evening cinema – A True Romance

A band I discovered off Spotify. Yes, Spotify. Given how ‘receptive’ Japan has been to making its content available on Youtube, I more or less dismissed the chances of ever finding any decent new Japanese music through Spotify even if their ads for the service are quite something to behold.

Lo and behold, I found artists I already like ie Suchmos, Lucky Tapes, Kirinji & ACIDMAN on the service & am now slowly digging into recommendations & related artists. evening cinema was one of those recs and I’m liking what I hear so far – all summery, feel-good soul/rock anthems.

Nothing much is known about the band (they don’t even appear to have an official website). You can however, check out A True Romance on Spotify, or their Twitter for updates.

Mili – Hue

Mili is a classical Japanese music group founded in August 2012 and consists of:

Momocashew (vocalist, main lyricist, and sub composer)
Kasai Yamato (main composer, main arranger, sub lyricist, guitarist)
Mitomo Yukihito (bassist, sub arranger, sub composer)
Yoshida Shoto (drummer, sub arranger, sub composer)
Yamaguchi Ame stylist, art director, designer)
Fujimori Ao (illustrator, animator, videographer)

Known for their contributions to the Cytus and Deemo games, you may have also heard their song Nenten used as the Bloodivores Opening theme. Which they also sing a Mandarin version of (they also sing in English – Momocashew is Canadian).

Hue is their first mini-album, having released 2 full-length albums since 2014. My favourite song here is Excαlibur, which features the legendary lyric “My bones are titanium….I am your Excalibur” – a perfect theme song for you-know-who…don’t you think?

Check out the English version of the group’s website here.

Converting my CD collection to digital format #06

I guess I really did/do have weird tastes.

CD #0026: Mansun – Attack of the Grey Lantern [1997]
My biggest memory of this is how my mum thought the cover of the album looked evil and wanted to dump it (alongside my pirated copies of Silent Hill and Resident Evil games). As for the music itself…you could argue that it did sound a bit evil too, what with the weird fixation on vicars and somebody called Mavis running throughout. It’s hard to know what to make of the album now – there are some really great songs like their biggest hit Wide Open Space, Stripper Vicar and Dark Mavis…but otherwise it’s like a big gloopy, druggy mess that would probably sound like angels singing to those high on psychedelic substances. Somehow, Attack of the Grey Lantern made it to #1 in the albums chart back in the day – must’ve been a quiet week.

CD #0027: Eros Ramazotti – Stilelibero [2000]
I think my mom would want to claim this one, though I’m the one who plonked down cash for it. She was a big fan of his ‘sexy’ voice apparently. I guess the Italian language also made it sound alluring as well? Main single Fuoco nel Fuoco gained a bit of traction globally and it’s not aged too badly. Hell, I still remember the lyrics and can sing along to it…I don’t think I’ve even listened to it for more than a decade…! There’s also a multilingual duet with Cher which I hadn’t really recalled existing. It’s actually a nicely balanced album – nice mix of upbeat tunes and ballads, and it holds up well almost 2 decades later.

CD #0028: Jeff Buckley – Grace [1994]
This is one of those albums that a kid who grew up in the 90s just had to have in their collection, if only to seem cool. Obviously one that my brother picked up later on since we were like…10 and 13 when it was first released. Buckley’s version of Hallelujah was my first, and the only one I will acknowledge – sorry Leonard Cohen, it may be your song but your singing couldn’t touch my soul the way Jeff Buckley’s did.

CD #0029: SoulDecision – No One Does it Better [2000]
A head-scratching one for me. I must’ve been seduced by that one big hit of theirs, Faded – the original had the opening lyric ‘When I get you all alone I’m gonna take off all your clothes’ but alas, the cleaned-up version on this disc changes that to ‘I’m gonna move in nice and close’. The album did manage to shift a million copies worldwide, probably on the basis of those 2-3 excellent singles – the rest of the album alternates between leaden & cheesy. Lead singer Trevor Guthrie’s solo and featured on an Armin van Buuren track a couple of years ago but that’s pretty much I know of what any of the members are doing right now.

