Oh look, the menu options changed (sorta)!
I would like to welcome everyone back (!!!), once again, to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup, for this, the month of September 2020! Summer is drawing to a close, with Autumn not too far off in the distance now, and while I’m sure everyone around the world has had a less than ideal summer this year compared to previous year’s because of everything going on, I do hope you all have managed to enjoy this time regardless 🙂
Of course, one can’t really have too much enjoyment I would think, so do allow me to offer up more of just that — enjoyment, in the form of Japanese music 😀
Before anything else though, if this is the first you’ve come across the Monthly Recommendation Roundup —
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.
Not much of a theme this time around, if you compare this month’s tracks to last month’s (and the month before that even), but if I were to highlight a commonality for the majority of artists (with the exception of maybe one or two) I ended up featuring here then surely it’s in how new they are. I’m sure some of you already know that the Roundup loves playing host to relatively unknown and underheard talent that I happen to come across, in the hopes that I make you guys a fan of theirs as they did with me with their music, and this month’s Roundup is really just more of that.
I trust you have your favorite pair of earphones/headphones with you on the ready (much respect if you’re rocking these with speakers), and I’ll leave you to it.
過去に囚われている/kako ni torawareteiru (trapped in the past)
by ツユ (tuyu)
Doujin music still coming in strong in this last quarter of the year!
I think it’s pretty fair to acknowledge at this point how much of a phenomenon doujin music has become for the Japanese music scene these past couple of months; which notably had Yorushika still reigning supreme after now having successfully dropped their third album (which is crazy good by the way), ZUTOMAYO continuing to rise in prominence, and YOASOBI just waiting in the wings after their explosive debut at the start of the year. Should one venture a little further into the mix and TUYU’s name quite humbly pops up amidst these otherwise already well-established standouts, and just listening to one of their songs should be enough to justify that. Kako ni Torawateiru in particular showcases the group’s signature song structure quite well in my opinion, which for the most part is largely defined by their use of overtly drastic and emphasized rhythm changes, almost as if you were listening to two or three songs simultaneously (but like, y’know, in an insanely good way).
あるいは映画のような/arui wa eiga no you na (like a movie perhaps)
Speaking of doujin artists humbly on the come up
If you did manage to come across TUYU in your search for doujin music, chances are you could’ve caught a glimpses of yama here or there, seeing as they’ve continued to put out original songs (being more cover artists prior) in back to back months starting just in April of this year. I mentioned before that 2020 has been such a fantastic year for the genre, not only because of the success of its current standouts, but as well as the rise of new and promising talent that comes along the more recognition it gets. Such is the case for the up-and-coming yama who’re slowly but surely catching everyone’s attention, even after this release of Arui wa Eiga no You na, which is a neat showcase of yama’s powerful vocal work alongside composer くじら’s synth-laden tracks. It’s honestly quite fascinating how doujin music in general has become this intersection between faceless but otherwise remarkable vocalists and music savants in the guise of former Vocaloid composers. It’s a good mix, to say the least (xD).
夏のせい/natsu no sei (summer’s fault)
I wouldn’t blame you if you thought this was another doujin track (xD)
This being another animated PV coming right after similar offerings from TUYU and yama is one thing, but we’ve also brought up in the previous Roundups how some bands have started to dabble in doujin music after it came into vogue as of late. Alas, although it may seem as such upon first glance, the Kumamoto-based “drumless” band Shiki did not do so for Natsu no Sei and instead opted to just try out an ever so slightly different sound (at least with regard to themselves) altogether. The most notable departure from the songs they have released thus far was the lack of male accompanying vocals, which for the most part was a staple for the otherwise dual vocal group. Whether or not this was a conscious decision on the band’s part, or the result of a compromise brought about by precautionary measures (that could also explain why the PV is like this) is beyond me, but at the very least it did help shine a bit of a light on vocalist Akari’s singing.
泥舟/dorofune (mud boat)
by 黒子首 (hockrockb)
I said I was gonna do everything in my power to promote these guys soooo-
That is, of course, to the extent of my and the Roundup’s reach, but if I can even get Hockrockb even just one more listener through these features every time I do them, then hey, it’s something right? (xD) In all seriousness though, I really do want the band to ride the momentum they once had from their beast of a debut with Champon a couple of months back. These guys have something special. I feel it. It’s quite unfortunate then that the Japanese indie band scene (and just the band scene in general) is as oversaturated as it is that these guys might be getting overlooked as a direct consequence of it, owing to how obscure they’ve made their image to be (their band name in particular, “hockrockb” leaves a lot to be desired…). It doesn’t help that they themelves seem very much introverted on top of that. Interesting to note is that with the release of Dorofune here, they have since released videos for three of the five tracks in their most recent EP so we *might* get the rest soon in the same manner.
