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Archive for December, 2009

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.

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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.

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