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I have listened (and purchased) a lot more music this year compared to 2009, which means a bit more selection to be reviewed. Last year’s best of showcased only 3, and this year is no exception. A first in nearly 3 years will have this countdown reinvolve music from North America as the last 2 years only focused on JPop. Ranking the 3 accordingly this year was more difficult because I love all 3 albums equally.

3:
STAR — 中島美嘉 (Nakashima Mika)

It seemed easy for her to top her 2008 release, “VOICE” but this is definitely a solid album from start to finish. There aren’t many surprises this time around (like her Mica 3 Chu group a few years back), either a ballad or a dance track; yet the tracklist for it is placed quite well so it doesn’t get tiring on either front.

Fav tracks: (#1) ALWAYS, (#5) GAME, (#10) SPIRAL, (#11) Memory (Feat. DAISHI DANCE), (#13) 流れ星, (#14) SONG FOR A WISH

2:
LIFE — アンジェラ・アキ (Angela Aki)

I really wanted this album to be #1, only to be trumped by the eventual #1. Similar formula to her last album, ANSWER, but tweaked a bit in the form of half-n-half language songs. 6 of the songs are completely in English, which begs the question if and when she’ll make another attempt at cracking the Western (North America or Europe) market. Gone are the very long, yet amazing ballads (see: Dahlia and Requiem from “ANSWER”), which overall is a better listening experience. It’s hard for her not to make an album of a sub-par level. I need not say anymore, she’s consistently that good. And to think since Jun Shibata hadn’t released an album for 2010, it would finally top my list, however…

Fav Tracks: (#1) 愛の季節, (#2) 輝く人, (#6) Unbreakable, (#10) The Truth Is Like A Lie, (#12) 母なる大地, (#13) LIFE

1:
Have One On Me — Joanna Newsom

Where to begin? Well, admittingly I bought this album in June (unknowingly released in February), and not a moment too soon. I think it was about the time I found out she was performing in Vancouver. So a double-whammy of sorts, bought the album and the ticket to the concert ’round the same time. Much like her 2006 masterpiece, “Ys”, she once again doesn’t just relied on her harp as percussion and piano seemed to be quite prominent. More so, her vocals have matured once more. The elf-like vocals are long gone; still very high in pitch but less piercing (re: Milk-eyed mender). Oh, did I mention that this album is 2 hours long? (it’s split into 3 discs) But here’s the thing, it’s not fatiguing at all. It’s such a pleasant and magical ride you’ll take when you listen to this album. “Ys” set the bar for her, and it very well matched it.

Fav tracks: (1-#1) Easy, (1-#2) Have One On Me, (1-#4) Good Intentions Paving Company, (2-#3) In California, (2-#4) Jackrabbits, (2-#6) Occident, (3-#2) Esme, (3-#5) Kingfisher

Here’s hoping 2011 will bring just as much brilliance as 2010 did.

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Not even a month has passed since the finale of my 365, and it’s time to take on a new challenge. It’s actually 13 days between day 365 and the beginning of this particular project.

As mentioned in my last post, I did look to inspiration for this latest project (Faceless project). It’ll span the rest of the year (which, as of 13 Aug is 141 days) on only self-portraits; however, I won’t show my face (directly) for any of those shots. Loosely based on Aoyama Yuki’s rather controversial photobook “Schoolgirl complex”, taking only the faceless part of that and putting it as the main theme will prove a bit difficult.

It has to be natural and can’t hide face for the sake of hiding. And at least signs of something good, I’m trying to not take shots behind my ubiquitous seafoam green wall (which may account for nearly half my 365P photos).

Compared to the 365 Project, there is more lenience towards missing one day or two, since it’s an incomplete project to begin with. But much like the 365 Project I want to finish what I started with no gaps in-between.

The Faceless Project so far.

here’s hoping!


*The final day’s photo– paying homage to Day 1

Well, it’s good to be back posting on this blog. It’s been 8 months since the last posting, so lots of things in and around the blog needed to be updated.

For those unaware, and there were many of you, on 1 Aug 2009 I started what is called the 365 Project; simply one photo a day of anything for 365 days. The key here is supposed to do this all in 365 straight days; but with life, things do happen and most people skip a day or two, and some cave under the stress and pressure and abandon it partway.

