Friday, January 02, 2009

Shiina Ringo is pretty cool

Jesus, where the hell have I been for the last 10 years?

I said earlier that my wife bought me Shiina Ringo's album "Shouso Strip" for Christmas. Now I'm obsessed with it. The problem is, it was released in 2000. This always happens to me; I discover artists like this too late. (Especially Japanese ones, who often have a really short shelf life.) This album was wild and raw, as I've heard all her early stuff was, but it's hard to keep up that sort of thing forever. You start out as a counterculture outsider, then you become established, and eventually you become an institution. And suddenly one day your music doesn't sound wild and raw anymore.

Well, I'm sure there are some people out there that still haven't heard of her at all. So this post's for you.

This is a great video, and one of her most famous, both for the song and other obvious reasons:

This album, at least, has all sorts of different styles on it, from punk to techno to jazz. As far as I know, she writes all of it, unlike most female Japanese singers. In fact, she apparently refused to sign her first record contract because the label asked for changes. All of it is very noisy and kinda nasty sounding. Very rough. Some of the comments on her YouTube videos are really weird - a lot of people say stuff like "this song is so beautiful!" Her voice always sounds right on the verge of blowing up whatever room she's singing in, which I love, but I would not call it "beautiful". She is not some sort of Kumi Koda-like technical pop singer.

This is one of the punkier songs - love the blood-curdling scream near the beginning:

Her videos are often ironic in at least some way, though serious in others.

This is about the closest thing on the album to a traditional pop ballad:

Even that song's got an edge to its sound, though. It's like every instrument, including her vocals, is being overdriven a little bit in the mix, on purpose.

Well, now I'll eventually have to get everything she's done, including her stuff with Tokyo Jihen, her band of the last few years. She followed the reverse path of most artists, starting off her career solo and then later forming a band. But she's now back solo again and I've heard her very newest stuff is more like the old albums. I hope so, but I know that it's hard to recapture that early spark.


  1. Shiina Ringo did the music for the film "Sakuran" which is one of my absolute favorite contemporary Japanese films. The music is so lovely and cool and jazzy. Highly recommend both the movie and the soundtrack.

  2. Anonymous5:57 PM

    I have been a fan of Shena Ringo since 2001 or 2002. I had a few friends who were from Japan and they told me about her. I started w a live concert and it's rolled from there. She released 3 albums solo, released a single that symbolizes her transformation, then joined a band. She then released 2 albums w them, then was asked to perform w Saito Neko, a composer, and make the soundtrack for Sakuran, which is an album she released and is unavailable as just a soundtrack. After that, she released one more album with Tokyo Jihen and just this past summer, she released an album of her B-sides from throughout her career, to symbolize her 10 year anniversary, which was AMAZING to have all of those songs together. I have been a HUGE fan of hers since I discovered her and I always will continue to be one. A few people whine and moan that her music is no longer so rocker-ish, but when you listen, there are such perfections in how she produces her music. Also, her PVs are absolutely awesome. I recommend watching "Ichijuku no Hana" which is a pre-tokyo jihen release and also, ringo no uta, which will show her throughout all of her earlier videos, in the same costumes, etc. She is really talented and will always be my favorite! Try this site I am linking, it's a forum for her. And, yes, my name is Sheena.

  3. Thanks for the info - I will check that forum out.

    My wife bought a Tokyo Jihen album (I think the last one) and while it seems ok, it hasn't grabbed me like Shouso Strip did. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get into her later stuff.

    I was talking to my wife about this a while back - that kind of music like she was making early in her career has got to take a lot out of a person. I don't think anybody really keeps that kind of thing up forever, at least not in any convincing way. (Some might go through the motions, but it stops sounding right after a while.) So I don't blame her for mellowing out a little. I just wish I hadn't missed that stage of her career.

  4. I must say, I'm not a fan of the Tokyo Jihen stuff either.

    However, her more recent solo albums are incredible. Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana (2003) is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I'd recommend checking it out, even though you got burned on the Tokyo Jihen album.

  5. I've discovered her in my country, Chile, 2 years ago @ youtube, were all my generation (30 something) love all about Japan and grew with anime @ the 80's.
    In her I've found my ideal woman, she's so classy, feminine an beauty, only comparable with her musical talent. Her RingoExpo08 dvd is my best purchase ever.
    Have been 10 years of excellence.
    God save the queen, of music Yumiko "Ringo" Shiina.
    Thanks from Santiago de Chile.


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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