re:miaw Is The Casual Idol Super Group That Just Wants To Relax…

Putting their hat into the sweepstakes of idol groups that use a “re:” prefix in their name is a fresh addition to the scene who call themselves re:miaw! This unit has been around since at least June of this year, but flying a bit under the radar, so it’s bit easy to wonder where they’ve been.

While they do have a group twitter account, they don’t have a lot of information about themselves up. I think I can explain it this way: You see, the one recurring theme I’ve noticed with this group is that they refer to themselves as only being “loosely active”. One member described re:miaw as being a “relaxing activity idol unit”. And you know what? That’s a theme I can relate to!

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The 50 Greatest Alternative Idol Albums of the Last Decade: #11 – 20

We have reached the second-to-last week of our Top 50 countdown featuring the albums that placed 11 – 20 plus one honorable mention that didn’t quite make the final list of 50.

“Why the honorable mentions?”, no one asked, “Why not just make it a top 55 or 60?”

There are a few reasons such as we had to draw a line somewhere, and also because we wanted to respect our quasi-democratic process. The primary reason though is because, when we first took a look at the final top 50, we were surprised by a few things that weren’t there. This week’s honorable mention is a prime case in point:

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We Review Things: The Flowers of Passion – Episode 04

One of my favorite moments in The Flowers of Passion documentary series comes at the beginning of each episode where CHiHiRO of MERRY BAD END sings a subdued, acapella version of their song, “Restart”, while the opening credits roll. It is a mesmerizing yet imperfect performance and the delicate smile she gives the camera at its conclusion epitomizes, in miniature, the portrait the series attempts to portray: that while underground idol lacks perfection, it comes from an earnest and genuine place.

CHiHiRO, for her part, is kind of the break-out star of the series. Aside from providing the series’ opening theme song, she is featured in most of the episodes providing valuable access and articulate insight into the backstage workings of the idol unit she created and leads. Episode four, entitled, “Idol Grind”, focuses on the daily scramble of idol life and the long hours required to put those acts on stage while taking care of the other responsibilities and priorities in their lives.  Continue reading

Reaping what you sow: The Flowers of Passion, Episode 1 Reaction & Review

It’s not every day that we get new long form content from the underground idol scene, especially now that we are in this whole sanitary disaster. So it was with great curiosity that I rented Derek Vasconi’s first episode of his documentary series Flowers of Passion.

Derek Vasconi has made his mark in the idol scene through several ventures: he organized the East Meets West Music Festival, and went on to create the idol merch website Idol Underworld, which aims to make idol merch more accessible for overseas fans, as well as producing original merch, like the many idol exclusive photobooks. Idol Underworld also has a sister site called Cheki World, a second-hand market to allow oversea fans to sell and trade their covetable idol polaroids. Flowers of Passion is his first foray into film and his first documentary. 


The hour long episode, first of a series of five, seems centered on the production and self-production aspect, as well as the historic roots of idols. It revolves mostly around Asakura Mizuho via Bellring Girl’s Heart & Saka-Sama, NaNoMoRaL, Usakura Beni from avandoned, and finally, Merry Bad End.
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Beni and CHILDISH TONES remember life as an “Ex Fan Des Sixties”…

avandoned may be approaching an end to it’s illustrious career run, but by no means does this mean that Beni Usakura will be ceasing to work on terrific musical projects that are both sublime and meaningful. Once again the multi-media chanteuse has teamed-up with the amazing toy instrument garage band CHILDISH TONES to offer another great take on a classic pop tune!

This time the delightfully quirky combo is treating us to a haunting cover of a song written by the LEGENDARY master of subversive pop, the great Serge Gainsbourg himself, which was recorded by his long-running romantic and artistic muse, the fabulous and stunning Jane Birkin

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avandoned: Ending Is Beginning.

When you’ve become fully ingrained into idol fandom, there’s certain inveitable events that you learn to anticipate and mentally prepare for, such as when a twitter account belonging to a group you love posts an image containing a stark few blocks of text. Yeah, you know the type of post I mean…

This is idol, and this is the world we’ve put ourselves into, but it’s a little different when it’s a group that’s particularly dear to you. It’s more personal, more emotional, it’s something you feel inside your stomach. It’s understandable and okay.  Continue reading

Go Mod With Beni and CHILDISH TONES!

avandoned‘s leader-self-producer-and all-around mastermind Beni Usakura enjoyed a  surprise hit earlier this year when she collaborated with the toy-instrument garage-punk band CHILDISH TONES! Aside from an acclaimed single, the 45 record sold-out it’s pre-sales, then sold out it’s extended press-run, and eventually got a second pressing to meet it’s demand! Of course it makes sense that the hippest idol in the biz would once again team up with rockin’ist toy band on the planet, and here’s their latest delicious pop nugget for our listening satisfaction!

https://twitter.com/usakura_beni/status/1178517922701955072?s=20

The A-side is called “Make Her Mine”, and there’s an appropriately lo-fi homemade MV to go along with it…

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TRASH-UP!! Records Presents “Idol & Art 3”!!

