REVIEW: CHARAN-PO-RANTAN knock it out of the ballpark with “Toritome Nashi”

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The delightful, heartwarming “band of travelling sisters” CHARAN-PO-RANTAN return with their new mini album Toritome Nashi (the first main release of original tracks since last years slightly disappointing “Onna no 46-pun”) to outstanding success. I don’t usually like doing ‘track by track’s but, for this one, I think it’s the only way to really do the album justice, it’s all just so damn good!

Bursting to life with single “Susume, Tama ni Nigetemo”, this is instantly fresh but familiar. To call it bright would be an understatement- this is blinding in its cheery warmth. A song that could get you out of bed on a cold morning, it’s a fantastic opening song that only is the tip of the iceberg of joy that lies beneath it.

The Seiho arranaged “Sweet as sugar” could not have a more appropriate title. The bouncy, playful track is totally infectious with it’s warm delivery. The added flutters of electro and subtle dubstep ‘wubs’ make it irresistibly perfect. Vocalist Momo’s sweet voice is a fantastic accompaniment to it, it would take someone with the coldest heart not to fall right in with it. Like when you see a ridiculously cute girl sneeze, you can only sit back and ‘awwww’ at her. It’s followed by the cute bop number “Mayuge Dance” which is as fun as it sounds and is guaranteed to be a wild live track.

“Yume Bakkari” is one of the first songs to feature guest, this one including Rina Katahira and Rei. This song takes a step back into the delightful, laid-back acoustic sound that made this listener fall in love with CHARAN-PO-RANTAN to begin with, its Frenchy chanson accordion, guitar and whistles make you drift away until… BOOM! It immaculately transcends into the the marching, sexy, kitten like “Tsuki” with it’s swirling, rhythmic string work that leaves your mouth agape with wonderment. Momo’s voice has never sounded THIS good before, this is the performance of a lifetime.

“Koi wa Timing” continues “Sweet as sugar”s use of electronic elements, again to great success. The energy is pronounced, the group play with such gusto and joy it’s very hard not to just let yourself go. The great thing is that, no matter how wild or cute they get, it never reaches any levels of overdoing it and never feels cheesy. You believe every second of it. That energy keeps building and transfers over into the next track, the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra featuring “Otakebi”, that, as you can probably guess, mixes CHARAN-PO-RANTAN’s theatrics with the bouncy SKA that Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra have made a name of- perfectly. Just breathtaking to behold, particularly its ending.

It ends with the warmest ballad I’ve heard in years, “Kanashimi”. It’s hard to not get a bit nostalgic and weepy over it’s punchy, poignant melody and heartfelt delivery. The backing vocals by Mr. Children fit perfectly, but here- the star is Momo. By the end of this track, I can guarantee that if you weren’t already, you will be totally, 100% in love with her. A masterfully presented and arranged finale to a triumphant, adorable, unforgettable return to form.

All backed with some truly impressive production values, instrumentation and a perfectly short-but-sweet run time, you’ll be spinning this one for days. Oh and look at that album cover, the pig has a helmet on. How can you not?

9/10 Toritome Nashi is the first truly great Japanese release of 2017. Unmissable. Why aren’t you listening to it right now?!!!

REVIEW: CHARAN-PO-RANTAN knock it out of the ballpark with “Toritome Nashi”

I’ll Believe in Christ before I Believe in K-pop

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Korean pop music, for this listener is a sorry experience for the most part. The constant brutal onslaught of mere single-based releases makes it hard to find a foothold; much harder so to pick a ‘favorite’. Coming from a background that appreciates albums as albums and likes to have deep cuts that enhance the rewards of being a fan, I’ve yearned for music from South Korea to be simply music. Give me an album that doesn’t rely on three tracks to hold the entire weight.

It seems that whenever I find something interesting, it’s only a little side step or footnote of an artist’s otherwise abysmally standard discography; take last year’s “End Again” by Gain for example. Sure I was at first attracted mainly due to it’s Shiina Ringo-esque show-tune trappings, but it really stands as it’s own project. And that’s the problem; Gain seems to have only pulled it out as a one-off. The rest of her output is just the usual teeny-bop bullshit that any other Korean pop artist is putting out- and it’s really a shame.

