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Discovolante's Best of: 1994 (Japan Edition)

From the beginning of the year to the end, via the Sputnik release calendar.

The brief catalog of Tanzmuzik has thankfully just gotten more and more recognized over the years, and their brilliance cannot be understated, especially on their 1994 debut "Sinsekai", which was interestingly seemingly only released in the UK. It has an intelligent, yet extremely catchy lucid sound that wasn't anything like what the Japanese electronica had at the time.
2Judy and Mary

Female fronted art pop-punk icons Judy and Mary made their major album debut with the release of "J・A・M". Even though it was largely ignored upon its release, it is hands down one of their best albums if not just for the fact that it remains true to their punky origins the best, with a runner-up being their grand finale "Warp", which has a much more experimental and artistic twist on it. With "J・A・M", the pop and punk tracks are simple and very effective, with the punk tracks tending to be noticeably shorter than their regular poppier tracks on the album. Indeed an album that showed the Japanese trend with female-fronted vocal bands could be done with an edge.
3Susumu Hirasawa

Breaking through as the charismatic frontman and figurehead behind the pioneering electro-rock band P-Model, Susumu Hirasawa also has had a booming solo career since 1989. However, it wasn't until his fourth solo album in 1994, "Aurora", that he made something of true, immeasurable stupendousness. Considered by many to be one of his all-time greatest moments in music, not just his solo work (his magnum opus, in my opinion), it was the first time he really showed off his chops as a magnificent composer and songwriter, eclipsing the work of even P-Model by far. A breathtaking masterpiece of the highest caliber.
4Elephant Kashimashi

After floating close to the same magnificent waters as their 1988 ahead-of-its-time album "II", Elephant Kashimashi finally got a second wind of amazingness with their seventh album "Tokyo no Sora". It manages to cross the band over in a big way to a more modernized, upbeat sound, with frontman Hiroji Miyamoto's vocals as unnerved as ever. With "Tokyo no Sora", Elephant Kashimashi finally ties together the lighter sound they've been flirting with for the past several years and make that alternate sound as good as the grungy, more unhinged sound from the days of "II".
5Cosa Nostra
Mind Songs

There were a few things that established Cosa Nostra a large cult following practically out the gate. One is their perfectly done and clear English vocals from vocalist Momoko Suzuki, which is something that is still pretty rare in Japanese music. The other thing is their downtempo, trip hop sound which also took strong influence from R&B... at least, initially. Even enthusiasts of Cosa Nostra agree that their sound vanished immediately after their debut "Mind Songs", making their debut a true one-of-a-kind in not just their catalog, but in 90s Japanese music. The hypnotic, sensual rhythms on the album is of legend, and something that I'm sure was the backdrop for a few baby-making sessions.
6Zeppet Store
Swing, Slide, Sandpit

Although it almost ended the group's run due to how poorly its sales originally were, "Swing, Slide, Sandpit" is considered by many not just to be Zeppet Store's best album, but also one of the best examples of Japanese shoegaze. The white noise drenched album almost gives a sense of fantasy, albeit in an anesthetic sort of way. Although shoegaze would be something that would be in Zeppet Store's sleeve for several years afterwards, they never again approached it to the same level as "Swing, Slide, Sandpit", which is a goddamn shame, connotations and all.
7Malice Mizer

Visual kei visionaries Malice Mizer ceased upon their growing recognition in the underground scene big-time with the release of their legendary debut EP "Memoire", which soon sold out and was released as "Memoire DX" with a bonus track. Its main appeal, aside from the brilliant visuals from the band inside the accompanying booklet (which would become their trademark) is the music's hauntingly bleak, gorgeous soundscapes, which are topped off with original vocalist Tetsu's dramatic, polarizing vocals. An arthouse goth classic.
Chocolate Synthesizer

