DEADGRANDMA’S BEST ALBUMS OF 2017: 10-6

10. Seiko Oomori- MUTEKI

MUTEKI is a celebration of all things Seiko Oomori, the ultimate in fan-service. 18 re-recorded songs selected from her entire backlog, stripped down to their essence, either backed with her trademark acoustic guitar or some delightful piano work, it’s a treat for any Seiko Oomori fan. It also features two new full studio songs that are both wonderful in their own way, but let’s face it, we’re all here for the acoustic songs.

It’s addictive, time consuming (at nearly a full CD), indulgent, essential and utterly Oomori. While it didn’t resonate as much as this years main release, “kitixxxgaia”, it certainly is a must hear for anyone interested in hearing some of the top-tier J-pop at the current time. Read my more in-depth review here.

9. CHAI- PINK

CHAI’s debut full length is one of the most charming albums of 2017. Short, wild, groovy and energetic, PINK marks one of the most exciting newcomer albums in quite a while. CHAI have a real sense of control, and never are ones to take themselves too seriously. The musicianship is very strong, the vocals shout-along and full of youth edge. It’s addictive, colorful and most of all, damn fun. Can’t recommend this one enough.

8. Björk- Utopia

Björk returns in 2017 with her longest album of her entire career. It’s also one of her most colorful and layered releases. Some may find it overwhelming or even impenetrable at first- indeed, there are barely any ‘catchy’ moments on this beast. Those who have the patience though, will be rewarded for their time, as more and more of this album reveals itself through repeated listens. A latecomer in 2017, but such a strong release that it managed to shoot it’s way into the Top 10 without any hesitation. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s Björk.

7. Hirone-chan- Yume no Yume

Hirone-chan’s “Yume no Yume” was the biggest surprise for me in 2017. After a string of promising but fairly “Seiko clone” style albums, Hirone-chan finally found her calling with this one. It’s an absolutely gorgeous listen that creaks, pops and rattles along with a complex subtlety that becomes more and more noticeable on repeated listens. Hirone-chan really has matured significantly, and her songwriting has improved tenfold. A must hear for fans and newcomers alike.

Read my full review here.

6. Leah Dou- Kids Only

Leah Dou returns with her sophomore album, and damn what a followup. A sophisticated, engrossing and hypnotic record from end to end, Dou really expands on the sound she is known for and takes her experimental side to a new level. It’s a perfect album to chill out with, and certainly the most interesting Mandarin language album you’re gonna come across this year. An intoxicating blend of looping samples, beats, funk, jazz and smooth vocals- it’s about as perfect a second album a fan could ask for. Most of all, it feels honest and truly from a place that Dou understands and owns. Get on it.

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DEADGRANDMA’S BEST ALBUMS OF 2017: 10-6

Hirone-Chan proves that third time really is lucky with “Yume no Yume”

It always sounds presumptuous and conniving when someone tells you that an album will ‘need multiple spins to truly appreciate’, but Hirone-chan‘s subtle, gorgeous and mysterious third LP “Yume no Yume” fits that bill perfectly. It’s not so much in that it’s ‘strange’ or ‘weird’; it’s that it shows so much growth and maturity over her previous works that it’s almost like listening to a different artist.

However, the way she shows this growth isn’t through a massive change in sound, it, instead shows it through the most subtle ways that really do need multiple listens to fully reveal themselves. It’s labyrinthine in it’s complexity, yet constantly approachable and pop in the broadest sense. It’s a career-developing step forward for the artist, and it’s striking lack of fanfare doing so will make it one of the most revisited albums of 2017.

Hirone-Chan’s albums have always been a bit on the fluttery side; enjoyable but never really strong enough to leave a lasting impression. With this third album however, all the doubt has been put aside and she has touched a level of quality untouched before. This is a much more refined work, with a lot of detail and care put into its fleeting length. Hirone-chan seems determined to etch her own path, alongside rather than with the generation of ‘alt-girls’ she is generally lumped with.

One of the most notable things Hirone-chan has accomplished here is how encapsulated her little world of “Yume no Yume” is; it feels like any slight change would bring it all crashing down on itself. A great amount of thought has been put into the delicate structure of the album and there isn’t a single track that seems out of place or unneeded. It creaks and floats along like a beautiful old ship, that is truly adored by it’s captain.

Hirone-chan has also lifted her vocal game tenfold for this album. Where she usually gave a decent, workable performance, she now is highly emotive and pushes the songs to a much higher, harder hitting level. She’s still cute as ever but now seems to have found her calling; and it’s exiting as hell to experience.

Musically, it’s a very pretty experience. Hirone-chan has somewhat dropped the electronic part of her music (there are still a few samples and loops in play) for a more natural, jazzy experience. It has expanded her signature sound quite dramatically, with interesting chord changes and time signatures not unlike more experimental music strewn throughout; but most importantly, still somehow manages to stay in that cute pop sphere the entire time. Not to let her backing band go to waste, there are two absolutely gorgeous instrumental pieces here that sit perfectly behind the two singles of the album- which also happen to be the most breathtaking, theatrical songs on the album.

Whether it be the two singles “Omoidasenai Yume Mitai ni” or “Yokusou Plankton“; with their sweeping, gorgeous choruses or more jazzy, sweet moments like “Wonder Tender” or “Slow Parade”, every song has something lovely to offer to the listener. The latter half of the album offers more delicate, minimal tracks that showcase Hirone-chan’s ability to capture the listener’s attention without the need of a backing band or glitzy production.

In the end, Hirone-chan has ultimately offered up a truly wonderful piece of Jpop pie; one that you will no doubt be begging for a second slice as soon as you’re finished with the first slice. Essential listening and will likely end up in this reviewers top 10 of 2017 this year. Get on it.

9/10 Hirone-chan’s Yume no Yume is the first album that Hirone-chan truly feels like her own artist, and she shines because of it.  Just make sure you listen to it a few times to let it really sink in.

Hirone-Chan proves that third time really is lucky with “Yume no Yume”