Review: Miyavi – No Sleep Till Tokyo

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Recently (months ago), I had the opportunity to see Miyavi perform for my fourth or fifth time. He’s one of the few artists where I will actively do anything I can to see him play if I’m lucky enough for him to come to town on one of his tours. The No Sleep Till Tokyo US tour was in support of his new studio album, predictably called No Sleep Till Tokyo, and when I gave the new record a listen I was pleasantly surprised.

For some background, Miyavi first made his name as the guitarist for the visual kei band Due le Quartz before splitting off to do a solo project that was originally a mix of industrial, metal, punk, pop, and whatever else he felt like. Over the years his sound has continued to develop and sometimes change somewhat radically, but the one constant was a truly virtuosic command of the guitar. He started taking English and dancing lessons and eventually made the move to LA where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters.

There is an evil that lurks in the streets of LA. When Miyavi began to heavily collaborate with a young American songwriter and actor named Seann Bowe, things took a pretty big turn. An extremely talented artist who made his mark with virtuoso guitar work put out a couple records that showed a significant lack of said virtuoso guitar work.

Now I don’t really think Seann Bowe is an evil lurking in the streets of Los Angeles, but the albums and the concert I caught in Seattle following the collaborative relationship between the two artists weren’t really my favorite. I don’t think Bowe is even necessarily a bad songwriter, but I don’t think his style tended to bring out the most of Miyavi’s talents.

Cut to this year where I had the privilege of seeing Miyavi play in Portland at a small venue: just him, his drummer Bobo, and someone working samples/electronics. No Sleep Till Tokyo was a major return to form for the artist, and though Bowe still has collaborative credits on the album, Miyavi himself seems to have been given more breathing room to let his style show most.

It was about halfway through the album I realized that the MYV I loved best was back, but as always having gone through change and development. There was the same penchant for jazz, pop, slight heavy aspects, r&b, but with a slight patina of EDM over the top, just enough to give some flavor without falling into kitsch.

My favorite tracks on the record are “Other Side,” “Walk With Me,” “Senyaku Banrai,” “We Can’t Stop it (Rewind)” and especially the track “Under the Same Sky.” Anyone familiar with Miyavi will recognize this as the line which for years the man has used to express his sentiment that everyone is in this world together, so we need to start being kinder, more supportive, and taking care of each other, especially those most in need.

The nice thing about Miyavi is this isn’t just him saying we need to start looking out for one another. He’s put in extensive work as an advocate for refugees and as a UN refugee ambassador has put forth his case as well as visiting refugee camps where he’ll speak with refugees, learn their stories, keep them company, and play music for them, including concerts for children in refugee camps.

A great album from a great human being.

Take care of one another, folks.

4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

No Sleep Till Tokyo is out now through Universal Music/Virgin Records.

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