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Friday, March 30, 2007

Make On The Holiday

There's some decent pictures up on the internet of Halcali's recent appearance on Music On TV's Make On The Holiday. In keeping with the usual Just The Right Side Of Bland content that shows of this type generally serve up, Halcali discuss their top 3 places to visit over spring. So in place of any concrete third album/new single/any remotely interesting information knocking about, here they are!

#1 Go to all the famous ramen shops that appear in the Tougenkyo video! (Only feasible if you live in, or can get to Osaka)

#2 Go to Meguro River in Tokyo for a spot of hanami. Halcali go every year! (hanami is a Japanese custom of going to a park with friends when the cherry blossom trees come out in April. Although you have to be able to get to Meguro to do this in Meguro, you could feasibly do hanami anywhere in the world where cherry blossoms bloom.)

#3 Go to Tokyo Tower. If you're in Tokyo. I personally wouldn't recommend that though. I found it to be a bit of an eyesore.

Elsewhere they all get up and practice my least favourite bit of the otherwise quite good Tougenkyo video- AIR GUITAR. Check out the link above for the pictures.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Halcali in the Japan Times

If ever there was a band crying out for more exposure in the English language press it's Halcali. Which is exactly why Daniel Robson could do with an extra few pats on the back for his efforts.

Here's the first published results of his interview, from the Japan Times (March 23rd). I believe that a fuller version of this will be published in Neo Magazine on the 29th of March, and "probably one or two British websites over the next few months running up to the album". Let's keep a lookout.

The Japan Times article does it's job pretty well- i.e it serves as a quick introduction to the band, hopefully getting a few people interested during the run-up to the release of the new album.
It was a slightly frustrating read in some respects as well though, as potentially hot topics (the reason behind the label switch, and Halcali's thoughts about chart placements in particular) are only glanced through.
Again though, it's only meant to be an introduction, and naturally isn't the place to go into such things. Although Halcali seem to try to dismiss the question somewhat, I don't believe for a second that they don't know why it happened. That's a topic for another time maybe.

There's still things to savour for the long(er) term fan though. One thing I've always liked about Halcali is that there is absolutely zero pretence. Where as a lot of other bands of this type who don't write their own material try to sweep that fact under the carpet, the girls have never been less than open about it, often humbly acknowledging their debt to their producers and writers.
At the same time though, I think they do have a bigger input in what goes on than a lot of others in their position, and with a few lyrics credits under their belt, a bit of acknowledgement of those facts could easily be forgiven. Surrounded by such talent, and with some artist freedom to contribute, they're certainly in a better position than most. If only the pop charts would reflect that.

Anyway, go take a look.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More FPM

In July last year (got to love the hopeless optimism of posts titled things like "Album three before Christmas?") I wrote something about Tomoyuki Tanaka (Fantastic Plastic Machine) posting in his blog about a much welcomed return to Halcali's studio for their next album. Now he's posted about it again, this time with a couple of pictures taken in his studio that look good enough to go in the album sleeve itself, if not the back cover. He mentions that, although he isn't really able to talk about it "yet", they worked on a lot of material involving the girls rapping. Sounds good to me. I won't be too sad if there are no Ongaku style 6 minute guitar ballads on the next album anyway.

Could "a lot of material" mean he put together more than one song? At any rate, Otsukare Summer and Wakakusa Dance were highlights of their respective albums, and it's great to see Halcali still have a lot of great talent by their side. I can feel Album Three shaping up to be something special.

Saying that he's "known them since they were in junior high and high school" in one sentence, then "and when they're over 20, we're going to drink together!" in the next is probably something that is going to give their mothers a bit of cause to frown though.

What we need now is a release date and a title.

Thanks again to Patrick. Seriously, go read Chipple!

P.S Something just occured to me- could they have been working on the mystery New Single Yukari mentioned in the recent B-Pass interview?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Reviews (8) Tougenkyo/Lights, Camera. Action!

About a month ago I wrote a fairly long winded post that I just couldn't bring myself to press the post button on. At the time (I wrote it just after LOOK), I was struggling through a phase that felt somewhat akin to that drowning man clutching at a straw- the blog was full of phrases like "well, this single doesn't have much to offer, but hey at least the b-side is good!" and "let's wait for the third album, I'm sure that will redeem a lot of these recent mis-steps!"

