This music is cool.
So you should listen to it.
That is all, enjoy!
While I haven’t listened to much new music lately, I’ve looked back at a few albums I first heard during high school and a few additions from the past year, so that’s where this post’s albums came from.
GigaP and Reol – No title−
Genre: Electronic, J-pop
While GigaP is best known as a vocaloid producer, Reol is known as an “utaite,” or person who sings covers of vocaloid songs. When the two of them came together to create an original album, it turned out as a short and sweet experience. The synth-driven music is complemented nicely by Reol’s unique voice, and the combination results in some great upbeat tracks with a nice bit of sonic depth to them.
Another version of this album called No title+ features various vocaloids on vocals. Personally, I find Reol’s vocals far more enjoyable, but I think a combo album that used both would be the best of both worlds.
Recommendation: Hibikaze (ヒビカゼ), Gigantic O.T.N. -Big Death Edition- (ギガンティックO.T.N. -Big Death Edition-), Ooedoranv (オオエドランヴ)
Genre: Progressive metal, progressive rock, hard rock
This album represents the logical progression for the band, but still lacks everything that made earlier albums so special. It’s a bit like a conglomerate rehash of everything that came before it, but with fewer interesting progressions, instrumentation, and vocal delivery. Most disappointing is the contribution from relatively new drummer Mike Mangini, who never adds nearly as much to songs as Mike Portnoy had behind the kit. And worst of all, the 22 minute Illumination Theory sounds more like several songs jammed together than a single consistent composition, which is very disappointing when Octavarium is one of the strongest tracks in their catalogue.
Despite all this negativity, it is certainly not an awful album – it just fails to live up to about everything else they’ve ever done. Fortunately, John Myung’s bass lines have more presence and groove to them compared to the past few albums where he only seemed to follow the guitar. So that’s good.
Recommendation: The Enemy Within, Behind The Veil
Coheed and Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Genre: Progressive rock, new prog, alternative rock, progressive metal, alternative metal, post-hardcore
This album is powerful, catchy, and piercing, especially in lyrical content and delivery. While Claudio Sanchez’s vocals will likely turn away many, the music is very powerful and the lyrics will quickly gain the listener’s attention. Also, the song structure for many of the songs is a bit unusual, although the band normalized progressive structures with later albums. The bass lines from Mic Todd (better known as an armed robber as of 2011) are the instrumental highlight of the album – always audible, always adding a ton to the songs, and presented with a pretty sexy tone.
It’s also worth noting that I had trouble sleeping the the first night after hearing this because I kept playing back the songs in my head and tapping my foot to them.
Recommendation: Welcome Home, Apollo I: The Writing Writer, The Willing Well
Cloudkicker – Beacons
Genre: Post-rock, post-metal, instrumental rock
As the second full album from Cloudkicker, this album continued to push his compositions in a new direction, veering away from straight metal and more towards atmospheric post-rock. However, the core of the music – heavily layered guitars – remained intact and were able to provide aural bliss that he wasn’t able to exceed until 2012’s Fade. Also to this album’s credit are the organic-sounding programmed drums – without being familiar with how these “fake” drums tend to sound in a rock/metal setting, most people won’t even be able to distinguish them from a physical kit.
Best of all, this and the rest of the Cloudkicker discography is available for free on Bandcamp. Unsurprisingly, he’s one of the most popular artists on the website.
Recommendation: Amy I Love You, Push it way up!, We’re goin’ in. We’re going down.
Maximum the Hormone – Bu-ikikaesu
Genre: Melodic metalcore, alternative metal, nu metal, funk metal
For many reasons, this is not an album for everybody. Maximum the Hormone have a very distinct style that still leaves room for a lot of variation, but their defining characteristics are the heavy verses, catchy choruses, and alternating harsh and clean vocals, all working off of a metal framework. To some extent, they can be compared to the American band System of a Down in their diversity, but the bands are still drastically different sounding.
Altogether, if you aren’t a fan of metal or harsh vocals, this is probably not the album for you. But even if you do tend to like that kind of thing, this will not be what you’d expect.
Recommendation: Bu-ikikaesu!! (ぶっ生き返す!!), What’s Up, People?!, Koi no Mega Lover (恋のメガラバ)
Yanagi Nagi and Maeda Jun – Owari no Hoshi no Love Song
Genre: Pop-rock, J-pop
Yanagi Nagi, best known as the vocalist for supercell’s Today is a Beautiful Day, soon after joined up with Maeda Jun of Key visual novel fame to create this concept album. The majority of the music takes a piano or guitar-driven pop-rock approach, and while the music itself is beautiful, the vocals are the distinguishing aspect of the album. Her voice ranges from soft and expressive to a more powerful but still well-controlled level – altogether, her voice meshes perfectly with the music, creating an enjoyable experience from beginning to end.
While Yanagi Nagi has since released solo albums, this and Today is a Beautiful Day are still her best albums – I would love to hear her exceed them though.
Recommendation: Owari no Sekai Kara (終わりの世界から), Muteki no Soldier (無敵のSoldier), Executioner no Koi (Executionerの戀)
I have a surprisingly serious post coming soonish. Woohoo!