Friday October 9th, 2015

Finding myself

Friday October 9th, 2015

With all the cameras and cellphones at the ONE OK ROCK gig in NYC last weekend, it was only a matter of time before I found myself. SMtube, the Youtube Browser for SMplayer makes it a little easier. Plus, (hint, hint) it’s easily modified to become a front-end for youtube-dl, the Youtube downloader.

Video stills, clicky to embiggen.
From across the room for context.
  Look! It’s my right hand!
  I had my turn with this view too.

The second-last song of the main set was The Beginning. While performing it, Taka jumped off the stage, crossed the security and photographer’s pit, then hopped up on the rail RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME

He jumped off the stage after the line, So where do I begin? and was on the rail and ready for the line, Nigirishimeta ushinawanu youni to, then performed from there for the rest of the song.

The top photo was taken from across the room, but gives a little context for the next two. This is where Taka was singing from, balanced on the rail, supported in back by security, and in front by holding the hands of fans.

The fan cellphone vid the still is taken from has absolutely horrible audio. It’s really better with the sound turned off. But you take what you can get. Look for Taka jumping off the stage at about 3:20 in this vid.

For a different view with better audio, try this vid.

The second and third stills are taken from this vid which apparently was shot by the chick standing next to me.

The upper one has my right hand in it. You’ll recognize my red RoadID bracelet.

The bottom photo shows how Taka sang directly to each of us. This is her viewpoint. When he swung around to me, my view was similar. When he was singing to me, I belted it right back too!

Finally, the band likes to take a group shot with the audience after the show. This is the official photo taken by the band’s photographer.  I’m in it!

Back home In Real Life, people have been amazed that I’d spend $150 for a photo with the band, the opportunity to stand around for three hours waiting for the show to start, then being battered around and ground up by the crush of the crowd.

This is why.

And I’d do it all over again.

Wednesday October 7th, 2015

Review: ONE OK ROCK at the PlayStation Theater, NYC, October 3, 2015

Wednesday October 7th, 2015

In the third show of their first headlining tour in North America, ONE OK ROCK brought down the house in NYC this past Saturday. The only disappointment is that there wasn’t more of the show.

When the venue tweets and gushes about the show, you know it’s really something.

As far back as I looked, PlayStation Theater has NEVER tweeted about an act after their show. Except for ONE OK ROCK.

The energy was palpable standing in the VIP queue waiting outside. I talked with a few people who had seen OOR live before—two had seen the show I attended in Pittsburgh, and one had seen the Jinsei x Kimi = Tour in Osaka Jo Hall. We were no less excited than the people who had been waiting for a date in the Northeast for two, three and four years.

When Taka & Co. finally took the stage at 8:25, all hell broke loose. The boys just sort of ambled out onstage to low lights for 35xxv, then tore into it as the lights came up for Take Me To the Top.

The crush at the front was tremendous. No matter how close we were (I was the third back from the stage) we all wanted closer. Probably 1,900 other fans at my back, all wanting the band. It was great!

And they were loud. In the final sound check, I thought the drum tuner was going to blow my hat off with Tomoya’s kick drum. I could feel the sound waves pass through my hair. When Toru’s guitar tech let rip, I could feel it on my skin.

Loud as it was, the sound was also clean and well-balanced. Acoustics of the hall had just the right amounts of reflection and absorption. Unusually for me, I don’t have a single gripe about the sound. Taka’s mic could have been louder here and there, but only because we fans drowned him out singing along.

Think about that for a second. The band is so loud I could feel individual guitar notes on my skin and drum kicks in my hair, yet we fans drowned out Taka. It was well and truly Sing-A-Long With Taka.

For his part, Taka took to conducting the chorus a time or two, clearly enjoying himself. During Heartache, he stopped the song to yell to us (sans mic), “You guys are fuckin’ great!” In Wherever You Are he let us take over, and just sort of drifted back towards the drums, listening for nearly a whole verse. (Of course, true OOR fans will recognize how much the band loves this give and take from the lyrics of 69.)

There was plenty of give and take between the fans and Toru and Ryota as well. They’re always in motion, gyrating, jumping, doing their whirling dervish thing. Upstage, downstage, crossing to the other’s side, playing to individual audience members—their show is lost in the video productions.

