Category Archives: Top 3

Today Is A Birthday, They’re Smoking Cigars

Hello little earbuds! Today is the fabulous Miss Pink’s birthday. Which means that you get a short and sweet treat as part of the celebration: Miss Pink’s Top 3 Favourite Birthday Songs!

3.) The Birthday Massacre – Happy Birthday

Pretty much everything by Toronto’s Birthday Massacre is excellent dance music. However, this one has always been one of my favourites. Besides being my first taste of this phenomenal band, this song is creepy and spooky and so, so excellent. The odds are good that even if your local goth DJ refuses to play “Birthday” by The Crüxshadows for you, she or he could hardly refuse spinning this dark ditty for any gothling’s birthday. (And yes, this happened to Miss Pink several birthdays ago!) “Happy Birthday” comes in at #3 on my countdown due to its less-than-celebratory message, but no birthday mix would be complete without its explosive synthrock disturbing partygoers far and wide.

2.) Cibo Matto – Birthday Cake

Let me start off by saying that every song on this album, Viva! La Woman, is about food. Every song! That’s awesome in and of itself. However, this punchy ode to festive cake was the one that caused me to go out and buy the album (many thanks to the Brain Candy soundtrack, and the Kids in the Hall, for introducing me to one of my favourite bands of the 90s). I love its punk-rock vibe enrobed in a luscious trip-hop melody. “Shut up and eat! Too bad no bon appetit! Shut up and eat! You know my love is sweet!” It’s so catchy, how can you not dance along or sing along or do both?

1.) The Sugarcubes – Birthday

I loved this song from the very first moment that I heard it on a mixed tape back in high school. When I went to college in a big city in another part of the country, far from where I grew up, I spent my eighteenth birthday alone. I had never had a birthday away from my family and friends, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. So I put on my black velvet cape (oh yeah, I totally rocked a cape in my late teens!) and walked around the downtown streets. I went to FAO Schwarz, because that somehow seemed fitting, turning eighteen in a giant toy store. Then I went to Tower Records and bought this album, Life’s Too Good. I went back to my room and listened to this song on repeat while I sat on the heater beside the window of my ninth floor dorm room and looked out over the city. Ever since that day, no matter where I am or who I’m celebrating with, I always make it a point to listen to this song at the exact time that I was born. (It was tricky when I was living in England, but I did the math and made it work.)

This song always uplifts me and makes me happy thanks to its light and airy rhythm and the sweet, almost incoherent lyrics. I loved it when I was a teenager, and I love it still today. This song can transform any day into a celebration of the little things in life, but I find it especially powerful on my actual birthday. It always reminds me of who I was, where I’ve been, and how much I’ve grown. And it’s a wonderful soundtrack to twirling, cloud watching, picking flowers, or just generally indulging in anything that brings a bit of magic into your life.

And that’s it for Miss Pink’s celebratory blog post today! I’m off to open some presents and eat some cake. Cheers, little earbuds!

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The Immortality of Vampires: Even More BUCK-TICK

Last week I talked about my latest (possibly greatest? It certainly feels that way right now!) new musical obsession, the visual kei phenomenon known as BUCK-TICK. Surely, dear reader, you didn’t think I could end it at that, did you? While all of the videos that I shared last week were undeniably fantastic (they were! I challenge anyone to deny it!) I acknowledge that they were all relatively recent videos. Because BUCK-TICK have been around since 1983, there’s a whole lot more to them than just the most recent wave of highly intoxicating songs. To prove that this band may indeed be one of the greatest in the world, I’ve decided to delve a little deeper into the BUCK-TICK backlog and share some other facets of this marvelous menagerie of musicians.

Dress (circa 1993)

Hard to believe for some, but 1993 is quite old now. In fact, in another year and a half, 1993 will be twenty years old. That’s two decades ago! Yet even then, BUCK-TICK were on the scene making deeply seductive music flavored with gothic romance. Which makes sense when you realize that BUCK-TICK were influenced by the seminal goth bands of the Eighties such as Bauhaus, The Cure, Love & Rockets, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Sisters of Mercy. Lead singer Atsushi Sakurai in particular has spoken openly of his fondness for all things “dark,” which is clearly visible in his appearance, performances, and lyrics. In “Dress” we see a young cross-dressing Atsushi who exudes prowess and innocent allure while crooning in a beguilingly knowing way. If I ever get the boudoir of my dreams (a room swathed in deep crimson veils lit by candles) this song will be playing on constant repeat. So sexy!

