Top Tracks from The Pillows That weren’t in FLCL that I’d love to hear in either FLCL Sequel

With the sneak premiere of FLCL: Alternative, and the more official premiere of FLCL: Progressive, it’s clear that Japanese band The Pillows will be dipping back into their extensive backlog of music to serve for both sequels’ background tracks. That said, here’s some of their jams I’d like to hear make an appearance in either show that didn’t make the cut in the original, either due to lack of appreciation, or because they weren’t made yet:

Climbing the Roof – 1995

Released in the album Living Field, Fool on the Planet came out six years after the band was formed, but five years before their international notoriety through the original FLCL—in interesting sweet spot in that now at their fourth album, the band has definitely experienced a fair amount of fame by this point, but nothing on the scale that they’re currently at. Fool on the Planet is an interesting track in that it starts off slowly—almost breezily—only to have that all tumbling into all-out rock by around the 2-minute mark. Something the band doesn’t shy away from in later tracks in their career, either.

Beautiful Picture – 2002

Beautiful Picture was released in the B-side collection Another Morning, Another Pillows, and exhudes a certain amount of confidence that you’d expect from something released shortly after the success of FLCL. Beginning with a quick-tempo tambourine and melodic guitar, Beautiful Picture maintains the vibe from something you’d expect from their FLCL-era tracks, while bringing something all its own. Its use of bass and occasional lulls are equal parts thoughtful and effective, creating a feeling of isolation without getting grimdark about it.

White Summer And Green Bicycle, Red Hair With Black Guitar – 2002

If you haven’t listened to any of The Pillows’ slower tracks, you absolutely need to do yourself a favor and correct that immediately. White Summer’s long title evokes a certain “take your time” vibe that appropriately oozes throughout the song itself. It’s melancholic without being overly depressing, rhythmic without being pop levels of bouncy, and creates this image of a time long past that while you can never recreate perfectly, is nice to remember every now and then.

Girlfriend (Love Letter version) – 1995
The Pillows’ original track Girlfriend was breezy enough and was definitely something you’d expect to play during a cute dating montage, perfectly balancing that knowing cheesiness factor that comes with infatuation. But for the version recorded for the romance movie Love Letter, The Pillows take things in a much more dramatic direction. Of course, the feelings of love remain throughout the track, but they’re met with hesitation—a more reluctant love that’s been hurt before and is simply trying to make a relationship worthwhile rather than simply in-the-moment.

Energiya – 2011

By this era in The Pillows history, I won’t shy away from saying the band’s gotten into something of a rut. More often than not, tracks are repetitive not only within a single song, but across an entire album. Even with those gripes in mind, though, Trial is one of my favorite recent tracks of theirs. With a generous guitar riff that’s repeated throughout the track, it also isn’t afraid to slow things down a bit. And while it sounds a bit uncomfortably interchangeable with Minority Whisper and Trial, which are tracks that appear on the same album, they’re all equally good tracks.

Sweet Baggy Days – 2007

It’s the end of the day, you’ve gotten a ton of stuff done for once, and you’re ready to head back home to chill the hell out. That’s the feel Sweet Baggy Days gives off, and while it falls into the same problems as other more modern The Pillows tracks in its redundancy, it does so in a manner that’s very satisfying to the ears. Even later into the track when it betrays its own vibe by upping its tempo, it’s still something I can listen to comfortably.

The Scar Whispers, Nobody Is In Paradise – 2003

Like White Summer And Green Bicycle, Red Hair With Black Guitar before it, The Scar Whispers is oddly thoughtful about just how chill it wants to be. With a guitar that’s almost lullaby-like in nature, the entire track is such a satisfying slow jam that just makes me wish The Pillows made more slow tracks like this over their more mainstream rock hits that have become more processed and soulless with each passing single and album.

Monochrome Lovers – 1994

Released back in The Pillows’ wannabe Beatles phase, Monochrome Lovers is still a notable track on its own. It’s incredibly quick-paced and breezy, with an almost samba-like break in-between that takes you off guard, but still maintains the track’s good vibes that you don’t care.

