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

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Spring is coming!

Welcome back to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup, as we now officially bid farewell to the season of Winter in this the year 2022. Join me as we usher in the season of new beginnings once more with some new and (hopefully) interesting songs for you guys to listen to and enjoy!

As always though, if this is your first time here 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 got around to featuring a good handful of bands and artists that I’ve been meaning to have on here as part of the Roundup this month but never could get the opportunity until now (by sheer luck of them releasing new songs right around the same time, lol) and I had a lot of fun picking out this month’s selection of tracks for you guys to (hopefully) enjoy just as much if not more. With that, let’s get right to it 😀

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YOU+ME=
by 竹内アンナ (takeuchi anna)
Going back to her roots for this one

Takeuchi Anna’s more recent offerings have seen her sort of go away from what brought her to the dance so to speak in that she started experimenting with more “radio-friendly” Pop while also seemingly letting go of the guitar that is otherwise what many of the fans following her music early on and to this day would consider as a key element to her sound. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying out new things (as I mentioned the last time we had Takeuchi on as part of the Roundup) but as you’ll hear here in YOU+ME= this ElectroAcoustic style with a little rap splashed in there is 100% completely and unmistakably her at this point and it just… works, very much so even. Easily my favorite track off of her most recent album TICKETS that dropped earlier at the start of this month, which I highly recommend you guys check that one out as well

悲しいラブソング/kanashii love song
by あらたよ (atarayo)
Speaking of new album releases

Arguably one of 2021’s breakout bands (and my personal Favorite Discovery of that year), Atarayo dropped their first full-length album out of nowehere it seems, so that was a bit of a nice surprise to have this month. A surprise that as a direct consequence brought alongside it a nice handful of new songs to enjoy, Kanashii Love Song here being one of them. In as much as Atarayo continues to be *the* Emo/Alt Rock staple of both the Roundup and the current Japanese music landscape as a whole, I thought it’d be interesting to point out something about the lyricism for this song in particular that I find to be purely Japanese in its sentiment. Kanashii Love Song is yet another song about a failing relationship, but also one that outlines the notion of someone’s unconditional kindness can be a punishing experience once you fall out of love with them.

キミ二アワナイ/kimi ni awanai
by yutori
Hot damn that’s some singing

Those of you who caught last year’s Roundup Awards might recognize yutori as my “Band To Look Out For in 2022“, and a lot of that admittedly is due to Gt./Vo. Satou’s very distinct and powerful vocal stylings, which are now on full display in Kimi ni Awanai. What I appreciate the most out of this song is that compared to their previous releases, the rhythm sections and the overall instrumentation present in the song are for the most part very simple and uncomplicated, and because of that this it gave Satou room to really be able to showcase the full extent of her singing. At the very least, in my opinion her voice shines tremendously here. While the curls and adlibs are all a treat to the ears, my favorite has to be the falsetto she uses to break away from her high notes at ~02:23 and at ~03:31. It’s so hauntingly good the way she does it.

青写真/aojashin
by 帰りの会 (kaeri no kai)
On the subject of 2021 prospects

Kaeri no Kai has since joined the ranks of ‘bands I would want to be more popular’, alongside Roundup favorites such as BungeiTengoku, arne, and in reality many others who, *like* Kaeri no Kai, unfortunately find themselves in a over-saturated indie band market filled with similar hopefuls looking to breakthrough into the mainstream. In all honesty, Aojashin is a bit on the safer side of musicality (especially if you compare it to yutori’s more daring release above) but there’s definitely some promise to their otherwise sure-handed delivery and overall sound. Always going to be a fan of the acoustic guitar for these kinds of arrangements, and Vo. Sunohara Some’s subtle lisp is still very much endearing in relation to the manner in which she sings. A lot of room for growth for the young band still and for sure a band to keep in your radar.

わたしの生きる物語/watashi no ikiru monogatari
by クレナズム (culenasm)
This takes me back

Back to a time when I was first getting into Japanese music. Back when I was first introduced to “Shoegaze” as a genre. Perhaps most important of all, back when I pegged culenasm to be the band that would continue Kinoko Teikoku‘s work. While I have since accepted the fact that culenasm really isn’t the purely Shoegaze band that I had hoped for them to become (not that Kinoko Teikoku themselves ever was), occasionally the Fukuoka-based foursome reminds me why I would think as much, especially when they come out with songs like Watashi no Ikiru Monogatari. This song takes a page out of Kinoko Teikoku’s early EPs with its grainy distortion and melancholic sway and as someone who ran those EPs to the ground with how much I listened to them, suffice it to say that this song is an absolute hit for me. Very nice.

青春/seishun
by 春猿火 (harusaruhi)
Bet you didn’t expect *that* after the bass drop

Harusaruhi has been artist that I’ve been meaning to feature on the Roundup for the longest time ever since I came across her music and have just been waiting for an opportune time to do so. Specifically I wanted to link an original song of hers, as the majority of her uploads are covers (how I came to know her by in the first place). The uncanny marriage of Pop, Rock, and Rap that you’ll hear here in Seishun is what I adore about Harusaruhi’s work, and in my opinion what makes her songs such a fun and unique listening experience that you don’t see a whole lot of anywhere else. In line with that, Harusaruhi also represents a new wave of artistry in what’s called “virtual singer” alongside other cover artists such as RIM who are both signed under the same record label (and speaking of RIM, catch Al’s review of her album NEW ROMANCER here!)