It’s not as if the genre itself is the problem; its fine to have your rub-a-dub-dub flavor of the month cheese. Everyone needs a little bit of trash in their life. The problem is that almost EVERYTHING in the limelight is this. How people tell one group apart from the next is beyond me. “CHECK OUT BLACKPINK OMG”, “(fx) REALLY BREAK NEW GROUND!”. What new ground? All I hear is the same recycled music we heard in the late 90s, with glossier production. Five with a bit of bro-step. Spice Girls with some trap. This is fine, but if you’re gonna call it revolutionary, give me something legitimately amazing.

It’s hard to take any kind of praise beyond that of singles merely being good bops (and they certainly are, there’s no denying it) seriously when it is unquestionably one of the most insanely corporate, revenue focused music industries in the world- if not the most. This of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing- this is POP music after-all- but there just isn’t enough consistently solid releases to warrant any kind of positive reaction other than what it is on surface level.

There’s also the comically audacious overuse of the term “comeback” for every single release by an artist that has been gone for seemingly as long as a quick potty break. If there’s one indicator of how frivolous and short life-spanned the genre is, it’s surely this. Remember when Hikki came back after eight years hiatus? That’s a comeback (if not a particularly exciting one). A new album or single is a new release, no more, no less. Yes, I understand fans getting all excited for a new release or tour, I do; but calling it a comeback when the artist hasn’t even been gone long enough to notice them missing is a bit of a far fetched sentiment.

A major blow to Kpop’s chance at being taken truly seriously internationally was ironically, it’s greatest success, the dreaded “Gangnam Style“. This forever cemented Kpop into the general public’s eye as a novelty genre and whether it will recover as a whole is yet to be seen. Like similar cases in Japanese pop (see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu‘s “PON PON PON”), the song will forever go down as a joke hit and will prop up at ‘remember this‘ parties, alongside Los Del Rio‘s “Macarena” and Eifel 65‘s “Blue (Da Ba Dee).

It’s not all doom and gloom though, South Korea does have a blossoming and interesting indie/net-label scene. Artists like Neon Bunny, for example, released some of the most exciting material last year. Progressive rock band 3rd Line Butterfly have seen moderate success and just released a pretty great new album this month. The good music is there, in small quantities, if you are willing to hunt for it. And that’s a major problem in itself- exposure. With music from the west, or Japan, the alternate to the mainstream is never hard to find (It’s not as if Jpop (the genre I support the most) doesn’t have it’s fair share of garbage too; but at least the alternatives are far more pronounced and in plain sight), more than one genre penetrates the charts. Kpop however, does not seem to have anywhere near this kind of variety, which makes it hard to get more involved with, at least on a personal level. Some may argue about the differences in the sub-genres of it all, but really, it’s woefully minor. The western cliches of “what Kpop is” are harder to defend- because indeed, Kpop is what it is.

This isn’t meant to be an attack on people that do genuinely love Kpop, I can understand the idea of liking ‘fun music to be fun‘. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone likes to ogle at beautiful people (Hyuna really does it for me in that regard). It’s just when people try and force this idea that it’s some kind of revolutionary, supreme genre that it all gets a little silly. It’s understandable that a market that is pretty much 100% digital would want to focus mainly on singles, but it really doesn’t excuse the lack of decent full length albums from a music listener’s experience. Give us something meaty to chew on if you want to make a real, lasting impact. I do have faith in the South Korean alternative and indie scene, however, I’ll believe in Christ before I believe in Kpop.

Now excuse me while I run to the hills.

I’ll Believe in Christ before I Believe in K-pop

OVERLOOKED AND ESSENTIAL: TOGAWA FICTION

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The early 2000s were some of Jun Togawa‘s most compelling years for many reasons. She appeared on four major works, 20th Jun Togawa (a covers album noted for utterly deconstructing the original songs), Togawa Fiction, “Good Girls Get Fed, Bad Girls Get Eaten” by Jun Togawa and Tricomi and “Dreams” by Otome Yoshihide’s New Jazz Ensemble (which is noteworthy because it features for the first time ever, the coupling of her and her contemporary, the legendary Phew).

