The second half of my best-of-2013 posts. LET’S GO!
Random Stuff: Minis, Character Songs, Album Art
Best mini of 2013 goes to Yousei Teikoku’s Kamisama to Unmei Kakumei no Paradox Vocal Album. Granted, it wasn’t exactly the greatest thing ever, but I only listened to two minis this year, Yousei’s and DIR EN GREY’s The Unraveling. And Yousei’s was a bit better, so gets the award. The top tracks from there were the opener and the closer, two solid gothic ani-rock pieces.
I gave best character song to Fairy Tail’s Blow Away, a rocking duet between Natsu (Tetsuya Kakihara) and Gray (Yuuichi Nakamura). To be honest, Senkizesshou Symphogear G‘s Maria Cadenzava Eve character song Ressou Gungnir was pretty much superior in every way… but it didn’t have the power of fire, ice and FRIENDSHIP! Screw you all!
Check it out here… if you haven’t ragequit yet.
The top album art of 2013 goes to Shoko Nakagawa’s single Zoku Konton. It’s dark and sexy. I am not a pervert.
The single itself is cool as well ^_^
There were some pretty good debuts this year. Hopefully, those artists will continue to develop, and gift us with awesome music!
fhána – Que Sera Sera: fhána delivered the goods with their first major label single Que Sera Sera. I was impressed by their vocalist’s control and cheerful tone, and her skills were backed up by an appealing pair of anison tracks.
KAMIJO – Louis ~Enketsu no La Vie En Rose~: KAMIJO has been cruising around the visual kei scene for a while, but this was his first single as a solo artist. Louis ~Enketsu no La Vie En Rose~ had a cool symphonic sound going, combining strings, choir, brass and piano with traditional metal influences to make three compelling tracks.
The Three Best
3. marina – Kimi Tsunagu: marina’s vocals are 1000% less shit here than her GDM songs. Her songwriters gave her a couple of good tracks too. For a J-Pop/anison artist, the verses of the songs were quite experimental, and the choruses were attractive though poppy.
2. Yoko Hikasa – Utsukushiki Zankoku na Sekai: This single’s position here is mainly due to its madly strong A-side. The B-side Starting Line can hold up its end well enough, but it’s really only a catchy pop-rock song. On the other hand, the A-side is a great power ballad and one of my favourite songs from this year. Yoko was also lucky her debut single got a tie-in with 2013’s most popular anime Shingeki no Kyojin. Not that it has much to do with the quality, but exposure yeah 😄
1. Natsumi Kon – Watashi wa Souzou Suru: We have a winner! I never heard much talk about this single/artist, which is a pity because Watashi wa Souzou Suru was a fantastic start to Natsumi Kon’s music career. Both tracks on the single were a little out of the ordinary. The lead track was a fascinating blend of rock, chanting and anison, while the B-side had a chilled, refreshing country vibe. Apart from the songs themselves, what distinguished Natsumi was her polished vocals. They were far above those of her anison competitors, and that was a key factor in deciding her victory here.
Can’t be on a single. Pretty obvious eh?
There’s far too many Honourable Mentions to ramble about, so I’m just gonna do a list.
- DIR EN GREY – Unraveling (The Unraveling)
- Faylan – Prism Flower (PRISM)
- Jupiter – RHYTHMOS (Classical Element): By far the best track out of a fairly mediocre album.
- Kalafina – Hatanaba (Consolation)
- Kalafina – Kiichigo no Shigemi ni (Consolation): Originally was top 5 material, until I realised Wakana’s breathing annoyed me.
- Kalafina – Obbligato (Consolation)
- Kanako Itou – Hisenkai Geniac (STEINS;GATE SYMPHONIC REUNION): The best track out of an album plagued by unsuitable vocals.
- Kaori Oda – PLACE (PLACE)
- Mamoru Miyano – Ai no Uta ~Ulysses no Utage~ (PASSAGE)
- Mika Kobayashi – ətˈæk 0N tάɪtn (Shingeki no Kyojin Original Soundtrack 1)
- Nano – All Eyes On Me (N)
- Nano – Nevereverland (N)
- Nano – Silence (N): Dat gothicness.
- LIGHT BRINGER – Kujaku to Kanaria (Scenes of Infinity)
- ONE OK ROCK – Clock Strikes (Jinsei×Boku=)
- ONE OK ROCK – ONION! (Jinsei×Boku=)
- Onmyouza – Fuke yo Kaze, Todoroke yo Ikazuchi (Ryuuou Shugyoku)
- T.M.Revolution – Last Resort (UNDER:COVER 2)
- T.M.Revolution – LEVEL 4 (UNDER:COVER 2)
- T.M.Revolution – Meteor (UNDER:COVER 2)
- T.M.Revolution – O.L (UNDER:COVER 2)
- Yousei Teikoku – Ending Note (Kamisama to Unmei Kakumei no Paradox Vocal Album)
- Yousei Teikoku – Gekkyou Hangon Cinerarium (PAX VESANIA): Creepy desu.
- Yousei Teikoku – Missing (PAX VESANIA): So damn metal. I wish Yousei Teikoku did tracks like this more often.
