Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (July 2018)

Yeap, you know it!

July is about to come to a close (man time flies!) which means it’s also time for my Monthly Recommendation Round-Up of Japanese Music! It’s my sixth month of doing this (if you’d remember the idea for this didn’t come to me until February of this year) and our playlist is just an absolute trove of awesome now as a result — and I look forward to piling more on to that in the months to come.

IF however you find yourself here as a newcomer to this “series” of mine than do know that this is a monthly thing I do where, as  it sounds, I pick out songs from the past month (new songs, songs that I myself had only just discovered, or songs that I just want to highlight) for you guys to listen to and (hopefully) enjoy 😀

With that, grab your favorite pair of earphones (headphones are a-okay too~), or if you don’t mind blasting out some J-Music through your speakers that’s perfectly fine as well — and let’s rock out for a bit!


Pandora Box/パンドラボックス
Called it (xD)

If you’d remember my write up for Rhythmy in last month’s Round-Up I mention how POLKADOT STINGRAY was possibly gonna follow that up with a Pandora Box PV not too long after. The costume reveal was a giveaway, but as for my reasoning behind the song choice, I’m sure a lot of fans would agree that if there’s any song off of ICHIDAIJI that sounds like it should’ve already had a music video by now — surely, it’s Pandora Box (lol). In large contrast to Rhythmy, Pandora Box is pretty much textbook PDSR; from the speedy guitar licks down to SHIZUKU’s trademark vocal slides. Not gonna lie though, I was actually expecting somewhat of a continuation to what we had with Rhythmy in terms of the actual PV itself, but I will say that I also do love these kinds of PVs that incorporate crowds of people in a live setting (staged or not). That said the people in attendance appear to be wearing eye masks throughout the song so maybe not the most ideal circumstances to being part of an audience, but eyy, if they are a real crowd (to which I can neither confirm nor deny) good on them for following the choreography!

This track is stupidly addictive (lol).

See, what’s funny to me is “Ballerina” here legit sounds like your typical radio trash music but for some odd odd reason it works tremendously for LEMON JAM (xD). It’s not the kind of music I subscribe to on a regular basis, but something about this track (whether it’s that sweet autotune or the Hypebeast/Study/Twitch stream beat, lol) has got me hooked. While one can argue that I’m just being biased in liking this type of sound now that a Japanese music act has went and taken a crack at it (a claim I don’t feel confident at all denying, jk), but I do feel that there’s definitely something to appreciate here — whether it’s Momomi’s smooth and blues-y vocal work or producer Ayumu laying it down to some sick synth. I mean, I didn’t even mind the autotune here to be completely honest (as I know that some people tend to be vehemently against its usage in songs in general). Just a straight up bop. Can’t really go wrong here.

Fans of ねごと (Negoto) might like this one a lot I think.

If I had to describe ねごと (especially new/post-“Z”OOM EP ねごと) as a genre it’d be a sound that’s predominantly electro-synth, with songs sung with very light and flowy vocals, that have lyrics with random English/non-Japanese words for its hook (exhibit A, B, and C /xD yeah they do it A LOT). Tell me that’s not EXACTLY what we have here with GRANNY SMITH’s “TOKYO LALA”. Before I proceed any further though you might be thinking I’m throwing shade but really I’m just being tongue-in-cheek with the fact that the tried and tested ねごと formula is getting around it seems (lol). In all seriousness though, GRANNY SMITH is a VERY promising band with this being just their second song released as a PV. My half-joking comparisons aside GRANNY SMITH do actually have a stronger guitar presense than ねごと overall (which opens the door for more variety than the latter) and you can already kinda hear that in their first PV here where they really do come across as not just an electro-synth pop/rock outfit.