All of these works are wildly different but bare one striking similarity; they’re all highly experimental and can barely be placed in ‘pop’ in any sense of the word. It also has been publicly revealed that Jun Togawa at the time, had started to become less trustworthy of human contact and a bit of a shut-in (as revealed in her recent soul-bearing lyrics analysis book, “Togawa Jun Zen Kashi Kaisetsu-shuu: Shippuudotou Tokidoki Hare“). This time we focus on one of these major works, the much-overlooked Togawa Fiction (billed as Jun Togawa Band). It must also be noted that Togawa Fiction marked her first return to music after the suicide of her sister, Kyoko (the EP “CD-Y” by Yapoos was a reissue of a 1999 show only release).

Togawa Fiction is a singular beast in Togawa’s long and eclectic catalog; it never relies on nostalgia or callbacks. There is no “classic Togawa formula” to be heard here. Togawa and her band were in a truly unique head-space, and in doing so managed to create something truly timeless. It isn’t as highly regarded or hailed upon as a ‘classic‘ against other giants like Tamahime Sama or Suki Suki Daisuki, but it still shouldn’t be passed up- doing so would mean passing up arguably the most intense and creative album Togawa has ever put her name to.

To come up with the unique and timeless sound that lays in wait on Togawa Fiction, Togawa has the 9 piece backing band of Misturu Nasuno (Bass), Naoya Mochizuki (Cello), Tatsuya Yoshida (Drums), Dennis Gunn (Guitar), Hoppy Kamiyama (Keys), Mitsuru Nasuno (Mandolin), Masako Sato (Viola), Miho Kudo and Ryoko Mochizuki (both on Violin). The album was also produced by Hoppy Kamiyama. This group brought an intriguing and truly unique dynamic; many different inspirations and backgrounds brought to the mix to make a formidable and powerful brew of sound.

The album blazes headfirst into battle with the sprawling, monumental eight minute epic “Counsel Please” which sees Jun Togawa venture deep into progressive rock territory like never before. It gives the listener the first taste of what would become her ‘modern‘ voice- a harsher, rusted voice that carries with it years of hardship and emotional baggage. This song is what most people would describe as a ‘journey’- both emotionally and sonically. It takes us through many different ebbs and flows, tempo changes and surprising instrumental flourishes which all leads to an amazing climax; it’s one of the most mind-blowing tracks in Togawa’s entire catalog and must be experienced to fully appreciate.

Once you’ve been firmly numbed by the opener, the album bursts into more playful territory with the catchy and bouncy “Open the Door“. It’s hard not to be reminded of acts like the Dresden Dolls here, especially with Togawa showcasing her falsetto voice throughout the entire track. The listener will find it near impossible not to infectiously fist bump along to Togawa belting out “HEAVY HARD” on the chorus, with its insane backing tracking with drums that wouldn’t fall far from a Midori track. Punky, jazzy and all-round fun- this really lightens the mood and preps you for what’s ahead.

From here the album enters a slower, sadder slump. It’s never pompous or melodramatic; rather it feels like a resignation, an acceptance of ‘it is what it is‘, and that makes it all the more disturbing. Togawa is coming to grips with everything that’s happened in her life, and making it work for her- and damn does it work. The best example of this is the track “Sayonara Honeymoon” where Togawa croons her way over a droning, atmospheric, almost doom-like ballad. It’s overwhelming, pained and pitch dark. It’s also this listener’s favorite track on the album.

Things do lighten up a little from here, (perhaps with the audience in mind) with the bouncy, surf-rock inspired title track. It’s a shorty ditty with spoken work from Togawa and a goofy little chorus. It’s a much needed breather from the emotional heaviness and gets the listener ready for the finale of the album, the long, sprawling  “Formless Station Ends” which is an absolute showcase for Jun Togawa’s legendary vocals. It’s a looping, dark track that fascinates with its musical precision. It is a fitting, perfect ending to such an emotionally draining journey and a great sign off for what would become a massive gap between this and Togawa’s full length album- which wouldn’t appear until 2016- a full 12 years later.

