Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (February 2022)

Lots of songs to love this month <3
I mean, ideally that’s always the case here on the Roundup (XD)

Welcome, once again, to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup! We’ve reached the end of February and as such, I’m back here with yet another round of song recommendations for you guys to check out and (hopefully) like 😉

If this is your first time here though 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’m personally very much excited for a lot of the bands and artists that we have on here today (mostly since a lot of them ended up releasing EPs/albums this month) so with that, let’s jump into the tracks 😀


by 文藝天国 (bungeitengoku)
I will never pass up a song by this band

It’s always a celebration (at the very least for me personally) whenever BungeiTengoku come out with a new song, and what better to represent that than one of life’s ultimate celebrations, Marriage. In all seriousness though, I actually hesitate to call this duo of shinonome ko and Sumi Aika a ‘band’ in the traditional sense. Where shinonome is credit as the composer of what the two call their ‘Alternative Art Label’, Sumi Aika is listed as a ‘colorist’ (which I can only presume equates to something like a creative director), and that alone should clue you in on the kind of artistry that these two bring. Everything about the presentation of this song almost has an auteur touch to it, whether it’s the beautifully complex song structure with those wicked guitar licks, or the visual composition of this cinematic feature of a PV.

悲しみのゴール/kanashimi no goal
Nakagawa Daijiro never fails to impress

You would think that, for a band as technically sound as JYOCHO, there would be little to no avenue for improvement left for them, but as you’ll hear here in Kanashimi no Goal, that is very much far from the truth. Specifically, the song showcases marked emphasis on the blending of the vocals, more so than ever compared to JYOCHO’s earlier works. Now, while vocalist Nekota Netako’s soothing vocal stylings are always a treat to the ears, Nakagawa’s singing under normal circumstances isn’t really something to write home about. That being said, harmonizing the way they do just adds another layer of musicality for a band that’s seemingly incapable of putting out anything that’s not harmonious enough already as is. I mean, it’s JYOCHO after all. They win Best Instrumentation in our Roundup Awards almost each time for a reason.

by ゲシュタルト乙女 (gestalt girl)
Making up for lost time

It is unfortunate that most of Gestalt Girl’s early offerings as prospective band on the come up had all but been held up in foreign shores, as I do believe that the Taiwanese duo of Kaiaki and Mikan would’ve made some major waves otherwise. Regardless, the two are here now (ideally for good), coming out for the first time this year with yet another new song in BuZhiiDao which is a bit of a quick turnaround for the band following their release of Kuuki back in November. What I really appreciate about Gestalt Girl is in how… humble and unassuming their approach to music comes across as, despite what their sound would otherwise dictate. Like, there’s just this welcoming sense of accessibleness with the band’s take on Post-Rock that, as a fan of Japanese music (and, well, music in general), is hard to not appreciate.

やさしい怪物/yasashii kaibutsu
by 黒子首 feat. 泣き虫☔︎ (hockrockb feat. nakimushi)
Not a collaboration I saw coming, but I’m 100% all for it

If you’ve followed the Roundup in some capacity in the past year or so you would’ve seen me prop up Hockrockb each chance I get. I’ve always believed in the band and what they’re capable of, where all they seemed to really be in need of is exposure, and more eyes and ears to see and hear the same things I’ve been seeing and hearing from them ever since I came across them. Hopefully, this collaborative work with one of the most recognizable names in Japanese Youth Pop proves to be Hockrockb’s much needed signal boost. Something to note is how tonally similar both Hori Ageha’s and Nakimushi’s singing styles are, which could very well be the reason how Yasashii Kaibutsu came about (case in point, here’s Hori performing a cover of Nakimushi’s Tokyo Wonder). I can only be so happy if this song actually did bring in new fans.

by 帰りの会 (kaeri no kai)
Speaking of bands that I want to prop up

If you didn’t happen to catch last year’s Roundup Awards (check it out here!), Kaeri no Kai was the runner-up for my Favorite Discovery Of 2021, being a band with seemingly a lot of Youth Pop influence to their sound, at least going by their latest track at the time. Now, admittedly, Maybe is actually a bit of a departure from that, and is instead a bit more of a traditional Indie Rock offering. Not to say it’s bad song because of that, but this is where we’re kinda seeing how young this band is in how they seem to still be in that phase of exploring different kinds of sounds to see what ultimately works for them. Personally, I do think they sounded their best in their last showing on the Roundup, but you can still definitely hear the potential here, especially Sunohara Some’s vocals, which has a unique resounding quality to it.

