We're over halfway through 2009. Let's rank the best albums that have come out so far! This week we have Zer0 starting us off.
Remember kids, when it comes to music: GaijinKanpai!>>>Japanator
5. Kuroki Meisa - hellcat
Kuroki Meisa, if all goes well, is heir to the Amuro Namie throne. Her voice is great, she can dance, she's absolutely gorgeous, and these songs are catchy as hell. This mini-album was mentioned by Jaylee on an earlier show, and I figured I'd give it a listen. Now songs like "Hear the Alarm?" and "Criminal" ring in my head for no reason sometimes. The production is minimal but definitely effective - the addition of one instrument during a chorus or bridge adds drama to the whole song. As a result, it feels effortless rather than cheap.
Favorite Song: SEX
4. Tohoshinki - The Secret Code
When T came out last year, it was the most mature release they'd put out so far. When Mirotic came out in korea late last year, it was. Then when "The Secret Code" came out earlier this year, it was! These guys might technically be a boy band, but they're genuinely good vocalists and even write their own songs sometimes. They also have fantastic dancing skill, but the dancey numbers take a backseat in this album. There are certainly dance songs on here, like "Mirotic" in its Japanese version, but it's the slower tracks like "Bolero" that really get your attention here.
Favorite Song: 9095
3. VAMPS - VAMPS
First off, seriously, you can't go wrong with Hyde. The best songs on this album are definitely the ones that sound more like Hyde or L'arc songs. The singles leading up to the album, while good, didn't display how awesome this album really gets. "Evanescence" is still a favorite, but album-only tracks like "Deep Red," "Vampire Depression," and "Sex Blood Rock N' Roll" are just too fucking great.
Favorite Song: Deep Red
2. Shiina Ringo - sanmon GOSSIP
Admittedly, this album isn't as good as her third album "Karuki Samen Kuri no Hana," but what is? Honestly? So let's give her the benefit of the doubt here and say that this album is just amazing. There's a fabulous mix of styles here, from hard rock to hip-hop to jazz. On the one hand, this keeps the album from being as cohesive a unit as KSK was, but on the other hand, it keeps the album interesting from start to finish. There's nothing skippable here.
Favorite Song: togatta teguchi (Sharp Practice)
1. alan - Voice of EARTH
I'm not a ballad person. But as ballads go, this is what I like, boys. This is what I like. Admittedly, it has more to do with the colors they put in my head - yay for neurological conditions that fuck your senses up - than their actual artistic significance or, really, anything musical at all. But hey, I enjoy the ballads on this album. "yume no GARDEN" is EXACTLY the type of ballad I like. It sounds like it's made of magic. Even faster songs like "BRAVE" and "sora uta" are right up my alley. This album reminded me why I liked Japanese music so much.
Favorite Song: yume no GARDEN
05. Micro - Space Rhythm 1
I had a very hard time deciding what should be my #5 pick. With such great albums from Chatmonchy, 12012, Vamps and Radwimps, my decision took DAYS! In the end I had to give Micro the credit he deserves for this album. Granted it's only 6 tracks, but I really dig his sound and this album shows me why. You guys know this isn't my type of music at all, but I heard his 'Odore' single a while back and loved it. I didn't get to listen to that album, but I was quick to grab this when I saw it. He just has a way of taking rap/r&b and making it a very aural experience. Definitely give it a listen!
Favorite Song: Is This Love?
04. BoA - Best & USA
I really just want to focus on the US album for this. BoA's never really been my cup of tea since "Shine We Are" so while I was really excited to hear she was releasing in the US, I didn't think much of what the album would be like. Holy Bejeweled was I wrong! I think the hardest thing for an Asian artist to do when releasing in the US is to tailor-make their songs for an American audience who have come to embrace hard-hitting dirty dance pop. BoA really nailed it and managed to keep her songs unique, catchy and just really fun to listen to. I still think this is the best gym workout album...try it!
