Listening to Japanese Music — 2018 Recommendation Round-Up Awards

Let’s end the year with a bang shall we? 😀

This will be the last time I welcome you here… for the year 2018 (made you hold your breath there for a second didn’t I? jk) and as we usher in the coming year, I wanted to cap off this year’s series of Round-Ups with something a little more special.

Having an awards post was an idea that I had ever since I started doing this but I didn’t really think much of it beyond that, more so because I wasn’t really sure how far I’d be taking this series. Lo and behold we actually completed more or less a full year of continuous monthly recommendations with a playlist of close to 80 awesome tracks to show for it. It has been a wonderful journey of musical discovery and I’ve had an absolute blast with this project. I can only wish that you guys who’ve followed this little venture of mine have found it just as enjoyable as I did (if not even a little bit more than me). Thank you so much for tuning in, and at the very least I do hope that through these round-ups I’ve introduced you to something that you genuinely liked. I’d be very happy if you did 🙂

NOW, the awards (!!!). We will be handing out a total of 8 awards this year, with the categories being as follows: Best PV, Best Lyric, Best Vocals, Best Instrumentation, Most Played Song of 2018, Most Prolific Artist of 2018, Favorite Discovery of 2018, and Band/Artist to Look Out for in 2019. We will also be excluding all entries from SCANDALous September (to keep it fair) so the pool of eligible songs will be at 70, with a song only being able to win an award once. Lastly, all winners were decided by me and me alone (xD)

It was a good year of Japanese Music and we’d be remiss to not celebrate that so, for the last time in 2018; grab your favorite pair of earphones or headphones, set your volumes to a comfortable level, and let’s do just that — celebrate~!!


Best PV — “Polarize” by Tam Tam
Runner-Up: Minna no Uta by SHISHAMO

Not gonna lie, this feels like a gimme award, as TamTam’s “Polarize” is one of the few songs I featured on the Round-Up that wasn’t actually a new song. A huge part of why I love it so much is because it has such an aesthetically pleasing minimalist PV. Turntables with animation still cut-outs and flashing lights — it’s just such a visual trip that you can’t help but feel mesmerized by the whole setup, more so because of how seemingly simple and practical it was to make. The PV for “Minna no Uta” by SHISHAMO is a close runner-up with its ‘do your best’ narrative portrayed through a day in the life of a hairdresser-in-training (played by Fumika Shimizu :3). Again, not really all that fancy, but just plain fun to watch especially since the band members were also involved.

Best Lyric — “Hitchcock” by yorushika
Runner-Up: YAMABIKO by NakamuraEmi

Bit of a harder award to decide a winner on, as I can’t really claim to have reviewed each and every lyric for all the songs I ended up featuring for the Round-Up, but at the very least whenever a line or two does stand out I do try my best to make note of it. To that end, the line from yorushika’s “Hitchcock” that goes “Why is it that the character for ‘happiness’ includes the ¥ sign? Is it on purpose that leaving out a single stroke turns it into the character for ‘pain’?” was just so tongue-in-cheek and brilliant when I first heard it. Now, I don’t know if this is like a common kanji pun but as someone in constant pursuit of learning the language myself, I was really just impressed (xD). The entirety of NakamuraEri’s “YAMABIKO” nets the runner-up spot for this award for being just an uplifting and spunky song (give it a read here!)

Best Vocals — “Kokoronashi” by majiko
Runner-Up: Kowashite by Drop’s

Long-time followers of the Round-Up know that when it comes to female vocals I tend to be a sucker for those who sing at a lower register BUT our distinction for this award isn’t gonna be about who has a good singing voice (as I would like to think that everyone featured in the round-up, and anyone who takes up that mic in general, are all talented people) but rather it’s for the best display of vocal prowess in a singular performance — meaning live/studio recordings of songs get a HUGE leg-up here. majiko’s very heartful display of raw emotion for her song  “Kokoronashi” nets this award. Drop’s’ “Kowashite” is our runner-up this time around primarily for the quaint dissonance of what you expect vocalist Miho to sound like as opposed to what she actually sounds like (xD).

