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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
TNGHT – II
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
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
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
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.
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!