Razzle Dazzle (live in 2010)

God, I love that moment in a concert just before the artist hits the stage. The excitement, the frenzy, the anticipation! This video captures all of that flawlessly. A band that’s just as great live as on their albums is some kind of heaven for us music geeks, and BUCK-TICK are the archangels of that heaven with their showmanship and dedication to the dramatic in their musical craft. And did I mention that this was filmed just last year? Oh to have been in that audience! The opening is delicious, but if you’re impatient, forward to 3:17 for the good stuff.

Dress (abingdon boys school with special guest Atsushi Sakurai)

This is one of my favourite videos to watch over and over again. Just look at the faces of the fans in the crowd after Atsushi takes the stage with a.b.s! I get goosebumps from all of the intensely palpable energy they created, and I’m just watching this performance on YouTube. Imagine what it was like to have actually been there! The fact that not only do newer (and quite popular) bands like a.b.s. choose to cover BUCK-TICK songs, but also that Atsushi blends so seamlessly into this performance speaks to the timelessness of their work. They were great two decades ago, and they remain great now.

BUCK-TICK make amazingly lush videos and they put on incredible live concerts. Not to mention their influence speaks to a whole new generation of fans year after year. Now do you see why I would nominate this band as one of the best in the world? I could seriously make a blog that’s only devoted to BUCK-TICK, so great is my love for this band. In fact, they even inspire me to break with my traditional Top 3 format and include something extra: a live performance of what is possibly my favourite BUCK-TICK song (or at least my fav for the moment), “Dokudanjou Beauty,” from the same concert above, performed last year on the Razzle Dazzle tour.

Ah, perfection. Hisashi Imai has his Keith Richards rock-god-kick goin’ on, while Atsushi just sneers at the camera. He knows that he commands the attention of the entire room, and he doesn’t even need to try. I honestly don’t know which version I like better, the studio single or the live recording. And that, to me, is the sign of a truly awesome band.

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Visual Kei For Vampires: Put Some BUCK-TICK In Your Brain

You know about visual kei, right? It’s just one more example of why Japan is cooler than anywhere else on the planet. I always admired the fashion of visual kei, but never found my way to the music. Then I watched Trinity Blood, and there at the opening was my key to a whole new world of fandom: BUCK-TICK. I liked them from the first time that I heard them, getting drawn in especially by the melodious vocals. The name of the band references the Japanese word for “firecracker,” which I find very appropriate. Sure, they’re one of the biggest bands in Japan, but as I am not Japanese, I discovered them a scant two weeks ago. Yet from that point in time through the present, I CAN’T STOP LISTENING TO THEM. Their music is exciting and extravagant, dark and sexy, and the only thing better than listening to them is watching them perform. Today I give you three videos from my new number one band-crush, but I dare say there will be more posted in the future. How can I stop at just three when the videos (and music) are this good?

3.) Dokudanjou Beauty

This video is pretty much the perfect amalgamation of everything I love: punk, goth, renaissance, roses, swords, dangerous jewelry, boys in black with awesome hair, you name it. All they need is a cat walking through the background and I’m in heaven. The music is powerful but still bouncy, definitely worthy of fist-pumping at top volume with the windows down in your car. And how badass is that wishbone-esque guitar? One listen and you’ll be hooked, I guarantee.

2.) Romance

Preeeetttttttttty. *Drool* If you don’t believe in vampires, you will after watching lead singer Atsushi Sakurai in this video. This time BUCK-TICK amps up the gothic quotient to fantastic proportions (which is especially delicious for us darklings in the audience). Even without understanding the lyrics, the deep sensuality is quite palpable in the slow, seductive rhythm of this song. I could go on, but I believe that YouTube commenter Vinerilla sums it up best:

Ok. Five years ago, I heard this man’s voice for the first time. My jaw dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe my ears. It was the most sensual voice I had ever heard in my life, smooth as liquor, like liquid velvet, dripping with raw emotion. I went to Youtube. I looked him up. And I found THIS. The most beautiful man in the world, to match the most beautiful voice in the world. How is that even FAIR? x____x 

1.) Kuchizuke

This was the first BUCK-TICK video that I ever saw, hence it will always hold a special place in my heart. This video showed me that there was more to love than just “Dress (Bloody Trinity Mix).” Oh so much more. I would like to state here and now that I understand that bands are composed of more than just a lead singer, and this entire band is marvelous. But I have to take a fangirlish moment to say that the part with Atsushi and the apple is so sexy that I think I might expire on the spot every time I watch it. I’ve seen him when he was younger, and he only gets better with time! That man has the Johnny Depp cheekbones to carry him into an elegantly sexy old age. However, even though this blog entry is about visual kei, it all comes back to the music. And this song is incredible. The pounding drums, the crunchy guitars, the gorgeous vocals (which is what first drew me to BUCK-TICK) and even the twinkling chimes combine to make this audible gold. The dark fairy tale of a video is really just icing on the cake (but it’s that super luscious icing that you could eat even without cake).

