an essential guide to pizzicato five
Pizzicato Five's 16 year stint as a band was very prolific, so it's very daunting and difficult to get into. Where do I start? This is the section for you. Speaking as a fan, I prefer their work with singer Maki Nomiya that was released on Seven Gods, Triad & Readymade, all subsidaries of Nippon Columbia. However, you also might have heard their earlier city pop style work with Mamiko Sasaki and Takao Tajima. I'll be covering both periods in this section, with a heavier emphasis on the Columbia years.
Regardless of which period you're interested in getting into, you should probably start with their 1993 album, "Bossa Nova 2001". It was the last album with the longtime band member Keitaro Takanami, and it shows the band at the start of their commercial breakthrough in Japan. This is also the album to feature their breakout single, "Sweet Soul Revue", also featured on their USA debut, "Made In USA".
This album I choose as the best starting point as it doesn't have a single theme throughout the album. While cohesive, it also has different genres and concepts throughout the album. You can listen to the album here. (Key: 4kp_dQ8gD0OurXneuPfUfg)
After this album, if you more interested in their city pop work, I highly recommend tracking down the "Pizzicatomania" and the "Antique 96" compilations. I'm not very familiar with their city pop work, so I'm not going to include those albums in the list below, but I'm acknowledging them and sending you on your way here!
If you are more interested in their shibuya kei / later work, then see the list below.
Here's a list of what I consider to be their most essential albums (including Bossa Nova 2001):
-- This Year's Girl – A mish-mash of jazz and guitar-oriented dance. While the jazz influences would be explored throughout the band's lifetime, the alternative dance sound really only stayed on this album. This album also includes their biggest US hits "Baby Love Child" and "Twiggy Twiggy".
-- Sweet Pizzicato Five – A total 180 from This Year's Girl's sound, Sweet Pizzicato Five explores house music. This album has a harder dance sound and almost every track is fairly lengthy and club ready.
-- Bossa Nova 2001 – Go up a few paragraphs.
-- Overdose – Overdose is the first Pizzicato Five album that uses a major city as a concept, in this case New York. Hip hop samples and funk are explored on this record. This album includes another big Pizzicato Five hit, "Happy Sad".
-- Happy End of the World – Happy End of the World in my opinion is a messy album, however I see it as a popular album among Pizzicato Five fans, which is why I'm including it here. It includes some of their best songs ever ("Trailer Music", "Ma vie, l'été de vie"), but it also includes some of their stranger. This album explores drum and bass and a lot of the tracks are instrumental experiments.
-- Pizzicato Five JPN – I don't really like including greatest hits albums in artist guides, but this compilation is a really good introduction to the middle of the Nomiya Maki years. It includes some essential singles, as well as appreciated album cuts. It also includes 2 really good megamixes of Pizzicato Five's discography.
-- The International Playboy & Playgirl Record – This is where we see Pizzicato Five go into more of a mature direction than seen on previous records. It has a loungey almost jazzy sound to it that is quite refreshing. Some tracks have the classic Pizzicato Five sound ("Playboy Playgirl"), some carry over the drum and bass sound from Happy End of the World ("Rolls Royce"), while others are new territory ("Concerto").
-- Pizzicato Five – This is my personal favorite Pizzicato Five album. It continues the mature sound of Playboy & Playgirl and takes it even farther. This album includes some trip hop elements, while continuing the lounge and jazz elements. It also has a more somber tone than seen on other records as well with songs about depression ("La Guerre Est Finie") and heartbreak ("The World Without You").
columbia / maki albumsThis Year's Model ep (1991)
London Paris Tokyo ep (1991)
Readymade Recordings ep (1991)
This Year's Girl (1991)
Sweet Pizzicato Five (1992)
Instant Replay (1993)
Bossa Nova 2001 (1993)
Expo 2001 (1993)
A Television's Workshop ep (1994)
Pizzicato Five TYO (1995)
Romantique 96 (1995)
Sister Freedom Tapes ep (1996)
Combinaison Spaciale ep (1996)
Great White Wonder (1996)
Happy End of the World (1997)
Pizzicato Five JPN (1997)
The International Playboy & Playgirl Record (1998)
Pizzicato Five (1999)
Remixes 2000 (2000)
Çà et là du Japon (2001)
Pizzicato Five R.I.P. (2001)
The Band of 20th Century (2019)
- The Audrey Hepburn Complex ep (1985) [b/w 59th Street Bridge Song + Let's Go Away For Awhile]
- In Action ep (1986) [a.k.a. Action Painting - b/w Boy Meets Girl]
- Lovers Rock (1990) [later released as Tokyo's Coolest Sound - b/w Two Sleepy People (Remix)]
- Sweet Soul Revue (1993) [b/w (Turtles In The Night Mix)]
- The Night Is Still Young (1993) [b/w (Talking Toolbox Mix)]
- Happy Sad (1994) [b/w Face B]
- Superstar (1994) [b/w Fortune Cookie]
- On The Sunny Side of the Street (1994) [b/w Silent Night (Live)]
- CDJ (1995) [remix ep]
- Triste (1995) [b/w Welcome To The Circus]
- Baby Portable Rock (1996) [b/w Triste (Readymade Strings)]
- A Message Song (1996) [b/w Gin-chan's Love Letter + Someone's In Love With Someone]
- It's All Too Beautiful (1997) [a.k.a. It's A Beautiful Day - b/w Love's Theme]
- Mon Amour Tokyo (1997) [b/w Ma vie, l'été de vie]
- PORNO 3003 (1997) [b/w Trailer Music]
- A Symphony (1997) [a.k.a. I Hear A Symphony - b/w Concerto]
- La Régle Du Jeu (1998) [b/w A New Song]
- Such A Beautiful Girl Like You (1998) [b/w Magic Carpet Ride (Bossa Nova 1998 Mix)]
- Week-end (1998) [b/w La Dépression]
- Playboy Playgirl (1998) [b/w The International Playboy & Playgirl Beats]
- Darlin' of Discothéque ep (1999) [jbl maxisonic series #1]
- Nonstop To Tokyo ep (1999) [jbl maxisonic series #2]
- A Perfect World (1999) [jbl maxisonic series #3 - b/w La Guerre Est Finie]
- Voyage À Tokyo ep (2000) [b/w Les Grandes Vacances]
- 24 Decembre ep (2000) [b/w Pizzicato X]