Shiina Ringo
Muzai Moratorium


4.0
excellent

Review

by MS2k USER (17 Reviews)
February 26th, 2015 | 82 replies


Release Date: 1999 | Tracklist


Do you like JPop"

That's not a question polite people ask at dinner parties or in any situation where one's reputation is at stake. The types of people who might ask (and have the gall to respond in the affirmative) are often the self-marginalized, accused of having some sort of cultural fetish and (it is often speculated) poor social skills and bizarre, sometimes unsavory interests. These aren't the kinds of people you want to hang out with unless you're one of them, and even then you're pushing it. And if they're big on Japanese pop stars and all the stereotypes that come included, then what business have the rest of us to give one of those pop stars' records a spin"

Well, if you dig good music then Sheena Ringo's debut Muzai Moratorium is your business. It's pop. It's rock. It's conventional, while at the same time foreshadowing Ringo's developing eccentricities and artistic ability. And as a former member of the aforementioned group of weirdies, I can attest to its virtue as a JPop album that stands head and shoulders above the industry's typical formulaic, superficial, soulless swill. This is an album of craft, and, like many of the best albums sung in English, it blends genres in new and exciting ways. And while it can't be called "JPop In Name Only" (like much of the artist's later work), it does come close enough that passersby who catch you with the window down at a red light with this album blaring won't have much cause for giving you the stink eye—all else being equal, of course.

The opening seconds of "Tadashii Machi" feature simple but lively drums and guitar feedback before Sheena starts wailing in lo-fi over a bassy wall of sound. She sings a couple lines, her guitar leads a couple lines, and then the party's started. Her vocal tone is sicky-sweet for the better part of the song and the melody sounds like something from an anime theme song but it's bearable, maybe even enjoyable depending on your state of mind; remember the market and think of it as easing the audience into the album. This also works as the inverse, as it gives non-Japanese listeners a smack of local flavor while retaining enough fuzz rock elements to keep the song in familiar territory. "Kabukichō no Joō" follows suit with an up-tempo, rhythmic, rolling tune with a guitar sound that harkens back to the days of surf rock, at least until the Tube Screamin' wailing in the middle eight. Oh yeah, now it's on.

Ringo consistently changes up her working genre from one song to the next. Traditional karaoke fodder "Marunouchi Sadistic" leads into grunge-lite with "Kōfukuron (Etsuraku-hen)"; JPop ballad "Akane Sasu, Kiro Terasaredo..." (complete with a verse sung in English, although her accent is so thick you can hardly notice) is followed by queer electronic thing "Sid to Hakuchūmu" that turns into an alt rock song with a swing beat for the chorus (and is that a harp"). And then the second half of the album starts up and it's mostly beautiful noise, loud and distorted and fun, with the occasional odd quirk tossed in for good measure. Hear her parody of traditional Japanese folk with a synthesized koto and heavy 4/4 beat at 1:36 of "Tsumiki Asobi", for example. "Onaji Yoru" is an acoustic ballad with guitar and old-timey sounding violin that gets squeakier as her voice gets sharper and a few heavy electric instruments that poke their noses into the end of the track. Soaring hard rock anthem "Keikoku" (my favorite on the album) has a middle verse where Ringo's vocals are overdubbed over the sound of her hard breathing; the title translates to "Caution" and the pace is exciting, which makes me wish there was an English translation of the lyrics somewhere.

Perhaps her most eclectic non-cover album, Muzai Moratorium is impressive because it showcases Sheena Ringo's extraordinary talents and is actually nice to listen to. That it's not as structured or consistent as her later material is no doubt due to her having written almost every song in her teens prior to being signed. That it has obvious elements of JPop, including a couple songs that fit the description to a T, is also probably due to this fact, and it's telling that her next album, Shōso Strip, came out one year later and bears practically none of the same pop trash. Her genre jumping and creative flourishes, then, are more so a preview of what's to come than a simple one-off. In this sense, Muzai Moratorium (which translates to "Innocence Moratorium"), is about Sheena's shirking of vapid JPop conventions, her establishing an identity as an artist of substance (with a great deal of style to boot) over empty idolatry, and her introducing her craft to Japan and the world. Does this mean this is a perfect album" Of course not. Is it still worth listening to" You better believe it.



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user ratings (95)
Chart.
4.1
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Jasdevi087
February 26th 2015


5543 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh cool, this got a review. Need to get more into her stuff, been meaning to.

Phlegm
February 26th 2015


7248 Comments


looks interesting, great cover

CalculatingInfinity
February 26th 2015


8935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

FINALLY this has a review, love this. This is still Shiina at her most energetic and youthful, mixing the J-Pop stylings with the all out rock anthems and the general atmosphere of this makes this something I always come back to.

