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Discovolante's Best of: 1993 (Japan Edition)

From the beginning of the year to the end, via the Sputnik release calendar.
1Shonen Knife
Rock Animals

In 1993, at the height of their international exposure, Shonen Knife released their, in my opinion, finest effort yet: "Rock Animals", which was their second original album to be released internationally ("Let's Knife" being essentially a compilation album). It still has the lighthearted feeling of most of their albums, but this time done with just the right ingredients. It's hard to describe what makes "Rock Animals" so good other than to say it's their most coherent and concentrated effort. Maybe some other Shonen Knife aficionados can better describe it, but this is definitely them at their best.
TRF ~This is the Truth~

When legendary group TM Network split, producer and songwriting wizard Tetsuya Komuro immediately went on to start another project. Enter TRF, which stood for TK Rave Factory, a group that helped usher in a newer, more intense electropop sound that was much more similar to overseas raves. At least originally. Their first album, "TRF ~This is the Truth~", is full of acidic rave grooves with some extra bits of miscellanea as well, most notably the beautiful slow jam "Do What You Want". An album that successfully helped establish the foundation of one of Japan's best electropop acts in history, and easily their best effort as well, in my opinion.
Big Body

P-Model is a band that have never, ever been afraid of moving to its own rhythm, for better or worse. And with the case of "Big Body", it was certainly for the better! By far one of their most aggressive releases although maintaining the daring experimentation that became P-Model's trademark. One of their best albums in their legendary catalog.
4Luna Sea

Visual heroes Luna Sea made a splash in a major way in 1992 with their major label debut, and second full length overall, "Image", it was in 1993 that Luna Sea first really made huge waves with "Eden", an album that has since been revered as one of the most important and groundbreaking albums in the visual kei subgenre. With its hauntingly melodic sound that at some points get a bit heavy, "Eden" is an album that dazzles from start to finish, and stuck out like a sore thumb since nothing really sounded like this in the mainstream Japanese universe. A pivotal moment where commercial visual kei suddenly got an extra layer.
Ore ni Iwaserya

The first hip hop entry on the Japanese lists, Rhymester have the honor of being one of the longest running acts in Japanese hip hop, and also releasing one of the first albums in Japanese hip hop to be released by a group and not a solo artist. That album, "Ore ni Iwaserya", was considered to be a flop upon release, although is widely regarded a classic now. Its fun, old school-centered sound and callback rhymes make the album solid gold and, in my opinion, one of the best albums in the category.
6Maki Ohguro

Releasing her first full length in 1993, Maki Ohguro went on to secure her legacy with "Da-Da-Da", one of the most solid pop albums of the decade. The strong blend of her powerhouse vocals and the gripping production of the album makes it an album that is more than worthy of its monstrous legacy.
7Denki Groove
Flash Papa Menthol

By the time 1993 rolled around, Denki Groove had positioned themselves from being oddball electrohop clowns to cutting edge electronica pioneers, the like of which had not been seen in Japan since the days of Yellow Magic Orchestra. Overshadowed by the impressive commercial success of "Vitamin", "Flash Papa Menthol" is a look at Denki Groove's grittier, piercing side, with the album consisting of remixes that have a strong gabber sound to many. Undoubtedly one of the most manic and greatest remix albums ever.
8Seiko Matsuda
Diamond Expression

Beginning in 1990, Seiko Matsuda decided to change her image and sound up to a much more westernized one, shedding her legacy of a cutesy idol to that of a much more sexualized pop singer, a-la Madonna or Paula Abdul. And while she had her moments of brilliance with this image makeover, it wasn't until 1993 when she released her 22nd(!!) album "Diamond Expression" that she truly struck gold. A dance club record meant to rock both sides of the Pacific, this album contains some of the very best post-idol stuff she's ever done, including the pumping "Baby, Make Love Tonight".

With their sixth album, effectively titled "VI", Lindberg created possibly their magnum opus. While still highly poppy as their previous efforts, "VI" has far more substance, drawing a bit into the alternative rock universe at times and perhaps bringing The Sundays into mind on the more lucid, airy tracks, including one of the singles "Omoide no Water Moon". While they would never again reach anywhere near the heights of "VI", this album alone is proof as to how and why Lindberg were one of the biggest bands in Japanese music.
Darker Than Darkness (Style 93)

In the Japanese music fandom, everybody familiar with Buck-Tick has a favorite album of theirs. Mine has and always will be "Darker Than Darkness (Style 93)", which follows in the lead of "Kurutta Taiyou" in many ways, although is perhaps more veiled and suppressed than its predecessor.
11Yosui Inoue
Under the Sun

Yosui Inoue, one of the greatest songwriters in Japanese music history, performed one of the greatest feats in the country's rich music history. Always highly revered for his songwriting capabilities, Inoue had hot-and-cold success since the early 80s, before reestablishing himself firmly by the turn of the late 80s. In 1993, however, Inoue scored his first chart topping album since 1976 with "Under the Sun", an album that made him reach a second level of superstardom he didn't really have since the late 70s. The album is full of smart, sunshiny pop tracks that are simple yet very effective, essentially demonstrating just how brilliant of a mind Inoue is. It is basically the perfect counterpart to his 1972 magnum opus "Danzetsu": whereas "Danzetsu" shines in its unabashed perception of early 70s Japanese youth, "Under the Sun" excels in fun, memorable pop.
12Akina Nakamori
Unbalance + Balance

Akina Nakamori is an artist that is known for many, many changeups in her sound. In 1993, she switched up again with the release of "Unbalance + Balance", her best album, in my opinion, in five years. Her first in four, it has a strong house-club sound to it that meshes with her deep, sultry vocals just perfectly. It's basically what Seiko Matsuda touched on all too briefly with "Diamond Expression", although with Nakamori, it's explored in depth. And it is simply glorious. Possibly my favorite album of hers, and I would argue her most underrated.
13Chage and Aska
Red Hill

On top of the pop stratosphere at this point, Chage and Aska churned out yet another homerun with their 16th album "Red Hill". While not exactly up to par as their career defining "Tree", it still has all the elements of what made them such a powerful force at their early 90s heyday.
14Noriyuki Makihara
Self Portrait

Songwriter extraordinaire Noriyuki Makihara climbed even further on the ladder both critically and commercially with his fourth album "Self Portrait", which became his first chart topping album. Much like his predecessor "Kimi wa Boku no Takaramono", every track is a solid bit of pop genius. Another example for why Makihara is so revered as a songwriter and vocalist.

M-Age's third and, to date, final original album, "Interface", was a true blast to the creative cosmos and beyond. Featuring a much bolder, experimental sound than on their previous two albums, "Interface" is probably the closest they've ever come to creating something that wasn't anything too similar to their UK baggy influences. A truly unsung masterpiece.
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