The concert videos out there—I own several and have seen all the rest—don’t quite capture what each member of the band contribute to the whole show. This is why you need to go yourself. Even in BluRay, the videos are a watered-down experience.

ONE OK ROCK needs to be on a larger stage than what we had in Pittsburgh. The PlayStation Theater’s 40-foot wide, 28-foot deep stage could just barely contain them. Once, Taka and Ryota nearly collided. Taka and Toru seemed better coordinated, or maybe Taka just knows from experience the reach of Toru’s long legs when when he goes into a spin.

The band truly rips through every song as if it’s their only song. They pour their all into each and every one, often times not even stopping between them. Take Me To the Top flowed into Memories, then Deeper Deeper took off without so much as a breath between them.

And on and on another song…

Set List

Sadly, it was an abbreviated set from the the full 35xxxv Japan Tour. Only 12 songs with a three-song encore, seven songs fewer than the Japanese fans got.

35xxxv
Take Me To the Top
Memories
Deeper Deeper
Stuck In the Middle
Clock Strikes
instrumental
Cry Out
Heartache
Decision
Suddenly
The Beginning
Mighty Long Fall

Encore

Wherever You Are…
Paper Planes
NO SCARED

Then again, Japanese fans never got this close to the band. The Saitama Super Arena holds 35,000. The entire PlayStation Theater would fit in Saitama’s VIP section.

Still, I would have liked to see Last Dance performed. Maybe they felt it was too new. I really missed 完全感覚Dreamer (Kanzen Kankaku Dreamer) but closing with NO SCARED sort of made up for it, and other older favorites—Deeper Deeper and Clock Strikes—filled the gap.

During The Beginning, Taka leapt off the stage to photographer/security gutter and climbed up on the railing RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. He finished the song from there. (See the youtube videos, about 3:20 into the song.)

When he leaned over and sang the line Kono mamajya mada owarase koto wa dekinai deshou directly to my face, I belted back Nando kutabarisou demo kuchi hateyou tomo owariwanaisa.

That brief exchange alone made the show for me.

No, maybe it was the new arrangement of Paper Planes. In my review of the 35xxxv album, I said it was the sore thumb. It sticks out sonically. It doesn’t sound like OOR and the effects used on the vocal means it doesn’t sound like Taka.

(For the record, in every other song where Taka uses effects, I don’t mind it at all and think it totally works.)

The real surprise of the show was what Paper Planes becomes when Ryota and Tomoya are unleashed on it. And when Taka sings it without effects. OMG! It’s completely transformed. I could do with a decent recording of it.

The rest was no surprise at all. The band at their best, the fans in full worship mode, just never enough!

Sunday October 4th, 2015

With ONE OK ROCK in NYC

Sunday October 4th, 2015

I went to NYC this weekend for the New York date of ONE OK ROCK’s 35xxxv Tour. Just me and 1,999 other equally rabid OOR fans in attendance. It was a wonderful show—everything I’d hoped for.

Look for a full review in the coming days after I catch up on my sleep and transcribe my notes. Meanwhile, here’s the photo of yrs trly with the band before the show.

Ryota (bass), Tomoya (drums), yrs trly (fan), Taka (vocal), Toru (guitar)

Afterwards, 250 of us got to stick around for an autograph session. Scans coming after work tomorrow. I got all four autographs on both my copies of 35xxxv—the “Red” Japanese edition and the “Black” US release.

Briefly:

  • The band’s energy is so much greater in person than what you see in videos.
  • I’ve panned the song Paper Planes here before. The band has reworked it hugely and the arrangement they played as the second song of a three-song encore Saturday night was one of the highlights of the show. Search for a fan cellphone vid on youtube. The sound quality isn’t anything to write home about, but you’ll see how the song is transformed with a powerfully funky bass and drum line, and a minimal guitar line from Toru.
  • I still can’t figure out how Tomoya does it with only two arms and two legs.
  • Taka’s t-shirt read, “I must be the shit because I’m surrounded by assholes.” Loved it.

