Top Five Albums

Compiled here are the host's five favorite albums.

Zer0's Five

01. Shiina Ringo - Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana
This was the first album I recommended to LoKi back in the earliest days of Gaijin Kanpai. The album uses about a gazillion different instruments and somehow manages to have a coherent sound. To call it jazz-rock doesn't quite capture it, but no other term would really work. The album is more than just a collection of songs, it's an ALBUM. The songs are subtly mixed so one track flows seamlessly into another. The running time is exactly 44:44. The tracklist is (as in most Shiina Ringo albums) symmetrical. And the songs themselves aren't completely radio unfriendly. How can any human being accomplish this? I don't know. Shiina Ringo is fucking amazing. Favorite Song: Yattsuke Shigoto

02. Utada Hikaru - DEEP RIVER
I hated Utada Hikaru. And then this album's singles started coming out. It was frustrating. The album itself is epic levels of wonderful. It's leaning more towards the pop side of pop/R&B, making it easily accessible to people who prefer one or the other. The album dabbles also in new wave, dance, rock, and classical influences, while still keeping its friendly pop sensibility. It is, in my opinion, Utada Hikaru's best album, and one of the best japanese albums I have ever heard. Favorite Song: A.S.A.P

03. Do As Infinity - BREAK OF DAWN
Yes, I do have more of an emotional/nostalgic attachment to their "DEEP FOREST" album. But this is the one where I don't skip any tracks, and that was a big factor when adding things to my list. Tracks like the creepy rock song "Raven" and the mid-tempo ballad "Another" are very attention-getting to me, not to mention classics like "Oasis" and their debut single, "Tangerine Dream." Favorite Song: Raven

04. hitomi - Thermo Plastic
Another chick who rocks. This was the first hitomi album where she had more creative control, and she put that control to good use. The songs are great melodically, but it's the distinctive production behind songs like "Wish" and "Bird" make this album really stand out both in her discography and in my j-music collection. Favorite Song: Wish

05. YUI - FROM ME TO YOU
Another album where I don't skip a single track. It's difficult to do a whole lot with the girl-and-her-guitar formula, but YUI managed to succeed. Every song is polished & perfect, emotion comes through very well in her voice, and the melodies are memorable. It's hard to find an album this enjoyable. Favorite Song: Swing of lie

 

Loki's Five

01. L'Arc~en~Ciel - Best of 1994-1998 + Best of 1998-2000
I had to lump both of these together because they really should be all one album. Even the third 'Best of C/W' could be in there too, but we'll stick with the hits! No band represents Japanese Popular Music as a whole better than the boys of Laruku. These guys are constantly showcased outside Japan as Japan's #1 Rock Band and these two albums show you why. I bought these when they were released because I heard Driver's High as the opening for GTO back in the day and figured if I was going to get into a band, this was the best way to do it. I feel these songs need no introduction or publicity because I feel everyone should at least recognize them when they're played. The range of tracks you get go from the good old days of uber visual-kei hair styles and whimsical pop-rock to the more "accepted" rock sound of today. These guys have run the gamut with their music, and all of it is superb. FAVORITE SONG: Snow Drop

02. Mucc - Gokusai
Packed with as many singles as Snickers has peanuts, Gokusai is Mucc's best album to showcase the band. If you go to a Mucc concert, chances are that the overwhelming percentage of songs you'll hear will be from this album. Mucc fans that have been crazy about them since their first album kind of see Gokusai as the beginning of their "unwelcome change", but I see it as their first step to being accepted cross-genre. Mucc's strength is in both Miya's expert guitar arrangement and Tatsurou's grungy-melodic voice and it takes songs like those found on Gokusai to really get that across. Listen to this album with a friend or two around while you enjoy a couple beers and they'll all be asking for copies while you look for Shion! FAVORITE SONG: Gekkou

03. Do As Infinity - Deep Forest
Like Zer0, my DAI album recommendation has a lot to with nostalgia. Do As Infinity was the first JPOP band I listened to whom I consider a "band". 'Week' was my first exposure to the overly-talented trio/duo and I've been a die-hard fan ever since. Deep Forest was the first japanese album I bought besides anime OSTs and it still holds up well today. Every track is solid and if you want to ease yourself into the JPop/JRock scene, this is a damn perfect start. FAVORITE SONG: Tsuubasa no Keikaku

