“Is that a Goblin?”

No, Goburin Sureiya-san, it’s your “controversial” show, well at least the start of it was – Goblin Slayer.

Ah yes – the first episode’s controversy – even though it’s been nine months since the first episode of the show ignited a wildfire on Twitter, I still remember the various shades of criticism/defense people gave just by the content of that premiere (or they compared to the source material). I won’t do a historical retelling of it, I’m not great at summarizing, you can find out what were people’s reactions with a Google/Youtube search. But here are my concise thoughts on that scene.

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I don’t think there’s much room for debate on whether the depiction of the scene is fetishistic/ exploitative, because it is, I mean there’s quite some heavy-handed fan-service later on in the show itself. But the level of exploitation is nowhere near than that in hentai (obviously); it’s done in a very unnecessary but brief manner. I don’t think this is anything new in anime, or any other media. It’s clear that the scene, and the violence, acted as some of the pivotal moments on the show in an attempt to switch the exciting “let’s go on an adventure” mood of the show to darker pastures. Granted, the way the scene played out with some nude-shots was kind of tasteless but I think it worked despite of that. Bottom line to this is – I don’t get what’s so “controversial” about this, I have seen way more explicit and fetishistic rape scenes in media, and this is just about average in comparison – nothing to go crazy about.

The thing that irked me the most about this “controversy” is that a small, vocal group of people started pigeonholing others into political alignments just based on whether they thought the rape scene was exploitative or not, and that’s really stupid. Sure, propaganda media exists but this anime is anything but that, and besides, anime is made in Japan and Japanese socio-political alignments aren’t similar to Western/Non-Japanese ones (as far as I know, feel free to correct me in the comments), so the armchair-psychologist claims that, liking edgy anime makes you a neo-nazi edgelord, and having a distaste for rape scenes in fiction makes you a libtard, are so dumb. Bringing western politics into anime didn’t end with just this anime- I feel like can go on this topic forever, but I don’t want to and I don’t think I would have the most-informed take on this, so let’s move on…

First episode aside, Goblin Slayer is straightforwardly entertaining. I liked the episodic format where in each episode (or two) Goblin Slayer takes up goblin slaying quests and goes about exterminating goblin lairs using different strategies. The depiction of sexual violence is relatively presented in an even less fetishistic way compared to the first episode but the splatterfest-y violence is still there. Speaking of splatterfest, the blood animation in the show is just so over-the-top yet it’s somehow fulfilling to watch blood follow some sort of fluid mechanics – thanks to the CG. I really don’t get the general complaint of the CG-animation of the protagonist – it doesn’t really stand out and I think it actually fits the grey, rigid aesthetic of the character.

I found the art of the show to be slightly below average – the color palette is bland, the character designs look derivative. The world building, as shallow as it is, feels derivative as well – or maybe it’s just my general indifference to fantasy (or isekai) settings influencing my opinion. I get that the point of the anime is to be portray the quests as D&D, and Goblin Slayer is playing great at them through creative tactics, but I think a more fleshed out world would’ve made me care about the nameless characters and not just find the anime entertaining whenever Goblin Slayer is onscreen.

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The characters are pretty flat, all of them feel like plot devices to get the goblin slaying done. The only character I enjoyed watching was the protagonist himself, I found his whole “I don’t care about the Demon Lord, let’s go slay some goblins” attitude pretty funny, and the way flashback sequences and internal monologues were used to justify his obsessive, broken psyche was pretty well done to the point where I felt weird laughing at the “Is that a Goblin?” comments made by the guy.

The soundtrack is pretty meh, but the opening sequence is nice – I like the atmospheric strings and the minimalism of the song, and how that’s a cool juxtaposition to all the loud, crazy goblin-cide that happens in the show itself.

To recap this short post, I found Goblin Slayer to be pretty alright. I enjoyed watching Goblin Slayer being clinically badass and exterminating goblins like they were pests, the rest of the cast, not so much. The art was sub-par, the fan service wasn’t good because of it. The environmental set-up wasn’t anything to write home about. The OP – good. I would recommend it if you can stomach violence and depictions of rape, and if you are looking for some fantasy, adventuring schlock. But if you can’t stomach the edginess, well, you aren’t missing out on the “anime of the decade” or anything, and there are better shows to watch.

Sorry about the rant near the beginning, just felt like airing it out.

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Kaguya-sama: Love is a series of goofy tsundere mind games, I guess?

The first five minutes of the first episode were probably some of the most “awkward” moments in the anime, it started out with this notion of how there are winners and losers in a couple, but our protagonists aren’t even a couple yet – that’s a weird way to set up the “theme” of… whatever this was going to be. The introduction to the duo created an instant feeling of dislike to the characters, they seemed like the type of arrogant, spoiled kids I avoided back in high school, and the last thing I would do is care about their romantic development.

Cue the insanely well visualized oh-that’s-so-anime mind battles, and I’m hooked, it was like I forgot that the characters were insufferable. I liked how the episode was structured in a three round format with winners and losers, although the battles being themed around manipulating someone to confess to them felt pretty weird at the time.

The reason I am mentioning that is, despite my initial impressions being not super positive, the show managed to come around and actually make, at least one half of the duo, compelling and, in turn, making me care a bit about their development. I liked how Kaguya’s outer-personality was peeled down, layer by layer, throughout the series to reveal an insecure girl with neglect issues that makes her put up an arrogant egoistic attitude to mask her feelings… yeah, not the most original character archetype but I liked how it was done. I wish that Shirogane also received the same treatment, his “personality flip” was done in a more blunt way so I didn’t end up caring much about the boy – although, the volleyball training session with Chika was pretty hilarious.

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Yes, then there are the supporting characters. Chika was, like for many others, the primary pull for my interest toward the show, and I wasn’t disappointed with what the show did with the character. She’s the kawaii cheery, mischievous addition the cast needed to counterbalance the over-the-top atmosphere in the student council room. Chika is definitely one of the biggest selling point for the anime – I mean, thinking about her arsenal of cute quirks put on display throughout the anime’s run time, it’s hard to deny her showmanship (that was a pretty weird place to put that word in but okay). Ishigami’s introduction was late but I don’t think the show would stayed as entertaining as it ended up being without his presence; he has his own gap moe – he generally stays reserved around others, but under certain circumstances, he becomes a loose cannon and his comedic routines never went stale. Honestly, I found the character chemistry between Chika and Ishigami more interesting than that of between Shirogane and Shinomiya.