- Zwei – Re:Set (Re:Set): Apparently Zwei composed this one. They have talent!
5. angela – Boku Janai (Zero): The only angela song that I like so far. For once, Atsuko’s voice isn’t ridiculously nasal and thin. Just a little nasal. But the arrangement is the best part of the track. Formidable male choirs snatched my attention from the get-go, and together with an impressive array of synths, emphatic beats and tolling bells, the instruments worked their magic and enraptured me. Also interesting was the chorus melody, with its 3-beat phrasing against the song’s 4/4 timing. Very nice.
4. Yousei Teikoku – Astral Dogma (PAX VESANIA): Astral Dogma opened PAX VESANIA with a bang! Although it never let go of the gothic vibe, Astral Dogma was deliciously metal too. Racing along with full-on kick drums and heavy guitar, a darker edge was also provided by the harpsichord and creepy backing choir. Yui’s vocals were better here than many of the songs on the album. Plus, an extra point for COOLEST TITLE OF THE YEAR!
3. Maon Kurosaki – VERTICAL HORIZON (VERTICAL HORIZON): This song was a pleasant surprise. Instead of Maon’s usual rock or anison, we got a dreamy, relaxing electronic piece in VERTICAL HORIZON. While the synths, piano, strings and percussion all fitted together nicely, with none of them being overbearing, what drew me to the song was the vocals. I’ve often complained of Maon being thin. In this song however, she gave a great performance. She wasn’t strained, her head voice blended well with her chest voice and wasn’t airy, and her overall tone was gentle and appropriate for the song.
2. LIGHT BRINGER – Eau Rouge (Scenes of Infinity): I don’t really like instrumentals. I just don’t find music without vocals particularly appealing. So for an instrumental to get on this list, it must be pretty good. Eau Rouge is just that. It’s a beautiful, experimental, kind-of-metal track, expertly played by the band and possessing wonderful chord progressions and exciting melody lines.
1. Rasmus Faber – Moonlight Densetsu (Platina Jazz ~Anime Standards Vol. 4~): It’s not technically a Japanese release… but it’s a J-Pop cover so who cares! There was really no competition for the number one spot. The sparse arrangement conveyed a sinister passion, and the horns’ distinctively timed lines had an unmistakeable sense of showmanship. And then there was Douglas Unger’s vocals, which ranged from a quiet intensity in the softer sections, to an unstoppable roar at the breathtaking final chorus. Every musician played their parts superbly, and I couldn’t think of a more deserving song for number one than Moonlight Densetsu.
Decent turn-out I suppose. No best-of albums allowed.
Faylan – PRISM: Well-known singer Faylan gave a strong showing with her third album PRISM. Opening in an unusual way with the synthy, experimental track Prism Flower, the album continued to regularly deliver solid, rocking pieces. However, all the best tracks were taken from the singles that era (except for Prism Flower). I’m glad songs like Realization and Soukyuu no Hikari, made it on, but the new, album-only songs weren’t nearly as enjoyable. Still, it’s a great album overall, and her best one yet.
Rating: 4 stars. Top tracks: Prism Flower, Soukyuu no Hikari, Dead END, Realization, WHITE Justice.
ONE OK ROCK – Jinsei×Boku=: Unlike Faylan’s PRISM, ONE OK ROCK’s Jinsei×Boku= didn’t have to rely on few singles tracks, because there were a bunch of new ones that could easily hold their own. The first half of the album was chock-a-block with fierce rock numbers, completed by Taka’s angsty vocals. While the second half’s tracks weren’t as good, overall it was definitely a worthwhile listen, and a step up from Zankyou Reference.
Rating: 4 stars. Top tracks: ONION!, The Beginning, Clock Strikes, Be The Light, Nothing Helps, Deeper Deeper.
Zwei – Re:Set: Zwei’s first album under 5pb Records had plenty of good material. Problem was, there were so few new songs. Stupid 5pb up to their old tricks, pimping their albums out with too many singles tracks again. I love that MONSTER and co. were included, but surely meh songs like Koyubi no Paradox could have gotten the boot. The good outweighs the bad though, and Re:Set is perfect for those who want some quality ani-rock with some of groovy basslines, and a generous serving of badass in Ayumu’s vocals.
Rating: 4 stars. Top tracks: Re:Set, Junjou Spectra, MONSTER, Kaze no Senritsu, Sora no Shizuku, Kakuchou Place.
The Top 5 Albums Of 2013
5. T.M.Revolution – UNDER:COVER 2: The second of T.M.R’s self-cover albums, UNDER:COVER 2 was a mix of the best and worst of his music. But the reason U:C 2 made the top 5 was the large number of spectacular tracks. Two types of songs stood out. First, there were a few J-Pop tunes which had been revamped into blistering rock pieces. Prime examples were the aggro LEVEL 4, the fun Totteoki no Ohanashi – Shinsetsu Renai Shinkaron, and the beast that is O.L. The second type of noteworthy songs were the ballads. The best in this category were the soothing Last Resort with May J., the orchestral Vestige and the mighty album finisher Meteor. While there were many great songs, a number of flops were hidden within. SHAKIN’ LOVE was a horrible mess, and I don’t even want to think about what VERBAL did to WILD RUSH. Overall, I enjoyed the mix of arrangers (not just Daisuke Asakura), but this also caused the album to lack coherency. Sometimes they tried to be very metal, resulting in over-drumming, and then the next track would be a less interesting electro piece.What am I doing, talking about all the flaws? But seriously, there’s still so much good stuff, and it deserves its spot here.