Cool name btw (XD)

I’ve actually been wanting to feature BURNABLE/UNBURNABLE on the Roundup for a while now, especially after one of their debut tracks blew up on TikTok, but the timing of their releases just wouldn’t allow for it. That is until now with FuraFura coming out this month at just the right time. Now, admittedly, this is filling a bit of a void that has since been left behind by Friday Night Plans (at least for me personally) after the latter’s sudden shift in musical direction. Granted, BURNABLE/UNBURNABLE’s ‘Dark Pop’ as they call it, isn’t exactly bringing in the same kind of R&B/Hip-Hop as FNP’s earlier offerings, but the mood that their songs bring is certainly quite similar. I reckon a lot of it has to do with how nicely re:caco’s lower vocal register ends up pairing with a Downbeat backing track.

導火線タイムリミット/doukasen time limit
by 野田愛実 (noda emi)
She’s not playing around

Noda Emi is one of, if not the most active Japanese cover artists that I currently follow, uploading cover songs on her YouTube channel almost daily while also doing monthly hour+ -long livestreams, and it shows in the way she performs. This is something I talked about in passing when I introduced Fujikawa Chiai as part of the J-Music Exchange/Rate (check that review out if you haven’t yet!), but you can really tell that career singers *like* Fujikawa and Noda have put in a lot of time in their craft through their performance. In particular, Noda’s high-low vocal modulation, the way she trills and rolls her R’s, and the overall control she’s able to put on display here for Doukasen Time Limit is nothing short of impressive. More than anything, Noda has certainly put the time in, and perhaps now’s the time to cash in on that and come out with more original stuff.

by 水曜日のカンパネラ (suiyoubi no campanella)
This is a bit of a full circle moment for me

Back when I was first getting into Japanese music, an acquaintance of mine who I’d met in university (who is himself much more learned on the matter than me) introduced me to Suiyoubi no Campanella. Specifically, after having spent time in Japan as a foreign exchange student, he told me he personally met the vocalist for ‘WedCamp’, who were at the time just starting up as a group and was trying to get more people to listen to them. The EDM/Hip-Hop ensemble have since amassed a cult following, especially out here in the West, thanks to the avant-garde nature of their performances, in large part thanks to the WedCamp’s longtime frontwoman KOM_I. Edison here actually features a new vocalist following KOM_I’s departure, but if there’s anything to gleam from this release, they’re still catchy as ever.

はだかの世界/hadaka no sekai
by (夜と)SAMPO (yoru to sampo)
Gotta love that energy, lol

Likewise, vocalist Ikumi’s energy in this PV for Hadaka no Sekai is all sorts of contagious with all the conductor-like hand gestures she does over the course of the song (lol), but I digress. (yoru to) SAMPO bills themselves as “a band comprised of office workers that sublimates any emotion of your everyday life into Pop”, and while there’s a cheeky self-awareness in that sort of profile, the sentiment does show in their lyricism more so than their otherwise peppy Pop/Rock sound would suggest. Hadaka no Sekai is a song that talks about the uncertainty of living in a world shrouded in darkness, longing for a bright utopia, and hoping that tomorrow brings forth a new light. Whether or not this is reflective of what the everyday salaryman thinks of is beyond me, but in a lot of ways it *is* relataeable, which I think is ultimately what they’re shooting for.

アパートガール/apartment girl
by 鍵を返せ (kagi wo kaese)
There will never be a shortage of indie bands on the Roundup

At the very least ones whose sound I find enjoyable and that others might enjoy too. Kagi wo Kaese is yet another band that fits the bill, bringing with them a sound that’s a bit of a throwback to, if not actualy directly influenced by Soutaiseiriron’s earlier works. The instrumentation, the overall composition, and the sort of “low blood pressure Pop/Rock” that Soutaiseiriron has long been known for is largely present in Apartment Girl here, albeit with a more modern take in the singing department. Not a lot is known just yet about this relatively unknown band and after checking out what few songs they currently have it does seem that much like Kaeri no Kai whom we had ealier, Kagi wo Kaese is still in the process of exploring different ways to approach their musicality. I for one wouldn’t mind if they kept it to this though.

