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Originally formed in their first year of high school, RADWIMPS started out in 2001. After releasing their first album independently, the group went on hiatus in 2003 for their school exams. After this hiatus, only 野田洋次郎 (Yojiro Noda) [Vocal, Rhythm Guitar and Piano], and 桑原彰 (Akira Kuwahara) [Lead Guitar] returned, getting 武田祐介 (Yusuke Takeda) [Bass] and 山口智史 (Satoshi Yamaguchi) [Drum] to fill in the gaps. The lineup has remained unchanged, although Satoshi is currently on hiatus from the band. In 2005 the band made their major debut with EMI Records, moving to Universal Music Japan in 2013. At the time of writing, the band have released 8 albums and 1 EP. Further to this, they also wrote the soundtrack for the hit anime film, Your Name. The group have toured the world, and performed in London back in 2015. With their growing success, and particularly with how much of a hit Your Name was, we can hope they will play our shores again in the future!
So where do I begin with their sound? It’s quite hard as across their discography there is quite a range, as they always experiment and push themselves musically. Even when they started out there was a fusion of styles, which I won’t lie can make albums feel a bit disjointed, but musically it is great. At the core, there is an alternative rock sound, where it is straight forward rock with interesting guitar riffs and shreds. It isn’t necessarily catchy but gives you an emotional vibe of the track. Even with that at the core, they depart from it quite a bit, some tracks having a more pop rock drive with a really catchy chorus, or even a real jazz bouncy rhythm drive. These tracks are rammed filled with energy, and are the side of RADWIMPS I really want to see live as that would create such an awesome atmosphere in the room! I won’t lie, due to my personal tastes this style may have skewed the top 10.
Other tracks go the opposite way with a real indie/alternative drive, that have such experimental techniques and use various effects to push their sound into something new and interesting. Indeed it doesn’t even stop there! Some tracks even use more electronic music effects and feel like a different alternative electronic style, where most of the rock elements are removed, with all the effects on overdrive, and the keys are electronic dance style synths. I won’t lie, when I heard some of their tracks that were like this for the first time, I was confused and turned off a bit by it. After a couple of listens for me to get my head around it and I realise now that despite removing the rock elements, they maintain the alternate rock feel and I grew to love those tracks equally with the rock tracks.
The real last category, and yes there is more, is the acoustic and soundtrack style. I have banded these together as where most bands do acoustic or stripped back songs, RADWIMPS acoustic sounds have a more ballad feel to them using more orchestral instruments with an acoustic guitar or piano. Outside of Your Name, they have put instrumental soundtrack like songs on their album, showing they have always played around with the concept. They are really solid soundtrack pieces, that do have a real piano focus with other instruments to build up to fit the emotional tone of the piece. It is a big contrast to the other two styles, but one they nail nonetheless!
Despite not knowing Japanese, although some are in English or feature English phrases, these range of styles help capture the emotion of the lyrics, overcoming the language barrier. This may come down to the fact Yojiro writes all the lyrics based on personal or real life events, giving that connection that drives the direction of each song. To wrap it all up, RADWIMPS are a band for everyone in the sense you may not like them holistically but within one of the three main styles you will find some music you will love! As there is so much, I have done a top 10 as I found it hard to bring it down to 5.
My Top 10 Hits
記号として (As A Symbol)
- 会心の一撃 (A Stroke of Sympathy)
- 週刊少年ジャンプ (Weekly Shonen Jump)
君と羊と青 (Kimi To Hitsuji To Ao)
- おしゃかしゃま (Occupation)
Most of their discography is available digitally (only missing the first few releases), physical copies have to be imported (although the Your Name soundtrack did come with the special edition release).