It took a couple of episodes for me to figure out the way the battles were presented in a self-aware way, with the over-the-top animation and the dramatic voice-over commentating as if a high-voltage 9D chess match was taking place. Even the winner/loser announcement at the end isn’t taken as seriously after a couple of episodes. I am really fond of how visually neatly-constructed these battles are, even though it’s over-the-top, it’s coherent enough to not make the comedy of the battles be a lazy “haha lol there’s so much mental gymnastics going that no one has a clue what’s going on haha” type of deal. It’s cool that the “battle of the brains” didn’t just take place in the student council room, so the battles rarely felt formulaic.

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haha “formulaic”

But due to the goofy presentation of the battles, anyone looking for meticulously laid out ooh-that’s-so-badass-and-kinda-smart psychological battles like in Death Note/Code Geass would be disappointed with it… I think. Honestly, I’m happy those battles were brought under a parodic light because if not, it wouldn’t have helped my initial distaste for the duo; and besides, it would have meant that the anime was comfortable with presenting psychological manipulation in love to be “cool” to impressionable teenagers. I don’t mean to virtue signal, but anime influencing kids is a real thing.

Anyway, I’m also fond of the way of these mind games, the presentation of the characters’ mindsets shift from “I’m going to make him/her confess” to “Oh no! I will probably get rejected if I open up” – it’s a nice way of peeling away the arrogant veil of their unlikable personalities to reveal a more sympathetic insecure version of themselves, it’s not super elegant but it does the job effectively.  The battles themselves are nothing substantial in my view, they are entertaining when “it’s on” and then I forget about them since most of them don’t add much to the overarching development of the duo’s relationship, and even when they do, it’s a cumulative effect.

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I didn’t like the ending, everything sort of got reset and I was left scratching my head as to what to make of Kaguya finally being sincere with herself and with others in the first half. Sure, “reset” is a loaded word to use here because the characters did change throughout the show’s runtime but it’s annoying to see the show do a reversal to circle back to the initial “theme” of the show… I guess people want a season 2, I sure don’t.

That’s not to say this show is bad. As weird as the premise was and as goofy as the battles themselves were, it’s refreshing to see a mind-game centered rom-com. In the end, the reset kind of put me off but I won’t say that the characters ended up being as insufferable as they were on first impression. It’s undoubtedly a really well-produced show and the comedy is pretty cleverly written and neatly presented – it’s quality entertainment. So overall, I would recommend this show to anyone looking for a good comedy, but I wouldn’t if one is looking for a riveting romantic story.

Okay, I will end this before I repeat myself even more. Thanks for reading.

Music Roundup: May 2019

Wow, I’m kind of not late for this.

You know what goes on in these posts – these are basically landfills of my music impressions and recommendations. So let’s just jump into this one.

Chiaki Mayumura: Meja Meja Monja [Album of the month]

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Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM… except Bravo

I wrote a full review on this album, you can read it here.

tl;dr: It’s great. It blows my mind how many different genre-flavors Chiaki packed into this LP without making it feel bloated. Almost every track has meticulously curated production behind them, and of course, Chiaki’s vocal range is as dynamic as ever.

・・・・・・・・・(Dots): Points

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Favorite tracks: Shizuka no Umi, Can You Feel the Change of Seasons?, Sign, YOLO no taki, Cream Soda no Yuutsu, Ikutsu ka no yoru, ikutsu ka no sayonara

I got introduced to this shoegaze/dream pop idol group with their first album last year through a YouTube channel called Asian Shoegaze. That’s a nice album, there are some nice noisy, shoegaze cuts but most of the tracks sound, albeit the vocals being breezy, more like your standard synthpop tracks against a wallpaper of these dreamy rock instrumentals – the marriage between techno pop and shoegaze didn’t feel completely comfortable.

But with this album, the producers put forward a more compelling type of sound (mostly) heavily centred around the dreamy, shoegaze aesthetic while still working in playful pop elements; some of my favorite moments on the album being repeating riff in the opening track, the playful and the ethereal vocal mixing in the closing track. Of course, electropop doesn’t go completely neglected – Sign and YOLO no taki being finely produced as they are, with Sign adopting a more bubbly techno sound and the latter sounding more industrial; it’s a nice contrast.

And with Cream Soda no Yuutsu taking a light RnB approach, all in all, Points makes more a short yet dynamic listen – actually, I think the length of this album is perfect. Apparently, this is Dots last album (they disbanded even before the release of this) – it’s sad to see them go but I’m glad they ended on such a strong release. I recommend it if you are interested in what a shoegaze idol group would sound like, because that’s what got me into checking their music out.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: Fishing for Fishies

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Favorite tracks: Fishing for Fishies, Boogieman Sam, Plastic Boogie, Real’s not Real, This Thing, Acarine, Cyboogie

Fishing for Fishies is the prolific Australian psychedelic rock outfit’s gazillionth album (actually, it’s the 14th). I discovered King Gizz last year and listened to a few of their albums, namely Nonagon Infinity, I’m in Your Mind Fuzz and Polygondwanaland. In comparison to these albums, the sound of this album is starkly different which isn’t much of a surprise since they are known for constantly changing styles for each LP-length project. This time, King Gizz experiments with the vintage sound of boogie rock, while infusing their electronic and robotic vocals in the mix. But it’s hard to just describe the sound of the album in a few sentences, it’s really dynamic and changes track by track – from dreamy folk in the title track, to ecstatic boogie-ventures in Plastic Boogie to the phasic instrumentation in Acarine to Cyboogie’s fun robo-boogie cut and so much more in the middle that I can’t really describe in a short format like this.

