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.