Review: Seiko Oomori- draw(A)drow

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Rollercoaster rides are fun, exciting, terrifying and amazing. They’re also very short. Such can be said about the general lifespan of the main track on the latest single, draw(A)drow by Seiko Oomori. The TK from Ling Tosite Sigure produced track sounds exactly as it sounds; Seiko Oomori doing vocals on a Ling Tosite Sigure track. While this isn’t a bad thing -Seiko is absolutely breathtaking with her vocal delivery- there just isn’t much to it. The production makes it sound like it’s been recorded in a bathroom, with a ridiculous amount of reverb and it never really sounds as hard hitting as it should. The songwriting itself too, is meager in comparison to what Seiko Oomori usually outputs, and feels like it should be the b-side, not the lead single. Still, fun, just won’t have much of a shelf life.

draw(A)drow‘s lesser songwriting only helps to highlight how strong Seiko’s is, when the b-side Watashimi is played. Where draw(A)drow really seemed all style no substance, Watashimi is pretty much the opposite to this. It lets Seiko lament on what she has built her entire persona on, and is a wonderful nod back to her freak-folk roots while still keeping her eye on her major label outings. It’s a beautiful, sad track that is presented almost fully acoustically, with little added touches like telephones ringing and sparkly electronic overlays. Rarely do we get to see an artist manage to reach this level of truly balancing their original sound whilst never playing it too safe and expanding.

Frankly, a cover of Keyakizaka46‘s “Silent Majority” didn’t really scream “I MUST HEAR THIS” to me at first. The original, to me, is a lifeless, bland ditty that sparked absolutely no interest. Other times when Seiko has covered idol tracks, she has chosen ones that are quite strong and memorable. This time she chose one that had no pizzazz. However, she managed to turn something inoffensive and beige into something much more rewarding. Chills ran down my spine hearing the simple beat as Seiko’s vocals crooned in. Her unconventional vocals warble and ebb throughout, adding a texture the original simply did not have. Top it off with the subtlety of hand-clicks and you get the icing on the cake. It’s a massive transformation and it’s accompanying video of her playing some kind of “idol deity” says so much about her current standing in the Jpop world.

Overall, draw(A)drow is not Seiko’s strongest single, but it’s b-sides are well worth the price of admission. Notably however, even though this isn’t her strongest single, it does feel like her most notable since 2016’s “Aishiteru.com” This is probably due to the fact, that as of time of this review, it is a standalone release and not part of a series like her last three singles. It’s a strong outing, but not an essential pickup. Still, for fans, it’s got enough going for it to hold them over until her upcoming album, MUTEKI drops.

7/10– Come for draw(A)drow, stay for Watashimi.

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Review: Seiko Oomori- draw(A)drow

Review: Seiko Oomori’s “kitixxxgaia” is her most ambitious work yet

For the first time in Seiko Oomori’s discography, kitixxxgaia feels gargantuan; it focuses on bigger themes such as religion, idol culture and female equality, rather than previous work’s more singular and personal themes. Every track feels towering and monolithic, even the stripped back songs are huger than anything that has come before. Sure, the personal touches are still there, but this time Seiko seems to be pushing the wide scale themes touched on in songs like Magic Mirror to the forefront. At points she sounds more furious, angry even. She screams, wails, laughs and talks over the phone throughout. It’s a fiery, sensory overload and it’s impossible to take your attention from.

So where does this album fit in the big picture of Seiko Oomori’s discography? The first thing instantly noticeable when comparing last years’ TOKYO BLACK HOLE to kitixxxgaia is the huge personality shift. Where TOKYO BLACK HOLE felt warm, motherly and refined, kitixxxgaia opts for abrasive, hard hitting and epic. It feels like she’s bringing her punk roots back to the surface but still keeping the colorful and glossy production style of her avex works, and it’s an insatiable mix. It’s rougher round the edges, has a dry sense of humor and is slightly bitter underneath even the brightest parts. It constantly carries a melancholy unlike anything before and thus makes her avex debut, Sennou seem innocent in comparison.

