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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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I should be more active in my blogs, here’s a start.

Recently, if you recall, I posted an entry about Taiwan-based Hello!Project group Ice Creamusme. They released a single off their mini-album, 1st最棒! (1st Zui Bang!), in Mandarin called, 在沒有雨水滋潤的星球上是無法付出愛的吧? (On a planet without rain can there not be love?)

Morning Musume has a track on their newest release, プラチナ 9 DISC (Platinum 9 DISC), with the title, 雨の降らない星では愛せないだろう? (If it Doesn’t Rain, Will the Stars Not Love?). It’s both performed in Japanese and Mandarin (sung by momusu’s Chinese members, JunJun and LinLin)

What we want to figure out is which you’d prefer (and it shouldn’t come down to the groups themselves).

The poll will be open for 1 month. Afterwards the results will be posted and a new poll will be thought up by then (hopefully).

For those wondering I preferred Ice Creamusume’s version more^_^

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Oh my. It’s been nearly 2 months since my last update, and well, not much has changed. I guess I haven’t given as much time to my blogs as I do with flickr nowadays, but I hope to balance the 3 out.

This update comes in the form of Hello! Project soloist, Mano Erina (真野恵里菜). Since the Elder Club of H!P graduated back in March, they lost some prominent soloists; the likes of Matsuura Aya, Abe Natsumi, among others will be sorely missed but the newest crop are starting to emerge.

Erina has that charm and genkiness Ayaya once had when she debuted back in ’02. She has released 3 singles with a 4th forthcoming. I can’t wait for her 1st studio album to be released. In the meantime, here are 2 of the recent singles released: Hajimete no Keiken (はじめての経験) and Sekai wa Summer Party (世界は サマー・パーティ).

(via YouTube)

Hajimete no Keiken (はじめての経験)

Sekai wa Summer Party (世界は サマー・パーティ)

I hope to add more stuff to pass along.

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angela-aki-answer
Even with my current financial status, there was no way I’d not buy this album on release day. ANSWER, the long-awaited 4th Japanese sung (5th overall) album by Angela Aki [アンジェラ・アキ] is proving to be her best album yet.
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There hasn’t been much news that I’d post right away; in addition to minor changes to the blog itself (new header, last.fm charts, etc). A new Morning Musume album is due in mid-march so the upcoming page has been updated to reflect this. Eagerly awaiting Angela Aki’s 3rd album, “Answer”; and of course, the review soon to follow afterwards. In addition, my first dip into Mandopop; listening to the Hello! Project unit from Taiwan, Ice Creamusume. It still has that H!P formula, except sung in Mandarin; it’s very catchy, here’s a PV for their song, 戀愛登場:

Until then, keep listening.

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koda-kumi-trick
Amidst from all the controversy that swirled around her last year, Koda Kumi continually manages to be one of the top acts in Japanese music. Her 7th studio album, TRICK is in all accounts a danceable record — with the exception of 4 ballads.

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c-ute-4akogare-my-starhr1

While I’ll keep it short as my review for Koda Kumi’s new album comes right after this, I do quite like this new album by ℃-ute. It’s worth noting that while I wouldn’t put it too high of a regard; it’s, however, their best well-rounded album to date over their previous work. And much like Berryz Koubou, a few of the tracks are performed solo (Yes! all my family by Airi Suzuki, Seishun Song by Yajima Maimi), duet (Aishiteru Aishiteru by Saki Nakajima and Kanna Arihara) & a trio (One’s LIFE by Erika Umeda, Chisato Okai, and Mai Hagiwara). Those tracks do hold on their own plus it’s a great way to show the individual members what they’re capable. On the structure of the 3 singles released (Namida no Iro, FOREVER LOVE, and Edo no Temari Uta II), they do compliment the other non-singles well, making it a well-balanced album from start to finish.

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