Kuroki Nagisa – Jiyuuritsu: Best Albums of 2015 #2

Kuroki Nagisa – Jiyuuritsu

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  1. Koshi tantan to tantan to (虎視眈々と淡々と)
  2. Makura kotoba (枕詞)
  3. Daiyogen (大予言)
  4. Almond (アーモンド)
  5. 107
  6. Inochigake de hoshii mono hitotsu (命がけで欲しいものひとつ)
  7. Template (テンプレート)
  8. Kimi ga watashi wo dame ni suru (君が私をダメにする)
  9. Shiroya (白夜)

Kuroki Nagisa is a singer-song writer who started out in a band (also called Kuroki Nagisa). Their first and only album release was a self-titled 7-track mini album (although written 黒キ渚 instead of 黒木渚) in 2013. It’s great short pop and rock CD and has my absolute favorite track by her called Atashi no shinzou ageru, which translates to “I’ll give you my heart.” Except in Japanese, the words for heart like emotions (kokoro) and the organ (shinzou) are two separate words and Nagisa is going to give you her throbbing heart. It’s a great obsessive love song. After she went solo from the band, Nagisa released a full length album in 2014. Although it had a couple of really catchy numbers like Kakumei, there were a lot of boring filler songs and ballads and I was afraid her music career was going to continue to head in a direction that I wasn’t much in favor of (similar to Uchuu Mao, another band-turned-singer-songwriter whose amazing rock/pop music has gradually declined into nothing but boring pop numbers).

However, Jiyuuritsu not only renewed my faith in Nagisa but completely blew away all my expectations. It is beginning-to-end a thoroughly enjoyable album. It is still more leaning towards pop than her initial release, but there is a real rocking song on track 7 with Template. All the songs have a distinct Kuroki Nagisa flavor to them but each is refreshing in its own way and doesn’t give me that flat feeling that plagued her second album.

Standout tracks:

 

tricot – A N D: Best Albums of 2015 #3

There was a whole assortment of good music in Japan, but my favorite songs of the year were often from singles or were gems in otherwise less-impressive albums. Instead of a long list, I’ve decided to just post about my top three albums of the year. Each of these I’ve listened to over and over and they not only have some amazing stand-out songs but work as a whole; there isn’t a single track I’d skip when listening. This entry is for the third best of the year.

tricot – A N D

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  • Noradrenaline
  • Hashire (走れ)
  • E
  • Iro no nai suisou (色の無い水槽)
  • Kobe number (神戸ナンバー)
  • Kieru (消える)
  • Pai~n A N D ver. (ぱい~ん A N D ver.)
  • Shokutaku (食卓)
  • Niwa (庭)
  • CBG
  • QFF
  • Break

After the departure of their drummer Komaki in 2014, there were some doubts as to how the sound of tricot would pan out. His complex rhythm patterns seemed essential to their mathy rock sound. However, they went on to release the single Break in the summer of that year, overly symbolizing a break from their previous incarnation and the start of a new era for tricot. Originally, the band was just the three girls playing with support drumming, so this was actually a reversion back to earlier days. Break was a strong single, with an melancholic sound and slower tempo; it’s the kind of number that really grows on you the more you listen. The They solicited for videos of fans tearing paper on which they had written a word that they wanted to “break” (I’m in the video by the way!) Providing the drums on the single and for the vast majority of live shows after Komaki left was Miyoko Yamaguchi (Miyo) from Detroit7. Her main band isn’t currently active but she does support drumming for a variety of other indie artists.

The followed up Break with a second single, E, in the spring. The music video is a dizzying spinning view of three drum sets flashing between scenes of each of three members playing drums and their own instruments. E sounds more akin to the tracks from the previous album T H E, but with some novel drumming from BOBO, heavy on the tambourine.

They recorded the album with the help of five drummers. In addition to Miyo and Bobo mentioned above, Toshiki Hata (ex. Tokyo Jihen), Kousuke Wakiyama (tobaccojuice), and Muneomi Senju are featured. Finally, there is one track from a previous recording session with komaki. tricot had a live stream where they played one song with each of the five drummers, and all joined in during the breakdown in Niwa, which they uploaded on YouTube as well.

Overall, the album is a strong effort. It has some real memorable tracks, with a relatively wide range of sounds from the cool Kobe Number to the intense Kieru to the dramatic Break. That being said, I find myself liking their previous album T H E more overall. Along with the impressive songs on A N D, there are a number of forgettable tracks as well. Still, I am quite satisfied and looking forward to see what tricot brings for their next album. They’re already off to a great start with their new single Pork Ginger, which was one of my favorite music videos of the year.

Standout tracks: Niwa, Break, Kieru, Kobe Number