Archive for the '*FEATURES' Category

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


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


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


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


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


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


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




WAKE YOU UP – Hitomi Shimatani


Jesus – Gackt

GREEN – Ayumi Hamasaki



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


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


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


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


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


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


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.





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


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!




Year in Review • Part Two: A Review of the Year

I have to say that 2008 was a great year for the Japanese music industry and the material released this year got better every day. If we can see just as much effort next year, I’d (well, we’d all) be very happy. And not only was the material great in quantity, but it was excellent in quality. “Rien ne sert de courir, il faut partir a point” (what meaning is there in running if one leaves late?) is a proverb that could very well apply to 2008. The first quarter was marked by the release of two albums by the two central pillars of J-Pop, Utada Hikaru and Ayumi Hamasaki, and both, while they had their flaws, were excellent material. I did express vivid aggressiveness when reviewing HEART STATION, but that was from a uniquely objective view. Although it doesn’t reach her two previous albums, Utada Hikaru did it again with her fifth album. On the other hand, GUILTY is by far Ayumi’s most unique and most excellent album so far, namely the only one by her that I can sit through. Both albums were unique and far different from anything the two had previously done (Utada Hikaru’s perhaps less considering ULTRA BLUE was ultra synth, but the tone of the album was very different to her two previous albums). Soon after GUILTY, Ayumi’s avex rival, Koda Kumi, released an album which I consider to be horrendous, but which was equally a statement: Kingdom. For although GUILTY was Ayumi’s best, it was her first to not reached #1 on Oricon. This was seen as an opportunity, most likely, to usurp the Empress of J-Pop by many of avex’s competing labels. Every Little Thing released their eighth album, Door, which was a tasteful ballad through their music, while providing some variety from what we previously heard from them.

2008 was equally the year for solo artists breaking away from well-established groups, regrouping and disbanding. HIGH AND MIGHTY COLOR, a decently established rock/punk/metal/rap band, broke up, releasing their final single, Remember, in October and drawing a line there. On a more positive sidenote, Kaori Mochida, Every Little Thing’s vocalist, while continuing her band activities, announced her going solo (her debut single, Ame no Waltz, is due late January), and Do As Infinity are, to my joy, regrouping and will be releasing a single in Spring. Urata Naoya of boy/girl band AAA also received a solo contract from avex, and L’Arc-en-Ciel lead singer formed a band with K.A.Z. (from the band Oblivion Dust), VAMPS, and they released their debut single, LOVE ADDICT, on July 2nd. Utada Hikaru’s debut in America is confirmed for spring or summer, with the airing of a song from her upcoming album in February. YUI announced a one-year-long hiatus, and L’Arc-en-Ciel is equally temporarily breaking up to return to their solo activities. This year was also one for anniversaries and celebrations. Artists debuting in 1998 and 2003 celebrated their tenth or fifth anniversary this year, and among them are Ayumi Hamasaki, Utada Hikaru and Ai Otsuka. Ayumi released two 10th anniversary singles, Utada Hikaru is expected to release two books, and Ai Otsuka released a 5th anniversary single as well as her most mature album so far. avex equally had reason to celebrate, since last year was its 20th anniversary, and a group was formed for that occasion, GIRL NEXT DOOR.

2008 was full of highlights, surprises, new bands, and just a whole lot better than 2007. Here’s to 2009 and hoping it’ll be just as good as this past year!

Year in Review • Part One: The Poll Results

I’ve been very excited about the results ever since I launched the poll, and now I finally get to announce the results. The return was slightly disappointing, and I will comment about whether I agree or object to the result (I do have a few objections).

Best Promotional Video and Best Single
Koda Kumi • TABOO

Koda Kumi, TABOO

So we were all pretty surprised when we saw this roller-coaster ride of a PV. I have to admit, the colors the choreography and all the stuff is pretty amazing and does represent the content of the song pretty well. However, I have to say that I think many other PVs are better than this one—by far.

