Jacquie’s 2017 Year in Review – Music

I’m not inclined to do any kind of proper ranking for the past year’s music, so I’ll just recall some of the works that captured my attention and also a piece of my music budget in 2017.  Presented in alphabetical order by artist.

Angelo

I haven’t really been keeping up with Angelo, despite the fact that one of my favourite guitarists – Karyu (ex-D’espairsRay) – plays in the band, because KIRITO’s voice and hypo-melodic singing style are usually not to my taste. I don’t know, something must have changed, because “HETERODOX” is a pretty good listen all the way through! Even though it’s not quite as heavy as the music I typically listen to, it’s great in the car; and my CD is still spinning there now, as it has been since I received it back in October.

Favourite tracks: evil, Saigennai kawaki, HETERODOX

Actually, evil is my favourite song of 2017. Angelo uploaded the clip below, featuring the full PV for evil a patience-testing 3 months before the album (and any of its music) went on sale. I heard Karyu’s touch in this beautiful track immediately. By that, I suppose I what I mean is that the way I felt when I listened to it was similar to how I felt when I used to listen to some D’espairsRay songs. Karyu is indeed the song’s composer, as I later confirmed. KIRITO nails his delivery too; the slightly raspy vocals he uses really suit the song, and I don’t think he has ever sounded better.

coldrain

“FATELESS” was another solid release from coldrain. Seriously, these guys never let me down. The only song I got tired of was the one they didn’t write, UNINVITED (although it was kind of cool that they covered Alanis Morissette).

Favourite tracks: A DECADE IN THE RAIN, FEED THE FIRE

(FATELESS-album is available on iTunes Canada)

defspiral

The best news is that defspiral’s music is now on iTunes. Previously, I had to wait until I was in Japan to buy their CDs because they were not attainable from my usual online sites and also not available digitally. But no longer! Even the instrumental tracks are up, which is important; not only do defspiral instrumentals sound perfectly great on their own, but I always enjoy the full songs more after hearing them!

(AFTERGLOW-single, PHANTOM-single, TO THE GALAXY-album are all available on iTunes Canada)

lynch.

At the start of 2017, lynch. were in a dark place. Akinori, their bassist, resigned from the band in the fall of 2016 following his arrest for marijuana possession. The remaining members were so unhappy with the situation, they were reluctant to continue without him. But they had to. Refusing to hire someone new, lynch. instead enlisted the services of several well-known bassists to help in the recording of their 2017 releases.

Things are looking up for 2018, as Akinori is coming back!

Typically, when a Japanese musician has to quit in order to not bring shame upon his band, it is a life sentence, regardless of the nature of his crime. It is pretty unheard of for such a person to ever be reinstated. But this is lynch.. The way I see it, they never needed an official bass player. They were a 4-piece for many years before Akinori came along. It has to be him. And it warms my heart that lynch. are about to be reunited at last.

Favourite tracks off “SINNERS”: KALEIDO, SORROW

(SINNERS-EP and BLOOD THIRSTY CREATURE-single are both available on iTunes Canada)

OLDCODEX

“they go, WHERE?” had a couple of songs that I couldn’t listen to (smiling, Julio), but overall, it was a balanced effort by OLDCODEX. Their previously released SERVAMP and Kuroko’s Basketball songs were included. And A Black Toy aptly demonstrated that they can put together a very competent techno-dance song, and at the very same time, still prove that rock is best!

Favourite tracks (not including Deal with, which was released in 2016): Million from Codex, Outsomnia

ONE OK ROCK

ONE OK ROCK released 2 versions of “AMBITIONS” early in 2017, one for their domestic audience in Japan, and the other, with all English lyrics and a slightly different track list, for international listeners. Not every song clicked with me, which is how it goes for me and ONE OK ROCK, but there were definitely a number of gems, including Bedroom Warfare, Bombs Away, Lost in Tonight

And favourite track (not including Taking Off, which was released in 2016): Bon Voyage. At face value, the lyrics are about a depressing break up; but I can’t help but sense some hopefulness too, as if someone who was caught in a toxic or abusive relationship finally has found the strength and resolve to move on. The way the light keyboard melody rises above the dark-sounding guitar and bass, sounds almost giddy to me and reinforces this hopeful feeling.