I ended the piece with "I'll just be happy with a new Halcali single that I don't have to make an effort to like".

It was probably just a bit too emotional for a blog that tries to stay somewhere on the information/analysis end of things, which is why I didn't post it in the end. I think that last line summed it up nicely though, and brings us onto this new single.

Yesterday, I played this new song Tougenkyo to a friend, one who was particularly non-plussed about LOOK. I had originally planned on asking her what she thought, but from her smile I guessed she liked it. I asked her anyway.

"I like it a lot", she said, "it's fun".

"You know what", I thought, "it is".

There you go. It's what both we and Halcali need badly right now. It seems almost too simple to bother putting down in words, but for it's faults (more on which in a second) Tougenkyo is a fun song that arguably fits more seamlessly into Halcali's back catalogue than the dreary anime ties ins that have been Halcali's stock and trade over the past year. That was part of the original draw for me- the songs were exciting, interesting, intensely cool, and unconventional by modern chart pop standards yes, but above all that was their ability to just put a smile on my face.

Tougenkyo is not typical Halcali in the sense that it incorperates a live band, and an untraditionally big guitar riff into the mix. But even the guitar riffs have an easy, looping simplicity in their melodies that probably wouldn't have sounded too out of place on Ongaku No Susume. Then there's that great moment where the song suddenly slows down, spinning 180 degrees on a dime, then just as quickly changes again, pulling a rap (appropriately full of more traditional Halcali style studio manipulation) out of nowhere. It's one of those great 'stop what you're doing and pay attention' moments that for me personally were missing from Tip Taps Tip and LOOK.

Naturally, it's no masterpiece. Although the basic guitar riff component of the song has grown on me a lot over the past few days, I still can't help but feel like producers Honesty just ripped it straight off Rock Riffs Volume One- it still sounds a little stock to me. And I still have this nagging feeling like I've actually heard it before somewhere, but that also just compounds my thoughts that it just sounds fairly generic.

I'll always take this over the last two singles though, and I'd happily include it alongside Twinkle Star and a few of Nakamura's choicer b-side cuts if I were ever to make a post-For Life Halcali compilation for somebody. At the very least, it's the first Halcali main event in a long time that you could conceivably dance to.

So the single claims to be a double-a side. The only thing that's really keeping Lights, Camera. Action! (that's comma> full stop> exclamation mark by the way) in that category for me is that fact that an edited version of it was featured on Getsumen (which is also the version featured here- so I'm not sure what the 'rap version' mentioned on the official site alluded to). Apart from that, what's keeping it alongside Tougenkyo apart from the label on the front cover? No PV means no airplay.

As it is, it's a decent song in it's own way, sitting somewhere in the same average ballpark as TTT and LOOK. I defiantly like it, although for a Cubismo Grafico song it's weak- he's a talented guy capable of much better. Every time I listen to it I can't help but feel that the first verse has a build up that suggests a chorus that should be much better and catchier than it actually ends up being.

On the Halcali Anime Song Chart I'd defiantly have
it at number one anyway. Something like this perhaps:

#1 Lights, Camera. Action! #2 Tip Taps Tip #3 LOOK

Is there anyone out there who prefers L,C.A! to Tougenkyo?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Oricon, and other news

Now for some bad, if unfortunately predictable, news- Tougenkyo/LCA! failed to make the top 50 on Oricon. I got this information from the notoriously troll filled 2ch BBS, but it seems to be genuine.

To be honest, I suppose part of me was just expecting it, so when the news came it wasn't particularly shocking. Twinkle Star was a different story, of course. When that failed to even break the top 100 I was scared that Halcali would be dropped then vanish soon after. However, with only one single coming anywhere near to being a chart success since the label switch (Tip Taps Tip), it seems like for whatever reason Sony didn't have chart dominance in mind when they signed them. As long as they keep filling in the gap between the end of the commercials and the start of the anime though! Guys, you're doing a great job at getting the most out of the wild potential that arguably one of the most innovative and interesting bands in j-pop had when they came to you.

Anyway, we don't need reminding of this I suppose, but their debut single Tandem hit the high end of the 20's when it was released.

