15. Takoyaki Rainbow – Naniwa no Haniwa
While the song has grown on me, I didn’t like Takoyaki Rainbow’s debut single Under the Takoyaki Rainbow much initially. I like it now, but it felt disappointing. So, when Naniwa no Haniwa came out, the one thing that struck me immediately was that it was written by Maeyamada Kenichi. Well, this song turned my impression of Takoyaki Rainbow around, fast.
Like many Hyadain-penned songs for Stardust groups, Naniwa no Haniwa is fast paced and weird. However, starting from the drums, it has a bit of a traditional feel to it. While they haven’t stuck with this in their next single, I like that a lot.
There are so many odd elements in here; some melodramatic singing, the shouting, singing “nyan nyan nyan,” the recorders, etc. I feel like written by anyone else, this song could be unlistenable in its annoyingness. However, in Hyadain’s hands, he is able to put together several disjointed elements and weird things to make a cohesive, fun song that put Takoniji on the map.
14. Dempagumi.inc – Dempari Night
My first instinct in writing this was to claim that 2014 was a less than stellar year for Dempa, though that is blatantly false. Dempagumi.inc in 2014 is still one of the most consistently interesting and consistently fun idol groups out there. Even though I wasn’t terribly fond of Dear Stage e Youkoso (it was fine but not to the level of the rest of Dempa’s output), their musical output was fantastic all around.
While Dempari Night isn’t my highest ranking Dempagumi song of the year, it has a lot of interesting elements going for it. It’s a lot more cohesive than some of my favorites of 2013, namely the W.W.D series, but it still has some odd, interesting elements to it. I especially enjoyed the Russian influenced section and the use of the ticking clock as a percussive instrument. The entire arrangement of this is top notch and solid.
While I preferred other Dempa songs, there’s no way I couldn’t include this on my list.
13. i*Ris – Itazura Taiyou
i*Ris is one of those groups that, when I first listened to them this year, I immediately wondered why there wasn’t more buzz surrounding this group, especially among foreign fans. Their music is great, but more notably, i*Ris has strong vocalists and high production values. Their music is really fun and sounds great. While the group’s masterpiece is 2013’s Gensoukyoku Wonderland (a song, had I known its existence, would have been easily in my top 10 songs of the year), 2014’s Itazura Taiyou is fantastic.
While the overall production value is arguably the strongest part of Itazura Taiyou (the vocals are mixed very well), the entire instrumentation and arrangement is very well done. The way that the heavy drums and guitar is mixed with some electronic sounds reminds me a bit of Jeff Lynne from Electric Light Orchestra. However, the vocal arrangement is really the top, here. The background vocals and the harmonies sound fantastic. On top of all this production value is a solid melody and hook.
i*Ris is a group that I’d recommend checking out if you haven’t already. I haven’t heard a great amount of buzz about this group with foreign fans, but if you value any kind of production value, I’d give i*Ris a shot.
12. Rhymeberry – Idol Illmatic
Going into 2014, Rhymeberry had me worried. Their early single, Winter Jam, was fine but not anywhere near the heights of something like SUPERMCZTOKYO. Then one of their members, Yuka, graduated from the group. Then they left their label, T-Palette (whether they left on their own volition or were booted, I have no idea). Things weren’t looking good for Rhymeberry. Then they put out Idol Illmatic and all my worries were assuaged, because Rhymeberry came back better than ever. A cliche? yes. However, it doesn’t stop it from being true.
The biggest thing that sets Idol Illmatic apart from Rhymeberry’s earlier singles is that there are only two members; yet, their skills as MCs have improved, even since the release of SUPERMCZTOKYO. Miri in particular has a great flow, but Hime is more than pulling her weight. This track goes back and forth between both Miri and Hime, adding a great energy to the track. Even DJ Hikaru gets in and sings, adding a sung hook in the middle of the song.
Idol Illmatic is not as inventive as Sekaichuu ni I Love You or as polished as SUPERMCZTOKYO, but it focuses on the raw skill of the members of the group. It reminds me a little of Rhymeberry’s first single, Hey! Brother, but with a lot more skill involved. Miri and Hime are legitimately skilled as MCs and fun to listen to.
While I started 2014 worried for Rhymeberry’s future, Idol Illmatic has me excited.
11. Team Syachihoko – Ii Kurashi
I’ve written about Ii Kurashi twice already, so I’ll keep this short. Going into listening Ii Kurashi, if you told me “Team Syachihoko will do an acid house song as their latest single,” I would be unsure of what to think. Ii Kurashi is not a song I would normally listen to, but it made me intrigued in the genre and allowed Syachi to do a song that isn’t very idol-like. It’s a long song that never outstays its welcome. While it’s not my top Syachi song of the year, I do think it’s a very well-written song and one that I’m glad that my favorite idol group got to perform.