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!
by POLKADOT STINGRAY
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!
by LEMON JAM
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.
by GRANNY SMITH
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.
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.
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.
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.
AMERICAN DREAM | privacy
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~!