Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love lists. I’m a self confessed music geek and nothing gets me engrossed like music discussions, playlist and top 10 making.
One of my all time favourite bands is L’Arc~en~Ciel, the Japanese stadium giants who if you are unfamiliar, sound like a cross between U2, Bon Jovi, The Cure, and Nirvana. Forbes magazine described them as "an improbable mix of Metallica’s heady guitar riffs and U2’s optimistic vocals, with a dollop of anime-inspired lyrics for good measure."
With 12 studio albums and a B-Sides collection over the past 23 years, I thought I’d take a look back over L’Arc~en~Ciel’s discography to pick my own personal top 25 songs. Really it was an excuse to listen to all their stuff again because sweet lord, I love this band to death.
25) Anata (You) from “Heart” (1998)
The Big Lighters In The Air Ballad. This is a regular concert closer and it’s so fucking triumphant. They have tried to better it since but nothing comes close.
24) Metropolis B-Side (1998)
This B-Side to their Winter fall single has an unusual, mechanical beat with chirpy guitar and bopping head chorus. A welcome change of pace.
23) Ibara no Namida (Tears of Thorns) from “Ray” (1999)
Was featured as a concert opener on their recent World Tour with a re-tooled piano opening, The song is a dark, soaring rock song from their seminal Ray album.
22) Trust from “Awake” (2005)
A sad,shimmering album track buried on their Awake album. I really love the chorus.
21) Kaze no Yukue (Where the Wind Goes) from “Tierra” (1994)
A melancholy song that really came into its own during the 2011 20th Anniversary concerts. It’s perfect for a rainy day.
20) Caress of Venus from “True” (1996)
The True album was the start of L’Arc~en~Ciel really broadening their sound and the biggest example of this was Caress of Venus. With its opening house-piano and pounding dance beat, this song was a game changer.
19) Good Luck My Way from “Butterfly” (2012)
A real feel good song with a driving rhythm and chunky pop punk riffs. I genuinely cheer up when this song comes on.
18) Daybreak’s Bell from “Kiss” (2007)
Another dark, heavy track with some sad but beautiful lyrics, “My life I trade in for your pain.”
17) Shout at the Devil from “Heart” (1999)
A fast, chaotic, rocking track. When they play this live, you flail and go nuts. Usually accompanied by an awesome laser show.
16) Drink It Down from “Butterfly” (2012)
The soundtrack to the game “Devil May Cry 4”, this song was first released as a single in 2008 and has become a live staple. The song itself is pop metal of the highest order. Dark and devilish, just like the game it accompanies.
15) Finale from “Real” (2000)
Finale is a creepy, pulsing rock song that was featured on the soundtrack of the horror movie Ring 0. The reverb-laden vocals add a sinister edge.
14) X X X from “Butterfly” (2012)
A divisive single upon release, this is a sultry alt-rock song with an r&b feel and orchestral flourishes throughout. I loved it and still do as I think the melody and string section are classic L’Arc.
13) The Silver Shining from “Ray” (1999)
The quiet, sleepy closer from Ray, is a gorgeous midnight lament.
12) Anemone from “Clicked Singles Best” (2001)
Released as a new track on a Greatest Hits/Singles collection during L’Arc’s hiatus in 2001, Anemone is a lush symphonic masterpiece of considerable beauty.
11) Love Flies from “Real” (2000)
A bluesy rock song with grunge bar aesthetics that compares falling in love to, essentially, tripping balls.
10) My Dear from “Awake” (2005)
An experiment that went right! This is a sparse, synth-led love song that was apparently written quite differently. The band liked this stripped down version and it stuck! In keeping with the overall anti-war theme of the album, this is a tender and sad song.
9) Loreley from “Heart” (1999)
Singer Hyde breaks out the saxophone for this groovy, moody album opener. The chorus was what originally hooked me with its great vocals.
8) In the Air from “Tierra” (1994)
The warm opening bass line sets the mood for this this joyful, optimistic song before it explodes into sunny U2-style arena rock à la Beautiful Day.
7) Kasou (Flower Burial) from “Ray” (1999)
Gothic and pretty, Kasou is the centre-piece of the Ray album. By turns delicate and emotional yet relentlessly eerie, it is one of L’Arc’s strongest songs.
6) Anata no tame ni (For You) B-Side (1995)
A true hidden gem, this is early 90s gothic rock in the vein of The Cure. The rhythm section really shines here.
5) Voice from “Dune” (1993)
Ken’s guitar soars in this track from their debut album. It established the kind of big ambitious sound L’Arc would develop going forward.
4) Forbidden Lover from “Ark” (1999)
My first L’Arc~en~Ciel song, and what a song it is. With its military drum beat and pervading gloomy atmosphere, I bled for the protagonist of this song and the crushing, transcendent guitar solo/shred lifts this song into the upper echelons of the L’Arc discography.
3) Pieces from “Ark” (1999)
First an admission, I used to actively dislike this song. I thought the intro was cheesy and never really gave it a chance. Just filler. How. Wrong. Was. I.
I realised one day I was singing the chorus as I walked out of work. I struggled to figure out what song it was from. All I knew was that I loved it. The way the tone changes halfway through, to an earnest, soaring, expansive farewell is mesmerising and even though it charts here at number 3, Pieces is my most listened to L’Arc~en~Ciel song to this day.
2) My Heart Draws A Dream from “Kiss” (2007)
Such a simple echoing guitar riff that leads into one of the most heart-wrenchingly happy songs. It is a life affirming, shining supernova of the heart.
1) Fate from “Heart” (1999)
When I heard the opening guitar riff during their 2012 gig in Paris, I felt my insides crumble and my love was complete. Fate captures the sheer emotion L’Arc~en~Ciel are capable of expressing. The song is WHY I love the band. The searching guitar strains, the walking bass line, the driving drum beat…the drama of the song that tells us there is something bigger at play. Love on a cosmic scale. They follow this track on the album with Milky Way, a light, airy fun track but that’s what they do. They show sadness and hope. Darkness and light. They are a mirror for the human condition and they continue to fascinate me.
So there you have it, 23 years of L’Arc~en~Ciel condensed into 25 cracking songs. It was painful leaving out so many songs, I know my sister’s list would be very different. The beauty of L’Arc~en~Ciel is that they don’t have a definite greatest hits. Everyone’s lists will be different.
I will be doing many more of these lists in the future so stay tuned.