Revisiting Favorites: Hausu

Hausu is the only movie I have watched four times and it still hasn’t lost its magic. A short 90-odd minute, masterfully paced, trip just crammed with absurdist humor and an even more absurd storyline.

This 1977 cult classic is a very visual film. The first thing that pops out in terms of the movie’s visual identity is the editing – the only readily describable characteristic of it is that it gives throwbacks to old commercials which makes sense because I read somewhere that the director, Nobuhiko Obayashi (or was it the editor Nobuo?), used to make TV commercials. The editing screws with you – the transitioning shots are trippy, the timing stutters, and the manga-like paneling of shots here and there are treats.

The color grading/lighting, for the most part, give a shimmery, other-worldly look to it. Another aspect of the visuals that pop is the special effects that look “bad”, like Birdemic levels of bad, but upon rewatches it became more apparent that their implementation is intentional, as to create this freakish alien world and also simultaneously mess with the viewer. Hausu rejects visual cohesion and embraces the freak that it wants to be.

Also, did you know that Hausu is the progenitor of cat videos?

Technically, Hausu is a well-shot movie, the angles get crazy (*gets flashbacks to the glass floor bedsheet beatdown*) but there are no insane, expensive block-buster level camera movements. The shot compositions are very deliberate which, again, tells me the movie is constructed in that freakish way intentionally. The sound design of the film isn’t as mind-bending but the main theme of the movie is catchy, I love how its color in the instrumentation gets more and more stripped back throughout the film’s runtime.

Hausu’s poster is one of my favorites.

Technical aspects aside, the core narrative of Hausu is a straightforward yet somber one. Gorgeous (Oshare), a highschooler wants to reconnect with her late mother through her aunt after her father starts to date another woman, so she takes her friends for a visit to her aunt’s HAUSU. I think you can guess what ensues from there but turn the weirdness up unscalable times – then you’ll get a feel for it. I don’t want to spoil (but I will to some extent) as to what heights of ambition the absurd imagination of Hausu’s scriptwriters push the “scary” scenes. I read somewhere that the director’s daughter came up with some ideas for the horror scenes too – maybe she inspired the quote “it’s like cotton candy!” referencing a certain horrific event – it’s just peak dark comedy.

The cast of characters, other than Gorgeous and the Aunt, share simplistic writing but their interactions never fall short of entertaining . My favorite character is Kung-fu. She’s bad-ass, she got some legs on her  – you’ll know what I mean near the end of the film. Also, Miki Jinbo is pretty as hell in this.

On to one of my favorite scenes – Melody’s piano scene gave birth to one of my favorite lines in all of cinema – “Oh my! That’s naughty.” 

I know you are probably confused, so am I… still. I don’t know why I find it so funny every single time. It might be the context, it might be the whacked out visuals, it might be the intonation of Melody’s voice, might be her smile – maybe it’s everything.

I don’t think any review of Hausu justifies or even describes how amazing it is – you have to watch it and find out. There are still so many details that unraveled before me throughout my rewatches and I think it still will in future rewatches.

I wish I could take the time to do a detailed analysis like my last Revisiting Favorites post (two years ago) but I wanted to come back to my blog for a short post, and besides, what’s a better occasion to recommend this other than Halloween?

Hausu is a Halloween essential. No, it’s a life essential – watch it before you die.

Coexistence in Eizouken

Every now and then, a show comes along that act like a nostalgic stimulus that uproots the core reasons why I was drawn to anime since my formative years. Seeing Asakusa and her crew dive into their imaginative antics brought back memories of me being 9 or 10 years old – it would be after Toonami ended, and me and my younger brother would zip around the house re-enacting (or maybe LARPing?) our own “prediction” fan-fiction sequel of the DBZ or Naruto episode we then finished. We definitely looked pretty insane stomping through the apartment for a solid half an hour (maybe it was all the sugar in the milk tea we had) but in our heads we were checked in into our own world. I never really fully committed and wrote down an entire fanfiction (thank the lord), but I can relate to the surge of inspiration Asakusa felt when she saw Conan of the Lost Island.

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Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is the latest project from Science SARU, spearheaded by Masaaki Yuasa and Eunyoung Choi – highly respected profiles in the industry and among fans. It follows a slice of the story of three high school girls as they produce anime films,  and polish their craftsmanship.

While these “love letters to the medium”- type shows, like Shirobako takes a more fleshed-out dive into how anime production works on a bigger scale, and simultaneously explores the psyche of different people in different departments of production, Eizouken is more focused on distilling out the ideals of work ethic and artistic vision, and does it in compelling ways. And that’s sort of a trend I see as I watch more shows directed by Yuasa, it’s that he prefers to focus on a message and make it bleed into almost all departments of the show.

As far as the technical aspects of the anime go, the soundtrack and its spacious sound design are my favorite parts. The soundtrack is other-worldly, mystical at times, and playful at others. It’s refreshing, the soundtrack sounds like spring. It goes well with the reality-imagination shifts that happen often throughout the series. I doubt these transitions are meant to be a device for narrating magical realism, rather it seems pretty clear that are supposed to be visual representations of emotions and thought-processes behind the characters. The fact that these transitions rarely have any visual or audio cues make them feel, weirdly real, as if they are part of the main narrative – maybe they are to some extent. It’s up to imagination.

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While I am not 100% on board with these un-cued and sometimes random forays into “imagination world”, I feel like they add character to the show and they are animated as imaginatively as they are storyboarded. More often than not, these transitions remind me that I really am watching an anime – a visual medium, where tedious verbal exposition and dialogue is replaced by free-spirited animation. Interestingly, the show itself mirrors these elements in the Eizouken girls’ productions – there’s a lot of emphasis on visuals and BGM.  The OP is catchy – the looping bluesy riff and chelmico’s playful verses don’t come up in the short version of the song but it’s still fun. I’m a big fan of the color scheme in the sequence, it pops just as much as the character designs do – maybe it’s the other way around, maybe it’s the OP that gives the designs so much memorability for me.

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Eizouken is a fantastic-looking show. In addition to the neat character designs, the CG rendered backgrounds surprisingly mesh well with the exaggerated POV and character animation. There’s also a bit more control in the fluidity of the character animation, it seems – and while this is a bit off the beaten-path for a Yuasa show, I don’t hold any grievances over it. The visual direction of the show still has its own brand of flair – from cinematic camera movements to panel divisions.

The chemistry between the main trio is… unique. It’s not the cute dynamic you expect in a Doga Kobo-esque CGDCT (I almost forgot the term, it’s been a while), where the girls in a club are working towards a goal, driven with an unbridled passion for the medium; and when shit hits the fan, they join hands and boost each other up to overcome it. Not saying that Eizouken doesn’t share these elements in the character dynamic – there’s a sense of realism to it. Mizusaki is probably the closest to a genki-girl you can find in the group, she’s got a real drive to get things done, but at the same time, she gets stuck on minute details an average viewer wouldn’t care about – she gets too stuck on her craft to maintain a constant workflow. Asakusa starts out as a timid aspiring concept artist, her ambition can pierce the heavens! And Mizusaki’s entry seemed to jumpstart Asakusa’s visionary drill. It seemed that the girls are ready to pour their souls out for their craft.

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But that’s rarely how anything turns out – there are always restrictions. Artistic ambition and talent can only get you so far when it comes to real-life productions in real-time, compromises to your vision need to be made in order to come up with a final product – and that’s a message the show hammers on whenever the Eizouken girls finish one of their shorts. Mizusaki and Asakusa accept that success and failure aren’t binaries (they coexist) and that there’s always room for improvement – ambition is a drill that doesn’t stop spinning because there’s always a wall behind the one you just overcome.

Hard-headed Kanamori is a mediator of the duo’s ambition and work ethic. She is the funniest character on the show for me, but there’s no doubt that she is the pivot of the trio that the show needed to cement their core message of coexistence. Whenever the club’s production runs into a wall, Kanamori steps up and tries her best to get things going again. Why? She wants to have productive profit – good money. She wants to prop up things that she feels other people should pay attention to.

And through this juxtaposing dynamic between Kanamori’s hard-headedness, Mizusaki’s perfectionist drive and Asakusa’s unbridled artistic vision drives home the show’s theme of coexistence. That in order to produce a finished product, the three should find a compromise, passion isn’t supposed to be extinguished, but rather should be supported by level-headedness – with some compromise. A bit of compromise might make your workflow feel a bit easy breezy.

Although, Eizouken’s message of accepting coexistence is strong, it would feel a bit too short-sighted – not all fights are caused through misunderstandings or lack of empathy, there are just purely malicious people out there. Still, I like to think that the message has more weight to it than depth. Another criticism I have is that I wish the supporting characters had a bit more going to them, most of them were just for laughs. Speaking of which, the comedy didn’t always stick, especially when it came to the episode-by-episode student council shenanigans, I became numb to it to some degree over the episodes.

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The head tilt showdown was funny for a couple of episodes

Even with all that said, Eizouken is an exciting show – it feels very much like a tribute to the work ethic and ambition of the people behind anime. It also reminded me of a more fundamental reason for my attachment to anime – an interest in cool alternative realities. The anime also carries a hopeful message that while limitless dreams and mundane reality are seemingly opposites now, we have the power to stitch them together through an exciting piece of work in the future – piece by piece, one stitch at a time.

Thanks for reading. Hope y’all are staying safe.

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My Top 30 Albums of 2019

Welcome to my first post of the year, and it’s time to share my top 30 albums of 2019!

I’m pretty happy with my consistency with the music roundup series last year, and thanks to that 2019 had been yet another taste-expanding year of music for me – it’s been really fun talking about them in the roundups and I hope I keep on doing them in 2020 as well.

