2015 was a big year for A-To-J Connections. When I first started A-To-J in the Summer of 2014 I didn't envision anything like it is now. Those first few months were tough and even at the start of the year we were a ragtag bunch; four people strong with very little direction and focus. A year later we have refined our team and are quickly transforming ourselves into one of the best sources for news on Japanese media!
Seeing as this is our first full year we have decided to do a joint article consisting of our favorite songs of 2015. While not all the current A-To-J members were able to submit for this article (due to unfortunate scheduling conflicts) this collection consists of entries by three-quarters of our current crew and extended family. Owing to the varied nature of our content, the songs vary greatly in genre as well. Idol, pop, rock and visual kei are all present and we wouldn't have it any other way! Be sure to check out our favorite songs if you haven't already and keep your eyes on A-To-J Connections in 2016, we have bigger and better things planned!
Manuel (alavic_222): Project Leader
When it came time to choose a song of the year for 2015 I was faced with a dilemma. I wanted to choose a song off of Takui Nakajima's 2015 album "Renga no Ie" and I also wanted to pick one of the awesome idol songs that came out this year. Then I realized I could do both! The song I chose is ANGERME's "Taiki Bansei" a song that is written by Takui Nakajima and also exists as a version recorded by him. One thing I love about Takui's new album is the positive, uplifting messages present in the songs, this one is no different.
While I have to say that "Renga no Ie" is my favorite album bar none from 2015 I have to admit that I actually prefer ANGERME's version to his. His isn't bad and has a nice ska feel to it, but ANGERME's arrangement goes beyond the typical idol song and is something that I feel should become a classic as the years go on. It is also important to note that at the time of this song's release S/mileage was still going through the transition to ANGERME and this single pretty much settled everyone's fears that some of the original magic would be lost with the re-branding. While their was a definite image change (I don't think is a song that would have ever been given to S/mileage) it was for the best and ANGERME has continued to take 2015 by storm despite their unfortunate graduation announcements.
So there you have it, my song for 2015! Check it out if you haven't already!
ANGERME - Taiki Bansei
Takui Nakajima - Taiki Bansei
Molly (marisuga): Chief Advisor/PR Representative
My song of the year is AKB48's "Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai"! Bokutachi has a sound that keeps you interested throughout the song. It doesn't sound like every other idol song, and it's also really fun to sing!
(Editor's Note: A live version had to be found due to the lack of an official version available on YouTube. This will be updated if/when it becomes available.)
AKB48 - Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai
Teepu (Bowser05): Staff Writer
There were a lot of good songs in 2015. As I went through my music, picking out songs I really like and contemplating which to choose, I kept going back to the same song: “Otome no Gyakushuu” by ANGERME. From the moment I heard it back in January I already knew it was one of the most amazing things to come out of Hello! Project. It flows really nicely, has a really well-done instrumental and the vocals were sung immaculately (even by the then-new members). It has a very positive message and to top it off the outfits made me really happy. The final part that helps solidify this as my definite favorite this year is the really dark theme of the song's presentation. With the rebranding of S/mileage (which was known for being extremely cute) as ANGERME, this song being their first song helped to set a new tone for them and it was glorious. They've been going strong since then. If there is only one Hello! Project song you listen to from 2015, make it Otome no Gyakushuu by ANGERME.
NOTE: This is a partial lie. My number one was actually "Love Together" by Berryz Kobo. Since somebody else picked that song though, I didn't choose it to avoid redundancy.
ANGERME - Otome no Gyakushuu
Eunice (Yume no Yumi): Fashion Correspondent
2015 has been a very hectic and eventful year. Many amazing songs were released that definitely vie for my favorite song of the year. Not only releases, I had the honor to view many amazing artists this year ranging from: Kamijo, Femme Fatale, Loudness, and Dir en Grey! Meeting Tomo from Rhedoric and being able to participate in an interview with him was also definitely a highlight.
A month ago I reviewed their new album Jiggy. I definitely would say that top song of 2015 is from this album. Upon the album had a hidden track, the acoustic version of Possibility. This song was the one for me. Possibility was not a new song for Rhedoric, having the original version of this song on a previous album, but this hidden track was. This song was well written with an amazing sound that Hama and I could just relax to. Yuuji's voice continues to be a beautiful sandwich. A beautiful sandwich that we love to savor.
While both Hama and I will be sad to see 2015 end with all its amazing memories, we cannot wait to see what 2016 hold for us. Happy New Year everyone, end it with no regrets! We will see everyone in the new year!
-Eunice and Hamachi
(Editor's Note: Included is the standard version of "Possibility" check out "Jiggy" for the exclusive acoustic version!)