FadedSun
February 26th 2015


1975 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It's about time. Nice review. Possibly my favorite Shiina. Tadashii Machi as an intro with that famous Shiina wail is classic.

Schizophrenik
February 26th 2015


847 Comments


I still need to listen to this more. Good job on the review

SirArthur6
March 23rd 2015


266 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I can't believe I missed this going up, I was just going to write a review for this.



Disappointed you kinda glossed over Onaji Yoru. That song is amazing and one of Shiina's all time best. Otherwise a good review, have a pos.

CalculatingInfinity
March 23rd 2015


8935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's pretty damn great but IMO Onaji Yoru is the 3rd worst song on here, still love this album.

SirArthur6
March 23rd 2015


266 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

3rd worst song? Whaa? How?



Onaji Yoru > Koko De Kiss Shite > Akane Sasu Kiro Terasaredo > Marunouchi Sadistic (if only for that gorgeous bridge) > Tsumiki asobi > Koufukuron = Keikoku > Morphine > Tadashii Machi > Kabukichou no Jou > Sid to Hakuchuumu



CalculatingInfinity
March 23rd 2015


8935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Shiina rankings? I support this



Koko de Kiss Shite>Kabukicho no Joo>Marunouchi Sadistic=Moruhine>Akane Sasu Kiro Terasaredo>Keikoku=Sid to Hakuchumu>Tadashii Machi>Onaji Yoru=Koufukuron>Tsumiki-asobi



I think Onaji lasts too long and she forces her vocals too much by the end, tries too hard to be abrasive while trying to remain beautiful with a sence of being deadicate. Still enjoy the song though definately.

SirArthur6
March 23rd 2015


266 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Couldn't resist. It's not often I get to rank what now is one of my all time favourite artists. tbh I told a bit of a lie earlier, I'd already written up a draft of a review for this, I dedicated a whole paragraph of it to Onaji Yoru, I might as well put it here if I'm not gonna end up uploading it:



The album’s best moment is the ballad Onaji Yoru. The arpeggiated guitar chords form a gorgeous harmonic structure that go above and beyond your standard pop progressions. The violin work in this song is a stroke of genius, adding a sense of sentimentality but being just bizarre enough to sound honestly heartbroken without being cheesy. What makes this song truly special is the final chorus when the supplementary guitar turns distorted while still remaining quiet, just allowing itself to boost the texture while Shiina gives it her all vocally, which culminates into one of the most seizing moments in Shiina’s career



Interesting how different our rankings are. At least we both agree KdKS owns.

CalculatingInfinity
March 23rd 2015


8935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sorry for double post but Arthur have you heard of Kuroki Nagisa? You'll probably love her if you dig this. EDIT: Ninja'ed, responding to your comment.

SaneTBP
March 23rd 2015


2070 Comments


This is pretty awesome

CalculatingInfinity
March 23rd 2015


8935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well I only 3.5'ed Kalk, definately doesn't connect with me like Samnon, this and Shouso. With how different our rankings are just shows how good she is, every single one of her albums are so different and have different appeals. Still in my top 5 artists/bands ever, love this woman. And yes KdKS is the shit.

SirArthur6
March 23rd 2015


266 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I haven't heard Kuroki Nagisa, will check her out. I only discovered Shiina Ringo through this site (like pretty much all other japanese music I listen to) so there's probably a lot more awesome Japanese music going on that I've barely scratched the surface of.

I love Kalk to bits. I tend to like Shiina during her more experimental moments. Also anguish (as bad as that sounds). Gamble is probably my favourite song from her.





CalculatingInfinity
March 23rd 2015


8935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Shun will always be my favorite Shiina song, for song quality and personal reasons.



When it comes to Japanese music if you haven't heard these 3 then listen to ASAP:



Kuroki Nagisa - s/t and Hyouhon Bako (since you love this you'll probably love the s/t)

Gackt - Mars and Mizerable

Malice Mizer - Merveilles

SirArthur6
March 23rd 2015


266 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I'll definitely check these out. Thanks Mr Infinity *tips hat

CalculatingInfinity
March 23rd 2015


8935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You're welcome good sir, enjoy :3

FadedSun
March 24th 2015


1975 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ringo Expo '14 is amazing. Everyone go watch it.

dimsim3478
July 18th 2015


8252 Comments


five tracks in and this is a potential 5

Digging: NOT WONK - Down the Valley

CalculatingInfinity
July 18th 2015


8935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

3rd for me, Shouso Strip and Sanmon Gossip are imo better.



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