You already know!
Yes, it’s that time again, for me to welcome you guys back here for the Monthly Recommendation Roundup! It feels like it was just yesterday when I was telling you guys about how Spring is fast approaching, and all of a sudden it’s been in full-swing with the new anime season (as is the anime fans’ true marker for the changing of the seasons, jk XD), as well as some new song releases!
We’ll get to those in a minute but if you happen to be unfamiliar with what’s going on and 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.
We ended up cutting it real close this month because of how the weeks lined up with me having to do some last minute listening of my own (peeling the curtains back a little bit; I usually like wrap up the Roundup on the last weekend of the month so I catch as much of the newly released songs as I can), but we always pull through so I do hope you enjoy this month’s selection of tracks.
あいまいでいいよ/aimai de iiyo
by 羊文学 (hitsujibungaku)
It’s pretty insane when you think about how quickly THE FIRST TAKE became *the* platform for Japanese bands and artists to show not just Japan but the whole world even, what they can do, and to see Hitsujibungaku on what has become the stage of the stars so to speak, it truly does warm my heart as a long-time fan. I talked about it a little bit at the start of the year when I featured their song Hikaru Toki as part of the Roundup, but the band really is now getting the recognition they deserve, and this appearance on TFT further solidifies that fact I believe. This absolutely stunning rendition of Aimai de iiyo, at the time of writing, is sitting comfortably at well-over a million views already, so it’s safe to assume the Tokyo-based three-piece is no longer going to need any sort of introduction moving forward. Well-deserved. Very happy for the band.
yosoku funou no ichibyou mo dakuryuu mitai ni aishiteru
by 黒木渚 (kuroki nagisa)
Celebrating a decade worth of artistry
Kuroki Nagisa has been doing her thing for the better part of ten years now and in celebration of this milestone achievement is Yosoku Funou no Ichi-byou mo Dakuryuu Mitai ni Itoshiteru. While it’s not a stretch of the imagine to say that the song (and by extension this PV) is a love letter from Kuroki to the fans that stuck by her throughout the years, there’s a part of me that feels that this is also her adressing the craft of being an artist, and the many hardships and frustrations she faced in pursuit of it. The period of hiatus she took due to a career-threatening condition for example is depicted in the music video here (the mannequin with the shattered throat at 02:53), and that to me shows how reflective of her musical journey she meant this song to be. A beautiful song with a ton of sentiment by who is, in my opinion, a true renaissance woman.
by 藤川千愛 (fujikawa chiai)
Such a fascinating career trajectory she has
Speaking of renaissance women, Fujikawa Chiai is someone I believe to be of the same ilk as Kuroki Nagisa in terms of their mindset and approach to artistry, and is at present living a sort of dual life now as a Pop artist that dabbles in anison as well as being an indie band’s frontwoman (under the moniker “Roku”). That being said, there wasn’t actually any indication she’d go back to being a solo artist when she announced she’s gonna start singing as part of a band and take on a new name. I mean, speaking strictly in terms of opportunity, it makes a 100% sense for her to “come back” to being a solo artist if it meant she’d be involved with one of the bigger anime titles in recent memory in The Rising of the Shield Hero. If I’m being perfectly honest though, I love her work way more as a soloist, and Yuzurenai is a good reminder as to why.
by 八木海莉 (yagi kairi)
Continuing to be high on her
Yagi Kairi was my Best Prospect of 2021 in last year’s Roundup Awards based solely on what was at the time the release of her first original song and subsequent first single. There’s just something in the tonal quality of her voice that I find very pleasing to listen to. Something that is now further reinforced here in SELF HELP. In so far as the kind of sound she’s going for however, still hard to say for sure. I do find that we still don’t have a whole lot to glean from considering this is only really her third song that’s put out. I feel like we’ll have a much better idea once she drops her first EP which, by the time this post comes out, should have already hit the shelves. It’s a release I’ve been anticipating ever since it got announced at the start of this year for that reason, so here’s hoping it answers a lot of those very questions.
by 楠木ともり (kusunoki tomori)
No way I was letting this pass
Sankayou ended up coming out towards the very end of March which didn’t give me a whole lot of time to include it as part of last month’s Roundup, so I’m making up not having done so by featuring it here. That is to say, I’m not above just featuring each and every song Kusunoki Tomori puts out as a matter of course (which also indrectly explains why she was our Most Prolific Artist for 2021 but I digres-). Of course, my personal biases aside, it helps that there *is* good reason to feature her work whenever possible, especially for those privy to her involvement with the Love Live! franchise. A lot of that is because the atmospheric manner in which she sings here, as opposed to her offerings as an idol seiyuu that lends itself to being faster in comparison. It’s like experiencing a completely different, more intimate side to her.
by 菅原圭 (sugawara kei)
Someone to keep an eye out for, 100%
Appreciation for indie Youth Pop (formerly referred to as self-published “doujin” artists here on the Roundup) is at an all time high, perhaps more so now than ever (even at the height of Yorushika and ZUTOMAYO fame) with their introduction to the mainstream, with acts such as FantasticYouth and Kuhaku Gokko both making their anison debuts this year. And if you’ve been listening to the genre as much as me, then there’s a good chance you’ve seen Sugawara Kei’s name float around in your recommendations as it did for myself. I’ve neglected doing so in the past, but when I saw April come up in my feed I figured now would be a good time to orient myself with their work and I was immediately floored by their vocal work here. Very reminiscent of the now-incredibly popular yama, but with a more Rock-oriented approach to their music.
