Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (March 2021)

WordPress has officially done away with its Classic Editor, so this post may or may not come out a bit wonky. We’ll see (XD)

I don’t know what I’m doing with this “new” Block Editor interface that I’ve been neglecting to learn how to use for more than a handful of years now, but well, here we are 😀

At any rate, I would like to welcome everyone back here once again for the Monthly Recommendation Roundup for what is now the month of March 2021! The winter season is winding down to a close once more, and spring is just around the horizon, so this one’s actually gonna be a bit of a send off to what has now already been the first quarter of the year. I know, crazy right? (XD)

Of course, before I proceed; if this is your first time on the Roundup ー

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 ended up with a five-five split of artists and bands for this month’s Roundup which I thought was pretty neat. More over, we have a good mix of new talents, old favorites, and even some returning standouts this time around too 🙂

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One Last Kiss
by 宇多田ヒカル (utada hikaru)
The end of an era; sealed with a kiss

In a journey spanning roughly twenty-six years, dating back to October of 1995 when the serues aired its first episode on television, Neon Genesis Evangelion closes the book on one the most iconic Japanese media franchises across nearly three decades with the release of the fourth and final installment to the Rebuild of Evangelion movie series which premiered in Japan just this past month. World-reknowned singer-songwriter Utada Hikaru has since lent her lush vocal work to this project with the theme songs that have accompanied each movie thus far, and fittingly enough One Last Kiss marks her last offering to the beloved franchise as well as its fans. There’s a cathartic, almost satisfying calmness to the song with how it sounds that really makes you feel as though you’ve reached the mountain-top after an arduous climb. To that, I say: congratulations, everyone!

声/koe
by 佐藤千亜妃 (sato chiaki)
This song is criminally underheard

I will forever be in love with Sato Chiaki’s voice. There’s a haunting sort of beauty in her transient and somewhat frail-sounding singing style that conversely carries with it such strong and heartfelt emotion that shakes you at your core; like gentle snowy winds, as is the imagery present here in Koe (which, interestingly enough, is Japanese for ‘voice’). Sato’s solo career following Kinoko Teikoku’s disbandment has thus far been one full of surprises, owing to how much of a departure her songs have ended up being compared to what her band used to offer, which has since allowed her to showcase the full breadth and depth of her harrowing vocal work. Another thing that Sato’s solo artist stint has opened up for her is the wider range of instrumentation available to her (outside of a band setting), and it truly is something getting to hear her sing to a more orchaestral sound this time around. 

神或アルゴリズム/kamiari algorithm
by 大石昌良 (oishi masayoshi) feat. りりあ。(riria)
Speaking of voices I love

If you managed to catch last month’s Roundup post you would know that I’m currently very much high on Japanese TikTok  sensation riria, in large part due not only to her relatively simple yet pleasant AcoGui style, but also to her clear and beautifully resounding voice that’s always such a treat to hear. That being said, one thing that I was most curious of when I started listening to more of her music was how she would fare singing to something more produced rather than what would be her usual acoustic guitar sound, and thankully Oishi Masayoshi (one half of the popular OxT of anison fame) provides us that opportunity by feating riria in Kamiari Algorithm here. I mean, the results speak for themsleves here. riria’s voice is still as clear and pristine as I’ve come to know it, and it’s even sporting a bit more power behind it too which was a pleasant surprise.

花になる/hana ni naru
by あぶらこぶ (aburakobu)
So… this song was produced using an iPhone…

This next song comes to us by way of my Spotify recommendations, and features the VERY promising aburakobu, who mixes and produces all her songs using the GarageBand app on her iPhone. Now, I want you guys to let that sink in for a bit… Hana ni Naru would be the latest of her creations, and I’m just floored that this is even possible (lol). I mean, of course, the program’s intended is that of a music creation studio using reproductions of real instrument sounds so in that sense it “can” be done. However, just because something is plausible doesn’t mean you get to see people do it every so often. I would surmise that it still takes a certain level of creativity to pull this off, and aburakobu has that in droves it seems, just going by how many songs she has since made. I would want for nothing else than for her to just keep doing her thing, more so now that people are starting to take note.

yol
by 古川本舗 (fullkawa honpo) feat. 佐藤千亜妃 (sato chiaki)
I don’t do this often, but if there was any time to do it, now would be one of those times

I am of course alluding to the fact that I am featuring an artist twice in the same Monthly Roundup, as we have Sato Chiaki here once more offering her vocal stylings, this time as a featured artist for Fullkawa Honpo’s yol. I already declared my love for Sato’s voice just a while ago so let me instead talk about Fullkawa Honpo for a little bit. This is actually somewhat of a comeback for the Vocaloid-based music composer/producer, who first saw fame in the early 2010’s under the moniker “Fullkawa-P”. Interesting to note with regard to that, in today’s age of Vocaloid composers pairing up with vocalist’s, Fullkawa was actually ahead of the curve in doing just that nearly a decade ago, when he solicited the help of various artists for his sophomore album “Girlfriend from Kyoto”. It seems he’s back at it again, and for what it’s worth, the man has excellent taste in his choice of singers.

