When I think of the accordion, I tend to think of Italy or sometimes Polka music. CHARAN-PO-RANTAN changed that for me with their latest album, Toritome Nashi (トリトメナシ). As with many Japanese bands, I find that it would be too difficult to simply label CHARAN-PO-RANTAN with a single genre. Further enforcing this is the fact that their newest album is just about everywhere you can fit an accordion. Through the magic of the well known, yet seldom popularized accordion, CHARAN-PO-RANTAN takes us on a multi-colored trip through music genres. Let’s jump right in and see if I can give you a verbal breakdown of the mysticism that is Toritome Nashi.
Ska. Those familiar with ska are probably familiar with it because they remember that phase in their lives where it ruled the airwaves. Here in the States, I can remember a time when no band was complete without a set of trumpeters and trombonists. For me, it really was a glorious time. Alas, popular music evolved. Susume, Tama ni Nigetemo ( 進め、たまに逃げても), brought me back to the 90s and the great era of ska. If that wasn’t enough, CHARAN-PO-RANTAN brought their own twist to the genre. Susume, Tama ni Nigetemo is a great way to open an album, it’s upbeat and classy. It makes you want to get on your feet and get a little wild, but not too wild. The upbeat rhythm of the song is cut into sections with dreamlike interludes that preserve the overall energy and lend to a pleasurable listening experience.
Sweet as Sugar. The accordion really takes front and center in this one. The pop-like bass keeps up with the accordion and as you hear the word ‘chocolate’ in the lyrics you start to really feel the song melt like sweet warm chocolate, sweet as sugar indeed. It’s got an old-timey yet modern vibe to it due to the arrangement. I’m really dying for something sweet after giving this one a listen.
CHARAN-PO-RANTAN is not the band I thought they were. Mayuge Dance (まゆげダンス) is exactly what it sounds like, a dance number. I really can’t put my finger on this one other than saying that it is simply CHARAN-PO-RANTAN. It’s really quite hypnotic. It’s simple and catchy. I find it reminiscent of British pop groups like the Spice Girls. I bet you weren’t expecting to hear that name when reading a review on a Jrock sight.
It was quite a climb, but things soon began to mellow down. The acoustic guitar takes front and center in this one and as Yume Bakkari (夢ばっかり) begins and you are taken into a calm dream. The intermingling of the instruments here is just perfect. I never thought my life needed more accordion and guitar pairings until I came across this song. The soft vocals only serve as an excellent guide to soothing the listener.
Despite the more excited sounding opening, Tsuki (月), continues with the relaxing tone of Yume Bakkari. If you thought the airing of the guitar and accordion were great, wait until you hear the violin. The truth is Tsuki has a wide variety of instruments that blend together perfectly and give off somewhat of a cafe vibe. The song quickly takes off, however, and sounds like a great dance number. A waltz unlike any other, wild but tame.
The next two tracks of this album really bring the mood back up. Of the two, Koi wa Timing ( 恋はタイミング) and Otakebi ( 雄叫び), I must say that Otakebi really shines. Otakebi is a collaboration with the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, and what a collaboration it is. The return of ska to this album was very welcomed by me. Sukapara, as some fans refer to them, lent a lot of energy to the already talented duo. To my ears, there is definitely an underlying swing influence. Otakebi is easily my favorite track on the album and I can see myself listening to it more in the future.
The album closes with a song that really feels like a sendoff. A bit of that dreamy tone, a bit of the lovable upbeat tone and of course the perfect vocals to match the accompanying accordion work. Kanashimi (かなしみ) really fit in well to close out the journey that CHARAN-PO-RANTAN takes you through.
I wouldn’t call Toritome Nashi an absolute masterpiece, but, I do believe that it is definitely worth a listen. However, when you dive into this album you aren’t just diving into CHARAN-PO-RANTAN, you get to experience a completely different genre with like-minded artists that collaborated with the duo to polish off this album. Among those who collaborated on the album are Mr. Children, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Rina Katahira and Rei. If you happen to run into CHARAN-PO-RANTAN like I did, stay a while, they really have something worth experiencing.