Friday October 2nd, 2015

Sing-along with Taka

Friday October 2nd, 2015

I’ve had a little preview of tomorrow night’s show by watching cellphone videos of Tuesday’s show in Chicago and Thursday’s show in Toronto. It’s changed my expectations for the show in NYC.

 
When I saw ONE OK ROCK in Pittsburgh, they opened for two other bands. Maybe a quarter of the crowd knew who they were, and maybe half of that were die-hard fans like me. Up where I was on the front rail of the balcony, there were only two of us who knew all the lyrics in both languages.

Somehow, it never occurred to me that the four solo shows of the North American Tour would be filled ONLY with die-hard OOR fans—who have been waiting years for just this tour.

Oh dear. Talk about pent-up enthusiasm.

Near as I can tell, at both shows, well, Taka didn’t really need to sing at all. In fact, during some microphone problems in Chicago, the crowd carried the song. Taka also seemed surprised by all this. He stopped after one of the Japanese verses of Heartache to tell the crowd, “You guys are really great.” At the Toronto show, same place, he tells them, “Perfect”.

OTOH, in the new all-English lyrics version of Cry Out, the spliced-in section in the middle really threw the fans. Taka’s singing one thing in English, and the fans are singing to the alternate line in Japanese. I’m wondering if they’ll switch to the mixed-language version for our show.

 
Standing in the queue outside the club in Pittsburgh, it seemed like I was the only one who recognized the guys as they came back to the bus with their take-out from the Asian restaurant down the street. It seemed like I was an outsider.

To gather with 1,999 equally rabid fans—many of them fans for many more years than I’ve been following the band—is going to be a completely different experience.

My train for NYC leaves at 5:41 tomorrow morning. At the venue, the doors open for VIP Meet & Greet ticket holders at 5:30 tomorrow afternoon. We meet with the band at six. There should be enough time to stash our swag at the coat check, and stake out our places on the floor before doors open for the hoi palloi at seven. The show starts at eight.

Listen for me screaming and singing along. You might be able to hear all the way back here in R-town.

Friday September 25th, 2015

ONE OK ROCK’s 35xxxv album: Red vs. Black

Friday September 25th, 2015

Which version of ONE OK ROCK’s 35xxxv album is right for you? The red Japanese domestic version released in February, or the black US/International one released today?

It’s not as easy an answer as I thought it would be. But in summary,

If you’re new to OOR, buy Black.

If you’re an old fan, or you either understand or just plain like the sound of Japanese, buy Red.

Sorry. Your copy won’t have Toru’s autograph (upside down) on it.

 
Me? I own Red and will be buying my own copy of Black after I get back from their live in NYC.

(For review purposes I’m using the copy of Black that I bought for the library where I work. We get materials in advance so they can be prepared and ready for circulation on release day. You can go to my library now and borrow it.)

Language

The most-publicized difference between the two versions is that Red is in a mix of Japanese and English, and Black has been re-recorded with all English lyrics.

I’ve listened to Red every day for seven months now, and Mighty Long Fall, Decision, and Heartache for many more months before that. It’s what I’m used to, and since I’m also studying Japanese, the “language barrier” does not exist for me. So personally, I prefer Red.

That said, I want OOR to succeed in the mainstream US market, not only the J-Rock sub-market. I understand and completely support the decision to release an all-English album to do so. It’s the only possible way to succeed here in a country that ignores the fact that for nearly a third of its population, English is a second language. Plus internationally, English has become the common denominator language. So it just makes sense.

Translation is a really tough job. Translating poetry or song lyrics especially so. I respect Taka’s efforts in translating or rewriting lyrics to English. “Respect” isn’t a strong enough word. “Salute” or “I am in awe of” are closer to the mark. It requires a supreme command of both languages.

That said, the structure of some of the songs has had to be changed to accommodate the different numbers of syllables the two languages need to express the same thought. Pacing sometimes seems awkward since the songs were written for the short, evenly-spaced syllables of Japanese. English with its syllables of varying lengths, is tough to fit to existing meter.

And when that wasn’t enough, some of the meaning has had to change as well. It works better in some songs than others.

It was jarring on first listen to hear occasionally stilted English in places were there once was smoothly flowing Japanese. After three or four listenings, I got used to it, although I’m not yet completely comfortable. Especially on the songs where I routinely and often unconsciously sing along (to much amusement of my co-workers) it remains weird.