Best Instrumentation — “Tagai no Uchuu” by JYOCHO
Runner-Up: Onna wa Kawaru by Gesu no Kiwami Otome

There really was no contest here. I mean, if anything, the decision ultimately camed down to which JYOCHO song I think best deserved the award. While picon’s Vocaloid downbeat/trip-hop was a tempting option to mix things up a bit, I felt that that would’ve been a choice made based on stylistic genre choice, and not totally relating to musical instruments and their otherwise creative use. That just so happens to be JYOCHO’s bread and butter so to speak and “Tagai no Uchuu” gets the nod for me out of personal preference (namely that I prefer my Math Rock to be a bit more somber than not). Gesu no Kiwami Otome comes in as a runner-up with “Onna wa Kawaru” because of that insanely good instrumental break that they do right around the 2:35 minute mark.

Most Played Song of 2018 – “secret MAIKO lips” by BAND-MAID
Runner-Up: Furete Hoshii by CICADA

It’s almost absurd how much I’ve listened to “secret MAIKO lips” considering it’s more or less an alternate rendition of an already existing BAND-MAID song in secret MY lips, but I really do prefer this version over the original by a good margin. It’s joke-y nature aside (stemming from its being an April Fools prank), the incorporation of shamisen and traditional Japanese music stylings as well as the transliteration of the original lyrics from standard Japanese to Kansai-ben just made the song that much more captivating in my opinion. CICADA’s long-awaited return (for me at least) with “Furete Hoshii” edged out a close second for me because CICADA is just one of those bands where once you start listening to one of their bops you really can’t stop.

Most Prolific Artist of 2018 Maison book girl

This award goes to the artist/s whose had the most appearances in the Round-Up across what would be a 10-month period spanning ~80 songs. Now, those who’ve followed the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up since it’s inception back in February should have an idea or two as who would end up receiving this award, but even I was surprised to find out that we actually have a three-way tie for it (makes sense considering the next two awards following this one /spoilers). The tiebreaker, ultimately, came down to sheer persistence in activity. There were months where I had to stop myself from featuring another Mbg. song even though I fairly enjoyed them simply so I can give another artist or band a chance. Say what you will about idols and idol music as a genre, you can’t not like Mbg’s Math. Granted, if sora tob sakana were more active they’d get the nod over Mbg, but hey, and idol win is an idol win (xD).

Favorite Discovery of 2018yorushika

One of the main appeals of doing the Round-Up for me personally, much like a lot of you who’ve followed the series I’m assuming, is discovering new artists to follow. I’ve mentioned it before on numerous occasions no doubt, but one of my favorite past-times before was just hopping on and chain-searching through the “Similar Artists” tab of a band that I already listen to. That said, it’s equally (if not even a little bit more fun even) getting recommended something awesome by someone. Carriage from ACarriageReturn brought yorushika to my attention back in March and my life has utterly changed since then. I would honestly contend that n-buna and suis are one of those once in a blue moon musical talents that seemingly come from out of nowhere and just put out good song after good song without fail.

Band/Artist to Look Out for in 2019JYOCHO

Mbg’s strength of schedule and yorushika’s potential aside, I just can’t look past what Nakagawa Daijiro was able to do in recent years. UchuConbini‘s departure from the music scene left a hole that not a whole lot of people thought would be ever filled (myself included) but Nakagawa proved me and everybody else wrong by picking himself up and starting all over again. It’s been two (coming up to three) years now since he formed JYOCHO and if their absolutely stellar releases in 2018 are anything to go by, then the future of this band is looking immensely bright. I wholly believe that there is no ceiling to what JYOCHO is capable of, mostly owing to the fact that Japanese Math Rock is still largely unexplored, at least in the mainstream sense currently. Suffice it to say, I find that 2019 is theirs for the taking so long as they keep making good music, which is reassuring in a way because that seems to be the easy part for them (xD).


And that’s it for the 2018 Round-Up Awards! Thank you all so much for sticking around until the very end to those that did. Do you agree with the winners? Did a different song deserve to win? Or do you think I left something out? Likewise, what are your Best *insert award here* for 2018? Lemme know your thoughts in the comments down below!

I won’t keep you guys here any longer (I’ll come out with a blog update soon to go over the state of the blog and whatnot at a later date) BUT I’m pleased to announce to you all now that the Monthly Round-Up will be back next year (!!!) so continue to stay tuned.

Happy New Year everyone~!! See ya next post!

