REVIEW: DAOKO- ANIMA

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I’m gonna cut straight to the chase. DAOKO‘s new album ‘anima‘ is absolutely wonderful. And that is a big fucking deal.

Ever since DAOKO made that leap to a major label, fans have been puzzled as what she is supposed to be. Her label seemed to want to push her as a new diva, however, somehow she managed to lose everything that made her “DAOKO” in the transition. Gone were her little weird flourishes of ingenuity, removed was her greatest strength: her uncanny delivery of kawaii-rap. It was as if they couldn’t see past her face- perhaps this is why she kept it covered in the early days.

Luckily the attempts to make her into something that she wasn’t didn’t stick. People either just saw through the diva façade, or perhaps just didn’t even want a diva at all. It isn’t the 2000s anymore.

Ironically, flopping may have been the best thing to happen for DAOKO creatively, for now she finally seems to have been able to reconnect with herself and we finally have gotten that album we all thought we were going to get when she made the transition from indie to major- and it’s the most amazing, sonically rich album of her career.

The lead-up singles were both insanely good (Nariaki Obukuro produced club banger Otogi no Machi” and melancholic closer track “Ocharaketayo“), and really made the lack of interest I had in her (after her dreary last album “Shiteki Ryokou“) spring back to life. I wasn’t going to get too hyped for the return though, as she has had a track record of decent lead singles, mostly filler albums. Or, like THANK YOU BLUE, mostly just singles.

However, things slowed down and it was unclear whether an album was in the works or if she had dropped two random songs. Finally, she announced the record, and to my delight, it was mostly comprised of brand new tracks. There was no way of knowing where the direction of this album was going to go. I certainly did not expect one of the most creative, hard hitting art pop/hip-hop records of the last few years.

Favourite songs include the mood setting opener “VOICE“, the sexy “Achilles Ken“, the absurdly weird “Ai No Loss” (what IS that sample) and the amazing, upbeat “Kaeritai“. However, overall, there’s no track that I’d skip over or consider bad, and I’m certain different listeners are going to pick their own personal faves- it’s just one of those kinds of albums where there’s so much to love. It all flows consistently and never feels overlong.

The track order is almost perfect, though if there is one track that feels somewhat out of place it’s “Hi Sense Paisen” – a track that was originally recorded for game Dragalia Lost featuring SCHA DARA PARR. It’s by no means a bad song on it’s own, both rappers match each others stylings extremely well- it just feels a little bit too bouncy here in comparison to the rest.

However, the most exciting track on the album is the title track ‘anima‘, on of the most transcendent works DAOKO has ever put her name to. An audio adventure, the song goes through different phases, adding new layers of instrumentation over the already cacophonous base as it progresses. One song that comes to mind to compare is Shiina Ringo‘s (yeah I know, another Shiina Ringo comparison) hidden gem “SG ~Sanmon Gossip~“, a wildly experimental track (that didn’t make it on the album it takes it’s name from- likely because it just didn’t fit anywhere) that uses the same kind of layering effects. In-fact, one of the definitions of the word ‘anima’ can refer to the part of the personality that has direct contact with the subconscious; so the free flow, train of thought structure of the song really fits in nicely with this.

Overall, this is DAOKO’s best album, hands down. After a long streak of songs that didn’t really feel like the DAOKO that original fans fell in love with, and a less than stellar last album, this really is her redemption record. It’s truly liberating to hear someone get out of a creative rut to bring forward a record with such gusto, vibrancy and most importantly, PERSONALITY to the table. It’s a fantastic, surprising achievement and sure to be spinning in my playlist for a long while to come.

To that I say: STEPPING BACK STEPPING UP CLOSE YOUR EYES RAISE YOUR CUP

9/10. DAOKO, welcome back. For real this time.