Rhedoric - Possibility
Eric (BerryzGenius): Staff Writer
Out of the countless new songs to surface in 2015, two songs in specific stood out to me the most. The first runner up being “Taiki Bansei” by ANGERME, an all-around awesome song (go check it out) and the song of 2015 that affected me most, “Love Together” by Berryz工房(Koubou). There were a handful of reasons as to why I picked this song as the most influential song for me this year. Maybe it is because I am a sucker for ballads, maybe it was due to the depth of feeling embedded into the song, or even that the members all got solo lines. In all honesty, this being the group’s final song definitely played a huge part in sucking me in. The message of this song is simple yet significant. Singing about the days that have led them to the present and about how they will treasure every memory, questioning if the decision of retiring is a selfish one. Everything about this song had both the fans and the members of the group, in a mess of tears since the day it was released. While the song brings about sad feelings, it is still a happy one about how the moments we are in right now are every bit as much of a treasure as the memories we have made together. I was lucky enough to be able to witness this song performed live on the very last day of the group’s activities and the performance was breathtaking. While I am not sure whether or not I would call this my “favorite” song of the year due to its sad nature, it is definitely, without a doubt, the most important song of the year for me. I strongly encourage anyone who has not heard the song or seen its music video, to check it out as soon as possible.
Berryz Koubou - Love together! (Final Live)
Berryz Koubou - Love together! (PV)
Tom Kiryu: Chief Correspondent
My personal favorite song of 2015 is 君ノ'心臓'ニ恋シテル ("Kimi no 'Shinzou' ni Koishiteru") by SCAPEGOAT. This song is intense and has a nice little creepy vibe to it. I have always been drawn to the dark and heavy type of music, and Visual Kei bands seem to pull it off very well. Songs that are just 100% heavy get a little boring to me. I love this song because it jumps between a calming almost romantic tone to a dark and violent tone. Jarring fluctuations between soft and heavy is a common theme in some of my favorite VK bands (Nega, Dir en Grey, OZ, Sadie). I can’t stop listening to this song (blasting it full volume while I'm at the gym or jogging) and SCAPEGOAT has quickly jumped to one of my favorite bands to be keeping an eye on for future releases.
SCAPEGOAT - Kimi no "Shinzou" ni Koishiteru
Darice - Translator/Field Correspondent
Song of the year is "Quasar" by The Lost Control (TLC) because THERE IS AN ELECTRIC CELLO and also this band is really awesome. Not only do they have an awesome sound -- a medley of hip-hop, metal, alternative, punk, and EDM -- all the members are actual functioning members of society with real jobs. They just make amazing music on the side.
The song starts with some funky electronics by Jim (who also does guitar and backing vocals) before going full on rock with TATSUKI on guitar, Ray on the cello and Masaya on Drums. Katy rounds out the sound with a solid bass. The whole thing is a pleasant solar space-y rock experience.
Quasar comes on a single with "Dying Flowers", another amazing piece, and you can listen to samples of both on the band's soundcloud and are available for purchase on iTunes. TLC just made its U.S. debut this year, playing at Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles in September, where A-to-J was lucky enough to meet up with them. The band itself is based in Tokyo, Yokohama and they play regular gigs in the area.
If anyone is lucky enough to be in Tokyo, their next concert is coming up on the 30th of January, 2016 at Liveholic.
They've also just come out with another single: Burn/Way Down which are also available on iTunes.
You can check out their official site here : tlclol.wix.com/thelostctrl
Or on Facebook facebook.com/thelostctrl
The Lost Ctrl - Quasar
Christina: Staff Writer
“Wings Flap” is the newest single from the legendary Japanese rock band, L’Arc~en~Ciel. It’s the first single in a year and four months from the band and it officially released on December 23rd, 2015. With it’s uplifting lyrics and memorable chorus, it is by far my favorite song from 2015.
The song starts off with a mechanical sounding noise that sets the underlying melody for the rest of the song. Hyde chimes in with the English lyrics, “Wings flap in the night”. This introduction establishes the entire mood of the song. The precluding tune reoccurs throughout the song and is most predominant during the chorus (which lends itself to making the chorus a particularly catchy one). The theme of “Wings Flap” and flying is also a continued and expounded on with Hyde later stating, “I wanna fly fly fly high”.
The musical mechanics of the song are also profoundly perfect. Hyde’s voice is consistently clear and strong over the music and his ability to still hit the high notes at the age of 46 with his tobacco smoking tendencies is something to be truly admired. The rest of the instruments, bass, guitar, drums, all blend together flawlessly to support the melody. And in true L’Arc~en~ciel fashion there is a rather short guitar solo towards the end of the song, highlighting the musical prowess of the guitarist, Ken.