Initially, I had a shortlist of 40 albums but I was having anxiety while I was trying to cut off 15 from the list, so I settled for 30. I love them all, just in slightly varying degrees. Another thing to note is that some albums grew on me, and some grew off (sadly) – but that’s how year-end lists go. Okay, I think that’s enough of a preamble, let’s get started with this.

#30 3776 – Saijiki

3776 saijiki

A dense concept pop album where it’s thematic elements are layered as thickly as the sonic elements going into it – every track corresponds to a month of the year and brings forth natural and festival sounds related to that month, and track-by-track playback gives off the smoothness of a well-curated DJ mix. The freshness of the mix doesn’t wear off easily.

#29 Weatherday – Come In

weatherday come in album art

It was a gut-punching listen the first few listens around, and although that effect wore off over the months – it’s undeniable how much heart this record carries under the envelope of its rough lo-fi aesthetic. The bright guitar passages and the unfiltered vocals still sound warm and full of life.

#28 Haruomi Hosono – Hochono House

haruomi hosono hochono house

Although it’s a “rework” of Hosono’s 1973 tropical pop-rock classic Hosono House, the record sounds like a brand new one. By no means is this a lazy “rework”. Hosono’s vocals sound reserved, and the coffee-lounge aesthetic of the versatile instrumentation made it a really great comfort album – an album that I found myself returning to more often than I expected throughout the year.

#27 Brockhampton – Ginger

brockhampton ginger

Ginger sits significantly at a lower level in terms of “creatively unstable energy” in the boyband’s discography but it’s packed with some of the most centered and depressing content the boys’ have put out. There are tracks here that are some of the best songs they’ve come out with so far, and they hit differently.

#26 Chai – Punk

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This neo-kawaii pop-punk outfit’s 2019 was really great in terms of their popularity outside of Japan, and it couldn’t have come along with a better record release. Punk‘s instrumentation is catchy yet textured like its energy is barely in control, the bass riffs are great, and their choruses are heartful and anthemic – it’s clear that Chai has got a solid command over their brand of sound by now.

#25 Rainbow Chan – Oblivion

rainbow chan pillar

Just a sleek, alien-sounding art-pop record that still sounds alluring and haunting at the same time. Chan’s vocals mostly feel distant in the textured mist of the mutated production but when they come to focus – my ears start to melt. Oblivion was certainly an album that stood out for me in terms of listening experiences in 2019.

#24 James Blake – Assume Form

james blake assume form

Gorgeous, gorgeous vocals are complemented with flowery electronic textures on this melancholic LP. The aesthetic of the record feels like an even split between hip-hop and ballad but Blake manages to bring them together thanks to some solid features and a soulful vision in his songwriting.

#23 Lightning Bolt – Sonic Citadel

lightning bolt sonic citadel

Although this might be the noise-rock duo’s most accessible album, it features some of the wildest cuts in their discography. The energy of the drums and bass is infectious, and the record’s cacophonous noise textures pack more melody than their previous ones. I  don’t need to be in a certain mood to listen to this album – it brings in the mood.

#22 Hina Ohta – Between the Sheets

hina ohta between the sheets

Nocturnal and lush are two words that would describe the production on this album. And Ohta’s controlled vocals only help with the ebb and flow of the album. There are versatility and dynamism in the electronic textures – definitely a beautiful record I would not forget to include in my favorites list.

#21 Lingua Ignota – Caligula

lingua ignota caligula

Nearly traumatic, but completely cathartic – Hayter’s brand of neo-classical darkwave sounds chilling. The lyrics are cursed and pained, the vocals bite and the production cleanses in a strange way. Listening to this album needs some mental bracing beforehand.

#20 Thom Yorke – Anima

thom yorke anima album art

On initial listens, Anima seemed to a collection of bustling, rich IDM cuts but Yorke’s floating and barely-present vocals soon reveals the restless anxiety that the synths are alluding to. The abstract hypnotic mix of the instrumentation sometimes transports me to these eerie dreamscapes, it’s weirdly meditative but kind of itchy as well.

#19 ・・・・・・・・・(Dots) – Points

dots points

The shoegaze idol group’s final album gives off the feeling of timeless nostalgia – with a versatile range of stylistic influences incorporated in a way that sounds polished and not novel at all. The technopop cuts sandwiched between the swirling dreamy ones make for quite an engaging listen.

#18 Caroline Polachek – Pang

caroline polachek pang

Pang‘s real allure lies in the sonic welding of Caroline’s saccharine vocals and the rich, cerebral production. It has certainly made for some of the most uniquely sweet musical experiences last year.

#17 Moka Sato – merry go round

moka sato merry go round

Sweet, cute, comfy wintertime pop tunes with seamless RnB integration make up the bulk of merry go round but they rarely got stale through the months I’ve listened through this because the production is that pristine, and Sato’s vocals are gorgeous on almost every track.

#16 Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿

danny brown uknowhatimsayin

Danny has cleaned up his image but his music is yet to disappoint. Although this record isn’t as feverish and out-there as Atrocity Exhibition, his music still remains psychedelic and explorative in terms of production and his nasal flow remains fresh. The features here are solid.

#15 Pup –  Morbid Stuff

pup morbid stuff

Pup’s third full length features some of the catchiest pop-punk anthems of the year. While the lyrics aren’t super witty (they are often self-aware, though), the unabashed earnest energy they are performed with makes the listening experience all the more relatable and sort of cathartic.

#14 Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains

purple mountains album art

The album sounds all the more crushing after Berman’s passing. There’s something deeply resonating with how Berman often combines his wallowing depressing songwriting in an uplifting instrumental casing. It’s not a novel aesthetic since it’s apparent that he wanted to lighten the weight with it. An essential singer-songwriter album of 2019.

#13 Otoboke Beaver – Itekoma Hits

otoboke beaver itekoma hits

Just brimmed with catchy, melodic and gritty punk cuts – Itekoma Hits is nearly pure ear candy. It’s not just the riot-grrrl aesthetic that drives the impact of the record, the instrumentals have space and are playful, the vocal performances have power and the chemistry between the members is noticeably good. If there’s a Japanese punk album you should check out – this is it.

#12 Tropical Fuck Storm – Braindrops

tropical fuck storm braindrops

Like a stroll through a sandstorm on psychedelics – listening to Braindrops is in equal parts disorientating and resonant. The instrumentation and vocals are alien yet human with its rough edges. It’s definitely a punk album that displayed the most warmth and bared the band’s unkempt emotions most rivetingly.

#11 Hakushi Hasegawa – Air Ni Ni

hakushi hasegawa air ni ni

Hasegawa displays that he has a solid command on rhythm manipulation on Air Ni Ni – and the versatile, jittery jazz-breakcore cuts still have an unmistakable pop appeal in the midst of all the chaos – and there’s rarely anything more impressive than a producer having full control of whimsical chaos. I have grown to like Hasegawa’s breezy vocals on this quite a bit as well. The whole record is a treat.

#10 Uboa – The Origin of My Depression

uboa the origin of my depression

My first listening experience of this album was nearly scarring. It’s unfiltered and definitely not for the squeamish because Xandra unloads it in such a distressing way so that the listener gets an inkling of an idea of her traumatic experiences through this atmospheric noise project.

#9 never young beach – Story

never young beach story

A nearly perfect record to put on a chill Sunday afternoon. Story is actually one of the more energetically subdued releases from the Japanese surf outfit but the guitar passages are some of the most memorable ones from last year. Personally, this is an album that made me cope with homesickness when I moved out for college – because the tone of the album sounded nostalgic.

#8 Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising

weyes blood titanic rising

An emotionally riveting chamber pop album. Natalie’s vocals are mellifluous – it’s the glue that melds together the production and songwriting. The production gives this timeless aesthetic to the sound of the record. The instrumentation in each of the tracks seems to have their own lives – their own distinct personality – and it couldn’t be more apparent that a lot of care is put behind their arrangements.

#7 100 gecs – 1000 gecs

100 gecs 1000 gecs

This 23-minute album grew on me like a pleasant tumor (as if that exists) throughout 2019 – and I think this my second most played record of the last year. I even grew fond of the two sound collage/DJ-mix-like tracks that I couldn’t stand on initial listens. The rest of the record features tracks which are essentially what I hope are the prototypes of bubblegum-bass-centric pop music to come.

#6 Dorian Electra – Flamboyant

dorian electra flamboyant

2019 is thankful for Dorian’s genre-blending and gender-bending brand of flamboyant pop. Their lyrical and aesthetic vision feels so refreshing right off their debut. The production on here is so sticky, it’s truly a meeting of the some of the best producers in the game. While it’s a fun pop album on the surface, Dorian lays down some relevant social commentary pertaining to gender politics and turns some of them into anthemic pop bangers.

#5 Satoko Shibata – Ganbare! Melody

satoko shibata ganbare melody

There are few other singer-songwriter albums I heard in 2019 that feature songs that exhibit a catchy sense of melody. There are tracks on this I still hum to this day, and they haven’t gone stale in the slightest. The backing band behind the production is lively and Shibata’s voice is sweet. I don’t think there’s a better album I could point to that came out last year that encapsulated the warm and hearty folk aesthetic as compellingly as this record.

#4 black midi – Schlagenheim

black midi schlagenheim album artwork

Undoubtedly the most creative rock album of 2019 – Schalgenheim feels polished despite Greep and the crew cramming so many sonic textures pulling from various underground genres of rock, and arranging them in such a satisfying way. The songwriting here seems absurd on the surface, but reading into them reveals their cryptic meta shining through the snippet-like point-of-view narratives. What a versatile debut – and I have no idea what the band’s going to do next, and that’s exciting.