Just as Black Butler and Vampire Knight provided a gateway into anime for me, BUCK-TICK is opening up an entire universe of visual kei for me to feast upon. I feel almost giddy at this discovery, and I can’t wait to find even more visual kei bands to absorb into my ever-expanding fandom. Now, to watch more BUCK-TICK videos. *Swoon!*

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By The Beautiful Sea: Songs For The Beach

The time is fast approaching for trips to the beach (including my own, yay!). There are many songs about vacation, but going to the beach is special and deserves its own Top 3. While other vacations are well and good, they can be stressful, too. So many museums and places of historic interest to see, so much bother in figuring out how to get there, and then there’s the question of where to eat and how to say “I’m a vegetarian” in another language (Ich bin Vegetarier, Malai maasu nakhanne, Gogi han mogoyo, Ani tsimchonit, Mimi sili nyama…*).

However, none of that matters on a beach trip. You’re there to see the beach, and it’s not going anywhere. You can wake up when you want and wander down to the waves, and when you’re hungry, nine times out of ten there’s somewhere nearby serving fresh seafood (and other stuff, too, of course). The whole point of a beach vacation is relaxation, or surfing, or meditation on the waves, or dolphin watching tours, or what have you. It’s all there for you at the beach. So these are my personal Top 3 songs that make me long for the sea.

3.) Charles Trénet – La Mer

No offense to Bobby Darrin, but the original French version of this song is the best, in my opinion. Charles Trénet has one of the most incredible voices of all time. Whenever I listen to this song I feel as though I’m gently drifting in cool water, staring up at a blue sky. It’s everything serene and lovely about a visit to the seashore. Note to self: Take time to float in the ocean, but only when there are other people around to warn me of impending sharks.

2.) Queen – Seaside Rendezvous

This song is so joyful and fun, it’s just screaming for a movie beach montage. Kind of like the one in the video above! It’s all old-timey and sweet and peppy and super awesome. You can always count on Queen for a quirky song about random topics, and this is one of the best. How can you not want to dance around and/or build sand castles when you hear this? Note to self: eat ice cream every day while at the beach.

1.) By The Sea – Sweeney Todd

A friend once asked me why everyone was going crazy over Tim Burton’s movie version of Sweeney Todd. I figure it’s because everyone loves gothic stuff, and everyone loves Johnny Depp. The scene in which this song is used in the film is all of that, but at the sea! I don’t know that anything gets better than this. Helena Bonham Carter’s lovely voice conveys her delightful dream to us, and the sweeping instruments add without being overpowering in a typical “Broadway musical” way. I can’t even think about going to the beach without this song popping into my head, which makes it my number one. Note to self: memorize those couple of verses I tend to use filler words for, and sing this at some point while at the beach. Preferably when one or both sisters are around, as well as lots of other people, utilizing maximum embarrassment potential.

And that’s that. I hope that you get to enjoy the beach at some point this year, little earbuds, or at the very least that these songs help put you in a seaside state of mind.

*That’s German, Nepali, Korean, Hebrew, and Swahili for “I’m a vegetarian.”

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Music For Otakus, Part VII: The Complete Package

Finally we come to the end of my (much-loved? hopefully?) Music for Otakus series. I could keep this up for several more weeks, and possibly indefinitely, because I’m constantly watching new anime and discovering new musical delights to tempt any audible palate. But there are other songs to sing, other notes to play, and other scores to settle. And so I can think of no better way to conclude this series than with my personal Top 3 anime soundtracks. Taking T.S. Eliot and turning his words on its ear, I strive to end not with a whimper but with an incredibly loud bang! Or at the very least a ren faire, a mystical forest, and a classical smorgasbord. Read on, little earbuds…

3.) Spice and Wolf (Season One)

Spice and Wolf is a rather odd duck in the world of anime. The story follows a merchant and a wolf goddess in an ambiguously medieval time and place, but with music this warm it’s easy to feel at home while riding on Lawrence’s cart or eating apples with Holo the Wise Wolf. I’ve already mentioned the absolute cuteness of the end credit song, “Ringo Biyori,” but the opening song, “Tabi no Tochuu,” is as lovely as the end song is precious. Yuji Yoshino’s instrumental music throughout the series is all in the realm of ren faire melodies, but there are some impressive differentiations to be found on such a genre-specific soundtrack.