Koda had disappointed us with her previous quadruple A-Side (leave it avex to come up with something as horrible as that) MOON, which, although it had two good songs, was pretty meagre and nowhere close to 4 hot wave. TABOO took an almost record length to come out, but I have to say, it was worth the wait. Although I don’t think this single merits “best single of 2008”, it definitely belongs in the hall of fame of singles. Snazzy, sexy, powerful, and catchy.

A) Best Single

2. RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen – (alan)

3. Tegami – Haikei Jyuugo no Kimi e – (Angela Aki)

4. Kaeritakunatta yo (Ikimono Gakari)

5. Kurage, Nagareboshi (Ai Otsuka)

B) Best Promotional Video

2. 360° (Ai Otsuka)

3. ORION (Mika Nakashima)

4. RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen – (alan)

5. GREEN (Ayumi Hamasaki)


Best Album
Ami Suzuki • Supreme Show

Supreme Show, Ami SuzukiI object, Your Honor! No offense to techno-philes, but although I gave this album five stars, the best album of the year is by far not, for me, Supreme Show. For all intents and purposes, this album was a “supreme show” of techno, but many albums trump this one. Take, for one, Nichika’s self-titled debut album, which is absolutely breathtaking and everyone should listen to. But before I start talking about them, maybe I should focus a little on the pros of this album: it may not be excellent in all fields, but it does have some very good songs on it (well, all of them are above-average techno), and Nakata did some interesting stuff, especially on songs like flower, which featured an interesting and powerfully catchy mix of techno and strings.

2. Sing to the Sky (ayaka)

3. VOICE (Mika Nakashima)

4. LOVE LETTER (Ai Otsuka)

5. no votes issued for the other options



Best Artist

GAME, Perfume

I may think that Perfume is overrated, they still proved themselves to be the most amazingly successful band of 2008. Their album GAME reaching #1, the first time in the history of Japanese music for a techno band to reach the top spot on Oricon. While the album isn’t as great as I would’ve expected it to be, it did include some pretty spectacular and bizarre tracks, in particular the title track.

I think there are few others who deserve an honorable mention this year, in particular Ikimono Gakari and alan, who released massive amounts of stuff, in particular the first, who released two albums and five singles this year, most of it between September and December. Either way, 2008 was a really good year for Japanese music, and I can only hope that 2009 will bring equal achievements.

2. Mika Nakashima and BONNIE PINK

3. alan and Ikimono Gakari and Ami Suzuki and Ayumi Hamasaki

4. GIRL NEXT DOOR and Ai Otsuka and YUI and Koda Kumi and Ayaka

5. no votes issued for the other options

Christmas Special

I’m a day late at doing this, but I wasn’t planning on doing this anyway, but I’ve recently had some very good ideas in mind, so today I will announce the second part of the 2008 wrap-up, namely an artist-by-artist breakdown of what has happened (best, worsts, analysis, etc.). This will not apply to every artist, just to the artists I will list below. But before that:


Merry Christmas!

I sort of feel the need to brag about it since I’m overly excited about it, but, maybe you noticed, a few days ago, I added a “purchases” section with all the stuff coming from Japan to Montreal this month. And because this is the first time I’m ordering, I’m really, really excited, and this has been, so far, the best Christmas ever. The first shipment was five CDs: Utada Hikaru’s three latest albums, which I have been playing over and over again, Nichika’s Aijou, not only because it can’t be found anywhere on the internet, but because they are awesome, and L’Arc-en-Ciel’s Kiss. And I got a 120 GB black iPod which has been glued to my ears permanently. Pictures soon enough.