REVIEW: DAOKO- ANIMA

REVIEW: MIZUKI OHIRA- IN ANY WAY

To say I was in love with Mizuki Ohira‘s debut full length, TRUE ROMANCE, would be a cosmic understatement. That 2016 release left me begging for more, however, it would end up being a 4 year wait (with many singles and remixes between) until Ohira would release a true follow-up album, IN ANY WAY. She also has left a lot of her initial sound behind since then, so, if you haven’t been keeping up with the singles since TRUE ROMANCE, this may sound like you are listening to an entirely different artist.

It’s not to say that sexy, gorgeous R&B leaning jazz pop isn’t there; it’s just much fuller, smoother and produced (possibly to a fault). I definitely did enjoy tracks like the gorgeous opener and single “Eternal My Room“. Mizuki Ohira’s pop music is as amazing and enveloping as always, but sadly some of the magic is lost under the heavy layering of sounds- simplicity worked amazing for her before, and sadly, the punch she had is more sedated than four years ago.

There’s also the ‘too many singles plague‘ going on here; the hard truth is that for such a long wait, those who have been keeping up will basically find a mini album’s worth of new material to delve into. Sure, its nice to get some of them older singles collected, but it’s still somewhat of a downer after such a long wait.

But that’s not to say this is a bad album, far from it. It’s very, very enjoyable for the most part. I imagine a new listener to her music will be fully enveloped in the gorgeous sounds Mizuki has committed to the album here. It mostly flows quite well, with a few stutters here and there, and a bit of a weaker end half. Ending the album with a remix of her old song “Real Love” seems a bit of a misstep, and almost comes off a bit lazy. However, other than those mostly nit-picks, you get a beautiful album with a hearty mix of genres from traditional J-pop, electronic pop, RnB and even reggaeton.

Mizuki’s greatest strength is still her impeccable vocals, she is a soulful, beautiful vocalist. That is definitely one area where she has developed since TRUE ROMANCE. It’s so easy to love her delivery, no matter what genre the tracks dabble between she is up for the task. Instrumentally, most of the album ranges from workable to absolutely enthralling. Production is decent, though the mix is on the hot side in some areas (the guitars on SAIHATE clip like mad), particularly noticeable when listened to on headphones.

The absolute highlight of the album is the main lead single, the outstanding, city-pop tinged duet “Moonlight” featuring Tavito Nanao. It’s great when a duet comes along with such chemistry, both vocalists equally talented and playing off each other perfectly. The song itself is sweeping, warm and completely inviting. It’s easy to forgive some of the lesser tracks leading up to this track going on the strength of this one alone. I can only hope the duet will work together again in the future.

Overall Mizuki Ohira’s second album offering is a solid one, if not the amazing record I was hoping it would be. Still very much worth a listen for anyone after a nice breezy record. If it’s your first time listening to her, don’t forget to go and check out her debut too!

6.5/10
REVIEW: MIZUKI OHIRA- IN ANY WAY

REVIEW AYUMI HAMASAKI- NEXT LEVEL (REVISITED)

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In a somewhat controversial opinion I hold, I now believe that Ayumi Hamasaki‘s tenth album “NEXT LEVEL” is probably her musical (though not financial) peak. However, what may be surprising for some to hear, is that at first, I really disliked this album -no, scrap that, LOATHED- this record. Coming directly off the hard rock driven albums Secret and GUILTY, I was (in hindsight somewhat stupidly) expecting something more in the same vein. I admittedly hadn’t been following the lead up singles at the time, but after I saw the album cover reveal, I knew instantly that this was going to be something different; so different in-fact, that she had never done anything similar before- or indeed afterward.

So then, what WAS so different about NEXT LEVEL that I found so off-putting at first? For one, it might very well be the first mainstream Japanese album of the late 2000s to really bring that 80s nostalgia wave that the west was riding to the forefront (even predating the likes of Especia who really brought city pop back to the public consciousness). If Ayumi had ridden Eurobeat in her early years, hard rock in her middle years, this was her first foray into using heavy elements of synth, disco and chiptune (and yes, that is an unmistakable Pac-Man sample in Rollin‘). Sure she’d teased bits and pieces of this retro sound before, but had never really just gone for it. And it has paid off, ultimately (maybe even ironically) making it one of her better aging albums of her discography.