#3 Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

angel olsen all mirrors

This album (as Endless Jess would say) unzipped me emotionally. I never got as close to bawling my eyes out listening to an album like this one. The orchestra-backed half and pop-ish parts of the production are in equal parts intimate and flooring. Angel’s vocals are nearly on the verge of drowning in the titanic production, but they still don’t lose their soul-baring allure. Her presence is ghostly and haunting, and that’s something that makes the album sound so timeless and unforgettable.

#2. Chiaki Mayumura – Gisshiri Haguki/ Meja Meja Monja

Yeah I know I am cheating by putting two albums on the same rank but I really couldn’t pick the better one from the two – both records appeal to me in equally compelling yet different ways. Gishhiri Haguki (released in January) is supposed to be Chiaki’s debut commercial release but the double album feels like a “best of” collection with the versatility and stylistic range Chiaki displays here. That album instantly made her one of the most refreshing voices in J-pop for me in 2019. Meja Meja Monja (released in May) only built-up in terms of production quality, and it’s an album I would point to for new fans because it’s tracklisting is shorter. Chiaki’s brand of singer-songwriter pop radiates charisma, and I love how willing she is in pushing the stylistic envelope for pop music and still keep it fun.

#1 The Comet is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery

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

Cosmic jazz-fusion has never sounded more ear-melting, brain wobbling, and heartwarming than on the latest the Comet is Coming album. It’s just 9 tracks but listening through it feels like a journey through the birth and death (and rebirth) of an entire civilization – I love how the sonically the album loops. The saxophone arrangements are as dynamic as they probably can get on this record – they sometimes sound apocalyptic and gargantuan on some tracks, and intimate and warm on others. Kate Tempest bites in the only vocal passage on the album, and it’s great. The electronic incorporation is just enough – the synths have color. This record truly makes for one of the most intense musical experiences I had last year. So there you go, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery – it’s my album of the year.

Whew. That’s a lot of albums to write about again. I hope you try some of them. See you soon.

Final Music Roundup of 2019

So here’s the last batch of music releases I’ll talk about for 2019. November was a dead month for me – quite a few things didn’t go well and my mental state wasn’t in a favorable place during that time. December has been treating me way better, though. I have been writing up some posts but I haven’t finished any of them so far. I really hope I get to at least post some of them soon.

I wish I could’ve digested the albums that came out in the last week of this month, but I was away with my family for the last few days – so they would be included in January’s roundup if I have substantial opinions on them. Anyway, let’s get to this list. As usual, the albums are in rough ranked order (from most favorite to least favorite). The EPs and singles don’t follow any order.

Hakushi Hasegawa – Air Ni Ni

hakushi hasegawa air ni ni

Favorite tracks: Only You; o(__*); Scary Point; Desert; Cold Goat; Stamens, Pistils, Parties; Evil Things; I Can See Mountains; Neutral

With Air Ni Ni Hasegawa has put out one of the year’s most deliciously versatile breakcore jazz-pop albums. It may sound like a chaotic freestyle jazz mix on first listen, the tracks actually reveal that they have more structure, stylistic range and dynamic qualities to them on further spins.  Make no mistake, this is a catchy pop album despite all the abstract elements coming into play here – Hakushi’s airy (and often playful) vocals weave effortlessly in between the odd-time-signatures of the bustling instrumentals, and they still have a prominent presence throughout the record. So yeah, what mind-molding pop album this is. Damn.

Lingua Ignota – Caligula

lingua ignota caligula

Favorite tracks: Faithful Servant Friend of Christ, Do You Doubt Me Traitor,  Butcher of the World, May Failure Be Your Noose, Sorrow! Sorrow! Sorrow!, Spite Alone Holds Me Aloft, Fucking Deathdealer, I am the Beast

I finally got to listen to this and man, what a bone-chilling, cursed album this is. Hayter’s spite featured in her lyrics stab deep but her hauntingly melodic, sermon-like vocals leave scars on the back of my brain. The gothic production pulled me in on the first listen. The middle portions of the album don’t have the gut-punch like the rest of it but the first and last four tracks are still painful in the best ways, even after these couple of months. The accursed and demonic sound of the album reminded me of Uboa’s album that came out earlier in the year, while that was delved more into industrial and harsh noise, Caligula is steeped into a more uniform and digestible yet, at the same time, denser and bitter brand of atmospheric neoclassical darkwave. Still, go listen to both of these fantastic records if you are looking for some demonic catharsis.

PUP – Morbid Stuff

pup morbid stuff

Favorite tracks: Morbid Stuff, Kids, Free at Last, See You at Your Funeral, Closure,  Bloody Mary Kate Ashley, Sibling Rivalry, Full Blown Meltdown, Bare Hands

I am super late to the party to listen to this album but still, I’m glad I got to it before the year ended. Although the overall sound of the album isn’t as fringe and off-the-wall you would expect from a punk album, the record features some of the catchiest pop-punk anthems I have heard all year. It’s high-energy and admittedly really emo – but I find the lyrics relatable and the length of the album couldn’t be more streamlined. Sweet.

Satoko Shibata – Satoko Shibata Tour 2019 “Ganbare! Melody” Final at Liquidroom

satoko shibata live labum

I have to give a shoutout to Satoko’s live album. It’s fantastic – the performances are as catchy and sweet as the studio versions themselves. If you haven’t listened to her latest album Ganbare! Melody – I think you are missing out – it’s one of my favorite pop albums of the year.

SPOTIFY LINK

Ecco2k – E

ecco2k e

Favorite tracks: AAA Powerline, Peroxide, Fragile, Calcium, Security!, Time

I never got the chance to check out Drain Gang’s music before this one, but this record’s wintery production makes me want to check out what this collective had put out so far. It’s a great short album to play when taking a walk on a winter night. Even though I’m more confused than impressed with the lyrics, the vocals and beats sell the ethereal soundscape of the album. Give it a try, it’s a short one.

Hannah Diamond – Reflections

hannah diamond reflections

Favorite tracks: Invisible, Love Goes On, Never Again, True, The Ending, Shy, Fade Away

The long-awaited debut album from one of the big names from PC Music is pretty sweet but every time I go through the record’s short and sparkly bubblegum-flavored tracklist, I am left wanting more. Maybe because I have been subjected to more versatile and denser-sounding renditions of bubblegum bass-centric pop this whole year from PC’s brand of pop, that Reflections feels like lukewarm fluff to my ears. The tracks are not exactly catchy, the lyrics are equally fluffy but the songs are comfy as hell. I don’t really mind that, I  would still recommend this album, but I hope Hannah Diamond brings something more active in her next (hopefully soon) release.

Meitei – Komachi

meitei komachi

Favorite tracks: Seto, Ike, Nami, Sento Pt. 2, Maboroshi, Kawanabe Kyosai Pt. 1, Shinkai

Unfortunately, I never really got the time to listen to a lot of ambient records this year, but I see this being a sort of a gateway drug to me listening to more field recording, ambient records. Komachi features a stimulating and symmetric mix of electronic and field recordings of the countryside – and it paints a really vivid picture, the album packs a strong teleportative effect in that sense. Give it a listen while you are doing some menial tasks, it might turn out to be a good time.

 

Ana Frango Elétrico – Little Electric Chicken Heart

ana frango little electric chicken heart

Favorite tracks: Saudade, Promessas e previsões, Tem Certeza?, Chocolate, Caspa

Ana serves up a comfy yet eclectic pop album with Little Electric Chicken Heart (which one of the cutest album names of the year). There are some groovy jazz nuggets and sunny chamber pop featured in the tracklist – the songs sound like they were performed live, so there’s a very “warm” aesthetic to them. Although I often lose my attention somewhere in the latter half of the album, it’s the type of uplifting warm album to listen to during the winter holiday.

Izumi Makura – As Usual

izumi makura as usual

Favorite tracks: As Usual, End Roll, Sunshine, Yunagi, Inochi

While I’m not the biggest fan of Izumi’s monotone vocal performance on its own, I think it meshes well with lofi hip-hop like beats so well that it makes the album feel like really easy listening, although I get the feeling that Izumi is going full singer-songwriter and pouring her heart out in the lyrics. I think the producers did a great job with the beats here. It’s a short album and I think it’s a great one to study to.

 

cacophony – Dream

cacophony dream

Favorite tracks: Return, Tahiti, Tu me dis, Please, The Whole Night, Fate, Parallel World

I wish I liked this more. Sonically, this is pretty similar to her debut album but somehow, it doesn’t pack the punch that record had. I think the ideas got diluted by the length of time, there’s a lot more fluff in the instrumentals. Still, cacophony’s vocals are still as captivating as they were in her debut. To first time listeners, I would recommend her first album over this.

 

Swans – leaving meaning

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Favorite tracks: Annaline, Amnesia, Sunfucker, Cathedrals of Heaven, It’s Coming It’s Real, Some New Things, My Phantom Limb

Sadly, I find this Swans album a disappointing lull in their discography. I think the second half presents more engagingly meditative pieces than the first – which features some frankly tedious instrumentation. The features don’t get much spotlight as I expected from the credits revealed on their website before the album dropped. I wish this double album didn’t feel so… watery. I included this record in the roundup anyway because it’s not that boring – there are some tracks that bring in the “highs” I would expect from a long Swans album.

