Anamanaguchi - “[USA]” Album Review

Story posted October 29, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment by Owen Paiva.

Bitpop/chiptune band Anamanaguchi has released its first studio album since 2013 titled “[USA].” For those who are unaware, chiptune and its subgenre bitpop are genres in which at least part of the music is made using the sound chips of old 8-bit and 16-bit computers and video game consoles. Anamanaguchi uses a mix of traditional instruments and sound chips from two Nintendo consoles: the NES and the Game Boy. Still, Anamanaguchi has drawn from traditional musical themes as well, as lead songwriter and guitarist Peter Berkman has stated in the past that artists like Weezer and the Beach Boys have been as much as an inspiration to Anamanaguchi’s sound as video games have been.

Anamanaguchi gained recognition in 2010 for its performance on the soundtrack of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game,” which is full of chiptune. The mix of traditional instruments with the chiptune style is refreshing to hear for fans of the retro sound.

The instrumentals on “[USA]” range from simple to mind-blowing. Songs like “Loren Ipsum” combine chiptune synths and melodies with traditional drumming. The drums slowly build in, eventually bursting into a triumphant chiptune melody. The result is a catchy electronic dance song that stands out among others. Traditional piano can also be found on songs like “Sunset by Plane.”

But the chiptune especially deserves its own mention since Anamanaguchi may be the most notable band to utilize the medium. The different instrumental sounds created from the sound chips are simply amazing. Mainly used for synth melodies and harmonies, they prove to be the main focus, accentuated by the traditional drums, pianos and guitars found elsewhere on the project. “[USA]” wouldn’t be nearly as memorable without the chiptune/bitpop sound.

Surprisingly, there are a decent amount of vocals on the album, with features by vocalists Caroline Lufkin, HANA and meesh, as well as vocaloid Hatsune Miku. There are also some sampled vocals, such as those on the first single, “Air on Line.” The variety of vocal artists on the album presents a unique feel for each song, allowing the album to breathe instead of feeling like a marathon session. The vocals are utilized in a very similar way to how Daft Punk uses featured artists, as no one in the core group actually provides vocals.

Occasionally, “[USA]” suffers from a lack of direction and contains a couple duds like the title track, but it still proves to be a very enjoyable listen. This style of music is not for everyone, and it is understandable if someone thinks the album is just noise or nonsense. For someone who didn’t play older video games or modern games influenced by the older style, this sound isn’t as memorable or nostalgic, as Anamanaguchi’s main audience most likely ranges from the late teens to the early thirties.

But, overall, “[USA]” shows so much evolution from the band, which has crafted its old sound and influences into something unique, allowing Anamanaguchi to join the ranks of the leading electronic acts today once again. Anamanaguchi is able to fit in with the modern styles of future pop and electronic yet kept its core sound at the same time. Think of “[USA]” as an electronic version of Weezer’s “White Album.” What the “White Album” accomplished for Weezer is what “[USA]” accomplishes for Anamanaguchi. The main difference is that Weezer had many albums between their golden period and the “White Album,” while Anamanaguchi managed to make this transition after a six-year break from making studio albums. It’s a pretty impressive feat for one of the genre’s most outstanding artists.

Rating: 7/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Song: “B S X”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “[ U S A ]”

 

Owen Paiva is a junior majoring in film-video. To contact him, email owenpaiva@sbcglobal.net.