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hiroki

hiroki's favorites of 2016

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Since everyone's waiting for someone else to kick things off, I'll do it lol. My list is divided into 3 categories, each with 10 of my favorite releases, max 1 per band per section. The categories are (a) singles; (b) albums and mini-albums; (c) non-regular releases, which include live-limited/distributed CDs, digital releases, CDs of session bands, units, shuffle bands, and so on.

 

As before, a caveat: I listen exclusively to visual kei and my list reflects that. Also, this list is called “hiroki’s favorites”, which is to say, music that speaks most intimately to me on various levels and has the kind of sound I'm attracted to. I make no pretense of this being the best that the scene has to offer anyone, since that's something only he/she can seek out on their own.

 

For me--and saying this will no doubt induce significant eye-rolling--2016 was by some distance the best year of visual kei in terms of music released (disbands are a separate matter). It took me incredibly long to assemble a list of 10 per category because in each case I could easily have cited 50 that would ordinarily waltz into my top 10 list any other year. The competition this time was unreal. I considered appending an honorable mention section to each category but I thought better of making an already lengthy list even more unwieldy.

 

Lastly: even though I made this list more as a cathartic exercise than a serious attempt to make others fall in love with my bands, I'll be delighted if you decide to leave a comment. So please feel free to let me know what you think! ^^

 

Since it's apparently no longer possible to embed the mp3 directly I've uploaded snippets on Youtube (already a couple of copyright warnings so far). I'll keep my thoughts as short as possible; it's quite pointless to repeat 'I LOVE THIS SO MUCH' 30 times...

 

Here we go!

 

 

TOP 10 SINGLES

 

 

 

 

#10

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Blu-BiLLioN / S.O.S.

 

BB leads the way among kira vk bands that have made it relatively big - a tough ask these days. They aren't even in my top tier of bands, but can I just say how proud I am of them?? Please make it to Budokan one day :)

 

 

#9

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ビバラッシュ / Merry-Merry-Merry-Go!!-Round☆

 

I'm glad to see the Vivarush guys expanding their repertoire from the signature Fukuoka electro-rock sound that characterized their previous band. 透明な影 is an example of something you wouldn't have heard in A≠ris (Ruimaru spoke of the difficulty he encountered writing lyrics to this song). It seems Osaka is currently experiencing a mini-revival for this style of vk so hopefully that works in their favor.

 

 

#8

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vistip / CONTRAST

 

Probably the closest post-CHIMERA vistlip has come to giving me that feeling which made me fall in love so hard with them when they started out. The chorus of CONTRAST is classic vistlip; just listen to how Tomo duplicates the same 2-bar phrase over the IV-V-iii-vi progression. But theory-speak  is unnecessary; their sound + Tomo's lyrics pull me into their world like no other band can and that's all the matters. I demand more of this magic for your 10th anniversary this year please.

 

 

#7

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Purple Stone / 歌舞伎町バタフライ

 

If you've been around MH for more than 3 days you'd probably have realized that I kinda love Purple Stone. I have no freaking clue why they are only #7, but that just attests to how crowded the field is. Anyway, it's nearly impossible to choose between 歌舞伎町バタフライ and パニックパニック!. The latter definitely kills at lives, but 歌舞伎町バタフライ probably has the edge on record so I've gone for that here. The B-side "RIVER" is Purple Stone's grandest song, and "Paradise Dance" a fantastic live track that I've enjoyed every single time.

 

 

#6

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グラムヘイズ / 妄想スパイス

 

There's only one reason why I’ve picked this single over ラストシーン for glamhaze: its B-side 優しい街 kills me every time I hear it. Satoru's dreamy love letter to a Tokyo that has mercilessly turned its back on him continues to tear at my heart. Musically this song fuses a sparkly cascading soundscape reminiscent of DOF with a controlled intensity to produce an experience at once subtle and epic. It's very difficult for fans to accept glamhaze's imminent disbandment, but at least we have Satoru's solo project to look forward to.

 

 

#5

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弾丸 NO LIMIT / ソノ嘘ホント

 

I can't believe how much Dangan has grown in such a short period of time. They write memorable melodies with unbelievable ease and Miyuu sounds ridiculously good every single time. I'm also kinda obsessed with Yusuke at this point (oops). Everything about this single is perfect except its album art (what?).

 

 

#4

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Lydiar / the Elpis

 

I wasn't too into Lydiar's first single, however a friend of mine loved it so much I told myself to stick with them a little longer. It turns out that it wouldn't be long before they decided to disband anyway, which was a real shame because their 2nd single was really everything I love. For that alone I'll always remember them <3 I suspect coyomi's almost-out-of-control vocals would be unbearable to some, but they work for me!