Without going into a full track by track, and excluding repeating what I said about the previously released singles, I will go into a few of the strongest of the new songs. But before that, it must be mentioned that Seiko has worked wonders with the singles she already had here. Upon announcement, I, likely along with a lot of others, was worried about how well some of them would have fit in with this. To put it short: they fit wonderfully. When reviewing the singles as a standalone project, everything felt a bit clunky and all over the place. Here, the singles- are all spaced out to perfection. They might not be Seiko’s strongest singles ever (sans Dogma Magma which is a beast) but this helps the overall flow of the album. Whether this was a conscious decision, amazing luck, pre-planned or a mix of all of these elements, this listener is grateful for the effort made with the album layout and the payoff it brings.

Dogma Magma sets the scene wonderfully, a twisting, turning, profound track that is easily one of the finest tracks of Seiko’s career. Seiko doesn’t attempt to make that balance of pop and rock, she throws it to the wind and brings something truly extraordinary here; a Dadaist inspired lamentation on religion and pop culture that throws away standard catchiness in exchange for a more breathtaking experience. Most artists who attempt this, usually would likely come across as lame or tryhard. However, with Seiko on the helm, this is one mighty hard hitter and an amazing opening track; perhaps her most amazing opener to date. It no doubt will go down as one of her iconic moments, and will no doubt become a fan favorite.

IDOL SONG, with its unashamed referencing to the idol culture which Seiko so dearly loves (featuring references and mentions of groups like Neggico, as well as idol catchphrases as lyrics), is a wild trip, igniting memories of the sensory overload of Harajuku’s fashion or Akihabara storefronts. It’s loud, in your face and there’s no escape; yet you feel no desire to leave.  It’s a perfect platform for Seiko’s blend of cute madness. Similarly cute and playful is the following track, JI・MO・TO no Kao Kawaii Tomodachi which bounces along on an adorably groovy melody, reminiscent of Shoji Meguro‘s work on the Persona 4 soundtrack.

Daoko featuring track Chikyuu Saigo no Futari is a loving homage to the songs of Shiiina Ringo, both artists particularly vocal about the impact of Ringo’s music on their songwriting. It is one of the most tender and groovy tracks on the album, a bop in every sense of the word. The string work is gorgeous, elevating the already beautiful song to new heights. Daoko’s rapping sounds great and at home here, and is likely this reviewer’s favourite guest appearance on the whole album.

There’s a self cover of Seiko’s song for ℃-ute, “Mugen Climax”, a solo piano arrangement that really hits home entitled Mugen Climax Kamome Kyoushitsu-hen. There’s something truly satisfying hearing Seiko take the track back and it no doubt is a far more striking rendition due to its simplicity. Less is truly more here. Finally, there’s gorgeous, newly arranged kitixxxgaia version of Kimi ni Todokuna is outstanding, with some of the most beautiful instrumentation and chord progression ever to hit an Oomori record.

Even as a Seiko Oomori veteran, and with all the odds stacked against her, she still manages to release an album that is cohesive, compelling and most impressively- surprising. Where most artists at this point in their career would have settled for the solid but safe approach to a new album (having proven their selves many a time), Seiko still seems to be pushing forward; aiming to break new ground in her discography. After a pleasant, but somewhat rocky and random three single project, chances were that this was going to be her first ‘average’ (on a Seiko scale) album- but here she makes what seemed random work- wholly and convincingly.

The hard part is giving this album a score. It does have its share of imperfections- digital clipping is audible in a few spots (though never intrusive enough to raise alarm bells), Communication Barrier is a little bit weaker than all the new songs and finally, it does not have the strongest closer she’s ever penned. Sure, the track itself, Analog Syncopation is fantastic, with its beautiful beat and chorus, but as a closer, it just feels a little hollow. This can be easily remedied if you have any of the versions of the album with an acoustic bonus track (particularly “M“, one of the most heavily emotional tracks since her debut), this allows the listener to wind down quite easily and gives a more satisfying closure to the massiveness of the album. But, as the album stands in its regular form, with no bonus tracks, it kind of feels a little anticlimactic, as if someone is turning the album off before it’s finished.

With those imperfections in mind, I cannot give it the perfect 10. However, the imperfection of the album does leave a far more immediate resonance and edge than TOKYO BLACK HOLE did on initial spins. Where that one was refined to a tee, this one seems to take joy in it’s slight crustiness.

