Things are starting to heat up!
And by that I mean it’s almost summer time! …Though I say that, it’s actually awfully foggy where I’m at right now funnily enough (XD). Not that I mind *too* much, but I can’t say I’m not down to see the sun again either. Before we welcome in the summer though, it’s only right that we send off what has been a pleasant spring this year (at the very least better than last year’s I’d imagine), so let’s do just that by listening to some music!
If this is your first time coming across the Monthly 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.
We have a full list again for this month so I hope you’re ready ’cause here we go 😀
Hands Up to the Sky
What can I say, the man has an ear for talent
I mentioned it before in some capacity, but famed composed Sawano Hiroyuki has always had quite the ear for vocalists with massive potential. His ‘[nZk]’ vocal initiative is one that aims to showcase a wide array of singers (which notably include Aimer, LiSA, and Aina The End to name a few) whose voices he brings the fullest out of with his music. The newest artist to join the fold is Laco; frontwoman for the band EOW which, funnily enough is a group that we’ve featured a couple of times on the Roundup. Laco, like most of Sawano’s enlisted talents, carries with her a resounding vocal quality and a commandeering vocal presence that in turn gets greatly accentuated by Sawano’s trademark heavy-hitting composition for Hands Up to the Sky here. The song, as some of you may know is one of the theme songs for Spring 2021’s 86: Eigthy-Six.
She’s doing it!
Coming off her absolutely stellar anison debut for Summer 2021’s Tokyo Revengers, eill is back in relatively quick turnaround, coming out now with her Japanese TV drama theme song debut with hikari. I crowned eill as my Favorite Discovery back in the 2019 Roundup Awards, and while most of 2020 had been a relatively quiet for the young starlet (for reasons we should all be more or less familiar with), it seems as though she’s making up for lost time off the heels of her latest album “LOVE/LIKE/HATE” which dropped toward the tail end of last year. Where eill’s releases seemed somewhat hit or miss for the masses (if the view counts of her PVs are anything to go by), but it does appear she has now found a comfortable consistency in the eyes and ears of contemporary J-Pop listeners the world over, and I can’t be any happier for her.
On the subject of artists looking to make up for lost time
Prior to our feature of her in last April’s Roundup, it’s actually been a hot minute since we’ve seen Kamishiraishi Moka’s adieu as she had remained largely inactive for the vast majority of 2020 for mostly the same reasons with eill as stated above. Being our 2019 Roundup Awards’ Best Propect awardee, I had high hopes for Kamishiraishi Moka to truly have her breakthrough following her very promising debut, but it can’t be helped given circumstances we’ve all had to face in the past year. Since the start of 2021 though, adieu has been back with a vengeance, with Tenshi here being now the fourth song that Kamishiraishi Moka and her band has released in just the span of five or so months. We get to hear yet another side to Kamishiraishi Moka’s musicality here as she dabbles in a more Folk-y sounding and full on acoustic song this time around.
by ポルカドットスティングレイ (polkadot stingray)
Speaking of angels and bands we haven’t seen in a while
It’s been a good while since we last had a POLKADOT STINGRAY song here on the Roundup. Not that the band has been all that inactive, just that I haven’t had much opportunity to feature them as of late, as I do have a tendency of prioritizing bands/artists who’re relatively new and/or aren’t as popular (much like how PDSR was themselves just a couple of years ago). That being said, the band is still one of my all time favorites to listen, and as such I’ve still kept up with their releases as best as I can. Aoi continues a sort of trend that PDSR has had with their music dating all the way back to their first album, with them sounding notably cleaner and brighter in contrast to how gritty and more Punk-ish their sound was when they first started. Just an observation than it is a criticism, I mean, as you can hear for yourself, they’re still killing it.
family (machiya session)
by JYOCHO x KYOTO
A fitting end to what has been a wonderful series of songs
If you’ve been following the Roundup these past couple of months you’d be privy to the fact that JYOCHO has been in collaboration with Aoi Kyoto Stay, a rental guest house service out in Kyoto, who have offered up their facilities so that they may be showcased in a series of PVs of acoustic renditions of some of the band’s most popular songs. There have been a total of six songs released within the span of three months to have come out of this collaborative effort (all of which I highly recommend you guys go and check out over on JYOCHO’s official YouTube channel), with this rendition of family being the sixth and final one. While not my personal favorite JYOCHO song, family here does end up tying a nice littlw bow on what has been such a beautiful project, with its warm and homey fitting thematically well for the puposes of the collaboration.
by ゲシュタルト乙女 (gestalt girl)
It’s about time
Around this time last year I found out about and subsequently featured the Taiwan-based Gestalt Girl as part of the Monthly Roundup after having come across them on Spotify one fateful day. I would come to realize shortly after however that their music on YouTube had been region-blocked to most of the West, which I thought of as such a shame at the time considering how good they sound with their atmospheric Shoegaze-y (almost Math-y at times) brand of Japanese Progressive Rock. Not to mention that the band is comprised of Taiwanese people that can speak Japanese, which adds just another level to the uniqueness of Gestalt Girl. Suffice it to say I’m VERY happy that people out here in the West can finally see and hear what these guys are all about, and Umarekawattara is about as good of an introduction to them as any.