Kuudou yori/空洞より
by Picon (ピコン)
Didn’t think I’d have Hatsune Miku as a regular in this series but here we are (xD)

But yeah no, Picon’s “emotional” Vocaloid work is in full display here, as you’d notice “Kuudou” is vastly different from his last offering back in May. This is actually a bit of a return to form in that this is how Picon’s songs usually sound — very somber mixed with some soulful downbeat and emo-y lyrics (video is subbed so hit that CC button!), which altogther surprisingly fit Hatsune Miku quite well. It’s one of those feels trip types of songs that you listen to until all of a sudden you’re surprised it’s over. Picon definitely struck gold with that mixture and, while “Garandou” saw him branch out a bit to a more Hip-Hop-y style (which was still great), Melancholic Trip-Hop is without a doubt where he’s been doing his best work.

Raison d’etre/レーゾンデートル
by Plot Scraps
No, no, this is not me throwing out the occasional male-fronted band recommendation to demonstrate equal opportunity. Haha…

Though I do feel that I’ve been giving the guys a bit of a harder time than female singers, but this I attribute to having listened to a lot of male vocals in my Western band phase (lol), leaving me as a stickler for certain singing styles. So as a general note moving forward, whenever I feature J-Music sung by/performed by men, expect it to sound like this (xD / don’t worry, I do plan on doing a special feature list with regard to that in the near future so stay tuned). The closest comparison I could make to Plot Scraps’ sound is early cinema staff with their Indie Alternative Rock that has just the slightest touch of Math to it, accentuated by a VERY solid vocal range from lead singer Suyama Ryota (his high notes especially). Definitely a band to look into.

Summer Gate
by Sato Chiaki (佐藤千亜妃 from きのこ帝国/Kinoko Teikoku)
I am healed.
(actual PV is region-blocked on my end, but I’ll leave the link here)

I honestly forgot how much I adored Sato Chiaki’s voice as I kinda trailed away from Kinoko Teikoku following their releases as of late (a discussion for another day). But yeah no, to me personally, her voice is just such… beautiful tragedy. There’s a certain frailness to it that I can’t really put into better words than how I’m doing so for it now. I do love it though, and if I’ve managed to convey that, then we’re good (xD). This song actually sounds VERY similar to one of Kinoko Teikoku’s older tracks (and a long time favorite of mine) クロノスタシス (Chronostasis), almost to the point where I’d call “Summer Gate” a spiritual succesor to it. With the release of her solo debut EP SickSickSickSick I’m actually curious now whether Kinoko Teikoku’s more experimental offerings (like Chronostasis) were influenced by Chiaki herself. If so, I’m immensely happy that there’s an avenue now for this kind of sound from her, should Kinoko Teikoku continue being a Pop-Folk/Rock outfit moving forward.

Byoushin wo kamu/秒針を噛む
by Zutto Mayonaka de Ii no ni (ずっと真夜中でいいのに)
If yorushika/ヨルシカ has taught me anything it’s to not sleep on songs that feature “faceless” singers in fully-animated PVs.

You could even say I was drawn to this video solely off the fact that it was animated. Granted, most of that was out of plain curiousity more than anything, but I DID NOT expect to hear such a rocking track coming into it at all (the intro alone is killer). Zutto Mayonaka de Ii no ni (lit. It’s fine if it’s always midnight… yeah xD) appears to be the name that vocalist/producer ACAね decided to call her little project here and if “Byoushin wo kamu” is anything to go by, “ZutoMayo” (for short) here just knocked it’s debut right out of the park and then some. The good ‘ol piano/synthesizer + AcoGui combo is always a winner in my book, and honestly, there were times here where I legit thought I was listening to YUI through ACAね’sstrong and piercing vocals. That said, what I love most about this song though is the insanely good bridge that it has.

by Nakajima Ikkyu (中嶋イッキュウ from tricot)
Speaking of band vocalists doing a solo thing…

So the lead vocals of two of my favorite bands in Kinoko Teikoku and tricot go and release a bit of solo work and, much like the time when Nakajima Ikkyu went and collaborated with Kawatani Enon not too long ago, it feels like the universe just gave me a gimme here (thanks, wolrd <3). It’s interesting to note how much of a departure both of their solo takes ended up being from their band’s usual sound — more so with Nakajima Ikkyu who, coming off of one of the more avant-garde groups in the game (as being arguably the most popular all-girl Math Rock band), goes and drops not just one but TWO tracks in “AMERICAN DREAM” and “privacy”, and they’re about as standard J-Pop as I’ve heard her sound… ever (xD). It helps of course that Ikkyu’s unique vocal stylings and inflections is anything but standard so the songs ended up being pretty tight as a result.

