The Best Japanese Records of 2017

This year has been a curious one in Japanese music: during the first half we’ve seen some great albums getting released, many of them from artists that have been growing more and more in the last years. The second half has been much slower, except for a vibrant and relentless underground Idol scene that has delivered many surprises just as J-pop, including some interesting debuts. It’s safe to say that I liked many more releases this year than in 2016.

Below is a list of 15 Japanese records that stood out the most to me in 2017. It is not a Top 15, meaning that I put all these records on the same level of quality, except for one, which firmly stood above anything else released in Japan this year. So there is a Japanese Album of the Year in this list. There is also a Best Music Video, Best Live Performer, and Best Collaboration.

Please note that this list features both Albums and EPs, as my aim is to recommend the best Japanese music regardless of the release format. Hope you enjoy it!


Hirone Chan – Yume no Yume
(J-pop)

2017 is the year Hirone Chan reached her maturity as artist. The singer/songwriter never really had a bad record in her young career, yet the way-too-recurrent comparisons to J-pop phenomenon Seiko Oomori somehow slightly overshadowed her previous releases in some way. This comparison ultimately came to an end this year with the release of Hirone Chan’s second studio album Yume no Yume, a pleasant journey where several influences merge together and take the form of rhythms and melodies that tell of fragile and delicate feelings. This is a very personal album, yet it’s not afraid to delicately borrow elements from several genres: wether it’s a jazz-y rhythm section, an electric guitar riff, a piano solo, or a delicate electronic beat, every element in Yume no Yume merges delicately to create a very focused and classy soundscape. This is a greatly crafted record, that flows seamlessly while successfully delivering highlights that keep the listener engaged throughout this very intimate and personal journey. Surely one of this year’s most surprising albums.

Listen: Omoidasenai Yume Mitai ni


Natsume Mito – Natsumelo
(J-pop / Electronic)

With the beginning of a solo career, a myriad of projects between old and new artists, commercial tie-ins, and even his own music festival to organize and manage, Yasutaka Nakata is a producer that’s probably too busy to even sleep… let alone think about the past. Yet, there’s been one moment this year where the famed producer went full flashback mode, releasing a record that can be seen as a sort of testament to what he did so far in his twenty-years career, a recap that takes the form of Natsumelo, Natsume Mito‘s debut record entirely produced by the Tokyo-based producer. The nature of the project itself immediately reminds of the glorious days of COLTEMONIKHA and Nagisa Cosmetic, and quite surprisingly, it reaches similar levels of quality: in Natsumelo, Nakata finds himself exploring all of his past influences, spacing from his early-days Lounge sound and Chiptune bits to the classic “soothing bass” that permeated the Techno-pop wave in the second half of the 2000s. All of this is delivered through a formula that’s super catchy and fast, sounding fresh and contemporary instead of a mere throwback. Natsume Mito provides fitting vocals for Nakata to play with, and the chemistry between the two delivers a result that’s ultimately amazing. Surely one of the most fun records of the year.

Listen: Eight Bit Boy
Read my review on Electric Bloom Webzine


Yurumerumo! (You’ll Melt More!) – YUOTOPIA
(New wave / Pop Rock / Idol)

2017 has been an incredibly busy year for Yurumerumo. These girls literally didn’t stop for a second, with two albums, two EPs, several live performances, and I don’t even know how many Music Videos and singles anymore released throughout the year, working at a pace that would make Tentenko doubt of her productivity. While I’ll take quality over quantity every day, these girls have been surprisingly constant with their music delivery, and the recently released YOUTOPIA is their most remarkable work this year. Few units can sound this crazy yet incredibly careful in every detail, and this album is yet another showcase of the absolutely insane songwriting representing Yurumerumo, a relentless and colorful journey between Dance, Rock, New Wave, Chiptune, Metal, Pop, and pretty much whatever their production team felt like doing, all framed in a catchy and welcoming structure. To make it simple, just look at the record’s cover: that’s probably the most accurate representation of how YUOTOPIA sounds.

Listen: Nigenai!!


・・・・・・・・・ – Tokyo
(Shoegaze / Idol)

Symbolism, mysteries, metaphors, cryptic live performance, daily YouTube videos…・・・・・・・・・ (better known as Dots)  is no doubt the most mysterious and interesting project in the Alt Idol scene at the moment. I have talked about the five (or nine?) girls quite a few times during this year, not only for their unique and engaging concept that leaves free space to interpretation, but first and foremost for their music (obviously).