 

EPs

TNGHT – II

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Favorite tracks: Serpent, Dollaz, First Body, Club Finger, What It Is, Gimme Summn

Well, here’s a hot (or maybe not) take – this EP is better than their first one. Their self-titled EP sounds pretty out-dated. II is more of a wonky update on their first, and with the kooky vocal samples and skeletal song structures, it’s pretty apparent to me that this EP isn’t for everyone. I would still recommend this because it sounds like a wild colorful carnival that doesn’t overstay its length.

 

Poppy – Choke

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Favorite tracks: Choke, Voicemail, Scary Mask, The Holy Mountain

I think this is my favorite Poppy release so far. If her previous music releases were this streamlined and condensed – I wouldn’t have much of a hard time loving them. And this EP puts out her versatile stylistic range without being tedious about it. The production on each track is pristine and grimey all at the same time. I hope Poppy used this momentum to paint a more well-fleshed out sonic image in her upcoming album. Can’t wait to find out.

 

IU – Love Poem

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Favorite tracks: unlucky, Blueming, above time, Love Poem

It’s been in a while since my ears have been blessed with IU’s brand of fresh, sweet, and bubbly pop. Even her ballads radiate an aura of freshness from them, in the midst of the sonically stale melancholic K-ballads – maybe because she has a very distinct and polished vocal presence and also maybe because there’s actual craftsmanship put behind the production. Anyway, this EP has a solid tracklist – featuring quite a cohesive breadth of stylistic and emotional range between just 6 tracks.

Reol – Bunmei

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Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM

This is a late edit. I can’t believe I forgot about this when I was copying the entries from Google Docs to the WordPress editor. Anyway, this Reol release might sound like “typical” Reol but that doesn’t take away from how water-tight the track-to-track playback feels here. Reol’s vocals aren’t as impressive in the first two tracks as her final two, but Giga-P’s production is pristine and hits hard. It’s got an industrial aesthetic to it despite sounding so clean.

Singles/MVs

Rina Sawayama – STFU!

Hell yes! Great to see Clarence and Rina jump into the nu-metal pop train with such a polished anthem.  That harmonized laugh was amazing, and Rina’s lyrics have bite.

The three new Chiaki Mayumura tracks

Chiaki’s got a new album coming out in January. The album cover is really intriguing to say the least. The first song she released (Ganmen Faraway) is apparently a fan tribute of some kind – and honestly, the video is more interesting than the track itself. The drums sound very uhh… faraway, but the chorus is catchy. I think I would appreciate the song more if I knew the lyrics.

Then Squat BunBun came out, and it’s catchier. I saw this song performed in a few live performance clips and I loved the workout dance choreography to it. The production is sweet, and Chiaki’s vocals make it all the more uplifting.

But it’s Obachan Side Throw that’s my favorite out of the three. It’s the quirky side of Chiaki’s song ideas that I’m attracted to the most, and this song does that. The instrumental is very simple but it’s groovy. The trap-like breakdown near the end was funny. Again, the choreography here is eye-catching.

Nature – Oopsie

It’s ridiculously fun and very glammy. The production is detailed and bubbly like most Nature’s title tracks so far but this song packs the most heat with that beat switch up after a fake chorus. Or is it part of the chorus? I don’t know, but it’s good.

Oohyo – Butter Chicken

Oohyo’s latest album this year kind of hinted to towards this cosmic and space-y aesthetic development to her sound. But I didn’t expect it to be fleshed out to this “full” of proportions. Beautiful indeed.

Kilo Kish – Bite Me

Although I’m not crazy about her EP, I’m crazy about this song. She snaps here, and the beeping synth makes this an earworm. The ending portion is fantastic.

That’s all for this post. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Music Roundup: October 2019

This is probably going to be one of the bigger roundups because, in addition to albums, I have a handful of amazing EPs featured here. October has been a great month for music – I say that almost every month – but there are legitimately a lot of great releases I have to share in this post.

Angel Olsen – All Mirrors [Album of the Month]

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Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM

Angel’s previous albums haven’t really clicked with me until this one, the first listen floored me… damn, what an overwhelming record. The opening two tracks are gigantic, they lay down the sonic foundation of the album really well. The production makes the album sound gargantuan, the strings are gorgeous, the reverb on the vocals always drowns me every time I give this a spin, the lyricism isn’t as dense as her previous works, but it’s as powerful as ever.

There are indie-pop motifs found in Too Easy, New Love Cassette, What It Is, Spring, and Summer but even then Angel’s vocal performances remain as revealing and potent as they do in the overwhelming string-backed and sweeping synth chord-riddled tracks like Lark, All Mirrors, Impasse, Tonight and Endgame. Chance is another blow to the heart, it sounds so intimate that it swells my eyes with tears. Angel lets the titanic production drown her often throughout this album, but strangely that makes her performances all the more vulnerable and revealing, so revealing that it leaves my head feeling giddy and light after each listen. The replay value on this record is strong, too – no reason why I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, even if you are not familiar with Angel Olsen, give this a listen.

Caroline Polachek – Pang

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Favorite tracks: The Gate, Pang, New Normal, Hit Me Where It Hurts, I Give Up, Look at Me Now, Ocean of Tears, Caroline Shut Up, So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings, Door

With excellent singles leading up to her album release, Caroline delivers with her brand of bittersweet art-pop. This is not an upbeat album like the tracks So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings and Ocean of Tears but rather the production takes a more introspective and spacey route. And Caroline’s dreamy vocals mesh into that really well. So even though it’s not the richly textured experimental pop album most of the teaser tracks hinted at, the spacey and cerebral aesthetic of the record packs an equally sweet rush from her songwriting and vocal performances. Especially in tracks like The Gate, Hit Me Where It Hurts, I Give Up, Look At Me Now, Caroline Shut Up and Door.

Still, there are more “poppier” tracks with interesting synth textures like Pang and New Normal. Overall, this LP gets a solid recommendation from me.

Lightning Bolt – Sonic Citadel

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Favorite tracks: Blow To the Head, Air Conditioning, Hüsker Dön’t, Big Banger, Halloween 3, Don Henley in the Park, Tom Thump, Bouncy House, All Insane, Van Halen 2049

The legendary noise rock duo is back with another helping of tightly and brutally composed drum and bass passages… but this time around, they have more melody and the brutality is toned down to the point where I didn’t get dizzy from the first listen as I did with Wonderful Rainbow. There’s a flavor of arena-rock in the riffs, especially in Air Conditioning, All Insane, Big Banger. But the dizziness of unbridled chaos that Lightning Bolt is known to unleash in their LPs isn’t missed particularly in the track Van Halen 2049, and again, Big Banger.

Overall, this is a delightful noise rock album, almost all of the tracklist left an impression on me. And if you are looking to dip your toes in the genre, I think Sonic Citadel would be a good starting point – I think it’s among the more digestible albums from what I have heard from their discography.

Boris – LφVE & EVφL

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Favorite tracks: Away From You, Coma, EVOL, uzume, LOVE, Shadow of Skull

I wrote a review of it last month. It’s a classic Boris revival. Read it here.

Danny Brown – uknowhatimsayin¿

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Favorite tracks: Change Up, Theme Song, Dirty Laundry, Savage Nomad, Best Life, Negro Spiritual, Combat

It has taken me a while to warm up to Danny Brown’s music. If this album didn’t exist, I would have a hard time fully “getting” what Atrocity Exhibition was about. While Atrocity Exhibition was a feverish downward spiral to the depths of Danny Brown’s darkest psyche, uknowhatimsayin brings me a new image of Danny – a more hopeful and “cleaner” one. This change has made me appreciate his last work even more, and sort of like a positive feedback loop, it has elevated my appreciation for this new album as well.

The production feels fresh as hell on this one, with the psychedelic tinges in Change Up, Theme Song, and Savage Nomad, and the pure blissful arrangement of Best Life. Danny’s sharp writing and flow aren’t missed, especially in tracks like Change Up, Theme Song, Dirty Laundry and Combat. The only dud on this LP is probably Belly of the Beast, the vocal sample is kind of overkill. Otherwise, I’m really enjoying this album – the length is perfect, too.

SCJ – Escapizm

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Favorite tracks: Roll Out, Bobbit To The Beat, My Bed’s On Fire, Stretch My Feet Out, WWWelcome To Online, La Haine, G.F.U.T.U.F.U., Escapizm

Listening to this album front to back is like taking an adrenaline shot. It rockets up within the first two tracks and it never falters down throughout the entirety of its 35-minute length. It’s pretty amazing how well curated this whole mix is with its transitions, sampling and just the control and creativity SCJ has on the chaotic elements in the mix – it’s kind of crazy to think that the whole thing was made in 3 weeks. The last leg (last 7 tracks or so) delve into gabber territory and it peaks there and plateaus out. And by the end the mix ends, it stops mid-flight and leaves me coming back to get that feeling back. I recommend this to anybody looking for some good workout/running music.

ESCAPIZM by SCJ (FKA Smith Comma John)

Clipping – There Existed an Addiction to Blood

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Favorite tracks: Nothing is Safe, He Dead, Club Down, The Show, Blood of the Fang, Story 7

This is one of those albums I admire more than enjoy. As much of an ambitious, riveting and atmospheric narrative the trio present on this record, it’s not something I see myself revisiting all that often. I think a lot of the tracks lose their edge on re-listens and the interludes don’t really add much cohesion to track-by-track play. I wish the album felt more cohesive rather than just a collection of horrific vignettes. After each listen, the album leaves me with a stronger feeling that I’m missing something, that I’m not “getting” it.

Still, there are some tracks I see revisiting on their own are Nothing is Safe, He Dead, Club Down, The Show, Blood of the Fang and Story 7. I mean, this album is getting rave reviews and I get why, but I am not digging it all that much at the moment.