Shounin to Ookami to, Tabi no Nibasha” is a cheerful, flute-heavy little tune, whereas “Kimi no Moto” is almost bawdy in its jangly peppiness. “Zawazawa Suru” is intense and serious, calling to mind James Newton Howard’s score to The Village with its heavy strings, and the slow and seductive “Ikoku no Shirabe” sounds like a forgotten dance from The Nutcracker with its Middle Eastern touches. Then there’s the upbeat “Shippo Dance,” which would work equally well as music in a chase scene or the background to a rambunctious festival dance. All of these tracks represent the multi-faceted sounds of an intriguing anime, but the song that I choose to best represent the soundtrack as a whole is “Mada Minu Machi he,” a pleasant tune that instantly gives the listener the perfect setting for the story of Holo and Lawrence, as well as fills ones with the urge to dance and drink (but not necessarily in that order). With such a menagerie of medieval sounds, I don’t see how anyone could listen to this score and not feel joyful.

2.) Mushi-Shi

Perhaps uniquely original anime series produce the best music. That would certainly seem to be the case, given the albums on this Top 3. Mushi-shi is yet another strange and unique anime. It centers around a traveling man named Ginko who helps people deal with Mushi problems. Mushi are magical, natural beings who can sometimes cause chaos for people, and Ginko is a Mushi Master, so he has the skills to help calm the chaos. While the opening theme “The Sore Feet Song” is mellow and soothing to the ear, the real gem is Masuda Toshio’s instrumental score. Each track flows with the next, but each is individual, like a variety of amazing trees all in the same forest. Speaking of forests, that’s kind of what listening to this soundtrack feels like: being in a mystical forest alone with only the sounds of nature for company.

Perhaps the track that best illustrates this is the eerie “Mushi.” It’s so simple in its use of instruments, but so completely rich in atmosphere. It’s easy to hear wind, rain, and something else hiding in the shadows in this music. Then there’s the somber “Ri (Kotowari),” which incorporates a familiar piano among the gentle sounds of nature, and “Shinen,” which begins menacingly but evolves into something less than scary but not quite welcoming; this track sounds as though it could easily be a Björk B-side. “Hikari Sake” is more forthcoming with its steady drums and reminds me of the fox wedding scene in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams; meanwhile “Makura Kouji” sounds both retro-magical and nature-based, as though it were the score to a Japanese version of Labyrinth that’s set in the gardens of Kyoto.

The best all-encompassing number on this soundtrack might be “Mushishi no Theme,” which has all the delicate mystery of a journey into the mystical world of things unseen coming across in less than two minutes of sound. However, my overall pick is “Rinkou,” because it manages to be so many things at once: melancholy, mysterious, beautiful, organic, intriguing, and so much more. This track, as well as the rest, inspires me and calms me when things become too chaotic. Listening to this music is as good as having Ginko himself arrive at your door and offer his help. There is nothing better to listen to on a quiet rainy day than the Mushi-Shi soundtrack to wash away the mental cobwebs, or to transport you to that rainy forest of contemplation and discovery. (Editor’s note: since I first posted these tracks, the entire Mushi-Shi soundtrack has, sadly, been removed from YouTube. Instead I found this lovely video made by YouTube user extrasterk featuring photos of Japan and set to a handful of Mushi-Shi tracks, namely “Hikari Sake,” “Kehai,” “Midori no Za,” and my beloved “Rinkou.” While it’s not the same as having all of the above-mentioned tracks for your listening pleasure, this lovely video does provide an excellent taste of what the gorgeous Mushi-Shi soundtrack has to offer.)

1.) Black Butler (Season One)

Bet you never saw this one coming, right? It’s true, I’m a huge Black Butler fan, and I make no bones about it. I’ve posted songs from the Black Butler soundtrack several times now, but I feel that it’s never enough. This anime about a boy who has been wronged and calls on a demon to exact his vengeance is the complete package, and the soundtrack is equally awesome. While it’s true that so much of what makes Black Butler the cream of the anime crop is its varied and colourful characters, there’s a lot of atmosphere in both the artwork and the music. The theme song from the opening credits of season one, “Monochrome no Kiss,” grabs you immediately and lets you know that this is going to be an adventure, and the closing song, “Lacrimosa,” is truly gorgeous. From there we get quirky songs in German such as “Die Hansen!” (which sounds like it should be playing over a sepia-toned silent film involving a train) to tracks that speak to the majesty of high Victorian living such as “La Gardenia.” The many faces of Sebastian Michaelis are brought to light in the lively tune “The Way A Butler Should Be,” with its brisk horns and timely piano keeping you in step, as well as in the dark and mysterious “Coffin Man,” which clues you in that all is not as he seems.

