Year in Review • Part Three: StyleJapan Picks

As much as I love making lists and preparing them graphically (well, WordPress doesn’t give me as many options as InDesign or Illustator), the chore of preparing the lists is an interesting yet time-consuming and annoying process, in particular this year, with all the stuff released this year. But here we go, the best singles and albums of the year:

Top 10 Singles of 2008

RED CLIFF - Shin Sen -, alan1. RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen – alan

#15 (Oricon weekly)

Not much of a shocker, I guess, considering I am an outspoken alan addict. I wasn’t an alan fan until Kaze no Tegami, but then RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen – came along and allowed me to appreciate her other singles. The title track is much more than just epic, it’s one of the most gorgeous ballads Japan has ever produced. And the B-Side, the orchestral version of her debut single, is almost just as good. Although I did protest against this song (and I haven’t changed my opinion), it’s an excellent song and a high-quality B-Side. Any track which is my favorite for almost four months is worth it.

watch the pv


Aijou, Nichika

2. Aijou Nichika

did not chart

This was a close call. While none of the songs needed improvement to be absolutely and utterly amazing, but I just didn’t get the same powerful feeling I get when I listen to RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen –. Nonetheless, Aijou is another step ahead for Nichika, and both songs are of the highest quality. I really enjoy the vibrant mesmerizing sound all of Nichika’s tracks are, and this song really drives that to an extreme. A must-hear for everyone.

watch the pv

 

Atarashii Mizu, Nichika

3. Atarashii Mizu Nichika

did not chart

Yes, Nichika gets two spots, and they’re successive. But I just can’t help it, this single is just so good. When I first heard it, it went straight into my “best of j-pop” playlist on iTunes and it has stayed there ever since. This song is excellent in all fields, melody, vocals, lyrics and even the PV is excellent (not eye-catching, but just very smart). This is another song that everyone should listen to, and it’s available on the internet, if that’s what you’re planning on downloading it.

watch the pv

 

romantic, Rie Fu4. romantic Rie fu

#100 (Oricon weekly)

This one can’t be much of a shocker either. Rie fu surprised everyone with this single, being pretty much the complete opposite to her conservative folk song style. But, nonetheless, she was able to perform excellently (all those who say she sounds bad on this song are crazy). A collaboration with m-flo’s producer didn’t sound good at first, but this single is definitely one of her best singles, and also worth the wait. Can’t wait for PRESENT, and it sounds like she’ll be working with the same producer.

watch the pv

 

Nexus 4/Shine, L'Arc-en-Ciel

5. Nexus 4/Shine L’Arc-en-Ciel

#2

This single is what got me back into them after listening to Lost Heaven and Link on eternal repeat for weeks, and it was quite the double A-Side. While Nexus 4 isn’t what L’Arc should be doing with their talent, Shine definitely is. This single showcased a complete overhaul of L’Arc’s more classical rock-like music. Their previous single, Drink it Down, was so dark that it wasn’t really a surprise for them to go with a lighter style of music for this one. I hope they fall out of that hiatus fast!

watch the pv for Nexus 4

watch the pv for Shine


PAPERMOON, Tommy heavenly66. PAPERMOON Tommy heavenly6

#10

This song is better than Nexus 4/Shine, but I gave that one the advantage because I liked it for a far longer time, and the B-Side was pretty bad. While PAPERMOON is a great song, I only loved it a lot for a few days before it became old. But I still think this song is really good and even better than the stuff she released for Heavy Starry Heavenly (maybe I’m Gonna SCREAM+ is better, but still). If you like rock in the least and still haven’t heard this song, shame on you.

watch the pv

 

TABOO, Koda Kumi7. TABOO Koda Kumi

#1

Insanely addctive, perfect, her best in a while, sexy, and provocative. Although I don’t think Kuu is worth much attention, this single definitely is. The PV was an internet phenomenon for a while, although I’m surprised all the ladies that felt offended about her comment in January weren’t offended by the regular (i.e. slutty) version of the PV. Ironic, no? But otherwise, this song really does kick some ass and I hope her next album delivers.

watch the pv

 

Atarashii Hibi, Every Little Thing

8. Atarashii Hibi/Ougon no Tsuki Every Little Thing

#10

Atarashii Hibi/Ougon no Tsuki may seem as a surprise, but both songs are so irresistibly catchy and happy that they had to get into the top 10 of 2008. I prefer Sakurabito and other Door era singles, but this single still remains one of my all-time favorites, and was the song that got me into them.