It also was campy as hell, much more so than usual. Ayumi had a lot of fun with this one, however on initial spins it didn’t really translate too well for the listener. I physically cringed when I heard Sparkle for the first time. The cheesiness of some of the interludes further exaggerated the camp, to the point where it was a very hard album to take remotely seriously. However, as time wore on and the dust settled, the diamonds under the rough started showing through- for at the very core of this album is one of Hamasaki’s most potent, tragedy-riddled collection of songs.

From the absolutely epic GREEN with it’s Chinese and Takarazuka Revue influenced (see the 1930s Shanghai inspired MV too) instrumentation, to the absolutely breathtaking LOVE ‘n’ HATE which still hits harder than anything she has put out since, everything here works together wonderfully. Ultimately, what I didn’t enjoy at first -its campiness- turned out to be it’s greatest strength.

(On a sidenote- the campiness of the whole thing makes it fitting then, that the song ‘Rule‘ was used on the ill-received American adaptation of Dragonball. For better (but mostly worse), it is unquestionably the best thing about that terrible film, and puts a smile across my face knowing that it’s there.)

It, like all of Ayumi’s better releases, benefited from having a tight running time, at just over 50 minutes (she often makes the decision to go for a maxed out CD, which while seems generous, often ends up harming the overall flow and feel of her records). This really helps with NEXT LEVEL more than any release to date- it feels like it progresses and feels well thought out and structured, there isn’t any moments where it feels like it’s wandering aimlessly.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Ayumi Hamasaki record without at least a couple of ballads (for she really is the Queen of the J-pop ballad), and NEXT LEVEL is no exception. Most importantly, this happens to feature two of her most beautiful and moving she ever released- the incredible DAYS (the kind of song that makes you scream ‘shut the fuck up she’s singing DAYS!‘ when she sings it live) and the stripped back Curtain Call (with some of her most incredible and touching lyrics ever). If the rest of the album isn’t sitting well with you, at least these two songs are undeniably trademark Hamasaki gold.

Ultimately, looking in hindsight more than 10 years on from the release of NEXT LEVEL, I have to say that it’s definitely the most interesting release in her catalogue. It might not be my favorite (MY STORY holds that place in my heart), but it’s certainly the one that strikes me as the most memorable for many reasons. I can say with no doubt that it’s certainly the most unique- and is definitely aging very well. It’s never lost any freshness, it just seems to be getting fresher with each passing year. If you’re after the weirdest, most campy release in Hamasaki’s discography- don’t look any further.

9/10

REVIEW AYUMI HAMASAKI- NEXT LEVEL (REVISITED)

REVIEW: 4S4KI- OMAE NO DREAMLAND

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4s4ki (pronounced Asaki) is a fairly new face to the Japanese pop scene, and is currently sitting on a few EPs and singles that have cause a little bit of buzz in the hip-hop scene. Here she finally brings her debut album, ‘Omae no Dreamland‘, which has gathered a a plethora of guests and producers to make her sound come to life. Whilst the album mainly feels like an electronic pop album, the moments of hip hop here are never distracting. More importantly, they don’t feel like they are ripping off dated American trends and feel a lot more current than the majority of the competition. 4s4ki obviously keeps a worldly eye on the scene, and incorporates current sounds whilst still keeping it undeniably Japanese.