That said, without paying Oricon to let me look at the chart, I don't know it's exact placing. Plus, there's always the chance that it could creep into the top 50 in it's second week like LOOK did.

Elsewhere, here's a few things to brighten the mood. First, an anonymous poster (leave a name!) made these great Halcali desktop wallpapers, just as I was getting tired of my Katamari Damacy one too. Take a look:


Second, caffinenicotine posted a link to a scan of H and Y in the Bathing Ape catalogue. It's another great shot, which also made me wonder:

Just how tall is Haruka?

P.S Yukari's post about the new single and their gig at McDonalds Real-Eyes 802 Live Fire (?!) mentioned that, like the acoustic show where they performed Giri Chocolate, Yosuke@Home joined them on stage again. According to Y, the show wasn't acoustic, making me wonder exactly what Yosuke does on stage, and why he's holding an acoustic guitar in the photo on the blog.

Does this make Yosuke a live regular now? Along with DJ Non, is he now officially the second Fifth Beatle?

P.P.S It reached number 87. (Thanks to amj) Which translates to 1,127 copies sold.

Any cause for alarm here? Let's look at the facts for a second- they've had one respectable chart placement in two years.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

B-Pass and Graduation

This month's B-Pass features a one page Halcali interview, where they naturally discuss this weeks (yes, this week!) new release.
The piece contains a bit of concrete information regarding upcoming activities. When asked what will they be getting up to this spring, Yukari says:

We'll be recording, making a new album and a new single.

If the album scheduled to come out spring/summer this year, that might mean the new single Yukari mentioned might get released before then. Possibly around May? This is all guesswork of course, but it leads you to think that, assuming the album is 12 tracks long, and assuming that all the post Ongaku singles will be included, that means we could be familiar with roughly half the album (Twinkle Star, Tip Taps Tip, LOOK, Tougenkyo, Lights, Camera, Action!, and Mystery New Single) before we've even put it on.

Considering not only the amount of old material that the new album would contain, but also the disparity of styles within those songs themselves, the prospect of it is starting to worry me ever so slightly.

Again, this is all speculation, but another single coming along just prior to the albums release seems a certainty at least.

Tougenkyo/LCA! aside, the main topic of conversation was Haruka's graduation, which she also wrote about on their new look blog. I have to admit, I had totally forgotten that she was still in school. With Yukari graduating last year, I wonder if they're still in further education? Do pop stars go to a special pop star school?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Round Up

1. Look at the new picture on the official site. GO ON.

2. A (possibly) interesting piece of information was buried in a recent Sony mailout. Lights, Camera, Action! is now available for Chaku Uta download to your mobile phone (Japan only, sadly). Nothing too out of the ordinary there, except that it's available as a 'Minna version' (presumably the version from the anime) and a 'RAP version'. Is it possible what we got on the anime won't be what makes it to CD? 'RAP version' does imply like it might be substantially different to the original. Don't forget too, that the press release originally described L,C,A! as a 'house track', which the song on the anime certainly isn't. (Thanks to sora kara for posting a reminder!)

3. A bit of live information. First, Halcali are playing another of those limited to 300 people (which equals 150 tickets) radio station (Osaka's FM802) jump through hoops to get in special events. It's sponsored by McDonald's, which seems like a decent reason to boycott it (not like I could get tickets anyway). The gig is on the 14th of this month.

For something a bit more straightforward try Loonie Party Vol.2 on the 27th of May, where they'll be playing alongside Insist, Takacha, Limelight and Loonie (who'll be headlining). No, I haven't heard of any of those bands either.

4. Halcali's blog changed it's design to match the official site's New Single colours.
Yukari writes, mysteriously- "It's not only the design that's changed, but the content too".
Does this mean no more pictures of their nails or what films they've seen recently? It's probably meant to be tongue in check, she starts the blog by listing a dictionary definition of the word 'renewal'.

5. Poster ssslithe recently had the fantastic fortune to interview our girls for UK based publication Neo, set to be released March 29th. This should hopefully lead to the bit of decent exposure that's been an extremely long time in coming. Apart from this and that issue of Chimpanzee, is anyone aware of other instances of Halcali making it to print in the English press?