Ito

Ito's Top 10 Albums of 2016

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I wanted to keep things really straight forward this year - only 10 albums and keep my blurbs short. I know this is a bit on the late side, but I hope that some people can find some new music they enjoy out of it!

 

10) gibkiy gibkiy gibkiy - Fujouri Shugeki

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Those of you who know me should already know that I am a sucker for nagoya kei. The formula for this band is a no brainer - vocalist from Merry Go Round, guitarist and bassist from the god and death stars, and the (original) drummer from L’Arc~en~Ciel all bring a long pedigree of talent. A brooding atmosphere that permeates through the album, leaving the album feeling bleak in the best way possible. Though different styles, gibkiy brings that same “unhinged” feeling that I enjoy so much in DEZERT’s work. The 14 minute closer is an avant garde piece constantly uncomfortable and on your toes, with long unusual pauses and strange guttural growls, wraps the album on a truly memorable note.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

9) girugamesh - chimera

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I’d be lying if I said that this being Girugamesh’s final album didn’t push this up a bit on my list. But I’ll be damned if Giru hasn’t been on of the most important band in my Jrock journey, and them hanging it up still feels like a huge deal to me. I’m just so happy that I can say that they exited on a high note, with chimera being a fasted paced and hard hitting album that does a great job of blending their electronic style from the and their energy from their earlier musical day into a more modern metalcore/djent package. It’s just sad that we don’t get any more out of this band as they were trending majorly upwards over their last few releases.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

8 ) downy - dai roku sakuhinshū 『mudai』

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I flat out did not like this album the first time around. Something about it just felt off and it took me a couple tries to completely make it through the album. Perhaps my brain just couldn’t comprehend the complexity of these tracks on the first time around. While there are still some parts that feel a bit off, and I find the nasally tone of the vocalist to be slightly off putting, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this albums odd blend of atmosphere and rhythms.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

7) GoGo Penguin - Man Made Object

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GoGo Penguin feels like it might be a sister band to Mouse on the Keys, with their exceedingly beautiful fusion of downbeat classical and jazz. The piano, bass, and drums seems to flutter across the album, landing gently and quickly at times just to quickly fly away again. It all just feels so light and airy...and just damn pretty.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

6) Emma Ruth Rundle - Marked for Death

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I find it hard to label the music on Marked for Death. It is like some amalgamation of post and gothic rock, with a hint of southern added for flavor. What I do know is that Emma has crafted a powerful album of mourning that managed to feel both sad and uplifting at the same time. Its been a long while since I felt like an album has served up a complete story that was worth telling, but Emma’s presentation of a doomed relationship feels relatable and heavy. Her voice brings nuances to the story, whether she is letting the words just lightly escaping from between her lips or soaring above. The wonderful production does the final piece in wrapping a bow around this solo album.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

5) the god and death stars - after the addle apple

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In 2011 the god and death stars put out their first release, addle apple, and with that fully solidified in my mind that aie was a master of his craft. Fast forward 5 years and we have the band's attempt to 'remake' that wonderful mini-album. While the song names are the same, sonically this transformation like that of when a caterpillar builds a cocoon and comes out of it a whole different creature. When you listen closely, you can pick out some of the riffs, textures, and lyrical homages to the original work, but other than those small bits this mini is something completely new. There is an air of complexity to the band's flavor of Nagoya Kei that gives me that same feeling of freshness that addle apple originally brought. It's a bold claim to say that this is the band's best release, as I feel that the god and death stars haven't ever put out any weak material, but I think that it might just edge out its way to the top of their discography.

 

Spoiler

 

 

4) Oathbreaker - Rheia

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I don’t know that last time a song by a band I had never heard before has left such a striking impression on me. The way the chilling opening of the album falls away into a pit of rage left me stunned. This hardcore/black metal group balances that line of beautiful and brutal much in the same way as Deafheaven, though perhaps in a way that makes the lighter bits feel more haunting than gorgeous. The album is a ride and I often find myself feeling a little bit emotionally exhausted at its conclusion.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

3) Russian Circles - Guidance

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I am convinced that Russian Circles can do no wrong. Guidance is probably one of their worst albums, but here it is sitting near the top of my list. The band are masters of the instrumental metal genre, managing to evoke feelings in their tracks in ways that bands with vocals can only hope to do. Emotion is weaved through, spanning from mourning tinged in anger to reserved hope. I can’t help but feel like this feels just right to have been released in 2016.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

2) Obscure Sphinx - Epitaphs

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The middle ground between too disparate sounds and moods, that wonderful juxtaposition, brings some of the greatest joys music has to offer. The atmosphere of Epitaphs is downright crushing with how heavy it is, but yet the album is full of such beauty. The female fronted mashup of doom and post metal that is Obscure Sphinx seemingly came out of nowhere just to punch me in the gut.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

1) Alcest - Kodama

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The ethereal sound that Alcest has honed is down right breathtaking. I’ve always been a fan of the band, but I have never been as blown away by their work as I was with Kodama. Their black metal and shoegaze style manages to take some of the best elements of both and create a sound that just feels heavenly. Somehow the songs manage to feel both sad and hopeful at the same time - perhaps it's this duality that aids to the otherworldly feel of the album. All I can say is that Kodama is downright gorgeous.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

 

 

Runner Ups

This is the stuff that just missed the cut

 

TAMTAM - NEWPOESY

The band feels like it has landed on the perfect combination of its jpop and dub stylings.

