Happy Halloween~! and Welcome back to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup! ‘Tis the night (or… day?) of horrors once again this year, but rest assured, this is a safe space to hunker down in :3 More so since I presume that the usual festivities that would typically coincide with this otherwise very festive day of observance might be put on hold in most parts around the world I imagine.
It might not be that much of a substitute as far as spooks and thrills are concerned, but all the same, the Roundup is here to accompany those looking to pass the Hallow’s Eve safe and sound 🙂
However, if this is your first time coming across the 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 Roundup that I’ll update and share at the end of each post.
Before we start, do allow me to offer a brief pause in light of the recent passing of one Tsuno Maisa, who some of you might recognize as the guitarist and main songwriter for the band Akai Ko-en. It is to be believed, according to official police reports, that she had decided to take her own life. My heart goes out to her band, her friends, and most importantly her family. Though we may not know what each of us are going through in this very moment, these are definitely trying times we all are currently facing, and I implore anyone and everyone reading this now to always bear that in mind.
Happy listening 🙂
Nice to 密 you./nice to mitsu you.
by ゲシュタルト乙女 (gestalt girl)
Finally an official Gestalt Girl release that’s not region blocked!
Granted it’s by way of the dance troupe yurinasia and not from the official Gestalt Girl channel directly, but hey, you take what you can get (I mean fwiw, these guys dance pretty well ngl xD) In all seriousness though more often than not I do end up being beside myself whenever I’m reminded that I natively just don’t have access to the band’s music, and I do hope that someday soon they’ll lift their region restrictions so that more people can hear their stuff. I really do think it’s a shame otherwise because of how good their sound is. In line with that, I do believe Nice to Mitsu You does more than enough to convince people of that, as the song does showcase Gestalt Girl’s trippy (almost Math-y) brand of Progressive Rock that is just so unique and fun to listen to, specially when coupled with vocalist Mikan’s laid-back singing style. I selfishly (lol) want this band to do well, if only so that they can continue to do their thing, and to that end you can expect me to keep promoting these guys.
風を食む/kaze wo hamu (eat the wind)
by ヨルシカ (yorushika)
Well that was a pretty sneaky release, almost missed it too (lol)
I’m not even entirely sure everyone is able to hear this track using the above video link at the moment (which I do apologize for in the event that you can’t, and do let me know if that’s the case so I can help provide a workaround), but I digress. Kaze wo Hamu puts forth something I’ve been wanting to talk about with regard to Yorushika as it pertains to their most recent album Tousaku (amazing album btw) in what I would like to call the ‘grounding’ of Yorushika. I might write a whole thing about it in a separate post at some point in the future but for now at least, what I mean to say compared to the songs in previous albums that were part of the Amy/Elma saga, which I otherwise find to have a sound that resides in the realm of fantasy and mystique given the narrative surrounding them, n-buna’s compositions sound much more grounded in reality as of late; the biggest marker for me being the laregly present acoustic guitar work in tandem with the use of more modern synth beats as you’ll hear here.
真っ白/masshiro (all white)
On the subject of being grounded in reality
In as much as I find Yorushika’s sound being more ‘real’, I can’t see n-buna and suis ever breaching that divide between being faceless and appearing on the other side of the screen given the former’s beliefs regarding artists and artistry. Be that as it may, you also have those like ZUTOMAYO’s ACAね, who is recently starting to tow that line now following her most recent in-person appearances. Suffice it to say, whether or not an eventual face reveal is natural progression for doujin artists remains to be seen, but it does make for an interesting sort of development nonetheless. Eager to beat her contemporaries to the punch is yama who for what it’s worth is looking to be quite the breakout artist in her own right. Masshiro comes to us fresh off of yama‘s one man online live that had her performing in the flesh, is actually her official media debut track under Sony Music Labels Inc. yama is very quietly blazing through the ranks, and I’m curious to see the direction she’s gonna be going moving forward.
This band might just have it
Now, I’m not entire sure what “it” is to be honest with you, but it’s one of those things where there are times that I just get a gut feel that there’s something special about the way a young and up-and-coming band or artist sounds. It could be because of I’ve been listening to Japanese music for as long as I have, and/or that doing the Roundup consistently has made me able to pick up on the things that I like hearing, but almost immediately (like, right at that opening riff) I thought um-hum checked all the intangible boxes for me personally. Ungra in particular shows off the band’s musicality with their Alternative Rock sound accentuated to great detail by their use of irregular time signatures (something that I’ve stated to be a sucker for on multiple occasions in the past). I also just love vocalist Oda Noah’s energy, whose presence as a frontman just draws me in. I’m thrilled to see where this band could be headed moving forward, and you can be sure I’ll be keeping an eye on them as they do.
針よ墜とせぬ、暮夜の息/hari yo otosenu, boya no iki (needle falls, breath of the night)
by Dannie May
＊The PV contains sexual themes. Viewer discretion is advised.
