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Love Jam [Import Audio CD]
Love Jam
J-pop Review

OK the CD is heinously expensive on Amazon, but I urge you to do whatever it takes to obtain this album. While it takes a lot to cure me of my Mini-Moni fetish, Ai Otsuka's "Pon Pon" (track 7) has risen to the top of my iPod's "most played" list because it's mind-numbingly manic, crazy catchy, and simply one of the most disturbing songs I've ever experienced (that 90% of the lyrics consist of a single word is realy, really, scary).

And the rest of it ain't bad either. This chick has a style. And she's a screamer. And if you've ever seen this fan video, you'll understand how Pon-Pon has become my favorite song.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, July 2010

Reni Sakura CDReni Sakura CD

J-pop Review

She specializes in Akihabara style performance, a genre that emphasizes the cute look of Japanese pop-culture with the hip appeal of Japanese animation. Reni offers the most fun and authentic Japanese pop experience in NY without ever having to travel to Tokyo. She is quickly winning over the hearts of many new local fans thanks to her pretty stage costumes, upbeat personality, and talented singing ability.

Reni MimuraReni Mimura's debut CD was produced in 2006 by Takahiro Yamautsuri, who composed music for one of the Pokemon movies. In 2008 she relocated to the U.S.A., started a monthly event, Japanese "Maid" Show, in New York and is quickly gaining a loyal fan base. Reni has been invited as a guest performer to Japan Society, Otakon, and NY Anime Festival in 2009.

You can buy the physical CD for $10, or the 4 individual tracks for 99 cents each via iTunes. Follow Reni's Cosplay Maid Shows and news about Reni on Reni's website.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, April 2010

Rain's World
Rain's World
K-Pop Review

Rain is everywhere.

Rain, a Korean supermodel, has sprung into the worldwide spotlight as an excellent and entertaining R&B singer. Time Magazine voted him number 1 of the most influential people in the world for 2007, which prompted an angry rebuttal by Stephen Colbert (who then proceeded to perform his own Korean Music Video, with spectacularly hilarious results).

Rain, a Korean supermodelHis sound is like Maxwell + Justin Timberlake + Robin Thicke all filtered through the production of Timbaland. In fact, his music exactly sounds like that. In this particular case, it's a great thing, because this CD features beats and rhythms not heard since 1996 when Timbaland collaborated with Aaliyah on her "One in a Million" CD.

Overall, this album is considered to be a musical masterpiece and is definitely worth a listen. And ladies, the fact that he's awesomely good looking doesn't hurt either, eh? Look for some of his videos on YouTube.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, November 2007

Shonen Knife : 712
Shonen Knife : 712
J-Pop Audio CD Review

Shonen Knife is a Japanese alternative rock trio that, while successful in the United States, is practically unknown in their native Japan. The group has played everywhere from NY's famous CBGB's to opening for Nirvana. They have also performed as a Ramones tribute band under the name The Osaka Ramones.

Shonen KnifeMore recently, the group had a song called "Buttercup (I'm a Supergirl)" that appeared on the Powerpuff Girls soundtrack. A Shonen Knife cover of the Carpenters' hit "Top of the World" was used in the 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap", a US television commercial for Microsoft, the credits music for the documentary Double Dare, and as the ending song for the movie "The Last Supper".

While the opening "rap" song on their Album "712" may sound like a joke, the rest of this album is pure gold. You'll find yourself humming the bouncy and memorable "My Favorite Town's Osaka" at the oddest times, and the bass guitar chords of "Faith Healer" are clever and catchy.

While their "Engrish" was never the best, that's an essential part of their charm. Their sound is raw and unpolished, in a garage-band way that made "The Ramones" superstars.

Theoretically, any band that writes songs with lyrics such as "Banana chips for you! Banana chips for me! In the afternoon, banana chips and tea" should have a life span no longer than that of a grasshopper. But something oddly spellbinding occurs when deceivingly silly lyrics are sandwiched between a buoyant guitar and a rapid-fire, pop-punk drum kit. Which perhaps explains why the Japanese female rock trio Shonen Knife is still singing songs about cookies, sushi, jelly beans, and, of course, banana chips, nearly 25 years after their inception.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, July 2007

Best Morning Musume V.1
Best Morning Musume V.1
J-Pop Audio CD Review

Morning Musume works by this simple principle: The more cute girls a singing group has, the better. As with bands that age over time, girls are "retired" and auditions held (ala American Idol) to replace the outgoing members of the group with new girls.

