Along with what can be considered the “main entries” of this blog, I want to share short music reviews of some of my favorite music releases — be it albums, singles, or concerts — of each month. Which also gives me the chance to write about stuff that has been released on previous years. For this first batch of reviews, I will catch up with some pending releases from last year, while also sharing my thoughts on two of this year’s earliest releases.

Saori Hayami — JUNCTION (2018)

A pleasant surprise from last year, JUNCTION finds the voice actress in the role of lyricist and producer for ten of its fourteen tracks. Along these, Hayami experiments with sounds and influences that go from city-pop to shoegaze. Surprisingly, it’s the anime tie-up songs that make this album stumble a little bit. Being that some of them are excellent (like the Takeuchi Mariya-produced Yume no Hate Made), while others just feel a little plain. Despite this, there’s a lot of merit on Hayami working on songs that work so well with her elegant voice, and it’s comforting to find her a more confident singer-songwriter, which makes you curious about the things she could achieve if she keeps pushing in this direction.

Hoshino Gen — POP VIRUS (2018)

While the previously released singles (which include the ever catchy Koi) might make you expect this album to be a direct follow-up to the upbeat Yellow Dancer, POP VIRUS actually gives Hoshino Gen some room to breathe. Featuring more laid back numbers that are backed by a more layered production (the instrumentation and careful build-up to Hada still manage to surprise me every time I listen to it), this album is a great mix of every sound Hoshino has experimented with over the past years. A really well-balanced record that lets the singer branch out from what has become his most recognized soundscape, POP VIRUS showcases Hoshino Gen at his more polished performance ever.

GANG PARADE — LAST GANG PARADE (2019)

After the feisty GANG PARADE Takes Themselves Higher, LAST sees the group branching out and trying more diverse sounds, a result of them working with a more diverse array of producers (including group member Haruna Bad Chiiiin). The resulting record showcases a GANG PARADE that, while still capable of delivering the energetic sound that makes them stand out from other WACK groups, is more confident, refined, and ambitious. All in all, this release nicely wraps up what has been a really solid indies era for the group, and leaves you excited for their upcoming major debut single, to be released on April this year.

Nakamura Kaho — Ainou (2018)

Described on her social media as “the personification of her music and her voice”, Nakamura Kaho truly made sure this debut album showed the world everything she has to offer as an artist. Through an impeccable mix of genres like electro, jazz, and pop, the album seems to have been composed with the idea of showcasing Nakamura’s varied and powerful vocal performance, and the combination of both things really feels like everything on this album just had to be a part of it. An exquisite listen from start to finish, Ainou truly is worth checking out.

Ziyouu Vachi — Kaen (2019)*

The band’s first single of the year features an interesting mix of traditional Japanese instruments and drum and bass beats, all nicely put together by a more subdued performance of the Ziyoou Vachi rock sound. The result is a really neat experimental track that is perfectly complemented by Avu-chan’s vocals. After this, and their singles from last year, I’m really looking forward to listening to a lengthier release from this more eclectic Ziyouu Vachi.

*This review only covers the single’s title track

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