yoshie Hiragakura, Cornelius' drummer).
- One of only five songs on the album that features lyrics. It has a light pop feel to it, but it's not really as strong as some of the earlier tracks.
- This is definitely a song for those DJs who have a soft spot for string instruments (namely cello, violins, and viola).
- This final track begins with the crashing of ocean waves and the fuzzy sounds of somebody trying to find a radio show on a transistor radio. Then HK enters with a lo-fi recording of him quietly singing on top of an acoustic guitar melody (no percussion). I really love how HK integrates the sound of the sea crashing on the beach throughout this song. The poor sound quality creates a more laid-back, spontaneous atmosphere, which is an ideal way to end this album.
Instrumentals: 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14
Favs: 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 15