Dots’ main release this year took the form of a CD featuring a 72 minutes-long track titled Tokyo, which is basically a set of three tracks put together, all of them exposing several vibes and moods while keeping Shoegaze and delicate Electronics layers the main core of their sound. What makes these songs even more enjoyable is the way they are structured, with ambient and atmospheric interludes between each number that create a cohesive flow despite being sonically different. It’s an homogeneous experience that progresses seamlessly while exploring different soundscapes, and it’s very enjoyable to listen to. This part of the track, which again is made of the three tracks just described, ends at the 22 minutes mark. The ending kind of took off guard quite a few fans (while someone definitely noticed that something was wrong), as the remaining fifty minutes on the CD are nothing but pure noise. It may sound like a joke at first, and while this approach is surely open to interpretation, I think it hides a clear metaphor which is… intriguing.

Listen: Slide
Read my review on ARAMA! JAPAN, and also my in-depth article.


MIGMA SHELTER – Amazing Glow
(Psychedelic Trance / Idol)

A new addition to the AqbiRec family, MIGMA SHELTER is easily one of the best debuts in the Alternative Idol scene this year. Detaching themselves from the usual formula of their colleagues, these five girls have a clear and strong influence as their core: Psychedelic Trance. The genre itself is prone to welcome vocals, and this unit clearly takes advantage of this to deliver a fun and entertaining experience, alternating glitchy vocal sections to hard-hitting instrumental outbursts, occasionally merging them together in a surprisingly fitting way. Everything is wrapped up by a remarkable songwriting that’s not afraid to borrow elements from Metal and Rock, and the result is quite unique. While their debut single is nothing to scoff at, Amazing Glow is a more refined and adventurous release, featuring a streak of valid tracks that will undoubtedly entertain both Idol and Electronic music fans.

Listen: Amazing Glow


Youthmemory – Neo Tokyo
(Indie-Pop)

Melancholy and nostalgia are feelings that have been kind of trending in the last few years in music, but only few can convey them as good as Youthmemory does. With Neo Tokyo, the Tokyo-based Indie-pop outfit indeed delivers a two-tracks release that explores these feelings with delicacy: the title track conveys uncertainty towards the future and nostalgia for the past with sharp melodies revolving around distant guitar riffs, while the following “City” (possibly the best track in here) features melancholic riffs and airy layers of synths that brings the listener back to the innocence of adolescence and its beautiful carefreeness. Neo Tokyo may only be a two-tracks EP, but in ten minutes it successfully conveys more feelings and quality than a lot of full length records out there.

Listen: Neo Tokyo


Satellite Young – Satellite Young
(Synth-pop)

If the previous act is a representation of melancholy and nostalgia towards the past, Satellite Young are the guys that want you to cherish it and have fun in remembering the good old times. Confining the 80’s Synth-Pop outfit in the Vaporwave category would make no justice to their music: while emulating 80’s pop music is surely far from something original, they do it so well that’s just impossible not to enjoy it. Satellite Young‘s main accomplishment lies not only in the perfect representation of 80’s music between bright synth melodies and flashy guitar solos, but also in the ability of taking the sound of an era and frame it in a modern pattern that makes it perfectly enjoyable today. This record is pure fun, and a well-crafted tribute to a period where Pop music was a bit more heartfelt than it is today. Not to miss.

Listen: Dividual Heart


There There Theres – There’s Something Behind
(Symphonic Rock / Idol)

Previously known as Bellring Girls Heart, the crow-themed Alt Idol unit has been delivering greatly-written Rock music in different forms since its foundation in 2012. This year’s change of name and formation has been an unexpected turn, but nonetheless, great music kept flowing from this project of the AqbiRec family. The now-called There There Theres project released two singles this year, and while Upstairs Down is a trip worth taking only for the beautiful “Pelican”, the latest There’s Something Behind uncovered a side of this unit that’s new and unexpectedly dark, delivering one of the strongest compositions these girls ever released. The dramatic title track highlights nervous rhythm patterns and piano melodies that work as a base for unexpected – but very fitting – symphonic elements, with a structure that slowly progresses in a crescendo of anxiety, leading to a final outburst of desperation highlighted by a remarkable performance from the girls; it’s a pretty dark song, and its particular progression makes it all but instant, but once it clicks it’s hard to stop listening to it. The coupling tracks “IKENIE” and “Metalics” follow the same mood with different patterns, and they all deliver thanks to the trademark songwriting from mastermind Koji Tanaka. There’s Something Behind may not be an easy listen at first, and definitely strays away from the catchiness of past works from this unit, but it shows an emotional value that’s worth exploring. Surely one of the best releases from the world of underground Idols this year.

