Japanese ska music, y'all!
Several years ago, I stumbled into this song by the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra ("TSPO") that features Hiromi Uehara, a renowned jazz pianist, and I kept it running on a loop for hours. There is so much raw musical talent and energy on display here, and the song itself has a wonderful ebb and flow to it, including a second half that gradually builds its energy back from a quiet middle passage until the sound is almost deafening. I couldn't say anything about what ska actually was at the time, but hey, this song is great.
Now that I have this website, I figured that this would be a great time to try out more of this stuff. To say that TSPO's output has been prolific would be inadequate, as they have been around since the 80's and have apparently released at least 19 studio albums. Seriously, 19 albums. I don't think that I've done anything 19 times in my life. This group is also known for touring internationally and covering a variety of songs from different genres.
Across the length of an entire album, the group's propensity to slide into different musical styles made listening to it a highly hit-or-miss experience. The punk-sounding songs on Ska Me Forever, for example, are kind of dire, albeit in a winningly goofy way (just listen to those vocals). Fortunately, there are some longer songs that create a stronger sense of atmosphere and give everything room to breathe, like "Horizon." "Damned" is another gem that crackles with energy and an excellent beat, playing out like a ska version of one of Hideki Naganuma's video game soundtracks. TSPO definitely seems like the type of group that would reward those who create their own curated playlists of personal highlights instead of worrying about listening to individual albums from start to finish.
I can't end this post without mentioning how great of a band name "Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra" is. Seriously, what's better than that?