Togawa Fiction is one of the most misunderstood and underrated albums that come to recent memory. It’s also one of the most essential listens in Japanese music, period. Togawa Fiction is one of the most interesting albums you will ever encounter- even as far as Jun Togawa- renowned for her quirkiness goes, it’s pretty “out there“. For years it has been woefully overlooked for her more well known works and that’s really a shame. It’s time to revisit this gem and see just how well it’s aged. It’s a wonderful album from a particularly dark period in Togawa’s life- and fans should really appreciate it’s value a lot more. Sure, it’s a little bit more ‘tough’ to get into- but the rewards are countless.

Essential.

OVERLOOKED AND ESSENTIAL: TOGAWA FICTION

DEADGRANDMA’S END OF YEAR OLD MAN RANT

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In a few days, the Japanese will clamber to the couch to watch another tired episode of Kohaku, us Shiina Ringo fans all secretly thinking (most of us looking at Ringo like Chris McNeil when she looked at Regan) “that thing is NOT Shiina Ringo“, let’s take time to look back and ponder the year that was.

Musically, at least in the more “alternative” side of things- it was strong, one of the strongest in years. We saw the return of the one and only Jun Togawa– not just once- but THREE times. Unfortunately though, most Japanese music fans were far more interested in SMAP calling it quits that they missed something truly amazing happening right under their noses.

I’ve got a hot tip to you folks when approaching music in the future- embrace imperfection. That’s what life is. Choose things that reflect this, soak it up, get lost in thought. It’s far better and more rewarding than praising an album that you all think is amazing but really just ends up like that hot chick you know with the personality of a doorstop. People wonder why I don’t like Fantome. How could I be THIS crazy about Seiko Oomori? There’s your answer.

Death itself was reduced to a meme. The passing of so many greats was indeed tragic, but not as tragic as the death of commonsense. Probably why America adopted an orangutan for a president and the UK decided to commit economic suicide and fucked themselves over. Speaking about being fucked, JAV took a nosedive for the worse. It seems like the act of a rimjob means no more than a handshake.  Where’s the Yuka Osawa‘s or Maria Ozawa‘s at? Where did the eroticism go? It’s probably buried somewhere in the rubble of Enon and Becky’s love affair.

A year of Twitter has opened my eyes to both positive and negative things. I found out that being white, straight and male means I’m basically evil incarnate- but that’s fine. I also found that there is a much bigger community of people with similar tastes than I initially had presumed. I also found out the scary intensity that some fanbases can have- sometimes to the point where it makes me look like a nice person. I’m glad I made an account, it’s been more than just fun. I don’t know why I was so hesitant at first.

But hey, it’s not all bad. There’s still some things to look forward to. Seiko Oomori‘s back in the studio, Maron Hamada‘s dropping an album next month. There’s a new Blade Runner film and most of all, if you’re reading this then you’re still alive. You made it through 2016 without dying, and that’s pretty impressive. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Now go off and spend some time with your family and less time with me, the ever pessimistic Deadgrandma. I’ll be here bitching and moaning all through next year- but hopefully there’s gonna be enough good music to rub on them sores like an overpriced placebo effect ointment bought from a health-food store. To all my readers, thank-you for coming back over and over. Those that can’t stand me, I understand.

Happy new year folks, may your 2017 be… tolerable. Stay freaky, freaks.

DEADGRANDMA’S END OF YEAR OLD MAN RANT

REVIEW: Seiko Oomori- Wonder Romance Three Good Fortunes ~Today’s lover is Y♥O♥U?! Series~


Doing a three single project is bound to be a strange proposition, and when you’re an artist as eclectic as Seiko Oomori, things are bound to get messy, fast. That isn’t necessarily a negative though; these three singles have allowed for Seiko to experiment with more sounds than she has done in the past, and the free-flow approach is open and unhinged. It feels like a whole bunch of ideas that mostly work, thrown together haphazardly in true Oomori style.