04. Mucc - Shion
I personally think this is Mucc's best album, but I don't think it's the best album for people to become a fan of Mucc. This is a perfect example of when an established band experiments and fucking nails it! Much akin to the BennieK album, it takes various influences from around the world, most notably India, and spices up their powerful sound with it. While the singles on the album don't follow this motif, 'Libra' stands as one of Mucc's best songs ever while everyone seems to enjoy 'Fuzz'; especially at concerts. Mucc has done a very smart thing by releasing Gokusai to gain fans, Shion to show those fans what they can do, and Kyuutai to keep em wanting more! FAVORITE SONG: Semishigure

05. BennieK - The World
I chose this because if I had to name an album for how pure rock fans should expand their repetoire, this is the perfect choice. I had a hard time between this and Utada's Deep River, but I really love the different "flavors" this album offers. Everything from the African 'Safari' to Spanish 'Matador Love' to the very Euro 'Hooligan in the House'. Combine this wide range of specific influences with Yuki's absolutely amazing voice and Cico's injected badass'ness (and engrish!) and you come away with an extremely satisfying experience. FAVORITE SONG: Matadore Love


Jaylee's FiveTen

I can rank many things, but never could I rank my favorite album, sorry guys.

Onitsuka Chihiro – INSOMNIA
I usually dislike albums like Onitsuka Chihiro's “INSOMNIA.” It is a slow and almost daunting work to listen to that draws heavily from gospel, folk, and acoustic rock, but it is easily one of the most well-made. If people want to know why you like Japanese music in spite of not knowing what they're saying you need to play them “SHINE.” Chihiro's voice strips away language and cuts straight to the bone with pure feeling. It is emotionally draining, a beautiful work of art that stops you in your tracks and pushes all other thoughts from your mind. It is only after the final track has finished that you remember to breath again. FAVORITE SONG: Gekkou

GLAY – THE FRUSTRATED
Yes, originally I said “SPEED POP,” but after thinking it over, I decided on “THE FRUSTRATED.” After years of uneven releases and company-induced artistic impotence, GLAY pulled it together for their tenth anniversary by releasing their best album since “SPEED POP.” “THE FRUSTRATED” was solid through and through, a fan's wet dream. Our band was back and it felt fucking fantastic. From spasm-inducingly creative songs like “coyote,colored darkness,” to gorgeous ballads like “Toki no Shizuku,” and the undeniably feel-good “Minamigochi,” this album had it all. “THE FRUSTRATED” served as the perfect bone thrown to fans before an agonizingly long two year hiatus. Through this album GLAY showed us that they had creative control again, and it would be all uphill from here. FAVORITE SONG: Minamigochi

m-flo – EXPO EXPO
Before there were years worth of “m-flo loves SOMEBODY” collaborations there was the original m-flo. A true hip-hop trio that delivered solid tracks, perfectly balanced toughness and vulnerability. I had a difficult time choosing between this album and their debut, “Planet Shining,” which I had originally announced on the podcast as apart of my five. There are quite a few classic songs spread across the two albums, but I chose “EXPO EXPO” because of the seamless transitions between tracks and the high level of polish and care evident in each song. FAVORITE SONG: How You Like Me Now?

Bonnie Pink – Golden Tears
Bonnie Pink has long been one of my favorite artists. At first I thought it'd be hard to choose which album of hers was in my “top 5,” but “Golden Tears” immediately popped into my head. This album is eclectic in the best possible way. Bonnie utilizes a variety of styles while at the same time crafting an album with a skillfully solid and cohesive sound. When I first listened to “Golden Tears” I was instantly pulled in by the killer intro, “So Wonderful,” and never lost interest through it's thirteen tracks. To this day I can put the album on and be thoroughly entertained from start to finish. FAVORITE SONG: Cotton Candy

the brilliant green – the brilliant green
I know, I know; I said “Los Angeles” originally. However, “the brilliant green” is probably one of the best introductory Japanese language albums one could suggest. I hold Few other female artists in such high regard as the vocalist of buriguri, Tomoko Kawase, a timid vocalist with an enigmatic voice that somehow warms your heart through its chilling timbre. It is a solid rock album that transcends language barriers due to it's melancholic magnificence. The music is compelling and cathartic, a listening experience I suggest to any music enthusiast. FAVORITE SONG: Tsumetai Hana