By the second or third day, I was switching back and forth between the two versions without much trouble. Although I’m still singing the Japanese lyrics.

The songs

The overarching theme of the album is relationship breakups. Not always relationships of the romantic variety either. Some are of the family kind and others of the professional type. The perspective of each song is different as well. But they’re all about separation.

Mighty Long Fall, Decision, Heartache, and Cry Out, are all available as videos in their original mixed English and Japanese versions. Cry Out also comes in an all-English video, and Last Dance is all-English to begin with. If you like them on the videos, you’ll like them on either Red or Black, and you’ll like other songs in the same vein on the album.

Other rockers on the album are Take Me to the Top, which OOR opened with at the Pittsburgh show. I liked it before seeing it performed, and have loved it since.

Suddenly and Memories were favorites on first listening when I bought Red in February. I like the guitar work in Suddenly. I relate to the first line, Spitting gas on the fire that’s burning this town, which is is exactly how I aways responded to being hurt. It’s also one of the songs originally written completely in English.

Memories is notorious for its use of the F-bomb. It’s not a gratuitous use of the word either. The song is right on target for the stage of break-up where you’re telling the other to go fuck themselves.

Stuck in the Middle is another rocker that’s spot on WRT getting stuck between warring parents in a divorce.

One by One is somewhere between a rocker and a ballad. This one didn’t click with me until I saw it performed live in Pittsburgh. It’s also one of the originally all-English songs on the album.

Good Goodbye and Fight the Night are ballads, both on the tender side. Good Goodbye is about leaving in the sense of “It’s not you and not me, it’s the us”. Fight the Night is the stage where you commit to hashing it all out to the end, whether that end is reconciliation or separation. All-English on both albums.

Paper Planes is a bit of a sore thumb on the album. I’ve come to terms with it, but it’s a song I sometimes skip. The overall sound isn’t as hard as OOR is usually, and the vocal effects are a bit too much for me. That said, when I do play it, I find myself singing along anyway. All-English.

The new songs

Last Dance is a new favorite. I’ve reviewed it below, so I’ll only add that no matter what I listen to before bed, Last Dance is what permeates my dreams, it’s what’s playing in my head when I wake up in the middle of the night, and is still going strong in the morning.

For the record, non-OOR fans I’ve pestered to watch the Last Dance video, agree with me. Great song! The video? Not so much.

The Way Back feels disjointed. Crashing metal juxtaposed with sections of Caribbean island rhythm and beat doesn’t feel right. As an experiment with different styles to bust out of the metal pigeonhole, it doesn’t quite work and probably doesn’t belong on, what is in the US, essentially a debut album.

Ignore the island beat sections, and I like it pretty well. I’m slowly coming to terms with it. For the record, it was playing in my head when I awoke this morning, so perhaps my opinion will change in time. (For example, I hated NO SCARED the first dozen times I heard it. Now I go nuts for it.)

Lyrically, it follows two trains of thought. No surprise given the first line is I am still broken in two parts. I wanted the two trains to come together, but as in real life, they don’t.

Packaging and extras

Warner is treating OOR as a new, unproven act. Thus they’re pricing Black fairly cheaply at $14 list, which means there’s not much room in the budget for packaging and extras. Actually, excepting Last Dance and The Way Back, there are no extras.

The title insert is a tri-fold affair, with lyrics crammed in. The tiny black on red type is hard to read. (Remember too that my eyes are closing in on six decades, so these things are much more apparent to me than to younger eyes.)

Red does much better in readability with its lyric booklet. Although to get the most out of it, you’ll need to learn Japanese—which of course isn’t a problem in their domestic market. It also includes a companion DVD, containing studio jam session versions of Mighty Long Fall and Decision.

Recording quality

I like the sound of Black better. It’s been remastered to address my big gripe about Red—heavy clipping in the recording along with massive compression.

I’m a borderline audiophile. I’ve been into sound since high school as the lights and sound man for my garage band. Thus, things like clipping and compression mean a great deal to me. Clipping makes it sound harsh, and compression makes my ears tired.

The remastered Black is better in this department.