“Wings Flap” is an overall crowd pleaser - if you are a fan of L’Arc~en~Ciel’s older songs you will enjoy the melody and if you are a fan of their more recent rock style (as seen most closely in their “Smile” album) then you will also like this new single. But besides this, the thing that sets the song truly apart from the rest of the 2015 songs is the motivating lyrics. In English, Hyde sings, “I believe in the changing of seasons...I reset...I find a new gate to freedom”. A fierce emotion of wanting to immediately amending one’s life path and put it on new, higher chorus is embodied through the last line of the song, “I’m ready to fly high”.
(Editor's Note: A live version had to be found due to the lack of an official version available on YouTube. This will be updated if/when it becomes available.)
L'arc~en~ciel - Wings Flap
Rubi: Contributor/Foreign Correspondent (Mexico)
This was the year where I got a thing for many songs that were released zillion years ago, but oh well. This was also the year where I “came back” to J-Pop and was distraught over many song released under Hello! Project because, to be very honest, the latest releases weren’t as good as years ago. If I had to choose a song it would definitely be “Gamusha Life” by °C-ute. After all that happened to H!P this year, and Berryz Koubou’s disbandment, it made me realize how strong as a group °C-ute is and how much I love those girls. And yes, to be very honest I've been a hardcore °C-ute fan since about 8 years or so. The lyrics, the arrangement, the video, the music… EVERYTHING was perfect I could even picture myself while watching the video. The most perfect thing is that I was able to hear that song live at their concert in Mexico and because of that one of my dreams came true and I made many good friend in a couple of hours.
TLRD;; YOU MUST HEAR THIS PERFECT SONG ASAP! ^^;;;;;
°C-ute - Gamusha LIFE
2015 was a year filled amazing new music. One particular song that stood out to me was "THE BEGINNING" by Royz recently released on May 5th 2015. At the beginning of this year I decided to become a better person for myself due to very personal reasons. I realized I did in fact have to create a new beginning for myself and even a new life. Shortly after coming to terms with that, this song was released and the lyrics were a perfect musical explication of my thoughts. It was the extra push and motivation I needed, soon it also became one of my favorite songs of the year. Thanks Royz!
Royz - THE BEGINNING
Nathan (L4verra): Contributor
I have written about this song before, but there is still a lot to talk about it. For starters, this was a year spread around not just AKB48 and their sister/rival groups, but other idol groups as well. There was so much to discover and so many idol groups to give a listen to! Yes, SUPER☆GiRLS was one of those idol groups.
This song is just too much fun. It has a very upbeat, summertime vibe and the chorus hook is really catchy. The only knock on the song may be the video; it sure is lewd for idol standards, so please do not play this video at work.
The nice thing about this song is that I was able to discover other awesome idols, such as Arai Reira, Asakawa Nana, and especially Tanaka Mirei. Let me just say that Tanaka Mirei is my SUPER☆GiRLS oshi just because of how she shines as the center of this song, and that is likely not changing anytime soon.
Another reason why I picked this song as my favorite for 2015 is because was basically a good representation of how 2015 went. This was the first year I spent outside of school and into the work field, which was something new I had never experienced. I made new friends, learned new things, and had all sorts of new experiences: three months in a kitchen job and eight months in a behavioral intervention job. Tanaka Mirei was a new idol that I had never heard of until now.
This song represents all of the new things seen, heard, found and experienced this year alone.
This is why “Icchatte♪Yacchatte♪” by SUPER☆GiRLS is my personal favorite song of 2015.
SUPER☆GiRLS - Icchatte♪Yacchatte♪
Song: Gyakumanji Yori Ai wo Komete
Band: Black Gene For the Next Scene
Black Gene For the Next Scene continue to improve in creating heavy songs. Their newest song ranges from slightly slow to intense, but is successfully catchy. Rame's bass skills are clearly demonstrated in this song, and Ice's deep growls and vocals are quite shocking. The breakdown of the song is chilling but fits with the energy of the song. The way this track runs like an energetic ride is what makes it enjoyable to listen to.
Black Gene For The New Scene - Gyakumanji Yori Ai wo Komete
There you have it! Our favorite songs of 2015! Keen readers might notice that Christina's entry exists as it's own article on the site and Darice's entry is an excerpt from an article of hers as well. Don't want to let awesome reporting go to waste! Also keep an eye out as some members are writing "Best of 2015" articles of their own! We at A-To-J Connections hope everyone had an awesome 2015 and hope you'll have an even better 2016! We look forward to more great music and the opportunity to bring you even more great content in the coming year!
-Manuel (alavic_222) and the rest of the crew at A-To-J Connections!