So, back to the artists you will see reviewed starting January 3rd, 2009:

  • Ai Otsuka
  • alan
  • Asian Kung-Fu Generation
  • Ayumi Hamasaki
  • Ikimono Gakari
  • Rie fu
  • YUI

Following will be the fourth part, which will be an overall wrap-up documenting what has happened this year in relation to the artists you see on the right side of the screen. In the mean time, I will finish reviews of stay with me, fairytale, and GIRL NEXT DOOR. You may have noticed, but for the next few weeks, there are no new releases that I will be reviewing, so I will be doing a lot of specials. The vote is doing well, and the poll will be closed on January 1st at seven o’clock, which is when it’s midnight for WordPress, and the results will be declared as the first part of the 2008 wrap-up on January 3rd.

Merry Christmas!

The History of Japanese Music (1)

ballad […] [(O) Fr. ballad f. Prov. balada to dance] n. 1. A light, simple song; spec. (a) a song intended to accompany a dance; (b) a sentimental or romantic composition of two or more verses each sung to the same melody. […] A popular song, esp. one attacking persons or institutions. […] A popular narrative song in slow tempo. 2. A proverbial saying, usu. in the form of a couplet. […] 3. A lively poem in short stanzas, in which a popular narrative is graphically told […].

— The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Volume 1, A-M, (1993) pg. 173

Welcome to “the history of Japanese music”, a feature in my blog which will appear every once in a while documenting the several periods in Japanese music, beginning with the Nara Period (710-794) and ending with modern music.

Part One: The Nara and Heian Periods

Although Japan is an archipelago cut off completely from the Asian mainland, much of its musical influence began with the cultural waves of the Yamato Period (250-710) and the Nara Period (710-794), originating in the by then already well-established and long-lasted Chinese Empire and Korea. The Yamato Period, which saw the first national unison on the Japanese archipelago, and is the beginning of the Japanese Imperial Court, the longest lasting monarchy in the World, also saw the “importation” of Buddhism in the sixth century. Wanting to seem prestigious, rich and powerful, the Imperial Court decided to have temples, statues and works of literature made.

1. “Song”: The Beginning of Japanese Music

The word uta, although it can be written with many characters, always means song. It is a unique connection of two syllables, compared to the sound ji which can mean temple, hour, samurai, and many others. To begin this series of documentary blog articles about the history of Japanese music, we will analyze three of the many characters which can be used to write uta:

  • 唄 is formed of the kanji for “mouth” and “shell”. The kanji for “shell”, kai, is found in the kanji for “to buy”, as shells were an ancient for of currency. As such “mouth shell” can designate something which comes out of the mouth which is of a certain value.
  • 詩 is formed of the kanji for “to say” and “temple”. Songs were at first Buddhist chants, and as such were “words from the temple”.
  • 詠 is formed of the kanji for “to say” and “eternity”. Indeed, songs, or poems, as they were first known, were texts whose sayings usually had a global lesson: sayings of eternal truth.

From these three kanji, we can deduce that to the time when the first kanji were “imported” from China, the sense of uta was not song but poem, and has only in more recent times taken the meaning of song. Of course, this counts for other languages as well, since the poem is predecessor of the song, but kanji generally make it very easy to define Japanese culture and the manner of thought of ancient Japan.

2. Heijo-kyo, the “capital of the castle on plains” and Heian-kyo, the “capital of the peaceful plains”

In 710 AD, the Emperor of Japan moved the capital to Nara, then known as Heijo-kyo, as was customary to do after the death of an Emperor (this was a custom founded on the Buddhist belief that the place of death of a person is filthy). The capital would only be moved in 794 AD to Heian-kyo, later Kyoto, where it would stay until 1868. These two perids, the Nara Period and the Heian Period, mark the beginning of the creation a unique Japanese culture.

During the Yamato Period, the main focus of the Imperial Government was to adopt the culture of a country seen higher, and in turn grow to challenge it—eventually. But with a growing ego and self-confidence, it was almost inevitable that Japan attempt to develop a culture which would make it different from China. Arguably, they failed, the fundaments of Chinese culture still lying deep within Japanese culture, but there remains a massive divide between the Chinese and Japanese cultures.