It is seemingly rewarding from a confidence standpoint that I could finish something so long-term. Relying on other peoples’ similar 365 projects do help motivate you to continue; you feed off their support, you do so likewise–the cycle goes on. Now balancing that with full-time work compounds the situation in trying to come up with an idea, shoot, edit and upload. I don’t know how I’d feel if I actually missed one day of this project. What was hard was trying not to repeat themes or even shots (which I may have done a few times); it’s a bit difficult because you do lose track of what you’ve shot. I think the weirdest thing in all of this is that when 31st July hit (day 365), you’re free from that routine and realise you have more time on your hands. August 1st hits and all of a sudden: “Wait, wasn’t there something I needed to do?”. I taken a bit of a photo-vacation these last few weeks since then and I’ve concluded that I think I’m ready for another long-term project. Not another 365 (that’ll wait for a few more years), but something themed; not necessarily counted, but certainly something done on a daily basis.

I’ve drawn inspiration from photographer Aoyama Yuki from Japan who shot abstract portraits of high school students in a seemingly controversial photobook “Schoolgirl Complex”. Since my last project involved staring at the camera most of the time, trying not to look directly at the lens for photos is a different challenge.

I’ll try to keep this updated as humanly possible (as I’ve said numerous times on this blog)

cheers!

2009 was definitely AKB48’s coming out party, releasing a single practically every quarter of the year; one after another charting higher and higher with their latest RIVER reaching #1. AKB48 as a whole is on the rise (which includes their sub-groups) and will likely continue that trend into 2010.

2009 had 4 singles released by AKB48: 10nen Zakura, Namida Surprise, Iiwake Maybe, and RIVER — all of which reached at least top 5 in their respective release days. Ranked accordingly, I’m looking at this through the entire single, including B-side (or coupled-with) tracks included.

#4
10年桜 (10nen Zaukra)

The single by itself is truly amazing, however its B-side, 桜色の空の下で (Sakurairo no Sora no Shitade) was somewhat lacking; a huge contrast in tempo from 10nenzakura; though I did like the Sakura tie-in to both songs.

#3
言い訳Maybe (Iiwake Maybe)

A solid single paired with an equally solid c/w track, 飛べないアゲハチョウ (Tobenai agehachou).

#2
RIVER

There has to be a runner-up and it was their latest single, RIVER. All 3 songs are top-notch, although listeners at first may be on the fence of the intro to RIVER; a mix of an army-esque drumline (if there’s such a thing). Same can be said for the fast acoustic guitar on the second track 君のことが好きだから (Kimi no koto ga suki dakara), but that’s left to others’ opinion. The last track, ひこうき雲 (Hikouki Gumo) is nothing short of magical. Once the chorus hits, I compare it to swaying your arms in the air as you’re moving to the beat (to be fair, the girls are swinging red towels in the air in the PV).

Which leaves…

#1
涙サプライズ! (Namida Surprise)

Any fitting for the single that was released on my birthday (24/06)? The song itself is about a surprise birthday party for a friend. You can’t help but feel happy listening to it, even the little slip-in of the classic ‘Happy Birthday to you’ can’t be ignored. 2nd track, 初日 (Shonichi) continues the pace, very anthem-like with “Oi, Oi, Oi…” and clapping in unison towards the end. the last track, FIRST LOVE, a solo track sung by Team K favourite, Ono Erena mellows it all out, with surprising vocals to boot. Mentioned in a tweet months ago and soon after the single itself was released, I’d easily choose this version of FIRST LOVE over famed JPop artist Utada Hikaru’s single of the same name (although a lot of naysayers would say otherwise).

Just ranking only the singles themselves (excluding b-sides) the list is slightly different:
#4 言い訳Maybe (Iiwake Maybe)
#3 RIVER
#2 10年桜 (10nen Zaukra)
#1 涙サプライズ! (Namida Surprise)

of course, all 4 are incredible in their own regard, and unfortunately I had to choose which was better between the 4.

Hope more success for AKB48 in 2010 and beyond. They are for real.

YGC’s Best JPop of 2009

As with tradition around these parts, it’s about time to present the best (in my opinion) that JPop had to offer in ’09. Now there’s a different take for this year’s list, as things change, life happens, that sort of thing. I didn’t give enough listening time to new music and not nearly enough to supplement a top 10. So for this year I will go in depth of the best 3 I thought I couldn’t stop listening to. For reference, see my best of ’08 here.