Dannie May had once made it into the shortlist of tracks I wanted to feature back in August of 2019 with their release of Boushoku, but it ultimately lost out to the songs I did end up featuring that month (it’s such a shame, I know /s). Kidding aside, a huge part as to why I culled it from the eventual roundup was because I couldn’t really put my finger what is was exactly that the band was trying to do. They have a nice, Funk-y sort of Jazz to them that’s just fun to listen to, but I think at the time I was just too weirded out by the PV (lol) that came with the song that I just got distracted. Not that Hari yo Otosenu, Boya no Iki isn’t as weird, if not weirder of a visual attraction, but I couldn’t for the life of me stop listening to this song when I first heard that after a while it didn’t even matter what I was looking at anymore. There were certain spots here and that reminded me a lot of Sakanaction which I thought was neat, but overall I do find Dannie May to otherwise have a very refreshing sound here.
It’s like the perfect blend of Math Rock and… Instagram???? (lol)
Japanese Math Rock pioneers and living legends toe just have a real knack of pulling out the melancholy out of you in nearly everything they decide to put out, and Latest Number is no exception. You’ll notice that this song came out a whole two years ago, but this has since been a song that I really just like going back to whenever the mood hits me, as with most of their songs that I have in my library. That said, I do think there are two things at play for this track in particular that make Latest Number a bit of a standout. The first is the presence of Yamazaki Hirokazu’s vocals. I mean, the man isn’t someone you’d call a vocalist, but the rawness of his singing style does immensely help bring out the emotion. Secondly of course would be the visuals present here in the PV, which features a group of friends (just a bunch of office ladies apparently) going on a trip to enjoy themselves, only for us viewers to find out at the very end that they’re cheering up one of their friends going through a break up. Oof.
不揃いなルービックキューブ/fuzoroi na rubik’s cube (ragged rubik’s cube)
by aoi midori
Right on schedule I guess (xD)
I had the good fortune of stumbling across relative newcomer aoi midori in the previous Roundup, whose ambitious release schedule of ‘a new song at the start of every month’ really caught my eye. While not completely unheard of (one might remember Kumagawa Miyu’s run back in the latter half of 2019 that subsequently netted her our ‘Most Prolific Artist’ award for that year), it’s hard not to be a fan of consistent activity, more so if they keep coming out with tracks like this. Fuzuroi na Rubik’s Cube reinforces this idea I’ve been having about the impact that doujin music has since had on the current meta of Japanese music, wherein we’re now starting to see up-and-coming acts trying to incorporate the sort of anonymous mystique that doujin artists tend to have whilst putting a more Pop-oriented spin on the genre in terms of their overall sound. It appears aoi midori is still trying to find their footing as far as a solid fanbase is concerned, but I do honestly believe it’s only a matter of time.
Oh, hey, we were just talking about the guy
I’m referring of course to this most recent J-Music Exchange/Rate we had that had me reviewing and offering my thoughts on DADARAY’s ‘DADASTATION’ album, as it also pertains to one Kawatani Enon who now makes an appearance here on the Roundup being himself a part of yet another of his pet projects in the instrumental band ichikoro. I think it’s fair to say that this venture of his is the one I’m least knowledgable of, and do I find it so fascinating how modular (lol) Kawatani treats his bands, with how it almost looks as though he’s just mixing and matching his bandmates. I’m sure some of you won’t find any trouble spotting some familiar faces, which is actually a bit funny when you consider that 3/4’s of Gesu no Kiwami Otome are present here. All jokes aside, it really does show in how close to home Enemy ends up feeling (to me at least), specifically in terms of chord progression. I’d like to add too that it’s so odd to me that Kawatani isn’t the better guitarist for once (xD)
sweet seep sleep
by wasabi (谷口鮪/taniguch maguroｘ津野米咲/tsuno maisa)
Rest easy, Tsuno Maisa. Thank you for your music.
I always dread it whenever I see bands and artists put up a notice for an “important announcement” in whichever social media platform they choose, and nothing else to follow, mostly because more often than not, this is how bands announce that they’re going on hiatus. Little did I know that the importnant announcement I would read would be much, much worse. On October 18 of this year, Akai Ko-en informed the public of the passing of the band’s guitarist and main lyricist/composer Tsuno Maisa that very same day. The police have ruled her death a suicide based on the circumstances that surround it. My heart sank when I read this news, not solely because I’m a fan of the band, but also because I do feel that this is yet the result of the ongoing pandemic taking its toll on the music industry as a whole. I can only imagine how hard it must be to be a musician with everything going on nowadays, much less what Tsuno Maisa must have been feeling in spite of it. May she rest in peace, and let her music live on.
Kaze wo Hamu by Yorushika
Another interesting thing about this song, different as it may be from Yorushika’s earlier offerings, is that it still has n-buna’s tendency of create prose with his song structure. I remember back when I first heard Tada Kimi ni Hare and I likened the experience to hearing poetry being sung, and there’s a lot of that same feeling here in Kaze wo Hamu. The measured syllabication and the archaic word choices seem to be intentionally done so as to harken back to traditional Japanese poem structure much akin to that of the poems featured famed ‘Hyakunin Isshu’; something that fans of karuta and Chihayafuru here might appreciate. Brilliant. Just brilliant song writing.
If you haven’t yet, do check out this month’s album reviews for the J-Music Exchange/Rate; myself and Al over at Omunibasu did reviews on DADARAY’s DADASTATION and Soutaiseiriron’s Hi-Fi Anatomia respectively, so if you’ve ever been interested in those two albums (or even if you’re just plain curious), give them a read and let us know what you think!
Likewise, lemme know what you thought of this month’s Roundup down in the comments section below, along with any recommendations of your own! 😀