The Rose Seal

Generally speaking, the Adolescence of Utena film is not the ideal way to be introduced to Utena. It throws you right into the deep end with no explanations of plot or characters, so knowledge of the series is almost a must. (Though the film does shuffle a few things around when compared to the series.) Plus, the film is highly abstract so there is little to grab on to to get your bearings.

Adolescence of Utena opening titles
Music: “Rose Is Rain – Rose Egg Rebirth Record” by J.A. Seazer

And yet, about twenty years ago, this was how I found my way into the world of Utena. I had no idea who these characters were or what was going on, but I was completely drawn in to the visuals, the music, the symbolism and metaphors. Everything changed for me after watching Adolescence of Utena, at least as far as what I came to expect from anime.

I was still a relatively new anime fan at the time, and I had never seen anything like this, which was pretty much an art film based on the primary themes of the Revolutionary Girl Utena series, which I had not seen yet. The whole series wasn’t even licensed in North America at the time! After being completely captivated by the film, I soon got the first arc on DVD, which was all that was available at the time. At last I knew who these characters were and had a more concrete idea of what was going on. A few years later, the remaining arcs were finally licensed for release in North America, and I could finally learn the whole story of Utena. Like the film, it sunk its claws into me and never let go, and once I watched the film again after seeing the whole series, everything fell into place.

In broadest terms, Revolutionary Girl Utena is about challenging the conventions of, well… everything, in order to discover yourself. There is actually quite a lot more to it, and the series goes into much more depth with many more characters to explore these themes, but the film distills it all into nearly an hour and a half of pure, concentrated symbolism. In the end, changing my perceptions of anime was not the most profound effect that Adolescence of Utena, and in turn Revolutionary Girl Utena, had on me. More importantly, I learned more about myself as well.

Utena is a series and film that I carry with myself to this day, and has become a part of me. For that, I am ever grateful to Adolescence of Utena for bringing revolution to my world.

Music to my Ears

When I look at what kinds of music I like, it runs a pretty wide spectrum. If you asked me what my favorite genres are, I’d probably say progressive rock, new wave, and electronic, but that barely scratches the surface of the kinds of music I enjoy. When you break it all down, genre is irrelevant to me; if I like what I hear, it doesn’t matter what kind of music it is.

This post will not be about the biggest players in my music library. I won’t be going on about progressive rock, synthpop, J-Pop, or anime and Japanese RPG soundtracks. Those are my mainstays which I already cover from time to time on this blog. This will be an overview of some of the more hidden corners of my music interests.

So in no particular order, here are some of the kinds of music you may not have guessed I was into. I have provided links to hear each style as well, since music is meant to be listened to, after all.


Shoegaze and Dream Pop
These closely related styles are actually a type of music I can listen to without paying particular attention to who the artist is. That’s because these styles are more about mood and atmosphere, so it can be “samey” from song to song at times, but that’s not an insult here. Shoegaze is typically walls of distorted guitars with lots of reverb and effects, while dream pop is its less distorted cousin, with a brighter sound and airy vocals. Both styles of music are good for spacing out or relaxing.

Shoegaze on Pandora
Dream Pop on Pandora

Future Bass and Kawaii Bass
This one is kind of hard to explain without actually hearing it. I got into kawaii bass first, which is a Japanese spinoff of future bass, featuring a “cuter” sound. Since I am having a difficult time trying to describe future bass, just have a listen at the link instead! (And for a taste of kawaii bass, check out Snail’s House on Bandcamp.)

Future Bass on Pandora

Trip-Hop
Take hip-hop beats, slow them down, drench them in electronic sounds, and you get trip-hop. Generally speaking, of course. As with any kind of music there is variety within each genre. Trip-hop is another kind of music good for relaxing and just spacing out to. It is a bit “trippy” after all, giving the genre its name.

Trip-Hop on Pandora

Folk Metal
What do the Scandinavian gods listen to? Folk metal of course! A blend of metal music with traditional folk instruments, most often from Scandinavian countries, but found elsewhere in Europe as well. Songs about mythology, legends, and Viking battles (and in the case of Korpiklaani, drinking) are often the subjects of folk metal songs. Turn down the temperature to well below freezing, imagine yourself in a snowy forest, and get in touch with your inner Scandinavian.