EPs

Lim Kim – Generasian

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Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM

What IS this?  Lim Kim’s transition from making dreamy Kpop tunes to putting out one of the wildest concoctions of hip hop, and Korean folk and club I have heard so far. She carries so much infectious, commanding swagger in her vocals and the production is pristine despite hosting such a stark clashing of genres. Her English lyrics pack as much of a punch as the vocal performances do, with Kim addressing people’s narrow views on women in the Kpop industry and Asians in general.

Her lyrics also charges into countering male dominance and racial discrimination – these are topics that most artists in the Kpop industry aren’t always willing to speak up about. Anyway, whew – what a trailblazing artistic statement this EP is – and I think this is needed from Kpop now more than ever, with newer people getting into idol-groups and developing a certain image for singers from the industry, and the industry just feeding into that.

Kero Kero Bonito – Civilisation I

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Favorite tracks: ALL OF THEM

KKB has done it once again – it’s amazing how willing the band is to transform their brand of sound between releases and still be so good at it. The band returns to their synth-driven roots (from Bonito Generation) but brings some dream-like mystical edge to it.

The synth passages sound really colorful and in contrast to them, the lyrics are rather socially-charged and paint a bleak picture of a potential future of our civilization. It’s just under 13 minutes in length, I don’t see a reason why you wouldn’t want to put your ears on this.

Polkadot Stingray – Hyper Horn

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Favorite tracks: Bakenokawa, Otoshimae, Oyasumi, A-Un

I listened to the band’s album that they dropped earlier this year, and I found it to be kind of bloated with tracks that more or less reconstructed the similar tunes track after track (there are some great songs on it though) – it was pretty tiresome to listen through. But this EP has more polished pacing, and that immediate elevates the overall listening experience for me.

I think Polkadot sounds better in EP form than in LP form. The guitar passages hit the colorful tone the band always seems to strive to curate in their tracks, the bass is bubbly – it’s the sweet brand of Japanese pop-rock tunes you expect yourself to find in anime OP/EDs. Give it a try.

Guerilla Toss – What Would the Odd Do?

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Favorite tracks: What Would the Odd Do?, Plants, Future Doesn’t Know Me

I tried to get into Guerilla Toss’ music in previous years, but never really found anything that stuck with me. But this EP is different, this is the type of richly textured and melodic yet psychedelic synthy-dance-punk energy I had been looking for in their previous stuff. The vocal lines are clearer. And the shortness only adds to the replay value of this EP. It’s a lot of fun, check it out.

xiangyu –  My First Picture Book

Favorite tracks: Go Mistake, Poo Pad Pong Curry, Mycorrhizal Fungi, Human Evolution, Gyoza

xiangyu my first picture book

On my first listen to this EP, the production reminded me of Wednesday Campanella, and it didn’t surprise me when I found out that Kenmochi HIdefumi was behind it. Xiangyu as a vocalist is pretty nondescript but I think the hip-house-inspired beats don’t really demand a lot of vocal fidelity. Nonetheless, I think there’s a handful of catchy tracks on this EP. IF you are looking for some cool, easy-on-the-ears poppy house beats, look no further.

MINAKEKKE – Oblivion

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Favorite tracks: Luminous, Young & Shame, Golden Blue, Oblivion

This EP is a pleasant surprise. I dig the somber nocturnal aesthetic to the production, Minakekke vocals feel more dynamic than in her previous release (Tingles), or maybe the skeletal production in that project made her sound that way. Either way, in terms of atmosphere, this EP marks a huge step up. The grainy guitars sound great on this EP.

I wish Minakekke went a bit further into packing more distinctive elements into other tracks like she did with Luminous and Young and Shame. Golden Blue and the title track are good, but I think a bit of trimming wouldn’t hurt the atmosphere of the EP and instead concentrate its intended aesthetic more effectively. But if you are looking for some slightly anthemic yet spacey and dark sounding art pop-rock, this Oblivion will scratch that itch and probably more.

tricot – Afureru (Single)

tricot delivers again with this single. The band seems to revisit their older sound in Afureru, with the bass and guitar taking over percussion, but with added math-rock playfulness. Naka (the B-side) leaps to their current sound with a heavy emphasis on adding layers of riffs on top of each other, and more skeletal instrumentation. Good stuff front to back.

I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks for reading.

Seasonal Standouts: Winter and Spring 2019

I started putting this list together about four months ago, but it took me a while to get caught up with shows I wanted to watch from the two seasons.

Honestly, the first half of the year in anime wasn’t the greatest for me – a lot of the shows were just okay (Hitoribocchi, Benkyou Dekinai) and others had promising starts but just ended up being underwhelming (Dororo, Kakegurui xx). But hey, I’m pretty sure that my excitement for the medium hasn’t dulled all that significantly, because I still have 10 shows that I like enough to talk about in this post. You could say this is my top 10 (completed) shows from the first two seasons… but this is in no particular order.

Attack on Titan S3 Part 2

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I don’t think I will write a full-length post on this cour despite me liking it a lot because it’s been a while. Anyway, this ten-episode cour upholds some of the best aspects of the show – the pacing is as water-tight as ever, there’s rarely a dull moment. Even the flashbacks are layered-in aptly to produce some of the most emotionally poignant moments in the entire anime. I have been waiting for that Levi takedown to be animated for years, and I am not disappointed. The score is as grand as ever. And speaking of sound design, along with the use of silence and acting in episodes 54 and 55 – were essential elements to what I can say are some of my favorite anime episodes of the year so far.

The only thing I didn’t like about this installment of the show is the opening – it sounds like a lazy remix of the first one, and the color grading of the visuals look pretty tacky to my eyes. I loved how Levi’s humanity, Erwin’s resolve, and Armin’s heroism is put on display here, their moments are bulit-up smoothly. All things considered, it wouldn’t be a lie that this lived up to the hype the manga promised.

Mob Pyscho 100 S2

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The second season of Mob Psycho has been my favorite show of the year so far. I have already written a post about how much more I love this over the first one, I don’t really have any criticisms for it. Loved the development between Mob and Reigen, the animation is as striking as ever, and the opening is even better than the first one. And if nothing else, the theming of the show resonated with me. I will leave this entry at that, and if you want more detailed thoughts – here it is.

The Promised Neverland

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First of all, the opening is awesome – it’s interesting how the visuals remain engaging throughout the opening sequence despite it not featuring any big “sakuga” moments, and the song itself is hype and the “it’s on fire” vocal samples never get old. In my eyes, this show is a really interesting “shounen” – one that relies more on the unseen psychological battles than physical ones and they are pulled off in the most entertaining of ways. And I would attribute that to the ambitious directing of the series – there are some cool cinematic techniques showcased in the series where the animators play around with camera angles and movements and episodes are edited like a horror-thriller.

I love how the main trio bounces off each other with their personalities and ideas – the character chemistry is definitely something to remember the show by. Although the whole season felt like an introduction and a set-up of plot points to be explored later on, again, it’s done in the best way possible, the writing and pacing from episode to episode feel water-tight. The Promised Neverland is looking really promising.

Hulaing Babies

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While this anime thrives in its novel, formless visual style, there’s still some semblance of form in its theming and writing. The characters don’t have a lot of depth to their writing but they are entertaining whenever they are on screen, the anime is paced lightning-fast so the characters need to always have flair and exaggeration in their interactions.

The narrative is presented in the simplest of ways but the quick comedic interactions that are thrown to the wall stick more often than not. The ending sequence is one of my favorites from this year, the oji-san storytime segments rarely failed to give me that hit of dark comedy. I know this show has the narrowest of appeal compared to other entries here, but give it a shot, the entire anime is like 30 minutes. If it was longer, I wouldn’t  have enjoyed it as much.

My Roommate is a Cat

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I’m not a cat person at all (unless it’s anime cats – Nyanko-sensei FTW), whenever I visit my grandma and I see her cats being just selfish attention-seeking felines, my day is ruined. With that said, you are probably wondering how my cat-hating self bothered to watch this anime, which going by its title and poster clearly is about a cute cat doing cute things type of show – I don’t know either, but I’m glad I did. Because this anime is more than that… like the cat is portrayed as an actual character in the show. I think the emotional core of the anime is well-written, the character interactions between Haru and Subaru feel organic.

I don’t think there’s a single disposable character in the story off the top of my head, they all feel like they belong to the show in positive ways. It’s impressive how consistent the anime is with presenting both sides of the main characters’ (Subaru and Haru) inner dialogue for a scene and making them feel natural and equally engaging. The art is good, and the style is flexible enough to give that warmth to emotional scenes and hit the cute-comedic moments with hyperbole. Sure, the production isn’t top-tier with just pristine visuals and super-attentive sound design, but it does the job well. Overall, this is a pretty impressive show, it’s definitely a standout from all the SoL shows I’ve seen in the first two seasons of the year.

Kono Oto Tomare

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Oh boy, the production aspects of this show feel unfairly cheap, the sound design is as barren as a desert, so many corners were cut in the animation department, only the art feels consistently done (the water-colored still frames are great). I say unfair because I really like the character writing and the overall setting of the anime. The plot progression at times felt kind of contrived but seeing that resulting in interesting character chemistry doesn’t really leave me any more room to complain.

I mentioned about the skeletal sound design before but whenever the performances spring up, the koto playing rarely feels artificial, I just wish the performances lasted longer in the first half of the series. All the members of the club are likable to some degree, and watching them support each other left me with pretty high expectations for the second season this fall. I am also hyped for this sports anime type of set-up to progress into more character-related development for the club.