 

 

#3

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Ank lily. / 解けた糸

 

Every year a band emerges from nowhere and snags one of the top spots in my singles list and along with it a permanent place in my heart. Last year was DiCE and this year it's Ank lily. I've been a great admirer of Rui since Emu. and buccal cone but this single excels on a whole new level. Hopefully Rui comes out of his semi-retirement mode soon...

 

 

#2

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アンフィル / Step by step

 

Definitely the hardest decision I've had to make on this list. Not with regard to the position, but which Anfiel release? It's almost scandalous that a release like ラヴァ doesn't make it, but a band can only blame themselves for releasing 1 very very good single and 3 very very very good singles in a single year, right? On a more serious note, the split second Shogo's vocals enter this song after the guitar intro has got to be one of my all-time favorite moments in visual kei. The very first sounds he makes shift the mood so dramatically that I’m still blown away each time I go back to the track. Have I told you that I love Shogo??

 

 

#1

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BLESSCODE / Imperial City

 

If #2 was the hardest decision, this was the easiest. Hyperbole alert: I feel rather strongly that Imperial City is the best visual kei song I've ever heard. SORRY NOT SORRY. Surprisingly I'm not the only one who feels this way *winks* Witnessing this single drop in April was the equivalent of watching a soccer match where one team has scored 20 goals by half-time. It isn’t even close. At this point I don't even feel like describing what is it specifically about this song that I like. I still get goosebumps when I hear the chorus. It has become trite to claim that one "loves everything" about a song, except that's literally true in this case. I simply cannot imagine a song in this style that's done better. 99.9/100, 0.1 penalty for their decision to disband.

 

Edited by hiroki
CAT5, nostalgia, ghost and 15 others like this

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Posted (edited)

TOP 10 ALBUMS & MINI-ALBUMS

 

 

 

#10

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ASTARIA / 未来のその先

 

ASTARIA is one of those bands that had always lingered on the peripheries of my attention, but I’ve definitely got into them more after seeing them live some time ago. The atmosphere their music conjures is pretty special (and has been since Black Klaxon). That said, I still think Rey's vocals are an acquired taste so give them some time to grow on you :)

 

 

#9

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CLØWD / TENDERLOIN

 

I still don't get the album's title. But that's a very minor footnote to my favorite release from them to date. Tomorrowland is a tour de force that showcases the range of things Kou is capable of. If Ryohei can continue getting the best out of the rest of the band with his composition they should go pretty far with DC's push.

 

 

#8

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GARAK'S / 革命

 

I wasn't sure how this band would work out when they formed with Juri as their vocalist (one of the airiest vocals in visual kei, with the possible exception of Rikuto) and syuma as their main composer (who generally excels at harder tracks). It's still early days, and only time can tell if this combination ultimately works, but their mini album was very promising. I hope Juri gets rid of whatever he's wearing on his head in the next look.

 

 

#7

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DOG inThePWO / Doggy Style 0

 

I wish @Tetora was still around just so that I can tell him I finally fell in love with DOG! For all his relentless promotion it took a Christmas song for them to win me over LOL. I mean, this is only the most fun Christmas song ever <3 Has Haru always sounded this good?? Anyway, DOG is poised to change their concept this year and I'm excited and terrified in equal measure.

 

 

#6

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Ichiyon / 140

 

Ichiyon's was a particularly painful disbandment for me to take because I always felt that they had the potential to do so so much more. They have a knack for writing melodies that I can't forget even if I tried. It's hard to say what went wrong but I really loved everything they have done. They also had some of the sweetest members.

 

 

#5

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Luccica / ButterfLux

 

Another short-lived band that bit the dust before more people could get to know them. They didn't last long enough for me to form a strong impression of their band but this album was surprisingly refined and well thought through, especially considering they were newcomers to the scene. Bonus points for the pretty album art. I need Seiya back in a new band T_T

 

 

#4

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ペンタゴン / 絶叫!

 

My interest in Pentagon took a slight hit after buying their full album (there were nice tracks but it just didn't work for me as a whole) but I'm glad I continued following them regardless because this mini is such a gem. 線香花火 is a perfect ballad and Teenage. is basically the kind of song I live for: autotuned vocals, the gradual buildup, the interruption by Chizuru's falsettos to summon words lost in the depths of memory to force himself to stand up once again... Teenage. sets up the liminal space of adolescence where one is forced to wake into a new tomorrow even as he indulges in the pathos of a backward glance.