青春セレナーデ/seishun serenade
by 名古屋ギター女子部 (nagoya guitar girls club)
I’ve probably said as much before, but it really is hard to not like these girls

I mean, how can you not like ’em? In the 2020 Roundup Awards, where I crowned Nagoya Guitar Girls Club the winner for providing us with the year’s Best Instrumentation, I mentioned how their whole band setup alone of being an actual club for girls who just want to make the music they want to make is already quite the story in itself. We see more of this very sentiment here in Seishun Serenade, which is a re-recording of one of their earlier releases, and sees the girls continue to stick to their unique sound. One thing that I really like about this now official second PV of theirs is that it comes across as a lot more… natural compared to the one for Street Story that they had a couple of months backs. At the very least, it’s apparent that the girls had a lot more fun shooting this music video this time around, and that’s always nice to see. Being in an amusement park problably helps (XD).

酔生夢死/suiseimushi
by クレナズム (culenasm)
Yup. They nailed it!

As you might have already noticed, we since moved on to the bands portion of this month’s Roundup (loljk), and here we now have our Most Prolific Artist of 2020 back at it again this year with SuiSeiMuShi. I have talked at length and on multiple occasions in the previous year about culenasm’s music direction as of late, which saw the band try out a more Doujin-oriented sound, and how that sort of style would at times clash with the Shoegaze-y Alternative Rock sound that they started out with. I honestly believe the band has finally been able to find a happy medium here between the two sounds, where we now have this nice blend of the atmospheric graininess of Shoegaze mixed in with the Pop-y recursive hooks of Doujin, and I in turn am very happy for the band finding success in that area. I’m excited to see where culenasm takes this moving forward.

Angel, Here We Come
by ステレオガール (stereogirl)
Straight, unadulterated Rock

Here we have yet another of my Spotify discoveries this month, in a band that I’ve regrettably missed out on for a good year or two now. Though relatively young both in their careers as well as in their age (the band are collectively all still in university), STEREOGIRL is bringing some seriously polished musicalities with them that’s not at all befitting of a band that’s just starting out. Much like you would hear in Angel, Here We Come here, the band hearkens to a lot of Western Rock inlfuences in their sound, specifically more UK-based Rock couple with some American Indie Rock; genres that both the lead guitarist and its vocalist like and are fans of respectively. As such, the band has managed to garner a cult following in the Japanese Indie scene in the West in a short amount of time, and yeah, I have some catching up to do in that regard it seems.

Flyaway!
by レイラ (layla)
Almost can’t believe this is the same band

It has been well over two years now since I last featured Layla as part of the Monthly Roundup, and while that might seem like an inordinate amount of time for some, young and upcoming bands such as these guys here can do a whole lot in terms of growth and learning new things in that same span of time. That being said, it’s not as though I’m saying that they haven’t been active since, and this is actually more on me for not having kept tabs on them as much as I have for other bands and artists. Perhaps as a direct consequence of that,  Flyaway! comes across as quite the departure of what they used to sound like to me, who admittedly hasn’t heard a song of theirs in a good while. What ended up being the most striking thing to me about how they sound now compared to before is just how mellowed out they all are now, compared to how… angsty their Alt. Rock used to be (XD)

東京/tokyo
by リーガルリリー (regal lily)
Speaking of bands who just grew up out of nowhere

Regal Lily is yet another band that I’ve neglected to follow after having featured them very early on in the first year or so of the Monthly Roundup, and man I tell ya, seeing how much older these girls all look like now compared to when I last saw them is insane (XD), and it wasn’t even *that* long ago too! Of course, not just their looks, but the maturation of the band’s sound is all too apparent in Tokyo here. Compared, say, to Rickenbacker which is still to this day the band’s most popular song, Regal Lily now sports more polished technique in their instrumentation, as well as an even more nuanced understanding of song structure than they already had. There’s a sort of magic in the last minute of Rickenbacker, which is most likely the reason why it has the amount of views that it does, but the band has now expounded on that in the latter half of this song and it’s quite magical on its own.

MUST LISTEN:
Koe by Sato Chiaki
I don’t get a lot of opportunities to show my appreciation for Sato Chiaki’s artistry and I figured this would be a good of a time as any to do so given how she pretty much ended up having a double feature here (XD). In all seriousness though, I honestly do think she’s great at what she does, and as a fan of her singing from back in her days with Kinoko Teikoku, it can’t be helped that I want her solo career to fluorish and continue to reach new heights. Koe I think is a nice step in that direction in that, it does a good job of showcasing the beauty of her voice (pun notwithstanding) whilst also being a nice showing of Sato’s love for singing and music in general (as well as her experimental nature), given how I do believe this is the first time I’ve heard her sing to somewhat of a more orcheastral track and she just knocks it out of the park with this one.

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The YouTube playlist and the Spotify playlist have now both been updated with this month’s featured songs for you guys to listen to at your convenience 🙂

In as much Doujin-heavy as the Roundup has become these past couple of months (lol), I’m actually really happy that this month’s featured songs, which ended up being just a good mix (in my opinion at least) of bands and artists all around. Doujin is still something I predominantly listen to and it will for sure continue to be somewhat of a fixture in the Roundup in some capacity I would imagine, but at the same time, I also wanna shine a light on these guys too whenever I get the chance 😀

That being said, what do you guys think? How’d you like this month’s recommendations? Lemme know in the comments down below! While you’re at it, if you have any recommendations of your own, please feel free to send them my way too!

Before I let you go; if you haven’t already done so, do check out this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate, where Al and I talk about albums that we consider to be “hidden gems”. This time around I did a review of Sakanaction’s “Shin-Shiro” while I had Al go and talk about BAND-MAIKO over on his end at Omunibasu.Blog.

Aaand that’s a wrap! As always, I hope you all had as much fun listening to these songs as I had talking about them, and I’ll see you guys in the next one~!!

4 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (March 2021)

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