CD #0030: Bic Runga – Beautiful Collision [2002]
This is an album that I don’t need to take another listen to and reminisce about as I’ve never actually taken it out of my playlist rotation over the years. I suppose it’s a testament to the strength of the material on Beautiful Collision that they remain as relevant to now as they were 15 years ago; the fragility and honesty of songs like When I See You Smile, She Left on a Monday and Listening to the Weather still strike that chord deep within me. And her voice – a jazz singer’s sultry tones wrapped around lush, warm melodies, is one you’ll never tire of hearing.

Sphere – ISM

As a formerly obsessed follower of this seiyuu idol group, I received the news of Sphere’s intended hiatus with a heavier heart than I expected I would have. I’d attribute this to the fact that they’ve just made the best album of their 8-year career to date and I was actually looking forward to see how the group would be developed in the face of their company’s increasing focus on their junior colleagues TrySail.

Notes, thoughts:
– TrySail is managed by the Sony group itself while Sphere has been with Lantis from the start, and that is where their musical directions obviously diverge
– Lantis is still giving them the best of their songwriters – the likes of rino, EFFY, Yuki Aira & the ultra-talented Takahashi Ryo all contribute
– I wonder if they’ll still be with Lantis when they return from their hiatus
– DREAMS, Count down! is a particular favourite – in fact, the Sphere song I’ve liked the most since Now Loading…SKY!!
– Also like CHANCE!, LOST SEASON & 夕立ちの欠片
– I do enjoy their respective solo careers in patches (Toyosaki can’t sing but her songs are great!). But not as much as I enjoy Sphere, where the whole is truly greater than the sum of all its parts.
– It only really hit me recently that Ayahime and Aki have hit their 30s orz. I suppose I never seriously considered that Sphere would last 10 years – there wasn’t exactly any seiyuu idol template back then.

See you in 2 years?

Converting my CD collection to digital format #05

While I remain motivated….

CD #0021: Leaves – Breathe [2002]
I bought this when I was doing my A-levels in the UK on the strength of one song – the single I Go Down. Leaves are an Icelandic band that sound like a Coldplay/Doves/Oasis copy band and nothing like Sigur Ros, if you want to use some other Icelandic group as a benchmark. Still, Breathe isn’t terrible (maybe a bit…unmemorable) and reflects my tastes of those years pretty accurately. It just doesn’t sound so good 15 years on…

CD #0022: The Strokes – Room on Fire [2003]
The Strokes’ 2001 debut Is This It? was heralded as one of the best albums of the year, and I never understood the love for it. Sounded like a bunch of noise, made better by the fact that there was an ass on the cover. Fast forward 2 years and I decided to drop some spare cash on the boys’ sophomore disc and found it amazing; really catchy and listenable without a single bad track. Critics didn’t like it much. What do I know eh?

CD #0023: Horishita Sayuri (堀下 さゆり) – Private~the Piano Album [2004]
I ordered this off Yesasia sometime around 2005-06 after hearing Horishita’s Kaze no Toorimichi album [released in 2005]. Private includes an alternate piano version of the Kaze no Toorimichi song, which had gained some popularity after being heard in NHK’s Minna no Uta. Horishita is a piano-playing-singer-songwriter who is in possession of a rather ‘unique’ (some would say nasal) voice and not-bad writing skills. Ballad albums tend to be on the dull side but not Horishita’s – these songs would be hits if they were sung by aiko!

CD #0024: Hirakawachi 1-chome (平川地一丁目) – Enpitsu de Tsukuru Uta [2004]
I wrote about this before, being one of my selections in the 100 Japanese albums that influenced my tastes. Going back to this for the first time in a while makes me feel a little rueful – the innocence, the nostalgia that was a common factor in much of classical Japanese folk/kayokyoku, is now gone in a Japanese music industry that doesn’t seem to know its identity or how to appeal to an audience that has been lost to empty-calorie bubblegum pop music.

CD #0025: Radiohead – OK Computer [1997]
The first ever CD I bought in high school, with my hard-saved pocket money – they cost RM40-42 back in those days so that was about a month’s worth of junk food money blown on a single disc. Small price to pay for an album that I would describe as being the one that changed my life – up ‘til that point it had always been about the jangly guitar bands but suddenly, my ears were opened up to the vast possibilities, the sonic inventiveness of electronic-based rock. The lyrics, the themes – isolation, cynicism and malaise too, really resonated with the sullen, angsty 13-year old me of 1997. It’s OK Computer’s 20th anniversary this year and it’s remarkable how undated it sounds – so, so ahead of the curve were they.

