I did not expect such a diverse range of albums to be released in a single month. And it’s only February!
I had no criteria for selecting these albums. Except for ONE OK ROCK (which I’ve been looking forward to since ‘Taking Off’) and [Alexandros], I’d never heard of any of these artists until end-December/early January. This humble blog hopes to showcase and review their latest work. And boy have we got a haul.
Got music to share? Let me know if there are any artists/albums I should review for future posts!
Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi – Noah’s Ark
I find it hard to believe this fellow just started college. I find it harder to believe he started as a rapper. Nothing in this album (or his voice) left any indication of this artist’s early beginnings. The laid back, chill, acid-jazz vibes are what I’d play at a party or a Friday night.
This is one of my greatest finds in recent months. The diversity and fresh tunes from this album left me with no regrets, and one that I’d recommend to anyone who wants an atypical experience in Japanese pop music. For the best experience, listen to the album in its entirety.
Favourite track: Be Noble, Shadow, Arisho, After That
Blue Encount – THE END
I’ve checked several sources to confirm that this wasn’t the band’s last release (it’s not; it’s only their sophmore album). This album is as rock as it gets. There’s no other way to describe it.
‘Survivor’ was used as the opening theme of ‘Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans’, while ‘Last King’ was featured in the J-drama ‘Last Cops’ – neither of which I’ve seen (but I’ve heard great things about the latest Gundam installment).
This record is a full-on assault on the ears, with a generous use of electric guitars and smashing drums. But I wasn’t able to pin down the band’s ‘signature’ sound. The first half of the album was a spectacular smash-fest; by track 5, ‘Rookie Rookie’ vaguely reminded me of androp and Asian Kung-Fu Generation; then the album starts to somewhat slow down from ‘Namida’, and then it suddenly breaks into rock/hip-hop (‘city’) before ending on a more anthemic note with ‘Hajimari’. I’m confused.
Favourite track: Namida
Unfortunately this band hasn’t made their MVs accessible outside of Japan. But this album is available on Spotify, so here’s the entire playlist.
Ent – ELEMENT
Horie Atsushi’s fifth and latest album after a five-year hiatus, ELEMENT is a mix of alternative and electronic with a touch of lounge. Listening to this after several rounds of Japanese rock is like drinking water from a river in the Alps after a long, arduous hike. Sometimes reminiscent of Clammbon (another amazing alternative band that we ought to hear more of), ‘Element’ seems to be a great album to put anyone in the right frame of mind for any creative work.
Like ‘Noah’s Ark’ above, this is recommended for anyone who wants a fresh sound. Also great for a lesiurely drive.
Favourite track: How to Fly, Kanashimi ga Umareta Basho, Perfect Light
A trailer with a preview of all the tracks is available on YouTube.
ONE OK ROCK – Ambitions (Japanese version)
There are only two bands, in this writer’s humble opinion, that have really made an effort to connect with its audience. RADWIMPS took bold steps to create a whole soundtrack for one of the biggest animated films to date, and ONE OK ROCK has put its international charima and relatable sound to good use.
The band has certainly come a long way since ‘The Beginning’. They have rightfully earned their place on the international stage. Having signed a deal with Fueled By Ramen (Paramore, twenty one pilots, Panic! At The Disco), it didn’t take long for them to release the MV for its lead track ‘Taking Off’.
Sure, the band may have already earned a reputation amongst Japanese rock followers for several years now, but this is a significant milestone not just for the group, but Japanese artists in general. Because to date, few have gained as much worldwide recognition, and when they do, it’s usually to reinforce a stereotype most already have of Japanese pop music.
‘Ambitions’ clearly targets English listeners, with the English version heavily promoted and quite a few tracks featuring international artists (Avril Lavigne and 5 Seconds of Summer). TAKA’s stronger command in the language also comes through crystal clear. Personally, I still prefer the Japanese version – I appreciate how the band never forgot its Japanese fans, and these songs are still tastefully done.
Favourite track: many, particularly ‘We are’, ‘Bedroom Warfare’, ‘I was King’ and ‘Take what you want’.
[Alexandros] – Snow Sound / 今まで君が泣いた分取り戻そう – EP
This EP was released earlier this month, but it will be officially available on iTunes SEA on February 1 with two bonus singles from the band’s live performances.
Truth be told, ‘Snow sound’ was the only good track, but it was fresh enough. Noticeably heavier on synthesizers, it tickled my ears and put me in a light-headed, happy mood. Kawakami Youhei’s falsettos at the chorus hit the right pitches at the right points, and balance the raw energy he and the band channeled in heavy-handed, bass and drums-heavy tracks from previous works (‘Run Away’, ‘Wataridori’).
This track was also used as the CM of JR SKISKI, which is managed by the JR EAST rail company to promote winter tourism.
Favourite track: Snow sound