Compared to my past recaps, 2012 appeared to be a sleepy year in music. Very little caught my attention. Could it be the recession? The singles and videos that did make me look and listen more than once were strong contenders for the various categories, and I had the pleasure of reporting on three very different but equally exciting concerts for Purple SKY (I also got my first chance to do concert photography and boy was that an experience).
Best PV – “HALLOWEEN PARTY” by HALLOWEEN JUNKY ORCHESTRA
I wish I could be a part of this epic Halloween party. Hyde and company really went all out with their costumes, and it’s fun to discover who’s behind the make-up and masks. The video has a Tim Burton sort of dark whimsy that makes it really fun to watch.
Coolest outfits – “UZA” AKB48
While I love their official “UZA” outfits (they do naughty gothic school girl well and I’m jealous), it’s their other outfits in the PV that are really awesome. You’ve got goth, Victorian, steampunk, Rococo, and even ballet. Of course my favorites are Jurina and Mayuyu’s dark pin-up steampunk ensembles. Top hats are always cool.
Most bizarre PV – “Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!” by BABYMETAL
A schoolgirl receives a neckbrace from the metal gods, and she suddenly move like she’s possessed. This PV captures the creepy cute weirdness of a heavy metal idol group, but hey, if it gets more people over on the “dark side”, who am I to complain?
Best album – She Loves You by various artists
YUI is awesome for producing this cover album. Not only does it get to feature the kickass talent of various female singers and bands, but it also provides a reinterpretation of her greatest hits. Why re-release your old music when you can help others explore their abilities and give fans a fresh perspective?
Biggest tearjerker – “Koishikute” by Koda Kumi
The title says it all: “I miss you”. Despite being a typical orchestra-backed ballad, Koda’s singing is so heartfelt and passionate that it’s hard to not feel her pain.
Catchiest song – “Ghost Train” by Shonen Knife
Leave it to Shonen Knife to create something that gets stuck in my head for days. The chorus simple (“Ghost Train, oh yeah”), and it chugs along to the next verse.
Best single – “Stigma” by -OZ-
-OZ- skillfully blends electronica and hard rock with screeching guitars and a combination of death and melodic vocals. If you want to headbang in your car or at your desk, this is the perfect song to do it to.
Outstanding live performance – Ayabie’s “Kakusei Sprechor” at A-kon 24
I used think “adorkable” was a ridiculous adjective, but it really suits Ayabie. They were silly and endearing, and the dance Yumehito had the audience do with him during “Kakusei Sprechor” embodied that. What really made them stand out though was their ability to engage the audience while technical difficulties were being resolved.
Most disappointing news – Versailles’ disbandment
Although this was not completely unexpected, the news was still disappointing. Some of my friends were introduced to visual kei through Versailles, and they had been hoping that they would play another U.S. show. Plus there just really isn’t a band as decadent as Versailles, but with the talent they have, we’ll be seeing more of each member.
Most noteworthy debut – DOLL$BOXX
I love female rockers and anybody who can play keyboards. DOLL$BOXX’s members are no stranger to the J-rock scene, and it shows through their polished sound. They bring a lighter (but still rockin’) look and sound, and their dual vocals add an extra punch to their powerful melodies. I’m excited to see more from them.
MVP – Hayato (DuelJewel)
Most of the time, the entire band would go on hiatus if the lead singer was facing health problems. Not DuelJewel. Korean rocker Kim Sehun has stepped in and recorded a full length album with the band. Hayato has praised him and even joked about new fans not knowing who he is when he returns. I don’t doubt that it must be hard for him to step back, but he’s being a great sport.
Artist of the year – FLOW
FLOW has continued to work hard since their major debut in 2003. The past year saw them release two singles and their seventh album and playing shows in Texas, France, and Singapore. They also participated in the Act against AIDS event, held a New Year’s Eve concert, and began celebrating their 10th anniversary with a five-day festival. If that wasn’t enough, they worked on their anniversary album and planned to extensively tour Japan in 2013.
Musical artists who will be missed in 2013:
• Hikaru Hayashi – opera composer, pianist, and conductor
• Sadao Bekku – classical music composer
• Nejiko Suwa – violinist
• IKÜZÖNE – bassist of Dragon Ash
• Shiro Miya – enka singer