Fingers crossed the next bunch of posts won’t be in 2021.

Converting my CD collection to digital format #04

Yes, I’m actually reviving my quest some…4 years since the last post. Yay me. Click the digital tag for all previous entries….

CD #0016: Damien Rice – O [2003]
I remember being particularly obsessed with this record when it was first released. It might have had something to do with the fact that I was holed up in a boarding school with no internet and had only my books and CD collection for company so by default, anything that resembled music would have enthralled me, even Bob the Builder. In retrospect it isn’t too bad. A bit melodramatic…but probably doesn’t deserve to be maligned as much it tends to be. A wholly listenable album on a rainy evening…as long as you press ‘skip’ on The Blower’s Daughter.

CD #0017: David Gray – White Ladder [1999]
I sure loved all these insipid singer-songwriters back in the day, didn’t I? I was just 15 when this was put out; what did I know of heartbreak back then? I’m listening to Babylon now and wondering what I ever heard in it. I suppose this is just one of those records I picked up ‘cos everyone else was doing it.

CD #0018: Bryan Adams – Unplugged [1997]
Another one from my brother’s collection. We sort of shared similar music tastes when we were teenagers but he had a fondness for M.O.R soft-rockers like his favourite singer here, Mr Adams, that I couldn’t always jive with. To be fair, MTV Unplugged is arguably BA’s best ‘best of’ compilation because he leaves off his two most famous songs – the hackneyed ballads Please Forgive Me and Everything I Do (I Do it For You). Instead, there are lovely tunes like the lead single Back to You, good ‘ol faves Heaven and Summer of ’69 as well as better-curated ballads including the under-rated I’ll Always Be Right There and When You Love Someone. I even learnt to play a couple of these on my old Yamaha acoustic – fond memories.

CD #0019: Jars of Clay – Much Afraid [1997]
I owned quite a number of contemporary Christian music CDs during my teenage years as it was easier to convince my parents to buy them for me when you’re stood in a Christian resource shop. I remember being quite impressed when I first heard Much Afraid – it was markedly different stylistically from the light, breezy sound of their self-titled debut. 1997 was also the year of OK Computer so I was ready for something different from the norm, and the broodiness of tracks like Fade to Grey and the 7-minute long Frail fit right into my tastes at the time.

CD #0020: Simon & Garfunkel – Old Friends [1997]
This 3CD box-set was only something the family bought a decade-and-abit ago, long after we’d worn out our cassette tape version of 1972’s Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. My uncle was a huge fan of the duo; he even played guitar and sang The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) at his wedding in Canada back in 1991. Obviously Simon & Garfunkel songs are weaved into the very fabric of my being and I know most of them like the back of my hand, from Mrs Robinson with its surprising usage of the words ‘Jesus loves you’ to Cecilia’s infectious handclaps.

How long more will I be motivated to rip CDs?

2016: When I did not Korean

I think I can easily name all the Korean artists (excluding OSTs) whose albums I listened to last year:

1/Taeyeon (Queen!)
2/Big Bang (oh crap I actually like the album….)
3/TWICE (They’re all so cute!! Can’t decide who to stan yet!!)
4/Bolbbalgan4 (much love <3)
5/Jang Beom June (Who cares about Busker Busker0
6/Standing Egg (cheese never felt this good)
7/EXO (I wish I could say I hate them. Damn SM)
8/Red Velvet (Russian Roulette is sooo catchy)
9/Mamamoo (I can’t really remember their songs….they can sing but…)
10/Sistar (Unmemorable)
11/Taemin (I like them more solo than in SHINee…)
12/Tiffany (The main T in TTS ain’t her fosho)
13/Akdong Musician (Getting a bit boring….)

/Swell, eh? I did attempt to keep up with SM Station but I fell off the tracks less than halfway through.
/Soshi is supposed to be coming back soon for 10th anniversary but I may have fallen off the entire bandwagon, except for Yoona and Taeyeon
/I feel like TWICE and K.A.R.D may be my next big obsessions. Trying hard not to fall into those black holes….