Above: Waveform display of Cry Out. Black on top, Red beneath. Red bars denote clipping. The increased dynamic range is evident in the variability of the upper and lower edges of the waveform in the top, versus the flatness of the same elements on the bottom.

However, the songs haven’t been re-recorded in total. New sections were spliced-in over the old. Taka sounds different from section to section in several of the songs.

Studio acoustics, microphone choices, and recording settings are all hard to duplicate from one studio to another. Since the songs on Red had been recorded at several different studios, it’s a near impossibility to replicate the sound from every one.

It was probably a time and budget thing, but the vocals should have been re-recorded in full on all the songs that previously had some Japanese. The spliced-in segments don’t stand out like a sore thumb, but in my playback environment and to my ear, they are quite noticeable. Whether or not you’ll notice, depends on your playback environment and how picky your ears are.

Summary

Die-hard OOR fans will want to own both. New OOR fans should go with Black. Japanophiles will want Red. Audiophiles should go with Black, unless you know your way around something like Audacity and Clipfix. Folks who dare to be different should go with Red. If you’re on a budget, go Black, and download the videos for the mixed-language versions.

There’s also a middle way: The CD-only Orange version for the Japanese domestic market, and it’s significantly cheaper if you buy from Amazon.co.jp. It’s Red without the DVD.

Of course, if you choose Red and you want the full experience, order it from Amazon.co.jp.

If you play guitar or bass, the Band Score is also available from Amazon.co.jp.

No matter where you fit, there’s a 35xxxv for you.

EDIT 2015/10/10: See this interview with Taka at VKH Press where he talks about 35xxxv and some of the songs on it.

Monday September 21st, 2015

It’s here!

Monday September 21st, 2015

ONE OK ROCK’s 35xxxv US Edition is here, in my hands.

Apparently it arrived on Friday. Darn my 4-day workweek! I ordered it for the library. We get new releases early, so that they can be labeled and cataloged in time to be put out on the release date.

And it’s here!

Over the next couple of days I’ll be working on a “Red vs. Black” review and comparison between the Japanese edition and the US one, to help you decide which to buy. I’m aiming to publish on Thursday night Eastern time, Friday morning Japan time.

I listened to most of the album at my desk in back today while I prepared the album and this week’s new DVD releases for circulation.

My first impression is that it sounds better than the Japanese edition. It’s been remastered. But it’s really weird to hear the new verses in English. In a couple of songs the pacing has had to change to accommodate the new lyrics—new segments spliced-in, or suddenly the syllables are stretched out. Having learned all the lyrics to the red one it’s a bit jarring to suddenly be singing something different than Taka, then having to wait for him to catch up before the next verse or the chorus.

Wait for the “Red vs. Black” review later in the week.

Saturday September 19th, 2015

Review: Last Dance – ONE OK ROCK

Saturday September 19th, 2015

Two arcs combine in this explosive new ballad from ONE OK ROCK.

The first arc is that the boys have had their sights set on becoming the first real breakthrough Japanese band in America. They’ve been working hard—each release one step closer—and it shows. Next week their first American album drops, 35xxxv, and I expect it’s just the beginning.

The second arc is how they’ve been crafting the rock ballad. Taka has written, and the band has performed some really beautiful ballads. Every album has had one: the same as…, Wherever You Are, Pierce, Karasu. The Japanese release of 35xxxv already had three: Heartache, Good Goodbye and Fight the Night. All very well done.

These two arcs intersect with the new fourth ballad on the US/International release of 35xxxv, Last Dance. It blew me away.

Like the rest of the songs on 35xxxv, Last Dance is a breakup song. Unlike the others, Last Dance explores the decision of whether or not to break up. Is there something still there? Can we regain what’s been lost? Or, are we

Every time I think it’s getting better…
Just making time, Going nowhere!

Is this our Last Dance?
Can we take another chance?
To be… Alone together still?

Are, we? wasting time?
Chasing dreams, not yours or mine?
Care, for you I always will.

The power of the lyrics is reinforced with the power of the music. OOR has always had powerful arrangements—except in their ballads. Until now. Last Dance would be a powerful song even without Taka’s vocal. The long lead-in first verse breaks over into the first chorus at 0:50 with huge half-notes from Ryota and Toru, and remarkably powerful yet restrained work from Tomoya. Then Taka’s vocal sails over it all. It’s just orgasmic.