Opening with the single and title track, ‘Omae no Dreamland’ is an absolutely sweet, catchy electronic driven earworm that really sets the scene on what to expect for the rest of the album. It’s then followed by the harder hitting ‘Platonic’ featuring gu^2, the beat rapturous and engrossing, one of the best since the good days of Charisma.com. (as a side note, it may interest you that 4s4ki previously has worked with Itsuka on a single)

There are four songs featuring rapper Maeshima Soshi throughout the album, who actually adds rather than distracts from the tracks- definitely a much younger rapper than the usual features seen on Jpop albums, the delivery is very trap inspired, and relaxed. Asaki and him do seem to make quite the formidable duo, and work off each other really well. It’s truly refreshing to hear this kind of chemistry on a newcomer’s album. It adds another layer to the music that quite engaging and enjoyable. However, it is  ‘NEXUS’ featuring rinahamu that is the standout track on the album, it sounds as sweet as a CY8ER track, yet hides barbs underneath the surface. This goes for quite a lot of the album, and ultimately keeps the listener engaged a lot more than the usual J-pop record.

There are some issues with the album overall though, and one is 4s4ki’s need to work on strengthening her individuality. She’s very competent, matches her music fine enough, but nothing vocally really makes her stand out above and beyond (though this also means she never is grating either). There’s a couple of weaker songs on it too, but none that really are standout enough to skip. They’re just like small stops at the gas station on the way to the destination rather than bumps on the road. Overall though, the main experience the listener will have is a sense of fun during its short 31 minute run time.

7/10 Omae no Dreamland, despite it’s flaws is still a very competent and pleasant debut record, that outlines the future potential that 4sk4ki has, and is definitely one to check out and watch in the future.
REVIEW: 4S4KI- OMAE NO DREAMLAND

REVIEW: RINA SAWAYAMA- SAWAYAMA

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Rina Sawayama over the last few years has been making waves for herself (her debut EP, RINA is absolutely unmissable), establishing herself as one of the more daring and intelligent voices in pop music. Her upbringing in the UK as a Japanese migrant, and divorce of her parents and openly queer identity have made her one of the most simultaneously unique, but also relatable storytellers in the modern pop sphere. She also is an absolute music lover, her influences are from both Western and Japanese (she has made a thread on Twitter highlighting her recommendations and inspirations, including the likes of Shiina Ringo, Namie Amuro, Momoe Yamaguchi, Seiko Matsuda, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and, of course, Utada Hikaru to name a few) musicians. Most of all, whatever she releases (and she has quite an eclectic output), the absolute LOVE behind it all makes it truly powerful listening. Now she drops the next chapter in her discography, the debut full length, aptly titled SAWAYAMA.

Rina Sawayama’s vocals here are well, fucking amazing. It’s the kind of polish that most pop artists dream of accomplishing over the long-term, but here, Sawayama is still just at the start of her career. Her range is on show at all times, whether it be a caterwaul or a silky smooth croon, there’s never a moment where she falls flat. It ultimately becomes by far one of the most technically and emotionally triumphant vocal performances in recent memory, accomplished, with what seems to be very little studio tweaking. It’s as endearing as the shiniest pop albums coming out from both the UK and Japan right now, only with a fair bit more bite and smartly channelled vitriol towards racial ignorance/fetishism, or love toward the people that have supported her throughout the years (as most pronounced on “Chosen Family“).

The most exciting part about this album musically, is that no matter how far Rina takes it (from nu-metal and hair rock to clingy R&B and gigantic theatrical numbers to name a few) the album flows majestically along, and never loses sight of it’s vision. It feels whole and never lets you go from it’s grasp from it’s entire runtime. What’s great about this is that it’s a grasp you never want to leave. With the amount of detail throughout these tracks, you are guaranteed to pick up bits and pieces you missed on previous playthroughs. If you were ever going to sincerely throw the ‘art pop‘ label at anything, this album is fully deserving of that title. But it’s more than just that; it’s Rina’s story, which she is telling in absolute earnest, and it’s utterly spellbinding.

