Welcome back to Leap’s Monthly Recommendation Round-Up of Japanese Music! For those of you who have caught the past months’ posts you already know what’s about to go down but for new subscribers to this little project of mine do know that at the end of every month I make a post where I highlight some of my favorite Japanese music offerings from the past couple of weeks (or from the past in general if I can) as a way of sharing to you guys songs that I liked and would actually recommend (hence the series title) whilst also giving you a nice little monthly sampler of stuff to listen to at your own leisure.
SO, whether you’re hankering for some J-music, wanting to get your feet wet in the scene, or are just on the lookout for something to play in the background while you do whatever — this post is for you 😀
As always, grab your favorite pair of earphones or headphones; for those a bit daring (and trust my tastes xD), set your speakers to a comfortable level, and let’s give this month a proper send-off~!!
secret MAIKO lips, by BAND-MAIKO (BAND-MAID)
So this is BAND-MAID’s idea of an April Fools prank — and of course, the real joke is that even though these girls were messing around, THEY DID NOT MESS AROUND holy cow.
*Note maiko = geisha-in-training
“secret MAIKO lips” is actually an alternate rendition of BAND-MAID‘s song “secret My lips” and- oh, here’s a fun experiment; try listening to the original song here and see of you can spot the differences yourself before I lay them out here. I’ll wait. ….. You’re back? Good. Neat song right? 😀 A lot of you right away you may have noticed the infusion of shamisen, flute, and taiko in secret MAIKO lips, to give it more of a traditional feel in matching the courtesan aesthetic. Some of you might’ve even been able to catch that the lyrics are different somewhat, where, those with a keen ear for Japanese dialect would catch that the lines were actually converted to Kansai-ben (lol crazy, I know xD). I’m sure a lot of people would shy away from BAND-MAID because of the pandering maid image that they have (I know I did), but don’t let that undersell what this band has to offer. They’re good — and for this song in particular one should take note of Akane’s tight drum work and Saiki’s insane (and VERY addictive) vocal runs.
Ni-gatsu no Naka wo・February/二月のなかを, by SayonaraPoesy (さよならポエジー)
This one’s for all you Asian Kung-Fu Generation fans.
Especially if you’re like me who can’t actually listen to a lot of AKFG on the regular because YouTube region-blocked their content for ya (xD). Of course, some of you would say that if I’m so dead set on listening to ’em then I should listen to AKFG, and not some band that just sounds like them (as, I’ve said before, there are ways to do so) — but SayonaraPoesy is definitely a welcome alternative with their song here “Ni-gatsu no Naka wo”. You might’ve read enough of my music-related ramblings by now that I like comparing similar sounding bands a lot, and my reasoning for that is; you can’t really go wrong with more of a thing that’s good right? At the very least, it’s a nice reassuring nod that if and when say AKFG and other bands of their ilk start passing on the torch, Japanese music is in good and capable hands. The Ninth Apollo seem to be quite the haven for such talented aspiring folks, so do keep an eye out for acts that get featured by this indie label.
Mangetsu no Yoru Nara/満月の夜なら, by aimyon (あいみょん)
Or, “chill miwa” as I’ve taken to calling her.
First thing’s first, and in giving credit where credit is due, I would like to give a shoutout to Al from SliceOfAlfredo for turning me on to aimyon in the first installment of our Monthly Recommendation Round-Up. I’d initially pegged her sound as just some Hip-Hop-py Pop but lo and behold the girl picks up a guitar in the second song I hear from her and yeah color me impressed (plus she totally looks like miwa now because of it xD). I said it last month when I featured NakamuraEmi but I really do just love non-acoustic songs that incorporate acoustic guitars in its melody. I may not be the biggest proponent for J-Pop, as my monthly round-ups would suggest, but good music is always gonna be the exception. At the very least, “Mangetsu no Yoru Nara” is a fun little bop with a catchy hook that for sure would get your feet tapping and head nodding along.
asphyxia, by Cö shu Nie
I’m so happy this OP got so much hype (xD)
*Note: Normally, I’d put up the official PV here,
but Sony JP hates the US so.. >.<
Too bad the anime sucks a** in comparison (or at least that’s what I hear), but we’re not here to talk about that, so we’re good :D. We’re here to talk about Cö shu Nie, or as I like to call them, “weird EGOIST” — because they so are that. I mean, EGOIST is already kinda weird, so already that should give you a nice idea as to what to expect here; strong melodic vocals, an alternative/electro-rock base, and in Cö shu Nie’s case an extra pinch of experimental to taste. “asphyxia” goes off the rails (in a good way) real quick, and I think that’s what a lot of people latched on to with this song, some even calling it this season’s “unravel” (by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure). The constant tone shifts and Mikun’s vocal pitch gymnastics arguably make this song what it is, and as a long-time fan of her work with her band I’m just happy that they’ve seemingly found their stride now in anison.
Trend, by Pinokko
Bop incoming… You’ve been warned.
