Stereopony released four albums Hydrangea ga Saiteiru, OVER THE BORDER, More! More!! More!!!, and BEST OF STEREOPONY, each one in a subsequent year. Because of the distribution of releases, Stereopony’s growth can be seen year by year. It also allows for somewhat of an average to be formed. In other words, what sound did Stereopony want to be known for? Every single album was fantastic. They all held songs with deep, relatable lyrics, pleasant melodies, and enough variety to provide the listener with music from winter to spring. Therefore, these albums can be judged on such criteria. The answer to the question “Which is the best Stereopony album?” can be equated to the question “When you think of Stereopony, what album do you think of?”
This method of evaluation allows for consideration of both the bands’ intentions and the response by the listener. Which songs are listened to most and why? Are there any moments in your life when the uncontrollable urge to listen or sing a Stereopony song arise? Taken into consideration this makes the question of the first album as simple as closing your eyes and saying whatever album comes to your mind first. Of course, every answer will be different, but when one thinks of a “Stereopony song”, which album contains the right songs as to represent that ideal? Whichever album achieves that ideal is without a doubt the best Stereopony album.
It is through the melody that most judge Stereopony, and there is much to judge. Stereopony’s songs range from upbeat, sad, lonely, serious, and hopeful. Many join these elements together for that unique Stereopony-like sound.
BEST of STEREOPONY—The “Average”
First of all, BEST OF STEREOPONY must be addressed. The title itself should explain why this album should not count in this comparison. However, while it cannot fairly be declared the best Stereopony album, that does not mean it cannot contribute to the debate. In fact, this album can be used as the paradigm since it noticeably includes all of Stereopony’s singles with a few B-sides and album inclusions. In other words, one can experience that “average” throughout all of Stereopony’s singles. Take out all the singles, and we get an interesting line up of songs. These songs were a very conscious decision made about what songs represented the best of Stereopony. “Hoshikuzu Kantera,” “Viva La Viva La,” “Super Girl,” and “Aozora Very good days!!” are the album songs included. These inclusions show how Stereopony felt their music should be represented, up-beat and optimistic. AIMI herself said that Stereopony was trying to create a sound that was cool, cute, and a bit sad. Give Stereopony another listen with this thought in mind and realize they accomplished this intricate paradoxical goal.
Lyrics & Melody
One of Stereopony’s greatest strengths was always their lyrics. If they could be described in one word, that word should be impetuous; they are words that are youthful, defiant, and look to the future. Not one Stereopony fan will disapprove of their lyrics. Even those who are not fans should have no problem seeing their appeal. Including the difficulty of judging each individual lyric of each album and how those lyrics may resonate differently in each person, lyrics should not be a major factor in deciding the best Stereopony album. As bias as it may sound, all their lyrics are good enough that it balances out anyway. In addition, perhaps the biggest factor that makes lyrics an unfair judgment tool is simply that many do not understand the Japanese language. However, everyone understands those feeling that are put into each song.
It is through the melody that most judge Stereopony, and there is much to judge. Stereopony’s songs range from upbeat, sad, lonely, serious, and hopeful. Many join these elements together for that unique Stereopony-like sound. The question is, of course, which album represents this sound best?
Hydrangea ga Saiteiru
Hydrangea ga Saiteiru does its job well in displaying a variety of Stereopony’s melodies in its thirteen songs. The four singles included are all excellent, albeit not a sample that shows the diversity of Stereopony. However this album has an interesting set-up, beginning with an upbeat song and often switching between upbeat and sad melodies with no transition songs at all. This makes the album a bit of a roller coaster ride. Whether that is good or bad is left to the listener, but for the sake of establishing a unique sound, it probably does not help.
OVER THE BORDER
OVER THE BORDER begins with the perfect song to set the stage, “OVER THE BORDER” for which the album was named. If I had to present songs that have a Stereopony-like sound, then this would definitely be in the list. Cool and melancholy with a bit of swagger, just like its opening song OVER THE BORDER contains that Stereopony-like sound that it desired. Also included are some of Stereopony’s best singles, which also contain that magic combination that defines Stereopony. Slowing down the tempo a little bit only once in the middle with “Tomodachi no Koibito”—which still holds a bit of excitement—and at the end for “Sakune” and the bonus “acoustic song” makes the album a stable listen. The addition of the bonus track “acoustic song” can also possibly place this album at the top of the first three albums as far as number of tracks goes.
More! More!! More!!!
More! More!! More!!! is the only album to contain an introduction. However, that is a very descriptive name as it is only a self-introduction and has basically no musical value. Many use introductions as lead-ins to the next song but this introduction is no lead in. In fact, the transition is abrupt and uncomfortable. The first two songs are a great choice to lead the album as they are the average of this album; they are songs that are both upbeat but at the same time display a little bit of sorrow. Here, upbeat and slower songs are also mixed in but the transition is eased by the variety of sounds in each song. Not one song can be described as simply happy or sad. All songs are an amalgamation of styles that gives the whole album a smooth feeling, even though the songs themselves seem vastly different. This album contains 3 singles that happen more towards a serene sound, and it also contains a cover of ORANGE RANGE’s “Oshare Banchou”. Because it is a cover, it does not fit along with all the other songs, but it is of course given that Stereopony-like sound, so it does not deviate too much from the album. It gives the album a unique upbeat sound. However leading into the last two noticeably slower songs, “Arigatou” and “Canvas ni Watashi Dake no Iro wo Nosete,” one cannot help but wonder if there was a better placement. Of course, ending with those two songs in that exact order was great. “Arigatou” contains pure emotion and is quite impactful, while “Canvas ni Watashi Dake no Iro wo Nosete” continues the melancholy tone but leads to the end gently but still powerfully.
The Best Stereopony Album Is…
In the end, everyone has their favorite album and for different reasons. Some love fast-paced, upbeat songs while others appreciate the slower, more serene songs, and of course, that single preference can vastly affect each and everyone’s choice. But which album would you choose to recommend Stereopony? If you could only choose one album to listen to for the rest of your life, which one would you want it to be? It would probably be the one that evenly covers all of Stereopony’s different sounds, and if one album could cover that request, then it would be OVER THE BORDER. It has a good amount of advantages but the most important factor is that although it does have a stable order that eases transitions, the songs themselves are very individualistic. None of the songs in this album sound very alike to one another, which is the edge it has over More! More!! More!!!. Of course, it also contains songs that are individualistic but would be difficult to single out over a unique quality. Hydrangea ga Saiteiru paints a picture of a band trying to perfect their sound but not quite in order yet. If one had to tally up point for these albums, then it would be an extremely close race, but a variety of factors make OVER THE BORDER the best album to represent Stereopony.
How about you? Do you agree that OVER THE BORDER is the best Stereopony album? If not, let us know what you think it is in the comments below. Also, check out our on-going poll What is your favorite Stereopony album? and be sure to cast your vote.