Can you believe it? The year’s well-past halfway done! But we’re still here, we’re still rockin’, and we’re still goin’ (xD) Welcome back once again to the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up, this time for the month of June 2019. Spring sorta just came and went, and we’re now just days away from welcoming in the summer, but before we do, what say you we start capping off the season of new beginnings to a proper close with some nice tracks!
Though as always, and before anything else; for those reading this now that are unfamiliar with what this post entails —
Basically I put together a post featuring Japanese music that I’ve listened to and subsequently recommend to you guys at the end of every month. Keep in mind that these songs don’t all have to have been released within that timeframe, as they might also be just songs that I only just discovered myself, or songs that I just want to feature and recommend on a whim (xD)
The songs that I’ll end up featuring will all come from YouTube links of their respective PVs so there is a fair bit of restriction on what I’ll be able to put on here, but I find that keeping it all to one platform ensures the most universality (with remedies easily available in the case of region restrictions). This also allows me to put together a playlist for every song that gets put on the Round-Up that I’ll update and share at the end of each post.
There were soooo many good songs that came out this month, and artists that I’ve only started hearing about only recently as well, so I had a bit of a hard time with the cull this time around, so I do hope I made the right cuts (I mean, otherwise we’d have like twenty songs here, lol).
With that, please go ahead and grab your most trusted pair of headphones (for me it’s my KZ ZSNs, in case any of y’all had been wondering all this ti-), but if speakers are your thing then you’re more than welcome to use those; set your volume to a nice comfortable level; and, well, y’know what to do from here I bet 😀
It’s hard not to like City Pop when it’s this catchy.
I’d go so far as to say that City Pop is a timeless genre. Not in terms of longevity, but to put it differently, it’s a genre that’s hard to really date. It has a retro discotheque feel to it yet at the same time seems very modern thanks to the near ubiqutous use of electro synth. Whether it’s Hitomi Toi from seven years ago, last year’s Awesome City Club, or (as you’ve probably guessed) this month’s EOW. A fairly young group (having officially debuted in February of just this year), EOW is a rebranding of sorts for the band formerly known as ‘Candy Makes (you) Strong’ that made their start two years prior. It would appear that the band nary changed their sound and have kept all their original members in between changing names, but I would like to give a special mention to vocalist Laco in particular who appears to be way (and I mean waaaaaay) more proficient in her craft than she let’s on. We actually do hear some of that here in “yumenara” so maybe it’s only a matter of time till we hear her go all out. That being said, these vocals coupled with such a fun sound shows it’s own kinf of promise, and I most certainly dig it.
by 竹内アンナ(takeuchi anna)
Our girl’s back at it again (!!!)
I made a claim back in January that Takeuchi Anna would make waves for the remainder of 2019 (coming off the release of only her second EP at the time) but it wouldn’t be until this month of June that she’d begin to embody that bold prediction with yet another major EP release just six months after her last one. “20 -TWENTY-“, which would be the second track of a total of four gets the PV treatment and not without good reason. In a bit of a departure from her previously featured songs “ALRIGHT” and “Free! Free! Free!” (both of which saw to a more Techno-laden sound), Takeuchi Anna actually gets to show off quite a bit of her musical chops as an AcoGui performer here as we’re treated to some feisty string work to the tune of what sounds to me at least like a Latin/Flamenco-inspired Club Mix. While her singing does take a backseat this time around (at least I feel as much), I personally am more so a fan of her as an AcoGui stylist and I hope to see/hear more of that in the future.
by Miyake Haruka
Speaking of AcoGui artists…
I also remember saying at some point earlier this year that AcoGui singer-songwriters were seemingly set to take over, and midway through 2019 (gosh can you believe we’re already past more than six months this year my Go-) that statement continues to hold true with what looks to be a revival of sorts for one Miyake Haruka. Now, I don’t know the exact logistics of what’s going on here for her but from what I can surmise, it appears she’s found a second wind of sorts thanks to Zankyo Records (a bandcamp-based music label known to promote indie music), which saw to the digital re-release of her EPs from 2017. My main takeaway from “Kuuhaku”, other than it being just a heart-wrenchingly beautiful song all around (I swear I feel like crying everytime I hear this), is that we absolutely missed out on Miyake Haruka for what would be close to two years now. I’m immensely grateful that her music is now way more accesible than it may have been before and I’m genuinely excited for what the future might bring for her. If anything, she’s found a new fan in me.
by ピロカルピン (pirokalpin)
Now that’s a name I hadn’t heard of in a while
Pirokalpin would be on my personal shortlist of bands that I’ve heard of (and even listened to for a time) when I first started listening to Japanese music that are still very much active to this day. Now a staggering sixteen years in the industry, Pirokalpin remains very much an aberration in the Pop/Rock scene as a band that let pass being signed to a major record label and instead opting to just start their own. Of course they would be a clear exception to the rule, and not a whole lot of bands would’ve been able to pull off what they did (nor would they even dare to), so it’s neat to see them still be around. The band has since lost its drummer and are now basically a duo, but Pirokalpin’s most definining trait more than anything has been vocalist Matsuki Chieko’s crisp vocalization which is still at the very least that’s still undeniably present. An interesting tidbit about “Jinsei Keikaku” here is that it’s produced by mangaka Higashimura Akiko, who’s best known for creating the widely acclaimed ‘Kuragehime’ (Jellyfish Princess). The song is actually slotted to be the theme song for Higashimura’s ongoing radio show come this July.
