Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (June 2020)

I scare myself sometimes when I think about how fast time seems to go by

I mean, we’re already more than halfway through the year! And what a year it has been so far, for better or worse. Even as I look back at this month’s Monthly Recommendation Roundup I can’t help but feel like it wasn’t all that long ago that I had you guys on here, though I suppose it helps that I actually put out something other than a music roundup post for this month, but more on that later (xD)

Before I proceed, let me welcome you all once again to the Roundup where —

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 Roundup that I’ll update and share at the end of each post.

I think it speaks to just how long I’ve been doing this now that doing the Roundup is so easy for me now. While talking about bands and artists that one likes might not seem like such a chore for some, I will admit that when I first started doing this I’ve had times where I really just didn’t have a whole lot of things to say about something despite me liking the song very much. Not saying that that doesn’t happen to me even now (as it most certainly does) but at the very least I do feel that I’ve gotten better at trying to concretize my engagement to a certain song. Whether or not my ramblings end up being entertaining enough of a read is beyond me of course, but well, I would like to believe that they are. Entertaining, I mean 😀

SO, with that being said, do allow me to try to do that again for you all with these month’s featured songs!

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Grab the air
by milet
So euphorically good

It’s a bit curious how milet manages to imbue unto you the same sort of mind-numbing sensation as that of Western Radio Pop (at least it does so for me) more than anything. I would think that a lot of it is due to the subtle touches of EDM largely present in almost of the works she has released thus far, which is a sound signature that’s otherwise more prominent in North America and parts of Europe than it is in Japan. Interestingly enough, milet actually spent a good amount of time living in Canada as a teenager, and is also most likely the reason for her notable English proficiency. “Grab the air” sees all these elements to milet’s oddly unorthodox “Global” sound that seems to me to be quite the amalgam of Pop styles, brought to life by the breadth and depth of her lush vocal work. Having already made such huge waves with each of her releases just this past year, there’s no denying that milet is bound to be a massive hit, not just for Japan but the world over. It’s only a matter of time.

CITY
by 降幡愛 (furihata ai)
GET ‘EM FURI!

I’ve talked about it before in a previous Roundup, but City Pop is an interesting music genre, more so now at present. It’s almost post-modern in how it portrays a 70’s aesthetic while also evoking a sound that was new age and futuristic at the time. The analogy I’d like to use here to illustrate this further is, like, if someone purposelly built a rustic medieval style house today using modern archictecture. With that out of the way, the hard part now comes in trying to segue all of that to the fact that “CITY” here is by Furihata Ai of Love Live! Sunshine!! fame. Yeah, let that sink in for a little bit. Where most of her idol seiyuu contemporaries have lent their singing towards more conventional J-Pop offerings, Furi’s artist debut comes across as just a massive departure in comparison. Whether or not she’ll stick to this genre remains to be seen of course, but if anything, the look and feel of it all does suit her quite well. At the very least, this was a pleasant surprise. Sasuga, Shokunin.

Up To You feat. 愛美 (aimi) from Poppin’Party
by SILENT SIREN
Yes, please, more of this!

I expressed my excitement over this venture that the multimedia Band Project “BanG Dream!” decided to take on in collaborating with an actual touring Girls Rock Bands (and a legitimate one at that) in SILENT SIREN when they did their first crossover release last year with “NO GIRL NO CRY”. Now, I thought that was just gonna be like a one off thing but alas, Poppin’Party’s Aimi is now returning the favor by joining SaiSai for a song of their own. What I immediately found fascinating about “Up To You” is that it’s a bit of a throwback to the band’s grittier and punchier doujin-esque sound akin to when they first started, and is for the most part a sound that they’ve slowly distanced themselves from over the years. Whether it was the inclusion of a 2.5D artist such as Aimin that caused them to back to their roots (as a means of matching the musical aesthetic) is beyond me, but at the very least, let this be a reminder that SILENT SIREN can in fact shred if they really wanted to.

春ひさぎ/haruhisagi
by ヨルシカ (yorushika)
Yeah, we took a dark turn at some point (xD)

Right at the start of the year, the thing I was most curious of with regard to Yorushika is how they were going to sound moving forward after having closed the book on the Amy/Elma narrative. You could say I was even a little bit worried, knowing how anchored nbuna’s compositions were to this magic of a story that he crafted, and whether or not he’d try to replicate that. We didn’t really have much to go off of when “Yakou” dropped a couple of months ago, other than a subtle underlying mature vibe that its PV gave off. “Hana ni Bourei” is its own thing, being a movie tie-in and all, but when it’s then followed up by “Haruhisagi” you’ll be quick to realize a sudden mood shift. The song openes up with a bite almost in how darker and more aggressive it sounds compared to any other Yorushika song released prior. I’d even go so far as to say that it sounds as if nbuna and suis (mostly nbuna probably) have a bit of a chip on their shoulders over something, and they’re just laying it all out there for this track.

room
by THE 118’s
There’s a certain energy that certain frontwomen seem to bring

Now I don’t think it’s entirely a voice thing, but I do struggle to put into words the quality or trait that they all seem to share. If I had to say, I feel there’s a sort of tenacity in their presence and in the way they carry themselves during a performance. Not in the sense that they give off an aggressive vibe. Most of the time, I find that it’s almost like I’m made to see and hear how strong-willed they are as artists and musicians, with their thoughts and emotions made tangible through their songs. At the very least, that’s what I felt when I came across “room” by THE 118’s. Vo./Gt. Yuri’s vocal presence jumps out at you right away with its power and perceptible dynamic quality truly befitting a frontwoman (reminded me quite a bit of Sahara from the now-defunct Fuyusuruneko, as well as Yurika from SEKIRARA). Not to say that she alone carried this song and the band as a whole, as “room” in particular does showcase their instrumentation quite nicely (the tempo switch-up in the instrumental break at the end was superb).