“Marriage” by BungeiTengoku
This is probably a bit telegraphed on my part, but I can’t stress enough just how much I want this artistic venture that is BungeiTengoku to fluorish, if it means we get to hear more of their music for just a bit longer. If you’ve been following the Roundup for some time, you’ve probably seen me air this very same sentiment for other bands and artists, but that’s just the reality of it. As talented and creative as a lot of bands and artist are and can be, it’s a numbers game at the of the day. That being said, however, it is quite endearing in a way that BungeiTengoku prioritizes the craft more than anything else. In relation to this, they actually delayed that would-be premiere of this PV because something about it didn’t sit right with them when they saw the final cut. Even just that I feel is indicative of the kind of artists BungeiTengoku are, and they are wonderful for it.


Our YouTube, Spotify *and* Apple Music playlists have all been updated with this month’s featured tracks, so do by all means enjoy them at your leisure 🙂

Did you find anything that you liked from this month’s selection of songs? Lemme know down in the comments section below if you did! Likewise, if *you* have some recommendations of your own that you want to share with me and everyone here checking out the Roundup, feel free to drop a link as well for us to check out. I’d be more than happy to give it a listen <3

If you’re still in the mood to check out more Japanese music after this, by all means do head on over to the J-Music Exchange/Rate page where you’ll find album reviews written by myself and my good friend Al hosted both here and on Omunibasu.Blog respectively. We already have quite a handful of reviews on there so there’s a decent shot you might find an album that you’ve always been curious about but never got the chance to actually try out, and you’ll be able to hear our thoughts on them.

Just this month we went ahead and talked about albums that revolved around love and romance, so if you haven’t yet do go and check out my review of Fujiwara Sakura’s good morning and Al’s review of eill’s PALETTE.

Otherwise, that’s gonna do it for me this month. Thank you so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you guys in the next one.

Happy Listening~!

6 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (February 2022)

  1. Okay. Apologies for the length of this.
    Some good stuff here (interesting that Utaha is quite like KOM_I, except there’s no hint of nerdiness). But the fascinating one for me was (yoru to) SAMPO. Not on first listen, but something drew me back and then I went right down the rabbithole, zipping through their videos with Goggle Translate as my lyrical guide, as it was to their website and member profiles.
    There’s a kind of uncanny detachment to them, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given their name. You’ll be better equipped to translate it than I am, but the GT version is “(according to) a walk”. And most of their songs aren’t personal, they’re observational, which leads me to think of the Flaneur, the person who strolls about, especially in big cities such as Paris, without a great emotional stake in the scene. Knowing society but looking at it from slightly outside. Often these people make a living as essayists, artists or reporters, telling other people’s stories rather than their own.
    In fact, SAMPO make a fairly big deal, in their self-descriptions, about Walking and about “purposelessness.” Brainy? Oh yes, you bet they are, I love their lyrics. But I’d differ with you on the interpretation of this video, for instance. Start with the title: “Hell World”, is that close? That has a touch of resignation, surely? I don’t hear them “longing for a bright utopia” so much as hoping that things get a bit more interesting than they appear to the fear-ridden person who stays indoors (but maybe that’s the machine translation?).
    Similarly, the music doesn’t quite commit. It’s very well-played, and I happen to like it a lot, but there’s a dryness. They list a lot of influences, but dabble in each. They’re a little bit funky, but not really. There’s a definite sense of wacky-1980s (especially the keyboards, think Barry Andrews when he was in XTC) but not headlong into it. They’re emo, but not to the point that it might hurt. They namecheck Judy And Mary, but don’t rip it up the way J&M did.
    From their self-descriptions, which concentrate on hobbies & homelife while ignoring the common declarations of dedication, mission and struggle, I feel as though they were the smart kids in school, who never quite hit the heights people expected of them, and have stopped trying to please anyone except themselves. They wear what they want, play what they want. They love doing it and therefore are happy to perform it. But if no one liked it, they’d probably keep on doing it anyway – strolling through the city, noticing the day-to-day things, the ways that people find meaning in their lives without having to be a zillionaire or fanatic.
    ….. of course, I could be completely wrong and imagining all this. Who knows?
    Oh – and Ikumi’s voice …. this might seem odd, but in its texture and range, I hear a similarity (okay, more forceful and usually faster) to Harada Ikuko of Clammbon. There’s a smile in it, y’know?
    I’m going to listen to them a lot, I think. Have already come across a concert video in which the guitarist speaks to the audience for 2 or 3 minutes, with energy but no big emotion …. I’d love to know what he’s saying. It’s certainly going to be more interesting than “Hellooo X-ville, how y’all doing tonight?”