Ultimately, the score I give kitixxgaia is:
9/10

TOKYO BLACK HOLE, to me, was likely going to be a hard act to follow on from, at least so soon. To be proven wrong once again is both staggering on a personal level, and a massive achievement for any musician. kitixxxgaia is another essential album from Seiko Oomori and it’s no doubt going to be a strong contender on a lot of people’s Album of the Year lists.

Review: Seiko Oomori’s “kitixxxgaia” is her most ambitious work yet

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

MID YEAR REVIEW: TOP 10 of 2016 (SO FAR)

Gonna put this as the picture to start things with, cause well, it seem appropriate:

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2016 has proven to be one of the most intense, amazing years for music in quite a while, and there’s already been a tonne of amazing albums. I have had a long thought about what albums have really impressed and chosen what I believe are the top 10 of 2016 as of the end of June. Without further adieu, here’s my list (of course, subject to change by December):

10. Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool

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Ok, this one is likely the least surprising of the list- the one that’s likely to show up on every end of the year list imaginable. But it’s not like it isn’t for a just cause- Radiohead have reached a level where they can do something so meticulously and perfect that it comes as second nature. A Moon Shaped Pool is no exception- and likely is the most compelling and focused listen to come from the group since their peak days of Kid A and Amnesiac. The album is almost painstakingly slow and the attention to detail here is just inspired. Another huge release in the groups outstanding catalog, and one that will certainly stand the test of time.

9. Soutaiseiriron- Tensei Jingle

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Tensei Jingle has proven to be one of the most interesting releases of the year so far, with its focused, chilled out approach and delicate, but delicious production values. No song feels out of place or unnecessary, the pop tunes here all prove to be deeper and more intense on repeat listens. Neat hooks, nice atmosphere and fantastic album structure all lead to one fantastic and worthwhile payoff. Can’t wait to see lives for this one.

8. Hanae- Show Girl

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Hanae‘s SHOW GIRL has proven it’s spot in this year’s top releases so far. It’s instantly fun, satisfying and even a little insane. It also has a surprisingly long shelf life for the style of music it is. I think that may come from it’s sense of a deeper, underlying sadness to it all. Whether or not this was Hanae‘s intentions- it’s hard not to start noticing this on repeated listens- the SHOW GIRL ever in the spotlight but the real girl always there underneath it all. It’s a fascinating listen and Hanae‘s most developed and deep record yet.

7. never young beach- Fam Fam

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never young beach‘s sophomore album has really turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and addictive releases in Japanese pop this year. The surf rock inspired group bring together a fantastic set of songs that is instantly appreciable, yet a cut above the rest both in the talent and longevity departments. While it may not reach the heights of their first main release, it’s still one of the best pick up and play album’s you’re gonna come across. Sweet, nostalgic and tight, this is one that you definitely won’t want to miss.

6. PJ Harvey- The Hope Demolition Six Project

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The Hope Demolition Six Project is arguably one of the more dividing releases that PJ Harvey has brought forth in recent years- but it’s also one of the most compelling. Sure the lyrics here may not always hit their mark- but the instrumental sections (and the part that I focus on the most anyway) is absolutely outstanding. To me, it plays more like one of the often looked over PJ Harvey/John Parish collabs than a solo album- and that is kinda exciting because on those collabs, PJ really took her experimental side to the front. This album is the same. It’s a bit more pop grounded than Dance Hall at Louse Point, but that hard edge is there, and there are plenty of moments where she takes the songs in directions unexpected. It got my heart beating and ultimately- it’s great to hear PJ pick up a guitar again after what seems like almost decade.

5. David Bowie- Black Star

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I was one of those that heard Black Star before Bowie‘s death and at the time I was absolutely blown away by the leap in quality since his previous effort. Here was a fantastic, art pop record that really demanded your attention. It was creepy and mysterious- which of course all now makes sense given it was his goodbye record. It may be a little harder to listen to now due to the emotions attached- but every-time I do have time to sit down and listen- I goddamn listen. While it’s one of the lesser spun records on this list- it would be sinful not to mention it, because, yes, despite everything surrounding it- it’s a damn good album in it’s own right.