SAWAYAMA manages to create visceral pop songs with a biting self awareness, without ever falling into that corner of coming off as trite or try-hard. Rina is never one to play it coy, it’s absolutely refreshing to hear someone truly speaking their mind in glistening pop. If you feel some of your pretences being challenged, then she has accomplished what she has set out to do here, and it’s absolutely earth shattering.

I imagine this being considered a milestone release in the future- it’s very, very rare that someone comes along with such a strong set of messages whilst still being absolutely digestible as a pop record. It’s enthralling, uplifting and embracing. There’s a lot to enjoy here musically, and even more to absorb emotionally. Lucky then, we’ve all got a bit more time on our hands to fully digest this masterpiece.

9.5/10 While I’m still too new to Rina’s world to be comfortably able to call myself a true fan (or Pixel as she adoringly calls them), I feel that they are about to be absolutely spoilt rotten by this absorbing, eclectic release. For newcomers, this is likely going to be the hottest pickup of the year, both instantly approachable but deep enough to hold serious artistic weight with the music snobs. It’s a winner, and truly the first must own pop release of 2020.

REVIEW: RINA SAWAYAMA- SAWAYAMA

REVIEW: TOKYO JIHEN- NEWS


The prospect of a new Tokyo Jihen release, at first, was one that seemed somewhat fascinating; with Shiina Ringo‘s creativity barrel seemingly empty and her choices of collaborators iffy at best- going back to the tried and true was looking to be a potential lap of victory. How did this (admittedly apprehensive) expectations pan out? Well… it’s… fine. The memories of why we all got excited about Shiina Ringo going solo at the end of Jihen’s run have come back, however. There’s nothing overtly offensive, or, on the other side of the coin, amazing. Ultimately, my main experience with NEWS was well, boredom, leaving me theorising what exactly the main problem holding this release back was; and there is one major thing that stands out around the whole thing, which I will go into shortly.

The biggest flaw this EP has is one that isn’t derived from the band itself; for I seriously am of personal belief that this EP isn’t really about Tokyo Jihen. I believe it was about Shiina Ringo preparing for her role in the Tokyo Olympics, a reminder to fans and the general public of who Tokyo Jihen were. Thus, the songs don’t need to be works of art (and certainly aren’t), but just serviceable Tokyo Jihen songs for mass consumption. And that’s exactly what you get. There’s nothing new on offer, Jihen fans have heard everything that’s presented here before done better and with more soul. Uki’s song sounds like Petrolz, Kameda like typical Kameda, Izawa’s like Appa. Only Hata’s contribution is somewhat interesting, and that’s because we’ve only ever heard one song by him before this (which was way more exciting). With current world events making the Olympic plans Ringo had in mind for 2020 essentially fall through, it now makes this even more standout, with one of the weakest comebacks of recent memory.

I highly doubt there will be many people who can honestly say they’re still going to be spinning this thing after two weeks or so. The intent is so obvious that Ringo’s own song (Eien no Fuzai Shomei) just sounds like the same old spy song she’s been churning out the last ten years for various CMs or dramas. The playful joy that Jihen are renowned for bringing to the table regardless of quality is only superficially here. After eight years the most they could muster is a run through the motions release. The saddest irony is that back in the day, the other members were often the ones to blame for the mishaps; here it’s not them, musically most of this album is quite tight and well performed (if cookie cutter). No, this time, it’s Ringo and her sense of absolute vacancy or disconnect from the project, it feels like a stepping stone release. The more you listen, the more it feels like she’s doing a job and doesn’t really want to be there- it’s a real bummer and brings the enjoyment for the listener down quite greatly. It’s very rare that 20 minutes seems to wear out it’s welcome, but that’s where it’s at with NEWS.

All the negatives aside, given its timing, the world events around it and just how awkward it feels, it will make for an odd curio in the future. Its legacy will end up resting on that, rather than the music contained itself. One can only hope that this shaping of events will make the group rethink it’s objective a little more, and lead into a full blown comeback that fans were expecting from this EP. If not, well, it’s five more songs from a band we all thought was dead.