(AMBITIONS-album, international version is available on iTunes Canada)

SHIN

“Good Morning Dreamer” was the solo EP release of SHIN (ex-ViViD). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that his new music is more in line with the side of ViViD that I had liked most, the rock side that is. SHIN really is an amazing singer, and it’s great to hear from him again.

Favourite tracks: Weakend, 4444

VAMPS

Like ONE OK ROCK, VAMPS aimed to widen their international fan base in 2017 with the release of a full-length, all-English album. My previous experience with VAMPS music was kind of ambivalent – some of their songs I really loved, but many I didn’t. “UNDERWORLD,” which included previous singles CALLING, INSIDE OF ME, Rise Or Die, and Sin In Justice, turned out to be impressively good, and really consistent too. Unfortunately, this might be the last we hear from VAMPS for a while, as HYDE and K.A.Z. put their project on hiatus in December in order to recharge.

Favourite track: RISE UP, because I love the dark melody and heavy instrumentation. The theme of saying goodbye to the past and starting anew (as if, but not limited to, giving up your mortal life to become a vampire), which recurs throughout the album, is perfectly captured in RISE UP.

(UNDERWORLD-album is available on iTunes Canada)

Jacquie’s 2016 Year in Review – Music

BEST FULL-LENGTH ALBUM:

lynch. AVANTGARDEA-PHOTO-RED-FIX
AVANTGARDE, by lynch. – When it comes to lynch. albums of the past few years, it seems like it’s every other release that meets with my approval. Sure enough, after my disappointment at 2015’s D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil-, AVANTGARDE continued the pattern and earned a wholehearted thumbs up from me.

Let me first go back to D.A.R.K. -In the name of evil- and try to explain what I thought was lacking about that album. Some of the songs were just not to my taste, which happens. But even the ones I tended to like didn’t go in the direction that I wanted them to. For example, several of them started off well and sounded good, but at some point I felt the music needed to evolve, and instead, the melodies just repeated.

Happily, I can report that I had no such issues with the tracks on AVANTGARDE. While it still might not be up to the standard set by GALLOWS (2014), I enjoy listening to AVANTGARDE all the way through without wanting to skip anything. PLEDGE and UNELMA are standout tracks.

My favourite, though, is PHANTOM, which is gorgeously melodic and comes complete with some beautiful guitar solos. Heavy metal ballad-style songs such as this are one of the reasons I’m so glad I have Japanese hard rock bands like lynch. to listen to.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST MINI-ALBUM:

UROBOROS - ZODIAC
ZODIAC, by UROBOROS – This sophomore release from Kamiki Aya and Kurose Keisuke’s band further showcased their gothic-flavoured hard rock sound.

Favourite tracks: Infection and Lunar Eclipse
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST SINGLES (A-sides & B-sides) in order of release date:

GALAXY STANDARD - BE MY STEADY
Be My Steady, by GALAXY STANDARD (Be My Steady, RUSH, You’re My Courage)
GALAXY STANDARD is the idol-group incarnation of the Saisei Stride Club from the PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE anime. The singing is performed by the members’ voice actors, namely: Miyano Mamoru, Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, and Ono Yuuki.

All 3 of these tracks, composed by R・O・N, made my Top 20 Anime Songs list for 2016.

GazettE - UNDYING
UNDYING, by the GazettE (UNDYING, MALUM, VACANT)
The third and final audio release of the GazettE’s PROJECT: DARK AGE, which also included a world tour that brought them to 4 continents across the globe. As an avid concertgoer and a fan of Japanese music, I end up doing a lot of travelling in order to see my favourite artists perform live. Excitingly, the GazettE came right to my neck of the woods and I got to experience them live in Toronto on the day of this single’s release, definitely one of the highlights of my 2016.

The title track seems to make some lyrical references back to the first single, OMINOUS, from DOGMA, which makes sense. I really love the part where RUKI sings “God, entomb my hate.”