However, Taku Iwasaki’s score isn’t all about the butler. “Di’a’vertiment,” with its crisp and heart-racing strings, brings you along with Ciel and Sebastian as they roam the streets of Victorian London, chasing the shadows that keep Ciel awake at night. You can bask in the easy elegance of “A Diabolic Waltz” with its breezy pace, but the drums boil up from below and keep you from feeling too secure in this dark landscape of nightmares and dreams. And I would be remiss not to mention the richly Indian-tinged music such as “The Stranger From India,” “As You Wish,” and “The Right Hand Of God,” all of which might seem out of place in this landscape until you realize that you must expect the unexpected here. Speaking of which, “Jazzin’” could be right at home in any twenties gangster flick, and “A Cup Of Tea And Scone For Master” actually sounds like you’re waking up in Phantomhive manor, preparing for the day ahead. But there is emotion amidst all of the atmospheric tunes, too. The gentle duet of “Memory For Madame Red One: Lady Red” and “Memory For Madame Red Two: The Color Of Licorice” are so tender and lovely that they bring a lump to my throat each time I hear them.

I could keep listing track after track, because this entire three-disc set is amazing and full of surprises. However, the sounds that best exemplify this incredible anime and always bring me directly into that dark realm are the chanting voices and exotic beats of “The Dark Crow Smiles.” This song is like being in the heart of this story: it’s dark, sexy, mysterious, and powerful. I’ve already posted the original version, so today I leave you with “The Dark Crow Smiles [Remix].” It takes everything from the original and focuses it, funneling all of the waves of black sound into one crushing blow. This album, and this story, are both amazing for their depth, sophistication, and surprisingly, soul. The Black Butler score is a musical journey that I can’t wait to take again and again and again, and that makes it my number one anime soundtrack.

And that’s it for Music for Otakus! I hope that you’ve enjoyed, little earbuds, and perhaps found a new song or two to whet your musical appetites. Though this series is over, fear not, because Miss Pink will continue to bring you scrumdiddlyumptious sound treats from both anime and beyond!

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Music For Otakus, Part VI: Voices Without Words

I hesitated this week, dear reader, because if I’m going full-throttle down the path of instrumental anime tracks, that could be a very long and winding road. It would be an enjoyable one to travel, to be sure, but where would it end, and how could it be divided? Choosing the best instrumental anime songs would be similar to choosing the prettiest fish in the sea, or the brightest firefly on a summer night. The task is near impossible. However, I can bring you this small list of crossover songs: mostly instrumental tracks that still utilize vocals, but not in any traditional way. In many instances I find these more powerful than songs with definitive lyrics, and certainly more conducive to the imagination as well as setting a mood. The ones on today’s Top 3 are especially dark and seductive, because that happens to be my favourite mode of musical transportation. Enjoy!

3.) Takefumi Haketa – Mystical Night Class (Vampire Knight)

For some reason I tend to forget just how awesome Vampire Knight is. The anime is excellent, the manga is beyond fantastic, and even the music is engaging as well as quite fitting. This track will always take me back to last December when I was just beginning to watch anime and I was utterly entranced by Kaname Kuran and all of the night class at Cross Academy. This is the scene in which the viewer first learns that all of the students in the night class are actually vampires, and it sets the scene so perfectly that I could describe it intimately despite the fact that I haven’t had a chance to rewatch this series in several months. I’ll spare the details, but just know that it’s a quiet, somber night, and suddenly an entire room of beautiful faces is lit up by the gleam of red eyes. It’s gothic and romantic and scary all at once, and I almost shudder whenever I hear this track. In fact, listening to it now as I write, it’s all I can do to finish this entry instead of running to the next room and popping in my DVD to experience it all over again. Twilight, schmilight. This is how vampire love stories should be told, and this is the music to those tales.

2.) Takanashi Yasuharu – Jigoku Nagashi (Hell Girl)

Another week, another list with a Hell Girl track. But this anime is worth its weight in all aspects: art, story, and the incredible music. I’ll never forget watching it and knowing that I had to find this song and add it to my collection. It’s one of the most powerful tracks that I’ve ever heard, anime or no, and it conveys intensity, foreboding, and darkness in a way that’s almost indescribable. It made my heart pound in my chest the first time I ever heard it as I watched Ai Enma prepare to drag someone to hell, and it has the same effect every other time I listen to it. You’d never guess from the quiet and eerie vocals at the opening of this song how loud and awe-inspiring it becomes by the end. If you listen closely you can even hear Hell Girl laughing softly as the drums rise and fall in your ears like crashing waves, giving you a taste of the cold fury that comes when one is being ferried to hell.