 

DEZERT - Saikou no Shokutaku

A throwback to the numetal phase of visual kei which feels equal parts fresh as it does historic.

 

Silence - psycho:lens.

This album would have made it if gibkiy hadn’t edged it out on the emotional Nagoya Kei front.

 

Saor - Guardians

Beautiful Celtic infused black metal. The only downfall is that it feels a little “same-y” over its hour long run time.

 

kokomo - Monochrome Noise

Emotional instrumental post metal - great stuff but it’s damn hard when you are going up against the masters of this genre in Russian Circles

 

M-Koda - Workings

If it weren’t for a few outlying tracks that feel a bit out of place, this ambient electronic album would have likely made its way on to the list. Easily my favorite album of the year to chill out to.

 

Boris - Pink

Since half of this album is a re-release, it felt like cheating to give it a full spot. That said, this is still one of Boris’ finest releases, and the new material doesn’t feel lacking at all

 

XAA-XAA - chuudoku shoujou

This band is carrying the mantle for modern visual kei. The album feels like a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s easy to see the promise they hold.

 

Siraph - siraph

This band picks up where School Food Punishment left off. The vocalist is the only factor holding them back.

 

JYOCHO - inori de wa todokanai kyori

Jpop fused with math rock and it’s glorious. I was sad to see Uchuu Konbini go, but now I am not so sure that was a bad thing.

CAT5, beni, sume7 and 5 others like this

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Awesome list!

 

I saw Emma Ruth Rundle a couple years ago and she blew me away, very powerful for just one person and her guitar.... can't wait to see her again next month with Deafheaven!!

 

And certainly no arguments with Alcest or Gibkiy Gibkiy Gibkiy.

Edited by The Reverend
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13 minutes ago, The Reverend said:

Awesome list!

 

I saw Emma Ruth Rundle a couple years ago and she blew me away, very powerful for just one person and her guitar.... can't wait to see her again next month with Deafheaven!!

 

And certainly no arguments with Alcest or Gibkiy Gibkiy Gibkiy.

 

Thanks Reverend!

And I've seen Emma live, though it was with Marriages as an opener for Russian Circles - she was great. I am also looking forward to seeing her with Deafheaven. 

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Woah, I had no idea gibkiyx3 had an album out! I listened to their debut single quite a few times and loved it. Have to check it out soon.

 

Anyway, great list, dude! I still have both Alcest and Oathbreaker's albums in heavy rotation and they haven't gotten old yet. Kodama is just damn gorgeous ("Eclosion" was probably one of my favorite songs from last year) and Rheia is exactly like you described it - I have to be in a very particular mood to listen to it because it just leaves me emotionally drained; it's indeed quite a ride.

 

Some real gems amongst the runner-ups as well, namely TAMTAM, JYOCHO and siraph. :)

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2 hours ago, saishuu said:

Woah, I had no idea gibkiyx3 had an album out! I listened to their debut single quite a few times and loved it. Have to check it out soon.

 

Anyway, great list, dude! I still have both Alcest and Oathbreaker's albums in heavy rotation and they haven't gotten old yet. Kodama is just damn gorgeous ("Eclosion" was probably one of my favorite songs from last year) and Rheia is exactly like you described it - I have to be in a very particular mood to listen to it because it just leaves me emotionally drained; it's indeed quite a ride.

 

Some real gems amongst the runner-ups as well, namely TAMTAM, JYOCHO and siraph. :)

 

Thanks for the kind words!

 

The Gibkiy album is excellent - I think I would have been pushing for it hard int he ChristMHas list, but I didn't get a a chance to listen to it until after we did the voting.

 

Kodama may be the prettiest album I'be heard in a long time - like seriously, every time I spin it I am just floored.

 

Glad I am not the only one who find Rheia to be that way. I really want to make it to an Oathbreaker show now, I just have to imagine they are insane live.

 

And yeah, some of the runner ups were SO close to making it - but I really did want to limit it just a top ten. I think narrowing it down to just 10 took me a lot longer than writing and formatting this whole post lol.

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wow, this is quite a nice list! i'd rank gibkiy and tgads on my top ten too!

there's also lots of new and interesting stuff here for me to explore, like GoGo Penguin and Obscure Sphinx~

i'm still new to Alcest but i've been hearing lots of positive remarks on the new album so i'll have to check it out too! ^^

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Kodama is just godly and a brilliant pick. Alcest's best since Souvenirs d'un autre monde, and inbetween they've released two masterpieces, so that says a lot about the album. It's a real pleasure to the ears, heart and soul.

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On 2/20/2017 at 7:39 PM, plastic_rainbow said:

wow, this is quite a nice list! i'd rank gibkiy and tgads on my top ten too!

there's also lots of new and interesting stuff here for me to explore, like GoGo Penguin and Obscure Sphinx~

i'm still new to Alcest but i've been hearing lots of positive remarks on the new album so i'll have to check it out too! ^^

 

If only KEEL had made it on my list, then Aie would be totally dominating lol.

Glad you are liking some stuff - I feel like 2016 was a great year for discovering new non-Japanese bands for me.

 

 

On 2/25/2017 at 3:30 PM, Bear said:

Kodama is just godly and a brilliant pick. Alcest's best since Souvenirs d'un autre monde, and inbetween they've released two masterpieces, so that says a lot about the album. It's a real pleasure to the ears, heart and soul.

 

I really should check out more of Alcest's back catalog. I started listening to them in 2012 with Les Voyages De L'Âme but for whatever reason have never gone back to listen to any of their earlier work. Sounds like I should fix that.

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