Today I will be reviewing Sol-Fa the second studio album produced by the alternative rock band Asian Kung-Fu Generation. With the recent popularity of Erased and its opening Re Re by the band. I thought it would be a good time to review the album it came from as part of my artist spotlight series.So how does this work? Every month I review two or three albums from different major Japanese music artists especially ones that have done anime openings and endings.The ones I select get the artist spotlight and I go through their discography reviewing their albums separately throughout the coming months.
When I get through their produced albums to the most recent I do an artist spotlight where I compare all their albums in relation to each other and give the history of the group and how they evolved through the years or with their new albums. It is a complete analysis and during the separate reviews, I will link the music I own from the albums to my posts so you can listen and experience what I’m talking about. This will be the first of many reviews for Asian Kung-Fu Generation is albums.
A Little Bit About Asian Kung Fu Generation
The band was formed in Yokohama, Japan in 1996. Throughout their career, the band has consisted of the same members since 1996. The vocalist Masafumi Goto, guitarist Kensuke Kita, bassist Takahiro Yamada, and drummer Kiyoshi Ijichi. The band’s musical style is influenced by western alternative rock, and punk music mixed with an indie rock type of style which came about from their early days as they formatted their style coming into their own as an indie rock band.
Their songs really balance this music throughout almost all their albums consisting of fast tempos and prominent hard-edged guitar riffs with a rhythmic flow and emotional lyrics. Though they see themselves as indie they have had worldwide success and been praised critically for their music. They are definitely one of the more well-known bands both nationally and internationally.
Some Facts About Sol-Fa Their Second Studio Album
The album debuted October 20, 2004, at number one on the Oricon charts where it stayed for two weeks. It would go on to sell 600,000 copies and was praised for its honed sound and production quality by critics. It was also one of the first albums to break the language barrier for non-Japanese listeners who heard it. It was a more accessible refined style with a more modern slant which foreigners could enjoy and get into.
While at the same time still keeping true to the band’s indie roots and style. The album would even rise to more prominence internationally due to one of its singles being used as the final opening for Fullmetal Alchemist. The first Fullmetal Alchemist that had an anime only ending.The opening song was Rewrite and was an instant hit making the band so popular that it forced their label Tofu Records to release the album into more countries due to fan demands. It released in the United States October 18 2005.
Here is a list of the singles with the audio tracks I included so you could listen to the songs that were released before and during the album’s debut.
2.Rewrite (Fullmetal Alchemist Opening 4)
3.Loop and Loop
4.Kimi no Machi Made
Another song from the album called Re Re was recently used as the opening for the popular anime Erased that has come out in 2016.
It’s time for us to get into the review so let’s begin. Asian Kung-Fu Generation is one of those bands that is quite popular and well known in the anime community. Having reached the legendary status of bands such as L Arc En Ciel, and like them has a big and devoted fan base. Not just among anime fans but for anyone that is a Japanese Rock enthusiast.
Especially if there an alternative indie, slight pop, or more calmed down rock tempo kind of person. That likes the mix of fast tempo combined with the occasional guitar solo and riff having these transition throughout an album to a more laid back rhythmic pace where the lyrics can get right down personal.
Sorry for all the adjectives but it’s a good description for Asian Kung Fu generation is overall style even if not predominant in all their works. It’s one that is definitely more noticeable on their earlier albums and is apparent when you see the transition from the first album connected to you 5m to the second album Sol-Fa.
Their songs almost always have a personal element to them and having translated some of the songs Sol-Fa is no different. The album is definitely a reflection of the inner journey of the person and life itself. As if one is trying to find themselves looking back and forward. The album starts off real energetic with Shindo- Kako. It’s a great use of tempo and rhythm and Masafumi the vocalist shows a balanced range with a higher pitch for the chorus refrains but not to high.
The song has that personal element of I would say a little angst and is furthered by the Fullmetal Alchemist opening Rewrite. Where the same energy is displayed but takes a more toned down rhythm. All this is accompanied by guitar solos at various points. which is one of the band’s mainstays and occurs throughout the album.
The energetic tone continues throughout the album but has transitioned in rhythms with each track as it progresses because some of the song topics get more personal having more introspection. To fit each mood their points when tracks slow down to showcase more haunting vocals for Masafumi where the guitar and bass seem more subdued and the drums at points don’t even factor in.
From there it usually leads to a more sped up chorus or is ended by a guitar solo with maybe a refrain or none at all. Honestly, I feel like every song is different and if they were going for thematic transition lyric wise and music wise it works.
The critics are correct in that this album has high production quality. I can also see why an album like this was more accessible to foreign audiences. I would definitely say people from the U.S. and England would enjoy this. It has the feel of the modern alternative rock, indie, and punk bands that rose to prominence in the early 2000’s some of which are still around.
Man at some points I thought they could be a remixed Japanese version of Weezer. I’m not talking about the new Weezer but those more old school albums. For those that don’t like punk don’t worry it really doesn’t have that feel though their glimpses of that style.
It gets more subdued by alternative rock tempo though just like an indie rock band it has a certain angst I don’t like to use that word because I don’t think it’s overall sad. It’s just that you feel it in the music. Though the final song is more upbeat and a good tie in showing everything coming full circle.
After all, this was Asian Kung-Fu Generation is early years and I’m sure as young as they were they just like anybody in their late teens or early twenties were trying to discover themselves. Not to disappoint anyone Re Re is good but was not one of my favorites and that’s because it had a longer guitar and bass solo with fewer lyrics and more refrain in the chorus but it is still good. My only criticism is that some songs are weaker by themselves but are stronger when listened all together with the album as a whole. Though it’s only a few songs.
Overall I really enjoyed this album and thought it was great. It definitely is worth the purchase and a good introduction to Asian Kung Fu Generation.
Is a great gateway album to introduce people to Japanese music especially indie rock.
If you listen to all the songs the album pays off as a whole theme wise and music wise.
Album and song replay enjoyment 8.5/10: Great
A majority of the songs are replayable and fully enjoyable.
Some songs may not stand as strongly by themselves.
vocals 9/10: Great
Easy to listen too and not overbearing or super high pitched.
Instrument Play 10/10: Excellent
Amazing use of guitar, bass, and drums in combination with the two.
Here is a playlist of the full album for your listening enjoyment.
My favorite tracks from the album in no particular order are
- To Your Town
- Last Scene
- .Loop to Loop
- My world
Places You Can Purchase The Album Digitally
Through the app for android phones and tablets, and also on the web store for computers.
2.Itunes Music Store
For phone, tablets, and computers.