… It’s like if n-buna composed an idol song XD
At the very least, that was my immediate thought when I first came across CYNHN’s AOAWASE, especially with those guitar licks and the overall verse structure that I am convinced is inspired by n-buna’s handiwork, directly or otherwise. In a lot of ways CYNHN represents what I had wanted the now-defunct sora tob sakana to be, which is an idol group that has Alternative Rock as its core sound with its members having a strong vocal presence to accompany it. Of course, it helps that CYNHN was formed with it being a more voice-centric group in mind, and it shows in the richness and overall quality of the singing that we get to hear here. The collective low vocal registers in particular was something that I found unique to the group when you consider the tendency of idol music to skew more towards higher-pitched voices.
What can I say, Sawano sure knows how to pick ’em
I’m half convinced Sawano Hiroyuki spends a lot of his time much like how I do just sifting through YouTube videos hoping to find some yet-to-be discovered talent. At the very least when he’s not busy being one of anison’s most well-beloved composers that is. His latest “find” is the young and up-and-coming YouTube cover artist SennaRin. Something to note with regard to Sawano’s involvement here is that SennaRin isn’t part of Sawano’s “SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]” vocal project, which has Sawano feature numerous guest singers to sing for his compositions. Instead Sawano is the acting producer for SennaRin, on top of also being the main composer for her songs. It’s going to be interesting seeing Sawano essentially raise a vocal talent from the ground up for once, and if Limit-tension is any indication, we might be in for a ride.
by 神山羊 (kamiyama yoh)
That chorus is gonna be stuck in my head for a while
If you’ve been following the Exchange/Rate album series since the start of the year, first off thank you so much for doing so that really means a lot, and secondly you might remember that my Japanese Music New Year’s Resolution is to actively start listening to more male artists/vocalists, seeing how largely represented female artists/vocals are here on the Roundup. I do venture out every now and again, but it does strike me as funny, and in a lot of ways oddly fitting, that I come across and subsequently like Kamiyama Yoh’s music only for me to find out later on that he’s a former Utaite. CLOSET is every bit of a bop as you would expect from a Vocaloid producer, and is fairly reminiscent of fellow-former Utaite and massive breakout star Yonezu Kenshi and their work. Suffice it to say, we might be seeing a similar trajectory here.
If you’ve been following the Roundup last year, you would have heard me mention the music aggregate/distribution platform Eggs, with its indie record label consistently producing VERY promising bands and artists time and time again. In fact our awardee for “Band to be on the lookout for in 2022” from last year’s Roundup Awards yutori came from Eggs. Singer-Songwriter Ran continues the trend as being yet another product of the this artist initiative, and I continue to just be impressed with their seemingly ever-growing roster of prospective talent. sheets, although not necessarily being a rather explosive song, manages to showcase Ran’s vocal stylings a great deal in my opinion, making great use of her lower vocal register and naturally breathy and light singing style, which does end up working really well for these slower kinds of tracks.
“Yosoku Funou no Ichibyou mo Dakuryuu Mitai ni Aishiteru” by Kuroki Nagisa
I can’t not give special mention this month to Kuroki Nagisa however much it might be worth. As a long-time fan of hers at least, I really am just happy for her and what she’s accomplished in her career. Ten years of artistry is no joke, and to do so while consistently never sounding at all like she ran out of ideas with regard to her music (in my opinion) is nothing short of impressive. Yosoku Funou no Ichibyou mo Dakuryuu Mitai ni Itoshiteru, both visually and lyrically, comes across as a bit of a send off of sorts, as we’re made to see her work throughout the years while she sings about her regrets and frustrations turning to ashes and disappearing. I would love to continue hearing her work after this, but if this is somehow a veiled message hinting at her retirement, this feels like a very fitting song to go out on.
The YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music playlist have been updated with this month’s featured tracks for you guys to listen to at your leisure 😀
What are your guys’ thoughts on this month’s featured songs? Lemme know what you think down in the comments section below! Likewise, if you have a song recommendation of your own, feel free to drop a link! I’ll be sure to give it a listen 🙂
If you’re still hankering for more Japanese Music after this, check out this month’s Exchange/Rate album reviews if you haven’t yet. This month Al and I talked about “albums based on the other person’s known tastes and preferences”. Catch my review of Utada Hikaru’s BAD Mode here, and Al’s review of TEAM by TEAM SHACHI over at Omunibasu.Blog.