Folk Metal on Pandora

Smooth Jazz
You heard me. There’s actually a very good reason for it, and it goes way back to my school days (way too many years ago now) as I was deciding what I wanted to go to college for. I was – and still am – fascinated by the weather, so when we got cable and I discovered The Weather Channel, I was watching it nearly every waking hour. Of course, they had the local forecast every ten minutes, and the style of music they used was usually smooth jazz. I took a liking to the local forecast music, and began attaching a microphone to the TV speaker and recording it to tape. I still have those cassette tapes. Early to mid 1990s smooth jazz especially gives me great nostalgia for those days when I was growing up and decided I wanted to be a meteorologist. Sadly, that dream didn’t pan out, but that’s a story for another time and place.

Smooth Jazz on Pandora

Vaporwave
I have a complicated relationship with vaporwave. Apparently there’s a whole philosophy behind it dealing with anti-capitalism and irony, and it’s all meant to be a false nostalgia of the 1980s and 1990s, even though vaporwave itself didn’t exist until very recently. Whatever its origin, the resulting sound is something I actually took a liking to, even with the false nostalgia. Vaporwave is meant to be the lo-fi “soundtrack” to 1980s and 1990s commercialism, manipulating pre-existing music and electronic sounds into something that could be muzak in an abandoned mall somewhere. Oddly enough, one of the kinds of pre-existing music vaporwave often draws from is smooth jazz. Maybe that’s why I like it? Like shoegaze and dream pop, this is a style of music I can listen to without particular regard for who the artist is. It’s mood music, and actually I find it good to fall asleep to.

Vaporwave on Pandora

Synthwave
Blade Runner.

(Okay, I’ll expand on that a bit. Music made in homage of the iconic analogue synthesizers of the 1980s, often bringing futuristic soundscapes to mind. It is also excellent driving music.)

Synthwave on Pandora

Space Ambient
This is a style of ambient electronic music with an astronomical influence. Cold sounding synthesizers meant to evoke images of stars, galaxies, and nebulae while floating about in the vacuum of space. Ideal music for relaxing or falling asleep to.

Space Ambient on Soma.fm

Psychedelic Trance
Heading back to the mid to late 1990s for this one, though it still exists today in an evolved form. Trance was a popular form of EDM in the 90s, and this was its trippier variant, with a distinct sound influenced by everything from hallucinogenics to science fiction to aliens. Fast-paced and with a throwback sound, psy or Goa trance is still one of my favorite kinds of electronic music.

Psychedelic Trance on Pandora

Freestyle
Going way back in time for this one, all the way back to when I first started paying attention to music on the radio as a child in the late 1980s. Pop music was often on our family and car radio at that time, and Latin freestyle was having big crossover success at the time. Even listening to this kind of music now, I have so much nostalgia for the time. And thinking about it in retrospect, it actually makes a lot of sense why I like freestyle, as drum machines and synthesizers – two instruments I still like to this day – feature heavily in the songs.

Freestyle on Pandora

New Jack Swing
Like freestyle, new jack swing is also a reach back into my youth. It was a form of R&B which featured heavy use of synthesizers and drum machines (I’m noticing a pattern), and was also all over the radio in the late ’80s and early ’90s. New jack swing and freestyle were the music of my childhood, along with the mainstream pop at the time.

New Jack Swing on Pandora


And there you have it. A brief tour of some of the other music I listen to, which helped to form the wide variety of music that has captured my interest. Surely I’ve overlooked a few genres, but for me all that categorization is just an afterthought. I just know what I like.

2021 Playlist Year in Review

It’s time once again to check out my yearly totals from last.fm. A large part of my listening is shuffle play as I sit at my computer, but starting in 2016, offline albums are included. About the only things not included in these tallies are streaming internet radio and whatever I listen to in the car. Enough explanation; on to the numbers!