watch the pv

 

fairytale, Kalafina9. fairytale Kalafina

#9

While the B-Side being the A-Side annoys me, this is Kalafina’s best offering yet, featuring a latin choir music-inspired A-Side and a Chinese classical music-inspired B-Side. It differs from their two previous singles since it doesn’t feature prominent dance beats, but that’s all for the better. I just hope that they continue their work after Kara no Kyoukai is finished.

watch the pv

 

Winter Love Story, JYONGRI10. Winter Love Story Jyongri

#31

What I find great about this single is that all of the songs are on par. That may not necessarily be a good thing, but in this case, it is, since the B-Sides are just as good as the A-Side, perhaps even better. Winter Love Story was a nice R&B-inspired ballad, but the two ballad B-Sides were gorgeous. As I previously said, this is the best winter single of 2008.

watch the pv

 

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

WAKE YOU UP – Hitomi Shimatani

HEART STATION/STAY GOLD – Utada Hikaru

Jesus – Gackt

GREEN – Ayumi Hamasaki

WORLD END – FLOW

 

Top 10 Albums of 2008

Nichika, Nichika1. Nichika Nichika

failed to chart

One word: flawless. Another word: grandiose. It’s not for no reason that I gave Nichika’s self-titled debut not five but six stars: this album is the best album I’ve ever heard. There is a maintained flow even though each track offers a distinct flavor. But with all those great singles, what could you expect?

Sing to the Sky, Ayaka2. Sing to the Sky Ayaka

#2

It’s surprising this album only reached #2 when her debut, First Message, reached #1, considering this album is much better. While there are two or three tracks that may require improvement, this album was the best album for the year for me until I heard Nichika.

 

Van., Tomiko Van3. Van. Tomiko Van

#28

This was one of the pleasant surprises of the year, Tomiko Van’s first single-preceded album, which was long overdue, after those two cover albums (which I didn’t very much enjoy). 

 

 

Heart Station, Utada Hikaru4. HEART STATION Utada Hikaru

#1

I did criticize this album a lot when I reviewed it, but it remains one of my personal favorites of 2008. It does contain a lot of synth (too much, perhaps), but the other aspects of the songs are all perfect. This could’ve been the year’s top album, but something was missing.

 

GUILTY, Ayumi Hamasaki5. GUILTY Ayumi Hamasaki

#2

Her best, by far. GUILTY was the beginning of what perhaps could be called Ayumi Hamasaki’s most unproductive year, but that doesn’t make this album bad; quite to contrary. I like the epic feel of this album, the grunge, the sadness, and the power of it.

VOICE, Mika Nakashima

6. VOICE Mika Nakashima

#1

This was one breathtaking album, despite the fact that it was composed of, for the most part, pre-recorded songs. But with gorgeous album tracks like TRUST YOUR VOICE and Koe, you’ve got yourself one of Mika’s best albums yet.

 

Supreme Show, Ami Suzuki7. Supreme Show Ami Suzuki

#16

This was the techno album of the year, even better than Perfume’s GAME, I dare say. The album was diverse, interesting and techno goodness. I said that it doesn’t deserve “best album of 2008”, but it still deserves a place in this list.

 

 

LOVE LETTER, Ai Otsuka8. LOVE LETTER Ai Otsuka

#3

Another album that was released this year that is the artist’s best but didn’t make it to the habitual #1. LOVE LETTER struck me with the lack of cutesy Ai and the more mature themes and sounds. She should stick with this.

 

Flare, Shimatani Hitomi

9. Flare Hitomi Shimatani

#21

This one might get strong objection, but I do have to say that Flare has its charming points. Alright, so songs like Taiyou no Flare and Ame no Hi ni wa Ame no Naka wo (bla, bla, bla) are pretty weak, but I like a lot of the new songs.

 

NUDY SHOW!, Anna TsuchiyaNUDY SHOW! Anna Tsuchiya

Despite its weaknesses, NUDY SHOW! is another album whose charm won me over. There are a decent amount of weak tracks, but tracks like Style and GINGER brought some eccentric flavor which I really liked.

 

 

• • •

So that’s it! The 2008 reviews are finally finished. From now on, I’ll have a bunch of features and I’ll review GIRL NEXT DOOR’s self-titled debut, until Gackt’s GHOST comes out on the 21st. I’ll come back later when I get Adobe CS4 (I changed computers, and Adobe is smarter than I thought with installing the same program on two computers) to make these posts look a little bit better, but that may take some time. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed these posts. Here’s to a great 2008 and hoping that 2009 will serve us just as well!

 

 

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