Fun fact/s; the footage used for “AMERICAN DREAM” were Ikkyu’s own outtakes coming off of tricot’s US Tour that just wrapped, and both “AMERICAN DREAM” and “privacy” actually serve as a bit of promotion as well for Nakajima Ikkyu’s new clothing line that she just launched called SUSU — with the PV for “privacy” in particular being more or less an apparel showcase (lol I’m not even mad / it’s actually a brilliant marketing tactic xD).

Must Listen: Summer Gate by Sato Chiaki and Byoushin wo kamu by Zutto Mayonaka de ii no ni
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that misses old Kinoko Teikoku and while their Shoegaze phase might be well and over now, at the very least we’re hearing the Experimental trippiness that fans have come to know and love from ’em through Sato Chiaki. In line with that “Summer Gate” is also a nice way of introducing new fans to her unique and really just charming singing style . “ZutoMayo” on the other hand I feel is about to take off in a massive way (you heard it here first) thanks to this explosive banger of a debut track, an really I’m just excited for the next one.


I already linked it up top but so you don’t have to scroll back up (lol) here’s the link to our playlist. It’s already updated with the tracks for this month too so, if you didn’t manage to listen to everything by the time you’re reading this because either you’re out and don’t want to waste precious data (which I totally get btw xD) or you’re just not feeling it, you can better backtrack there instead — just make sure to come back here and share your thoughts! I’d love to hear ’em 🙂

I already have some ideas lined up for future Feature Lists so stay tuned for that, and if you haven’t yet, do check out the most recent one I did on my Favorite Insert Songs in Anime. I also have a very special Band Feature in the works to mark an event that I’ll be attending relative soon-ish so expect that sometime next month as well.

How were July’s picks? Lemme know the ones you liked (or didn’t like) in the comments section below! As always, if you have your own recommendations for this month (doesn’t have to be Japanese music of course) do share ’em too 😀

Hope it was a good month for y’all, and happy listening~!

14 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (July 2018)

  1. Hey there! Don’t know if you’ve already covered the artist before since this is the first post I’ve read, but have you listened to Snail House before? It’s some pretty catchy electronic music. I’m also a sucker for old pop like Tatsuro Yamashita. This post was pretty informative though, so thank you in advance for introducing me to some new music.

    • Hiya! Nope, this would be the first time I’ve heard of ’em (really good! reminds me of “a crow is white” almost xD) With old pop I tend to lean towards more idol-y stuff, Haha! You’re welcome, and likewise, thanks for dropping by (and dropping a recommendatio even!)

      • I’m really liking ‘a crow is white’ so far. School Food Punishment, Sōtaisei Riron, and Perfume might also be your type of music. Really good bands. And if we’re talking idols, then Idolmaster has the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard.

        • Yep, I like School food punishment (especially old sfp.) and Soutaiseiriron is a long time favorite of mine /I’d put ’em as one of my top five bands overall (they were higher on my list until TOWN AGE still, but Tensei Jingle was a bit of a step down for them I think), so yeah, they’re definitely my type (xD). I’ve only started listening to Perfume just recently too after I found out that their music is produced by the guy/s behind Capsule, lol
          For idol music, I’m mostly gonna be on the Love Live! side of things (with Keyakizaka46 being a quaint exception)

  2. nice selection like always! 😛

    For some reason the other songs from ICHIDAIJI, I guess, overshadowed “Pandora Box” for me personally, but after watching the MV, I think that’s when I started to appreciate that song a lot more. It’s definitely a really energetic/upbeat song to listen to, and I bet being in the audience at that concert, wearing those masks and doing those gestures was an enjoyable experience lol

    I didn’t really get into the Vocaloid craze (my brother did), but that Picon song was an interesting change from what Miku songs I’ve listened to in the past. And it’s not bad! Like you mentioned, it fit her pretty well and it’s a pretty nice song to listen to overall.