Top 20 played artists, based on individual song play counts

  1. Genesis (366)
  2. Pet Shop Boys (270)
  3. Steven Wilson (239)
  4. Porcupine Tree (236)
  5. Anthony Phillips (209)
  6. Steve Hackett (179)
  7. Dream Theater (176)
  8. Joe Hisaishi (175)
  9. Peter Gabriel (155)
  10. Pink Floyd (136)
  11. Tony Banks (102)
  12. Satoru Kousaki (95)
  13. Yes (91)
  14. J.A. Seazer (90)
  15. Thy Catafalque (87)
  16. BABYMETAL (81)
  17. Yasunori Mitsuda (79)
  18. Nobuo Uematsu (75)
  19. Shinkichi Mitsumune (73)
  20. Michiru Oshima (73)

Top 20 played-from albums*, based on individual song play counts

*this is not the same as most-played albums! For this list, every time a song plays is a “vote” for the album it is from, whether in shuffle mode of my entire library or listening to the album all the way through, with each play of a song counting once. Or to put it another way, the more songs an album has on it, the easier it is to climb this list.

  1. Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (57)
  2. Hydelic – Tetris Effect Soundtrack (50)
  3. Michiru Oshima – Little Witch Academia Original Sound Track Archive (45)
  4. Kou Otani – Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Operation 1 Soundtrack (38)
  5. Kensuke Ushio – Boogiepop and Others Soundtrack (35)
  6. Tony Banks – A Curious Feeling (32)
  7. Hiromi Mizutani – Non Non Biyori Soundtrack (31)
  8. Kenichiro Suehiro – SPACE PATROL LULUCO Appended Disc: Original Soundtracks & Audio Dramas (30)
  9. Genesis – We Can’t Dance (28)
  10. Peter Gabriel – Flotsam and Jetsam (27)
  11. Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (25)
  12. George Michael – Faith (25)
  13. Mabanua – BNA Complete album Soundtrack (25)
  14. Hiromi Mizutani – Non Non Biyori Vacation Soundtrack (24)
  15. Hiroyuki Sawano – KILL la KILL COMPLETE SOUNDTRACK (24)
  16. Joe Hisaishi – Children of the Sea Soundtrack (24)
  17. Yasunori Mitsuda – Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack (24)
  18. DJ Shadow – Endtroducing….. (23)
  19. Hideakira Kimura – Gundam Build Divers Series Original Soundtrack (23)
  20. Kevin Penkin – Made in Abyss Soundtrack (23)
  21. Porcupine Tree – In Absentia (23)
  22. Takahiro Obata – The Promised Neverland Soundtrack (23)

There is no top songs list because there is too large of a sample size of individual songs for such a list to have any real meaning. My shuffle playlist is designed to avoid overplaying any particular song, so I have many songs with the same number of play counts over any particular time span. If you’re really interested in these numbers though, see my last.fm library.

Also, you can compare this list to 2018, 2019, or 2020. Summaries for years prior to that are on my now-closed tumblr, though I have them archived locally for posterity.

2020 Playlist Year in Review

2020 has been a year to forget. It even has drained much of my motivation for coming up with blog posts. Hopefully I can turn that around a bit in 2021. But the music still went on! Did a year like no other change my listening habits at all? Let’s find out…

It’s time once again to check out my yearly totals from last.fm. A large part of my listening is shuffle play as I sit at my computer, but starting in 2016, offline albums are included. About the only things not included in these tallies are streaming internet radio and whatever I listen to in the car. Enough explanation; on to the numbers!

And because I can, I’m expanding to Top 20 this year. Why not?

Top 20 played artists, based on individual song play counts

  1. Genesis (311)
  2. Pet Shop Boys (311)
  3. Anthony Phillips (267)
  4. Porcupine Tree (256)
  5. Steven Wilson (214)
  6. Steve Hackett (153)
  7. Joe Hisaishi (141)
  8. Yes (135)
  9. Pink Floyd (115)
  10. Shinkichi Mitsumune (108)
  11. J.A. Seazer (107)
  12. Peter Gabriel (102)
  13. Yasunori Mitsuda (95)
  14. Nine Inch Nails (90)
  15. Nobuo Uematsu (88)
  16. Renaissance (87)
  17. BABYMETAL (85)
  18. “Weird Al” Yankovic (78)
  19. Takayuki Negishi (78)
  20. TORIENA (78)