Miru Tights

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I am probably shooting myself in the foot (haha) with this but… Miru Tights is unironically a good show. The softly outlined and glossy art style reminds me of art I usually see on pixiv, and it turns out it’s adapted from yomu’s work  – who is a popular artist on that site. Thicc-legs-fetish aside, the anime is really well produced – the minimal sound design and color grading give off this comfy atmosphere I don’t see in many other erotically (or fetishistically) inclined anime – the only other show I can point to that has a similar “vibe” is Getsuyoubi no Tawawa where the show follows a similar SoL vignette-like structure with the fetishization being focused on big boobs, instead.

The character designs are some of my favorites of the year so far, the “fanservice” is “tasteful” where the show rarely boxes itself within cliched forms of fanservice – like most shows of the genre do by just framing them under a male gaze and the girls act/feel “helpless” – you know what I’m talking about; not saying that the show doesn’t pander to the male gaze – it very much does (I mean the show’s title literally translates to “See Tights”), but it does it in a less… uh, blatant and boring way. Anyway, the yuri moments are cute, and the ending song is actually sweet. I won’t deny this is the perfect escapist blend of iyashikei and ecchi with slight creepy-stalker vibes that an unsocial teenager would enjoy on a rainy afternoon. And I won’t deny that was me.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War

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I have already written a full-length post on this show. I am not the biggest fan, but I can’t deny how well presented everything is in this series. It’s funny, it’s alive and the couple’s character writing and development throughout the season were solid. Chika is definitely among my favorite anime characters of this year. I didn’t like how the ending “reset” everything, but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed the anime.

Sarazanmai

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Manifesting from the wild mind of Kunihiko Ikuhara, Sarazanmai serves up a dish of absurdist comedy and well-presented emotional character arcs of three protagonists. The anime shares a lot of thematic DNA with Mawaru Penguindrum (another show from Ikuhara), and I don’t mind. Sarazanmai has enough unique qualities going for it to stand out as a unique story. The kappa transformation sequences never lose their comedic edge and the musical numbers are well performed and they are catchy. Production-wise, the quality is near impeccable.

The story is concise episode by episode but the tail-end felt a bit rushed. Surprisingly, Sarazanmai has a clearer and more-straightforward narrative arcs than Penguindrum – so if you are going into the show expecting another epic and complexly structured story like Penguindrum, you might be disappointed. Sarazanmai doesn’t need to be as grand as Penguindrum – it’s a damn good story on its own.

Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan

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It’s not just the show’s unconventional episodic structure that made me choose this for the post – it’s the way the interviews provided insight that one can’t usually find in regular episodes of anime, or outside of bonus episodes. I enjoyed most of the conversations the VAs and directors had, there were a couple of episodes where the back-and-forth between the director and VAs were uninteresting (like the POV one). The “main” episode is just a few minutes long, and not all of the three-minute sequences were great – there are some duds but I enjoyed the interviews afterward, anyway.

It’s cool seeing the show act as a petri-dish for the variety of artistic and narrative styles and different interpretations of the titular character. The main message of the show is somewhat alike to  “there’s a form of Ekoda inside all of us”, and I did relate to the character in instances of throughout the show’s runtime (even though I don’t belong to the manga’s demographic). I know this format of anime is definitely not for everybody, but give this a try if you are interested in learning about the thought processes 12 different directors go through to make a 3-minute episode stand out.

I think that’s all I have for my favorite picks from the first half of 2019. Let me know your favorite shows from this year’s  Winter and Spring in the comments – I haven’t watched every show from those seasons and it’s always good to get recommendations. Thanks for reading.

Demon Slayer: Just a Spectacle?

Demon Slayer’s visual presentation is very… striking. From the distinct character designs to boldly outlined and flashy attack patterns to the detailed and gorgeously rendered CG backgrounds – almost every visual element is seemingly intended to leave some impression on the back of my eyes. It didn’t take me long to develop a strong liking towards the art style – it pops, the demon designs look menacing for the most part, and the facial expressions are very anime as well (as evident by the memes circulating social media). The color palette of the characters’ wardrobe give them personality, the color grading during the night scenes set the tone really well, especially in the Natagumo Mountain arc.

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The animation is fluid and for the most part, even the CG modeling didn’t particularly distract me from the fight scenes – it’s ufotable, they are known to have well-rendered 3D animation. And since 3D modeling allows for shifting camera angles, I think it added some cool cinematic effects to the animation. The edgy blood animated bits and the overall gore are fantastic, they feed into the theatricality of what prime, big-budget shounen action-oriented shows need. The attack sequences rarely feel over-indulgent and the fights don’t waste time – which is always good to see in a shounen series.

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The soundtrack stood out to me as well, it’s folky and orchestral at parts, each of them having some gigantic cinematic flair to them. Frankly, it would be a difficult task for me to pinpoint issues I had with the production quality of the whole season – and since that really adds to the entertainment factor of the anime, I am not surprised that the show has gotten so popular to the masses.

But disappointedly so, in stark contrast to the visuals, the writing of this show is just so flat and flavorless. From the premise to the character writing, nothing about them struck to me as not being very by-the-numbers. The introduction of Tanjiro’s family had nothing to offer that would make me feel sad for their subsequent deaths (it happens in the first episode, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler), it felt super rushed – which brings me to my point that the first episode felt storyboarded pretty tightly but it also felt really dry with the emotional feedback. I think most of my issues with the first episode wouldn’t exist if Tanjiro actually had some interesting personality and the family had some more substantial interactions.

Now onto the cast of characters. Perhaps, the only character I would call “interesting” is Inosuke, I like his aggressive attitude – a thing I missed in the main cast of the show – and I thought his short ego-death arc at the end was great. Zenitsu is like a really obnoxious combination of Chopper’s neurosis and Sanji’s romanticism – I really have a hard time “rooting” for him in fights. Speaking of obnoxious, almost all of the Hashira is that – I don’t care how cool their character designs look, they are annoying to listen to. It’s that the way they are depicted lends no nuance to them. The only tolerable Hashira, for me, are Shinobu Kocho and Giyu. As cute as Nezuko is, it’s pretty disappointing how under-written she is even after 26 episodes – she’s basically a Pokemon at this point, a mere mascot. Muzan has no note of interest at this point – he’s pretty bland, except that moment when he got insecure about his imperfection was pretty funny.

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The script lacks the smallest inkling of subtlety, and that doesn’t bode well for the emotional narrative of the show. Then there is the whole demon hierarchy thing. I know it’s a common thing in shounen, but the way the demons are ranked like some video game bosses just makes the plot progression feel so blunt and predictable.

Okay, now I will get to the meat of my criticisms for the anime – the damn flashbacks. It’s near formulaic at this point – as a demon starts to disintegrate, the narrative side-steps into their past. Now, I would be okay with this if the show hinted that the demons have some semblance of humanity in their personality through some cues or something. No, instead, they are objectified as bodies of hatred with cool designs and then when they are trapped in their death flashbacks, the show cashes in for “emotional resonance”. The flashbacks themselves are narrated very bluntly and the demons turn into pure saints within 5 minutes of an elaborate character arc – the worst offender of this is probably the deaths in Natatumo Mountain arc. I was honestly impressed by this the first time it happened, in the Final Selection episode, but as more demons died, the more unsubtle and hacky the whole ordeal felt. It really cheapened my appreciation for the show. And I began to notice and think about other aspects of the writing in the anime that bothered me. Flashbacks through which Tanjiro overcame his final fight in the Natatumo Mountain arc also bothered me.

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I would frankly be okay with the blunt way the story is written if it was just Tanjiro getting powerful and beating more demons to get the cure – I’m all for that, the production of this show would make this anime a real spectacle to watch. But the way the show took cheap shortcuts to milk emotions from the audience annoyed me and took me away from being fully entertained by the fights a bit.

Demon Slayer ticks all the boxes in the production aspect but misses almost all in the writing department for me. It’s not that it’s a horrible show – if it was, I wouldn’t have binged all 26 episodes in a week. It was overall a fun experience when I watched it, but when I sat down and collected my thoughts for this post – I realized there’s not much to get out from the characters and story. It’s like cotton candy, the sweetness gets you coming for more. But there’s really nothing to chew on.

That’s it for my rambling. I hope you have a good day/evening.

Boris – LφVE & EVφL [Album Review]

Hailing from the Japanese music scene in the 90s and cranking out breakthrough releases one after another in the early 2000s – Boris has become an internationally celebrated name in the underground music scene after years of touring, collaborations and adventurously prolific output. I myself discovered them more than a year ago through their 2002 Heavy Rocks album (I suggest you start from there if you haven’t heard any music from them before), and the more I dug into their discography the more it became apparent that the band is truly what you would call “experimental” – from pop to harsh noise, one thing Boris seemingly hates to do is to paint themselves in a stylistic corner.

Not all of their genre-hopping resulted in great albums but it is something to be admired, and probably because almost all of the biggest highlights in their discography are gigantic, densely riff-textured albums (Flood, Feedbacker, Amplifier Worship, to name a few) – Boris is generally considered an experimental rock band.

My hype for this record started when the band announced that they were signed under Third Man Records to release a new double album – which is their 25th studio album. And hearing their teaser track LOVE, I braced myself for a heavy release.

And boy, is it heavy! And it’s much more than that.

The opening track, Away From You, feels like taking a slow morning walk through a serene forest, with that warm bassline and light percussion pacing it – it’s pretty reminiscent of a post-rock song. Then there’s the piercing bright guitar passage that feels like sunshine peeking through the leaves, washing my face. It’s such a great opener.