Listen: There’s Something Behind


Zombie-Chang – GANG!
(Electro-pop)

As proven last year with her remarkable self-titled record, Zombie-Chang‘s main skill lies in her incredible sense for rhythm and melodies. While she rarely strays away too much from her comfort zone, she can deliver so much with so little that’s honestly stunning what she’s achieving with just a keyboard and a DAW. Her second album GANG! generally follows her usual pattern, but also ventures into more Pop-ish fields, with the beautiful leading single “I CAN’T GET TO SLEEP” as prime example (also showing a great improvement in the singing department). Despite being a reasonably short ride, Zombie-Chang’s new record successfully showcases several vibes and combination of sounds, a playground where Meirin feels free to experiment and shyly expand her sound, while also keeping close to the roughness and the vague oppression of her previous record. GANG! is a great example of Zombie-Chang’s skills in music composition, as well as one of the most enjoyable Electro-pop records of the year.

Listen: I CAN’T GET TO SLEEP 
Read my review on ARAMA! JAPAN


NECRONOMIDOL – DEATHLESS
(Metal / Idol)

All the sacrifice, hard work, and effort NECRONOMIDOL put in their project since their formation have finally paid off in 2017. A well-deserved gift after the struggles they went through in the past, constantly looking for the right formation, but most of all, for the right sound and balance. And they made it. DEATHLESS, Necroma’s second full-length album, is hands-down the best and most mature release from the self-proclaimed Ultradark Idol unit, striking a remarkable balance between extreme Metal influences – mainly Black, Power and Heavy – and ethereal vocals often enriched by synths and catchy hooks, a formula that seamlessly merges distant influences and conveys them through a sound that’s homogenous and crystal clear. DEATHLESS is a strong collection of songs, a various yet cohesive journey through dark vibes and beautiful vocals delivered though a familiar structure: NECRONOMIDOL couldn’t have made a better album than this, and it’s a remarkable achievement worth admiring.

Listen: ABHOTH
Read my review here


Sora tob sakana – Cocoon EP
(Math Rock / Electronic / Idol)

It’s no secret that sora tob sakana is one of the best Alt Idol units out there, and this year’s Cocoon EP once again delivered amazing music, brought by the ever-growing talent of these girls and the outstanding musicianship of Math Rock maestro and producer Yoshimasa Terui. The link between last year’s outstanding record and Cocoon EP mostly lies in the adaptation of the unit’s trademark Math Rock technique to dreamy Electronic elements, while merging delicate guitar melodies and occasional aggressive riffs in the process. “Ribbon” is easily one of the best (if not the best) compositions sora tob sakana ever released, and the rest of the record masterfully keeps the pace up despite leaning towards a more Electronic direction. Sora tob sakana once again proves to be one of Alt Idol’s best units, and the future for these girls and their talented team is bright. Unmissable.

Listen: ribbon
Read my review here


Seiko Oomori – kitixxxgaia / MUTEKI
(J-pop / Acoustic)

 

It may sound unfair to feature two albums in a spot, but I really can’t consider Oomori Seiko‘s 2017 without taking both of these great records in consideration, as they’re pretty much two sides of the same coin. Kitixxxgaia is exactly the album everyone was expecting to be, a majestic journey through myriads of influences, from whispers and yells, to full Metal outburst and delicate Electronic beats, all of them wrapped-up by a masterful songwriting; while it may sound a bit less adventurous than last year’s excellent TOKYO BLACK HOLE, kitixxxgaia nonetheless delivers an outstanding experience and once again shows how Seiko puts into music not only what’s in her mind, but most of all what’s in her heart. MUTEKI, a compilation of acoustic self-covers exploring the songwriter’s back catalogue, fully brings out Seiko’s former artistic identity, with only her voice, her acoustic guitar, and some occasional piano layers to grace the listener’s ears; surely a release more aimed at her long-time fans, but nonetheless an heartfelt and tender journey worth taking. Both these records complement each other greatly, and successfully showcase the artistry one of J-pop’s most talented singers/songwriters of the last decade.