4. Bokutachi no iru Tokoro- Gomi

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I’ve ranted and raved about this album, and it’s still absolutely breathtaking. It’s still probably the best pure dirty rock album I’ve come across this year so far- and it’s still home to some of the most outright catchy tunes you’re gonna find anywhere. Production is outstanding, it’s addictive as hell. Bokutachi play with a fire so intense it’s hard not to get caught up in it. I cannot stress the worth of this album enough- it’s nice to feel EXCITED when listening to a rock album such as this. Every element here is on point, the band are tight but natural, the vocals are amazing and warm. You should have this already.

3. ZOMBIE CHANG- ZOMBIE CHANGE

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I feel pretty happy that I have supported ZOMBIE-CHANG since the start. Yes, she had her bumps and her doubters at the start, but she has really taken a miraculous turn around and through her change into this tripped out, 80s/90s inspired electronic sound she has worked absolute wonders for herself. ZOMBIE CHANGE is a great title for such a work- and indeed, this bears no resemblance to her debut. It’s cool as ice, her vocals drone through wonderful soundscapes and she always comes off as genuinely invested. You really come off with the feeling that she just loves making music- and it really shows here. It’s infectious, addictive and it will no doubt inspire repeated re-visitation for anyone that comes under it’s charms. Good stuff.

2. Mitski- Puberty 2

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The newest entry to the list- Mitski‘s Puberty 2 barrages it’s way through the list that was pretty much set for me. A wonderful surprise- and an emotional one. Mitski‘s songwriting is absolutely top tier- and I imagine this album, like all the best, will affect many people in many different ways. Her lyrics are absolutely potent- it’s hard not to be reminded of the first time I heard (early) Liz Phair or a less cryptic Tori Amos. A lot of the songs here really bring up memories, both happy and sad, and it’s easy to feel the pain she puts forward with every song. Guitar work is never forced and has some real momentum. It’s a great, great listen and it seems like a lot of people are taking to it already- both from critics and listeners alike. It’s the only album on this list that I think may eventually top my number one. Which of course is:

1. Seiko Oomori – TOKYO BLACK HOLE

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Well, were you surprised? Seiko Oomori’s second AVEX album is still proving to be the longest lasting and most rewarding album this year so far. Constantly in the mix, still hasn’t left the playlist, it’s always a joy to listen to and shows no signs of getting stale or slowing down. It indeed, could possibly turn out to be her best work yet when all is considered. Seiko’s genius does not solely lie in her ability to genre hop at random- it lies in the ability to make it sound like she is truly the real deal with whatever genre she touches. A true midas touch case.

So there we have it. My top 10 of 2016 at the mid year point. If the second half of 2016 is as strong as the start, it’s going to be one hell of a competition by the end of the year. Can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

MID YEAR REVIEW: TOP 10 of 2016 (SO FAR)

Seiko Oomori- TOKYO BLACK HOLE

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Seiko Oomori has set herself some serious standards with all her releases prior to this- from her folky beginnings to the hyper pop of 2014’s Sennouevery release has been a delight for fans to absorb and get lost in. So it comes as no surprise that people are getting just a little excited about her latest release (and second major album), TOKYO BLACK HOLE. What I personally did not expect, however, was it to SURPASS everything before it. This is a phenomenal album, and I feel like it’s my duty to gush just a little over it.

With TOKYO BLACK HOLE, Seiko Oomori takes all the elements that have made her such a compelling artist to follow, honed them, taken a step back in the full frontal delivery and focused on the album as a whole- and damn, it’s an album to write to your Grandma about. It’s an event- and everyone’s invited.

Working with mainly the same team from Sennou, as well as a few other notable producers such as Kameda Seiji, Mito (from Clammbon) and Sakurai Kentai, a great sense of the familiar along with some brand new inspirations- such as Shibuya Kei- is created. Together it all adds to bring a formidable, colorful and superb mix of tracks with a delightful amount of variation in instrumentation. There’s a surprise around every corner, whether it be a drum outburst, a guitar solo or an utterly heartwarming stretch of gorgeous melodies.

