The Japanese band Tokyo Jihen (東京事変/Tokyo Incidents) is led by Shiina Ringo (椎名林檎), one of the most prominent pop divas of the country. Their second studio album “Adult” (“アダルト”/ “大人”) was released in 2006. I bought the album mainly to celebrate my own coming of age 18, and was not warned of the addictive charisma and style of Ringo and her band.
Shiina Ringo began her career as a solo singer and songwriter in 1998, who has, up till now, produced six albums and ten singles. Her style, which is often reflected and incorporated in Tokyo Jihen’s songs, ranges from rock, pop, punk, blues and jazz. Combined with her uncommonly sophisticated lyrics, she quickly gained fans and recognition. Tokyo Jihen was formed during one of her nationwide tours, Sugoroku Ecstasy. However, it is worth noting that “Adult” was created by the second phase of the band, after the guitarist and pianist were replaced.
Back to the album itself. It shows Ringo’s literary talent expressed through musical talents. For instance, the track listing shows symmetry using the sixth track as the centre line:
This has been a convention of Ringo’s works since her second solo album. The final track “手紙” was also cleverly written in the format of traditional Japanese letter writing, complete with “Dear…” and “P.S.”.
The bossa nova-styled third track, “化粧直し”, may trick you into thinking the band as “soft”. Yes, there is certainly much jazz in the songs. For example, brilliant piano and guitar solos in “秘密” deserve a mention. (It is funny that this occurs after the original pianist H ZETT M, an authentic jazz pianist, left the group.) However, one of my favourites in the album is the fifth track “修羅場 Adult ver.”, in which the crisp staccato notes in the intro demonstrates the band’s solid skills. In addition, the chorus line “Ah~~~~” is quite the signature of Ringo’s singing style similar to shouting.
The final track “手紙” is definitely my pick of the entire album. I love the progression from the quiet strings rhythm in the beginning, which then builds up by adding drums and piano, and finally reaching a climax with full-blown electric guitar accompanying the singer’s emotion. “Please remember, even if you lose your direction in a place distant and far away / what I told you. / I will always be singing.” (Source)
“Adult” signifies maturity, and it has surely been exhibited in this album, a marker of the band’s journey – ripened from their previous albums and singles while providing a solid foundation for the following albums and, importantly, their live shows.
Tokyo Jihen is due to release their fifth studio album “Discovery” (“大発見”) on June 29th.
Written and translated by Sherlock Lam
Edited by Jaime Chu