by ACAね (from ZUTOMAYO), Rin音 & Yaffle
I almost lost it when heard ACAね’s voice in this
I mentioned that I’ve been using Spotify a whole lot nowadays alongside YouTube for my Japanese music listening, and the former in particular I’ve been using a lot for when I go for a run on the weekends. Most of the time I just leave it on the “Teen Culture” playlist (lol) and just go about my way. One of the songs that ended up playing in the middle of my jog was Character here, which I didn’t think too much of up until I heard an oddly familiar voice, which belonged to none other than ACAね of ZUTOMAYO fame. I’ve always found it interesting hearing doujin artists step out of their own world so to speak (like that one time Yorushika participated in a tribute album for Inoue Yousui) as I feel that a lot of the mysticism behind their artistry sort of gets taken away almost, and they end up sounding a bit more grounded in reality as a direct consequence.
by ヨルシカ (yorushika)
It’s gonna be the start of something extraordiarily magical again, isn’t it?
I can’t help but get all giddy now whenever n-buna and suis start a whole new project. More than just a song that will inevitably be featured on an album, a new Yorushika song always feels like the beginning of a new story; one that I’m very much thankful to be able to witness unfold each time. That being said, I’m not entirely convinced that the duo has closed the book on Plagiarism/Creation (which has been the theme for Yorushika’s releases at present) just yet, at least with regard to Matasaburo here. The song is in reference to a short story written by famed novelist Miyazawa Kenji, which features directly attributable lines from said story, that coincides with n-buna’s narrative of “thought crime” being a predominant element in his creation process. The frustration this brings for n-buna is greatly conveyed in turn by suis’ seemingly angered delivery.
by 和ぬか (wanuka)
You can’t *not* vibe to this
I find that one of the benefits of listening to as much Japanese music as I currently do on YouTube makes it so I get recommended videos of songs similar to or in the same vein as what I regularly listen to, and is why I’m here talking about wanuka’s Yoriyoi even though it came out back in February. That, and like I always say at the start of each and every Roundup, sometimes the songs I’m gonna be sharing are songs that are “new” to me too. This actually relates to the theme for this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate (check it out if you haven’t yet btw) of getting to listen to something well beyond when it first came out. I don’t mind it as much personally, and if anything I’m just glad I found out about it in the first place. I mean, Yoriyoi still slaps with its chill Wagakki instrumentation and playfully racey lyricism regardless of when you listen to it after all.
Shoegaze Idol? Shoegaze Idol
Some of you who have been around since the Monthly Roundup’s inception might remember me having talked about an obscure idol group that went by the name ‘. . . . . . . . .’ (or ‘DotsTokyo’ for convenience, lol). The group made a splash in the Alternative Idol scene owing to their purely Shoegaze sound which, at the time was never really a thing. It was a refreshing venture to say the least, though one that would be short-lived following as the group would abruptly cease all activities in early 2019. It would appear that the creative drive behind DotsTokyo lives on however, as the minds responsible for the group are now the same ones behind RAY. Koharuhi showcases a bit of a maturation of the Shoegaze sound that fans have come to know and love from DotsTokyo, sporting more polished vocal work and cleaner instrumentation.
Matasaburo by Yorushika
It feels as though I end up choosing Yorushika’s songs as my “must listen” everytime I happen to feature them on the Roundup. Of course, a lot of that definitely comes from just how… layered their songs are both in musicality and artistry, that just warrants to be talked about. I mentioned earlier that the song lifts passages from the short story that it was based on, and something that I found to be really cool with regard to that is even the song’s hook, that goes ‘do-ddodo~ dodoudo~ dodoudo~ dodou~’ is also from the story! n-buna as I’ve said often talks about how he’s wrestled with the idea that his works are always intrinsically born from the works of others in what he describes as “thought crime”. What Matasaburo represents is an acceptance of that notion, and how it’s perfectly okay to express admiration for works you cherish by incorporating them to your own.
Our YouTube *and* Spotify playlists have been updated with this month’s featured songs. I’ve also went ahead and included the past years’ Roundups in the Spotify playlist rather than having a separate playlist for each year so yeeeeeaah, there’s A LOT of songs on there now for you guys to (hopefully) enjoy 🙂
By that same token I do hope you guys enjoyed this month’s Roundup. We played host to a lot of Roundup staple artists this time around, but as always, I’d love hear your guys’ thoughts. Did you find a song that you liked? Lemme know in the comments down below! Likewise, if there was a song you came across this month that you would like to recommend yourself, please by all means drop me a link to it too 😀
Lastly, if you haven’t yet, do feel free to check out this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate! The Exchange/Rate is the monthly tandem album review series between myself and Al from Omunibasu.Blog. The theme for this month is “bands/artists we’ve started listening to only recently”. My review of Wata Megumi’s Sainandawa is gonna be here, whereas you can catch Al’s review of DUO by Ieiri Leo over at Omunibasu.
Hope everyone had a nice spring, and I’ll see you guys in the summer.