5/10 A pretty average EP from Tokyo Jihen that ultimately is more interesting seen as a failed Shiina Ringo vanity project, due to current world events.

REVIEW: TOKYO JIHEN- NEWS

REVIEW: HARU NEMURI- LOVETHEISM


Haru Nemuri
set the gold standard for newcomers in 2018 with her masterwork, Haru to Shura. With that, she set her fanbase alight, and caught the attention of the world, propelled by exposure from Anthony Fantano. It was also my favourite album of that year, and I’ve been waiting with bated breath for her follow-up, LOVETHEISM. I also have waited with caution, as that is some lofty heights to follow on from.

Haru Nemuri didn’t just deliver a decent comeback, she shattered all expectations and gave us yet another amazing work of art, that will not disappoint anyone who was blown away by Haru to Shura. In-fact, it might just blow them away even more.

Haru’s singular vision drives this mini album for it’s entire runtime. No matter how much playing around she does production wise, whatever new instrument palates she experiments with, whatever emotion she conveys; it’s always, always trademark Haru Nemuri. There’s no confusing who you are listening to; quite an amazing achievement in itself for someone so new.

She always manages to keep breaking new ground with these songs, which are consistently engaging to the listener- because she writes them with such passion that it’s absolutely infatuating. There’s a real sense of elation in many of these tracks, from the anthemic Fanfare, to the beautifully romantic Apple Song.

Haru’s delivery seems tighter than ever, she’s more melodic and when she does the occasional scream, you can fucking FEEL it. Her vocals are backed with some more absolutely breathtaking instrumental arrangements, that range from cathartic to downright inspiring. This mini album feels huge, and most excitingly- determined.

There’s no denying that the overall result is awe inspiring; it makes the listener feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. Haru Nemuri continues her winning streak with LOVETHEISM, and releases another album that feels like a big deal, and while its still too early to say for sure, likely will be the J-pop event of the year.

10/10– Haru Nemuri delivers another landmark album that for me, cements her place amongst the greats. Expect her to be the voice of the 2020s for many fans.

REVIEW: HARU NEMURI- LOVETHEISM

JANUARY/FEB 2020 JPOP RECAP

Hey there! I know it’s been a long time coming, but finally I’ve had time to sit down and look at the best five Japanese releases from the first two months of 2020. So far, it’s been a damn good year for music, but unfortunately not the best for just about everything else. Anyway, check out the following!

CY8ER- TokyoCY8ER’s Tokyo is a welcome breath of fresh air from the group, it truly feels like they’ve taken the mantle for the lofty heights that the short lived BPM15Q set. This one is a good one- there’s so many tracks to love here; everything is catchy and bright, and melodies get their nails in and are hard to get out of the listener’s head. It’s ironic that the weakest track here is by it’s most prominent producer- Yasutaka Nakata. Something just doesn’t quite meld as well as the other songs on the album, instead it becomes another run of the mill Nakata track, that feels like a late era Kyary Pamyu Pamyu song. Having the same song twice on the record just adds more insult to injury, and unfortunately is a distraction from the rest of the near perfect release. 7/10

REOL- Kinjito
REOL continues her absolute gold run of album releases, and her latest stands out just as much as her previous work. Where her 00s avex diva inspirations are well and truly on show here, she never feels too derivative either. She instead uses them inspirations, tightens the screws (this album clocks in at under 40 mins, a fair cry from the 70 min+ opuses of the noughties), brings everything up to speed with modern touches, and cuts out the filler. The results speak for themselves, with the best Koda Kumi/Ayumi Hamasaki album they never put out as the end product. 9/10

Chara+YUKI- Echo
Chara and YUKI reunite and deliver one of the best records of the year so far. Catchy, well produced, trendy yet traditional noughties style J-pop all wrapped up neatly with the instantly recognisable voices of the two legends. While the duo mainly stick to a nostalgia tinted album, there’s still some nifty bits and pieces in the mix to keep it fresh and demand repeat listens. A must get. 8/10