Honorable Mention: Thank You, My Twilight – 2002

Technically, this track has already been in the opening scene in FLCL: Progressive, but that doesn’t take away from how much this song kicks. Had I made this list just a day earlier, Thank You, My Twilight would be at the top of my list, no questions asked. It maintains the unique vibe from that era of The Pillows that’s equal parts stuck in FLCL nostalgia, but also its own thing entirely. It’s surprisingly slow tempo paired with its opening techno bleep-bloops that permeate throughout the track is just so iconic, especially when the music begins to swell into finale mode when you’re just so utterly engulfed by it and have no other choice but to bob your head in appreciation.

“Let’s Enjoy!” Delicious Bump Show ’10

… because I guess even someone like me’s allowed to do (somewhat) college-student-like things every now and then.

For the uninitiated, the Delicious Bump Show is an American concert featuring solely Japanese artists under the Delicious Label. Being a somewhat newb to the realm of listening to Japanese music outside of anime opening and endings, I was somewhat skeptical about attending, but considering that J-Alt band extraordinaire the pillows were the main act, I couldn’t help but pre-order some tickets and drag a buddy o’ mine for the ride.

Taking place in Slim’s, a small-time club about an hour or so from campus, it was obvious that the Delicious Label wasn’t expecting too large of an American fanbase. Still, the outcome was larger than expected, with the crowd probably numbering out to around 50 or so people. The demographic was also an interesting find, with one kid and one old guy amongst a crowd averaging out in age to somewhere probably along their late 20’s to early 30’s. Taking in mind that the pillows are best known for having their music featured in the 2000 Gainax anime series FLCL (raking in a mainly high-schooler fanbase), this makes total sense… though didn’t exactly help my youngling case much.

As expected, the acts were in order of increasing popularity. The first band that played, Pop Chocolat, were performing for the first time in America. And considering that they were an all female band that had to play their J-Pop songs in front of a crowd of American otaku, they did an alright enough job. Second up was monokuro, which very much accented the “rock” in “J-Rock.” Doing some background-checking in the months preceding the show, I couldn’t find anything on Pop Chocolat, and the only songs I could find from monokuro were “meh” at the best. Thankfully, Pop Chocolate was alright enough and monokuro’s general “out-there-edness” and crazy stage presence combined with bits of Engrish to start off each song (“Let’s Go!” “Let’s Enjoy!”)  really made up for my ignorance of both these opening bands. It sure helped that the two of them had the better band shirts available, too.

Third up was noodles, another all female band, albeit somewhat better known. Listening through their songs beforehand, they very much gave off a Sheryl Crow/Liz Phair kind of tone to my pleasure. One of their better known (and requested) songs was “Love My Life,” which was used in a live-action manga adaptation under the same name.

Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for had arrived: the pillows. From out of nowhere, it seemed like more floor space was made as the crowd started to gang up closer to the stage. Everyone started to whip out their cameras and phones, making a point of saving all their memory for this band alone. Considering I’m talking music here, there really isn’t much I can say until I can get my videos from the show uploaded, but just believe me when I say: pure awesomeness. Knowing fully well that they’re known best for FLCL, the band took no time in getting to their better known songs from the late ‘90s. Though, I honestly would have been fine with music from any of their tracks—yes, I think they’re that good.

To think that a band 20 years in the making is still taking the time to play in such a small venue in the states just blows my mind. Seeing frontman Sawao Yamanako interact with the audience (quite the interesting time seeing some people all the way from New York throwing out a shirt with a song request on it to him) and talk about not caring about age as long as they keep putting out excellent music was something truly inspirational, to be trite.

External References:
– Delicious Bump photos (all mine at the moment ‘cuz I’m that awesome) (facebook)
– Delicious Bump: pillows footage (coming soon once I find out what’s up with my videos not uploading)

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