Fans of Wata Megumi, SoutaiseiRiron, and DAOKO especially should feel right at home with Pinokko‘s sultry low blood pressure Trip-Hop. This song in particular is VERY reminiscent of DAOKO’s earlier works when she used to sing to more Rap/R&B-sounding tracks with a markedly breathier style than how she sings now. “Trend” at its core is a catchy satirical jab at the millennial culture of trending over social media (lol) that can easily pass as an ASMR track if this happens to be your trigger (xD). If not than the EDM-esque escalation makes this a really a good track to run in the background while you’re doing something else — like say pondering about your prospects as an aspiring trending artist. The comedic value of a very meta music video about a girl wanting to trend should offer enough entertainment to last you a while (and you’d be doing Pinokko a solid favor by actually making this video trend I would think, Haha!)
Hitchcock/ヒッチコック, by yorushika (ヨルシカ)
‘Cause we all need a good pick-me-up
Massive thanks to Carriage from aCarriageReturn for making me take a second look/listen to yorushika — a singer/songwriter duo that I only listened to in passing until she went and threw me a recommendation in our last Round-Up. “Hitchcock” is nothing short of magical with its whimsical light rock tune to contrast the mild melancholy of the lyrics; which are translated within the video itself, so don’t forget to hit that CC button!. More than that, you’d be remiss not to pay attention to the n-buna’s composition as I find that they are the real highlight to this song (and really all of yorushika’s tracks thus far). A lot of really clever and well-thought out lines in a bit of a loosely structured prose on existentialism of all things (xD) that suis in turn actualized to a T with her wonderfully clear diction (her syllabication in particular is impressive when you consider the fact that she’s singing).
Haru no Iu Toori/ハルの言う通り, by indigo la End
…It grows on you, I swear xD
indigo la End is an acquired taste, not gonna lie, and even I myself took a a minute or two to get used to Kawatani Enon’s… distinct vocal stylings. BUT, when you do get used to it, his songs are actually quite the treat. While Gesu no Kiwami Otome (Kawatani’s main band) is where he gets to show off his musical chops as a composer, his side-project here in indigo la End is where Kawatani gets to display his quirky (hah) artistic side. This time around “Haru no Iu Toori” gives off a bit of an old-timey aesthetic and melody while still managing to sound fairly modern thanks to Kawatani’s trademark Prog-Pop (the chord progressions of both the piano and the guitars specifically). As a caveat though, he does go off with his falsetto more (like, way more) in this song compared to the bands’ earlier songs so it could be a rough first listen for a lot of you guys, but I do urge that you give it a couple of chances to let it really sink in.
Polarize, by Tam Tam
I did say I would do this from time to time.
*Warning, this video has quite a bit of flashing lights — if you’re sensitive to those, then do feel free to pass this one up (or just listen to the song and don’t watch the PV)
This being me featuring songs that I just wanna feature for the hell of it (xD). April was a bit on the slow side of new releases (or at least releases that I liked) so I figured, eyy, this list has room — why not throw in an old fave from a couple years back 😀 See, I love this song for a good number of reasons, namely: Tam Tam’s unique techno/jazz/funk rock style, Kuro’s deceptively powerful vocals, and; for Polarize in particular, this minimalist aesthetic PV that’s just so visually satisfying even five years removed from when it was first released (but again, on a wrong day it could also be pretty headache inducing, lol). Tam Tam (now TAMTAM) have since mellowed out a bit in recent years, but “Polarize” is a nice reminder of that they can be quite the banger of a band if they really wanted to be.
Must Listen: secret MAIKO lips by BAND-MAIKO and Hitchcock by Yorushika
BAND-MAIKO made me a fand of theirs with this supposed joke of a song but it’s soooo goooood. I must’ve played this song every day for the first half April even after finding out about the original song (xD). Yorushika’s Hitchcock on the ohter hand does a really good job of lingering in your head just long enough for you to end up wanting to hear the song again.. and again… and again.
As promised here’s a YouTube playlist of ALL songs that I’ve featured thus far in my monthly round-ups. If you have a YT account feel free to save it, but if you don’t, bookmarking it on your preferred browser would work just as well. This is just so you have my recommendations a bit more “with you” at all times — so you won’t have to navigate through my posts if you end up wanting to go back to a song you heard in here. The playlist will be updated right around the time I put up the post for the month if not a bit after.
Keep in mind that I also make “Feature Lists” every now and again which are what I’ve started calling my themed playlists, with the most recent one being about bands and artists that have stepped away from the scene (check it out here if you haven’t yet!). Feel free to check out my other Feature Lists in the (sort-of new) Japanese Music page right up top (but here’s a link for ya if you wanna tab out from here). If you have a theme in mind for a Feature List then do go ahead and drop a comment down below.
Lastly, if you have your own recommendations for this month (Japanese music, or otherwise) please throw ’em at me. As much as I love finding out about bands and artists in my own searches, as you may have noticed with my shoutouts I can’t really catch ’em all (…*badumtss*). But at the same time nothing really beats getting solid recs from you guys so give ’em to me!
Happy listening guys~