by ヤなことそっとミュート (yanakoto sotto mute)
Straight up, YanaMute is REALLY good
So like, ever since my initial exposure to Alt Idol darlings Yanakoto Sotto Mute just last month, I’ve gone on a total bender putting their “MIRRORS” (2018) album on-loop for the better part of June and yeah I think this means I’m in love now (<3). Jokes aside, I really am awestruck with a lot of the beautiful vocal harmonies these four girls are pulling off, and the fact that it’s all being accompanied by some pretty legit Japanese Rock just makes me heart flutter with glee. “HOLY GRAiL” puts it all in full display, in a sound that is not at all reminiscent of what would be the typical brand of Idol Music, and if anything sounds more akin to modern-day Girls Rock. In stark contrast to Round-Up Alt Idol regulars Maison book girl and sora tob sakana whose main selling point (arguably) lies in their unique instrumentation, YanaMute absolutely slays with guitar riffs coupled with their unique blend of harmonious vocal prowess across the board. Whether you’re into Idol or Girls Rock, YanaMute’s got you covered (and hey, if you’re a fan of both genres, then you definitely should give ’em a try)
by ヒグチアイ(higuchi ai)
Y’all know the deal; I’m a sucker for off time signatures
That, and I also have a soft spot for keyboard/piano stylists, which then just happens to be perfect storm of sorts here for J-Pop hopeful Higuchi Ai and the power-packed “Zensen”. Fans of the long-running horror anime featurette series ‘Yami Shibai’ might recognize her as being the one who sang the ending theme for the show’s fifth installment back in 2017. If not by her name, one might be able to pick her out based on her VERY strong vocal presence, which I found to be largely reminiscent (in my opinion at least) of singer-songwriter Kuroki Nagisa (who remains to this one of my all-time favorite solo acts *because* of her distinct and powerful singing style). Higuchi Ai’s low and rangy vocal register gets to shine tremendously here for this song and some of her runs here are really just a nice treat for the ears. Of course, her piano work is nothing to scoff at either.
by ずっと真夜中でいいのに。(zutto mayonaka de ii no ni)
We celebrate the little things here at Leap250’s Blog
That includes region restrictions being lifted to previously-JP-only videos on YouTube, as was the case here for Zutto Mayonaka de Ii no Ni and their PVs. ZuttoMayo, for those of you who would recall, was actually a very early favorite of the Monthly Round-Up and would’ve actually been a strong contender for being our “Favorite Discovery of 2018” had I only been able to hear their songs. But alas, we value universality first and foremost around these parts and ZuttoMayo had to wait close to a full year before being featured again as part of the Round-Up (I know, big shame on their part am I right xD). Regardless, they’re back here now so I’ll be sure to make good on the hype. I managed to get it right when I said that ZuttoMayo was going to take off in a massive way (having topped the Oricon charts with the release of just their second mini album) and credit to the immensely talented lyricist/composer/vocalist ACAね for making it happen for herself. “Seigi” is but a taste of the full spectrum of what she’s capable of.
by paranoid void
That’s some gooooood Math
Math Pop/Rock has more or less been a staple genre appearing here on the Round-Up ever since its inception. It’s a style of music that never fails to impress me each time I hear a song and almost always leaves me in awe by the end, quite posibly being the most trippy of the Post-Rock subgenres out there right next to Shoegaze (I talk little bit about Shoegaze a bit in my Kinoko Teikoku tribute post). Contrary to what I may have led you to believe throughout the Round-Up however (at least for those who’ve been tuning in for a while now), a lot of Math Rock doesn’t actually come with vocals. The instrumentation is first and foremost the star of this Post-Rock subgenre, and while say the eclectic vocal stylings of tricot’s Nakajima Ikkyu and the soothing harmonics of JYOCHO’s Nekota Netako (try saying that name five times and back) are indeed a very welcome component of their songs, paranoid void’s “redo” reminds us all to appreciate the beauty of both the complexity and seeming sporadicity of Math and just masterful instrumenation in general.
Kuuhaku by Miyake Haruka and Seigi by Zutto Mayonaka de Ii no ni
I actually went ahead and bought Miyake Haruka’s first two EP’s off of Zankyo Records’ digital platform (/spoiler the songs there are just as good) because I was so entranced by “Kuuhaku”. ZuttoMayo doesn’t need any more signal-boosting from me really, but just in case you haven’t heard of ’em yet, they’re undeniably excellent, and “Seigi” is just all kinds of hype.
The YouTube playlist is updated to account for this month’s featured songs so if you ever wanna go and use that to backtrack stuff that you missed out on here or for any other month. Just make sure to mosey on back and share your thoughts when you do. It would make me very happy 🙂
I actually have a rough idea od what I want to put out in terms of Japanese music related content for next month specifically, and while I don’t know excatly what it’s gonna be just yet, what I can tell you is I’ll be highlighting only one very particular band for it. Whether it’s gonna be something like the Kinoko Teikoku tribute that I did just a couple of weeks ago (check it out if you haven’t yet~) or just a Round-Up dedicated to the band (like how I did it for SCANDALous September) is something that I’m still trying to decide on, but yeah no, feel free to share your guys’ thoughts on which band I’m planning to do this for (xD)
And speaking of sharing thoughts; what’d you guys think of this month’s Round-Up? Lemme know down below! Likewise, if you have songs that you want to share then by all means do so to your hearts’ content :3
Happy Listening, and I’ll see you in the next post~!!