青すぎる空/aosugiru sora (a sky that’s too blue)
by the peggies
This PV is… kinda weird, ngl (xD)
It did make a liiiiittle bit more sense once I read through the synopsis for “Alps Stand no Hashi no Hou (lit. around the edge of the stands), the movie that this song Aosiguru Sora was used for; which for the most part involves the interactions between a boy who used to be on the baseball team and a girl who lost her spot as the lead of the brass band, who both find themselves on the bleachers cheering in behalf of the school and its players, whilst also finding in each other a dear friend in the process. This sort of ‘springtime of youth’ as it were, is a theme that really encapsulates who the peggies are as a band about I would think, who themselves I would best characterize as having a ‘youthful’ sound to them as we talked about in previous Roundups. The band is riding a fairly decent wave of momentum coming off of their smash hit of an OP theme for Summer 2020’s ‘RenKano’, and I can’t be any more happier seeing them just run with it, now landing themselves a movie tie-in theme song.
またここで/mata koko de (here, once more)
by Make With Music
A beautiful song with an even more beautiful message
“Make With Music” is a project between the Fukuoka-based bands: culenasm, aint, DimDamDonkey, マルシィ(marcy), and 虎太朗 (torataro); the main purpose of which is that of a collaborative effort in support of several local live houses in the Fukuoka area, wherein any and all proceeds will directly go towards them so that they may continue to keep their doors open amidst the ongoing pandemic. To that end, Mata Koko de‘s lyrics are rife with feelings of wanting to perform in these live houses once again, as the bands collectively feel as though they owe where they’re at now in their respective careers to these places. In addition and speaking for everyone involved, culenasm writes in the video description that these live houses are special to them, and that the feeling and the sound of performing on stage in one such that they’d risk their lives if it meant they would be able to make that sound again with their fans. This earnest dedication in my opinion reall puts the Japanese band scene into perspective.
one summer day
by 城戸あき子 (kido akiko)
Good to have her back making music again :3
If her voice sounded at all familiar to you, that is because Kido Akiko is the former vocalist of the now defunct Trip Hop/Downbeat group CICADA. The band was among the few that I followed back when I first started getting into Japanese music (completely by chance, picking up their first album after having only seen the cover art), so I was very much saddened by the news that they were going on indefinite hiatus just last year. I suppose the itch to perform never really went away for Kido however, who has since kept somewhat active and visible with the occasional cover song or two, and even some original song releases here and there as well. one summer day would be the first time we actually see her on screen in quite a while, with a song that really hearkens to CICADA’s earlier sound, which in turn made me realize how much I’d missed hearing their music. Whether or not Kido Akiko is back performing again on the regular remains to be seen, but I’m just happy to see her singing again nonetheless.
彗星の夜に/suisei no yoru ni (shooting star night)
by aoi midori
My gut tells me to keep an eye out on this group
They’ve only released two songs thus far, with Natsu da toka (which dropped just last month) and Suisei no Yoru ni here, but interesting to note is that aoi midori is promising one new song each month starting in August if their social media accounts are anything to go by. Now, that alone wouldn’t have necessarily warranted me to keep tabs on their releases moving forward, but they did a good job of convincing me to do so otherwise after hearing this song. It does appear that the group so far is going for a sort of contemporary J-Pop sound, and I have a sneaking suspicion that aoi midori have yet to even show us what they’re really capable of. A lot of that, to me at least, just comes from how mysterious this group is. There’s not much information about them out there, and while their PVs do feature actual people, they’re freelance actresses and models. Part of me feels this is an extension of the doujin music phenomenon we’ve been having, with the whole faceless approach, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
by MEET ME SATURDAY
More than just okay, this is like, really great
“MEET ME SATURDAY” is low key one of if not the most underrated Japanese cover band out there right now, in large part due to the absolutely wild ideas they cook up for their videos, which include versus mash-ups and translyricising English songs to Japanese ang singing them. On top of that, the band also does original songs, most of which are in the vein of more Western-style Radio Pop/Rock; a style of music that the band clearly draws a lot of influence from going by the songs they choose to cover. Okay sees a lot of these influences with its Pop-py drum work and its catchy hook reminiscent of 80s Pop/Rock specifically. It’s actually quite interesting how seemingly ingrained Western culture is to these guys (with vocalist Noda Kenichi’s English being notably good even), but I suppose a lot of that too is coming from their half-British half-Japanese bassist Moneshu. Definitely subscribe to these guys if you haven’t yet so you can follow their stuff along with me. They’re a load of fun to listen to.
MUST LISTEN :
“またここで/mata koko de (here, once more)”, by Make With Music
There’s a… heartful sort of honesty in this song that just makes me tear up every time I hear it. The words are pretty straightforward. “I want to perform here, once more”. You can definitely feel the love for what they do when you listen to this song, and even the entire reason why this collaboration is a thing is in itself quite beautiful. I’m sure it’s been rough for bands not just in Japan, but all over the world these past couple of months, and Mata Koko de shows us that the hope of being able to make music in front of everyone again is what keeps these artists going through these tough times.
I did a bit of minor housekeeping in the blog this month, as you’ll notice that Listening to Japanese Music is its own dedicated page now and will for the most part continue to be the home of any and all of my Japanese music write-ups in the future. The J-Music Exchange/Rate has its own page now too for ease of access, should you want to check out album reviews that you might’ve missed. We do have a handful now for you to check out so please do so if you’re at all interested.
What did you guys think of this month’s Roundup? Did you find anything you like?
Lemme know down in the comments section below!
While you’re at it, feel free to drop your own recommendations for this month as well!