sora - echo
mother - 1990
tetola93 - 腐敗の一死報国
saisa - Faith In Ordinary
birth - 音楽は変わった
My Top 5 Releases of 2012:
Sora - 灯台の上で待つ
- I feel almost a responsibility to put this first. Sora split up in December, playing their final show after almost 10 years (I saw one of their first shows in 2003). Before they left us, they recorded a proper album which is the true summit of their monumental climb to perfect their sound. From their beginnings as crucial Japanese screamo, through their delvings into post-screamoish rock, they finally hit at this ultimate sound. Japanese style indie rock, but intense in a way that only epic screamo bands can be. Vocals which are passionate and emotional, but smooth and nice on the ears. I loved this hard when it came out, and on 12/31/12 with no close contenders, I have to call it my Best Album of 2012.
Mother - the Living Dead
- After a demo in late 2011, Kyoto's Mother release their debut album through Impulse Records and ruin everyone else's hopes of making better music. The vanguard of a newly coagulating Japanese sound, Mother builds on the shoulders of predecessors like Turbostaat and 1000 Travels of Jawaharlal. They dabble in the same genre as Infro and Eye, but this debut album really cements exactly what they are about and where they're going. Fantastic album.
- My first listen of Tetola93 left me in total confusion. Emo-violence? Singing? Thrash? I couldn't wrap my head around this mass of chaos, emotion, and melody that was blaring through my headphones. But it was addictive, like crack. Each song was only the good parts. No lukewarm bridges or lousy verses. Short, sweet, and perfect, I had to re-listen to each song over and over and over. This split in particular is their newest and greatest. Tetola93 is essential; they are the shape of Japanese screamo to come. Visyaaa is good too, but unlucky being paired with another band that overshadows them so much. Tetola93 played their last show in 2012, but our in the process of recording an LP to be released by MeatCubeLabel in 2013.
Saisa - This Empty Space Returns Your Solitude
- Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I don't mind listening to really good "imitations." So, to get it out of the way, Saisa sounds a lot like Sigur Ros. This is not a bad thing. From there, Saisa develop their own sound from the Sigur Ros-ian mold to deliver some of the most soothing, soaring, peaceful, passionate, heavenly, earthly sounds this side of Tokyo. And they do it all with three people. Keep It Together Records released this, their debut EP, on cassette last year. It's one of those incomprehensible moments where a band that should be playing stadiums is actually completely unheard of. Anyways, this is worth it and was really one of the best things out last year.
PS Burn This Letter - Written There For All
- Something like 3-5 years in the making (the songs were recorded in 2009 I think), P.S. Burn This Letter's first, final, and only release finally makes it out on 7" & CD-R. This band seemed to be custom made for me. Members of Gauge Means Nothing, Tiala, and Box the Compass. This EP (Single?) sounds exactly like you would expect. Carefully crafted emotional hardcore reminiscent of late-90's, early 2000's Ebullition and Japanese screamo acts. In many ways I've moved on to shorter, faster fare, but these songs take me back and do it so good.
Short List (Good albums worth your time & hard-earned money):
Alt Of The Society - Yobikakerukoegakieteiku
- Debut EP of this Tokyo act, mixing Envy/Heaven in Her Arms style post-rock screamo with Sora-like, intense singing. Pretty blown away by this and the band keeps getting better in their recently release split with Nonrem. I listened hard.
Birth - Ishiyo
- Finally, a proper full length from these guys. The heavy grooves really surprised me, adding a new dimension to their 3cm tour influenced sound, and making their songs surprisingly danceable. You know you wnat this.
Stubborn Father x R3-N7
- A complete surprise for me. I'd only heard one song from Stubborn Father before, so this split was so good to hear. Complex and cerebral grindy, thrashy hardcore. Stubborn Father is a visionary band. On the other side is R3N7's most recent crusty demolition trip. The songs are good, but can get monotonous. Odd to see a band go from screamo to synth-spazz-whatever to crust.
Low-Pass - Trimurti
- Release on cassette through Keep It Together Records this year, Low-Pass's most recent album is finally accessible to the world. Some of the smartest and smoothest instrumental rock heard in many, many years.
Atata - Tatat
- I was over the moon when I first listened to this, and it's still an amazing album. The intensity can be exhausting once you've listened to the album for awhile. Still, if you haven't picked this up, you're doing yourself a disservice.
To Overflow Evidence - また空をみるために白紙に描く日々の事
- The 2011 Japan tsunami hit on the same day these guys were doing some final tracking for this album. While it might not technically be reflected in the recording, there is definitely a strong melancholic optimism shining through this album. A full 11 songs of pure Japanese screamo melodies with mid-tempo drums and some surprises. This was a solid album.