Most of the important elements of Japanese culture were created during the Nara and Heian Periods, and writing was a field almost strictly reserved the Court Nobility, who controlled virtually all of “Wakoku”, Japan. The use of verses and stanzas, metaphors and other standards in poetry were set. The first novel written in Japanese, equally the oldest novel of the world, Genji Monogatari, the Tales of Genji, written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, arguably the most famous author in Japanese history, was written, much like Beowulf, partially in prose. These poems and tales then had influence on the earliest musical arts, notably Gagaku (“beautiful music”, orchestral court music), koto and biwa, as well as the dances which sometimes accompanied them.

Since Chinese characters, kanji, had come to be the official language used in legal documents, it was another challenge to get rid of this in order to help the unique Japanese culture further develop. As such, the writers of the Nara and even more of the Heian Period tried to avoid the use of Chinese as much as possible. They did not completely succeed, as these kanji, even though there are only 2000 compared to the several thousand Chinese characters that now exist, still compose the fundament of Japanese writing. 

Genji Monogatari, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu

3. Early Musical Theory

China is of a complicated culture, and part of separating oneself from it was simplifying this culture and building up those fundaments. The result was a very simple, elegant culture based on the Chinese culture yet visibly different. Nonetheless, music was, like in China, a “commodity” reserved almost strictly to the highest levels of the state.

One of the most important milestones in Japanese music is the concept of jo, ha, kyu: begin, break and hurry. This dictated the style in which music was to be written: a gentle opening, then an acceleration, and then ending with a very fast section followed by a gentle ending. This is present in modern music as verse, chorus and bridge.

A closing note: the most prominent styles of music during the Nara and Heian Period

  • Gagaku (“elegant music”) is orchestral court music. There are two types of Gagaku: Kangen (“wind instrument and chords”), instrumental music, and Bugaku (“dancing music”), Gagaku accompanied by a dance.
  • Kagurauta (“god’s music”), Azuma-Asobi (“eastern entertainment”), and Yamatouta (“Japanese music”) are indigenous song styles.
  • Togaku (“Tang music”) and Komagaku (“Korean music”) originate in music from the cultural waves of the Tang Dynasty in China.
  • Shomyo (“voice of enlightenment”), Buddhist chanting.

The second installment of “The History of Japanese Music” will appear in January and will focus on the development of music during the pre-Sengoku Feudal Period (1185-1476).

10 Worst Album Covers

As you may know from my previous post, my music is off-reach for the moment, so, in order to keep the views coming, I have decided to create this post, the fifteen worst album covers I have ever seen. I thought I’d too a best fifteen album covers, but that’s not as original as it used to be. So here’s part one of two-part series, the second one being about single covers. So here we go:

Sheng Sheng Zui Ru Lan, alan

Starting off things is alan; as you may know, I absolutely love both her work and her covers, but her Chinese debut cover album, Sheng Sheng Zui Ru Lan (entranced with the voice of Alan), is really awful: first of all, what’s with the characters flying everywhere and the huge period? The typographic work done here is amateur and, unfortunately, plain disgusting. Then we come to the image. It represents very badly the whole idea of this album, everything from the blue sky and sea, the plants in the corner, and the horrible pink dress she’s wearing. (And yes, this is a Chinese album, but it’s still alan, so let’s just say it counts.)

PAPILLON, Shimatani Hitom

Next up is another of my favorite artists, who unfortunately has a reputation with me of having the worst ever album covers, with the exception of Tsuioku+LOVE LETTER, PRIMA ROSA and Flare; and even there, they’re not all as good. Shimatani Hitomi’s PAPILLON is just plain distasteful. Especially the typography. The letters are completely random, and although she looks very nice, the image is really horrible (what does a butterfuly have to do with a girl on a motorcycle?). Yet another album cover for the hall of fame of worst album covers.