Refer:
Selections of 2016: Intro
Selections of 2016: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs
Selections of 2016: Anisong Albums
Selections of 2016: Soundtracks
Selections of 2016: Japanese
Selections of 2016: English

Selections of 2016: English

It’s March. Christ. So, the English-language stuff. Albums & singles in one go.

The three things that have been godsends for me since last year:

1) Spotify
2) Shazam
3) H&M instore playlists

I would not know new music otherwise.

Albums

Shura – Nothing’s Real
This album feels like it’s been a long time coming – Shura real name Aleksandra Denton’s breakthrough song Touch was released almost 3 years ago now. A lot of the material here is already familiar to most but don’t let detract from the quality of the overall listen.

Tom Chaplin – The Wave
The Keane frontman brings a familiar stadium-ready, heart-swelling sound to his solo record, aping bandmate Tim Rice-Oxley’s writing style to perfection.

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had a Dream That You Were Mine
A collaboration album between a member of The Walkmen and one formerly of Vampire Weekend (they’d previously worked together on Leithauser’s solo album) may not sound like a recipe for success or good music but it definitely works better than it reads – a mish-mash of sounds of the 60s – rock ‘n’roll, country, doo-wop, blues, folk.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
True love waits. Their best album since Kid A.

Alexis Taylor – Piano
Big fan of Hot Chip, but Taylor’s music is as far removed from his parent band as you could get. It’s sparse – just him and a piano, and very personal too, as you would expect an album about death to be. Side note: Compatriot Joe Goddard’s own solo is due April 21!

Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win
Country music is coming from odd places these days; in Jacklin’s case, from the Blue Mountains Range in New South Wales, Australia. Don’t Let the Kids Win is a tender, mature debut album sung with a sense of wisdom that belies her tender quarter-century years of age.

Solange – A Seat at the Table
This skeptic in me (her sister’s album bored me) was bowled over by how it presented a type of music that I never knew I wanted to hear or like. It’s like how I felt discovering Pbr’n’b – it’s something new though not quite, but whatever, it’s utterly fantastic.

Slow Club – One Day All of This Won’t Matter Any More
The album’s biggest fault is its disjointedness, but individually, the songs are really quite marvelous.

Empire of the Sun – Two Vines
An album that fans appreciate more than critics ever will. But is it retro pop? Or future pop?

Tove Lo – Lady Wood
I suppose I am somewhat in denial about my inherent susceptibility to hip pop music. But like my love for MØ, I will give in to the beat when it calls me.

Songs

1. The xx – On Hold
I didn’t think they’d ever get this mainstream or pop chart-ready.

2. Neiked – Sexual
Not remotely sexual. But insanely catchy.

3. The Weeknd – Starboy (feat. Daft Punk)
More of moody Tesfaye than spunky Daft Punk in this one. Nothing wrong with that though.

4. Vancouver Sleep Clinic – Someone to Stay
Why does his music have to be so beautiful?

5. Capital Cities – Vowels
I have trouble getting lyrics to stick in my sieve-like mind. Lines as memorable as “So I’ll just speak in vowels from now on. A O E OOOH” really help.

6. Jon Bellion – All Time Low
When I first heard it I wondered why it wasn’t more of a hit. Naturally, it exploded on the charts later on…I should’ve put a bet on it.

7. Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter
So these 2 guys are now famous amongst weaboos because of this song’s accompanying video, animated by Japan’s A-1 Pictures. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of otaku getting into garage or tropical house music in the future if they all have anime videos…

8. Mike Posner – I Took a Pill in Ibiza (SeeB Remix)
The remix elevated the song to heights not possible (without pills).

9. The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey – Closer
I was not immune to the pull of its beat.

10. Kungs vs. Cookin’ on 3 Burners – This Girl
I’m so partial to dance music despite having the dancing skills of a hippo…

11. Jessie Ware – Till the End
Lovely ballad that popped up on a soundtrack to a movie best not watched (Me After You).

12. Benjamin Wallfisch feat. DiSA – New World Coming
Masterful, epic cover of Cass Elliott song, used in the trailer for Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine movie.

13. Florence + the Machine – Wish You Were Here
No I am not in love with the Miss Peregrine movie. But the music was just too good to resist.