Working with numerous producers, musicians and idols throughout the project will likely leave anyone confused of what Seiko Oomori is ‘supposed to be’ even more confused. It’s absolute chaos is what gives it form, a big, beautifully messy picture of Oomori’s insecurities and refusal to conform to any standard sound. She possesses this uncanny ability to flip from wild-child to gorgeous songstress without any kind of warning, and it for certain is bound to appeal to (or detract from) different people in different ways.

For this listener, the most appealing tracks are those that try something a little different to what we’ve gotten before, I love the Noko (from Shinsei Kammatechan) featuring “Hikokuminteki Hero” with its fantastic, unforgettable chorus and insane bridge for example. But I also love the fact that she still puts in more classic sounding tracks; b-sides such as Asa+ and the demo reel that came with the fanclub version of POSITIVE STRESS (which for hardcore fans, is likely the best part of the whole trilogy). Each disc offers a taste of something else, it’s always fascinating to see what’s up next.

Sure there’s some strange moments and the song choices and ordering may be somewhat all-over the place, and as a listener you may or may not like some of the guests involved, but you can’t not marvel at the absolute determination there is behind the project. Personally I can’t stand Ano from You’ll Melt More‘s voice, but hey, it works here in Gutto Kuro SUMMER. Others may not like the more mainstream sounding tracks like the TK produced “POSITIVE STRESS” (though just as many people will likely love it) and more than enough people have expressed their disdain for the most insane track of the lot- the Namahamu to Yakiudon starringYABATAN Densetsu” (which I, surprise, surprise, absolutely love).

Depending on the person you are, and how far your taste reaches, will really decide on how many of these tracks are going to hit home. Sure, one could argue that Oomori is just ‘trying the glove’ on certain sounds, and that would be an astute observation- but for this listener, I find it fascinating to see just how many different genres she is willing to give a nod to in her constant expansion of sound.

It then, is markedly appropriate that the final A-Side we heard from this project “Orion-Za” is an absolute centre-point between the Oomori of PINK Records label days and her new glossy AVEX sound. A quiet, gentle ballad with amazing chord progression and heartfelt lyrics seem like the only way you could end this, and in it’s own way, the anticlimactic nature of it after such bombast makes it ever more explosive when listened to as a whole.

Overall, Seiko Oomori’s trilogy of singles is a topsy, turvy mixed bag of mostly gems which wears it’s heart on it sleeve. There is bound to be something here for everyone, but it is also very unlikely that every track here is going to appeal to a single person. While it’s hard to say that it’s as good as any of her full length albums, it’s certainly still no throwaway project. There’s enough great tracks here to make it worth your while, and even the ones that didn’t hit the mark are still enjoyable for the most part.

7.5/10

REVIEW: Seiko Oomori- Wonder Romance Three Good Fortunes ~Today’s lover is Y♥O♥U?! Series~

THE BEST OF 2016: 5-1

So, here we go, the cream of the crop. Here’s my top 5(ish) albums of this year!

5. ZOMBIE-CHANG- ZOMBIE-CHANGE/Hanae- SHOWGIRL

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Ok, ok, I know it’s cheating a bit, but I honestly couldn’t decide which of these two were better. I love them both in equal amounts for different reasons, so I’m gonna take the easy way out and group them together. ZOMBIE CHANG with her ethereal, relaxed, trippy and gorgeous opus that is her sophomore album and Hanae with her bizarre, carnival like mix of bright and bubbly sounds that is SHOW GIRL. Both albums do have their own blend of sensuality, ZOMBIE-CHANG with her shy-girl approach and Hanae with her more blatant sexuality. They both are really nicely made, neither of them have any real dud tracks, both flow wonderfully and both have gotten equal playtime from yours truly since their release date. Hell, they both run for about the same time too. It’s just two of the best releases you will find from Japan this year, and I highly recommend both to anyone.