Comparatively, Coma feels like whiplash, the bright guitar from the opener coils around a droning distorted one. The leading guitar feels like it’s guiding me through a dark tunnel towards an opening or a light, but the light never gets closer. So it just fades away.

EVOL is the longest track on the LP (around 16 and a half minutes), and it’s probably the most compositionally dense. It starts with a marching, tribalistic percussion which gives away to a more shoegaze-y/post-rocky passage. Takeshi’s soft vocals come in, forming a chant and Wata’s divine riffing starts soon after that. It’s my favorite part of the track. It’s a pretty phasic song, it then swings back to the chants with a percussion behind it this time and Wata’s riffing more in the background – and the track closes with a cacophony of vocal samples from a protest (?). Nevertheless, EVOL is epic – it soars, it uplifts me.

Transitioning to uzume, which is probably the heaviest sounding track on the album. The guitars are thunderous, with shrill scratchy chirping around them. And they keep swelling throughout the track’s runtime. If Coma was about going through a dark tunnel with hope in sight, uzume is void of any of that, it just shoves me down a bottomless pit. And the track ends abruptly.

LOVE is feverish and addictive. The melting vocals and the swirling lead guitar’s stoner-rock-flavored brightness gives a strong entrancing psychedelic quality to the track to an otherwise straight drone cut. The percussion is loose but kind of steady at the same time, so that the pacing of the entire song doesn’t melt into a track that overstays its welcome.

In the Pain (T) is probably the only underwhelming track on the album for me. I know it’s a transitional cut, but I think it overstays its welcome. I don’t really think it’s a dud because it transitions nicely to the next song but it could have been shorter.

The ending track, Shadow of Skull, is reminiscent of tracks off Dear, it’s not as sludgy but it’s damn atmospheric. The vocals take on a sinister tone, and the guitar rolls and roars all the way through. The album comes to a rolling, warping halt with that – it disappears to the ether.

I really enjoyed this record, but I wouldn’t be as enthused to rank this among their best releases yet. To the uninitiated, I doubt this album would sound as ground-breaking as their masterpieces like Feedbacker, Pink, Amplifier Worship, Flood or Heavy Rocks. But if nothing else, I see this LP being sort of a strong revival of their established sound – a rekindling of their fading flames since the 2010s – and they did it in a really cohesive and exciting way.

Links: SPOTIFY LINK // BANDCAMP

Music Roundup: September 2019

Yay! Another month of good music. Le-le-let’s go!

Tropical Fuck Storm – Braindrops [Album of the Month]

tropical fuck storm braindrops

Favorite tracks: You know it… ALL OF THEM

I wish I discovered TFS’ debut album last year because I definitely would have put it in my top 10 albums of the year. I instantly fell in love with their dystopian brand of psychedelic art-punk – and that carries over in this album as well, albeit with an even more jaded and alien gait. The guitars sound more jagged, the lyrics and vocal delivery are even more strange and manic and colorful; compositionally, the band seems to experiment with soundscapes a bit more (like with the mystical, alien-sounding Desert Sands of Venus. But like in the first album, there are lyrical bits that play over my head like a pop song’s chorus – I mean, there’s a vivid and attention-grabbing quality to the manic narrative-like delivery of the lyrics.

It’s a rare thing to come across albums that resonate with me despite its content being so absurd and dealing with seemingly formless themes. Sure, while Braindrops isn’t as immediate with its impact as their debut LP, repeated listens feel like standing near a shore, getting hit by the relentless tide as it gets more stronger throughout the night.

SPOTIFY LINK

Rainbow Chan – Pillar

rainbow chan pillar

Favorite tracks: Oblivion, CSR, Pillar, For a Long Time, Love isn’t Easy, Melt, Lull, Gaosuwo

This is quite a sleek art-pop record. The production, for the most part, plays a good balancing act between catchy melodies and just genre-blending indulgence, and at the same time, there’s a thematic bow that ties it all together. The appeal of the record wasn’t as apparent to me on the first listen, but liking individual tracks that are catchy from initial listen wasn’t hard – like the dark yet smooth production in the house-y CSR and For a Long Time.

It’s Rainbow Chan’s hauntingly alluring vocals, which took a while to appeal to me on subsequent listens, and when it did, her vocals seemed to have this radiating power to melt my ears, and this album became one of my favorite picks of the month. Oblivion Shout out to deadgrandma’s twitter for recommending this album to their followers (I’m one, obviously).

SPOTIFY LINK

3776 – Saijiki

Favorite tracks: Tracks 1-3, Tracks 6-12

3776 saijiki

It doesn’t take long for the listener to notice that Saijiki isn’t a “normal” pop record. It’s amazing how well the mantra of the zodiac symbols is worked into the ebb and flow of the entire 73 minutes and 12 seconds of the album, and there are so many moving dynamic parts of the album. The tracks bleed into each other, the album really does feel “alive”. I wish the replay value of this LP would be stronger for me, there are parts in the middle of the tracklisting that sound a bit stagnating for me, but boy oh boy, the rest of the album makes for a watertight listening experience. You do need some patience to listen through this, but it’s worth it – at least the first time around.

OTOTOY LINK // YOUTUBE

Jpegmafia – All My Heroes Are Cornballs

jpegmafia all my heroes are cornballs

Favorite tracks: Jesus Forgive Me I Am A Thot, Kenan v Kel, Beta Male Strategies, Jpegmafia Type Beat, Grimy Waifu, Prone!, Lifes Hard…, Thot Tactics, Free the Frail, Post Verified Lifestyle, BasicBitchTearGas, Papi I Missed U

When I was talking about Veteran in last year’s favorite albums list, I mentioned that there were portions of the album where the production felt watered down, and I am glad I didn’t find it to be the case for this release. If nothing else, Peggy goes even further with glitchy soundscapes. While the overall feel of the album feels more sound-collage-y, the sum of its parts paints a more holistic version of a Peggy I am not used to.

He sings, and it produced some great moving and vulnerable moments in the LP, like in tracks like Jesus Forgive Me, I am a Thot and Free the Frail. But that’s not to say, Peggy doesn’t bring out his cutting, confrontational side – the best example of it being Beta Male Strategies. I think AMHAC is an album that’s more abstract and offers more things to pull from than Veteran.

SPOTIFY LINK

Charli XCX – Charli

charli xcx charli

Favorite tracks: Next Level Charli, Gone, 1999, Warm, Blame it On Your Love,  White Mercedes, Official, Shake It

Charli’s name is inescapable in the pop music sphere nowadays. I loved her Vroom Vroom EP – it was the release that got me into having an auditory fetish for bubblegum bass. Since then, although I haven’t been following her music closely, I still come across tracks every now and then, and I think they are hit-and-miss. Sadly, that’s the case for me with this album too – I love half of the album, but I’m indifferent to the other. I don’t have any complaints about the production, it’s just some of the tracks left something to be desired in the melodic and vocal arrangements.

Still, there are pop anthems like 1999 and Gone. Her ballad-likes, White Mercedes and Official, sound beautiful. Then there’s the absolute oddball Shake It – damn, it’s such an earworm, the featured artists’ performances were great. I would still recommend this LP to anyone because it’s got some stylistic variation in the tracklist – at least one song would appeal to you, I think.

SPOTIFY LINK

glass beach – The First Glass Beach Album

glass beach first album

Favorite tracks: classic j dies…, Bedroom Community, Bone Skull, Cold Weather, Calico, Glass Beach, Dallas

I love this album in chunks. Because of the stylistic mosaic that the tracklist is, it is pretty difficult for me to listen through the album from start to finish in one sitting. There are sweet energetic, (sometimes) emo-punk-like tracks like classic j…, Bedroom Community, Cold Weather and Glass Beach; there are light and introspective-sounding songs like Bone Skull, Calico and Dallas – these are the prime cuts off the LP; then there are inconsequential instrumental interludes and just awkwardly produced tracks that overstay their lengths like Neon Glow and Orchids.

The rest of them – I don’t particularly care for. However, there are more positives than not in this LP and I think almost everybody will like at least one track off this given how eclectic the tracklist is.

SPOTIFY LINK

Slayyyter – Slayyyter (Mixtape)

slayyyter

Favorite tracks: BFF, Alone, Candy, Cha Ching, Devil, Daddy AF, E-Boy

I wish the production went even more off the pop nostalgia deep-end into raunchier and more glittery territories but it’s pretty colorful and “gummy” as it is. The second half of the mixtape doesn’t sound as fresh to me, some tracks like Celebrity, Tattoo, and Ghosttt recycled in contrast to richly produced ones like BFF, Alone, Candy and Cha Ching.

I also wished that her vocal presence and domineeringly sensual character would have stayed as consistently prominent in most of the second half of the tracklist. Other than that, damn – the mixtape got quite a handful of catchy tunes. With 100 gecs, Dorian Electra, Charli XCX and this – bubblegum-PC-music-inspired pop has been amazing this year.

SPOTIFY LINK

The Comet is Coming – The Afterlife (EP)

the comet is coming the afterlife

Favorite tracks: All that Matters is the Moments, The Afterlife, Lifeforce I & II

Compositionally, this EP doesn’t sound as dense or grand as the album, but there are still some solid highlights here. The opening and the title track are fantastic, with the first being a strong spoken-word piece and the latter being more cerebral. And that transitions perfectly to Lifeforce, which is a two-part monster – the first part sounding like a storm brewing up and the second part following that up with some danceable sax passages. With the ending track, the EP doesn’t quite stick the landing, it kind of drawls on. Still, the EP is smooth and easy on the ears, for the most part, and it has my recommendation. Listen to the album first though, this feels more like a spin-off of that.