 

 

#3

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FoLLoW / FoLLoW

 

I don't think I need to provide a length commentary for this release since it speaks for itself. FoLLoW is an irreplaceable band for me and Masashi is just one of a kind. He's the sort of guy that draws in everyone around him (I mean, seriously, look at the number of bandmen who love him!!). When he talks/tweets/sings, everyone else listens. The album does a nice job at distilling the 3.5 years of FoLLoW and gives a nice taste of what the band is about, from their energetic rap tracks to heartbreaking ballads. So go listen.

 

 

#2

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弾丸 NO LIMIT / マズル

 

Everything I've said about Dangan above applies equally here. Miyuu is magical. Every time I listen to him I die a little harder. Something about his voice really gets to me (in the good way). I need to see them live asap. I also need to see Yusuke asap. I hope they can fill O-West for their one-man next month because they deserve it.

 

 

#1

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叙情四重奏「カノン」 / 写実と空想

 

Probably the biggest surprise all year. I still can't really explain why this is #1 for me but I'll try. Firstly, Kanon's music isn't really the kind I typically get into. Its plodding retro sound is reminiscent of bands like Belle and Marco--music that I don't mind putting on in the background occasionally but hardly the sort I have a great deal of emotional investment in. Actually, I don't even think that You is an extremely accomplished vocalist (he's still a sweetheart though). Yet I can't name another vocalist who can better serve the idea articulated by this album. Just like a classic Bradbury story, 写実と空想 evokes a mood that waxes and wanes through the album, with individual tracks functioning like vignettes through which one glimpses at a totality that actually doesn't exist. The album's title (which translates into 'realism and fantasy' - echoing a famous work by the Surrealist painter Koga Harue) gives us a clue into what this album is about. Its ponderous style invites equal introspection from the listener. If you do just that, you might be rewarded with a moment at the limit of experience - there, one is suspended between past and present, teetering on the edge of fiction and reality, waiting for an eternity to be seized in an instant...

 

Edited by hiroki
Mihi, ghost, ShTon and 12 others like this

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Posted (edited)

TOP 10 NON-REGULAR RELEASES

 

 

 

#10

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アルカネット / Answer

 

I’ll be the first to admit that the recording quality is somewhat dreadful, although that takes nothing away from how wonderful they are live. Sora is such an endearing vocalist (and one of my favorite guys to bug on Twitter). I’m so glad I decided to drop by Hokkaido en route to a conference last year just to see them <3 This band has an amazing exuberance about them that I hope they will never ever lose.

 

 

#9

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FeniX / Rebirth

 

FeniX was the new band of Lieluck’s vocalist You that somehow managed to last even shorter than Lieluck. I don’t have much to say about this band except that I love them while they lasted and if/when You decides to return with a new band he can be sure to count on my support.

 

 

#8

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Parxias / Ark Night

 

Hikarito can’t seem to decide on the name of his band haha – Parxias was something like the 3rd of 4 names he has cycled through in 2016 alone. Before forming his first proper band AsteL, he was a roadie together with shun (vocalist of the unit Kakumei no Jouken) for vistlip and it isn’t hard to discern vistlip’s influence on his songwriting. I have absolutely zero doubt about his talents (he plays 5? instruments) and with time he will only become better.

 

 

#7

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Rides In ReVellion / Another…

 

I always know what I’m going to get from RiR. Taji’s compositions are perfect for Kuro and this is no exception. A wonderful ballad that befits the occasion of their 1st anniversary oneman live.

 

 

#6

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アタック!アタック! / JUST A Virgin!

 

First thought: Pretty sure Taku wrote this… I might love it. Second thought: I love it. Third thought: I really love it. The perfect song for everyone to sing along to at the Goemon summer event where Attack!Attack! was the opening act. My guess is that they will continue to play this at their label’s 2-man lives in future as a theme song of some sort. Even for a distro I wish the production had been better – usually when I say this it means that it’s pretty bad because I simply don’t care about production as long as it doesn’t get in the way of listening.

 

 

#5

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篠突く雨 / 葵

 

They already have like 4 distributed CDs since they formed but 葵 was by far the best of the bunch for me. A solid melody with the usual Japanesque elements you’d expect from Shinotsuku ame, it’s dramatic without being either brooding or cheesy. In truth, this isn’t even my favorite song from them – that would have to be 月光の檻, the B-side of  輝夜-kaguya-, their very strong debut release that I unfortunately couldn’t accommodate into my singles list above.

