Hello AramaJapan readers! We are back with our monthly wrap up feature. A few of the staff members have come together to share their faves for the month of August. Find out what the staff was loving this past month! Also feel free to post what you loved this past August in the comments!
TK from Ling Tosite Sigure – Fantastic Magic
This was definitely my favorite album of the month. The production on this album is amazing. It’s so rich and atmospheric. And TK’s voice is just so full of emotion. It’s such a mixed bag of sounds. Some songs are crazy and all over the place (in a good way) but then you have other songs that are so bare bones and basic (in a good way). One of those songs that is all over the place is the title track, “Fantastic Magic”:
The song has contrasting elements of hard and soft that I really appreciate. And then you get these frantic parts of the songs that contrast with the slower parts of the song. The use of the violin in this song is such a great touch that puts it over the top for me.
Another song I really enjoyed on the album is “Spiral Parade”:
This is actually probably my favorite song on the album. What’s so unique about this is that there are elements here that really remind me of 90s dance music, which is really making a comeback right now. It’s like as if TK wanted to take on a bit of that sound and incorporate it into his already existent soundscape and it really works.
Pierre Nakano – Chaotic Vibes Orchestra
Speaking of Ling Tosite Sigure, TK’s solo release wasn’t the only one from this band that caught my attention in August. The band’s drummer, Pierre Nakano, released his debut solo release, Chaotic Vibes Orchestra. This is another well put together mixed bag of sounds. There’s ethereal, there’s hard rock, there’s some urban, there’s even a Perfume cover. The Perfume cover is what really got me here:
Up and coming singer Seiko Oomori is doing vocals on this “Chocolate Disco” cover. It’s the same song but with a bit of twist on it. Another song I really liked on here is “Animus”:
As you can see from the video, there is a lot of drumming going on here. Pierre gathered some of his fellow drummers in the industry and pretty much made an orchestra of drums. What you get in the end is a very grand, very majestic song. ORIGA does vocals on this it is a pretty good match overall.
YUKI – Daredemo Lonely
Good God, this song… It became my most played this year so far in about a month. It could very well end up being my favorite song this year, battling against Shiina Ringo’s “Kachuu no Otoko.” It’s dance music but it’s not that basic EDM crap that is so popular in the dance music scene right now. This is how you do a dance song! I would expect nothing less from YUKI. With her new album “FLY” out in mid-September, expect that to be on my list this time next month.
Gesu no Kiwami Otome. – Ryokiteki na Kiss wo Watashi ni Shite
I got this and YUKI’s “Daredemo Lonely” at the same time so there were a lot of back to back plays between the two. This is pretty much in line with the stuff I’m into. Gesu no Kiwami Otome. is becoming one of my new faves. They debuted last year, went major at the end of it. This song has proved to be quite the boon for them. Was in the top 10 on iTunes for several days over the course of the month. Garnered them their first Music Station invitation. They really are a band to look out for. I only expect good things in their future, especially with the news that they’ll be releasing their debut album in October.
Thelma Aoyama – Lonely Angel
Ohh, Thelma… She’s best known (and pretty much only really known) for her massive hit “Soba ni Iru ne” and the song is was the answer to “Koko ni Iru yo.” “Soba ni Iru ne” was certified by the RIAJ earlier this year for selling 3 million copies digitally, making it possibly the best selling digital song in Japanese music history. What a difference 6 years makes… This album did horribly. Like almost want to cry horrible (debuted at #183 with 414 copies sold). Like I wonder if Universal is even going to keep her signed. She did release a short music video for her cover of Pharrell’s hit “Happy” recently so maybe that’s a good sign? Urban music has fall on very hard times in Japan so I can’t say I’m completely surprised by the lack of this album’s success. I wouldn’t say it’s a great album but it gets the job done I guess. The standout the is the title track. This is a jam! This is how you can do R&B without going into that alternative realm that is so popular in the genre right now.
This has been a SINGLES month for me unlike last month where a lot of albums from my faves were released. Mostly COLLABORATIONS. Lots of them this month.
YUKI – Daredemo Lonely (see Ronald’s post above for video)
I’ve was hyped for “Daredemo Lonely” since the single was announced with promotional pictures. It’s a very exciting, upbeat song and she looks AMAZING in the video. If only I could have been one of the gaijin in the video!
Negipecia – Girl’s Life
Negipecia was an interesting collaboration. Especia has been boring me lately, and I didn’t really find interest in Negicco until their VICE interview. I love seeing different Idol groups together and interacting and I wish more groups would do this same! Their song itself isn’t that exciting but I find myself humming it while I do things throughout the day. It’s very that.
tofubeats – Come On Honey! feat. Hitomi Arai (Tokyo Girls’ Style)
Hitomi’s voice isn’t GREAT but I like seeing TGS branch out and work outside their group. I like their regular music on ocassion, but I LOVED their Maltine Girls Wave album and the visuals were awesome as well. But anyway, back to “Come on Honey!”. Tofubeats has piqued my interest since his collaboration “Don’t Stop The Music” with Queen Chisato Moritaka (and he needs to produce her music in general). I keep going on tangents, but basically it’s because two things I like coming together is GREAT AND I LIKE THE SONG.
TEMPURA KIDZ vs. Charisma.com – Miira Killer
Everything about this is literally perfect – the sound, the particpants (well, TEMPURA KIDZ is OK but P-chan rocks and he carries the group), the video (+ the video quality), the wardrobe and and it feels like it came out nowhere even though TC was in Charisma.com’s last video. I have nothing negative to say about this at all. It’s all great.