Zombie-Chang – Gold Trance (Single)

Yet another solid single from Yung, this time she pushes her stylistic envelope even further to more playfully experimental sputtering breakdowns and panning wiggling synths – and it comes out good. The B-sides are great, too – with the opening track giving off its house influences and the ending track using reverb and shimmering guitars to create that prime hypnagogic aesthetic. It’s a great single, check it out!

Caroline Polachek – So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings (Single)

I was totally addicted to this throughout the month. Caroline’s vocals and the bassline sound so sweet – so sweet that it gives me chills. And an album’s on the way – whoo!

Swans – It’s Coming It’s Real (Teaser track)

AAAH! Swans are coming back for an album next month and I’m hyped. This teaser track is wonderful, the Hausswolff’s features are majestic and the minimalism in the instrumentation gives off a divine exuberance that moves me no matter how many times I listen through it. Perfect for walks in the morning.

That’s all I have for today. Hope you have a great day~

Music Roundup: August 2019

August has been a pretty wild month for me, I moved to a different country to start college in (the US), and there’s a lot of re-adjustments I had and am going through since I have never lived away from my family. There were times when I just wanted to go back and be in my comfort zone, but thankfully it didn’t take me long to realize I was being a baby and now, I’m feeling a bit more centered about this.

Anyway, this is a music roundup post, so let’s get to what new music I have been distracting myself from homesickness with.

Dorian Electra – Flamboyant [Album of the Month]

dorian electra flamboyant

Favorite tracks: again… ALL OF THEM

I went into this blind and just on the first listen, the over-the-top colorful production hooked me. Again, I am a big bubblegum bass apologist but it is undeniable that the producers did excellent work with making the beats sound so massive yet so colorful and detailed. Dorian’s fluid use of their vocal manipulation added even more to the infectious quality of the tracks. I also dig the occasional use of the whip crack sound-byte, it never sounds out of place and Dorian’s sensuality in their vocals is attention-grabbing, to say the least.

Not only is the sound of the LP progressive, but the lyrics are that too – Dorian tackles toxic masculinity (it’s pretty direct in Man to Man, Emasculate and Guyliner), talks about their flamboyancy in tracks such as the title track and FReAkY 4 Life, and of course, there’s the uplifting Adam and Steve. Even without going through the lyrics, almost every song here sounds like instant, sticky hits and the pacing of the album couldn’t be tighter. I don’t know, every time I put this on, I can’t help but let a massive grin tear my face – it’s that fun.

Also, I’m absolutely infatuated with Dorian’s over-the-top wardrobe and makeup in the MVs – go check them out.

SPOTIFY LINK

never young beach – Story

never young beach story

Favorite tracks: Let’s Do Fun, Story, Haru wo matte, Utsuranai, Haruranman, Itsumo ame, Omou mama, Opening

Remember my hype for Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride being the ideal springtime album of the year? Forget about that, this is my favorite springtime album of the year so far (although it’s way past spring), along with Satoko Shibata’s Ganbare! Melody. In my ears, it’s an ideal summer album as well. The instrumentation is tinged with vintage nostalgic warmth and freshness in the guitar and vocal arrangements – it couldn’t sound more organic.

Story is a very easy listen, and it definitely reaches city pop and iyashikei anime levels of comfiness. I don’t really have much else to say other than tell you to just find 31 minutes in your free time to relax to some of the most warmest J-pop tunes you might hear all year.

SPOTIFY LINK

Brockhampton – Ginger

brockhampton ginger

Favorite tracks: No Halo, Sugar, Boy Bye, St. Percy, If You Pray Right, Dearly Departed, I Been Born Again, Ginger, Victor Roberts

In my eyes (or rather ears), iridescence was a lightning in a bottle moment in Brockhampton’s discography – it was a melting pot of all of the group’s insecurities and emotions, it is amazing how they picked themselves up and delivered such a moving yet entertaining collage with that LP. From that, I thought Ginger could be a more coherent progress in maturity for the boyband – and it is – this album showcases a different and more centered Brockhampton. The boys are more contemplative this time around, and even the instrumentals are more toned down in energy but they still remain as riveting.

Most of this album sounds like the boyband is going through a proper readjustment phase with reflective narratives in tracks like No Halo, Sugar, Dearly Departed (Dom’s part about Ameer at the end was something else) and Victor Roberts. Still, there are glimpses of the “kooky” side of the group in songs like If Your Pray Right (the brass section is groovy), I Been Born Again, Boy Bye and St. Percy (which sounds like a cut off from their last album). While Ginger is the least ”immediate” Brockhampton album so far – the more I listen to it, the more fulfilling each listen gets.

SPOTIFY LINK

Blanck Mass – Animated Violence Mild

blanck mass animated violence mild

Favorite tracks: Death Drop, House vs. House, Hush Money, Love is a Parasite, No Dice, Wings of Hate

I don’t listen to a lot of electronic music, but when it got featured on the RYM front page there was something about the album art that drew me to it. It turns out the music sounds similar to what the cover looks like, although the groove of the beats sound energetic, bright and fun – there’s also a strong presence of something sinister and ominous in the chaotic mixes.

Basically, the album sounds like it’s playing in a pre-apocalyptic rave, which reminds me that most of this album would be a great soundtrack to those parties in Devilman Crybaby. Go listen to it, it’s a fun time. By the way, House vs. House is one of my favorite EDM cuts of the year so far.

SPOTIFY LINK

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard –  Infest the Rats’ Nest

king gizzard and the lizard wizard infest the rats nest

Favorite tracks: Planet B, Mars for the Rich, Organ Farmer, Superbug, Perihelion, Venusian 2, Hell

King Gizz has done it again this year. I really enjoyed Fishing for Fishies, which was a fun, eco-friendly boogie-rock expedition, but I wasn’t ready for them to take another riveting hike through their rootsy thrash metal side. The bass textures and vocal manipulation allude to their signature psychedelic and stoner rock sound but the blistering guitar and the percussive tempo absolutely push their sound to that boiling thrash metal extreme. It’s really hard to talk about this album track-by-track because all of the individual cuts sort of melt into each other – but there’s definitely a dystopian narrative going on in the album that progresses from one track to another.

If Fishing for Fishies was a warning to not messing up the environment, the first four tracks of Infest the Rats’ Nest is the grim consequence of ignoring that warning, and the rest of the album seems to be about moving to Venus. Although the theming of this album feels better put together than their last one, there are points in the album where the repetitive instrumental motifs didn’t do much for me (unlike Fishing for Fishies). Still, this is pretty enjoyable for what it is.

SPOTIFY LINK

EPs

Ospreyshire – Pathos Formula Wave: One Score of Rage

ospreyshire pathos formula wave one score of rage

Favorite tracks: Hate as a Trendy Endeavor, Crimson Stained Flowers, Not Another Piece of Art Bashing a Jock, Valleys of Endless Pretension, An Expose on a Feedback Loop

Ospreyshire (AKA Curtis) is a fellow blogger who has been putting out content of various forms (and blogs) for a long time, from sharply-worded poems and posts to obscure movie reviews and novels. Although I haven’t kept up with all of his work, his EP announcement caught my eye on the WordPress Reader and I checked it out when it released. It was punchy and gritty listen the first time around, and the more I listened to it, the better put together the EP felt. The scorn is real in Curtis’ delivery, the lyrics couldn’t be more sharply written, and the vocal manipulation just sounds right – and those couldn’t make the under 11 minute-runtime of the EP feel shorter. Hate as a Trendy Endeavor epitomizes my point about his vocal manipulation, the backdrop complements so well here.

 

An Expose on a Feedback Loop’s vocal performance employs repetition in a striking way. Even though I think the acousmatic backdrops could have done with more layers of recordings, tracks like Crimson Stained Flowers and Not Another Piece of Art Bashing a Jock stand as exceptions to that criticism. Valleys of Endless Pretension could’ve served better as a full-fledged parody of a run-of-the-mill post-rock song, but I like it enough as it is, or at least for what it was going for. Overall, this is a pretty impressive project and I can’t wait to hear more from him.

BANDCAMP PAGE // Ospreyshire’s Inspiration for the EP

Itzy – It’z Icy

itzy its icy

Favorite tracks: Icy, Cherry, It’z Summer

Frankly, I have grown kind of tired of Kpop, a lot of things get recycled in the industry and sometimes that’s not a bad thing – I’m almost always down for a fun bubblegum pop tune, but even so, they don’t have the playlist shelf-life to make me feature them here. Anyway, this Itzy release is definitely an exception. The production pops and sounds fresh as ever, it’s not cutting edge but at least it doesn’t sound tiring, formulaic drivel.

I also dig the empowering message behind the title track, but they could have employed some tact with the lyrics. Even the B-sides are fun – while they aren’t as “densely” produced as the title track, the skeletal breakdowns are enjoyable on their own, and the girls always have nice vocal chemistry. The remixes are pretty uninteresting but still, check out this EP.

SPOTIFY LINK

Singles

Slayyyter – Cha Ching

I hear she’s coming out with a mixtape in September. Love the gummy bass on this and Slayyter’s got some eyebrow-raising presence – very raunchy in a way that reminds me of GFOTY.

Boris – LOVE

Although I read somewhere the double LP was supposed to come out in August, it’s officially getting released on October 4th. Love is the first single off of it and it sounds amazing – the sweet clashing between the thunderous rolling, the stoner-rock-influenced sharp riffs guitars and the loose percussion, coupled with the sludgy vocal work lends to quite an entrancing listen. I can’t wait for their new album.

That’s all for today. See you soon (hopefully with an anime-related post).