That’s gonna do it for me. As always, thank you so much for dropping by and tuning in. I’ll see you guys in the next one.
It’s almost like you completely avoid mainstream stuff…. hmm… that takes effort
I would think it’s more of a genre preference thing in that I don’t end up listening to a lot of J-Pop/Anison in my free time as much as I do more Indie stuff in general too, Haha!
Thanks for the recommendations. As for the possibility of Kuroki Nagisa stepping back from music, her recent Ffsbook post seems (machine translation weirdness aside) to indicate the opposite. It say something like: “Let me build the next 10 years by accumulating the stages that you give me.” or possibly “Stack up the stage you give me and let me create the next 10 years.” The first one, at least, sounds positive, although “stack up the stage” sounds a bit like an ending …… I always enjoy the way language plays with/against itself. Or is it playing with us? If the universe is, indeed, Information ………
Happy to deliver as always Jim!
Oooh, I’ll have to look at what she wrote then. I’m subbed to her YouTube channel and I can probably glean more from her talk streams that does on there. Something to note though regarding said channel is that it started releasing full concert videos of her major live tours this past month. Whether or not that was also indicative of something is beyond me though (that said I was so happy to finally get the chance to watch those, lol)
All of the songs on this roundup were really solid like always but yeah, I think “CLOSET” might be my favorite one out of the bunch (“April” and “sheets” were great too!). Being someone who has enjoyed the works of Yonezu Kenshi, which is a fantastic comparison btw, that song’s definitely right up my alley.
It’s always great to see Tomori on these roundups and similar to your thoughts, it’s amazing what she’s been doing with her music career so far and the different stylistic directions she’s headed towards with some of her songs. There was this one subbed video I stumbled upon where Riru talked a bit about her lyric/composition creation process w/ Suzushiro Sayumi (https://youtu.be/ZfQ-r-x8uPg) and just hearing about how she comes up with her songs and narratives was definitely fascinating. Especially at her age and the fact that she’s got all this other stuff/work going on at the same time… ‘talented’ feels like an understatement when it comes to Riru (lol). I’m excited for her upcoming EP!
Great roundup for this month! As for song recs: interestingly enough, I stumbled upon a song that sort of relates to both last month and this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate posts, it being BATTEN GIRLS’ “OiSa”. Actually found out about it through Sakamoto Haruna (from SHACHI) cause she made a TikTok with that song (plus I believe BATTEN GIRLS is under the StardustPro agency too) and it’s certainly a fun track to listen to! (https://youtu.be/m3w2Lw–G0s)
Hella catchy and from a stylistic standpoint, and to go off your thoughts about that CYNHN song, it’s interesting to see, I guess, the usual boundaries of idol music be widened to genres that we wouldn’t really first think of when it comes to this particular side of J-music. Not saying that this is anything new but I think it’s more of me being focused on the standard, super upbeat anison/pop stuff and because of that, having the opportunity to learn about these ‘unconventional’ idols has been eye-opening in a way 😛
Likewise, I’m glad I wasn’t too far off making that comparison XD
I’ve long since believed that Tomoriru places a lot of emphasis on her lyricism and the more than her compositions so I’m pleased to hear those sentiments echoed here. My personal biases aside (lol) I do like her approach to artistry a lot, as you really can draw a line between works where she’s portraying a character and works where she’s just being herself. The genuineness of the latter being very much reflected in her songs which always sound close to her heart, whether it’s the words she uses or the way she sings them. Definitely looking forward to her EP (my copy should come at the end of the month, Haha!), and *fingers-crossed* an eventual full-length album some time soon.
Oooh, yeah, that’s catchy! Always a fan of when songs incorporate more traditional Japanese sounds with a more modern twist too like it does here. I’m curious if the track here is like a remix of a Bon Festival dance song (the costumes/imagery in the PV remind me of Obon), lol, it’d be pretty neat if it was.
And yeah, it really is a testament to how idol music has sort of been made synonymous with more cutesy sounding songs because of how idols carry themselves and the general image they maintain. This coincides with the narrative of how idols *don’t* have to be the best singers/performers to be idols, and that it’s more about the idea of youth that they embody. Nowadays though, I do feel that there’s an upheaval of sorts to this belief, where today’s idol music (whether it’s the conventional kind or the unconventional ones) has shown to put more emphasis on forming a vocal unit first and foremost, *and then* turning them into idols, as opposed to the other way around. In the same manner that seiyuus are now expected to be able to sing/dance in some capacity, it could be that aspiring idols are also in a way expected to be able to do not just the same but at even a higher level. Thus with more in the way of vocals and vocal talent, composers and the like have much more leeway with the kind of songs that they can make, instead of just defaulting to something more safe-sounding. At the very least, that would be my take on it, LOL
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