2019 has been a mixed combo of winners in many genres, including some classic artists. Here’s the songs that J-Pop Go think stood out this year…
BABYMETAL – PA PA YA!!
With its bonkers screeching synth sounds, speedy guitars and classic melodic lifts on the vocals, ‘PA PA YA!!’ is forged from the classic Babymetal template while still paving new directions. ‘PA PA YA!!’ features a collaboration with Thai rapper Fucking Hero who contributes a suitably fast-paced rap segment to the new outing. It’s a muscular, growling delivery that somehow seems in-step with the rest of the tune.
Culled from their Metal Galaxy album (see J-Pop Go review previously), it’s a powerhouse of a composition – and sounds even better in a live setting.
PSYDOLL – Hector
Cyberpunk outfit Psydoll breezed into the UK earlier in the year bringing Ucchi and Nekoi’s own unique style of spiky music.
Machine Cup forms Chapter 4 of the Machine Kingdom series (see J-Pop Go review) from Psydoll. All of the tracks are winners, but we were struck by the driving electronic rhythm underlying ‘Hector’ (inspired by the villain in obscure science fiction film Saturn 3), which offers up a pretty solid rock outing. It’s one of Psydoll’s best moments, batting between guitar riffs and Nekoi’s clipped vocal delivery. Building up from several layers, the subtle use of vocal effects and samples helps give the track a surprisingly polished finish.
Zombie-Chang – Mona Lisa
Zombie-Chang (aka Tokyo-based singer and songwriter Meirin Yung) delivered the amazing Petit Petit Petit album earlier this year. Weaving in synth-pop elements with bass and percussion, the end result is a collection of crisp tunes which Meirin describes as “anti-EDM”.
One of the album’s finest moments comes courtesy of the clipped beats of ‘Mona Lisa’. Meirin’s vocal hooks drive the song along and its choppy rhythms craft a simple, yet appealing ditty. The video is also a delightfully quirky affair that complements the song perfectly.
Rie Fu – Mirror
While the parent album is full of delights (see J-Pop Go review previously), Rie Fu’s lead song ‘Mirror’ offers a contemplative reverie threaded with some wistful piano and string elements. But it’s the striking vocals from Rié that pulls the whole thing together.
Rie herself describes the song as: “A powerful story with a very intriguing ending, representing the spiritual existence and reflection of people close to us.” The video is also a visually compelling narrative.
Dempagumi.inc – Inochi no Yorokobi
2019 was a busy year for Dempagumi.inc with the release of their latest studio album Wareware wa Dempagumi.inc da (see J-Pop Go review) in January, Dempa also returned in the summer with new single ‘Inochi no Yorokobi’.
Adopting a dramatic visual image inspired by the Japanese style of ganguro, Dempa’s latest outing was a true epic clocking in at over 5 minutes. But with their knack for frenetic rhythms and uptempo melodies, it demonstrated that the idol outfit were still at the top of their game.
Necronomidol – Phantasmagoria Cosmos
2019 has been a turbulent year for Necroma. They released the excellent Scions Of The Blasted Heath EP and put on an energetic showcase at last summer’s Hyper Japan event (see J-Pop Go review previously). At the same time, there was sad news as Kunogi parted ways with the underground idol outfit.
While the Scions Of The Blasted Heath EP presented some superb tunes (particularly ‘Children Of The Night’), there was no question that ‘Phantasmagoria Cosmos’ was the track that jumped off the EP for its dynamism and attitude. This footage of the song was filmed by J-Pop Go at Hyper Japan.
Shonen Knife – Sweet Candy Power
Nothing seems to stop the mighty Shonen Knife who seem capable of drawing endless inspiration from topics such as food and cute animals. Their latest album Sweet Candy Power was bursting with gems, but the title track was classic Shonen Knife.
The misleading gentleness of the intro opens up into a fuzzy delight, which is enhanced by the “Amai! Amai! Amai!” (“sweet” in Japanese) and “Candy!” chants. The video for the song also reunites the whole Shonen Knife family.
Ai Otsuka – Chime
Celebrating the 15th anniversary of her debut, J-pop singer-songwriter Ai Otsuka released new song ‘Chime’ in 2019. Chosen as the new opening theme for the 2019 reboot of classic anime Fruits Basket, it’s a breezy J-pop gem.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – Kimi ga Iine Kuretara
In May, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu returned with new single ‘Kimi ga Iine Kuretara’. The song, used as the ending theme song of the YTV drama Mukai no Bazuru Kazoku, hit all the right marks with a perky melody and a strident electronic foundation.
Momoiro Clover Z – GODSPEED
Culled from their eponymous fifth studio album, this tune sparks with energy and demonstrates why Momoiro Clover Z are still an idol outfit to be reckoned with.