 

 

#4

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-真天地開闢集団-ジグザグ / 悪いのはバンドマン

 

Honestly I still can’t warm up to 80% of zigzag’s discography. I also don’t find their bangya jokes particularly amusing. My opinion might change if I see them live… we’ll see. But this song has such a strong tinge of Ray℃ (dat chorus…) that I can’t help but love it. I can go on and on but it would be about Ray℃ rather than zigzag so I’ll spare you all of that.

 

 

#3

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FoLLoW / シアワセノカタチ

 

FoLLoW performed this for the first and last time at the final oneman, so this song has the same kind of emotional gravity for me as SINCREA’s RED. I feel that this might not be the strongest melody that Masashi has written in his career, but that’s an extremely trivial and nitpicky point when weighed against the occasion and what Masashi had clearly wanted to convey through their last song. He definitely succeeded; and one might argue he succeeded a little too well. I cannot.

 

 

#2

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アンフィル / アクア

 

アクア is kind of a companion song to ラヴァ and it was given out at their 3rd oneman. Shogo said in an interview that this song could only have been written at a precise point in Anfiel’s career and that they could never do a song like this again. You can probably understand why that’s the case if you listen carefully to it. I love how forward-looking Anfiel is and the fact that they’re never content with status quo. Also, Shogo’s vocals <3 Have I told you that I love Shogo??

 

 

#1

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THE SINK. / Snow fall season

 

THE SINK. has topped my ‘non-regular releases’ list for the second year running and I don’t know if that’s something I should be delighted or exasperated about. At this point I’m like 90% certain My Fairytale won’t be back anytime soon and I’m already bitterly resigned to that fact. The only silver lining is that neo is still sporadically writing new songs for Kate and THE SINK. is a semi-regular session (though for how long more… I’m unsure, after a grand total of FOUR people went to see them last month). I can’t remember the last time I’ve followed a session this closely. Give me more of this combination of Tokyo-Shitei-esque R&B beat with Kate’s soaring vocals taking flight, and I can only love them more (if that’s possible?)..

 

Edited by hiroki

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Very nice!!!! Love your list of songs! Some faces I haven't heard of before and some I may never hear from because of the live-limited stuff lol but I digress~ I actually thought you would put some bands higher than you did but I do know that it is hard to compile such a mass effort together and only into 5 slots. Here's to another great year of V-kei~ism

hiroki likes this

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Awesome work @hiroki!! I think our tastes only overlap sporadically... but I'm definitely going to check out some of these releases based on your recommendation.

 

Some thoughts about what made the cut:

 

- Vistlip is coming up on a decade!? Wow.

- Again, what a shame Blesscode is disbanding. In addition to Imperial City being great, I find myself spinning their cover of that Morrigan song a lot too... they were on a roll in 2016.

- Agreed Pentagon's 絶叫! was a nice comeback after the lackluster Ghost Hotel.

- LOL. I like that the Garak's dude decided a crown of thorns was a good look. ;)

 

Yukimoto and hiroki like this

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@The Reverend yup i know that few people here have tastes that overlap with mine haha but thank you sooo much for checking my list out nevertheless!! that means a lot to me :D

 

@Yukimoto thanks for being so supportive as always ^^ glad to hear you liked the list :)

 

 

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Some interesting picks out there, Well done!

 

パラダイス・ダンス is super, 歌舞伎町バタフライ is super super, RIVER is super super super.

I'm pretty much surprised to see the "Step by step" single for your favorite アンフィル release and not ラヴァ.

アクア  :'D

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I loved this, very well done. 
I normally don't pay atention to very colorful bands, but I'll check these releases out.

hiroki likes this

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@chemicalpictures thanks!! let me know what you think once you've checked them out ^^ looking forward to your list as well!

 

@Mihi ilu2

 

@yakihiko honestly it was really difficult to choose between Lava and Step bye step ._. i feel like Lava might be the "better" song but Step bye step probably suits my temperament more? haha :D

 

@vanivani thanks for dropping by! unfortunately a third of the bands here have disbanded lol. but i think we have enough favorite bands in common so hopefully you can pick up  some bands to follow... that would be awesome :3

 

@Komorebi yay thanks for looking at my list!! ^^

yakihiko and vanivani like this

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Great list, @hiroki!  I actually think the youtube videos are a lot cooler than embedding mp3s (minus the copyrights ofc)! Obviously our tastes are quite different, but you've played things that I've enjoyed before on dub, so I had to check out what you did here. 8D I still dig that BLESSCODE a lot, and the purple stone and glamhaze tracks sound nice too!

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