The year 2016 wasn’t much of a change from the routine. I watched the usual post-rock shows, but had on normal listening rotation a thing, this thing that I didn’t get into because I’m into music that just should not be regular, or even hip. There was simply an invisible hand, a gravitation towards it. There’s no definitive tag to it, so let’s give it the loose term it’s been given by fellow fans: alt-idol.
I’ve unsubscribed to all my music podcasts, since only a sliver from the gamut of modern Western music sticks, the song hooks fail, and the only other genre I tend to keep tabs on is heavier heavy metal. Yes, I’ve also stuck it out with various forms of Japanese music, but this year was remarkable in terms of musical output with the idol machine.
BABYMETAL released Metal Resistance, with the fullness and production I asked for, and much more vs. their debut outing. When you’ve put aside anything that resembles metalcore, and the lead track (Karate) of the record has plenty of it, you just give in. Black metal influenced Sis. Anger was my other highlight, and was just another mindfuck you were likely to expect from this group, but still go knocked out fiercely by it. The metal/rock spectrum explorations in this album is staggering, and musically just sets the group as an unstoppable force to reckon.
Official Site: http://www.babymetal.com
Necronomidol occupies that part of idol-dom you’d hesitate to poke your stick to, since its all sorts of mangy, but you will stare at it, and that one song you may have had the courage to watch/listen to may already be one too much. However, heir latest MV “Psychopomp“, shot in Japan’s famed suicide forest, is unnervingly stunning.
Official Site: http://necronomidol.com/
PassCode started as a raw, rock indie-idol project that looked the part. Now, I would most gladly pass the crown of most likely breakout group in this post-BABYMETAL era to this awesome foursome. Virtual, their second album, was a relentless, frantic concoction of techno/screamo songs. Having transitioned over to a major label, their single Miss Unlimited, pulsing with heart-stopping B-sides, where resident pixie screamer Yuna’s harsh vocals were just put upfront, is easily my favorite single of 2016.
Official site: http://passcode-official.com/
Direct descendants to the original iteration of wild idols BiS, BiSH put out Killer BiSH, a rich, wonderful ride of a record, cherry-topped with a video for “Honto Honki” (本当本気), a pounding opus of a ditty, with lyrics penned by their new, Hitler youth uniform-wearing member Ayuni-D. If you’re into more anthemic side of things, there’s the equally superb Orchestra (オーケストラ).
Official Site: http://www.bish.tokyo/
My two favorite EP’s of 2016 -both were also available for free download for a limited time upon each release- was from Yanakoto Sotto Mute. If you like post-90’s rock that didn’t reek solely of emo, there is so much joy to cull from here, and fulfill the long-dormant persona of your former air-guitar wielding self. The chosen idols are also pretty on-point, as you have capable vocalists, and mesmerizing choreography.
Official Site: http://yanakotosottomute.com/
Like a wonderful hit of the intoxicating elixir that 2016 became for idols, the realization that sora tob sakana may have come out with the most underhanded idol (self-titled) album -that fellow fans only took notice when it started appearing in year-end lists- was a welcome revalation. Sure, the group image is stock/generic idol, but then there’s that welcoming soundbed of wonderful rhythmic complexities of Japanese math rock that I’m grossly familiar with to a fault.
Official Site: http://zizoo.jp/soratobsakana/
Perfume’s Cosmic Explorer, this is not. BPM15Q‘s album BPM15Q ALL SONGS, the duo’s last album, is hook-relentless, and gets the really good parts of today’s small-club DJ mixes in the songs, with delightful surprises peppered-in here and there, minus the standard EDM annoyances. They were recently revived as CY8ER, and judging from the initial single, there’s not much sonic change there to lament the former group’s demise.
Official Site: http://icigostyle.com/bpm15q
PLACEHOLDER FOR ESPECIA. DAMMIT! HOW CAN I FORGET!
The alt-idol fandom is small, but healthy. You can find more about it on this Facebook group. There’s also Homicidols, who can namedrop a dozen idol groups and each one will draw a blank on me, but when he draws up comparisons to bands like Sparta, Toad the Wet Sprocket, etc., that almost feels like a stranger’s warm, internet bro-hug.