And now it comes to that time of year… what, Christmas and New Year? No, silly, it’s time to make great big best-of lists of course!
Let’s take a look back at 2013 and all the awesome music in it. First, the singles. Let the awards begin!
There were quite a few A-sides vying for the top spot, so it was a challenge sorting them out. But that’s a good thing, right?
ELISA – REALISM: A super spazzy song. Luckily, I like super spazzy songs. It’s got orchestral parts, anison influences, dance beats and semi-operatic vocals, what more could you ask for?
FLOW – Hero ~Kibou no Uta~: Ridiculously catchy. Feels a bit different from their usual stuff too (not that much though). Final words on it: “You gotta gimme gimme power, power power power!”
GRANRODEO – Henai no Rondo: GRANRODEO kept that great hard rock feel of theirs, but managed to incorporate the circus into this track. Lovin’ the accordion and waltz, and KISHOW sounds as flamboyant as ever.
Kalafina – Kimi no Gin no Niwa: Seriously, what is happening with all the accordion these days? Yuki Kajiura recovered from the average Alleluia to present us with one of her more creative pieces. Kimi no Gin no Niwa feels fresh and experimental, but keeps that signature Kalafina sound.
miwa – Kiss You: In a word, adorable. miwa-chan sounds so cute, but still has good tone, and the song has a lovely country pop vibe I don’t hear often.
Natsumi Kon – Watashi wa Souzou Suru: A very, very cool A-side. And lucky for Natsumi, it was composed by none other than Miss Chiaki Ishikawa. Great vocals + excellent arrangement = awesome song!
ONE OK ROCK – Deeper Deeper & Nothing Helps: Both A-sides from ONE OK ROCK’s single made the list. They showcased the best of ONE OK ROCK – fierce, rough vocals, screams, catchy hooks and a heavy rock sound. Deeper Deeper had some minor electronica too, which was pretty sweet.
Yoko Hikasa – Utsukushiki Zankoku na Sekai: The guitar solo was too long and there was a short synth part in the middle that didn’t fit, but everything was spot-on. Yoko Hikasa gave a solid performance both high and low, and the instrumentation was fabulous. A most memorable song.
Now For The Top Five!
5. Linked Horizon – Guren no Yumiya: I said before I like spazzy songs… yeah, this is pretty much the definition of spazzy. It’s a masterfully mad orchestral rock track, geared up with blazing guitars and epic choirs. There are many twists and turns through the song, but it never lets up that dramatic, blood-pumping energy.
4. Nagi Yanagi – Aqua Terrarium: “Hii hii hii hii hii hii hii…” sings Nagi. Another Chiaki Ishikawa-composed song for the list! Aqua Terrarium certainly made a splash as the ED for Nagi no Asukara. Saturated with gorgeous backing vocals and melancholic guitars, all the elements merged together to make one of the most beautiful songs this year.
Btw, no apologies will be given for damage inflicted by lame puns >.<
3. WAVE – Air -Tori no Uta-: Does a cover deserve to get on the top 5? In this case, the answer is YES! Arranger Morrigan brilliantly transformed Lia’s famous trance song Tori no Uta into a slow, thickly layered orchestral piece. Throw in Yuri Nazuka both on lead and backing vocals, and you’ve got a winner in my books. Love this song.
2. ELISA – Soba ni Iru yo: Strings and outer space fuse to create the ultimate anison love child. Wielding flashy violins in one hand and heavy dance beats in the other, Soba ni Iru yo tops it all off with breezy, lilting vocals from ELISA. She sure chose a fantastic way to return from hiatus! Wooo!
1. KOKIA – Kioku no Hikari: And KOKIA takes the prize! She really does excel at this type of music. Kioku no Hikari would seem like a ballad, except for the percussion pushing it relentlessly forward. The instrumentation is stunning. Waves of strings build up the intense atmosphere and entrancing backing vocals steal your mind, with KOKIA’s high, otherworldly voice providing the finishing touches to the most impressive A-side of the year. Dramatic, elegant and awe-inspiring.
Yeah B-sides… too many frickin’ ballads lol.
Kalafina – Dolce (Alleluia): By far the best track from Alleluia. Led by Wakana, the three Kalafina ladies harmonise beautifully in this hauntingly powerful song. If it was longer it would be pushing for a higher spot, but because it’s so short it only gets an Honourable Mention.
Kaori Oda – Shinainaru Monogatari (Reverberation): Kaori has the Midas touch when it comes to ballads. Her delicate tone and the uncluttered arrangement perfectly complement each other. A joy to the ears.
Konomi Suzuki – Chant-La -Zettau Izon no Utahime- Yori Op. 0 (AVENGE WORLD/Sekai wa Kizu wo Dakishimeru): Not as vocally perfect as the others on this list, but had a courageous and unique arrangement. I just had to include it for its spunk and glorious strings.
Nana Mizuki – Ai no Hoshi (Vitalization): Yes, it’s another ballad. Won’t be the last, either. This one’s my favourite Nana ballad yet. So… I thought she was a little piercing on the higher notes. BUT THE EMOTION! AND THE ORCHESTRAL INSTRUMENTS! Too good.
Tohoshinki – I Know (unplugged version) (Catch Me -If You Wanna-): I listen to two types of Tohoshinki songs: ballads, and rock songs. I Know (unplugged version) falls into the former category. It’s got a gentle, heartfelt piano line, and their duo’s K-Poppy voices totally suit the type of song.