Dolce, Ami Suzuki

Opinions about this cover are probably divided, but mine is unanimously “hate”. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like pink, it’s a great color, even though this form of pink is almost revolting. The problem with the CD edition of DOLCE is not that it doesn’t represent the title (“dolce” means “soft” or “sweet”, and the cover really does express that), but that the mix of a little bit of white and lots of pink, and then the horrible mirrors, really isn’t great.

Gates of Heaven, Do As Infinity

Here’s another cover where the photography is pretty bad, Do As Infinity’s GATES OF HEAVEN, their fifth and before-last album. It’s not horrible, just plain boring, uninspiring, unrepresentative of the theme, and average. The lettering is pretty horrible too; at the very top of the cover, and with a uselessly tilted G (I have the font, so I know that the G isn’t titled normally). Do As Infinity’s album covers are pretty bad, with the exception  of Break of Dawn and Need Your Love, but this one stands out as the worst.


YUI’s covers tend to be good, but FROM ME TO YOU is such a horrible cover. I hate all the text (we don’t need to know how many tracks there are, that’s why there’s a back cover, I really don’t care about the stereo, and obviously is a CD) and the font used, and the blurred image of YUI isn’t all that great either. The cover doesn’t express “from me to you” at all, neither does that of CAN’T BUY MY LOVE. (I Loved Yesterday’s cover does have a meaning, but it’s sort of hiddden.)

The Marrow of a Bone, Dir en Grey

Lack of inspiration, resources, ideas, or what? Dir en Grey’s THE MARROW OF A BONE is a prime example of horrible typography and photography combined into one piece of crap. All caps rarely look good, especially on regular serif fonts such as the one above. Then there’s the image, which I don’t get, and is probably just trying to be spooky, because that’s Dir en Grey’s schtick; most of the time. I could add all of their album covers, but I think this one will suffice.

Big Bang!!!, Shoko Nakagawa

Shoko Nakagawa’s Big Bang!!! pretty much visualizes her otaku-ness by being one of the most cheesy covers ever. The dress, the Mars setting, the horrible italic sans-serif in super-bold and the three exclamation points as well as the Neil Armstrong, moon-landing pose are just way over the top and plain horrible. Fortunately, her covers after this one get better.

Sakura Saku Machi Monogatari, Ikimono Gakari

Next up is Ikimono Gakari’s Sakura Saku Machi Monogatari (the story of the town where the cherry blossoms bloom). Do I really have to explain? The image, the disgusting graphics around it, the improper English (or should I say Engrish?) grammar used in the translation of the title below the image (the story of town where cherry blossoms bloom).

LOVE JAM, Ai Otsuka

Alright, the cover for Ai Otsuka’s LOVE JAM isn’t all that bad, and is somewhat of a last-minute addition to this list. I only like Ai’s covers from LOVE COOK, and this one is by far her worst. Her covers tend to accentuate her cuteness, and this one sure does that, but the jam on the face and the tongue sticking out is sort of stupid. Not a bad cover, just stupid.

break the rules, Namie Amuro

I hate Namie Amuro, but most of her covers are good. But break the rules really does break the rules of design. Number one, what’s with the Trump-style “name all over the place and the title is really unimportant and small and hard to discover”? The photography is bland, the font sucks and the color doesn’t suit the picture.

4 Reviews of 2008

It’s a simple deal: there’s four categories, I choose who’s the best of 2008, and then, on the first of January, I declare the winner of the 2008 music season. You’ll have a chance to vote, but not until later.

  • best promotional video
  • best cover
  • best single
  • best album

Finally, on December 24th, I will reveal which artist performed best this year; this means that my favorite artist will not (necessarily) be that artist. Notably, Utada Hikaru can almost impossibly be that artist because she released almost nothing this year, and I was very disappointed by her 2008 releases. For these particular features, I will list why I did not select other candidates. The candidates for all five features will be announced on November 23rd.