Listen: DOGMA MAGMA


Yanakoto Sotto Mute – BUBBLE
(J-Rock / Idol)

I’ve been listening to music and writing about it for most of my life, and if there’s one thing I can tell you for sure, is that “pure” and straight-to-the-point Rock albums bore me to death: if there isn’t something sneaking in, some sort of external influence of whatever nature enriching the sound, I rarely come back to it. Yanakoto Sotto Mute‘s latest record is one of the very rare exceptions to this: BUBBLE is an all-around outstanding album, with variousness, melodies, and masterful songwriting as main highlights, keeping the listener constantly engaged throughout its thirteen tracks. It’s aggressive yet greatly executed, adventurous but cohesive, and ultimately, one of the best records of this year. As if that wasn’t enough, Yanakoto Sotto Mute‘s members are easily the best vocalist of the entire Idol scene, and along a beautiful artistic direction, this record is an all-around must have for those who are looking for both a great Rock album and a very talented Idol unit to follow.

Listen: Lily


Suiyoubi no Campanella – SUPERMAN
(J-pop / Electronic)

It’s no secret that Suiyoubi no Campanella is currently one of the most beloved groups of the Japanese music scene, and the talent and fresh compositions of this project are starting to reach the western side of the planet as well. After last year’s UMA, a rushed EP that marked Campanella’s uncertain entry to the mainstream world, the trio greatly recovered this year with their new studio album SUPERMAN, which is exactly what everyone needed to hear from this team of talented artists. Various, unpredictable, fun, often aggressively Electronic, SUPERMAN is a festival of melodies, hard-beats, and all sorts of influences, from Funk and 80’s Disco to African music and Pop. This record is yet another testament to Suiyoubi no Campanella‘s outstanding songwriting and dynamic sound, and a genuinely fun and addictive experience. One of J-pop’s absolute best in 2017.

Listen: Aladdin 


ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2017

For Tracy Hyde – he(r)art
(Showgaze)

I can write this without hesitation: For Tracy Hyde’s record he(r)art is the Best Japanese album of 2017.

This is exactly what I describe as a masterpiece album, a complete opera all-around, where it’s not about picking up and dissecting each track, but enjoying the album as a unique cohesive experience. Like staring at a painting and admire how each part of it contributes to the overall image, instead of focusing on single elements. It’s a rare gift we don’t get that often in music.

From the beginning to the end, he(r)art delicately tells the tale of a girl and of her feelings, while setting the magic of Tokyo’s vibrant life as background, casting clear images and life experiences in the mind of the listener: the first sight of Shinjuku’s festival of night lights, a walk in Inokashira park during fall, a lonely winter day in Kamakura’s beach, the blinding beauty of Ginza during Christmas time… all these images come to mind while listening to this album, along with millions of feelings that intertwine within Tokyo’s frantic yet silent web of lives, where love, betrayal, insecurity, happiness and sadness all merge together. This is music made by people who lived these melodies and sounds before even writing them, and it’s the reason why it resonates so much with the listener. I could tell you about the complex yet accessible songwriting, the excellent influences that pop up unexpectedly and enrich each track with surprise, the comfortable melancholy and joy of each guitar riff… yet a mere technical description just wouldn’t make justice to this album. The best thing is just to listen to it, and absorb every note of it.

I recommend this record to everyone. While all the great albums listed above deliver amazing experiences and are made by outstanding musicians and artists, there is quite nothing that reaches the depth, the attention to details, and the emotions that For Tracy Hyde conveys with this record. He(r)art is an absolute masterpiece, and the reason why I love music.

Read my review on ARAMA! JAPAN


Best Music Video

Sora Tob Sakana – ribbon

This is the perfect representation of music combining with visuals to create a great artistic experience: the hand-drawn style, the story of a rabbit and a turtle dreaming of different places, the power of music in transporting people to different worlds with the only use of imagination… all of this is represented through this video in such a tender and human way that’s hard not to get moved by it. “Ribbon” is one of the best Japanese songs released this year, but it’s only half of the experience without its music video.


Best Live Performer

Perfume – Fusion (NTT Docomo Future Experiment vol.01)

Techno-pop trio Perfume have always been ahead of… pretty much the entire world when it comes to live performances and cutting edge technology. And this year, they proved once again how they can still deliver jaw-dropping live performances backed by innovative concepts.