Apparently, the lyrics here are eco-friendly and, while I wish that they fleshed out their environmentalism-favoring lyrical and thematic ideas a bit more in the tracks, I cannot deny the textured fun instrumentation and how much work they seem to have put into the tracks to make for a well-paced, compelling album listening experience. Seriously, album listening experience-wise, I would put this second to only Nonagon Infinity from the four I’ve listened to so far. And it’s still growing on me.

OOHYO: Far From the Madding City

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Favorite tracks: Naive, Tennis, Toki Tall, A Good Day, Brave, Swimming, Ramen, Reggae

It’s rather unfortunate I wasn’t aware that Oohyo had dropped her sophomore album in April, but I’m really digging the dreamy-synth-pop-infused-with-chill-RnB atmosphere of it. The LP is kind of a left hook out of nowhere because she paints this escapist painting of introspective isolation pretty convincingly. Right from the first track up to Swimming, Oohyo rarely falters with consistency in terms of prime synth choices and her lush vocals.

Highlights being the pattering synth progression throughout Naive, the harmonization between the strings and Oohyo’s vocals in the chorus of A Good Day, the piano in Brave and her experimental production in Swimming. The LP’s freshness gets a bit stale in the last quarter of its run, but Ramen and Reggae brings it back with some funk. Overall, this is a solid album and I recommend to anyone looking for some good indie synth pop backed by soothing vocal performances. By the way, the album cover complements the “alienation” theme of the album really well.

Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride

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Favorite tracks: Harmony Hall, Bambina, This Life, Rich Man, Married in a Gold Rush, Sympathy, Sunflower, Flower Moon, 2021, We Belong Together, Stranger

As I mentioned on my previous roundups, I was really hyped for this double album because I am a fan of their music (especially Contra and their self-titled LP) and it’s been 6 years since Vampire Weekend has put out any music. Well, this is a pretty good release. Sure, there are some tracks, or parts of them, that recycle ideas and feel redundant (like Unbearable White), but none of the tracks are unlistenably so. The instrumental backdrop feels fresh; where the one half sounds uplifting and features good springtime music and the other half takes kind of a more moody, introspective approach.

I love the springtime textures in Rich Man, Harmony Hall, Flower Moon and This Life; all the Danielle Haim and Steve Lacy features are nice. I wish Vampire Weekend either took more risks in their stylistic presentation or fleshed out their ideas in the shorter tracks a bit more (like Big Blue and Spring Snow) – that would have made for an even more exciting LP. Still, I don’t find myself put off at all by this album, it’s great music to put on the background to de-stress with.

Injury Reserve: Injury Reserve

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Favorite tracks: Koruna & Lime, Jawbreaker, GTFU, Jailbreak the Tesla, Gravy n’ Biscuits, Wax On, What a Year It’s Been, Three Man Weave

Recently, I watched the trio’s Koruna & Lime MV and I instantly loved their whole “vibe”. Each one of their teaser tracks are packages of playful glitchy production backed with just great bars. And upon checking out their other recent singles, I became more hyped for the album. While my initial impressions of the album weren’t positive, mostly because I think the production gets watered down in the latter half of the album, personal cuts like Wax On and What a Year It’s Been grew on me.

Still, I think the album is a bit spotty – like the interludes don’t really do anything for me in terms of album listening experience, and tracks like Rap Song Tutorial and New Hawaii don’t sound as “complete” like the tracks from the first half. I think the tracks from the first half set a really high bar for the album, and I really didn’t find the album as groundbreaking from the seventh track onward. I loved the jazzy Three Man Weave, though – couldn’t ask for a better closer. The Rico Nasty and Amine features on Jawbreaker and Jailbreak the Tesla are awesome. Despite the shortcomings, I would still recommend this album because for me, the catchiness of the first half outweighs the spotty latter half in terms of overall enjoyment.

Kevin Abstract: Arizona Baby

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Favorite tracks: Big Wheels, Georgia, Corpus Christi, Baby Boy, Mississippi, Peach, American Problem, Boyer

Being a big fan of Brockhampton, I was interested in this solo project from Kevin, and I’m not too disappointed with this. Romil’s production is as icy and experimentally compelling as ever, with a bit more of nostalgia and a sweet tinge of sunset is added to the sonic palette this time around. Kevin’s verses in Georgia, Corpus Christi, Baby Boy and American Problem add personality to the album and those tracks are sort of the emotional core of this project.

Then there are just nice summertime tracks like Big Wheels, Mississippi, Peach and Boyer – Peach is an absolute earworm. As for the other tracks, they don’t sound as fresh as the others because they sound kind of scant and repetitive (like Joyride, Use Me and Crumble). Other than that, I think it’s a pretty neat album and worth recommending to Brockhampton fans.

Twice: Fancy You (EP)

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Favorite tracks: Stuck In My Head, Hot, Turn It Up, Strawberry

I didn’t think I would like a Twice EP after 2017 ended, when they put out their debut album – it was unlistenable and unmemorable. I stopped following the Kpop group closely, still, I liked Dance the Night Away track from last year, their B-side game was still bad. But with this EP is undoubtedly their best release yet, I am glad that JYP has veered the group away from the cutesy-cosplay concepts to something that doesn’t alienate their fanbase yet reel in the interest of fans who got bored of their go-to concepts. Fancy You’s sound packs a lot more sass than usual while still adhering to the catchy hooks. Even the tracks that I am not too hot on, like the title track and Girls Like Us, are listenable at worst. But the other tracks feature really fun, dynamic instrumentals – the production is pretty tasteful. The girls’ performances are nice too, the rap sections actually have a compelling attitude in them this time around. Really enjoying this release.

Singles/MVs

ZOC: family name

I am not head over heels about this single, I don’t like the B-side all that much either. But the title track has a powerful hook and the girls’ vocals harmonize really well. I love the MV, the wardrobe (during the dance) is gorgeous, that purple-pink-black color coordination (very Seiko-like) looks great and the choreography is pretty expressive, as well.

Gesu no Kiwami Otome: Himenai Watashi

The intro was stuck in my head for a good couple of days. The song has a nice groove to it, not to mention the bass in the chorus, and the chant samples are a nice touch, too. It’s an earworm, for sure.

