Posts Tagged ‘JPop’

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.

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

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

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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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.

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.

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).


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…

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)
#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.


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)


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


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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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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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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