One of my personally most-anticipated idol events of the year isn’t TIF, or Jam Expo. It doesn’t even even feature performances for that matter. For me, it’s the annual collaboration between TRASH-UP!! Records and Tokyo’s Mograg Gallery, “Art and Idol”, now in it’s third incarnation! It’s a simple and irresistible premise, an art show where all the art is created by idols. Now it’s it’s third edition, it’s fantastic to see this event be so successful and well-regarded.

https://twitter.com/mograggarage/status/1154002383682166785?s=20

When you think about it, it’s a perfect idea because the idol world is packed with wonderfully artistic talent who are always pursuing multiple ways to express themselves. As it’s been covered before in this blog, idols, especially within the chika circles, are multi-layered creatives who consistently deliver an entire package of intriguing work beyond singing and dancing.

With previous showings, it’s been the practice to keep the artwork under wraps until the opening, and then after a few days, images of the participant’s artwork pops up online via social media. I find it fascinating to see what the idols came up with, and in some cases, it’s illuminating to see their creative output because it offers a new peek into their personalities. Other times, it’s just cheeky fun. (Like the time the Dot-chans presented miniature terrariums with chirping crickets inside!)  But regardless of what they do, it’s never boring. Continue reading

I Don’t Know Who This “Margaret” Is, But The All-New avandoned Is Terrific!

The avandoned fans among us have certainly known about the new six-member incarnation of the group for a few months now, enjoying their activity on social media along with bits of live footage, but also eager to get an official release, so now at last we  have an honest-to-goodness MV of the unit together to promote their new (and yet also first) single, “Margaret”! The song is written by singer/songwriter Hana Tsuruuchi , who also wrote “Hello” and “Vadittsu!!” for avandoned previously. ..

I think that Tsuruuchi is a perfect contributor to this group. Her songs have that uplifting positive-vibe feeling that blends nicely with the group’s can-do spirit, and yet and are unique and quirky* enough that they never feel like sentimental cliches. This song is rich and wonderful, and no, I don’t really know who “Margaret” is, but I’m sure she’s a fine young lady who makes cool arts and crafts, owns a lot of hip records, plays a nice piano, and besides, if avandoned like her, that’s all I need to know anyway…

Classic idol group MV trope unlocked: The “Girls running through the streets” shot!

I think this new passage for the group sparks some interesting thoughts as well. It’s a fascinating thing about idol groups, the way they can be a seemingly inseperable unit only day, and then in a very short course of time, can reboot into something new and fresh. When I think about it, making a major departure from the established image of a group is probably the best move in a business that demands keeping the fans on board and constantly working to bring new ones into the fold.

Beni Usakura, who is the leader, producer and primary creative force of avandoned, commented about the challenges of expanding into a larger group, such as finding songs that work for a six-person group as opposed to a duo, the changes in vocal distribution in previous songs, and the new choreography requirements that come with more people on stage. It’s really not much different than launching an entirely new group, even if the name on the marquee is the same.

Margaret” will be released this month on the 26th, and in true idol form, will have two versions available. Also included is a coupling song that translates to “Prescription Warfare” and the two versions will include new line-up recordings of “After School” and “Exploding Romance”, each pressed to one of the variants.

Extra bonus video: Here’s the avandoned girls performing “Hello” with with Hana Tsuruuchi! 

*I’m pretty sure every single article I’ve written about avandoned utilized the word “quirky”. I see no reason to stop that! 

 

 

Meet avandoned…

The idol world doesn’t slow down for a second, does it?  And especially so if you’re one of the busiest bees in this bustling business, that is Beni Usakura. In a relatively short span, (especially in idol years), she’s gone from an abandoned audition candidate to group member to group leader, organizer, producer, marketer, and all-around DIY master of a hearty never-say-die group that is a breathing manifestation of her creative energy.

During the entire taxing process of preparing for Kotao’s departure, she’s been holding auditions for new members to keep her beloved group’s legacy going. Beni decided to tease us a bit for a couple of days, but at last, we’ve been introduced to her first officially inducted member… Continue reading