Japanese singer Aimer brings a sense of grace to her songs, elevating anime soundtrack cuts into sturdy works all their own as she imbues J-pop with detailed arrangements and complex emotional themes. Born in 1990 in Kumamoto, Japan, she grew up admiring the intricate pop of Utada Hikaru and Sheena Ringo, along with Avril Lavigne’s pop-punk anthems. This inspired her to learn piano and guitar, while also penning lyrics as a teenager. Aimer initially wrote for other artists while in her early 20s, until launching her own singing career and garnering attention with her skillful piano work and husky voice. Her earliest singles doubled as theme songs for anime—including Bleach and Fate/stay night—a niche she'd stick with over the next decade. Her creations, though, revealed far more depth than most TV show soundtracks, allowing her a space to compose heart-wrenching ballads (“Ref:rain”) or to place her distinctive vocals over chugging rock (“Brave Shine”). She delved further into rock via collaborations with mainstream stars like Taka Moriuchi from ONE OK ROCK and Yojiro Noda of RADWIMPS. Up until 2016, Aimer refused to show her face, so that her music would remain front and center. Though she eventually pivoted away from that decision, Aimer’s intricate arrangements and versatile singing, which helped bring more musical complexity to ‘10s anime music, are still her primary focus.