20 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music — 2018 Recommendation Round-Up Awards

  1. Congrats on completing the year of round ups, Leap!
    I’d almost completely forgotten about that comment of mine actually, haha. Glad that my spread of the yorushika love made an impact in the same way that your music recs could :)))
    Keep up the awesome work, leap! As I’ve said before, it’s really nice to see these round ups/recommendations as a person always on the lookout for more music. ^_^

    • Thanks Carriage! 😀
      Yep. I’ll forever credit my appreciation for yorushika to you, Haha!
      I’ll do my best, and likewise, thank you for tuning in — and I do hope to continue seeing you around for these too 🙂

  2. As I’ve said for multiple months, this was a great round-up (it also helped me remind me of past artists you’ve talked about like JYOCHO)! 😛 But really, these awards and your choices (as well as the runner-ups) were some solid picks. Yorushika was also one of my highlights this year after you (as well as Carriage) introduced me to them earlier in the year, and it was nice hearing the music they released throughout 2018. Hell, I don’t think I can even pick a favorite out of all of them lol. But yeah, similar to your thoughts, their lyrics and suis’ superb voice just makes them a great group to listen to.

    Also I’m glad SHISHAMO got a mention haha! The MV (and song) of “Minna to Uta” is one of my favorites from them as well; some of their other MVs are pretty solid like “Nakaniwa no Shoujotachi” and “Kimi to Natsufes”. While I still enjoy the frequent SHISHAMO music videos where they’re just playing their instruments in an empty room, the ones that actually tell a story (especially from a group like them) are always great.

    But overall, I really appreciate these round-ups and the discussions we had about music in the past year! I hope we can talk even more and maybe even work together on something again 😀

    (also I’ve been wanting to ask if you saw the most recent Polkadot Stingray MV; I’m pretty much hyped up for their upcoming album lol)

    • Likewise, thanks for always tuning in Al!
      Yeah, it was really hard to pick ‘just one’ favorite (which is why I didn’t have a “Favorite Artist/Band Award” on here, HAHA!), but yorushika definitely blew me away. Not to say that bands like Polkadot Stingray and Gesu no Kiwami Otome didn’t, but when I think of how much of a ‘faceless’ existence they are compared the two groups I mentioned, it just makes me more appreciative of what they were able to do and are continuing to do with their music. I just happen to have a very heavy bias towards JYOCHO (xD)
      I totally credit that SHISHAMO feature to you though :p And yeah, even “Nettaiya” has a pretty nice PV too!
      Oh for sure! I know we’re due another Exchange/Rate at some point (lol), and hey, if you ever need a guest on that podcast of yours lemme know.
      (I did. Shizuku totally reached another level with ‘Uchouten’ I feel like, and yeah, I can’t wait for that new album to drop too :((()

      • oh definitely, there were so many great artists that I discovered over the past year like sumika or Hoshino Gen, no way I could choose just one favorite as well 😛

        And totally, I’ll let you know if I need someone on the podcast (…if I even do another episode lol), as well as doing another Exchange/Rate post 😀

  3. di ko xa binasa. ang haba, pero gusto ko mag comment. tlagang tinuloy mo ung monthly music blog mo. good job!!!!
    happy new year n din!!!!!

  4. Yes , the one that make me comeback to japanese music after 5 year was YORUSHIKA , their music beyond never-get-bored. After that was a lot of discorvery like MINAMI (美波) , ZUTOMAYO, EVE , POLKADOT STINGRAY,sanapri ,… and much more . But yorushika was the beginer, the pioneer to open a music life once again for me. I am now a big fan right now.

    I hope that we can keep contact, sharing our japanese music experience more and more. Let this era of music keep open and spread.
    Japanese song with rock material is DA BEZT ^^ high five.

    • You, my friend, have good taste then (xD)
      In a way I’m glad yorushika helped you find your way back to Japanese Music, and I hope that this is only the start of your journey with the medium, as it is with me.
      Yes, definitely! The blog is here for that very reason.
      It’s the best, no doubt. High five! 😀
      (And Happy New Year!)

      • Hey bros !
        Can i ask you 1 thing ( or perhap 2) ?
        What kind of genre these music recently like Yorushika or MInami or POLKADOT STINGRAY ( and many … ) sing. i would call that japanese rock ( just very lack of genre acknowledge ) , but those rock i listened 5 years ago was like Gazzete , Alice , One Ok Rock … well those was different. So is this some kind of new genre reccently ?

        • Oh, my pleasure 🙂
          Now personally (and I’m not really claiming to be an expert, lol), I would collectively classify these groups/artists as Japanese “Alternative Rock” to differentiate from traditional J-Rock. I wouldn’t say they’re part of a newer genre, just that it’s an example really of how vast of a genre Rock can be — if that makes sense (xD)

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