Oh no. Once I have hopped on to this “favorites from last year lists” bandwagon- I ain’t getting off yet. I will complete this project even if it takes another whole month…
I used to listen to a lot of Japanese music when I was in seventh grade, the English songs I heard in the radio sounded too ‘grown up’ for me and so I listened to songs that didn’t make sense to me- they sounded fresh every time I listened to them. I used to listen to a lot of Nico Touches the Walls, GReeeeN and Monkey Majik (I am an artist-centric music listener, which is pretty obvious given the format I make these music lists in). My friends around me were disgusted for some reason, and they said, ‘Why don’t you listen to cool stuff?’- I shrugged (like every self-centric-soft-spoken guy who doesn’t think things can be objectively cool). At least, cringe culture wasn’t prevalent then- so I wasn’t victim to unnecessarily harsh words or bullying.
And that’s how I became a weeb, not really through anime- but through Japanese music. I started watching anime actively towards the end of eighth grade… wait, I should save this for that “How I started watching anime” post I will write after 20 million years.
Anyway, I fell off actively listening to Japanese music for what has been three years now, so this list is going to be rather short. In regards to the pop music scene- I am inclined more towards Kpop, currently. But I still listen to Japanese music when I learn of interesting artists from Anime OPs or EDs, or I stumble across some songs in Youtube.
You can say that this list is an extension of my “Favorite Anime OP/EDs” list, since that one features some good music.
“orion” was the second ending of March Comes in Like a Lion (first season). The marching percussion and the introduction of strings and chimes make the backing track pretty interesting to listen to. Kenshi has a pretty mild uniform crack to his voice, yet it sounds so stable. And that quality to his voice is highlighted in the rap-talk verses of “Loser”. This song came out as a single in 2016, but I am including this because it was included in Kenshi’s new album in 2017. The backing track is pretty uplifting with an acoustic percussion- it’s a solid pop-rap song.
Kevin Penkin- “Hanezeve Caradhina (feat. Takeshi Saito)” & “Tomorrow“
Along with ACCA and My Hero Academia, Made in Abyss has one of the most memorable anime soundtracks from last year; I ended up downloading the entire OST- and it’s great. The OST features an array of well mixed, atmospheric pieces. “Hanezeve Caradhina” sounds like a song I want to take a bath in- the backing track is beautifully layered with flutes, swelling strings and a pattering beat to add to that feeling of spaciousness in its instrumentation. “Tomorrow” transforms and grows throughout its length in terms of instrumentation and adds in captivating vocals in the latter half of the song- it is a patient, meditative yet engaging piece, and it fits well with the ‘travelling’ feel of ending montage of the first season. Again, I highly recommend listening to the rest of the OSTs from this anime.
AIMYON- “Akogarete Kitanda”, “Futari no Sekai” & “Ai wo tsutaetai datoka“
I came across Aimyon through one of those Youtube hikes (that I talked about in my previous entry to this series), and I listened to “Ai wo tsutaetai dakota”- which has an funky bass line and she sings in a “don’t really care, yet I wanna be poetic” way, and that is interesting. Going on that limb, I ended up giving her album “Seishun no Excitement” a listen, and it ended up being a pretty enjoyable album. “Akogarete Kitanda” is a short acoustic loud ballad, and she sings it with a captivating cadence. “Futari no Sekai” is a light bubbly song, featuring a looping electric guitar riff and a verse that flows like a story. Aimyon has become an interesting voice in Japanese music for me- and I feel like she has pulled me back to listening to Japanese songs more active again.
Twice- “One More Time“
Twice is a very popular Kpop group that made their Japanese debut last year, and they came out with this Japanese single accompanied with an MV. I think “One more Time” is their catchiest song from last year- “Likey” is good but its instrumentation is too saturated to make the song catchy and it has been a pretty weak year for Twice (in terms of the title songs released). Anyway, the song has a really nice bubblegum electronic backing track which is repetitive yet catchy as hell. The girls actually sing in their verses this time (to those who don’t know- Twice doesn’t really show off a lot of vocals in their songs, not saying that they lack talent in that department).
Shinsei Kamattechan- “Ohayou” (not their album version that I talked about below)
I started listen to Shinsei Kamattechan (fairly recently) after listening to “Ikareta NEET”, and upon blindly listening to their new album “Osanasa wo Nyuin Sasete”- I realized that they adopted a new choral style in their latest album. I have next to zero information about this album, I mean- I had to bring up a hiragana chart to read the song title; so maybe, this album is a remaster of their old songs? You are more than welcome to provide me information in the comments, and if you can. Anyway, this version of “Ohayou” feels more like a dreamy, escapist,”riding the clouds” version of the song- and the atmospheric instrumentation absolutely nails that tone. The slow-climbing bassline and percussion is a fun (yet unforgettable) parallel to the immersive piano and guitar coupling- they don’t sound dissonant at all. The vocals sound more smooth and cavernous in this album and in this version of the song. I replayed this song a lot, and it still doesn’t sound worn out at all.
Sayuri- “Suicide Sakana“, “Birthday Song” & “Odd Eye“
Sayuri’s debut album “Mikazuki no Koukai” is pretty solid, she has penetrating vocals and her acoustic-electronic coupled songs sound makes her songs stand out. “Suicide Sakana” is one of electric-acoustic mixes- the instrumentation builds and transforms throughout the song, and Sayuri’s voice brings it all together nicely and makes the song a catchy and coherent listen. “Birthday Song” is nice rock-centric ballad and again, the song stands out because of that extra-illusory power in vocals during the rap(-like) verses in the middle. “Odd Eye” is the oddball of the three with a simple synth structure as the backing track of the song, which swells up during the chorus- the under-water feel of the song is pretty immersive in this song; and also, I understood the lyrics in the chorus (scarce-Japanese lyric-recognition-achievement unlocked)- so I appreciated the tone of the song better.
Seiko Oomori- “Dogma Magma“, “Idol Song” & “Meteor Heaven“
Seiko Oomori is an eccentric pop singer and she intentionally puts up that image for just being weird. And it’s fun to listen to her act weird (okay, not ground-breakingly weird, but still weird). Most of her songs are predictably unpredictable- they break down, transform, break down again, and returns to it’s initial flow. It is like bubblegum glitch pop, but without the acidity. I have been following her since I heard Food Wars S1’s second ending- and her latest album was great. “Dogma Magma” has a bit more of a repetitive structure between the two I selected, but it displays the weirdness of Oomori’s music in a more in-your-face way. “Idol Song” features a wide vocal range of Oomori’s voice; it is a fever dream of catchphrases that is strewn throughout the length of the song- all under a silhouette of a bubblegum pop song. “Meteor Heaven” isn’t off her “kitixxxgaia”, it’s a new song from her compilation album- and it has a less crazy and chaotic form than the last two; it actually sounds more like a standard pop song… with a cool backing track and less crazy vocals from Seiko. It is a nice refreshing song from her. Seiko has been pretty prolific last year- I hope I get more music from her this year, too.
That’s it for this post. Two more posts left for this list-series to be done.