Oh My Girl: The fifth season

This might be one of my favorite tracks that the group has released recently – it’s a dreamy pop ballad with a nicely built-up hook backed with strings and old-Gfriend vibes. I wished the tracks on the album were as coherent and refreshing as this, but that’s not the case, sadly. Love the track Checkmate though, very sassy and the brass and breakdown added even more fun flavor to that song.

Denzel Curry: Ricky

Still haven’t listened to ZUU, but this track is fire. Really dig the tribute to parents in the hook – very wholesome… ok, maybe not that wholesome.

Okay, that’s all. Have a nice day/evening/… uh, sleep?

Chiaki Mayumura – Meja Meja Monja [Album Review]

After coming off Gisshiri Haguki, a monster of an album brimmed with genre-blending and addictive Jpop goodness, despite being hyped, I was also a bit worried whether she would be able to be as adventurous and keep up with her fiery momentum on her major debut. Needless to say, just upon initial listens, it turns out Chiaki is nowhere near her limit in terms of stylistic creativity.

The production sounds more polished than ever – the number of instruments in the mix seems higher, the bass feels more prominent, the vocal effects on Chiaki and the synth choices are prime, and I loved how samples are sprinkled so tastefully in certain tracks – clearly, there’s substantial work put into each track, since they sound well-fleshed-out in terms of their presentation of their musical ideas. But Chiaki rarely uses the quality of the instrumental backdrop as a crutch, rather she doesn’t need to, because her eccentric personality and stylistic vocal range remain as charismatic as ever.

Despite being a 16-track album, track-to-track playback rarely feels plodding because of the smooth variation between the songs, and the genre blending within the tracks themselves. It still amazes me how much musical influences Chiaki draws from and makes them her own. A notable example would be Queeeeeeeeeen, where the song goes through five phases seamlessly, the drumming tempo is key to that, along with Chiaki’s fluid stylistic vocal variation leading the way; especially the way a choir backed the bridge section and the rapping in the tail-end of the track. That’s another thing – Chiaki seems to rap with adaptability in the hip-hop segments in the album. Like in Hechimade Karada Aratteru where she puts on a punk attitude in her flow to mesh with the cranky guitar, and in the verse sections of Teeth of Peace where Chiaki goes on storyteller mode to set up her feelings about making a dentist appointment.

It’s unfortunate I don’t have a proper source of translations for her lyrics, especially for tracks like Ojisan – the way Chiaki’s vocals get more and more emotionally riveting throughout this ballad makes me curious as what the story is behind this uncle. Gero is an example of Chiaki’s creative and absurd songwriting tics, it is an uplifting anthem about how vomiting is a de-stressing moment after a hard-day’s work. I know that because the lyrics is short and Google Translate doesn’t suck as much with short sentences.

Of course, Chiaki’s exciting, danceable tracks aren’t missing. The opener, Homerareteru!, is a chirpy start with an edge of the idol’s bubbly humor. Kiseki Kaminoko Tensaiken! is another infectiously catchy odd-rhythmic track, which I read somewhere that it was inspired by Polysics’ music, so that sort of explains the new wave punk-ish vibe of the song. Ogikubo Senshuken features great percussion and bass lines. I love the transition into a dramatic bridge near the 2-minute mark backed by this drone guitar, but then it jumps back to the bustling pace of the track. Speaking of great bass lines, Kaikoukuda showcases another example of such, this time with a crunchier sound to it, along with Chiaki putting bravado in her singing to make the track have this picturesque, adventurous vibe to it. It sounds pretty filmic.

With Piccolo Insect, Chiaki brings back her free-flowing singing and the piano after the intro still feels fresh after all these listens. Kakioroshi Shudaika features some interesting synth sampling in the intro and bridge sections of the song and has a nice synth encompassing the chorus – it’s a great song that acts as a bridge from the cranky Hechimade Karada Aratteru to the heavy-sounding Ojisan.

If there was one song where I am not all that positive on, it’s Bravo. Yes, it’s a fan favorite and I have seen live sets (on Youtube) where she starts with this song, it sounds nice there. It’s just that in the context of how flavorful each other track is on the album, the instrumentals in this song are kind of flat – the bass and percussion isn’t as present, and the grainy guitar in the verse section distracts me from Chiaki’s vocals. The second half of the song spices it up a bit with some break beat but that’s about it. Still, I find the chorus to be catchy. On the other hand, Nandakke? is a song that seems to be cut from the same cloth, but the track is embroidered with fun snippets of sampled synths that keep changing with each phase of the song. I think this version of Bravo would have a more flavorful and fuller sound if it had something else backing the grainy guitar.

Mayumura also presents more introspective-sounding tracks. As in Yoyogi Kouen, a slow beat narrative piece where the light layering of two vocal tracks give off a nice nocturnal feel to the song. Honki no Lovesong is another nocturnally toned ballad, but there’s a warmth of yearning in her vocal delivery that makes it a fulfilling listen. And this album ends on a heartfelt note with Daijoubu, which features one of the most compelling vocal performances from Chiaki in the album. From rough translations it seems she’s reflecting on her improvisational approach to making and performing songs and she expresses her gratitude to people to stuck by her despite her insecurities (feel free to correct me in the comments). It’s song that seems to have a beautiful sentiment behind it.

All in all, this is yet another refreshingly dynamic powerhouse of an album from her; it’s as if the different colors on her hair in the album cover indicates the different shades of musical styles in the album. I would call this a meja success. She put her best foot forward with this one, and I hope she keeps on experimenting with more styles, explore even more absurd songwriting ideas and continue being the invigorating, bohemian musician she is in the Jpop idol scene.

Okay, I think that’s enough gushing. I was originally planning to put this in May’s music roundup, but I overwrote, clearly. I’ll be back with the roundup tomorrow, probably, it’s almost done.