Rating: 4 stars. Top tracks: LEVEL 4, Last Resort, Totteoki no Ohanashi – Shinsetsu Renai Shinkaron, O.L, Meteor.
4. LIGHT BRINGER – Scenes of Infinity: In number four is Scenes of Infinity, by female-fronted metal band LIGHT BRINGER. This album didn’t have the same number of 5 star tracks as UNDER:COVER 2, but made up for it with a really consistent performance, with most of the tracks sitting in the 4-4.5 region. Fuki’s powerful vocals, though somewhat harsh at times, had a strong tone suitable for metal, along with consistent vibrato and a mastery of high notes. The rest of the band weren’t slacking off either. The best place to hear their abilities was the instrumental Eau Rouge. An odd, atmospheric jazz-metal fusion, it was full of solos (even by the bassist), synchronised guitar and keyboard lines, sharp drum fills and chilled synth chord progressions. Scenes of Infinity was rooted in power metal, with tracks like Hyperion very representative of the genre. However, it also expanded its range to heavier pieces, like the Middle Eastern-influenced Kujaku to Kanaria, and the poppy Venus. LIGHT BRINGER did a great job, and metal fans should give this a go.
Rating: 4 stars. Top tracks: Fallen Angel, Kujaku to Kanaria, Eau Rouge, Venus.
3. Maon Kurosaki – VERTICAL HORIZON: Maon Kurosaki’s second album (not counting H.O.T.D.) was her best effort yet, a top-notch compilation of heavy ani-rock and pop-oriented tunes. Starting with the unsettling introduction Umare Iduru Monogatari, the album moved smoothly to the distinctive UNDER/SHAFT. After ploughing through a set of rock numbers, Maon then sunk her teeth into the poppier songs. While both VERTICAL HORIZON and her previous album Butterfly Effect did well in the rock department, VERTICAL HORIZON‘s pop/anison songs were much improved. The vocals on this album were fine, and better than Butterfly Effect‘s, but I would still like to see more confident belting of the high notes, instead of being thin. All the songs were great, with the exception of Dresser Girl…♡ (which wasn’t even that bad). I’m very impressed with this album.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Top tracks: UNDER/SHAFT, [Dreamed Wolf], VERTICAL HORIZON, Nari Hibiita Kodou no Naka de, Boku wa Seijaku wo Kiku.
2. Nano – N: The songstress without a face, Nano’s second album N blew me away with its pure rock sound.The composers of her first album Nanoir did well, but some of the songs there sounded quite similar. However, on N each track was distinct, yet keeping with her signature fierce style. Pieces like Neophobia were typical, brash Nano songs, but different influences such as Silence‘s gothic strings, dubstep in BE FREE (With Music) and funk in All Eyes On Me made the album constantly interesting. As always, her vocals were great. Nano’s English pronunciation was perfect, as she’s a native speaker. Also setting her apart from other female ani-rockers was her deep voice, a low range and aggressive delivery, and when everything was put together, it made me a happy guy.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Top tracks: All Eyes On Me, Nevereverland, Silence, Now Or Never, No Pain, No Gain.
1. Kalafina – Consolation: OF COURSE IT’S KALAFINA! Is anyone surprised? Again, Yuki Kajiura and her singing team of Keiko, Hikaru and Wakana gave us a beautiful intertwining of delightful melodies, gorgeous instrumentation and rich vocal harmonies. My favourite songs from the album were the ballads. Tracks such as Hatanaba and Kiichigo no Shigemi ni astounded me with their simple yet emotive arrangements, while the grander, hopeful Hikari Furu channelled some of that Seventh Heaven mood. Powerful songs were also done well. I enjoyed the crazy industrial-dance track Signal, and the rocking Obbligato has quickly risen to be among my top Kalafina songs. For the most part, the tracks were excellent, though there were some poorer ones like Mirai and Yume no Daichi. The vocals were great, on the whole. I appreciate Hikaru’s improvement, especially her deeper “Magia” voice and her overall control. Wakana could have done with some work though. While a lot of her vocals were flawless, an issue I had with her performance was her breathing, the chorus of Consolation being an example. But when you weighed the good and the bad, the good conquered, and in the end Consolation was easily my number one pick for 2013.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Top tracks: Hatanaba, Obbligato, Kiichigo no Shigemi ni, Manten, Hikari Furu.
(Yes, when I reviewed I gave it 10, but under the new system it only gets 4.5. HOW OUTRAGEOUS!)
Aaaaand that’s it. No best of OSTs gomen. Anyway, as usual, I would love to hear what your favourites this year were!
It’s been good. I’ve really enjoyed blogging and interacting with fellow music and anime lovers, and hopefully I’ll still be here for a bit more. Happy new year all ^_^