“Clicking My Heels to Love” (踵で愛を打ち鳴らせ Kakato de Ai o Uchinarase) from Landmark
Another pseudo-inspirational tune from AKFG, “Kakato de Ai o Uchinarase”, describes fleeting emotions then declares they be cast aside to go back out to the world again, regardless of how one may feel in the moment. I would interpret it as being about moving on and the hope of happiness in the future; with a little effort. The song opens with a soft, warm melody expanding to yet another trademark Ajikan chorus. It’s catchy, upbeat and charged with a carefree elation despite how it may appear lyrically.
“To Your Town” (君の街まで, Kimi no Machi Made) from Sol-Fa
I can only interpret “Kimi no Machi Made” as being about there being a distance separating two people and the passing of the seasons each with yet another promise to reunite. It’s a little hard to tell. From Ajikans second studio album, the Lydian tone of the song drives it’s mood. It has a strange tendency to never feel like the chords are going to go where you think they will, but I feel this has more to do with the short lyrical melodic refrains rather than the mode itself.
“Magic Disc” (マジックディスク Majikku Disuku) from Magic Disk
Something is lost in translation in “Magic Disc”. No matter where I look, the metaphors are mixed. It definitely discusses the death of CD’s and physical media in-general. I’m not entirely sure why, but it is a prevalent message in the song. Outside of that, it goes into a different direction entirely. Musically, however, this is a masterful rock song. Mixing backbeat rhythm with simple guitar riffs and a powerful series of shouted, emotional lyrics, it really is one of the best songs to really introduce new fans to AKFG.
“Little Lennon” from Wonder Future
Centering on how art can transcend race and nationality and how it even survives the test of time, “Little Lennon” invokes pop figures like the late-former-Beatle with refrains of “Now imagine, imagine, imagine”, and of famous graffiti artist and cultural revolutionary Banksy (…a side note, if you haven’t seen “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, do yourself a favor and seek it out). The melody and punk style take things back to AKFG’s early days, as does much of Wonder Future. The off-notes in the main riff give the song a unique feel and the outstanding chorus is one of their best.
“Rock n’ Roll, Morning Light Falls On You” (転がる岩、君に朝が降る Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu) from World World World
I’m lost on the lyrics to “Kimi ni Asa ga Furu”, but it definitely seems to be about lost love, or at least some sort of separation. This is a particularly-unique song for Asian Kung-Fu Generation. It opens with a really light riff and while it does pick up, it never really gets too heavy. It’s one of the better melodic songs, with a fantastic chorus and some great guitar moments. I particularly love the guitar outro in this one.
“Blue Sky and a Black Cat” (青空と黒い猫 Aozora to Kuroi Neko) from Magic Disk
References to war and poverty make this one difficult to translate. The song’s intro strumming guided by the warm bass line and marching beat give it a welcoming tone. It leads into one of the best choruses the band has and one of my absolute favorites as we round off the top five.
“A Town In Blue” (或る街の群青 Aru Machi no Gunjō) from World World World
“Aru Machi no Gunjō” paints a picture of a person in despair by using colors to describe feelings and moments. The structure is simple, but has a perfect mix of rock and pop. It’s bright, and despite its lyrics coming off as a little… emo.., it is an awesome song. It is also a very accessible tune for them, allowing for new listeners to hear a simple taste of the Ajikan’s melodic side.
“Soranin” from Magic Disk
“Soranin” is about giving up. Essentially. A relationship that can never work, or something that happened that cannot be overcome, leaves the narrator with nothing left to say but “So, I guess this is ‘goodbye’.” Here you will find the distinct, Ajikan-upbeat-sound with the more melodic tones of their later work from Magic Disk. It is one of the best songs of the 2010’s and what makes it so is its warmth. In a period of cold, lifeless music, “Soranin” is just a classic, inviting rock song.
“Neoteny” (ネオテニー Neotenī) from World World World
This, more-technical-than-usual AKFG song is the best song of theirs’ in a decade. There is a powerful mood to it. It constantly builds upwards to a series of choruses that end in a bright 3-note guitar riff that is, for a lack of a better word, resplendent. “Neoteny” is not just a great song for fans of J-rock, but I would recommend anyone hear this tune at least once.
01.Midwinter Dance (真冬のダンス Mafuyu no Dansu) from Fanclub
That’s right, my favorite Asian Kung-Fu Generation song is an unreleased track from Fanclub. For all they hype Ajikan has received in the US after most were introduced to them through Anime, the tunes from Fanclub and onward have appealed to me much more. Not to say the older, more well-known stuff is bad, but “Mafuyu no Dance” is, at least in my mind the perfect type of rock song. It’s simple, it’s catchy, and it builds to something more than it was at its start. The final chorus of this short tune is backed by a melodic lead guitar riff that ties everything together.
I hope to do more of these band countdowns in the future but for now I have some game and movie reviews coming around the corner…