Zazen Boys - Zazen Boys II
2004; No American Distributer; Tokyo, Japan
(Disclaimer) Although I understand nearly none of the lyrics in Zazen Boys II (or any other Zazen Boys for that matter), I'd bet that they were ingenious.
Zazen Boys are a four piece from Tokyo, Japan that consisted (line-up is different now) of Mukai Shutoku (former member of Number Girl), Inazawa Ahito (former drummer of Number Girl), Hinata Hidekazu (formerly from Art-School), and Yoshikane Sou (formerly from Kicking the Lion). In Number Girl, Shutoku he led the band to become one of the biggest indie bands in Japan. In Zazen Boys, he continued his musical endeavors but with a more developed sound. In other words, sheer awesomeness.
Where do I begin. First of all, the album starts off as easily accessible, and I'd consider it an alternative album over an indie or math rock album any day. However this doesn't take away from any sense of dynamic that the album has. It's gets more and more difficult, but progressively so (no pun intended), easing into more and more intensity and experimentalism. It will leave you baffled by the fact that you actually were actually able to internalize it.
The band sound is unlike your typical alternative, math rock, indie rock, post-punk, spoken word, j-rock or rap. Although elements are presented throughout, Zazen Boys combine these elements into a cohesive sound without sounding corny or recycled. On track 2 Crazy Days, Crazy Feeling, you get a funk-inspired guitar riff played through a JC-120, r&b seemingly pitch-modulated female vocals, expressive drumming reminiscent of Number Girl, and the spoken-word and rapping of Shutoku 49 seconds in. How does any of this go together? It may sound confusing, but it makes perfect sense once listened to.
Overall, Zazen Boys sounds refreshing and the only thing they recycle are some of their Number Girl tendencies. By this I mean similar melodies, phrasing and chord progressions are reused. After listening to most of their other stuff, one downfall is the fact that entire songs seem to be redone with slightly different rhythms and vocal approaches on different releases. However, on Zazen Boys II, ideas and progressions aren't repeated as far as I can tell .
If this isn't enough to get you to listen to the album, realize that Mukai doesn't only sing. He does spoken word, raps, snarls, screams, and chants. His vocal range itself isn't very dynamic, but the way he uses his voice is ultimately expressive and in my opinion, his vocal delivery means more than some of the best singing in the world.