Morning MusumeThe group has so many members that subgroups formed and became their own bands ("Minimoni", for example, was a subgroup that formed by taking the shortest members of Morning Musume, and spinning them off).

As with most idol-type groups in Japan, the songs are all upbeat j-pop, with catchy tunes, great vocals, and lots of synth, ala Dance Dance Revolution.

This simple formula has helped keep Morning Musume one of the most popular musical acts in Japan for the last 10 years. Ever since their first chart-topping single, Morning Musume has been taking the JPOP world by storm. Anything associated with Morning Musume becomes an instant hit.

The toughest part has been keeping track of all the members! The group started in 1997 with a mere 5 members, which quickly grew to 8 and then became the staggering number of 13! Can you imagine all these cute girls on stage at once?

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, May 2007

Ecdysis —
Miho Hatori

J-Pop Album Review

Lots of people wonder what ever happened to Cibo Matto, the NYC band with the Italian name and core duo of two Japanese women who even wound up appearing in an episode of "Buffy". It turns out Cibo Matto parted ways at the end of 2001 and since then lead singer Miho Hattori released and toured with Smokey Hormel as the retro- Brazillian flavored duo of Smokey and Miho. Also a certain animated member of the Gorillaz happens to sound suspiciously similar when singing.

Miho HatoriNow Miho has her first real solo album out and it's titled "Ecdysis", which is what insects are doing when they shed their old skins. The result is a world music pop album including a blending of Brazilian elements, sounds from Okinawa with turns of lounge styling and synthesizer bleeps. I guess my preconceived notion was that she might do the twist on sort of rap hip-hop that I associated with Cibo Matto. The surprise here is quite a variety and range of totally charming lyrical singing (most but not all songs are in English).

One of the immediate points of reference that came to my mind are Björk's more laid back songs because she happens to have an accent and arranges with great variety of softer acoustic instruments. Some of Miho's songs share her interests in science fiction. "The Spirit of Juliet" is a song about a cyborg in the future who begins to have memories. Then she creates a story in song about living on a giant walking city on a future Earth after great environmental changes have take place. Later she has a song sung from the viewpoint of an Amazon woman. With a sometimes half whispered sexy voice it's wonderful to hear her share her musical secrets.

You can visit Miho’s website is at mihohatori.com, and also check out her music video here.

Reviewed by Nicholas D. Kent, November 2006

J-Pop Album Review

If you've ever wanted to get a taste of the many flavors of J-Pop, but didn't want to spend a fortune collecting CD's, this is your chance to experience 15 very different tracks that all come under the heading of J-Pop. This one CD will give you the entire experience at once. The lyrics are included in the booklet phonetically, so you can sing along if you like, although if you want to understand what you're singing, you'll have to go to the company's website for the translations.

Some of the tracks are themes to anime you may recognize, others are just pure pop-idol sensation. Pick up this CD and use it as part of your next Dance Dance Revolution Rave.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, January 2004

Nice — Puffy AmiYumi
Nice — Puffy AmiYumi
J-Pop Album Review

This album is simply awesome/excellent, and not just because we've decided that the Teen Titans theme is the hottest song on Cartoon Network (and yes, it's on this album!).

Puffy AmiYumi are nothing short of a phenomenon in their native Japan. Two beautiful Japanese women who were thrown together after being discovered in a talent search. Their voices are so similar it sounds like they're double tracking the vocals, but it's just them singing in unison.

Puffy AmiYumi has nothing to do with Puff Daddy...The songs and performances are first rate, and the girls have never sounded better. Every song here is a first-rate gem. Calling the album Nice is an understatement — they should have called it "Superb".

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, December 2003

Happy Bivouac
Buy from Amazon.com
Happy Bivouac
J-Pop Album Review

If you thought one of the coolest things about Furi-Curi was it's grunge-influenced, hard-rock, edgy soundtrack, you're not alone. The Pillows, a Japanese rock band, is an overlooked gem of the 90's sound that influenced an entire generation.