The Top 5…
5. Ceui – Hana ni Natta Shounen no Shinwa (Soai Calendula): Come on, who wouldn’t love a 14 minute long anison-folk song? Well, a lot of people I imagine. I like it though, and obviously that’s most important XD. Normally I don’t go for female J-Pop singer with high voices, but Ceui handles herself pretty well, and the arrangement is dramatic and stringsy with enough changes so that you’re always interested.
4. Kalafina – Tsuioku (Kimi no Gin no Niwa): Tsuioku brings back that dark sound from Kalafina. As pointed out by an astute commenter, it’s quite similar to other Kalafina songs such as Sandpiper, but I still think it’s awesome. Hikaru’s vocals are so fierce and Wakana’s so serene. Keiko gets a cool bit as well…
3. Kaori Oda – Kimi to Ai ni Naru (Akatsuki no Butterfly): Bloody Kaori ballads, I’m such a sucker for them. This song’s rather like Shinainaru Monogatari (or the other way round) but Kimi to Ai ni Naru does things better. Of course the vocals are splendid, but I also enjoy how the drums wait until the second verse to come in (all the other instruments sound great too!). It feels hopeful and always makes me happy listening to it.
2. ONE OK ROCK – Kasabuta (Deeper Deeper/Nothing Helps): Kasabuta wins the prize for being the hardest-hitting B-side on the list. None of this sappy slow stuff, it’s 100% power ballad. The guitars are great, and the vocals full of punch. And there’s cello. Win. It rounds off an incredibly strong release with style.
1. Nano – Silver Sky (SAVIOR OF SONG): I honestly had no idea that Nano could sing like she did here. Given her normal aggressive rock background, I was very impressed she could switch to this incredibly soft tone. The simple arrangement of piano and cello is heavenly, and Nano’s voice is forlorn and lamenting. I would have liked her breath control to be better, but DAMN THIS WAS AMAZING.
When I went to write this, I was rather disappointed that there were so few singles that I would class as really good this year. Oh well, made it easier to figure out the list at least.
Kalafina – Kimi no Gin no Niwa: Kimi no Gin no Niwa had excellent first and third tracks, one lighter in tone and one darker. It easily would have made the top 5, had it not been for its second track Misterioso. While Misterioso had its positives, overall it was an average track that dragged down the score.
Maon Kurosaki – UNDER/SHAFT: Maon went daaaaaark for this single. The first track was gritty industrial-anison, and the second an ominous and brooding rock track. As usual, Maon’s vocals were a bit thin, which kept it from getting any higher on the list, but the arrangements were rock-solid.
Nana Mizuki – Vitalization: Nana’s only single this year, Vitalization contained an interesting and diverse bunch of songs. First up was the title track, a fast electro-anison piece with heavy beats flying around, deep synths and a healthy dose of strings. Ai no Hoshi was a gorgeous ballad, as I mentioned in the B-sides countdown. The final track Dramatic Love was… quirky. And fun. A nice package of three neat songs.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!
5. miwa – Faraway/Kiss You: Cool pop yeah. I don’t usually go for this type of music, but miwa has charmed me with her wiles and… smiles? Nah she actually writes some good music too. First A-side Faraway had a nice twist in slowing down the chorus, and I could gush ad nauseam about how TOTEMO TOTEMO KAWAII Kiss You is. There’s also a third track, a ballad version of one of her earlier songs, Delight. That’s done great too, miwa does well with ballads. Although there are a few flaws, they are small and don’t prevent me enjoying this single fully.
4. GRANRODEO – The Other Self: Three tracks worth of pure rocking goodness. GRANRODEO always put 100% into their music and don’t I love them for it. First song The Other Self continued with their wild Kurobas mode, second track Baby Bad Boy was a slightly darker hard rock number, and finally DAWN GATE “Unfinished” was an awesome throwback to older rock. Good one lads.
3. Faylan – BLUE BLAZE/BELIEVE: Anison done right. Want a heavy fusion of growling dubstep and savage guitars? Look to BLUE BLAZE. Are you in the mood for some epic choirs in your anison? Then BELIEVE will definitely be your thing. Dead END/Soukyuu no Hikari used to be my favourite of her singles, but BLUE BLAZE/BELIEVE has usurped it and is currently sitting comfortably on the Faylan throne.
2. Linked Horizon – Jiyuu e no Shingeki: As I mentioned in my review, I had some issues with this single, especially the mixing. Each individual song also seemed to combine multitude of themes, which had the potential to end up sounding messy. However, crazy as the songs were, overall it was a very coherent single. By that, I mean instead of playing around with random genres as many Japanese singles do, it stuck to its guns with the symphonic rock sound. I also really liked the melodic links between the three songs, as if a story was being told. And of course the songs themselves were unique and unforgettable.
1. ONE OK ROCK – Deeper Deeper/Nothings Helps: An easy decision for number one – it’s the only single this year which I thought deserved a five-star rating. Deeper Deeper/Nothing Helps wasn’t exactly oh-so-new-and-unique, but there was nothing at all I disliked about the single. It was simply an incredibly well-done release. Deeper Deeper and Nothing Helps were filled with fire and impassioned vocals (and catchy choruses, my family could attest to me singing them over and over). To round the single off, Kasabuta slowed down the pace with an emotive but strong rock ballad. This was the single that got me into ONE OK ROCK, and I would rate it as their best single yet.
And that’s it for now! What were your favourite singles tracks this year? Or most hated? 😄
Note: With great sorrow, I regret to inform you that I will not be doing “worst-ofs”. While it’s good fun raging about how terrible a song is, unfortunately I delete most of the rubbish music so I can’t really remember 😦. But feel free to tell me which was/were your worst single(s) of the year!
Next time: Albums and everything else…