Favorite Song: Touched
03. Alice Nine - Vandalize
There's not much more I can say that I haven't said in Episode 22 when we reviewed this album. Alice Nine has quickly become a band I follow and ingest every song, video and interview I can get my hands on. They have taken the concept of "Neo-Visual" and run with it all while keeping their songs (especially their singles) a pop/rock fan's wet dream. The major oversight of this album is that "Mirror Ball" has been given an album version which is complete rubbish; stripping the song of its rock brilliance and giving it a shitty piano ballad. So, in closing, grab this album but also grab the "Mirror Ball" single and replace the shit version with the good version...kinda like Voltron when they replaced Sven with the Princess for the blue lion.
Favorite Song: Rainbows (since Mirror Ball Album Ver. blows)
02. Mucc - Kyuutai
If Mucc releases an album, you can be damn sure it's going to make my best list! I was honestly hoping Kyuutai would be another experimental album like Shion, so when I first listened to it I'll admit that I was a bit disappointed. That being said, after popping it into a playlist of other new songs to get rated, I quickly realized how awesome this album actually is! Kyuutai is a return to form of sorts where the boys choose to play it safe with the rock guitar riffs and gritty melodic vocals that made them famous. The singles really shine, but the album tracks are equally as awesome. I can't recommend this album enough to my fellow jrock fans!
Favorite Song: Fuyuu
01. D'espairsRay - Redeemer
This album came out of fricken nowhere for me and I'm so very glad I found it! The only D'espairsRay song I've liked before Redeemer was "Squall" (which is epically awesome, btw) but other than that, I was never really a fan. It's a shame because they have played a couple shows in NYC so I'm kicking myself in the ass for that one. Anyways, this is without a doubt my favorite album of 2009 so far. I didn't realize that most of the songs I like are singles, but the album tracks are pretty damn good too. If I've read correctly, this album is a bit of a departure from D'espairsRay's normal sound and if that's true, they must keep it up! Maybe it was all that touring with Mucc! Also, the album's being released on US iTunes July 28th! BUY IT! I know I am!
Favorite Song: Kamikaze (tied with Lizard, so I went alphabetically)
05. Fukuhara Miho – Rainbow
The debut album by Fukuhara Miho is a treat. She was one of my favorite new artists of last year and put out high quality singles one after the other. It was no surprise that her first album was fantastic. For pop music with heavy gospel and soul influences sung by an amazing vocalist, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Favorite Song: Lose Control
04. AI – VIVA A.I.
AI has a wonderful and unique voice that I could listen to all day. It is unfortunate, then, that her albums in the past few years haven’t been all that interesting. Then “VIVA A.I.” comes out, an album which had a variety of styles and maintained a high quality from start to finish.
Favorite Song: Rose
03. Angela Aki – ANSWER
Angela Aki is one of the most amazing artists in Japan today. Her piano-centric music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love every second of it. This album featured some amazing songs by Aki, including the magnificent nearly 11 minute opus, “Requiem,” as well as her cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s door.” Angela Aki’s music is deep, her lyrics are beautiful and touching, this album showcases this, and is one I doubt I’ll ever stop listening to.
Favorite Song: Requiem
02. UNDER GRAPH – Kono Basho ni Umareta, Bokutachi wa Itsumo Nani ga Dekiru ka wo Kangaeteiru
UNDER GRAPH is easily my favorite band in Japanese music, so I was elated when their newest album showed the maturity and growth of 10 years experience as musicians. They changed up their sound, tried new things, and showed a variety never before seen in an UNDER GRAPH album.
Favorite Song: Sekai-no-Kibou
01. Shiina Ringo – Sanmon Gossip
After Shiina Ringo’s long hiatus, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this album. I was worried the fire of a musical genius could somehow be extinguished after years of collaborating with band members in “Tokyo Jihen.” From the first track, I was hooked, the queen had latched onto me and I couldn’t wiggle out of the death grip of “Sanmon Gossip.” The album uses traditionally American musical themes just as its predecessor used traditional Japanese music as its basis. If you only listen to one album this year, it should be this.
Favorite Song: Tsugou no Ii Karada