4. Angel Olsen- My Woman
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Ah, Angel Olsen‘s “My Woman“. What a wonderful release this one was. Only being somewhat familiar with the singer-songwriter, a lot of buzz was being made about her latest- which I foolishly chose to ignore for a little while. But dammit, this name was popping up everywhere I lurk, so I went and listened. What a treat I was greeted with- here was someone who had fully developed her craft, whether it be in short pop ditties or longer, near ten minute epics, everything was delightful. Her voice is AMAZING- and seems like she is almost limitless in her power. Music style is a neat mix of traditional indie pop mixed with some 60s/70s inspired progressive rock and psychedelia. A friend once described her as “The Stevie Nicks of the Twitter Generation” and that description has really stuck. A must hear. And if she’s ever touring your neck of the woods, a must see. Her live show is outstanding.

3. Jun Togawa with Vampillia- Watashi ga Nakou Hototogisu
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This album is honestly the biggest shock to me this year. Sure I was expecting it to be good, and also expected it to land somewhere on this list, but I generally thought that it would likely be just some neat variations of Jun Togawa tracks that would be a nice addition to the collection. Wrong. This album is SPECTACTULAR. These aren’t just rearrangements to me, they are totally reinvigorated, the most respectful arrangement Vampillia could possibly come up with. Blending Vampillia’s signature black metal/orchestral sound with Jun Togawa classics, this is truly a heart-stopping release. Togawa’s aged vocals only add a level of sorrow and emotion to the mix that perhaps hasn’t been seen before in any of her releases- it had this hardcore Togawa fan in tears. All at once it feels like a new Togawa album and an amazing, powerful and ultimately, honorable celebration of one of the greatest Japanese pop stars to ever live. A must own.

2. Mitski- Puberty 2
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Mitski‘s Puberty 2 is fucking great. I have spent so many hours with this insanely confrontational, open, soul-bearing release and often just fade away listening to it. It’s a wholly engrossing experience, and it’s lyrics are bound to hit anyone on a deep and profound level. Musically it’s fantastic and slightly nostalgic- with plenty of inspirations to mid 90s alt rock- and it just works a charm. There are two extremely powerful moments in particular that haunted me long after hearing them- that is the tracks “Fireworks“, with its amazing buildup and lyricism and the punkish belter “My Body is Made of Crushed Little Stars“, that really makes listeners feel uncomfortable but unable to escape its clutches. The album is no doubt going to become a cult classic, and rightly so. If you haven’t heard Mitski’s masterpiece yet, then you haven’t heard the best western release this year.

1. Seiko Oomori- TOKYO BLACK HOLE (and the rest of 2016).
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Now let’s face facts. You all knew that Seiko Oomori was likely going to top my list. No surprises there. But it’s not just TOKYO BLACK HOLE (which indeed I feel is the best album), it’s the entire year of 2016, where Seiko released so much great material that it was hard to even keep up. But first lets start with the album:

TOKYO BLACK HOLE was to me, at first, an amazing album full of top notch songs and a great flow by Seiko Oomori. It may be a bit more gentle than her previous albums- but I’d say that has to do with the period in her life in which a lot of this was being written- that time where she had just given birth. Over time it has grown into something completely different, an album that has firmly worked its way into the hearts of many listeners. I’m reaching a point where I dare say it’s my favorite of her releases in general- and a favorite release by my favorite artist is nothing to be sniffed at.

It’s hard to imagine 2016 without TOKYO BLACK HOLE, it truly is the sound of year- through all it’s ups and downs, the album has been there to fall back onto. It’s one of those records- a guiding hand, a comforting friend. The songwriting skill here is top of the line, every song holds its own and yet can work together as a full album with ease. It has never left my playlist since day one- and it still gets plays frequently. It truly deserves its place in the Seiko Oomori canon, and fully belongs here, at the top of the list in 2016.

But as we know, it wouldn’t end there. Seiko released many, many more tracks over the year, including a three single project (which I will review in full soon), multiple songs for the likes of other idol groups, songs on compilations, appearances on a few bands releases and released a whopping 12+ hours of video footage of live concerts on her fanclub’s website alone. To go into it all would take an entire post of it’s own. The very fact that she’s always got a presence of some form makes her one of the most attractive and rewarding artists to be a follower of- and the fact that her quality barely ever drops is something quite unseen in the Jpop market in 2016. She’s always there, always doing something. For a fan, it’s always exciting. It always feels like she cares about her fanbase.