Favourite track: VACANT.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

coldrain VENA II
VENA CHAPTER : II, by coldrain (Born to Bleed, Undertow, Gone (Acoustic), The Story (Acoustic))
The new recording of Gone is now, to me, the definitive version of the song. The vocals, instrumentation, and slower tempo are absolutely perfect. Now when I hear the original version, it actually seems too fast.

Favourite tracks: Undertow and Gone (Acoustic).
(Available on iTunes internationally as part of VENA II, a re-release of VENA (2015) which includes these 4 new tracks.)

VAMPS - INSIDE-OF-ME
INSIDE OF ME, by VAMPS (INSIDE OF ME (feat. Chris Motionless), RISE OR DIE (feat. Richard Z. Kruspe))
I was really excited for this single after seeing the advance PV for INSIDE OF ME. The month-long delay between the Japanese release and the international release date felt like forever.

The tracks, which are both excellent, are the result of VAMPS’s collaboration with western talent, including American producer Howard Benson.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

scribble and beyond cover
Scribble, and Beyond, by OLDCODEX (Scribble, and Beyond, Calling, The Experience)
This single collects the main themes from the two Kuroko’s Basketball compilation movies, along with a coupling song, Calling.

Favourite track: Calling. This is another one of those OLDCODEX songs that I think might sound complete and amazing as just an instrumental. Ta_2’s sexy low range vocals are the icing on the cake. Yum.

Other Notable Tracks:


TAKING OFF, by ONE OK ROCK – One of my favourite recordings by ONE OK ROCK in recent memory. Some fans complained that it was too much of a departure from their usual sound. I would argue that ONE OK ROCK actually have a pretty wide range stylistically, to the point that I only consider myself a casual fan of their work. They have certainly made darker-sounding rock songs before.

Even though I don’t necessarily relate to the message of the song (addiction), I do appreciate that the lyrics are really well-written. But can you imagine us boarding our overseas flight last fall with this song playing in our heads? “We’re taking off together / even though we always crash and burn / tonight you and I will fall from the sky” is kind of inappropriate and unsettling, to say the least! I wonder how many other ONE OK ROCK fans have had this very same experience? Great song, though.
(Available on iTunes internationally)


Deal with, by OLDCODEX – It’s the second year in a row that I have chosen a super-heavy theme song created by OLDCODEX, one that was used in a relatively obscure anime that got no other mention in my review post, as my number one anime song of the year. (For 2015, it was physical from Q-Transformers.) Deal with, which served as the rather jaw-droppingly heavy OP of SERVAMP, features an excellent balance of screamy death vocals and a catchy melodic chorus; the accompanying music is dark and intense but it is also offset by a couple of quieter guitar interludes. I love complicated songs like this!

For the complete list of my Top 20 Anime Songs of 2016, please see the “Year in Review – Anime” post.

Jacquie’s 2013 Year in Review – Music

BEST SONGS:

01. QUIET, by the GazettE (B-side of FADELESS) – Early in the track, AOI’s pretty guitar riff and RUKI’s calm vocal melody are tempered by a few discordant, almost off-key notes from URURA’s guitar, signifying that all is not well. One can understand and come to accept that life and love cannot last forever. But no matter how prepared you are, that doesn’t make it hurt any less when the time comes to actually say goodbye. QUIET is a sad, sensitive song that could have easily been a ballad. But instead, the tempo is dynamic; and in the chorus, the percussion is just a little faster than you might expect, or want, as if to emphasize the merciless, inevitable passage of time. The result is visceral: so painful, but so incredibly beautiful too.

02. Out of Control, by Nothing’s Carved In Stone – Very catchy second OP of the PSYCHO-PASS anime. Nothing’s Carved In Stone’s music tends to be more raw-sounding than is my usual preference, and I think the connection with the anime probably helped me to open up to this song. I definitely warmed up to it. The awesome bass performance throughout is a stand-out feature.

03. REPLAY, by VAMPS – This progressive rocker was released as a tie-in for the “Dark Labyrinth” game, and I loved it from the first time I watched the fantastical game-themed PV.

