First half of 2011 in review: my top 10 Japanese albums of the year so far

So the first half of the year is gone already… time sure flies, doesn’t it? 2011 is turning out to be pretty nice in terms of Japanese music and there have been many albums I enjoyed, even if I’m the kind of person who prefers to listen to individual songs rather than albums as a whole. Are you curious to know which ones have been my favorites? Then, keep reading this post!

10. Aki Toyosaki – love your life, love my life

Aki’s music is something that takes some time to be fully appreciated: at first listen it may sound too weird to some (to me it did), but it gets a lot better with every listen and eventually you end up realizing that its weirdness is what makes it cool. There’s something about her music that just makes me keep on listening. I don’t know exactly why, but many of her songs have a magic feel that makes them quite different from the typical cute pop many Japanese artists put out. That said, love your life, love my life is quite a good debut album from her. While most of the new tracks are far from being at the same level as some of the stuff from the singles (and there are a few songs I don’t particularly care for), the best tracks in the album make up for it, making it sound nice as a whole. I must say I’m really glad my two favorite b-sides (Magical Circle and Nanika ga Sora wo Tondekuru) were included: this album wouldn’t be the same without them. As for the new tracks, I like Hello Allo and Kimi ni Arigatou the most, but none of the songs I mentioned before come even close to love your life, my absolute favorite song of hers so far <3. For the reasons I mentioned above, this album may not be to everybody’s liking, but if you aren’t nitpicky about vocals and are looking for something different and original, give it a try!

Recommended songs: love your life, Nanika ga Sora wo Tondekuru, SHUN PU.

9. no3b – no3b

Because my J-pop rankings wouldn’t be the same without at least one AKB-related release. For an idol album, this is pretty solid and it has many different types of songs, as opposed to most idol albums which mostly consist of sugary cute pop songs. Of course we can find some songs of this style here (Bye Bye Bye, Shaku ga Hoshii, Relax!, etc.), but cool stuff like Next Heaven, Kiss no Ryuusei or Lie is what makes this CD quite different from your average idol pop album. Oh, and the solo tracks are awesome, much better than the ones from their latest single Kuchibiru Furezu… for sure. Overall, this album is a lot more consistent than AKB48’s Koko ni Ita Koto (which has quite a few great songs, but a lot of fillers as well) and I totally recommend it if you like idol music! Now if only it didn’t have so many recycled songs… but better recycled and good than new but sucky, I guess.

Recommended songs: Kiseki wa Yoru Umareru, Kiss no Ryuusei, Next heaven.

8. Kii Kitano – Shin

I’ve been following Kii’s musical career since she debuted, and every single she’s released until now has been better than the previous one: for this reason my expectations for her debut album were set very high. While I must admit that I expected it to be better (I honestly prefer the stuff from the singles, b-sides included, to most of the album tracks), Shin is not a bad debut effort at all and there are quite a few gems on it. Her music reminds me a lot of J-pop from the 90s / early 00s, and I just love that style. Juukyuu-sai, my favorite song from the album, totally sounds like one of Ayumi Hamasaki’s epic power ballads, I LOVE it! It gives me chills down my spine every time I listen to it <3. Other album tracks I really like are Fuukaren and Zutto, Issho da ne. As for the single tracks, all of them are great, but Kizuna is my favorite. I’ve been listening to it non-stop since it came out and I don’t seem to get enough of it! It’s a shame that many of the new tracks aren’t that impressive (and the fact that most of them are located together in the first half of the album doesn’t help), but they’re still listenable and the rest of the songs are so great that make up for it. This girl has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to hear whatever she’ll put out next!

Recommended songs: Juukyuu-sai, Kizuna, Todokanai.

7. Kana Nishino – Thank you, Love

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from Kana’s third album, having been released right after one of the worst singles of her entire career and all. However, while it’s still far from being at the level of her previous album to LOVE (one of my favorites of 2010), Thank you, Love has turned out to be a lot better than I had imagined. I still love the single tracks to death (except for Esperanza, of course. That song still sounds to me like something Shakira would’ve rejected) and I like how the lovely I’ll be there has been included in the album (even though if it were up to me, I would’ve picked Beautiful instead). As for the new songs, I really like most of them, and stuff like Clap Clap!! or Every Boy Every Girl is pretty cool… but Flower is my favorite by a long mile. For me, that’s the best song she’s released in a long while: after all, that’s the type of song that made me a fan of hers in the first place. Her sweet voice suits perfectly these touching ballads, and in fact that was the kind of song that made her big in Japan – I wish she went back to releasing this kind of songs as singles.

Recommended songs: Flower, if, Kimitte.

6. AAA – Buzz Communication

For being my first time listening to one of their albums, this left a really good impression on me! Buzz Communication is a great collection of upbeat songs and many of them have that epic feel that would make them perfect to be used as part of the soundtrack of some videogame or mecha anime series. The first half of the album is especially awesome <3. The fact that most of the songs on this album were previously released (and three of them are actually covers) may be a disappointment to some, but that doesn’t stop it from being a pretty consistent release!

Recommended songs: Dream After Dream ~Yume Kara Sameta Yume~, Itoshisa to Setsunasa to Kokoro Tsuyosa to, Aitai Riyuu.