Leveling Up with Mob Psycho 100 S2

I was just reading my entry on the first season of Mob Psycho 100 back in my “Top 10 Anime of 2016” post and I realized my appreciation for the show has changed after watching this new season. Not in a negative way, rather I have more things to like about the show now. There, I only gushed about how great the animation is and made an unnecessary reference to Kameda’s work in FMA where Mustang chars Envy (still one of my favorite moments in anime) – I was a huge sakuga fan back in those days, then overexposure to clips in sakugabooru over the next couple of years numbed me to it a bit. Anyway, I wasn’t all that awestruck by the writing, Mob, more like I didn’t need to because the top-tier animation and the smooth deadpan comedy already had me loving the show. As for characters, I loved Reigen, though; I still do and it has only grown since then. Thinking back, the pacing of the first season was kind of sluggish, especially near the tail-end. But all these criticisms have only gotten so obvious to me after finishing this new season.

Because the second season felt like a “leveled up” version of what Mob Psycho was about in the first season when it came to the protagonist’s story. Here, right from the first episode, Mob tries to be more expressive about his emotions – and that immediately made me feel more invested in the protagonist.

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This smooth shift in Mob’s reactive openness, together with some great character building arcs, helped me to care about what happens to him in context of the overarching plot of the show. Mob didn’t just react to everything whenever reached that 100% threshold, he started to actively control and understand his psyche and learn from that. Specific points in the anime that made him more of a compelling character for me include his dilemma in episode 3, where he starts to see spirits as conscious beings instead of pests that need to be exterminated, and his interaction with a psychic-turned-evil-spirit opened him up to a negative perspective to self-insert oneself on to. And he did, which was a moment of vulnerability for him in terms of being overpowered and being the impressionable teenager he is supposed to be. Of course, let’s not forget the moment were Mob took rein of the dilemma and chose to hang out with his friends rather than doing Reigen’s work all the time.

Sure, these are pretty skeletal and straight forward modes of character building but there’s some level of elegance in the timing, balance of tones, and in how these dilemmas are presented. I don’t think there were a lot of memorable moments like this in the first season but it’s undeniable that  such character building moments wouldn’t timed better without the first season.

It’s no secret that one of the central themes in Mob Psycho is about self-improvement and making yourself into a better being, and the show really shaped the character writing around that, with Mob’s moments of learning to take rein of his emotions, him taking the initiative to do something about approaching Tsubomi (though this started early in the first season), and, of course, Reigen’s heartwarming arc.

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Reigen was already my favorite character from the first season. Even though he’s a con-artist there’s still some semblance of sincerity when it came to dealing with Mob. And that was confirmed through a two-episode arc, where Reigen went through some self-reflection and thought about Mob’s growth. Although the conclusion of the arc was kind of predictable, it still hit hard because of the emotional context that moment had, and how well the show built up to that by laying Reigen’s thought-process and past bare to the audience. It was a weight lifted off his mind when Mob openly acknowledged him, and through that, him and Mob developed a even more nuanced teacher-student relationship with each other. Reigen’s whole arc of self-rectification made him one of my favorite characters in anime of all time, he’s best boy.

The technical aspect of the show – animation –  that made me be a huge fan of it in the first place stays that big of a spectacle throughout this season as well. The fights in the last leg of the season are, of course, gorgeously animated.

Speaking about the last leg of the season, I was really impressed with how neatly planned out the progression was with all the moving parts. It really felt like a grand finale. And the show’s humorous edge was still somehow intact in the midst of all these events of apocalyptic scale taking place.

It’s great how Toichiro transformed from being overpowered, nihilistic bad guy to someone who’s actually open to self-reflect and self-rectify himself, and how that feeds into the show’s thematic narrative of self-improvement.

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So by the end of this season, the show has essentially leveled up in terms of my appreciation, the character writing, and even the overarching plot arc seem to stem from that idea. Mob Psycho 100 is a great coming of age story, I don’t really care a lot about how it ends (I don’t find Tsubomi that interesting of a character, really), it has already told a wonderfully packaged, hearty story so far. If you haven’t watched this yet, (I don’t know why you just read a spoiler-infested post about it) give it a watch.

Whew – this was a nice post to get back into writing about anime again.

Also, I find the opening to be better than my favorite OP from 2018 (which was Megalo Box’s).

Music Roundup: April 2019

It’s time for another long, unreadable roundup post where I “round up” music releases I heard last month and I share my (preferably positive) opinions on them in the form of mini-reviews. There are a couple of EPs mentioned this time around so that should be absolutely exciting – my post getting even more bloated? Whoo! Seriously though, it’s been a great month of music, I really enjoyed listening to most of these releases and writing about them has been equally enjoyable.

The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery [Album of the Month]

the comet is coming trust in the lifeforce of the deep mystery

Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM

Whoa. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been exposed to intergalactic nu-jazz projects like this before, but this LP didn’t take a lot of time to sweep me off my saxo-prone footing and throw me into this colorful, fiery, cosmic journey of… some collective entity (or existence itself maybe?). Both the opening and the ending tracks seem to be cut from the same compositional cloth, with similar ebb-and-flow, setting up this looping aspect of the album’s playback – and a reversed one at that, where the opening track feels like the LP’s ending and the ending is actually the album just beginning to lay its foot down. Birth of Creation, Astral Flying and Unity are probably the most cerebral and spiritual in the track list in terms of the tracks’ pacing and composition. Birth of Creation’s saxophone sounds vividly gargantuan, like the stars and planets are forming, the stars undergoing nuclear fusion for the first time. Astral Flying feels more personal, like a psychedelic trip through the pastures of the cosmos.

Unity probably has the most predictable composition, but that doesn’t take away from how calming the building of the instrumentation is in the song. In Summon the Fire and Blood of the Past, I love how the saxophone sounds magmatic and distorted and how the drums sound weighty. The only vocals on the album is Kate Tempest’s feature in Blood of the Past where she gives social commentary – about our indifference to violence of the past and present, our obsession with short-term pleasures, how we tend to scoff at people who want things to change, and how not self-aware most of us are about our wrongdoings. I found the phasic improvisation in Super Zodiac and Timewave Zero to be really enjoyable. As it is with all my favorite monthly selections, there’s not a dud on this LP. I am revisiting this album quite a lot, and I still find new aspects in the composition to enjoy to this day.

Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising

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Favorite tracks: A Lot’s Gonna Change, Andromeda, Everyday, Something to Believe Titanic Rising, Movies, Mirror Forever, Wild Time, Nearer to Thee

Damn, this is such a well-paced, beautiful, celestial album. I can only agree with the critical acclaim that it’s been receiving recently – Natalie really put forward an ambitious, grand project with this. The dreamy instrumentals and Weyes’ smooth vocals just mesh together so well that it only took the first couple of tracks to sink me into its lush soundscape. The production rarely feels overly dulled down, despite it having this dream-poppy, cohesive sonic theme going throughout the album’s run time; and I think that can be attributed to the light flourishes of experimentation with percussion or synths in the beginning or ending segment of some of the tracks (like Movies, Andromeda) – it adds more color to the LP’s gorgeous atmosphere.

Although I’m not the biggest lyrics-guy, I tend to pay more attention to the vocal performances and instrumentals than lyricism in a song, but it’s impossible to deny the beauty in Weyes’ lyricism in this album. Not that the lyrics are completely relatable but they help to effectively present Weyes’ own viewpoints featuring her own map of nuanced emotions, tracks like Andromeda, Everyday and Mirror Forever, come to mind when thinking about this point. Lastly, but not the least, another highlight of the LP are the two instrumental pieces, they are short yet without them, I don’t think the album would feel as complete. All in all, Titanic Rising certainly has its own living breathing personality, and it’s only been growing on me throughout April.

Moka Sato: Merry go round

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Favorite tracks: Rainy Day Makeup, Foolish, Loop with Tomoggg, Skip, Friend, coffee cup waltz, The Singer, Merry go round, Celosia, melt summer

This album features some sweet little wintertime tunes that just stuck with me throughout last month. Sato’s vocals sound pristine, her delivery breezy and serene, it’s always the centerpiece in each track. And that pans over sometimes a nostalgically toned minimal instrumented ballad – like in Rainy Day Makeup, Friend, Merry go round, and Celosia.

Sometimes her instrumental backdrop features a vibrant cascading mix of soundcloud-reminiscent sugary synths and a gummy-like bass line (Foolish, Loop with Tomoggg and melt summer) – it’s just the right amount of sweetness in the beat without it making the track sound cloying in any degree. Moka even indulges in a bit of jazz, like in Skip, coffee cup waltz (it’s such a sticky tune, it’s a mood setter) and, surely, it doesn’t get more jazz lounge-like than The Singer. The LP feels more like an EP because the of its tight pacing. I think those less-than-a-minute sound bytes act like interstitial tissue that evens out the transitions- making the whole track list flows from one type of sound to another so smoothly that it often makes forget that I listened through 32 minutes of music.

The Dance for Philosophy: Excelsior

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Favorite tracks: It’s My Turn, Supervenience, Logic Jump, Free Your Festa, Speech, Vital Temptation, Heuristic City, Happy Ending

This group caught my eye after I discovered their Dance Founder MV in December, I really liked the retro, city-pop-like aesthetic that doesn’t feel like it’s just tacked on, and how the member’s actually distinguished themselves in terms of vocals rather than with visuals alone, something I don’t see in group pop too often.

So I went into this album expecting more or less of the same, and I wasn’t disappointed with what I heard. Since tracks have only grown on me, I love the groovy bass, funky guitars and synth patterns, the energy of the vocal performances is contagious – it’s a lot of fun. Given the 51-minute length of the album, I wish there was a bit more variation in style from track-to-track, especially in the middle section, but that’s a minor complaint that’s getting even more minor the more I listen to the LP. I recommend you give this a listen if you are someone who’s interested in listening to a well-produced retro pop (featuring those old school analogue synthesizers, I think?) record which doesn’t just bank on nostalgia and tries to bring something new and refreshing to the table.

Haruomi Hosono: Hochono House

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Favorite tracks: Ai Ai Gasa, Bara to Yajuu, Koi wa Momoiro, Juusho Futei Mushoku Tei Shunyuu, Fuku wa Uchi Oni wa Sato, Party, Fuyu Goe, Owari no Kisetsu, Choo Choo Gatagoto America Hen

Hochono House is a “re-imagined” or “reworked” version of Haruomi’s debut album Hosono House which he released in 1973. Haruomi Hosono is a name I’ve heard of before, because he is one of the most influential artists in the history of Japanese music and he was a member of great musical outfits like Happy End and Yellow Magic Orchestra. So being the uncultured music listener I am, I went back and listened to the original, for the first time, so I could compare the two.

The original sounds like a band gathered in a summer house and recorded some catchy pop rock pieces – and it sounds timeless. The new version reverses the track list order and Haruomi reworks an eclectic batch of soft electronic elements into the songs, his vocal performances have changed to a more suave tone so that the album gets an effective lounge-like tinge to its overall sound. I can’t exactly say that Haruomi “modernized” the album but I think it’s more like a creative exercise to make alternative compositions for the songs, if anything. It’s a really well-produced album with a nice versatile sonic palette (despite it sounding like coffee house lounge music) and it’s perfect to put on a chill weekend afternoon.

Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

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Favorite tracks: bad guy, you should see me in a crown, all the good girls go to hell, my strange addiction, bury a friend

I never heard anything from Billie Eilish despite repetitively seeing her songs in my recommendations, partly because I made assumptions based off just her edgy image and the cynical commentary surrounding her. Honestly, I wouldn’t have bothered to check this out if critics like Mark and Fantano didn’t give positive reviews on it. Although I haven’t become the biggest fan on initial listens, I didn’t find it as bland or as painfully edgy as I thought it would be, there are some catchy and fun tracks here. Her edgy-ness has a self-aware edge to it, like in bad guy and you should see me in a crown and her vocal performances are nuanced to fit a specific mood in each track. Finneas’ production is pretty fun and the theming is done pretty well throughout the album’s run time.

Overall, it’s a good album but, as much of a talented singer Billie is, I wasn’t really enamored by the ballad side of the LP because I don’t really connect with her brand of sound/songwriting all that much. So it’s one of those albums which I get why people love it but I can’t get into it as much, save for a few of the tracks. But it is worth giving a listen.