At the center of it all, of course- is Oomori. You never forget who’s album it is- her vocals are insatiable here. They’re definitely the best she’s had put down in a studio setting and are just perfect in the songs here. She might not wail as much as she used to- but the amount of restrain is quite impressive in itself. That’s not to say that she’s weakening things- she does still do her trademark vocal spikes- but only when they’re used for a hard hitting, often crushing effect. And it’s breathtaking.

There’s not a dull track in it’s near one hour run-time. I can’t even get myself to pick a favorite tune anymore- I seriously have a deep love for everything here! Every song seems to focus on a different element of the modern Tokyo lifestyle- and while at times, points out the most bleak elements- always manages to give it a cup half-full approach. It might completely crush you emotionally, but always leaves a sense of hopefulness regardless, with Oomori as your ever supporting coach.

Indeed, Oomori has crafted yet another masterpiece in a surprisingly short amount of time. The album seems to set another high for her- and it again, is hard to imagine her topping it. So go ahead, tell everyone about it. Let your neighbours hear it by blasting it absurdly loudly. Laugh with it, cry with it, but most importantly, embrace it. Cherish it. Cause it’s probably a safe bet to say we won’t get anything better than this for quite a long time.

Like it’s unbelievably overwhelming and triumphant closer, the album gets an unwavering 10/10 from me. I don’t expect to be listening to much else for a while. If you’re a jpop fan, look no further.

Seiko Oomori- TOKYO BLACK HOLE

Kuchuu Moranko – Mocha Escape

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While most people know Seiko Oomori as the hyper pop AVEX starlet she is now, I dare say many will perhaps not be aware of her punk band roots. That’s right, 4 years before PINK, she had a strew of solo CD-Rs and albums that are as illusive as they are (nowadays) expensive. They all offer a side of Oomori in her developmental stages that is delightful to hear, particularly to her more hardcore fans. But one release really stands out- and that is the one and only release “Mocha Escape” by her first band “Kuchuu Moranko“.

Released in August of 2007 on indie label KEBAB records (for a measly 300 yen…), the group apparently wasn’t even it’s final stages when it was recorded. In-fact, Seiko Oomori was (according to Oka Keishi of KEBAB records) a “shock addition with her electrifying cute voice“. Eventually the recording would become Kuchuu Moranko‘s one and only recording, and serves as an excellent piece of history in Oomori’s catalog. So how does it sound? Pretty damn great actually!

I think most of the EP’s charm comes from the whole ‘do it now, do it fast‘ feel and damn, there is some moments of greatness here. Whether it be the kickass opener “Motherfucker” or the brilliant, heartwarming “Tokyo Tower” (my god those group chorus parts just melt me), every track seethes with raw emotion and that sense of legitimacy and bright eyed hope that comes from young bands starting out. The best track however- is this early version of “Kamisori Girl“, which would later become a staple Oomori solo track. This version though- is so emotionally charged, it feels like it’s about to go off the rails. The melody is truly infectious and it’s one of my all time favorite tracks, by anyone.

Production is DIY and delicious, true youth energy pounds through the crusty recordings. Every bit of distortion, every muffled drum hit, sounds so RIGHT. The addition of keys is a nice little touch- they add a nice layer of cuteness to the mix. It’s hard not to start fist pumping throughout. While the group may not do anything groundbreaking or edgy, the EP still offers heart by the bucketful- and that’s the most important thing in the end. It’s interesting to think about the group working with someone that would go off and do so much- being totally oblivious to this fact. But hey, everyone starts somewhere right?

While Oomori would go on to hone her rock band sound with the likes of Lai Lai Lai Team and The Pink Tokarev (as well as become much more confident and confronting with her vocals), none of them are quite as raw and punk as what is on offer in this EP. A must hear for anyone seriously interested in Seiko, and I highly recommend picking it up if you see it- though prepare to burn a not-so-small hole in your bank account (average price it goes for on Yahoo! Auctions is around 15,000 yen or more). Its either that or pray for a reissue…

8.5/10– Oomori’s humble beginnings are just as fascinating as her massive AVEX offerings.

Kuchuu Moranko – Mocha Escape