It’s that time of the year again, and the first of this decade! This particular year though, due to personal circumstances, I have reduced my picks from 10 to 5. Mostly because I wasn’t as keen as year’s prior about tracking releases. As always there’s no ranking, just some nifty tracks and little blurbs about what made it stick out to me.
As always, this isn’t a ‘best’ list, just songs from the past year that I want to share with you. Here’s hoping to find, or perhaps re-discover some music from this past year. Without further ado, it’s my Top 5 Picks for Visual Kei artists in 2020!
少年A (Shonen A) – POIDOL
I won’t deny it, I remember this title for it’s name more then the actual music itself. It’s a play on the fact that when underage victims are referred to, literally Girl A or Boy B, etc in Japanese media. It’s also somewhat coded, songs using names like this are typically referring to a recent media event or the fans in particular. For this release, I think it was more in reference to media, given it’s referring to a boy rather then a girl.
It’s also a bit of a bummer since POIDOL disbanded earlier this year in November. They seemed to have a really strong foundation and I was really planning on getting more into them because of this release. Nana has a really distinct vocal color. He’s pretty melodic, but doesn’t shy away from using a variety of vocal techniques in a single song. Around the three minute mark, I haven’t heard that style of vocals in Visual Kei in ages… So it’s a shame talent like that is no longer together. Of course, the rest of the members are incredibly talented as well. For me, and well for this year in general, it wouldn’t be a Visual Kei list if we weren’t saying goodbye to at least one band. So to POIDOL, thank for some kick ass final releases as a unit, and good luck in your future endeavors!
Acid Blue – JE:NOVA
I’m actually not sure how JE:NOVA ended up on my radar in the slightest. Probably somewhere between a Visual Kei fanpage, and the Youtube algorithm not being completely garbage for me this year. Searching them up, I, as of literally writing this, found out they are a duo. Naru handles the vocals, and Shion handles drums. The duo seem to have been in a few bands together, with other members, before deciding to strike it out on their own.
I’m kinda easily suckered with natural noises. The ocean, forest ambient noise, etc being used in an opening and coupled with the piano I was hooked. I didn’t even mind that abrupt tonal shift probably because Naru’s vocals are just… so familiar. I didn’t follow any of his prior projects (VELGREED, BIOSPHIA or DIEALO), but there’s something so comforting about this voice. It’s falls very much into the ‘typical’ Visual Kei vocals, but much more nostalgic for some reason. It’s hard for me to put into words. Switching over to Shion, man can he pack a punch as a drummer. While the guitar and bass do keep the pace going forward (and whoever they got are good) but it’s those perfectly timed drums that keeping it all together. Especially for that echoed chorus around the 3:11 mark. I’m not sure I’ll be diving too deep into their music, but we’ll see if they keep it up in 2021.
夜の所為にして (Yoru no shoi nishite) – nurié(ヌリエ)
I’m not going to lie, I feel a little lazy with this and the next entry. Both of them appeared in my Mid-Year Music Musing, so having pulled from there just feels like I got completely apathetic when that’s not the case at all. Nurié really have gotten a lot of playtime from me on various platforms, even more then my long-time faves Dir en Grey and ACME.
I have to say a lot of that is due to this particular song. It might have came out way earlier this year, but there’s something so calming about it. Ryutaro’s vocals tickle the right part of my ear especially coupled with the piano in this piece. The near ambient-like effect of the bass, guitar, and even the drums really feels more like a light rock band at a coffee shop then a Visual Kei unit. It’s just effortless to listen too, even when coupled with their other releases. The song just has a really great appeal to it, which is why I keep coming back to comment on it.
100%死んでる (100% Shinderu) – ZOMBIE
(Tw: flashing, strobe effects)
Again, these guys are back due to Kanata’s voice. I don’t keep ZOMBIE on super heavy rotation. So nearly every time they come out with a song I go ‘oh man it’s been ages since I listened to them!’. I then proceed to listen to them for a day or two in a row, and quickly rotate onto something else.
Thus, it’s really hard for me to comment heavily on the group. I feel like these guys don’t get as much recognition as they should at this point, at least internationally. I never see anyone bring them up, despite their consistently high quality releases. I have some thoughts about the group, but by posting it online, might end up doing the reverse for the group. It’s complicated, but trust me it’s a compliment. I still encourage you guys to give them a listen and check out their back catalogue, because it really is a more solid one then most.
RISING SUN – ACME (アクメ）
I mean… you didn’t really think I would leave them off this list, did you? I’ve been somewhat surprised too since they didn’t make my mid-year musing, nor did I promo any of their prior releases this year. Which is a surprise since they had We Are Visual Kei, Usogao, and Gift come out. But trust me, behind the screen I have been pretty steadily following them, attending as many live streamed events I can reasonably attend.
While this is not their strongest release ever, I do like that after such a long time Chisa’s done some more harsh vocals. I have mixed feelings about the heavier English lyrical content, but Chisa’s pronunciation is pretty damn solid here. Plus there’s a lot more technical work that I can hear in Rikito’s bassline, Shogo’s guitar and Hal’s drumming. Overall, a really enjoyable piece and I’m glad that they were able to get into a recording studio safely and put all this material out!
With all that said and done, I’m calling this Top 5, and this year’s Top 5’s in general; a wrap! Let me know your thoughts on the artists and songs I mentioned, or even better yet those I’ve missed in the comments below!