Another year and another fine collection of tracks. As with last year’s list we’ve tried to select the best songs in a year that was flooded with top notch tunes. The list is not necessarily in order of preference but is an imprecise summing up of the 20 songs that caught our attention in 2013. Here’s the first ten songs for your consideration…
CRAYON POP – BAR BAR BAR
Our token K-Pop selection is the one that, arguably, was one of the most talked about of the year. The dance routine was ridiculously easy to imitate and the simple pop elements made it a memorable tune. Just don’t mention the (alleged) Momoiro Clover Z influence…
MORNING MUSUME – BRAINSTORMING
The Hello! Project Heroes opted for some double ‘A’-Side single releases in 2013, but for us the standout track was ‘Brainstorming’ with its unmistakeable Musume licks along with a slight nod to dubstep. It also marked Reina Tanaka’s final single.
BECKII CRUEL – FUTURE FANTASY
BECKII CRUEL appeared to be making a concerted effort to focus on music in 2013, emerging as guest vocalist on Area 11’s ‘Shi No Barado’ at the start of the year and then issuing this solo release later in the year.
‘Future Fantasy’ was a good demonstration that Miss Cruel can knock out a tune for this effort, which also saw some familiar faces behind the scenes, including composer Matthew Pablo (Oishii!Ichigo) and Sparkles (Area11). ‘Future Fantasy’ has some captivating hooks and a pleasingly crunchy production to it.
FLAVIYAKE – ELECTRONIC BOY
Originally hailing from Moldova, FLAVIYAKE’s electronic tunes are influenced by a lot of Japanese pop culture. She first came up on the J-Pop Go radar as a result of her guest appearance at the London Anime Con in the summer.
This pulsing slice of electropop about an obsession with gadgets struck us as the most immediate sure fire hit from a batch of quality tunes.
SAPPHIRE SLOWS – RULES
Occasionally we’ll drift into the more leftfield areas of the Japanese music scene as the fancy takes us. There’s a concerted effort in some quarters to flog off some tired old retro nonsense as representative of the independent scene. Ignore all that and focus on the DIY esthetic that the Tokyo electronic scene is offering.
We wrote glowingly about SAPPHIRE SLOWS (aka Kinuko Hiramatsu) previously and 2013 brought with it her debut album Allegoria. Although she’s treading the familiar dreampop soundscapes that first emerged on her True Breath 12”, there’s a more accomplished and denser approach for her new album.
‘Rules’ offers up a classic slice of Sapphire Slows with its burbling rhythms, subtle percussion and echo-drenched vocals. The hypnotic beats conjure up an atmosphere with a slight hint of menace.
NAOMI SUZUKI – TAGA TANGO
Naomi boasts the honour of being one of our resident J-Pop stars. Based in London, she’s a regular figure on the live scene as solo artist, AJ Unity member or on stage at the Japan Matsuri.
One of her recent ventures was to take on the role of cultural ambassador for the Japanese city of Tagawa, which is based on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, with a history associated with the mining industry. With a cute mascot to match, Naomi came up with this tango-inspired tune (complete with memorable dance routine).
DEMPAGUMI INC – W.W.D
Winners of the Squeeky Voices Of The Year Award, this 6-piece idol outfit emerged from the Akihabara scene and have swiftly become an established name on the already bustling idol scene (also finding time to collaborate with BiS this year as well). ‘W.W.D’ has become something of DEMPAGUMI’s Corporate Theme Tune and is perfect for when you think Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is sounding too dark and edgy.
SCANDAL – OVER DRIVE
Aside from the award-winning antics in 2013, SCANDAL also released their 5th studio album Standard, which included this collaboration with CAPSULE/Perfume/Kyary Super Producer Nakata Yasutaka (give this guy another year and he’ll be writing EVERYTHING in the Oricon charts).
FIFI RONG – OVER YOU
The soulful tones of ‘Over You’ seduced us when FIFI RONG unveiled the fruits of her musical labours in August. Fifi had guested at a J-Pop Go event back in 2009 (showing off her skills on the Tenorion) and had subsequently gone on the develop a sultry, captivating sound. She also found time to work with Tricky for his last album release and shows no sign of slowing down.
Legendary Godmother of Japanese Electronica Coppé returned to our shores this year with a new album and tour. ‘Void’ is a subtle grower of a tune which weaves together the unlikely components of a wistful electronic melody and discordant percussive fills with breathy vocal elements from the Electronica Queen herself.
The fractured beauty of the track is given life via the stark visual imagery of Juno Birch’s video.
Click for: J-POP GO SONGS OF THE YEAR 2013 : PART 2
Text by Paul Browne
29th December 2013