For the record, I’m not usually a fan of ballads. Ordinarily I like something I can shake a leg to. Yet the sweeping power of Last Dance catches me. I move to it just as much as it catches in my throat. No doubt to the consternation of my neighbors, it’s been on nearly continuous replay since it appeared on the web yesterday.

I can’t wait to see it performed live at the show in NYC. Meanwhile, I think it’s the perfect choice for OOR’s introduction to the mainstream US Market.

As for the video, I’m less enthusiastic. I completely get why they did it this way—cover all the bases and introduce the band to the mainstream US audience. It’s just not my cuppa. I prefer their more artful (and award-winning) videos. This one, I watched a couple of times before I stripped-out the audio so I can listen without the distraction. (No choice really, since I won’t have the album until this coming week.)

As for the recording itself, OOR have been inching up and up in the “volume wars” in recordings, with more and more clipping in their production. I hate clipping. I hate the volume wars. I’m a big fan of dynamic range. This dates back to the 70s when, as a club DJ, my favorite piece of equipment was my dbx 3bx Dynamic Range Expander.

The Japanese release of 35xxxv pretty much sucks until after I pump it through Audacity’s Clipfix. While I like all the songs, as a recording, it’s a horrible album. The distortion introduced by the clipping and volume flatness caused by it make it hard on my ears—and my equipment.

Last Dance—at least the mix in the video—is listen-able without any intervention. But tweaked—it needed only the barest kiss of Clipfix and a sukochi more dynamic range, which I’ve added by potting down the softer segments, rather than potting up louder ones. Now, my copy just shines.

It’ll be interesting to hear the mix on the CD next week.

EDIT 2015/10/10: See this interview with Taka at VKH Press where he explains why there is an alien invasion in a love song video.

Saturday September 5th, 2015

Rehearsal

Saturday September 5th, 2015

Four weeks from tonight I’ll be in NYC to see ONE OK ROCK. And with any luck, I’ll be right at the front. I won’t want to lose my place by going to the bar or toilet, or having to sit down somewhere, so I’m in training. Well, athletes call it training. My approach seems more like rehearsal.

First I have to get into shape. I play the 2014 Mighty Long Fall Live at Yokohama Stadium BluRay without benefit of my chair, and without either a beverage or a potty break. And of course with plenty of jumping around, flailing my arms about, and singing. At 02:25:48, It’s quite a workout for an old guy.

TIP: While a torrent of the 90-minute, lower resolution/poorer audio quality WOWOW TV version exists, the genuine article worth every ¥. (Plus it helps pay the boys.) You get a hardcover photo booklet, five more songs (including the entire encore), all the between song talks, and the far-better-than-CD audio quality of BluRay. It’s the best-sounding recording I own. Period. (My Yamaha studio monitors love it.) Amazon.co.jp lets you order in English, pay in $, and ships via second-day air to the US.

Second is rehearsal. Weekend days are filled with brushing up on the lyrics. Online, I found several set lists for the 2015 35XXXV Japan Tour. The order of the songs varies a bit from show to show, but they all contain the same 18-song main set and three-song encore.

Hoping the America Tour will be essentially similar, I’ve put together a playlist in Audacious with 20 of the 21 songs. I don’t have Ketsuraku Automation (欠落オートメーション) a “B side” of the The Beginning single. I’ve decided to be surprised by it.

But, so that I don’t get worn out on too much ONE OK ROCK, I’m sticking with other stuff during the week. UVERworld seems to be floating to the top of the weekday playlist lately.

Friday June 19th, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

Friday June 19th, 2015

I’ve been full of anxiety the past couple of days, waiting for ticket sales to begin for ONE OK ROCK in NYC on Saturday October 3.

Today at noon, tickets went on sale. At 12:02 my confirmation email arrived, followed a minute later by my e-ticket.

Early Entry and Preshow Meet and Greet!YES! I scored the Meet & Greet with the band before the concert.

Apparently it also includes early entry. So chances are very good that I’ll be right at the front for the show.