Considered to be the bastard stepchild in the pre-"Seadrum" era of Boredoms, "Chocolate Synthesizer" is an album that deserves far more acclaim than it does. It takes initiative similarly to its predecessor "Pop Tatari", introducing a more varied instrumentation to their sound than before. I mean, "Shock City" and "Mama Brain" in particular are some of the best tracks Boredoms have ever done. A painfully underrated from one of the major heads of Japanese noise.
9Feel So Bad
Funky Side Business

Feel So Bad was a band that never had too much commercial success, with their most successful release being their single "Bari Bari Saikyou No. 1", which only reached number 35 on the Oricon charts. Nonetheless, they attracted a vast cult fandom during their run, and the first release they did as a full-fledged band instead of a duo of frontwoman Daria Kawashima and guitarist Fuyuki Kurata was this very one: the appropriately titled "Funky Side Business", an EP full of the sharpest grooves in their catalog. Having a sound that is so rhythmic yet still heavy is somewhat comparable to nu metal, but it doesn't even bridge that genre since it doesn't have the same tropes. Just a 6-track EP with some of the tightest mechanical in Japanese hard rock, with a sound that Feel So Bad would never approach ever again.

Kuroyume is another highly influential visual kei band that went through a few significant periods. One of which was their original goth metal sound, which would eventually cross over into a more vast alternative sound with the release of their EP "Cruel", a career-defining moment. Not only did it further push out impressive sales for the still-young band, but it was the release that added some layers to their sound, with the EP exploring all sorts of realms of alternative rock, with a bit of the more metal side still existing to some degree, specifically on the opener "Chandler". At only 6 tracks long, a surprisingly filling effort that would end up being regarded by many as one of their best.
Atomic Heart

Future music gods Mr.Children certainly didn't have an easy go at superstardom, nearly breaking under the pressure of making it several times. Even their debut EP, 1992's "Everything", suffered from mediocre sales and even rougher reviews. The ever-ambitious band struggled onward, and by the end of 1993, were set to become the voice of their generation. Nobody expected a bomb to drop as ginormous as "Atomic Heart", however, their third full length album and the one that really drove home the fact that they were here to make history. Selling an insane total of over 3 million copies, it has since been declared as not only one of the best-selling Japanese albums, but also one of the very best as well. Their light, pop sound which overstayed its welcome on their second full length album "Versus" was revitalized with a much bigger oomph and a production that was of much higher value than anything they did prior. A history making release with the quality to back it up.
Sora no Tobikata

With their fifth album "Sora no Tobikata", the masses finally caught on with Spitz and embraced them in a huge way, with this album finally establishing themselves as, albeit reluctant, musical superstars. It has a noticeably tamer and poppier sound than on their last fantastic effort, 1992's "Hoshi no Kakera", and instead follows a similar light formula as the bridging 1993 album "Crispy!", although done way better. Essentially the album where Spitz had successfully concocted their signature alt/pop rock sound.
13Super Junky Monkey
Screw Up

Female avant-metallers Super Junky Monkey stood out practically from their formation that they were not like the others. With a strong offbeat funk influence that has been compared to Primus, "Screw Up" was their first album release out of only two, and undoubtedly their strongest one. While the second "Parasitic People" can get a bit carried away for most with its insane amount of experimentation, "Screw Up", for the most part, is pretty focused in its sound, if not also bizarre. The musicianship is awe-inspiring with tons of technical licks for nerds, and enough crunch and excitement to excite everyone else. A release that firmly planted Super Junky Monkey a place in Japanese metal history.
14Luna Sea

Luna Sea further expand on their legacy with "Mother", often considered to be their greatest achievement of all. And with its ambitious thematic sound that took what "Eden" was doing and amped it up to even more astronomical heights, there's little reason as to why or how it got that reputation.
15Sharan Q

Sharan Q went from struggling up-and-comers to bonafied pop/rock superstars with the release of their second full length album "Rettoukan", an album chockful of solid jams. It smoothed out the more lo-fi garagy nature of their previous EP's and expanded substantially on the more traditional, highly infectious pop nature of its predecessor "Lost Time" (which came out just a few months before). The album that put Sharan Q on the fast track to legendary status.
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