#3:

想いあふれて (Omoi Afurete) – 松浦亜弥 (Matsuura Aya)

It’s a shame she had left Hello!Project (along with her fellow “elders”) this year, but her last studio album under the H!P umbrella is any indication, she left with a bang. The move from the cheery, genki Aya in the first 3 albums to a more refined, mature Aya in the final 3 really do show her growth as a singer. Omoi Afurete really did bring out the very best of Aya. The majority of the album does dip into what Aya is now about (eg. KizunaKekkon Shinai Futari, Omoi Afurete), and a a handful of what she used to be (eg. boomboomboom, Rescue Rescue). Not since her 2nd album, T.W.O. has she had a solid start-to-finish album

Favourite tracks: 結婚しない二人 (Kekkon Shinai Futari), 想いあふれて (Omoi Afurete)

#2:

ANSWER – アンジェラ・アキ (Angela Aki)

Upon the review I gave back in late February, I had Angela’s newest album ANSWER a top album of ’09, hands down (see below who topped her, again). It’s clearly still one of the best this year but just couldn’t hold down a late-comer. Nevertheless, I still think the 2 songs from this album, Dahlia & Requiem, enough warrant to be upon the best. That’s not to say the others don’t hold a candle to those, the 2 highlighted are true standout songs which should take notice. Her song, Black Glasses, for me proved to be a standout track in its own for it’s meaning and how it’s revolved around my life. It’s lyrics have been the inspiration to 2 photos for my 365 Day project.  I do hope she can breakthrough in the US/CDN market.

Favourite tracks: 手紙 ~拝啓 十五の君へ~ (Tegami ~Haikei Juu Go no Kimi e~), ダリア (Dahlia), レクイエム (Requiem), Black Glasses

#1:

ゴーストライター (Ghost Writer) – 柴田淳 (Shibata Jun)

Call it coincidence. Call it favouritism. Call it whatever you like, but Shibata Jun’s talent can’t be unnoticed. A late entry in November, Jun’s 7th album, Ghost Writer, surpassed expectations; starting with the lead-off single, Love letter. A 7+ minute ballad with all sorts of emotion, but not overdone. The album as a whole dips into a darker side of Jun (eg. the haunting intro to the song Uchiu no Housoku), and not since her album, Hitori, which also showed that raw emotion. And her voice is next to hypnotic. It’s truly a treat to always seeing new music from her, I can’t really pick a song from her albums which I didn’t like. She will likely feature in my reflection of a decade of listening.

Favourite tracks: 救世主 (Kyuuseishu), Love Letter, 蝶 (Chou), 幸福な人生 (Koufuku na Jinsei)

That wraps up my listed best of ’09. I have honourable mentions for albums I enjoyed but couldn’t squeeze in the top 3. Hopefully look for that soon.

I’ve always said this blog will be updated more on a regular basis, but since I returned to Vancouver 6 months ago, it’s since been neglected. I won’t delete the blog outright, but the look of the blog itself will drastically change in the coming months. This means the annual top 10 albums will be posted on the main, YGC blog. This blog was created on the sole purpose that it didn’t interfere with the YGC travel blog I used while in Japan. Now it’s next to irrelevant as I can’t update this as much as I should. So consider this fair warning.

112/365 "Thy fate is the common fate of all; Into each life some rain must fall."

I don’t think I’ve mentioned starting a 365 Project here (well, only a blurb in the about page), but with more than 100 days into it, no better time to let you know.

Since August 1st I’ve been taking at least one photo a day and since August 27th it’s been nothing but self-portraits (some shots in that span are just parts of me, notwithstanding). As I mentioned in my About page, this was to gain a further insight for me as a photographer and what best interests me when it comes to shooting. That’s not to say I would be exclusive to portraiture, but it sorta gives a feel when doing something like, say, fashion or model photography. I hope all this self-portraiture doesn’t come off as narcissistic, because obviously that’s not the intention.

Balancing this with full-time work makes coming up with an idea and shooting it on a daily basis all the more challenging. I know a few of the photos in the 365 collection were throwaways, where I’d put something up than nothing. It very well depends on the day ahead most of the time (as most of my work days begin in the late afternoon). I’ve kept a good balance of this, as I’m content with the rest of the day so long as I have that shot done. Though it does sound half-hearted, this is a good balance that’s worked so far. One thing about that is if that’ll be the case, I should put more time in each shot, because I know there’s certainly room for improvement. So I’ll continue to trudge along and when it’s all said and done come July 31st 2010, I’ll look back at this as a whole and see where I’ve come from the beginning.

You can see my 365 Project in progress here:
365 of Yume Photo

Now, with the acquisition of the 70-200 VR lens, the main focus now is to finally upgrade the body (by which I mean the camera itself). One thing that I made sure when I first obtained the D300 back in January was to not invest in DX glass (for use on 1.5x cropped bodies eg. D90, D300s, D5000 etc.) because I knew I would upgrade to FX (or full-frame) in no time. Fast-forward to today, and the 5 lenses which see equal time are either optimized for film SLRs or pro-grade FX Nikon DSLRs. I’ve juggled the option of the 3 “affordable” FX bodies Nikon currently is selling, the D700, the D3 and the new & refreshed D3S (The D3x is way out my league, price range). The purchase won’t be made until late January anyway, so I’m still weighing all my options. I know patience will easily pay off in the end.