Selections of 2015: SM Edition

Despite being half angry at SM half the time (I’m surprised they haven’t blocked me yet…), I’m well aware that the music they produce, or rather, the music that they buy from Western musicmakers, caters more to my tastes than that by the rest of the Big 3’s does. I listened to very little Korean music this year – Quickly running through the label’s records so far this year:

Jonghyun – BASE
Deja-Boo is passable but the rest of BASE is really not my cup of tea music-wise. (Rating: 5)

Amber – Beautiful
Genuinely surprised that Amber got her own solo. Songs are OK except that…horrendous promo track Shake My Brass. The one thing that this album really shows is that her vocals are oh-so-limited (Rating: 5)

Super Junior D&E – The Beat Goes On
Always had a soft spot for this side-unit and this mini rocks. Such a shame we won’t be hearing from them for another 2 years when they’re both done with their upcoming enlistment. (Rating: 8)

Red Velvet – Ice Cream Cake
Supposedly the spiritual sucessor to f(x) This one was kind of boring though, sexual innuendo notwithstanding. (Rating: 4).

EXO – EXODUS + Love Me Right
Ignoring the media circus surrounding the group, their music still continues to be solid..except for Love Me Right, which I can never understand the love for. (Rating: 7)

BoA – Kiss My Lips
Wrong choice of promo track asides, this was her best album in many a year. Excellent stuff, totally up my street. (Rating: 9)

SHINee – Odd + Married to the Music
View was arguably the best, most different song to come out of SM this year…though its impact diminished a bit when 4 Walls, by the same writing team, arrived. But this is still a very good album, my favourite from SHINee thus far. (Rating: 8)

Super Junior – Devil + Magic
Had its moments, but still nowhere near as good or memorable as MAMACITA. (Rating: 7)

TVXQ – Rise as God
Farewell album is sadly, dull. (Rating: 4)

Girls’ Generation – Lion Heart
Well, they’ve never made any good Korean albums and this one wasn’t ever going to buck the trend (Rating: 5)

Red Velvet – The Red
My gosh. Dumb Dumb really lives up to its name, so annoying yet I cannot get it out of my head. The rest of the album is not bad, a huge improvement on their first mini! (Rating: 6)

Jonghyun – The Collection
What a refreshing, nice change from his usual songs! Always been fond of mid-tempo r’n’b stuff.. (Rating: 9)

Taeyeon – I
Thankfully this didn’t turn out to be the 100% ballad-fest that I was expecting. Stress is great! (Rating: 7)

Kyuhyun – Fall, Once Again
Another old-school ballad album from him. It’s okay music to put on in the background, but slow emotes are not really my thing. (Rating: 5)

f(x) – 4 Walls
Is this their swansong? If so, what a great send-off it will make – a 4-member f(x) at its experimental best. (Rating: 9)

SNSD TTS – Dear Santa
Holy shit, this was terrible. Christmas albums are rarely good ideas but this was especially bad in execution. I felt like hating Christmas after hearing this… (Rating: 3)

EXO is like a religion – the god/deity is pretty alright but its fanclub is an absolute horror. Every time I set myself to hate their albums, I find that I just can’t – the quality of the music speaks for itself. (Rating: 8)

Selections of 2015: Intro


Selections of 2015: Intro

Oh it’s that time of year again. Roasted chestnuts, a partridge in a pear tree, all that jazz. Time to look back on all that happened, or in my case, what did not happen.

It’s the first year in a while that I didn’t make any trips to Japan for concerts and I’m about 105% sure I won’t ever be going again. All my contacts in Japan are gone, I no longer have a base to stay at, the Ringgit is shit, there are no artists I’m 105% invested in that I want to go through all shit-tons of hassle for.

At this point I’m pretty much satisfied to consume and invest in content from the comfort of my home, with the occasional event trip within the region. This year, there were 2 – that 750yen concert with Kawada Mami, ELISA & May’n, and a short sojourn to AFASG where I ended up doing more on the eating front than anything in terms of time spent at the convention itself. Aimer and Haniwa were great though!

I wanted to write a lot more in the yearly round-ups but I was down with various illnesses throughout December which left me with no time for anything but lists.

Cheerio, and may all of you and all of me stay healthy and happy in 2016.

YEN TOWN BAND – Ai no ne

It’s almost 20 years since the release of Iwai Shunji’s crime film Swallowtail and he’s back to direct a PV for YEN TOWN BAND, the fictional group from the movie that is putting out their first new material to celebrate the two decades since Swallowtail Buterfly~Ai no Uta~ shot the singer Chara to superstardom. The band, which also features Kobayashi Takeshi, have been playing a series of lives across Japan over the past few months. No word on whether there will be any follow-up album in the offing – we can only hope.

For Ai no ne, Iwai is once again dabbling in rotoscope animation, following up on last year’s Hana to Alice Satsujin Jiken. Rotoscope is a love/hate thing so you can make of it what you will.

Check out the reformed band’s Twitter and Facebook! As Swallowtail Butterfly is my #1 favourite Jpop song of all time, YEN TOWN BAND will always have a special place in my heart~~~

10 Favourite Anime Composers

Voted on this a few weeks ago, posting my list here for posterity’s sake.

1.Kajiura Yuki
Still the meister for me.

2.Ichikawa Jun (市川 淳)
Yeah it’s one year++ since Ichikawa’s work on Mitsuwano caught my ear and I’ve been busy digging into his archives since then. Hinata no Aoshigure’s soundtrack is a particular favourite, as is the OST for dorama Fuyu no Sakura.

3.Nanase Hikaru / Itou Masumi
The RDG soundtrack & Natsuiro Kiseki’s image album was great.

4.Sasago Shigeharu (Choro Club, ko-ko-ya)
I didn’t think I’d ever be putting Sasago on such a list but I guess he’s done enough anime-related work at this point to warrant a spot. Choro Club has always been a favourite of mine with or without the ARIA association, and Sasago’s involvement with ko-ko-ya (Croisee, Ristorante Paradiso) seals the deal further.

5.Oshima Michiru
As consistent as ever in output and quality.

6.Ryo Kunihiko/Yang Bang-Ean
He’s certainly not prolific, seemingly preferring to spend time producing commercial jingles and directing music for the Sochi Olympics and Pyeongchang handover ceremony. But he has recently done soundtracks for Akatsuki no Yona and the movie Again -28nenme no Koshien-.

7.Kato Tatsuya
Kato’s one of the younger guns and he’s been doing quite a lot of work of late, some of which has been very good. Like Shokugeki no Soma.

8.Matsuda Akito (Nijine)
Name change but he’s still the same. Euphonium guy.

9.Anze Hijiri
Anime or not? Arranger or composer? He did do BL show Hybrid Child (great stuff) this year but mostly operates in video games.

10.Kameoka Natsumi
Randomly discovered Kameoka through the soundtrack for VN Ken no Kimi and was delighted to hear her stellar work continue on the Kancolle anime. She’s an orchestrator so her works are obviously heavy on the strings – check out her official site for more examples.

On the cusp: Hamaguchi Shiro, Yamashita Kosuke, Hashimoto Yukari

The last time the poll was held in 2010, my top 10 was:

1.Kajiura Yuki
2.Nanase Hikaru
3.Oshima Michiru
4.Muramatsu Ken
5.Mitsumune Shinkichi
6.Ryo Kunihiko
8.Fujita Junpei
9.Okubo Kaoru
10.Anze Hijiri