“Oh, I want to start with BUTAOTOME. But what you would recommend?!”
With their LAAAAAAAAARGE discography, anyone who would like to start to listen them would probably stare at the screen and say “ok… and now? Where I can start?”. Here is Violet, who will try to help you!
The TC Crew, giving albums to the newbie duck.
For Touhou arrange listeners, the first recommended approach is often “check the arranges of your favourite themes”. You can check the list of songs and ctrl+f your desidered theme. With BUTAOTOME’s large track catalogue, you should find at least an arrange of your favourites in the 85% of the cases. While you won’t find rare PC-98/Seihou themes (except those arranged by everybody, like Bad Apple or Reimu/Marisa/Yuuka/Alice’s themes), there are some unusual themes, like Lunatic Blue or some Uni Akiyama stuff that is not Broken Moon. Also, lots of Hifuu/ZUN’s Music Collection tracks, before they became mainstream.
Now, while part of the enjoyment of BUTAOTOME’s Touhou vocals comes from the knowledge of Touhou lore, you can still enjoy their music even if you don’t give a crap about teh Toho themez!
Their entire discography can be splitted in 2 big sides, which I’ll separatly analyze: the vocal side and the instrumental side. For each side, I’ll recommend some albums, mostly because that’s my way to approach into new music/artists: listen to “that one album” first, and I think it’s the same for a lot of people (insert here the eternal fight between albums and singles). The discography page on this website is also much more updated and organized than the one of the official site, so use it as reference! (self praise!!111oneone)
Their main side, their most promoted one and the one people just refer when they talk about BUTAOTOME.
Best of albums usually give a great access point for most music artists around. In case of BUTAOTOME, the first one is mandatory if you want to know their most popular songs, those that are mostly played live and featured in other media. But let me say that The Pig is much more than Gensou no Kyou Machibito no Tsukikage (…sorry) all over again. And the other two discs of the series show very well their range of styles, with some tracks in the third one that truly show their talent in their respective roles. Every single BUTAOTOME album of the “Touhou vocal” section up until Kyou ga Saigo no Ichinichi (+ the feat. DJ Comp & MC Paprika series, which are recommendable only if you want to laugh and listen to something completely non-serious) is covered with one-two tracks.
However, if you prefer a more solid album instead of best of compilations, here are my personal recommendations:
Billiards (+ one of the major albums)
Billiards is the perfect album to begin, either as very first album to get or simply to start with the original works (since those don’t have a “best of” album). It simply has everything about BUTAOTOME in the purest sense. As a sort of “extension”, I also recommend one of the two major albums as well. I suggest Furubokko, but nothing forbids you to pick Trauma Recorder instead, if it attracts you more.
Kyou ga Saigo no Ichinichi
Despite being much more pop, I think this album is closer to their original releases and also very accessible. If you are into their originals and want to start with the Touhous without going for the best ofs, check this one.
Shoujo Rengoku 3
Time ago, I recommended this album to a friend who wanted to start with BUTAOTOME, mostly because there was no Best 3 at the time (it was only announced). This album alone covers a great range of styles: it stands out from the two previous chapters of the series, but I suggest to check out them as well, if you like this one.
I find difficult to divide BUTAOTOME’s big output of Touhou works in eras. However, I can safely put a separating line between Kyou ga Saigo no Ichinichi and FREAKS’s releases, due to the first news of the major debut being somewhere there (when they announced the live named “we have news” – and why announce a live with this name if there is no news to announce?!). Recent Touhou albums have quite a good bunch of arranges by Paprika: while there are some other tracks in older albums, I think they shine the most in this “current” era. [inb4 they’ll troll me and the C93 vocal album will be a full Comp-arranged] Among these recent albums, I think FREAKS is the best one that shows up together the bear and the cat’s arranging skills in vocal songs.
I don’t think there are big differences between their music before and now: they are still the same four people who started the group 8 years ago because they wanted to do something fun. They have their j-pop/rock style, but in each album you can still find tracks outside of their comfort zone, with some albums that go completely beyond (Itanshinmon and Folie à deux, for example). I would say the major differences are in the audio quality, which are vastly notable if you compare the albums from 2010/2011 with the rest.
Bonus Round: Live
BUTAOTOME care a lot about their live performances and they put a lot of energy and fun into them. If you have the chance, try to see them live! But not everybody can go to Japan as they like, however there are still live footages around! You can check the playlist on Tiramisu Cowboy’s Youtube channel, or, even better, the Jump Otome DVD.
The Nekokenban series is a whole different side of BUTAOTOME. It can be considered as a sort of “side-project” and one can appreciate it regardless from their enjoyment of the vocal side.
This series evolved a lot with the years: if you want to quickly get the idea, pick the Nekokenban Best, with 1-2 tracks from each one of the first 10 albums.
The first two albums of the series are pure piano discs, then as the series went on, Paprika started to add more and more instruments and even have Comp playing guitar/bass. Current entries of the series are much more based on the album concept: Nekokenban 12 is pretty much a soundtrack for an horror movie/game, 13 is centered on worldly sounds, 14 is RPG-styled and who knows what we’ll have in future!
By the way, if you like the pure sound of the first 2 Nekos, check out Neko no Anmin DISC, which contains piano instrumental renditions of BUTAOTOME’s vocal songs.
That’s all for this post! I hope it was helpful for someone! Also, if you want specific recommendations based on singular songs (for example “can you list me all the ballads?”), feel free to ask!