Once again, it’s heading to the end of the year, end of the decade actually, so you know what that means; another Top Ten Picks set of lists! I am continuing last year’s tradition into the new year. No set order, just the nifty music I’ve come across for the year.
I caution that this is not a ‘best’ list, just songs that were released this year that I wanted to share. For one reason or another, these artists and songs ended up with more staying power then the rest. Thus landing them on this list. Here’s hoping you find some new music for your own end of the year party!
Without further ado, here’s my top ten picks for JRock in 2019.
RED DIAMOND DOGS – Memory Rain
RED DIOMOND DOGS is actually the band project of EXILE TRIBE vocalist and soloist, Atsushi. So I bet you weren’t expecting to see EXILE-related stuff end up kicking off my JRock festival!
“Memory Rain” is one of those songs that ended up on list, but I had to re-listen to why. Honestly the pre-chorus and refrain is what hooked me instantly. Atsushi’s voice is so versatile, and suits a band set up just as much as it suits EXILE. The instrumentation for this band is a rather simple set up with drums, guitar, bass, and keyboard. However, simple is best and really allows for a cohesive and powerful song to flourish. A song to sing in the shower after a rough day.
THE ORAL CIGARETTES – Color Tokyo
One of the bands that has such a distinct name, that when I first played them for my dad he immediately started laughing. The name might be a bit quirky, but THE ORAL CIGERETTES are no joke. They’ve announced their presence on the JRock scene, and regularly dominate the charts.
“Color Tokyo” is a really interesting track. Takuya has one of those very distinct voices that can fluctuate anywhere from “he’s really good” to “I hate his tone”. I’ve always found his vocals to be appealing wth the more rough tone, and his ability to draw out the emphasis of the lyrics without slowing down the song. It’s a very unique situation musically. The quartet has had a strong year with multiple releases vying for a spot on the list. But “Color Tokyo” is my favorite track of the year with the blending of styles and themes.
ポルカドットスティングレイ(Polkadot Stingray) – 女神 (Goddess)
Polkadot Stingray. A group I’ve grown to love due to so many people being fans of it. They’re also a group that I find myself hesitating into getting too invested in. I know that part makes no sense, but there are a lot of groups like that for me. Groups that are technically superior in composition/skill level/etc to many groups I love, but I just… balk at the idea of being a fan of.
This group got on my list for something I rarely admit; an opening theme. I clicked on the music video, and immediately thought that I was watching an episode of the drama “Hidarikiki no Eren” (Eren the Southpaw). It’s a bit embarrassing that my initial JRock pickings were quite slim so I needed another artist to add in. This song resonated with me because of the drama, thus it ended up on my list. ^^;
MIYAVI – Fragile
The samurai guitarist has been busy this year! Between some releases and some seriously crazy touring aptly named “No Sleep ‘Til Tokyo”.
“Fragile” was not the song I was expecting from him this year. Of course, it took me off guard and really made me reflect. Miyavi has been trending to more English-only releases but it was nice to see him mix in a few powerful Japanese lyrics as well. It’s just a really bare it all track allowing not only the listener but Miyavi to expose themselves a bit. As always his guitar-work is fantastic and a great accompaniment to the track. Not a constant repeat, but a track to revisit when you need some comfort in being in a fragile state yourself.
圭 (BAROQUE) – deus.
I still can’t figure out if Baroque bills themselves as visual kei or not. They book both with JRock bands and VKei bands, so… it doesn’t matter I suppose? They are a returner from last year actually on this very list so there’s that.
“deus.” is probably the most ‘experimental’ track on this list. It contains no vocals, just instrumentation and composition. I consider it a very moving track, it really builds ups and downs quite well. I also have to hand it to them that Baroque knows how to build a song that holds it own just on composition and technique alone.
Mardelas – Apocalypse
Mardelas’s vocalist, Marina is actually the former vocalist of Destarose. So there’s a fun fact for this opening line! I only stumbled across this band this year, thanks to the Youtube algorithm, for once, working on recommending me something I’d like. They’re also the only metal band this year to crack this list!
This is where I get to admit that for me, this year’s JRock pickings were a bit slim. I spent a lot of early December trending through my ever expanding Youtube playlist to try and find some stand outs. Mardela’s wasn’t even on my radar, and it wasn’t until listening again after some time that I found this track again. It’s a song that’s got some serious riffs behind it, and Marina absolutely shines in this set up! I’m so glad that I re-discovered this track to share with you guys this year.
和楽器バンド (Wagakki Band) – Ignite
Hey! A band I’ve talked about in other contexts outside of this list actually! Wagakki Band once again continues to bring fire combing the old and new, and it slaps friends. It goes way harder then the rather… interesting “Apare Ga Seigi”which was originally on my list, and not “Ignite”.
“Ignite”, I prefer from a more stylistic point. “Apare Ga Seigi” was a interesting experiment in a more bright and upbeat sound. However “IGNITE” just happens to be more my speed with a bit heavier sound, and a bit more thematic elements.
8P-SB – spotlight
Oh look, it’s a band I said I wouldn’t really be keeping up with after my last update on them. They were on my radar because of my post regarding their unit from earlier this year, and had two songs competing for a spot.
Originally, I was going to scrap either song from being on the list. They were on my radar for the blog, not necessarily due to personal interest. But, that wouldn’t be fair to the group since I was super into them earlier this year, blog or not. Also “Spotlight” has not only a great message, but just super interesting composition vocally and instrumentally. It would be ignorance to not include it, so here it is!
Laura day romance – ランドリー (Laundry)
I do listen to some fairly indie stuff too you guys. Laura day romance being one such band that I was hiding from you guys. I had a whole secret blogging plan for them, yes really, but I didn’t get to it this past year. Hopefully this coming year.
Anyway, Laura day romance is a small group of 5 that met in college and have been playing music ever since. They’ve had some pretty impressive experiences, and really keep their indie vibes strong. “Laundry” is one of the last releases from this year that I wanted to include. It just really embodies it’s theme really well, reminding me of many lazy summer’s days of sitting in my house, waiting for my own laundry to be done, sun on my face. I really can’t wait to talk more in-depth about this unit so I hope this has wetted your interest!
そこに鳴る (Soko ni naru) – 絶対的三分間 (Zettaiteki Sanpunkan)
Another band that’s really captured my attention this year. They released their album 「一閃」 or “One Flash” earlier this year and all three music videos made it on my list! I hadn’t even know they weren’t just individual singles, but all of the same album.
I had the most difficult time just narrowing their music videos down to one. Literally, they are the whole reason this list went up later then I originally planned! Still, it was a good delay because I spent some quality time re-listening and trying to pick the ‘best’ track. I then remembered this is more or less a list of favorites so “Zetttaiteki Sanpunkan” it is! The double drumming, insane bass work, guitar riffs, and just the balance of vocals from Misaki (male vocal, bass), and Juko (female vocal, guitar) is insane. Probably the top band on this list, I want to get end more into next year!
With that we’re going to call this list a wrap! We have just one list left to go! As always, drop me a comment with your favorite tracks I’ve picked and what yours are!