14. Marian Hill – Down
That beat drop is the hottest shit ever.

15. MØ – Final Song
I’m still waiting for the day she runs out of hooks.

16. Craig David – One More Time
Bringin’ 2-step garage back in 2016, this is vintage Craig David all over your (doink). His rap here is amazing, see it done live to be even more amazed.

17. Charlie Puth feat. Selena Gomez – We Don’t Talk Anymore
Yeah I’m almost embarrassed to like a Charlie Puth song. How do you get this one out of your head though?

18. The Girl and the Dreamcatcher – Make You Stay
I think “I’d sing acapella in the rain / Let the whole world think I’ve gone insane” is a great pick-up line, if I was drunk.

19. Daya – Sit Still, Look Pretty
Barbie Girl for a new generation.

20. Beach Baby – Hot Weather
I admit it. I misheard the ‘don’t suck your thumb’ lyric as ‘don’t fuck your thong’.

21. Galantis – No Money
Why do I like this? I don’t know. Earworm, but I would’ve been annoyed silly by the autotune a few years ago.

22. Lost Kings feat. Emily Warren – Phone Down
Featuring the legendary lyric: “Why don’t you put that fucking phone down”. Also, legendary video.

23. Sia feat. Sean Paul – Cheap Thrills
Another one of those songs that just won’t exit your head no matter how you try to shut it down.

24. Flume feat. Tove Lo – Say It
Yeah I’m a sucker for all things Tove.

25. in love with a ghost – we’ve never met but, can we have a coffee or something
This is the kind of stuff I like from Japanese musicians, but I rarely take the time to seek it out when it’s from the West. Maybe, in 2017.

Is that it for 2016? Not quite – I might write a few words for Kpop. Hopefully this week…!

Refer:
Selections of 2016: Intro
Selections of 2016: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs
Selections of 2016: Anisong Albums
Selections of 2016: Soundtracks
Selections of 2016: Japanese

Selections of 2016: Japanese Albums

Oh shit it’s February. Better get crackin’ with the last coupla wrap-up posts.

So yes, Japanese music. I just read today (writing this on 2nd February) about JASRAC being their usual ass-fucking selves [hint: they’re trying to collect royalty fees from music played in classrooms in music schools etc]; thanks guys, as if the music industry in Japan isn’t already twitching its way to a grisly death already!

Meanwhile, a couple of albums that did manage to rise above the turgidity of mainstream Japanese music last year:

1. Sunny Day Service – DANCE TO YOU [sample]
Since Sokabe Keiichi & co. reformed in 2010 (they originally split in 2000) they’ve made a couple of half-decent albums but they finally get the formula spot on with the summery, sing-a-long Dance To You. Only time will tell if it usurps Ai to Warau no Yoru [1997] in my affections, but the signs are good.

2. Yoshizawa Kayoko – Yoshizawa Kayoko to Utsukushii Hitotachi [sample]
Despite churning out new music at frequent intervals, Yoshizawa has yet to make a bad record and this ‘collaboration mini album’ featuring the likes of Sambomaster, Okazaki Taiiku and Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku could be the greatest of the lot yet.

3. YEN TOWN BAND – diverse journey [sample]
20 years since the first (and what was meant to be the last) album of this fictional band from an Iwai Shunji movie, CHARA, Kobayashi Takeshi and Nagoshi Yukio have revived the project and brought out a truly exceptional pop album that incorporates sounds old and new. Heck they can even afford to bring in an all-star cast list of background vocals [Salyu, miwa, Acidman’s Oki Nobuo, CreepHyp’s Ozaki Sekaikan and back number’s Shimizu Iyori] for the comeback single Ai no Ne.

4. Kie Katagi – Serendipity [sample]
First solo album from jizue pianist Katagi. Her parent band’s music leans more towards post-jazz/rock, while Katagi’s style is supposedly ‘neo/post-classical’ which means anything that has pianos, no guitars and sounds extra cool. Schroeder-Headz is the first artist that comes to mind when post-classical is mentioned so it’s appropriate that Katagi collaborates with him on album highlight Gold Fish.

5. Akira Kosemura – Momentary: Memories of the Beginning [sample]
Read here.

6. Kariya Seira – Colorful World [sample]
Even someone so far removed from modern Jpop can’t resist pop crack like Kariya’s songs. Like Shiggy JR (Even More Pop version).