For the first time ever, the three girls performed separately, each one on a different side of the planet: A-chan in Tokyo, Kashiyuka in London, Nocchi in New York. They performed the same song and choreography simultaneously while live streaming each location live, with the incredible work of the Rhizomatiks team putting each member together, and adding computer graphic elements and insane camera work on top. Words can’t make justice to this performance, so just put your headphones on and see what happens when some of the best performers in the world meet a team of incredible artists.


Best Collaboration

Towa Tei with Ano (You’ll Melt More!) – REM

I really wasn’t expecting this, but I guess legendary Electronic artist Towa Tei has an eye for unique personalities, as one of the leading singles from his EMO album features none other than Ano from Idol unit You’ll Melt More! . She’s no outstanding singer, but if you’ve been following her for some time, it’s clear that she definitely has a certain connection to music, and Towa Tei built a perfect song for her whispering voice. The video too is a clear representation of both Towa Tei’s music and Ano’s unique personality, and it’s something not to miss.


Honorable Mentions

They didn’t make it into the list, but these releases are totally worth your time as well.

HAMIDASYSTEM – Semi no Koe, Kogarete Planet (Electronic / Atmospheric / Idol)
Cornelius – Mellow Waves (Electronic / Rock / J-pop )
Maron Hamada – Lady Monochrome (Rock / Jazz)
MINAKEKKE – TINGLES (J-rock / Indie Rock)
Boris – Dear (Metal / Drone)
amiinA – Valkyrie EP (Idol)
CHAI – PINK (J-rock)
CRUNCH – Tenkiame (Indie-Pop)
Task Have Fun – 3WD (Idol)
Keyakizaka46 – Masshiro na Mono wa Yogoshitaku naru (Idol)


I hope you will check out and enjoy these records. Be sure to let me know what you think about it in the comments. Have fun!

– Alex

Advertisements

Hands on Necronomidol’s “DEATHLESS” Limited Edition vinyl

The Necronomidol project grew up a lot in 2017. After years perfecting and refining a now definitive sound, in the last months the ultra-dark Idol unit really took off and shown to both Japan and the world its true potential, bringing the five girls to perform in Europe (with an upcoming U.S Tour on the way) and release a new amazing single, as well as their second full-length album DEATHLESS, that gained widespread critical acclaim from several headlines and blogs.

I too thought that DEATHLESS was a great record. It’s an album that brought Necronomidol on a whole another level, both in terms of sound and overall quality, experimenting with different influences while being cohesive, and exposing a more mature and enjoyable side of the unit’s sound: surely one of the highest peaks from the Alternative/Underground Idol scene this year.

The girls and their team really worked hard this year to make the Necronomidol project stand out, and the results speak for themselves. But before this great year for the ultra-dark Idol unit comes to an end, Necronomidol has one more surprise in store for their fans: a new vinyl release.

Just like their debut record Nemesis, DEATHLESS too is getting an analog release, a limited edition printed and distributed by French label Specific Recordings, with whom I have collaborated several times in the past. As great fans of Necronomidol, these guys not only took the chance to bring this record on vinyl format to the fans, they also gave it a new look, thanks to the hand of French artist Pierre Weird, who drawn a brand new cover for the record. As shown by these pictures, the result is nothing short of amazing.

 

The re-design affected the vinyl itself too, and it honestly looks beautiful. Pictures can’t possibly capture the real color, but this Sari green is stunning to see once you hold the record in your hands.

 

As for the sound, it was a lot of fun to hear this record on my system. I’m generally a headphone guy, but hearing the opener END OF DAYS and its violent riff and blast beats on my speakers honestly made me smile like a child on Christmas day. I’d say it made me bald, if I already wasn’t bald.

Necronomidol’s DEATHLESS Limited Edition vinyl will be up for pre-order on December 1st, and will go on sale on January 5th 2018. The release comes in three editions, with different vinyl colors: 300 copies on “Risaki Black”, 200 copies on “Sari Green”, and 30 copies on black or green including a limited printed ouija board.

 

I’m sure that every Necronomidol fan will love this, so if you’re interested, be sure to check out Specific Recordings website to get your copy of the DEATHLESS vinyl.