    • Oh not at all Jim. Rather, thanks for taking the time. Always love to hear your guys’ thoughts regarding the songs I feature 😀

      Their band name roughly translates to “(night) and walk”, which does tie into your musings on the sense of detachment to the everyday life that they seem to have. Detached in the sense that their point of view feels purely objective to what they perceive, free from any bias or influence. The title of the song translates to “Naked World”, which, from what I can glean from their lyrics, means a world without modern gloomy fixtures that cast shadows on a world that was bright from the beginning. Taken figuratively, this could be something like social expectation. The “utopia” that they refer to in the opening lines of the song is that which they can walk in freely without worry. Not so much that it is a “perfect world” (as a utopia would denote), but a state in which the world they want to be in. Perhaps one with a society that doesn’t persecute noncoformity. An interesting line towards the end is [katamuita hakari] which means “the scales are tipping” which highlights the optimistic “now is the time” kind of feeling that the song has.

      There’s a zaniness to their sound that shows a bit of uncertainty still in terms of how they really want to sound as. And to your last point these guys do seem more like… very talented hobbyists that just chose to dabble in music because they figured why not and started playing sounds they’re familiar with and came up with this. It’s not bad by any stretch, but it’s like there’s this disconnect, which probably does have a lot to do with how they carry themselves which in turn bleeds into their musicality. Like playing a riff because it’s generally thought of as good, as opposed to playing it because that’s what they felt like playing. Definitely an interesting crew nonetheless though, and I’m glad they piqued your interest!

  2. brilliant! thanks for the translations. Machine translation is stuck at a very delicate stage. Take the title of Hadaka no Sekai – if you give Google Translate the romaji, yes, it says ‘naked world’ but if you copy&paste the hiragana/kanji you get ‘the world of the hell.’
    Similarly, the band’s name comes out as ‘according to a walk’, and if you take away the SAMPO it gives ‘according to’, but if you also take away the particle ‘to’, it comes up with ‘evening’. waaaah?

    Fascinating (to me). Whatever program facebook uses is horrible, makes senseless mistakes (especially to Kuroki Nagisa’s posts, for some reason) and still gets caught in those “and I’ll go to the middle of the day and I’ll go to the middle of the day and …..” loops. GT is better, with some big blind spots – it’s poor at slang and hopeless with gender. When you try it on longer passages, like the lyrics of a whole song, it doesn’t join the parts well, and tends to miss obvious context.

    Hitsujibungaku’s ‘1999’ is an interesting case. The GT version is almost poetically compressed but not quite clear. Then in the youtube comments, a fan has posted a translation which is longer, more detailed and definitely focused on making sense; it’s much appreciated. But having read that “prose version”, let’s say, I went back to the GT attempt and preferred it! It seemed more impressionistic and artistic, although it was an algorithm speaking. That’s rare, though.

    • No prob 😀 It depends on the language I believe. I know Facebook’s internal translator actually does wonders with Spanish auto-TLs. For Japanese, I feel like DeepL has the best contextual translation algorithm out of all the MTLs right now… which, in reality isn’t saying much (lol), but hey, it’s something right XD

      Oooh, I adore Hitsujibungaku’s 1999… Which is why I was of two minds when the band released an official English version of the track. I mean, Moeka still sings it beautifully of course, but the lyricism was too literal and lost a lot of the “prose” to it as you mention. Very interesting indeed.

Leave a Reply