1.) Taku Iwasaki – The Dark Crow Smiles (Black Butler)

I can’t say enough about how intensely good everything about Black Butler is. I would love this anime even if the music were subpar, but luckily for me, it happens to be the best anime soundtrack I’ve ever heard. There are tracks for any mood and any occasion, but this one, this one is the root of why it’s so stupendously excellent. This is the music that plays whenever Sebastian Michaelis unleashes the scope of his demonic powers or shows his horrifying true form. It’s somber and elegant and unassuming at first, but then it expands and unfurls into mystery and power and all-encompassing darkness, just like Sebastian himself. It would be easy to assume that I’m being biased since Black Butler is my number one anime and Sebastian is my number one anime crush, but I would love this music no matter what venue introduced it to me. This song is intoxicating to the degree that I feel more powerful just by listening to it, and that is the mark of a great track, in my opinion. From the ominous monk-like chanting at the opening to the cool and creeping bass notes, then the muttered phrases, and finally the impatiently building strings dotted with slashes of horn, I can’t imagine a better way to audibly introduce an audience to the majestic figure that is true demon Sebastian Michaelis.

My “Music For Otakus” series is slowly drawing to a close, so don’t miss the exciting conclusion next week! (Or is it..?)

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Music For Otakus, Part V: Utterly Cool

In America we tend to use the word “cool” in place of “awesome” or “great” or even “fine.” The term “cool” can be bandied about more than the birdie in a game of badminton. However, in the world of anime, cool refers to a very specific type of character: aloof, admirable, and quiet but not shy. The cool person always keeps their, well, cool, no matter what the situation at hand may be. Things may be going to hell in a hand basket, but nothing will break the icy facade of someone truly cool. When I think of anime “cool,” one character springs immediately to mind: Kyoya Ootari from Ouran High School Host Club. And when I think of “cool” anime songs, that is to say, songs that fly below the radar of “badass” but pack more punch than the usual anime fare, the following are my Top Three.

3.) Lia – My Soul, Your Beats! (Angel Beats!)

I actually just began this odd and interesting anime series yesterday. Time will tell if the rest of the show lives up to its cool opening theme song. The piano draws you in with its aloof classical opening, then the backbeat slowly builds until everything is blending into one. However, it never becomes the pop explosion that you think it will. Instead it holds back, keeping an even keel and retaining its power. Not a bad start for any anime.

2.) Noto Mamiko – Ichinuke (Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae)

As soon as these sweeping opening notes start playing (which always bring to my mind any number of James Bond film themes) I feel that nothing more needs to be explained as to why this song is on this list. Noto Mamiko has a gorgeously soft and chilling voice as Hell Girl, but it especially shines when she sings. Unlike “Karinui,” the ending song for Hell Girl season one, “Ichinuke” lets go of some of the sadness and ups the cool quotient. There’s still a hint of melancholy, but that’s to be expected given that this is the closing to Hell Girl season three (otherwise known as Hell Girl: Three Vessels or Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae). If there is any kind of cold comfort to be found in this tale of psychological horror, it lies in this song.

1.) Kiuji Saori – Hitorikiri no Sora (Kaze no Stigma)

I was thoroughly drawn in to Kaze no Stigma from episode one, but when I heard this closing theme, that sealed the deal. I love the throwback to 80s electronica mixed in with current beats that could be found on any dance floor today. And yet, this song never becomes a sweaty rave or a cheesy ode to a bygone decade. It stays firmly within the world of sound that it created, though it keeps perpetuating a feeling of movement (which is excellent, considering that the anime series that spawned it is all about wind magic). I knew without a doubt that I had to have this song in my music library or else I would wear out my DVD by replaying the closing credits over and over and over again. This song has a curious effect on me in that I’m never sure if I want to dance or sit down and quietly contemplate my circumstances, but one thing is clear: it is the very essence of musical cool.

That’s it for this week’s chilly installment (and none too soon, considering how hot it’s been lately in my neck of the woods!). Tune in next time for more breaths of fresh audible anime air!

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Music For Otakus, Part IV: Totally Badass

This week’s selection of anime tunes is one that I think we all need to hear now and then: badass songs. Who doesn’t love the heart-pounding energy of a truly badass tune pumping you up for whatever may come your way? I know that I love them, particularly when I’m driving with the windows down on an empty highway. The only drawback is that I almost always end up speeding, but there’s something about blasting an amazing song that just propels me forward, ready to take on the world. The following songs are not only pure badass all unto themselves, but they also come from some pretty badass anime series, too.

