August 6, 2011

My Top 10 Favorite J-Rock Songs of 2011 (Part 1)

It's August, which means that half a year of new music from good old Japan has arrived and is ready for my first 2011 J-rock top list. I tried to limit band or artist appearances to one song and it almost worked out. Well, see for yourself and enjoy the list!

10. Luna Sea – "Promise"

Download-only Single

First off, we have Luna Sea's 2011 download single, which was released to collect money for the disaster victims in Japan. A noble gesture, and – finally! – a totally new Luna Sea song! "Promise" has everything you love about the J-rock veterans: beautiful melodies, another one of Ryuichi's gorgeous trademark deliveries on vocals, and the warm feel of good old Luna Sea classics. "Promise" was a pleasant surprise in the wake of a terrible disaster and stirs up a lot of memories to the early J-rock days.

Luna Sea – "Promise"

9. Daisuke to Kuro no Injatachi – "Chikadou ni nagareru, aru hitori otoko no 'Hitsuu na sakebi' ni mo nita Melody"

off "Shikkoku no hikari" (Album)

When popular singer Daisuke of former Kagerou fame died last year, the plans for his upcoming album apparently died, too. But no – a whole army of loyal Daisuke friends from various popular bands gathered to complete his album. What led to astounding songs like "Chikadou ni nagareru...", which features Gara of Merry on vocals. Now, you may know that I almost loathe Merry, and Gara is responsible for that, too. This dramatic ballad for Daisuke's final album, however, seems as if it was written for Gara's voice and works out beautifully. One of the best songs on "Shikkoku no hikari".

Daisuke to Kuro no Injatachi – "Chikadou ni nagareru..."

8. Alice Nine – "G3"

off "Blue Flame" (Single)

This Alice Nine song appeared on this year's "Blue Flame" single and may have caught you by surprise. One of the band's heaviest tracks as of late, and in fact a remake of a popular song and live fan favorite from their very first EP, 2004's "Gion shouja no kane ga naru". The original song was called "Gokusai Gokushiki Gokudouka<G3>" and is still the prefered version of many fans, mostly because of its raw sound and haunting verses, but the remake absolutely belongs to the best tracks the band has released in a while and was a nice little nod to their early fanbase.

Alice Nine – "G3"

7. NoGoD – "Kamikaze"

off "Genjitsu" (Album)

NoGoD belongs to Japan's most underrated rock bands and constantly delivers albums you almost cannot dislike – unless Danchuu's voice does nothing for you. "Kamikaze" is the band's flagship single for their latest album and another powerful single, though with much more mainstream appeal than their earlier material. While I haven't listened to the whole new album yet, "Kamikaze" is certainly one of the strongest tracks on the disc and reflects the band's technical prowess and songwriting abilities perfectly.

NoGoD – "Kamikaze"

6. Kagrra, – "Kihou"

off "Hyakki Kenran" (Album)

A great band hit by many tragedies this year. For one thing, the quintet disbanded in early 2011 after record sales and musical directions didn't work out as planned anymore, I guess. Then, singer Isshi was found dead at his place in mid-July; only one of many unexpected demises by J-rock musicians this year. With their farewell album "Hyakki Kenran", Kagrra couldn't convince the whole of their former fanbase, but the album still featured some highlights like the well-written and dramatic "Kihou", which provides enough space for Isshi's fantastic vocal range and the band's awesome songwriting. Still makes me sad whenever I listen to it.

Kagrra, – "Kihou"

5. Plastic Tree – "Blue Back"

off "Ammonite" (Album)

Few expected it, many were surprised about the quality of Plastic Tree's 2011 album "Ammonite", which ranks among the band's top records. Filled with many beautiful songs, I chose to pick the final track, "Blue Back" for my list, a slow and growing ballad with the usual melancholic Plastic Tree factor and a goosebumps-inducing climax in the middle. The song follows in the footsteps of the band's early and good old shoegaze roots and is something I'd wish they would do more often these days. A wonderful song and one of Plastic Tree's best, perfectly closing a great album.

Plastic Tree – "Blue Back"

4. the GazettE – "Uncertain Sense"

off "Vortex" (Single)

Ah, the Gazette guys won't disappoint me. Known for pretty awesome B-sides on their singles, the band put "Uncertain Sense" on their "Vortex" single and once again delivered a beautiful rock song with a catchy sound and great lyrics. "Uncertain Sense" includes everything there's to love about the Gazette: melodious vocal lines, flawless guitar interaction and sharp, distinct drums. If there was a contest for bands with the best B-sides, Gazette would probably thrash every other band in their genre.

the GazettE – "Uncertain Sense"

3. Dir en grey – "Different Sense"

off "Dum Spiro Spero" (Album)

We've reached the Top 3, and Dir en grey definitely belong here and nowhere else this year. "Different Sense", the leading single of their latest and disputed album "Dum Spiro Spero", is a rough deathcore pleasure for anyone who can stomach Kyo's infernal growls and the tight, intense instrumental. Add the typically melodious chorus, chunky bass lines and some furious drumming by Shinya and you get one of the strongest tracks the band has delivered in years.