Wednesday Campanella: Yakushima Treasure

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Favorite tracks: Underground Ritual, Shimameguri, East, Faded Sea, Yaku No Jitsugetsubushi

Well, Wednesday Campanella finally went there. They shed the veneer of pop around their experimentation with this EP; and the final product ends up being this unkempt yet naturalistic journey where each track feels like a small detour of its own. The EP features natural samples in Yakushima, where the group recorded during a trip there – they also put out a web series on Youtube Premium showing how they made the music, some history and some personal reflection from KOM_I. Also, there are some folk performance by the locals in Faded Sea.

I really love how well the sampling from Yakushima is worked in and layered in each track, Oorutaichi did a fantastic job with this – the production is enveloping, it’s conscious. KOM_I’s vocal performances on the tracks are probably one of the most soulful, and soul-filling I’ve heard in the group’s discography (especially in East, Faded Sea, and Yaku No Jitsugetsubushi). My only complaint is the first half could do with some trimming. It’s a beautiful EP and I’m only loving it more the more I listen to it.

tricot: Repeat

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Favorite tracks: good morning, Daihatsumei, BUTTER, Reflection

tricot is yet to disappoint with an underwhelming release. This time around, the pacing and presentation is even tighter, the drums have a stronger presence, the bass more prominent, and of course, the vocals are as crisp as ever. The band seems to pack more variation within their song structure, most notable example being Daihatsumei and Butter, which is my favorite track off the EP – where even with a relatively long run times, the phasic variation helps with the pacing. Also that tempestuous climax near the end of Butter is beautiful.

Perhaps the only dull points in the EP is that the the tail-end of the last track is a bit plodding but it’s not a really bad song. Other than that, I think it’s a solid release from a solid band.

Singles/MVs

Zombie-Chang: Soredo Shiawase

Yes! Zombie-Chang is back with another ear worm of a release. She properly returns to her new-wave underground EDM roots in Soredo Shiawase, and if you like her music, you will like this track too. The second track doesn’t really do anything for me, it feels like filler, but the band version of I Can’t Get to Sleep (which is one of my favorites off her second album) is fun. I hope she puts out an album or EP this year.

Chiaki Mayumura: Kiseki Kaminoko Tensaiken! & Daijoubu

So Chiaki Mayumura dropped Meja Meja Monja a few days ago… and on first impression it’s fantastic, and of course, its review will be included in the next roundup. Anyway, she dropped the MVs of two tracks off her new album, and it didn’t take long for them to become instant favorites.

I enjoy the fun mixing and instrumental buildup of the looping percussion, the repetitive synth lead, and of course the catchy chanting “Kiseki Kaminoko Tensaiken!” – which cumulates to a vibe I can (unconfidently) describe as new wave punk-like. It’s a song I have on repeat every now and then. And the MV is cute and funny as hell.

Daijoubu, on the other hand, starts off as your standard pop ballad but Chiaki doesn’t waste a lot of time to pull off an uplifting chorus, it’s really beautifully sung. And it only gets more instrumentally interesting, with an organ and hi-hats – a combination I never thought would work this well in an introspective song like this; and an equally uplifting guitar section caps the song off. It’s the second longest song in the album, but it doesn’t feel that long at all. In the MV, the ending transitions blissfully into the beginning of Piccolo Insect. I wish the first track of the album would have been Piccolo Insect so the transition would work when replaying the LP – that’s not the case but it’s daijoubu, I guess.

Crumb – Nina

This song was recommended to me on Youtube and it happened to be great. The instrumental and the vocals sound so blissful here. I love the drums here. Will be keeping an eye (and two ears) out for their future releases.

I guess that’s a wrap for this post. See you soon.

Music Roundup: March 2019

Hey, welcome back to the super-late-but-not-dead-yet segment of my blog, I finally got the time to relax and write. March has been a better month of music for me than the last two ones of the year, so I have more good music to talk about (I also have a couple of bland albums mentioned here as well). Also, I am not necessarily covering music that released in March, but the music I heard in March that came out in 2019 – very arbitrary of me, I know.

Satoko Shibata – Ganbare! Melody [Album of the month]

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Favorite tracks: Good News, Lucky Color, Animal Feeling, The Legend, Tears, A Good Person, Surprises, My Beautiful, Wankoro Meter, Tokyo Melon Week, Joyful Komeri Homac, My Town Event, Really (I don’t think I have left anything out)

Satoko Shibata’s new album feels like the rustic, springtime breeze one is supposed to feel while their vehicle is cutting through the slight rainy scent of an evergreen countryside. Basically, this album sounds like a collection of beautiful insert songs for a pastelled colored slice-of-life travel anime. I love how the light yet colorful production complements her airy yet natural vocal delivery, especially in tracks like Tears, A Good Person, and Joyful Komeri Homac – it’s soothing and feeds into the escapist or nostalgic feeling you get when you are looking out your window during a long drive.

Yet, there are times when the instrumentals and her vocals undergo full-bloom to create super sticky melodies that I found myself humming to more often than I think – the opener Good News, Surprises, My Beautiful, Wankoro Meter and My Town Event come to mind when picking out the catchiest ones. I don’t think there’s a single underwhelming track on this LP, as it goes for most of my favorite albums of the year so far – whenever I put this album on, I almost always incline to listen through it from track 1 to 13. If you are looking for some pretty, refreshingly folk(ish) pop to listen to destress with – I can’t point you to a better album for that in this post.

Hina Ohta – Between the Sheets

hina ohta between the sheets

Favorite tracks: Romance, Katyu, Fune wo Kogu, Blue Moon, Lush, Amai Milk, Tasogare, Aisubeki Bokura, Curtain Call (it’s the entire tracklist)

Most of this 9-track album is a batch of nocturnal electronic pop ballads backed up with Hina’s measured, smooth vocals and quite lush, velvety production. Damn, the production is such an ear candy here – the synths sometimes sound emotionally sweeping in the choruses (Romance, Fune wo Kogu, Amai Milk) and at other times, it patters and builds upon one another in interesting time signatures (Lush, Tasogare).