7. Kami wa Saikoro o Furanai – anfang [sample]
Interesting band name (literally translate to ‘God doesn’t roll dice’) cribbed from an Oishi Eiji novel, this young indie 4-piece’s first release is packed with crisp melodic pop-rock that suggests that they’re destined for bigger things. Don’t rule out a major label move within say, 2 years?

8. Cocco – Adan Ballet [sample]
The unpredictable Cocco has made a couple of so-so albums since her creative peak circa 2000’s Rapunzel and I was honestly surprised by the strong set of hopeful, contemplative songs found on Adan Ballet.

9. sow – Route of Migratory [sample]
Kyoto instrumental math-rock band’s take on the genre is not as frenetic as some of their compatriots’ but never any less exciting.

10. yahyel – Once [sample]
A confident first album from a rarity in Japanese music, a group that plies the alternative R&B sound (think The Weeknd, James Blake) that has been all the rage these few years all over the world except in their own country. Plus point for non-JP speaking peeps – Once is in English [and not Engrish!]. Read an article on the group by the Japan Times.

11. in the blue shirt – sensation of blueness [sample]
in the blue shirt is the moniker of Kyoto musician Arimura Ryo. He’s remixed a Porter Robinson track in the past and I suppose that would be the closest, most obvious approximation of his music style – splicing and dicing together vocal samples over layered beats. It’s really quite exhilarating to hear it come together perfectly as on Mellow Out, summer anthem of all times.

12. Hasunuma Shuta – melodies [sample]
Hasunuma’s brand of experimental electronic piano-pop has drawn comparisons to the likes of Shugo Tokumaru and holds obvious international appeal, with his past couple of records have been released stateside already. melodies continues his fine form, this time with an emphasis on more immediate, radio-friendly tracks as the album title suggests. He’s apparently also seen as a potential successor to Hoshino Gen, though I can’t quite fathom why…

13. Frederic – Frederhythm [sample]
Tagged their first major full-length album, Frederhythm puts together 9 new tracks, a couple of recordings from their indie days plus a few more songs from their last few mini-albums. You could probably describe their music a few dozen ways but “infectious” remains my favoured phrase.

14. Awesome City Club – Awesome City Tracks 3 [sample]
Putting out half-length EPs is both kind and cruel – on the one hand you get regular, amazingly tight output. On the other hand it’s so short and over all too soon. By the time I’m posting this, Awesome City Tracks 4 will already be out. Perhaps I should start writing the blurb for its inclusion on the 2017 list? That would make it 3 years in a row they’ve been on my Best ofs!

15. jizue – Story [sample]
Pianist Kitagie Kie features elsewhere on this list, and her band jizue had a good year themselves with this new album Story as well as a re-release of their 2010 record Bookshelf. Story, the group’s 5th full album is packed with the usual selection of dizzyingly fast, complex-but-not-cluttered harmonics, a style they’ve polished to perfection over their decade-long career.

Honourable mentions:
Utada Hikaru – Fantome
nicoten – nicoten
Films – Signs from the past
Kaeru Oukoku – POP’N’ROLL
Kenichiro Nishihara – Sincerely
[que.] – Daylight, Nightfall
ayU tokiO – Aratanaru Kai
SHE IS SUMMER – Lovely Frustration EP

Refer:
Selections of 2016: Intro
Selections of 2016: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs
Selections of 2016: Anisong Albums
Selections of 2016: Soundtracks

Selections of 2016: Soundtracks

Thoughts of the year: Do you end up rating soundtracks higher because you’ve watched the show or played the game? Can you truly enjoy the nuances behind the score not having known the source material beforehand?

Dorama

1. Asa ga Kuru by Ichikawa Jun
No anime-related works for Ichikawa in 2016 but he did compose this very fine soundtrack for Fuji TV drama series Asa ga Kuru (a show that nobody watched).

2. Seirei no Moribito by Sato Naoki
Kawai Kenji’s soundtrack for the Seirei anime adaptation in 2007 was quite close to perfect, Sato matches him with an epic score for the TV version.

3. Dame na Watashi ni Koishite kudasai by Dewa Yoshiaki & Habuka Yuri
Dewa has been doing quite a bit of anime work in recent years (Flying Witch, Nagi no Asu kara etc) but it’s this pop/rock-oriented soundtrack for the Fukada Kyoko-Fujioka Dean-headlining adaptation of a josei manga that really stands out.