I’ve booked and paid for my ticket on Amtrak ($124 round-trip) and I’ve booked my accommodation at a guest house in a former convent, Leo House, $125 plus taxes. It comes highly recommended by a friend. No frills, no sleaze, and clean. That’s all I need.

日本語

Now, to work on my 日本語 (Nihongo, or Japanese language) in the hope that I won’t become a starstruck blubbering idiot again.

On that topic, I’m taking a different tack. I was happy with my progress, but all the materials I was working with are geared toward traveler’s Japanese. Rather than really learning the language—vocabulary, grammar and construction (let alone reading and writing)—they all taught parroting of stock phrases. Basically memorizing phrases without learning what makes them work, and how to build from there. For instance, I learned how to ask Miss Yamata to send a fax, but nothing about how to introduce myself.

I pulled back and worked on writing and reading to clear my head a bit. Interestingly, I don’t seem to be quite so dyslexic in Japanese. Weird. I also had to go back and learn the names of grammar and structures in English, so I could understand what they’re talking about in textbooks and dictionaries.

Anyway, I’ve begun working with materials that teach the actual language. I want to be able to understand how the language works, then how to think in Japanese.

Birthday speakersYamaha HS5 Powered Nearfield Studio Monitor

This all comes after I’d already purchased a birthday gift for myself. I’ve been working with music a lot on the PC of late. Yet my PC speakers were the ones that came with my ancient Gateway (Tired Cow) purchased in October 1994. They were crappy when I got them, and the electronics have “gone soft” with age. (Probably leaking capacitors.)

Once you know to look for the white woofers, you see Yamaha studio monitors everywhere. ONE OK ROCK producing the Cry Out video.

SPYAIR mixing-down Firestarter.

And SPYAIR’s guitarist UZ, has ‘em in his home studio.

I’ve worked many extra hours so far this year. I decided that half of it should go towards sensible things, and the other half I’d blow on new speakers.

Trouble is, I’ve never heard computer speakers that sound good with music. They seem to be designed to make gaming sound good—explosions, car crashes, gunfire and the like.

I asked a musician co-worker what he’d recommend that’s a step up from computer speakers. “Nearfield studio monitors”, was his reply.

Nearfield means what it says. They’re designed to sound best placed closely, on the studio console or desktop music workstation.

Studio monitors as a genre are designed for high accuracy with minimal coloration and distortion in order to bring out the flaws in the recording or mix before it leaves the studio.

And finally, like computer speakers, the amps are built-in.

Sound Source, a professional music store a stone’s throw from home, had several models hooked up for comparison in the store. I spent an afternoon with my SPYAIR and ONE OK ROCK CDs comparing the ones in my price range.

I came home with a pair of Yamaha HS5s. They are without question the best speakers of any type that I’ve ever owned. Crisp, clear, transparent sound, with fantastic imaging. And as designed, boy do they reveal the flaws in some of the recordings I own, but good recordings sound just heavenly.

But the whole point of the exercise, besides junking the old speakers, was to get as close as possible to the sound the artists intended. Listening on the same speakers they use in the studio brings me really close.

So it seems this birthday is about music. New studio monitors, and getting meet & greet tickets to see ONE OK ROCK. Nice dinner with my parents, and stop on the way home to see my brother and sister-in-law.

All in all, not a bad day.

(Oh, and for those keeping score, it was number 58.)

Tuesday June 16th, 2015

Yeah! ONE OK ROCK Coming to NYC!

Tuesday June 16th, 2015

When I saw ONE OK ROCK at Pittsburgh in April, Taka alluded to a return to North America this coming autumn. Tonight when I got home from work and checked Twitter, YES!

ONE OK ROCK’s 2015 35XXXV North American Tour hits this autumn. Unlike the Pittsburgh show, ONE OK ROCK is not sharing the stage with anyone. The whole show will be all OOR, all the time.

Tickets go on sale Friday, and my mouse pointer will be hovering right there at opening time.

I’ll take Amtrak to Penn Station (NYP). A friend has recommended inexpensive accommodation within walking distance of the station. It’s 20 blocks (2 miles) from the guest house to the venue—an easy walk for me, or a short hop on the subway if it rains.

OKE OK ROCK 2015 35XXXV North American Tour Schedule