5. Chiaki Kuriyama – CIRCUS

For a debut album, this is pretty good! Better than I expected, actually. Chiaki’s brand of rock is pretty cool and fresh, most of the new tracks are very nice, and the single tracks sound a lot better as part of the album than as individual songs (I didn’t really care about Kanousei Girl and Ketteiteki Sanpunkan the moment they were released, but after listening to the album I ended up liking them a lot more than I’d ever imagined). If only 1) her debut single had been included in the album, 2) Chiaki’s voice hadn’t been given those weird filters in Ketteiteki Sanpunkan and 3) the tracks had a different order (all the best songs are located in the first half of the album, and I hate it when this happens because it makes the songs in the second half look weaker than they actually are), this album would’ve probably been a bit higher in my list. Oh, and I almost forgot to say that Cold Finger Girl is so awesome that words just can’t describe how much I love it.

Recommended songs: Cold Finger Girl, Roulette de Kuchizuke wo, Mirai no Hikari.

4. Do As Infinity – EIGHT

I already wrote about this album in one of my previous posts, and my opinion about it hasn’t changed since then: I still love it as much as I did when I listened to it for the first time. This is a very solid release, it has many great songs and there are practically no fillers here. It may not be the most unique or varied album ever, but if you’re looking for high-quality pop-rock stuff, this album is for you!

Recommended songs: JIDAISHIN, Fly to the Freedom, Kimi ga Inai Mirai.

3. Mao Abe – Su.

After having released one of the best singles of the year so far, Abema puts out another great album. I thought it was hard to be at the same level as her previous one since it was too awesome, but the truth is I love this one almost as much. The single tracks were great and most of the new tracks are really good as well, what else can I ask for? (Well, I would’ve liked something like Itsu no Hi mo too, but I guess we can’t have everything). Totally recommended!

Recommended songs: Motto., 19-sai no Uta, Hashire.

2. Piko – 1PIKO

This album was a very pleasant surprise to me: without knowing anything about the artist, I just downloaded it because I liked the cover and gave it a listen out of boredom, so I expected nothing… but I happened to love it at first listen. I really enjoyed most of the songs, and surprisingly, this is one of those rare cases where the album tracks are so much better than the singles. Piko’s voice may take some time to get used to (at times it sounds so high-pitched that he even sounds like a girl), but this is a really great rock album.

Recommended songs: Rebirth, Akashi, PikoPiko☆Legend of the Night.

1. GIRL NEXT DOOR – Destination

The moment I heard the first 4 or 5 tracks of this album, I knew I was going to love it. Destination was the first album from these guys I ever listened to (I had only heard a couple of their singles before), but it was enough to turn me into an instant fan. Most of the songs from this album are very upbeat and have an epic feel: I can totally imagine many of them being used as openings to classic anime series, and while some people may label this type of music as ‘dated’ or ‘generic’, I do love it. Maybe the only negative thing I have to say about this CD is the lack of variety (which applies to GND’s whole discography, by the way), but who cares about that when the quality of the music is so consistently good? I personally don’t. With no doubt, my #1 album of the year so far, and I don’t see anything else topping it anytime soon.

Recommended songs: Freedom, Hajimari, Ready to be a lady.


And yeah, that’s all! If you’ve been patient enough to read the whole post without falling asleep, congratulations! (and thanks a lot for reading =D). Now it’s time for you to share your opinion… Which Japanese albums released this year did you like the best? Feel free to leave a comment!

4 responses to “First half of 2011 in review: my top 10 Japanese albums of the year so far

  1. rehikari July 11, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Abema only 3rd? Boohoo XD Her album’s my favorite of the year so far, though I haven’t listened to your top 2 ones, but that’s ’cause I’ve heard stuff from both artists before and was impressed with neither ^^;

    Hmm… AAA ranking this high… reminds me I should give their album a listen after all *been recovering part of her AAA fandom lately*

    Anyway, awesome post m(_ _)m (much better than my half-baked one anyway lol)

    • kawaii-nanami July 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      If you finally decide to listen to AAA’s album, make sure you get the edition with the three extra bonus tracks: those may be just covers but they’re very good, especially the one with the long-as-fuck title <3.

      Glad you enjoyed my post ^o^/ I might write a similar one for the singles / songs later~

  2. Senyuizuki July 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    A long, but nice post!

    Yeah, Chiaki Kuriyama’s debut album was quite good. I definitely agree with you about the filters in Ketteiteki Sanpunkan . The song would have been better without them. The best tracks were indeed in the first half of the album; I think the second half is slightly weaker but nonetheless still good. I never really cared for the Ladies & Gentlemen though.

    And Abe Mao’s new album rocked! It’s really frickin’ good. I actually think it’s much better than Pop (not that Pop was bad, not at all …). Btw, if you haven’t checked out her debut album yet, you definitely should!

    • kawaii-nanami July 13, 2011 at 11:22 pm

      IMO the weakest song from Chiaki’s album is New Moon Day, but I still kind of like it~

      I had already listened to Abema’s debut album, and even though it’s my least favorite out of the three, I still like it a lot. Stuff like Free, Kirei na Uta or Kotoba is awesome ❤