BUMP OF CHICKEN – You were here
A release from the very first day of the month that’s remained in my playlist even past August’s end. “You were here” is a wonderful ballad from BUMP OF CHICKEN that shows just how much a solid execution (and some stellar vocals) can benefit a song. The track recalls some of the band’s earlier ambient rock days (particularly their Yggdrasil era), while mixing just a bit of folksiness into the arrangement. The result is an emotional and heartfelt tribute to BoC’s fans – one that hits all of the right notes and never outstays its welcome. “You were here” has become one of my favorite songs to listen to when I want to unwind at the end of a long day, so if you’re looking for a calmer track to help with that, it might well be worth looking into.
Gesu no Kiwami Otome. – Ryokiteki na Kiss wo Watashi ni Shite / Asobi
(see Ronald’s post above for Ryokiteki na Kiss wo Watashi ni Shite video)
The physical single release that managed to stick with me most this month is definitely Gesu no Kiwami Otome.’s debut single, “Ryokiteki na Kiss wo Watashi ni Shite / Asobi”. The first title track has just the right amount of attitude mixed with some carefully chosen rock and jazz touches, the resulting evening anthem (as I like to call it) a complex product with some stellar instrumentation to boot. The other leading song, “Asobi”, is perhaps even more complicated and is certainly less conventional for the band. “Asobi” seems to embrace the rockier side of the band’s music repertoire, though the jazz influences are far from removed, courtesy of the keyboard sections interspersed throughout the song. The lone B-side, “Dakedo Boku wa”, plays significantly more into the jazzy side of Gesu no Kiwami Otome.’s sound. Simply put, the song is smooth as silk, singer Enon Kawatani’s unusual vocals blending perfectly with the piano melody that leads the track. Overall, this single is simply a joy to listen to from beginning to end and if you have any interest in rock or jazz, I recommend that you give it a shot.
Nothing’s Carved In Stone – Strangers In Heaven
Though there are several albums which caught my attention during the month of August, the one which I’ve probably listened to the most is Nothing’s Carved In Stone’s “Strangers In Heaven” (it likely helps that this album came out at least 2 weeks before any of my other picks did). The two most immediately recognizable characteristics about “Strangers In Heaven” are how cohesive it is from song-to-song and the surprisingly large quantity of (understandable) English lyrics courtesy of singer Taku Muramatsu. Yet, despite this cohesion, there’s a very respectable amount of variety on the album: from the punchy, yet pensive pop-rock tune “Brotherhood”, to the lonely epic (ballad) “Sekkei Nite”, to the smooth and dancey “Midnight Train”. On the whole, a very solid entry into Nothing’s Carved In Stone’s back catalog and one which makes me eager to see where this band will go from here.
DREAMS COME TRUE – ATTACK25
And here’s where my taste in older music acts shows, since I don’t expect this album to show up in any of my associates’ choices. DREAMS COME TRUE are something of a complicated act to explain, given how broad their musical style is; their music takes influences from pop, rock, jazz, R&B, some hip-hop, and even a bit of bossa nova at some moments. “ATTACK25” was released in honor of the duo’s 25th anniversary and as such, has all of these various styles represented within its contents. For example, the jazzy stylings of “ONE LAST DANCE, STILL IN A TRANCE”, the ethereal pop influences in “FALL FALLS”, the R&B ballad “Saa Kane wo Narase”, and the Hip-hop touches in “MADE OF GOLD -featuring DABADA-“. All of these various styles of music are tied together by singer Miwa Yoshida’s superb singing voice, which still remains one of my favorites in the Japanese music industry. “ATTACK25” is a very multi-faceted album, so for those who like listening to many genres of music, this might be worth a shot.
TK from Ling Tosite Sigure – Fantastic Magic
For a few days, this particular release had the honor of being my choice for the strongest album released in August, and though it no longer holds that title, that is in no way any slight against “Fantastic Magic”. TK has outdone himself with this album, crafting an impressive set of soundscapes that range from intricate and frenetic (“Fantastic Magic” and “kalei de scope”) to stripped down and emotional (“tokio” and “fragile”). Of particular note on the album is the sixth track, “Shinkiro”, wherein which TK duets with J-pop singer Chara to brilliant results, their voices perfect matches for each other. I’d also like to highlight the closing track, “contrast”, as even though it was previously released earlier this year, it still serves as an excellent example of using both piano and strings in an unconventional manner and succeeding at creating something complex yet pleasing to the ear. “Fantastic Magic” is just an incredibly well-composed album that deserves all of the praise that it gets.
syrup16g – Hurt
Finally, we come to my last selection of the month, which also happens to be my pick for the strongest overall release of August. “Hurt” is the first album released by indie rock band syrup16g following their reformation earlier this year and if nothing else, I believe that it proves that they’re still more than capable of producing a great record, even after 6 years apart. There’s a kind of weight that pervades each and every song on “Hurt”, though it’s certainly more noticeable on some tracks than on others. The presence of this heaviness provides an incredibly strong sense of continuity between all of the album’s songs, though that’s certainly not to say that they sound the same. From the dark, pounding melody of “Share the light”, to the grooviness of “Kanashiki Shoegaze”, to the chill, laid back pace of “Risouteki na Speed de”, to the organic flow of “Tabidachi no Uta”, there’s plenty of variety to be found within “Hurt”’s track list. Combine this with the band’s trademark depressing lyrics and the amazingly expressive voice of syrup16g’s vocalist Igarashi, and you have the makings of a very strong studio set. Don’t just take my word for it though – take a listen to “Hurt” and hear for yourself.