Chiaki Mayumura- Gekidan Ogyarizumu
Chiaki Mayumura once again got in really early this year with her second major album. This is her best work to date in my opinion, while it may not be as eclectic or jump around the place as much, it feels like she has finally got that kite of hers under control and knows where to go with her sound. The songs have even stronger writing beneath them, vocals are incredibly good. She’s tightened up that running time, allowing less chance to lose track or meander like some of her previous albums. It’s great to see her keep her bubbly spirit while also showing that she finally has the reigns, and is another great stepping stone for one of the most exciting newcomers around. 8.5/10

Seiko Oomori- Seiko Oomori
Is there any way to talk about the start of the year without mentioning this gigantic best of collection? A monolithic undertaking from Seiko, collecting every single one of her singles, some of her better deep cuts and even a fair chunk of newly recorded material over 3 CDs. This one is a must get for the new recordings alone for hardcore fans; for newcomers and casuals, there is no better starting point- an amazing pickup for a reasonably small price compared to many other lesser best of offerings out there. It really manages to capture the feel of Seiko’s excess, resolve, workaholic output, amazing song writing style and even her bad habits throughout the last 5 years- and really makes for a strong argument to why she is Japan’s artist of the decade for a lot of people (myself included, obviously).  9/10

JANUARY/FEB 2020 JPOP RECAP

DEADGRANDMA’S BEST OF 2019: 5-1

5. Tool- Fear Inoculum

This year’s biggest album for me was definitely the return of Tool after an excruciating wait. The prog rock legends album delivered for me on all fronts. It’s definitely Tool by the numbers, but for such a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation, I think going with what they do best was the correct way to go. I have spent so many hours absolutely engaged in the 85 minutes provided here, and all the main tracks (clocking in at over 10 mins each) are what I’ve been missing. The familiar motifs and time signatures really play well with the aging band; while they don’t go as hard as they used to, they take their time to paint an audio canvas. The plodding pace on which some of these songs unfold makes it all the more rewarding with repeat listens (‘Pnuema’s gigantic chorus riff being the biggest payoff on the album), and feel like a build up to a gigantic storm, which is here in the form of the 15 minute opus ‘7empest’, easily one to add to the list of Tool’s finest tracks. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait over a decade for a follow-up.

4. CHAI- PUNK

CHAI once again hit a home run with this follow-up to their excellent album PINK. The cute catchiness, crunchy production, insatiable hooks and punk attitude are all there, this time tightened up that little bit more. It came out early this year, and has stayed my favourite Japanese record of 2019 this entire time. What can I say, CHAI are the real deal, and PUNK is further proof of this.

3. Kim Gordon- No Home Record

Kim Gordon’s debut solo album is absolutely wonderous to behold. This is a fucking ROCK album through and through, and Kim Gordon brings all her trademarks to the forefront throughout. Instantly recognisable of course, is her trademark raspy vocals, song writing and lyricism. Consistently managing to bring forward all the eclectic sounds and experimentation of her entire career whilst still sounding fresh and relevant; the album walks that razors edge of being both punishing and accessible. The production is impeccable, the guitar work intense and weapon-like. The album is a true piece of art, a modern nightmare that will capture you in it’s grasp and spit you out absolutely blown away. Don’t miss it.

2. Angel Olsen- All Mirrors

Angel Olsen goes full diva on All Mirrors, the follow-up album to her amazing ‘My Woman’. This time though, Angel holds no punches on the theatricals. Full orchestration, swooping, swooning epics and an absolute disregard for the subtleties of earlier work makes this one of the more surprising works of the year. There’s so much to take in that it will take multiple listens for the dust to fully settle, but it’s a truly rewarding work to spend the time on. Angel Olsen once again proves that she’s one of the most important voices on the scene today. A must hear.

