Rin -the end of corruption world- - Independent "MAZE" (2011, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Fall..., From the End..., Silent To My Pain, World In Flames
I was so surprised that Rin was releasing an album, since Phantasmagoria failed to do that until they disbanded. Anyway, the album opens up with a haunting track called "Cold Sabbath". Looking at the time, you would think it's a regular song, but it's simply an intro with minimal, but dramatic vocals and drumming. "Fall..." continues that Victorianesque sound with pounding instrumentals and screams. It's a little reminiscent of Phantasmagoria's energy, but perhaps a little more refined darkness to the song. "Replicant Blue" takes a totally different direction with small little elements of piano and synths. It sounds too generic for Rin, in my opinion. "A.Hitlor." is a little heavier with some shouts sprinkled throughout the song. It's very energetic and still different than the usual sound of the band. "From the End..." brings back that haunting church feeling with choir-like vocal echoes and bell chimes in the intro, then the real rock sound bursts through. This is how Rin is suppose to sound like. "The ins and outs" keeps the energy high, but kinda blurs the sounds from the previous track which is a little annoying. "Silent To My Pain" was one of the few tracks I would repeat. It has a beautiful, classic piano intro and that signature Rin/Phantasmagoria sound that's still fresh and upbeat. Despite it being 6 minutes long, I still feel bouncy and lost in the amazing guitar and bass structure as Riku flows through this little lyrical rollercoaster. "Royal Pain" goes for a more dramatic approach that has a different kind of intensity than the previous track. "Metamorphose" has a dance-like feeling to the instrumental track, but still has a strong bassline to it. When this single was released, I was a little iffy about the sound and I don't think I listened to this song that much then. "As If Forever Exists." is a slower track that features some decent instrumentals and emotional vocals. "Continuation of dream" experiments with jazz lounge sounds and rock music fused together. It's a little odd for Rin to being trying out this sound the way they did, but it's not too terrible. "Mind confusion" continues this experimental instrumentation with a slightly more mainstream sound with a sprinkle of synths in the background. "Flowers Bloom" gradually shifts back to the sound I'm more familiar with from Rin. It's a little dancy and uptempo, but not too odd as "Metamorphose". "World In Flames" ends the album with some drama and wonderful acoustic blended works and bells. It's different from the norm, but somehow it works well for the band and most importantly Riku's vocals. Overall, the album wasn't that bad and they definitely took some risks from being another Phantasmagoria.
Vanness Wu - C'est La V (2011, Taiwan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: 說愛就愛, Is This All, Do It, Knockin'
Lately, I've been very impressed with Vanness's music and the "Intro" displays how excited you should be when you start up this album. Forgive me for not having these titles translated, by the way. "說愛就愛" starts up the dance vibe that Vanness is venturing in. Sure, it's the mainstream right now, but it works for him without sounding like he's completely selling out. "Is This All" features Ryan Tedder and a great mixture of R&B and symphonics. This was a great promotional choice for this album. It has a lot of dramatics and emotion to it. "Do It" features Vic Zhou and mixes Vanness's hip-hop sound with electro-pop. It sounds a little odd, but you can't help but surrender to the beat of this track, especially around the chorus. "命定" mixes electronic sounds and piano for a slow R&B track that Vanness is very skilled at. "有你在" slows the tempo of the album down a little more for a ballad sound featuring violin, chimes, and piano. "只要她快樂" keeps the slow pace, but picks up just a couple steps with piano, acoustic guitar, and a strong R&B dance sound. "愛的手榴彈" picks it up even more with an increasing dance sound that is rather simple, but works well with the vocals. "愛沒走" goes back a few steps with an Asian drama-esque ballad sound with violins, strong drums, and piano underlinings. "哎呀" is a sweet acoustic track of love. It took me awhile to like this song, but the music video is so endearing you can't help but let your heart melt to it. "透.明.愛" jumps back into the electro-pop thing with a slightly prominent bass and a powerful chorus. "Knockin'" brings this album to an end with some dramatic music featuring some piano and intense bass. It's a classic Vanness R&B sound with a new twist that has a very catchy chorus. The album had too many slow, ballad songs to me as I enjoy the more R&B and upbeat sounds from Vanness, but it didn't make me dislike the album.
-OZ- - Souga (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Reverse, Ecdysis
This band is slowly approaching flawless status with lynch. and deathgaze and I'm really happy with this growth from this j-indies band. I wasn't that blown away from the PV, but "Reverse" is an amazing, energetic song that features everything I love about this band: strong musical presentation and powerful vocals. This song has tons of energy and I hope I get to hear this one live this year. "Unseal" features a seemingly new guitar approach for the band and I really like it, but the vocals following it will take some getting used to. The song isn't bad, just different than the usual. "Ecdysis" has some very prominent bass and dramatic musical arrangement that I can easily lose myself in as well as compliment the band on their growth. This is a new side that I don't get to experience much with them and I love that they're sharing this on Souga.
Sunny Hill - MIDNIGHT CIRCUS (2011, South Korea) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: 꼭두각시, Midnight Circus
I know this single is old, since now we have "The Grasshopper Song" and all, but I'm always in a delay with my music reviews. Anyway, "Girl With A Accordion (Intro)" brings us into this almost circus themed single with lots of fun energy and, of course, accordion sounds. "Puppetry", I believe that's what it translates to, drops the energy down to a somber, beautiful sound. When I first listened to this, I was falling further in love with this group, since I was new at the time. It has some beautiful instrumentals and flawless vocal talent from each member. "Midnight Circus" was my second taste of this group via YouTube. It's more uptempo than the previous song and has a fun, circus atmosphere surrounding it that had a very fitting music video. "Let's Talk About" has more of a fun sound to it that's kinda poppy, but mature with some acoustic work and quick lyrical flow. To close out this single is a preview of their deeply emotion filled song "Pray" and an instrumental version of "Midnight Circus".
Lollipop F - DANCE (2011, Taiwan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Dance, LolliPARTY, 近距離, Magic
I believe I posted this group's music video on one of my recommendation posts and I'm still fairly new to them, but I like what I've heard so far. "Dance" is responsible for exploring these boys. It has a fun electro-pop sound to it that makes you want to, indeed, dance. "戰利品" is less high energy, but still maintains an electro-pop feel with a little R&B in the vocals to go with the melody. It's calming, but keeps your attention at the same time. "重新愛" adds a little more R&B and maybe a romantic feeling to the delivery, although I could be wrong. "LolliPARTY" brings back the fun that "Dance" had, but not as fast paced. It's still a good song. "近距離" retreats back to an electro-R&B sound with some musical emphasis here and there. "Liar" opens up with some weak harmonization and a couple off notes that reminds me of those parody American boy bands. "不再親愛" brings in the guitars and puts the vocals in the front of the music. It's an interesting approach and it keeps my attention for sure. "沒有為什麼" goes with a soft rock sound that could be pulled from a Maroon5 song. For some reason "Magic" pulls me back into loving these guys again. It's a little more powerful and falls into what kpop is doing now, but it doesn't bore me. "Yo Yo" closed the album with a generic electro-pop sound that tries to be as energetic and catchy as "Dance" and "LolliPARTY", but it becomes a little annoying in places. For someone who doesn't listen to this genre much, aside from Vanness Wu (and now G.E.M), this isn't that bad and I think I'll occasionally keep tabs on these guys.
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