4. Shokubutsu Zukan by Haketa Takefumi
Haketa, a long-standing favourite of mine and he often gets tapped for uplifting, heart-warming type shows and movies, which is exactly what Shokubutsu Zukan is.

Game

1. Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna [I am Setsuna] by Miyoshi Tomoki
The soundtrack from the Tokyo RPG Factory game published by Square Enix is almost entirely piano-based, with just a bit of percussion and that one chiptune track. Oh, and one vocal track featuring the wonderful kotringo. It all sounds boring on paper but Miyoshi makes the piano do exciting things.

2. Caligula by Various
A mixed instrumental-vocal soundtrack for the PS Vita RPG, featuring music by Tsukasa Masuko and songs from an army of popular Producers (40mp, Chocho P, Mikito P, Polyphonic Branch etc). Vocals are provided mainly by the seiyuu Ueda Reina. The BGMs ain’t so hot, the songs most definitely are awesome.

3. Sekaiju no Meikyuu V Nagaki Shinwa no Hate [Etrian Odyssey] by Koshiro Yuzo
A 3-disc beast from the guy who’s made some of my favouritest game OSTs ever (Streets of Rage, Shenmue, Revenge of Shinobi). This is straightforward, epic battle and beautiful fantasy world kind of music, though not as adventurous as he has been in the past.

Anime

1. Koe no Katachi by Ushio Kensuke
Read here. Soundtrack of the year. Of the decade even.

2. Battery by Senju Akira
You know what you’ll get from Senju – heart-rending, strings, violins, emotions. Which is more than a boring anime like Battery deserved….

3. Amanchu! by GONTITI
While not quite their best work, Gontiti provide enough variety to keep the listener interested. Also helps if you’ve seen the show and heard how the music fits in with the mood of the Amanchu world setting.

4. Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni by kotringo.
First track is an orchestral rendition of the melody from O Come All Ye Faithful in an anime movie? Okay, you got my attention. It’s something different from kotringo., someone who I obviously have a lot of love for. And it really is quite good.

5. Regalia The Three Sacred Stars by Takahashi Ryo
Takahashi is a newcomer to the anime soundtrack composition scene (his only previous credit was the Galko anime) and his work here is stellar, which is more than I can say of the anime’s production process.

6. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju by Shibuya Kazue
Follows up her good work on the Rakugo OVA with more jazz-centric, classical pieces.

7. Yuri!! on ICE by Umebayashi Taro & Matsushiba Taku
Such a diverse selection of music – both vocal and instrumental, both classical and contemporary, that helped bring the characters’ skating programmes to life. Some of the Engrish is a bit iffy (hi Phichit’s music) but the music is otherwise faultless. Umebayashi’s Yuri on ICE track in particular, is my vote for best anime instrumental track of 2016 – it evokes so many emotions and tells [Katsuki] Yuri’s entire life story within its 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

8. Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge by Mizutani Hiromi
Classical pieces with a European flavour – tango, pavane, waltz. A strangely good fit for a series about a boy who is too lazy to be alive.

9. orange by Tsutsumi Hiroaki
Tsutsumi’s had a great year, with Kuromukuro also another standout work of his. He’s a guitarist by trade so his soundtracks are packed with acoustic guitars, (electric) banjos and mandolins, which is a nice change from the usual strings and blings.

10. Tonkatsu DJ Agetaro by Fujiwara Daisuke
Like the cool kids would say, this soundtrack for this anime is ‘dope’. Or ‘lit’. Rainy Lenny is the chill track of 2016. I need this disc on vinyl man. Seriously speaking though, when was the last time I heard/liked a purely club/dance-oriented anime soundtrack? Maybe we’d have to go all the way back to Boogiepop Phantom from 2000(!).

Others: Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari by Hashimoto Yukari, Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions by (K)NoW_NAME, Norn9 + Nonette by Kevin Penkin, Kuromukuro by Tsutsumi Hiroaki, ClassicaLoid by Hotei Tomoyasu, tofubeats etc

Ps: of the 17 on the lists, I have watched/played 7 of them.

Refer:
Selections of 2016: Intro
Selections of 2016: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs
Selections of 2016: Anisong Albums