1. Rainbow Chan- Pillar
Finally, this year’s top pick comes from Australian/Hong Kong producer Rainbow Chan. Opening with the amazing single Oblivion, it sets the tone of what’s to come- a deep, multifaceted art pop album with deep political and cultural undertones. From here on you will be blessed to an amazing mix of house, dance, trap, club and hip hop wrapped in a wonderful electronic bow. It’s complex as fuck, yet arrestingly simple in it’s presentation. Use of repetition, language, emotion and cultural heritage are all a major part of why this album is so damn breathtaking. The listener can fully engage with Rainbow Chan’s own notes on the record, but that doesn’t mean that a casual listener can’t enjoy as a pure musical experience either. An album that is seemingly endless with depth, repeat listens will reveal more little details not noticed before- and makes it a truly amazing ear worm experience you’ll want to visit over and over. Album of the year.
DEADGRANDMA’S BEST OF 2019: 5-1

DEADGRANDMA’S BEST OF 2019: 10-6

10. PUP- Morbid Stuff
PUP’s Morbid Stuff is one of the best punk albums this decade, and truly solidifies PUP’s place in the genre. Perfectly produced, amazingly written and deeply affecting, PUP don’t hold back any punches with this record. Building on the band’s last album, The Dream Is Over, PUP have opted for a more lo-fi sound here- its crunchy and heartfelt, and that layer of fuzz really adds a new warmth to the band’s sound. Catchy pop punk with a real bite, easily deserving of it’s place in my top 10 albums of the year. Excellent.

9. DJ Mariko Goto- Gainsbourg ni Aisarete

Goto Mariko has returned after what seemed to be a dramatic end to her solo career with a fucking bang. I’ll give it to you straight- this is her most intense work since being in Midori- it’s aggressive, insane, vulgar and personal. This is the record that we’ve been waiting for from her, a beautifully chaotic noise pop experience that reminds you of the power this legendary songstress has behind her. It’s hard not to feel emotionally overwhelmed, both from the sheer emotions on display, but also from a sense of relief that Goto Mariko has finally made an album that showcases her true potential. A late, but absolutely essential addition to any serious Japanese Music fan’s collection.

8. Kazu- Adult Baby
The debut album by Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino is one of the most overlooked gems of 2019- a gorgeous, lush, minimalist pop record that demands to be heard. A lot of the lushness is owed to friend Ryuichi Sakamoto’s amazing synth work here, an essential voice in this powerful mix of overdubbed vocals, trap, subtle beats and vignette like tracks. The album is best digested as a whole, in good headphones, without distraction. It’s as rewarding as the time you put in, and one of the best art pop albums you’re bound to come across from 2019.

7. Ezra Furman- Twelve Nudes
This was one of the most highly played albums of the year for me- a completely unabashed angry punk rock album from Ezra Furman. The lyrics are so grim with despair, socio economic problems, bleak truths and utter anger for the current state of America. Ezra has never made an album quite as hard hitting as this, certainly never as brutally short and snappy. It’s a reminder of the romanticism of music as a form of rebellion; all the more amazing because it’s backed with some of the most exhilarating hooks you’re gonna find anywhere in 2019. Painfully brilliant.

6. Chiaki Mayumura- Mejya Mejya Monjya
Chiaki Mayumura continues to aim high with her latest album Mejya Majya Monjya. This one, her debut major label release is a blend of rerecorded indie tracks and brand new songs (at a whopping total of 20 if you include the 2 bonus tracks). However, Chiaki has such fantastic charisma and song writing pizzazz its an irresistible record despite its length. Every song is full of life, sweetness and the kind of childlike playfulness that only the best Jpop can provide. A songwriter that is constantly evolving and expanding, this is a real showcase of her current range and one of the absolute best records on offer this year.

DEADGRANDMA’S BEST OF 2019: 10-6