3.) Jean-Jacques Burnel – You Won’t See Me Coming (Gankutsuou)

Jean-Jacques Burnel is best known as the bassist for The Stranglers, which is probably why his voice isn’t particularly potent (and it’s nearly god-awful on the opening song “We Were Lovers.”) However, when it comes to the closing theme to Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, somehow it works. The jangly guitars and space-age synths combined with the angry-sounding strings all work together to create a pop number with real punch. The lyrics are especially effective in the context of a story of vengeance as powerful as The Count of Monte Cristo. Bonus: the closing credits give you a taste of some of the amazing artwork to be found in this anime.

2.) Kishida Kyōdan & The Akeboshi Rockets – Highschool of the Dead (H.O.T.D.)

I just finished Highschool Of The Dead yesterday, but listening to this makes me want to watch the whole series again. The theme song is pretty much perfect for a horror series about zombies taking over: it starts off with emphatic drums and frantic guitars and never lets up from there. You’re just bombarded with sound from the start, and it’s nearly impossible to keep from headbanging in time to the beat. Like the series itself, I wasn’t too sure about this tune at first, but now I can’t get it out of my head. It’s become one of my favourite power songs in the past couple of months, and I can’t imagine not playing it when I need an instant dose of badass. A word of caution: there’s loads of fan service in this opening, so it’s probably NSFW. Depending upon where you work, of course.

1.) Abingdon Boys School – Howling  (Darker Than Black)

From the opening line, “Now I’ve lost it, I know I can kill,” I was immediately drawn into Darker Than Black as well as this song. It sets the tone for this intriguingly dark fantasy, and whenever I listen to it I’m there in that world. It makes me want to walk in slow motion while wearing a cool Matrix-style coat and looking grimly at the world around me. Unlike the other two songs on this list, “Howling” had me from the very first time I heard it, from the very first drumbeat. Something about the mixed Japanese/English lyrics (please ignore the poor translations in the video) and grinding guitars totally works and gives me exactly what I look for in a powerfully badass number. In my opinion, this completely awesome song speaks for itself. Listen and find your own inner badass.

Join me next week for even more aurally awesome anime adventures! (Say that five times fast!)

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Music For Otakus, Part III: Aurally Addictive Cuteness

Yes, I began this series of anime music posts with totally cute songs. And I realized almost as soon as I had posted that I’d made a critical error in leaving out today’s number one song. But then I thought about it more, and realized that my mistake was actually a fortunate one, because the songs that I bring to your attention in this post are in an entirely other realm of cuteness. Part I of Music For Otakus was filled with adorable toe-tapping numbers cute enough to make even the most sullen of people yell, “Kawaii!!!” and prance about merrily. However, the songs that I present to you now, dear reader, are so ear-bleedingly cute that they verge into annoying territory. The first time that you listen you might just dismiss them as obnoxious and not give it a further thought. But later on, be it in ten minutes or two days, you’ll find yourself subconsciously humming or stirring your coffee in time to a strangely peppy little ditty that you just can’t quite place. These songs, little earbuds, are those infectiously precious anime gems. And just like in the Japanese horror film Ringu, the only way to exorcise them from your brain is to make someone else listen and share in the horror, the marvelously darling horror of it all.

3.) Gotou Mai & Kurokawa Nami & Nishizawa Hiroka – Otome Ryouran Battle PARTY (Shin Koihime Musou)

After just three short episodes I was done with Shin Koihime Musou. The comedy was too base and vulgar, the story was too slow and lackluster, and the characters all washed together in an unidentifiable and unimaginative tangled mess. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wondered why, since it wasn’t a good anime (in my humble opinion) but it certainly wasn’t bad enough to warrant a second glance. Then I realized that my thoughts were instinctively drawn to the cotton candy sweetness of this ending theme song. It was the lantern in the darkened landscape of mediocre crass fan service, and my ears were the months, flitting in energetic circles around this tune. My older sister says that it sounds like a dance-off in a video game, and I couldn’t agree more. This song makes me want to move my feet in a frantic hopscotch of a dance. It also kind of makes me want to punch someone in the face.

2.) Namikawa Daisuke – Marukaite Chikyuu (Hetalia: Axis Powers)

This totally tiny song perfectly encapsulates all the silliness and fun of Hetalia: Axis Powers. The fact that it’s sung by the actor who is the actual voice of Italy in the anime is even better. Throughout the series the song changes lyrics and singers to create a dozen different variants. There’s a gruff version sung by Germany, a classical music-inspired interpretation by Austria, and a dreamy childlike rendition by Chibitalia. But the original remains my favourite, as none other is so ridiculously patriotic or joyfully indulgent. And none other took hold of my brain to the point that I was making up nonsensical words to fill in the blanks so that I could sing along every time that I watched the closing credits. And I watched the closing credits in full for every episode in season one. All twenty-six times. If that’s not infectious song crafting, I don’t know what is.

