And so, after a summer break when I went to a festival every weekend, Sonic Breakfast begins again. Normal service is resumed.
I’ve half-joked that, as summer turns to Autumn, it signals my descent into hibernation. My armchair is comfy; the boiler is working and the heating is tested. There’s a mass of music to get me through the cold, winter months. Before we know it Spring will be in the air again.
It seems appropriate that this song about being ‘stuck in hibernation’ by Japanese act, Olde Worlde, is my first post of the Autumn. This is twee Tokyo with a nod towards Brit pop. At times, the vocal is over-pronounced but rather than frustrate this just amplifies the overall charm. The lyrics might appear like they’re thrown together but I defy you not to smile at their random arrangement.
Olde Worlde is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist, Sohhei Numata. Born in Machida, Tokyo, Olde Worlde released his brand new album The Blue Musk-Oxen in the UK on September 1st.
These are tunes that’ll get inside your head. You’ll find yourself singing them as you make your morning coffee; you’ll stomp through the leaves that are falling from the trees whilst whistling these happy tunes. I add a second tune from Olde Worlde today as well. ‘Thinking About You’ is one of those wistful and yet upbeat laments; a love song to somebody far away. They might not even know how loved they are.
Bring on those winter nights…
A week ago on Sonic Breakfast, I posted about a wonderful Japanese ex-pat band called The Watanabes. And I pondered whether the ex-pat scene in Japan was an active one. The Watanabes are clearly generous, sharing sorts for Duncan from the band sent me a couple of other recommendations to check out.
One of those recommendations was Jimmy Binks And The Shakehorns. He must have known that left-field Alt-country, the sort of songs that The Broken Family Band used to issue before their sad demise, presses one of my many buttons. There’s lots of fine stuff here.
Just so that you know (I had to look it up), a shakehorn is a plastic acorn-shaped shaker percussion instrument that the band uses as often as possible.
You might have thought that JB&TS would have been fronted by a man called Jimmy Binks – but they’re not. This is a six piece band with four of the members coming from the Uk, one from Canada and one from Japan. Last year, they released a five track EP, Not Too Late, that built upon the success of a mini album they named after the band.
A quick FB search does show though that there are a number of people in this world called either Jim, James or Jimmy Binks. One Jimmy Binks would appear to be a lover of Liverpool FC and a keen fan of Elvis; another has recently started working at the VC Summer nuclear station. I wonder if they know about their namesake band in Tokyo? Perhaps, they could all be encouraged to form a choir of Jimmy Binks to singalong on a future release?
If you have access to Spotify, I urge you to check out their tune, “I’ll be in your arms again tonight”. It’s a classic, skewed story tale, littered with the darkest of humour and Country cliches. I genuinely hope it’s not describing a true story.
Quite a few of their tunes seem to describe scenes in which relationships are drawing to an end, pictures of romance gone wrong. I guess it goes with the alt-country territory. It mightn’t be music to make love to but it’s definitely music to love.
Anyone casually observing my bookshelves will notice the prevalence of novels by Japanese author, Haruki Murakami. I love the dream-like, otherworldliness of his writing. In his beautifully haunting, romantic novel, Norwegian Wood, Murakami puts himself into the shoes of a lovestruck, reminiscent narrator, Toru Watanabe.
If you are casually observing my bookshelves, would you mind leaving my house please? It’s a little bit weird having you here when we’ve not been introduced.
Apparently, Watanabe is a common surname in the orange laden prefecture of Ehime in Japan. if you were to call your band The Watanabes, it would be like living in England and calling your band The Smiths.
Like Murakami in Norwegian Wood, the Watanabes create a nostalgic, yearning art that tends to centre on dream-like, lovestruck romance. These are tunes that reminisce about times when the grass was greener and the pine cones hadn’t fallen. Some might call this whimsical whilst some might call this twee. Others could call it music with issues of self esteem. For all of these reasons, I’m glad I’ve found the Watanabes.
Duncan and Selwyn Walsh are brothers from Norfolk. It’s not entirely clear how they’ve ended up in Tokyo fronting an indie pop band but I find myself wondering whether there’s much of an ex pat scene amidst TEFL teachers, gap year students and business leaders. With an impressive back catalogue of releases, Duncan and Selwyn are working hard to make The Watanabes work. Their nostalgic laments deserve to be heard.
A new EP, ‘Draw What You Like’, has been released this year. It’s typical of previous releases and perhaps a good place to start before exploring more of what the Watanabes offer. I’m attaching the lead track from that EP for your listening delight as well as an earlier video for a tune, ‘Yuriko Yuriko’.
Norwegian Tree. Japanese Twee.