04. TO DAZZLING DARKNESS, by the GazettE (from BEAUTIFUL DEFORMITY) – Though stunningly good, it’s hard to compare this track with the other songs I’ve listened to throughout the year, since to me it’s so strongly connected to the album. In fact, the song doesn’t really seem complete anymore if it isn’t immediately followed by the outro CODA.

05. Nocturne, by Tomohisa Yamashita (B-side of SUMMER NUDE ’13) – My first, and I expect only ever, time to really like a Yamapi song!

06. Scarlet, by Alice Nine (B-side of SHADOWPLAY)

07. THE SWAN, by 12012 (from THE SWAN – EP)

08. BALLAD, by lynch. – Perhaps it was not very original-sounding in that lynch. have used this kind of melody and chords before. However, the result here was better than their usual.

09. THEATER, by ViViD

BEST SINGLES (A-sides & B-sides):


01. Rage on, by OLDCODEX (Rage on, Now I am, Swamp) – Rage on is angrier and harder than what might normally be expected from an OP of a cute Kyoto Animation series like Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club. This single would have sold well simply from the association with the highly anticipated swimming anime. They could have half-assed the coupling songs, but they didn’t. Instead, Now I am and Swamp are great songs in their own right, and even heavier than Rage on! As a result, I feel OLDCODEX disseminated rock music to a potentially new, unsuspecting audience; and that’s consistent with my personal agenda.

02. Soukoku no Tsuya, by Sadie (Madara, Setsugekka, face to face) – Arguably, Sadie might have sounded a bit derivative on these tracks, channeling DIR EN GREY and the GazettE more than usual. Nevertheless, or maybe because of it, they succeeded in assembling a powerful single record with these 3 songs.

03. FADELESS, by the GazettE (FADELESS, QUIET, FORBIDDEN BEAVER) – While they’ve been considerably prolific with their full-length album releases, this was GazettE’s only release of a single in the past 2 years. FADELESS made for a sexy, compelling A-side, and QUIET was, of course, outstanding. Ah, but it wouldn’t be GazettE without some contrariness, so leave it to them to follow up with the unremarkable-sounding and rather vulgar FORBIDDEN BEAVER. Well, it’s a strong single nonetheless.

04. AHEAD / REPLAY, by VAMPS – There are only two songs on this double A-side offering, but they are the best VAMPS songs I’ve heard, probably ever.

05. Deeper Deeper / Nothing Helps, by ONE OK ROCK (Deeper Deeper, Nothing Helps, Kasabuta) – ONE OK ROCK’s music tends to be hit or miss for me. This double A-side single, from early in the year, was hit on all 3 counts.

06. BALLAD, by lynch. (BALLAD, CRYSTALIZE) – While BALLAD had a typical lynch. sound, CRYSTALIZE represented more of a departure, with the inclusion of dance-y, electronic sounds. All the while, it still managed to retain a heavy rock sensibility.

07. GREED, by CATFIST (GREED, Smile, REGRET) – This was my introduction to CATFIST. It inspired me to check out their previous work and to buy their subsequent releases. Good stuff.

BEST ALBUM:

BEAUTIFUL DEFORMITY, by the GazettE

No doubt about it, the GazettE have done it again with this release which celebrates the twisted, miraculous beauty that is spawned when these five musicians combine their talents. Year after year, they’ve been very reliable with their releases, always expanding their sound, but never losing their identity; this was no exception.

Some of my favourite tracks: IN BLOSSOM, DEVOURING ONE ANOTHER, LAST HEAVEN, and TO DAZZLING DARKNESS, which blends seamlessly into CODA to close the record.

the GazettE have done an amazing job with both the intros and outros this time; and the way album opener MALFORMED BOX segues into INSIDE BEAST is also perfect.

(Honourable mention in this category goes to the Attack on Titan OST by Hiroyuki Sawano, which I’ve written about previously. Much impressed with this soundtrack. I spent many hours listening to it in the car during the summer and fall, even though it’s not exactly my usual J-rock music.)