The piano and violin only add more flavor to the ballad-like aspect of the project, like in Blue Moon, Katyu (the extra jazzy brass was great) and Aisubeki Bokura. The LP ends with a dream-like trance – it’s an awesome ending. I don’t think there’s a single dud in this project, and the replay value of this album is fantastic. The nocturnal theming of the production is really solid; it’s one gem of an album. I won’t lie, I was having a hard time picking out the “best” between this and Ganbare! Melody – I went with the latter because it’s more hummable (not even a joke).

Little Simz – Grey Area

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Favorite tracks: Offence, Boss, Selfish, Wounds, Venom, 101 FM, Sherbet Sunshine, Flowers

This hip-hop LP makes up for one of the most streamlined album-listens of the year, so far. There’s barely a passage wasted, the instrumentals showcasing smooth versatile blends of hip-hop, soul, jazz, and RnB. Little Simz exudes a roaring attitude in the majority of the tracks (like Offence, Boss, Wounds, Venom) with some groovy percussion and bass in the mix. She’s the solo rapper on the project, and her features provide the singing segments necessary to complement the different vibes of the tracks – and I don’t have any complaints about any of the features. Although the album is as enjoyable as a rap album can be, I couldn’t find much in the lyrical content that resonated with me, maybe because I’m not super familiar with Little Simz’ discography – so I can’t call this my album of the month as of now. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a must-listen for hip-hop enthusiasts.

Flume – Hi This is Flume

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Favorite tracks: Ecdysis, Jewel, How to Build A Relationship, Voices, Upgrade, 71m3, Vitality, Daze 22.00, Amber, Spring

A fun collection of wonky, glitchy textures all strung with cool transitions in this mixtape. Although there are passages which sometimes wear down on me at points in the mixtape (like in ╜φ°⌂▌╫§╜φ°⌂▌, Dreamtime and the first half of the Is it Cold in the Water? remix), I don’t have many complaints on the overall enjoyability of the project. There are hardly any lyrics on any of the tracks, the exception being the fun JPEGMAFIA feature and High Beams.

Even so, the tracks sound like their titles to some degree, the strongest examples of this being Jewel where the pristine synths give off this sensation of a sparkling gem attracting a diver and Upgrade where the building cyberpunk themed synths make up for a transformation sequence of a mecha in the middle of its flight. I am going to have a hard time describing exactly what all the tracks sound like but the alien and icy feel of these “deconstructed club” tracks make up for solid background music when commuting or taking a walk or exercising… or typing out a post – like I am doing right now.

Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

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Favorite tracks: No One’s Easy to Love, Comeback Kid, Seventeen, You Shadow, Hands

I have got to say, this album didn’t do much for me – I rarely listened through it, track by track, last month but it’s one of those albums that have some really great tracks and some underwhelming tracks, as well – I mostly blame it on the pacing of the tracks than Sharon’s performances. I really liked No One’s Easy to Love – it’s probably the track I’ve listened to the most in March, I don’t know, there’s something about Sharon’s soaring singing and the layering of the synths that made this track so special for me.

I love the uplifting energy of Comeback Kid and the tempestuous pacing of Seventeen. You Shadow sounds bitter and the zapping synths feed into that vibe. Hands is probably the only ballad-like of the tracks that I like, it follows nice phasic pacing. I don’t have much else to say on this album, I thought the rest of the tracklisting was just okay. Still worth giving it a listen, though.

Weezer – Weezer (The Black Album)

weezer black album

Favorite tracks: Zombie Bastards, High as a Kite

I wanted to like this album but I can’t deny that it’s pretty inoffensively bland and forgettable. A lot of “wooh wooh, doo doo”s goes on in the vocals of the tracks like The Prince Who Wanted Everything and Piece of Cake – and although I am not a big lyrics guy, the songwriting in those tracks are pretty generic. I did replay Piece of Cake a few times because of the melancholy emo vibe of it but I got bored of it within a week, as I did with the album overall. There are some stellar songs, though. Zombie Bastards is noticeably more memorable to me since I found the contrasting tones in Cuomo’s intonation and the uplifting jangle of the instrumental pretty cool, and High as a Kite is now one of my favorite tracks from Weezer. I’m Just Being Honest and Byzantine aren’t bad, I guess. I don’t have much else to say.

MONKEY MAJIK – Collaborated

monkey majik collaborated

Favorite track: Umarvelous

I used to be a big fan of Monkey Majik back in seventh grade, I think their last decent album was Somewhere Out There and since then they have gotten more and more squeaky-clean and soulless with their music. Or maybe they were always like that and I’m being nostalgic. Anyway, this album is bad. I barely remember any of the tracks except the opening track Umarvelous (it’s catchy and groovy) and Ryugakusei. I don’t remember why I wanted to talk about this album in the first place.

I don’t really listen to a lot of individual tracks but here’s a quick shout out to these tracks that I liked from March.

Prune Deer – Return (ft. Haru Nemuri)

This is a nice math rock piece and Haru’s rap/spoken word cadence sits perfectly with the pacing of the track. Nothing explosive but it’s got replay value.

tricot – Dai Hatsumei

Speaking of nice math rock pieces, tricot’s dropped a solid EP in March (will talk about in detail for April’s roundup). This track is a bit more patient and predictable with its instrumental texture but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

Seiko Oomori – JUSTadICE

It’s Seiko’s infectious energy packaged in a traditional Jpop anime OP rock instrumental with some edge to it. But the last 90 seconds of this track is great on all fronts.

I just realised that JUSTadICE came out in April, oops. Still a great track, though.

MAMAMOO – gogobebe

I think the amount of Kpop I’ve been catching up on is diminishing exponentially throughout the months but I would be lying if I deny the catchiness of sass and that damned sub bass line of the track. The MV is shot pretty well, very poppy.

Vampire Weekend – Sunflower ft. Steve Lacey

This new Vampire Weekend is probably the album I’m most hyped for in 2019, and so far the teaser tracks have been pretty nice. I love the chorus, the chirpy guitars and the overall tight pacing of the song – ah, it’s infinitely replayable.

That’s all I got for now. Hopefully, I won’t be this late for April’s roundup. Uhh… hopefully.