As usual, I’d like to point out that I don’t get paid for promoting this product. I do it because I’m always up to help fellow fans to spread Japanese music to the world, and the guys at Specific Recordings have always been great friends to collaborate with in this task. Therefore, thank you once again for sending me this beautiful vinyl.

I’ll see you guys soon!

– Alex

For Tracy Hyde – He(r)art | ALBUM REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN

I just finished writing my review for He(r)art, the second studio album from Tokyo-based Shoegaze outfit For Tracy Hyde. Considering how much I liked their previous releases – and after the promising single “floor” – I had pretty high expectations for this record.

And boy… these guys made it: He(r)art is without a shade of doubt one of the best records of 2017. This album resonates so much with me, particularly with my memories and life experiences in what I consider my second home, Tokyo. The record is filled with so much passion for music and emotions that it couldn’t be otherwise, spacing between different moods and vibes, while still being absolutely cohesive, structurally rock-solid, and delicate in its flow. It’s really a trip worth taking.

Be sure to read my review of the new For Tracy Hyde album by following the link below. This is one of my favorite albums of 2017, and I hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.


FOR TRACY HYDE’S “HE(R)ART” ALBUM REVIEW ON ARAMA! JAPAN.


– Alex

MIGMA SHELTER – Amazing Glow | SINGLE REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN

MIGMA SHELTER is certainly one of the most interesting acts in the Alt Idol niche this year; part of the AqbiRec family (There There Theres, CLOCK&BOTAN), the six girls are the first unit in the scene to adopt Trance music as core of their sound, whereas other projects only briefly flirted with it to refine particular passages in certain tracks. I kind of feel guilty for not having ever talked about these girls before, so I took the release of their second single “Amazing Glow” as a chance to finally analyze this one-of-a-kind project. It’s a brief but very consistent release, that consolidates the sound proposed by these talented girls and their production team. Be sure to read my full review for MIGMA SHELTER‘s second single “Amazing Glow” on ARAMA JAPAN!

MIGMA SHELTER – Amazing Glow | SINGLE REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN


– Alex

· · · · · · · · · – Tokyo | EP REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN

If you’ve been following my blog this year, you know that Idol unit · · · · · · · · · (better known as Dots) is one of my favorite emerging artists this year. With a mysterious concept backed up by Shoegaze numbers permeated by attractive melancholic vibes, this enigmatic project constantly kept me interested and, most of all, entertained. It’s clear that some of Japan’s finest Shoegazers are behind the Dots project, but the mysterious aura and the anonomisity that flows through each of their songs and videos work as a great catalyst for their music, complementing each other very well.

After an extremely busy (to say the least) summer, I’ve finally found the time to write a review of Dots‘ recent EP Tokyo, a very curious and interesting release filled with good music and… a few surprises. Surely particular, yet very accessible, I feel like  recommending this release to all of you. Be sure to follow the link down below to read my review on ARAMA! JAPAN‘s website!

Reviewing the 72 minutes long track from Idol unit · · · · · · · · · on ARAMA! JAPAN

– Alex

NECRONOMIDOL – DAWNSLAYER | SINGLE REVIEW

Release Date: August 30
Formats: CD, Digital
Label: Velocitron


NECRONOMIDOL adds atmospheric touches to their solid formula, and it works wonders.

Fresh off their first European tour, the ultra-dark Idol unit NECRONOMIDOL is back with a new release that takes the form of a four-tracks single titled DAWNSLAYER, exploring new fields and adding new touches to a sound that has constantly evolved and improved over the years. After the release of the excellent DEATHLESS – that gave ultimate consistency to Necroma’s solid formula made of extreme Metal influences merged with Idol Pop bits – DAWNSLAYER is a release that could have easily played it safe without taking any risk.