外道讃歌/gedousanka
by FantasticYouth
Yooo Anison been stepping up recently

Another group that I’ve been wanting to get on the Roundup after randomly stumbling upon composer LowFat’s rendition of DAYBREAK FRONTLINE on YouTube is his duo project FantasticYouth alongside Japanese-Korean singer/lyricist Onyu who also provides the vocals in the aforementioned cover. Electro House/Dubstep gets lot of bad rap (pun notwithstanding) more often than not with its propensity for monotony, but I would argue that FantasticYouth’s take on the genre is some of the most tasteful that you’ll ever hear, in large part owing to LowFat’s creative composition work. GedouSanka here for instance constantly transitions back and forth between Electro House and Jazz over the course of the song, making full use of the overlapping elements in the drums and the piano to pivot and switch between the two genres.

映画になれない僕たちへ/eiga ni narenai bokutachi e
by HYLUL
A little rough around the edges, but that’s also what makes it good

If HYLUL’s Eiga ni Narenai Bokutachi e gave you a sense of deja vu, or at the very least made you feel as though you heard something similar recently, that might be because they occupy the same music space as the likes of Kaeri no Kai who we just had earlier here on the Roundup. This speaks to the sort of over-saturation that I mentioned earlier too where you start to kinda hear the homogeneity of indie Pop/Rock with clear influences from what is the prominent and “trendy” sound right now in Japanese music, which is of course Youth Pop, the likes of YOASOBI and Yorushika. The latter’s song structure in particular sees touches of representation. That being said, it does appear (at least to me) that this duo of Zig and Mingo are earnestly trying to make this sound their own, and I can always respect that. Looking forward to hearing more from them.

あばよ、/abayo、
by ヤユヨ (yayuyo)
SHISHAMO fans might like this one

At the very least, that’s the immediate vibe this Osaka-based band of university students gave me when I first came across them on Spotify. Although not having that same level of polish that SHISHAMO has, what Yayuyo lacks in technical prowess in instrumentation, they more than make up for in imbibing the lively and youthful spirit of Girls Rock. In that respect Abayo、comes across as almost a throwback both to when Girls Rock was more prominent in the Japanese music landscape (being reminscent of other similar acts such as Akai Ko-en and Chatmonchy), as well as seemingly drawing inspiration from more old school English Rock (the opening riff reminds of The Beatles). Whether or not these college girls are just hobbyists making the most of their time before joining the workforce after they graduate is beyond me, but I do hope they stick around.

pageant
by simsiis
I’m a simple man

If a band is out here doing fingerstyle guitar, then they’ll make it into the Roundup, it’s that easy (jk XD). In all serious though, I really am a sucker for any semblance of Post Rock or Math or Midwest Emo with transparent and airy vocals, so when a band like simsiis (which is exactly that) enters my radar you can be sure I’ll do my best to keep tabs on them moving forward. What I like the most about pageant here is the way it escalates; where it starts out really calm and easy, but as the instruments slowly get introduced over the course of the song, it builds up to a crescendo of complexity only for it all to just…die off towards the end. I love that. That explosion of music is the kind that I like to melt into and drown and I’m hands down impressed. Definitely a band to be on the look out for, and such a young one too. Not the last you’ll see of them on the Roundup.

MUST LISTEN:
“Kimi ni Awanai” by yutori
I pegged them as the band to look out for this year and I’m sticking by it with their first release of 2022. Kimi ni Awanai is all sorts of promising being just the fourth song by yutori officially, yet already adds another wrinkle to their already well-put together sound by showcasing vocalist Satou’s strong vocals. As I mentioned before, the band is enjoying a decent amount of popularity at the moment (which I theorize is due to YOASOBI giving them a shoutout on a radio show) and I honestly think they’re one or two songs away from being the next Polkadot Stingray or the next Ryokuoushoku Shakai if all goes well. That being said, they’re also a fairly young band so they do have time on their side to make it work. One thing’s for sure though, with how they’ve been sounding, their first EP is gonna be a banger guaranteed. Can’t wait for it to drop.

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All three of our YouTube, Spotify *and* Apple Music playlists have been updated with this month’s featured songs, for you guys to listen to at your leisure 🙂

What did you guys think of this month’s selection of songs? Did anything pique your guys’ interest? If so, lemme know down in the comments! Likewise, if you have your own recommendations for the month to share with both myself and everyone checking out the Roundup, feel free to drop a link and I’ll be sure to give it a listen <3

If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to check out this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate, wherein for this month Al and I go over some albums by bands/artists who are known primarily for their work doing song covers. You can catch my review of RAISE A SUILEN’s ERA over here, and also Al’s review of NEW ROMANCER by RIM over at Omunibasu.Blog.

That’s gonna have to do it for me. Thank you all so much for tuning in. I appreciate it a ton, and I hope you enjoyed this month’s Roundup.

Happy Listening~!

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