Gestalt
by ゲシュタルト乙女 (gestalt girl)
How did we all just sleep on this band!?

I’m on a bit of a roll here finding all these up-and-coming Alternative Rock bands in back-to-back months I feel, with bands like Culenasm, Arne, and Hockrockb in particular being just some absolute standouts in the months they were featured in. Honestly, I can’t be happier of course, but at the same time I do feel like it’s such a shame that there’s so much talent out there that just get overlooked or, as is the case with Gestalt Girl here, region-blocked from most of the world (hence why unable to share a PV of theirs for the Roundup). If I hadn’t randomly come across them on Spotify I most likely would’ve missed out on them too. Thankfully I did though, and as luck would have it most of their releases are free to access on YouTube. “Gestalt” is just a taste of their trippy, almost Shoegaze-y, Prog Rock sound. Interesting to note here is that Gestalt Girl is a Taiwan-based band comprised of Taiwanese natives who speak Japanese, which you can’t even really tell based on how vocalist Mikan sings.

あの街で待ってて/ano machi de mattete
by Marie Louise
You’d think with a band name like this they’d be harder to search for (xD)

Yeah, no, just plain typing out ‘Marie Louise’ on YouTube brings up most of their videos on the first couple results works well enough (lol). Googling them (yes, I only now just found out myself that that’s actually a word) does take a little bit more effort though, but I mean, as some of you wouldn know by now this isn’t my first time dealing with lesser known bands, so I managed well enough in that regard. That said, and to my dismay, there wasn’t really much more out there to find out about this Kyoto-based Punk/Garage Rock three-piece, other than that they’re relatively young; having only started activities during the first quarter of 2016. Everything else you’d probably need to know would be from just listening to their music I would think. “Ano Machi de Mattete” has the same sort of spunky sound as that of Layla, and even maybe a fair bit of Lucie,Too and HitsujiBungaku in there as well so fans of these bands should find themselves very much at home here with Marie Louise.

春風/harukaze
by First Impression
A tearjerker to close us off

There are times where I like to revisit the works of bands and artists that I remember having encountered in the past as a way to remind myself how much I’d been looking forward to them take off. Despite knowing that, more often than not, I surprise myself with how good a song from four or five years ago still is. Such was the case when I decided to take a listen to “Runner’s high” again, which is a song I translated a couple years back. Knowing that the band had since ceased all activities, I didn’t expect to come across a new song on their channel at all when I did. That said, “Harukaze” here isn’t really an official release, and from what I can gather is more so a tribute song to vocalist Takasago’s pet dog of fourteen years and its recent passing. The “PV” is a compilation of clips celebrating the time she spent with her beloved partner. The weight of emotion as she sings about life and new beginnings is apparent, and while I don’t think this is a comeback, I find myself lucky to have heard this song nonetheless.

MUST LISTEN:
“Gestalt” by Gestalt Girl
This was a no-brainer. As much trouble as I have every month with which song to pick as the one you guys should absolutely check out, I just have to give it Gestalt Girl. The Roundup as a whole has always been my own little way of trying to shine a light on bands and artists that people might not have heard of yet, but with this band… I dunno, I honestly feel like I shouldn’t even have to with how good they sound already. They’re IT. They have something here. People might not have realized it yet, but they will eventually. I’m just trying to speed up the process in whatever way I can and this is one of ’em. Check ’em out. Their album is butter.

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Updated YT playlist (realized I forgot to actually link it last month /oof)

Before I let you go I would like to give a shout again to fellow Japanese Music fan Al from Omunibasu. We ended up doing a thing this month in what would be another installment of our tandem album review series J-Music Exchange/Rate. We actually had a bit of a theme this time around where we gave each other “Pop/J-Pop” albums to talk about and review, wherein he had me do a review on i☆Ris’s Shall we ☆ Carnival album while I had him give Kuroki Nagisa’s Remon no Toge a go. Do give those a read if you haven’t yet as these are albums that both of us do inherently like and recommend. We’re looking to do these more frequently so stay tuned for that 😛

Don’t forget to let me know about your thoughts on this month’s Roundup down in the comments section below. While you’re at it, if you have any recommendations of your own please drop them in there as well. I would greatly appreciate it if you did 🙂

Happy Listening, Till next post!

 

4 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (June 2020)

  1. I think I missed your round-up last month. Or I might have just forgotten to comment. Can’t remember. But first and foremost, as always I appreicate hearing your picks and having new stuff to check out each month.

    I was really surprised by Milet. She has a really unique vocal color I wasn’t expecting at all, but in a good way of course.

    I also was really excited by Furi’s take on City Pop! I really loved the imagery that her style brought on while I was listening!

    By the way, the link for Gestalt by Gestalt Girl didn’t work and I didn’t get a redirect anywhere. Wanted to let you know.

    Thanks again for another great selection of music!

    • No worries, you’re always free to check out the previous month’s roundups if you missed ’em when they came out. That and the YouTube playlist should help catch you up. Regardless, thanks for dropping by when you do, Rise 🙂

      I’ve heard people compare Milet’s voice to Sia which I thought was a really interesting comparison (xD). She’s definitely on the come up as a breakout artist with her back-to-back anison showings leading up to her album release, so I’m excited to see where she goes from here.

      I’d be so down if Furi just keeps doing songs in this aesthetic, lol

      Aww, the link for “Gestalt” still works on my end, so it might be another case of region-restriction. They really are good though!

      Likewise, thanks for coming to listen!

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