They contributed, in no small way, to the miracle that is FLCL. This album is one of the very few available in the US, and happily, has all english track-titles. We guarantee this as a good, loud, drive-fast album that will definitely make it a regular on your iPod.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, March 2005

Stereo Type A [Cibo Matto]
Stereo Type A
[Cibo Matto]

J-Pop Album Review

Okay, this album's a few years old, but what a masterpiece! "Sci-Fi Wasbi" (track 6) alone justifies the purchase of this CD. But don't be fooled, because the very next track (Clouds) proves the duo of Miho Hatori (who also is behind Gorillaz) and Yuka Honda can sing better than just about anybody.

Cibo MattoStereo Type A is a mature, instrumentally rich album that sees the group break the novelty mold and achieve recognition for compelling songwriting and interesting arrangements. Quite a change from the hilarious "Know Your Chicken".

Stylistically, this album's all over the map, no two tracks seem to draw on the same influences, which is a refreshingly good thing, particularly if you're tired of groups whose songs all sound alike.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, August 2003

Smile Paradise
Smile Paradise
(Limited Edition) [IMPORT]

J-Pop Album Review

This CD is for all of those seeking the ultimate in j-pop should look no further! With really smooth vocals and charming melodies, these pop divas produce a sensational sound unmatched in the field of idol goddess goodness. The music can actually be described as "yummy".

This is actually Smile.dk's third album, but don't be disappointed, as all of the songs are kicky, bouncy, and bright. The music is highly 'danceable' and outrageously fun. If you loved the music in the videogame Dance Dance Revolution, then you already know this group contributed tracks to the game. Rock on!

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, April 2003

Kristine Sa
Kristine Sa -
I Never Knew

J-Pop Album Review

Kristine Sa is easy on the eyes and easy on the ears. A smooth and surprisingly wide vocal range allows her to create a mellow mood with just a twinge of j-pop sound. Her best tracks are the ones where she doesn't try too hard to fill the voids in the music and she just sings. The acoustic tracks are superior, but her digital j-pop shows her range of ability. Composer, musician, artist, writer, poet she is all of these things and more as she weaves her way into your heart.

Oh La La it's Kristine Sa!With a skillful blend of sultry, soulful ballads that will touch you and dance tracks that will ease you into a cool groove, her music is worth more than a listen — she's reaching deep into you and drawing out what makes each of us alive. A thousand emotions and more are waiting for you when you play this CD.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, February 2003

Sushi 3003
Buy from Amazon
Sushi 3003
J-Pop Album Review

Bungalow have a reputation for releasing great music, and this CD is a good example of their work. Sushi 3003 includes better known Japanese Pop acts like Kahimi Karie who sings her big hit "Good Morning World" (which started it's life as a make-up commercial in Japan), our lontime favorite Pizzicato Five and pop megastar Cornelius. There are also other bands which aren’t as well known, but equally wonderful. Offbeat tracks like "Sweden, Heaven and Hell" by K-Taro is a nice surprise, bringing a classic Muppets song into the mix. These songs are fun, and remarkably light-hearted. Quite simply, the music is relaxing and on the converse, danceable. You won’t be disappointed.

Reviewed by Michael Pinto, March 2002

Puffy Ami Yumi Fashion Dolls - Ami
Buy from Amazon.com
Puffy Ami Yumi Fashion Dolls - Yumi
Buy from Amazon.com
Puffy AmiYumi, Yumi Doll, Ami Doll
Anime Toy Review

Here's a great find for collectors, fans, and those who admire a good fashion doll when they see it (we still have our JEM dolls!). Puffy AmiYumi have come to American shores via these wonderful Mattel dolls. Fully poseable, they are adorably sculpted and... get this... they speak in Japanese and English, and when they hold hands, they sing!

Puffy AmiYumiEach doll comes with an abundance of accessories (from hats with braids to guitars and purses) and they have killer-hip fashions. Needless to say, if you're a fan, this is about as close as you're ever going to get to having the real ladies in your bedroom. Pose 'em and have 'em sing for you! Hi Hi!

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, January 2006

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