2016 truly has been the year of Seiko Oomori and that is why she is top dog in this years list. Bring on 2017, where we surely will see her next album (and hopefully, her first covers album).

And that concludes my best of 2016 list, I hope you all enjoyed reading it. There are still a few albums that I feel should be mentioned, but unfortunately I had to cut off, so I will post a second round of honorable mentions in the next week or so. Overall, I feel 2016 has been one of the strongest years for music in a long while, particularly for the Japanese scene. One can only hope next year will be just as amazing.

THE BEST OF 2016: 5-1

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2016: 10-6

And here we get to it, the beefy stuff. The top 10 albums of 2016 begins!

10. Mizuki Ohira- TRUE ROMANCE
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Mizuki Ohira‘s debut album is a gorgeous, gentle, soothing and overall unforgettable experience. Songs are painstakingly constructed, and Ohira really shows a lot of attention to detail and love for her craft throughout. Every song lives in its own little universe and is warm and organic. New listeners may recall artists such as Salyu or perhaps even Deep River era Utada Hikaru, with its super nice instrumentation and subtlety sexy vibes throughout the entire album. Ohira’s voice is beautiful and her level of control of her compositions is to be commended. One of the best new discoveries for me this year, and deserves its place in my top 10.

9. BPM15Q- BPM15Q ALL SONGS
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BPM15Q‘s album, for lack of more appropriate word- is a BEAST. From it’s very opening track to its finale, there is not one thing stopping this train from reaching it’s destination. Sporting some of the wildest, most fun J-pop tunes you’ll find anywhere this year (or perhaps any year for that matter), this EDM/Future Bass influenced record is bound to win many people over. I called it’s lead single “Hakuchuumu” the Jpop song of 2016– and I stand by that, its truly the most infectious, nod along, hell, dance in your seat tune you’re gonna find anywhere. This album is rad, and I can’t get enough.

8. PJ Harvey- The Hope Six Demolition Project
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After her amazing “Let England Shake” project, PJ Harvey returns with this release, a kinda-sorta expansion on the ideas and issues raised with Let England Shake, but this time reaching for a more modern and global scale. The instrumentation here is her ‘rockiest’ in years- with many songs (such as lead single “The Wheel“) having guitar up front and center and it’s such a hard hitting release after her more subdued last few efforts. Some portions of the album are so downright powerful that they sent this listener reeling. It might not sit well with some listeners (lyrics are occasionally a little clunky for sure) on first listens- but give it time to warm up and it really is one of the most rewarding albums you will find this year. It’s certainly one of my top listened records in 2016 and I can’t wait to see the live incarnation early next year.

7. never young beach- fam fam
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never young beach last year released one of the most charming breaths of fresh air with their album “YASHINOKI HOUSE“, and was on my end of year list. This year they brought “fam fam” which to many- was the sound of their summer. It’s chock full of those indie/surf rock inspired ditties that fans have all come to love- and this time it feels more rock-centric, with the focus on the right here, right now rather than giving a sense of wanderlust. It’s a nice little touch and makes this album stand apart from the previous one. All of it’s singles are great and once again, vocals and instrumentation are impeccable. Really damn good stuff.

6. Bokutachi no iru tokoro.- Gomi
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Bokutachi no iru tokoro. are fast becoming one of my favorite ‘dirty rock bands‘ and for good reason- they always just do what they do best- stick to the core roots of what makes rock music ROCK. Again, they give us a tight, concise short album of catchy tunes all brought together by that incredible vocalist that is Jinsei Dame Ko. The production value this time is ever so slightly ‘cleaner’- but it actually works pretty damn well for them. Tunes are far more catchy this time round too- you will no doubt be humming these long after you’ve finished playing it. If there’s one down to earth rock album you’ll wanna listen to this year, this is it.

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2016: 10-6