Top 20 played-from albums*, based on individual song play counts

  1. Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (67)
  2. Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (42)
  3. Anthony Phillips – Field Day (33)
  4. Kou Otani – Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Operation 1 Soundtrack (32)
  5. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Original Soundtrack (32)
  6. Michiru Oshima – Little Witch Academia Original Sound Track Archive (32)
  7. Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas (31)
  8. Hiromi Mizutani – Non Non Biyori Soundtrack (30)
  9. Joe Hisaishi – Princess Mononoke Soundtrack (28)
  10. Kensuke Ushio – Boogiepop and Others Soundtrack (28)
  11. Roger Waters – The Wall Live 2010-2013 (27)
  12. J.A. Seazer – Revolutionary Girl Utena OST 11: I, Revolution Pharsalia <transformation> (26)
  13. Yasunori Mitsuda – Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack (26)
  14. BABYMETAL – METAL GALAXY (25)
  15. Porcupine Tree – In Absentia (25)
  16. Akira Takemoto – Serial Experiments Lain Bootleg Soundtrack (24)
  17. The Chipmunks with David Seville – Christmas With The Chipmunks (24)
  18. Michiru Yamane – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Soundtrack (24)
  19. Yasunori Mitsuda – Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht Soundtrack (24)
  20. Masashi Hamauzu – Final Fantasy XIII Soundtrack (24)

*this is not the same as most-played albums! For this list, every time a song plays is a “vote” for the album it is from, whether in shuffle mode of my entire playlist or listening to the album all the way through, with each play of a song counting once. Or to put it another way, it’s easier for an album with fifteen short tracks to climb this chart than one with five long ones, for example.

There is no top songs list because there is too large of a sample size of individual songs for such a list to have any real meaning. My shuffle playlist is designed to avoid overplaying any particular song, so I have many songs with the same number of play counts over any particular time span. If you’re really interested in these numbers though, see my last.fm library.

Also, you can compare this list to 2018 or 2019. Summaries for years prior to that are on my now-closed tumblr, though I have them archived locally for posterity.

New Albums in my collection: April – June 2020

>> BAND-MAID: Conqueror
They may dress as maids and address their fans as “master” or “mistress”, but don’t let that fool you. These girls can put down hard rock riffs with the best of them. This is their third full-length album.

>> Vanessa Carlton: Love is an Art
All these years after “A Thousand Miles”, Vanessa Carlton’s writing and playing has matured over time with her own unique style and sound.

>> Momoiro Clover Z: 5TH DIMENSION
Japanese “Limited Edition A” 2CD version of their second album from 2013. The first disc is the album, and the second is half of a concert from 2012, featuring performances of solo songs by each of the members of the group. It also has alternate cover art and comes in a clear slipcase with the pentagon logo. Finding a limited edition version of any idol group CD is a good get for my collection, since usually they are so expensive to import and they go out of print quickly. I found this on clearance from a domestic CD shop who already had imported copies in stock which they must have been sitting on for years. Lucky hidden treasure for me!

>> Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch: Blade Runner 2049
Finally a physical copy of the soundtrack for my collection. The wall of ambient synthesizer drones sounded great in the film, and listening to it on a big stereo system is the only way to immerse yourself in the music. The soundtrack also includes the Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley songs heard in the film.

Bonjour Suzuki and Others

“Whiteout” performed by Riko Azuna

I’ve left this blog idle for far too long, so it’s time to get things going again, and what better way than with one of my new favorite songs?

“Whiteout” is the ending theme to the Boogiepop and Others anime series from 2018. It’s written by Bonjour Suzuki, who I know from her theme song for Yurikuma Arashi. Suzuki does not perform “Whiteout”, however. The singer is Riko Azuna, who I did not know about until this song. Between Suzuki’s melodies and Azuna’s voice, to me this sounds like it could have been a Kate Bush song! Azuna sings in a register very similar to Bush, and her inflections are even similar, despite being in another language.

It’s a great piece of music, and one of my newest favorite songs. And as a bonus, the music video has a long take in it… one of my favorite cinematographic techniques!