Still, perfectionism and experimentation are constant elements in the NECRONOMIDOL project, so it comes at no surprise that DAWNSLAYER adds even more elements to the unit’s sound, highlighting a more atmospheric approach and enriching an already solid formula without overhauling its core. While the opening title track and STARRY WISDOM adopt the rock-solid sound of the unit, they also delicately hints at atmospheric soundscapes, that well intersecate with the melodies and the violent rhythms typical of Power/Black Metal classics. These atmospheric touches fully take form in the following R’LYEH, a masterful and surprising number that creates a cold – almost dystopian – soundscape thanks to layers of synths who originate from Idol Pop, but that dramatically help in building an atmosphere that’s way far from anything related to it, punching the listener right at the beginning to then hide and come back to keep up the atmosphere between frantic drum patterns; the girls do an extremely good job throughout the whole record, but it’s fair to say that their vocal skills particularly shine in this impressively crafted piece. This atmospheric turn plays a primary role in celephaïs too, a ballad mainly revolving around classical instruments that perfectly fit the ethereal voices of the girls, as well as giving a consistent contribute to the esoteric mood of the record. Adopting a whole different approach, the NWOBHM-indebted ABHOTH brings the unit back on a more straight-to-the-point Metal formula, showcasing their versatility in rocking both darker and more uplifting numbers with a classic but solid pattern.

Despite being “only” a single release, DAWNSLAYER adds new and exciting elements to NECRONOMIDOL’s sound: it delivers the vibes the unit firmly consolidated in the last record, but also takes risks in experimenting with particularly atmospheric elements, creating darker-than-ever soundscapes that well-fit the unit’s identity and charisma. The result is genuinely impressived, and DAWNSLAYER is yet another proof of NECRONOMIDOL‘s impressive dedication and focus, that now more than ever makes the five girls the most mature Alternative Idol unit project out there.

– Alex

As usual, special thanks to Richard for providing me with an early copy of this single. Credits for the beautiful pics go to Leo Berne.

········· release Music Video for new track “Suraido”

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been writing here in a while: working twelve-hours night shifts every single day sadly leaves me with pretty much no time to do anything, other than sleeping and relaxing a few hours. My writing routine will resume from mid-September on, when the hot season will finally come to an end. Thanks for your patience!

I’m taking these 10 minutes of my time today to write about this new ········· (or Dots) song, that I feel like suggesting to all of you guys. Just like other aficionados of the Alt Idol current, I’ve been talking about this enigmatic Shoegaze Idol unit for a while now, and in case you wanna know more about it, here’s an in-depth article about I wrote for ARAMA! JAPAN.

This new song from Dots is called Suraido (or Slide), and it’s produced by Azusa Suga, guitarist of well-known Shoegaze outfit FOR TRACY’S HYDE; this is not the first time the man collaborates with these enigmatic girls, as he’s one of the constant contributors behind the project along with other celebrated songwriters of the Japanese Shoegaze scene. The track is a straight-to-the-point number that’s not afraid to highlight the characteristics of the sound adopted by the unit, and the execution results detailed and never banal, successfully conveying the feelings typical of this genre; the vocal performance by the girls gives a huge boost to the whole atmosphere, and the balance between their voices as well as the performance itself sounds stronger and more convincing than ever. Definitely a pleasant and solid number to release ahead of a 70 minutes-long single.

Be sure to watch the video and listen to the track down here. See you guys soon!

– Alex

DaiDaiDai delivers an hypnotic performance in “Bokura dake boku darake”

DaiDaiDai is one of those names that I see floating around the depths of Alt Idol communities pretty frequently, yet I actually never got the chance to listen to their music until today. Going in blind, without a clue of what to expect at all, I was genuinely floored when I finally decided to give these five girls a chance today with their new song “Bokura dake boku darake“.

The track is a frantic and space-y electronic journey, that delivers an atmospheric performance thanks to filtered vocals served on the base of fast percussions with roots in Drum ‘n’ bass, smartly sped up and brought into Noise borders to create a pleasant contrast with layers of airy – almost soothing – synthesizers; the number is short and structurally linear, a fitting pattern for a formula that heavily relies on atmosphere and unpredictable rhythmic outbursts, successfully delivering a particular yet engaging experience.

This is one of the most noticeable new tracks this week, and I highly recommend it. Listen to DaiDaiDai‘s new track  “Bokura dake boku darake” and watch the MV down below!

– Alex

Yurumerumo (You’ll melt more!) slows down a little bit, but keeps it solid with『うんめー』

Yurumerumo (You’ll melt more!) is one of the most intriguing Idol acts out there, and also the one producers and musicians apparently have the most fun with, considering the number of high-profile artists taking care of their music (and those who feature them in their own works). As natural consequence, the unit’s sound spaces throughout several musical influences, with a recent New Wave turn that particularly fit the sound of the four girls.