Dir en grey – "Different Sense"

2. Gackt – "Paranoid Doll"

off "Episode.0" (Single)

This song, as well as the single's title song "Episode.0", were not composed by Gackt himself, but appeared on an album featuring the best songs composed with Gackt's very own vocaloid software Gackpoid. In fact, a certain Natsu of SCL Project is responsible for "Paranoid Doll", which Gackt decided to re-do with his own natural voice. The song itself is a rousing, sentimental and fun piece with awesome vocals, Chinese guitars and a perfectly catchy chorus. Definitely one of my favorite tunes so far this year, and I bet even Gackt loves that Natsu dude for composing such a sweet song.

Gackt – "Paranoid Doll"

1. Dir en grey – "Vanitas"

off "Dum Spiro Spero" (Album)

I almost made it through this list without mentioning a band twice, but Dir en grey's latest and brilliant album just contains so much material I could put here. "Vanitas" has grown to be my current favorite on "Dum Spiro Spero" and shines during its moody moments as well as during its beautifully orchestrated and more intense parts. Even if you're utterly dissatisfied with the aggressive style Dir en grey have chosen for "Dum Spiro Spero", at least "Vanitas" should be the perfect proof of the band's neverending flux of great melodies and awesome songwriting.

Dir en grey – "Vanitas"

I hope you enjoyed the songs; part 2 will be posted in December, I guess, but for now I'd love to hear about your favorites of the last half year! Go for it and raise your voice in the comments~

7 Kommentare:

jrocknyc said...

Well, you got ONE on here that I like! :)

Cliff said...

Oh, I thought I'd at least score with "Kamikaze" and "Promise", or "G3", but you don't even like the Luna Sea song? =)

Reitsu said...

I love G3! The old version definitely has that rough, unpolished sound to it and the groove in the beginning is great (I'm sad they ditched it) but the new version is a little more confrontational in it's style. Zankyou Whiteout was also good save for the chorus. Regardless, I always love A9's heavier tracks and wish they'd do more!

Personally, I liked Aria and Taikutusu Machine off of Ammonite. Spooky was also great with all the distorted guitar. On the translation of ブルーバック though, I have it as "Blue Bag" in my library? :s

"Ah, the Gazette guys won't disappoint me." --> *sigh* Unfortunately, they did, me. So much so I'd be hard pressed to feature this on my 2011 list...but maybe that's because I keep using LEECH as a reference point for their music in's a conundrum. Though I'm still looking forward to long as Britney Spears did not factor in as an influence. XD

I actually didn't like DIFFERENT SENSE at all when it came out but it does seem to have grown on me recently - overcoming the overkill of heaviness is difficult. Maybe I should limit what I'm about to say to your DUM SPIRO SPERO review, but I'm finding the balance between the melodic and heaviness has become off kilter in their recent releases. It's one the things that I love about the band and what I believe, made UROBOROS so successful but recently the window for those melodic, and as Go would say, "musical" instances has gotten smaller. I've gone off on a bit of a tangent I think so to bring it back...I've found Diabolos to be an exception number one perhaps?

But a band I'd definitely feature is lynch. I only recently discovered them but they're so great I can only ask how I didn't know about them before!? I BELIEVE IN ME is a fantastic album and any song from it easily beats the GazettE in a race for the best of 2011.

Cliff said...

Never be sorry for long comments, I welcome them =)

Concerning the "Blue Back"/"Blue Bag" romanization:  The katakana spell "Bakku", not "Baggu", and Google also says mostly "Blue Back", so that's what I call it =) I may be wrong, though I doubt it.

My #1 choice can easily be substituted for "Diabolos"; I listened to both yesterday and I like "Vanitas" just that little bit better, but I think "Diabolos" probably deserves more praise. And I listened to that lynch album, but I should perhaps invested more time in it. Wasn't bad, that's right!

And I lol'd at the Britney Spears comment :D

saishu said...

"Vanitas" hit me even harder once I realised it was about Daisuke. The line where Kyo mentions "kagerou" (mayfly) is what tipped me off.

And that solo... my god.

Reitsu said...

Waiting for part 2~! ;p

Cliff said...

Aw ^^ I believe that one won't come anymore :\

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