    That Plot scraps song was great, and I’m pretty much on the same page as you with talking about more female singers than male ones. I even get a lot of flack from friends when I show them a song or they look at my music playlist on my phone, asking me “do you listen to anything else but girl bands/cute girls singing?” haha But yeah it’s good that I’ve been broadening my taste in J-music with more male artists, they’re as great as the female ones I tend to listen to.

    I saw that MV for “Byoushin wo kamu” a few days ago, reeeeally nice 😛 I wanted to see if they made other music but seems like that their only one, just by looking at their YT channel. I would definitely want to continue to listen to them.

    Other than listening to ACC for the past few days (lol) I have a few music suggestions, most of these songs I found on Spotify; beverly’s “Just once again” [] gives me chills, her voice is like angelic; UNCHAIN is an excellent band [], I also love the main vocalist’s voice and I dunno, something about them makes them fun to listen to; Suchmos is an interesting and intriguing band to listen to imo since they combine a bunch of genres like rock, jazz and hip hop to make some really nice music []; lastly I’ve started getting into the J-idol group i☆Ris [], mainly because one of the members Kubota Miyu also voices one of the girls in the Love Live PDP group lol, they’re nice tho

    yeah sorry for this long comment but thanks for the list again 😀

    • eyy, thanks, I try (xD)

      It’s pretty a cookie-cutter song from ’em really (I’d make a comparisons to Synchronisica from Dai Seigi) which isn’t bad but yeah not what you’d call a stand out either. I don’t really know whether this was from an actual live event of theirs (would be cool if it was, lol)

      Neither did I to be honest (most of my Vocaloid knowledge comes from playing Project Diva on the PSP a couple of years back), but I’m *really* liking sad Miku yep, Haha!

      Oh it’s bad on my end, like, my standard rotation of artists on my phone right now (which I estimate to be around 50+ singers/bands) are all female vocals, LOL

      Glad you’re liking ACC 😀 I was almost about to put another song of theirs that I liked on here too xD

      Ooooh, that song from Beverly is really good. Reminds me too that I need more ballads to my lineup too.

      Haven’t listened to UNCHAIN for a LONG while now, takes me back, lol, yeah, I get what you mean. they’re really… spunky, which is very uncharacteristic of moft J-bands now that I feel like

      Suchmos is one of those bands where I feel like I should be listening to them more (actually have a post in mind for this very topic, lol), but yeah, they actually almost made this lineup because they release a new song last month.

      And yeah, don’t worry, I know about i☆Ris, albeit mostly from their interactions with Aqours (and, well, because I also know about Miyutan xD). And they also sang the OP for Mahou Shoujo Site which I did watch last season (admittedly the only song I know from ’em). This one was nice though.

      Oh not at all, I love getting to talk shop 😀 likewise, thanks for staying tuned to this series (and dropping recs every time! xD)

  3. I really loved 秒針を噛む when I discovered it on YouTube too. I was mainly drawn in by the name of the band/project, actually. They only have that one song on their YouTube channel; I wonder if there are more?

  4. How did I miss Ikkyu’s solo work/collaborations?! I’m glad you were on top of it so I can enjoy them too.

    Lemon Jam’s ‘Ballerina’ surprised me, but in a good way. I wouldn’t have listened to it without a recommendation. So once again, thanks for all the new music to listen too!

    • I only accidentally saw her collabo with Kawatani Enon thanks to Youtube being good at suggesting me stuff that I actually wanna listen to (and I remember at the time too thinking ‘that girl kinda looks like ik- it is ikkyu!!) lol. As for her solos, I was pretty hyped after the first one she did so I’ve been subscribed to her channel ever since hoping she’d follow up on it (xD)

      Yeah, “Ballerina” is… a nice change of pace 😀 You’re welcome~ and thanks for making it to this month’s round-up too!

      • Still! My Youtube feed is a hot mess most days, let alone recommendations so I’m glad you saw it! I’ve remembered to subscribe to her channel too in hopes for more solo goodness to come.

        For sure~~ and of course! The J-music scene (at least what I know about it?) on WordPress is small so any content is good content to me!

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