1.) Rocky Chack – Ringo Biyori ~ The Wolf Whistling Song           (Spice and Wolf)

Finally we come to the mother of all musical anime addictions. As soon as I heard this song for the first time at the close of Spice and Wolf season one, I instantly thought that it was childish and simple and sing-songy. And I freakin’ loved it. I listened and watched it over and over again to make certain that I got the words down, and in time I not only sung along with Rocky Chack as the fairy tale-esque closing artwork flashed by on the screen, but I would also burst into song for no reason at all when I wasn’t watching. In the car, at the supermarket, doing the laundry, whenever: if I saw a butterfly or ate an apple or someone asked me to pass the sugar (listen to the lyrics, all are mentioned there) I was off and running. I sang almost without the ability to control myself. It became a reflex, like scratching my elbow. I managed to dial it down in time, but just writing this entry has brought back the intense desire to bounce around and karaoke the hell out of this number. It’s cute, certainly, but almost scarily cute in how it weeds its way into your brain and won’t let go until you have performed your own recital several times over as though attempting to please Holo the Wise Wolf herself.

And those are my picks for the most frightfully darling anime songs in existence. Listen at your own peril, and be sure to come back next week to cleanse your palate with a whole new stew of anime music mayhem!

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Music For Otakus, Part II: Beautiful Feeling

Continuing last week’s anime music fest, today, because I’m feeling thoughtful, I give you my top three most beautiful songs from anime. This one was tougher to put together than you might think, because there really are some exceptionally gorgeous songs accompanying some exceptionally gorgeous anime shows out there. However, these three not only had an immediately arresting effect upon me at first contact, but they continue to aurally astound me with each further listen.

3.) Kanon – Saga~This is My Road (Guin Saga)

Yes, I mocked Guin Saga profusely in my initial review. But then I went back and gave it another chance, and this lovely song was part of the reason. It begins very Enya-esque, which I enjoy because I loved the hell out of Enya back in the day (still do, when I happen to catch one of her songs on shuffle). However, after the opening it becomes a creature of its own making, thanks in no small part to Kanon’s amazing vocals. I couldn’t find a video of Guin Saga’s closing animation to show you, but this concert video is just as good (if not better) because Kanon sounds almost exactly the same here, live, as she does on the official recording. As a singer myself, I can tell you that is impressive.

2.) Kuricorder Quartet & Yukawa Shione – Tameiki no Hashi (Allison & Lillia)

As soon as I watched Allison & Lillia for the first time, my breath literally caught in my throat during the opening credits. I usually have no idea what to expect with a new anime series, and I certainly wasn’t expecting such a gorgeous song right off the bat. I kept thinking over and over, “This is beautiful. This is just beautiful.” The vocals and instrumentation are so clear and simple, but they meld together in a way that elevates my senses. I can honestly say that I was moved when I heard this song, and I continue to be each time I listen to it. The fact that the anime is exceptional is icing on the cake (look for my review in the coming weeks on Otaku Haiku!).

1.) Kalafina – Lacrimosa (Black Butler)

As I’ve mentioned numerous times over on Otaku Haiku, Black Butler is the origin of my intense love for anime. This song, from the closing credits of season two part one, is also the origin of my obsession with anime music. (The closing animation for Black Butler is lovely, of course, but I adore this masquerade-themed video so much that I had to post it instead.) It gives me chills every time I hear it. It’s passionate and gothic and beautiful, which is an unbeatable combination in my book. The violins soar, the operatic chanting is solemn yet full of emotion, and the drums carry it further and further toward the brink. Of what, you may ask? Of wherever your mind may wander during this amazing four minutes and fourteen seconds.

I’ll never forget my joy at finding this song, and how I listened to it again and again and again during the month that I waited for Black Butler season one part one to be released on DVD. I took it with me on a trip to NYC and listened to it on the plane there, in the taxi to the hotel, late at night when everyone else was asleep and I kept my iPod pressed to my belly so as to hide the screen’s light, in the taxi on the way to the airport, and on the plane ride home again. And despite the hundreds of times that I’ve listened to “Lacrimosa,” I never fail to get that same feeling of excitement and swept-away loveliness that I heard the first time. The fact that I also see Sebastian Michaelis in my head whenever I hear it is just another bonus. This song is the reward in and of itself.

Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel, to hear more musical stylings from the world of anime!

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