With “Unme” – a new track released just today – Yurumerumo slows down a little bit and pursues a slower and more standard course, but keeps it interesting by maintaining the elements typical of the unit’s songwriting, such as energetic drum patterns hidden in several sections, and a bridge enriched by an electric guitar solo coupled by the unit’s typical back choirs. It’s a simple track, but at the same time it does everything possible to be engaging, showcasing a meticulous attention for details typical of Yurumerumo’s works.

Whatever this unit does, it’s always filled with care and smart songwriting, even when it’s something less eclectic like this track. Which is probably the main reason why everything Yurumerumo does is just worth listening. Be sure to listen to the track and watch the video down below!

– Alex

BiSH – GiANT KiLLERS | MINI ALBUM REVIEW

Release Date: June 9, 2017
Formats: CD, Digital
Label: Avex


The new BiSH record suffers from a clear identity crisis, but there’s still hope for the future

BiSH is without a doubt the act from the Alternative Idol niche that’s getting the most attention. After last year’s well received record “KiLLER BiSH”, the six relentless girls came back with a single a few months ago that raised more than an eyebrow among fans, not for its quality per se, but for the lack of hard-hitting tracks in favor of a clearly mainstream-oriented approach; the reaction was so loud that even the unit’s producer reached out to the fans on Twitter, citing “Budokan” as one of the reasons behind this stylistic approach. Definitely a clear explanation.

As a consequence, this new release from BiSH – that takes the form a five tracks Mini Album titled GiANT KiLLERS – has been awaited as a sort of indicator of the unit’s stylistic direction in this particular moment of their career: between those who expect a total mainstream turn in their sound, and those who hope in a revamped version of the relentless attitude that marked the unit’s previous records, no one truly knew what to expect from this mini album.

“GiANT KiLLERS” is a record that lies in the middle of the above-mentioned expectations: not a series of slow-tempo ballads, neither a complete collection of bangers. The potential is still there, and there’s no doubt about it: the title track and opener is a perfect representation of what the unit is capable of, perfectly merging a catchy approach to the franticness typical of the BiSH sound, with fast-paced drum patterns and melodic riffs culminating in a chorus made of catchy vocal lines and Punk-reminiscing choirs, resulting in an instant earworm and a powerful track for live shows. If there’s a sound that best represents BiSH in this moment of their career, it’s definitely this one: it fits their identity while being extremely fun and refreshing.

It’s a shame that “GiANT KiLLERS” doesn’t nurture this winning formula, as the record kinda fails at keeping the interest up after the great impact of the first track. There’s nothing necessarily bad here, but most of it sounds shallow and even repetitive at times: Nothing sounds like it was made from leftovers of the “Orchestra” recordings, and while it’s a style that can somehow find its place in the structure of a full record, it’s pretty clear that piano melodies and cheesy symphonic layers just don’t fit in a mini album of a unit that gives its best when feasting on Punk Rock and Metal influences. “VOMiT SONG” suffers from a problem the unit showcased in recent times, that lies in overly lengthy and uninspired choruses; this issue is partly present in “Marionette” as well, but the track ultimately works thanks to electric guitar riffs that enrich several sections. The record still occasionally showcases interesting ideas, particularly in “Shakai no Rule“, featuring a goofy and playful approach – a first for the unit – that works surprisingly well, coupled by a straight-to-the-point and carefree chorus that’s as simple as effective: it’s a fast and fun track that kinda plays it safe, but it still stands out as one of the best-crafted numbers on this mini album.

Overall, “GiANT KiLLERS” is a record that shows a lot of uncertainness. It tries to be overly appealing and friendly, an approach that comes in contrast with the nature of the project and the girls alike, consequentially failing due to a clearly uninspired songwriting. On the other hand, it also shows that BiSH can still rock and adopt interesting ideas, other than finding a perfect compromise between their typical sound and the position they’re in, as shown by the brilliant title track.

For this, “GiANT KiLLERS” suffers from a clear identity crisis, and it’s surely the weakest release from BiSH to date. At the same time, it also proves that these girls and their team still have what it takes to make exciting music that can satisfy their fans, as well as attracting new ones. They just need to choose the right direction, because it’s clear that they’re trying to satisfy their fanbase as well as developing a way too forced mainstream appeal, and the result is naturally conflicted and unconvincing. The hope is that they will take a moment to realize what’s best for them, while rocking bigger stages and ranking higher in the charts.

Vote: 6 / 10


– Alex