#1 of my Top 50 Albums of 2020: https://www.albumoftheyear.org/user/chode/list/29961/chodes-top-50-albums-of-2020/
Sealed away in the deepest depths of a lost forest, near the shore of the lustrous ocean gleaming from the rays of the sun, behind a dimly lit village on the coast of Japan, there is an album. One of wondrous magic and alluring serenity. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with 'Windswept Adan.'
Whether it’s her stellar and incredibly minimalistic live record released earlier this year that showed how powerful her vocals could be, even with the most barebones of production, or her 2013 record ‘0’ which has become a cult classic among music listeners of this site, Ichiko Aoba never fails to create some of the most beautifully stunning music of modern times. Very few artists of the 2010s rival her musical prowess. It takes an insane amount of skill to make folk music as beautiful as Ichiko Aoba does, but it takes even more skill to transcend the language barrier in the genre that Ichiko Aoba operates in. Her path up to this point has been near perfect, and yet ‘アダンの風,’ translating to ‘Windswept Adan’ in English, might just be her most stunning achievement yet, and the closest any album in her discography has gotten to flawless.
Very few albums are able to portray an image in my head as vivid as the serene soundscape of ‘Windswept Adan’ has. It sounds like I’m looking out laying back on a sofa, staring out a window. Outside the aforementioned window, there is a beautiful pond surrounded by pink, blossoming cherry trees. The shimmering sunshine peers through the window as the scent of the wet outdoors fills the house. The distant sounds of wildlife scattered across the record, the sound of waves crashing against the shore at the end of ‘Adan no Shima no Tanjyosai,’ the many ambient interludes that merely see Ichiko riffing and allow you to play out the story of the track in your head; All of them add to the beautiful atmosphere that the album creates. Cherry leaves fill the sky as the wind blows them over and into the pond. Inside the house that you are in, there is no one to be found; no one, except you, and your acoustic guitar.
Just like always, Ichiko’s delicate, porcelain-esque vocals are beautifully accompanied by the lush instrumentation that the album presents. The record instrumentally features a wide array of instruments; gorgeous acoustic guitars that are gracefully strummed, majestic flutes that sound like what you would hear as you walk into a shrouded and magical forest filled with mythical beings, nostalgia-invoking LoFi pianos, even Ichiko’s own vocals are used as an instrument on this record with her luxurious and ethereal background vocal harmonies often times sitting as the backdrop for the story that the album’s blissfully mellow main vocals present. No album from the year has been as immaculately produced and as passionately performed as ‘Windswept Adan.’ Ichiko is amazing in the way she portrays hefty amounts of emotion. I, like many other people reviewing this album, don't speak fluent Japanese, and yet, this is currently the highest rated album of the year on the site. Her beautiful and guiding voice that sings like the wind that is perfectly positioned on top of the simple plucks of her guitar strings have enough emotion packed into them to make an entire project that is near flawless without needing words, and that is something that only the best artists can do. Nearly every melody, every guitar pluck, every hushly played instrument is sure to envelop you more into the world of ‘Windswept Adan.’ In a year filled with as much chaos and confusion as 2020, a record so pristine and beautiful, something that sounds as out of this world and peaceful as this record does, an album with the ability to cause you to briefly put all of your problems to the wayside and only focus on only the beauty of Ichiko Aabo herself and nothing else, feels like a deserved closing chapter for this hellish year.
It's hard to summarize this album up because it's near impossible to write a review that is as perfect as the album I'm reviewing, but I'll try. This album is an album that is nothing short of pure audio euphoria. 50 minutes of some of the most otherworldly music you will ever hear- a record that somehow tops everything that Ichiko Aoba has done in the past, despite her amazing track record. I don’t want to spoil what my album of the year will be nor call it early, but I doubt anything will top this album. One of the most mind-blowingly immersive and magnificent albums I’ve heard in a while, and one I hope will finally give Ichiko Aoba the proper amount of attention she deserves at this point in her career. The decade's first true musical masterpiece, and an album filled with sounds so pretty whose beauty will go unrivaled for years.
FAV TRACKS: Pilgrimage, Porcelain, Horo, Easter Lily, Parfum d’étoiles, Kirinaki Shima, Sagu Palm’s Song, chinuhaji, Chi no Kaze, Hagupit, Dawn in the Adan, ohayashi, Adan no Shima no Tanjyosai
LEAST FAV TRACK: Prologue