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

Aaand just like that, we have reached the midway point of 2022!

In a lot of ways the Monthly Recommendation Roundup does help keep me grounded with regard to the passing of time. If this series does the same for you to those of you who tunie in regularly, I gotchu 😀

If this is your first time here however 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.

A lot to be excited for, both for our Roundup regular staples as well as for our new entrants that we’ll be having this month. As a reminder, we do try to keep a healthy mix of returning names and welcome additions to our growing roster of bands and artists each time around, with the hope being that you always find something new to listen to and enjoy whenever you find yourself here 🙂

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OOPARTS
by 羊文学 (hitsujibungaku)
Now that’s how you make the most of an opportunity

Of course, I’m talking about HitsujiBungaku’s appearance on THE FIRST TAKE (which we also featured in last month’s Roundup), which most certainly pulled in some new eyes and ears for the band. In what I can only surmise as a very calculated move by the Tokyo-based three piece, they go ahead and release a PV for OOPARTS here, which is a song from their latest album “our hope”. I mean, it could also just be the result of perfect timing in how these things aligned for the band, but regardless if it was intended or not, we’re already seeing the effects. HitsujiBungaku’s popularity continues to be at a steady rise, and really how can it not with songs like this? OOPARTS is one of my favorite tracks off of “our hope” personally, as not only is it more of the band’s now-trademark melodic offerings, it also serves as a great showcase of Shiotsuka Moeka’s singing.

青を掬う/ao wo sukuu
by あたらよ (atarayo)
No stops for this band too it seems

Following a similar trajectory as the above, Atarayo’s not resting on their laurels. Fresh off the heels of the release of their first full-length studio album, the band is back again with yet another melancholic and relateable song in Ao wo Sukuu. This is a sentiment that I’m sure a lot of us have already felt (or will feel, depending on if you’re still in school or not when you are reading this, lol), but I distinctly remember thinking that the summer of my final year of university as being my ‘last summer’. What I mean by that is, once that summer passes, no longer will I have summer breaks as a student and all the things that go with it. In grander terms, it means formally entering the world of adults, and the many changes to our life that that would entail; in the case of Ao Wo Sukuu specifically, it’s the notion of going separate ways from our dear high school friends.

すれ違い/surechigai
by 久保あおい (kubo aoi)
You don’t hear that often

Surechigai here is apparently a song that was made based on a short story that Kubo Aoi wrote herself. I think the only other artist that I know of who may have done something similar is Kuroki Nagisa who has already authored several books. Kubo Aoi finds herself in good company in that regard from a purely artistic standpoint. Not to say that she hasn’t already proven herself to be quite the creative soul herself, given how her foray into Japanese music was for the most part a solo venture on her end. It does appear that she now has a production team behind her, coinciding with her first appearances on video. Funnily enough the song itself actually shares a lot of the same sentiments as the song above (an English translation of the lyrics are provided as part of the video if you click the closed-captioning button).

退屈な食卓/taikutsu na shokutaku
by HYLUL
Guess it’s just that vibe this month (lol)

That is to say, it appears as though the overarching theme of this month’s featured tracks is very sentimental and ‘Emo-y’, though I promise I didn’t purposely arrange for it to be like that, and that I more so chalk it up to it being just this time of year for Japanese music. Case in point, HYLUL comes out this month with a rather emotional song of their own in Taikutusu no Shokutaku, albeit one that’s a little bit more on the cheerier side. The title of the song literally translates to “a boring meal” and while that might not sound all that optimistic, it actually represents an idea that I find to be very… Japanese, at least in its representation across different Japanese media. It’s the notion of the “everyday life”, and how our day to day lives are valuable despite its mundaneity and that preserving the everyday life is something to strive for.

カラス/karasu
by 空白ごっこ (kuhaku gokko)
Feels like it’s been a while since I’ve done this

In particular, I do believe this is the first time in quite a while that I’ve been so immersed in the story being told by a song’s PV (LOL). I mean, for sure a lot of that is because I mostly consume music on Spotify regularly nowadays than I do YouTube or any other streaming platform, and the times that I do listen to songs on YouTube I’m mostly having it play in a different tab than the one I’m actually on. Kuhaku Gokko’s Karasu is a good reminder though that PVs can be an effective story-telling medium despite what their relatively short video lengths would suggest. Over the course of a little under four minutes, PV animator totori is able to weave a tragic tale of forbidden love, that is then accentuated beautifully by vocalist Setsuko’s unabashed and emotion-driven singing style, which I find fairly reminiscent of vocal standout minami.

マイボーイ/my boy
by Chilli Beans.
Ngl, early candidate for my favorite discovery of the year

Then again, we *are* technically at the halfway point of the year (at least by the time this Roundup drops), so it should be reasonable for me to at least have someone in mind by now. It does help that Chilli Beans. make a fantastic account of themselves with My Boy here, for plenty of reasons. Mainly though, I do find that the band collectively appears to have really good understanding of Pop/Rock, which My Boy in particular sounding as though it takes inspiration from more 90’s Western/American applications of the genre. There’s a free-spirited energy emanating from Chilli Beans. that’s very captivating, and I would think a lot of that comes from how they carry themselves, with vocalist Moto in particular being quite the on-camera presence when she performs. The band has that “it” factor in my opinion and definitely not the last we’ll see of them here.

紺青/konjou
by aioi
I do love this configuration a lot

Just the presence of a synthesizer/keyboard alone is generally enough to get me to listen more often than not, but the fact that aioi specifically only has keyboards, drums, and bass makes for a thought-provoking sound. It’s not often that a band completely foregoes the lead, let alone the rhythm guitar, in a band setting, as the guitar is generally the one that commandeers the instrumentation of a song. aioi’s sound is instead predominently led by Vo./Key. Kannan’s piano (hence the band billing themselves as “Piano Pop Band”) and as you’ll hear here in Konjou it works tremendously well. A funny personal anecdote of mine regarding this band is that I came across them not through YouTube/Spotify/Apple Music recommendations, but by them interacting with my Roundup tweets. Regardless of the method (lol), they’re 100% on my radar now.

雨空の隅に/amazora no sumi ni
by 藍空と月 (aizora to tsuki)
Before you say anything…..

I know what you’re thinking… and yes, Amazora no Sumi ni does indeed sound like two or three different Yorushika songs rolled into one (XD specifically, it sounds very much as though Hachigatsu, Bou, Tsukiakari, Gogatsu wa Hanarokushou no Madobe Kara and Makeinu wa Encore wa Iranai combined). I’m not at all disparaging Aizora to Tsuki by any means, and trust that I’m also not being sarcastic by saying the song does end up being a banger because it sounds the way it does. I think more than anything this speaks to something that I’ve mentioned in the past about the musical influence that Yorushika has had both for Youth Pop and the overall Japanese music landscape, where you kinda just start to hear songs just sort of homogenize. Something we’ve seen happen with YOASOBI to name an example.

c
by とおのねむり (tononemuri)
Ain’t that something

It might just be that the longer I do the Roundups, the more of these ‘full circle’ sort of moments I’ll have, and if that’s the case, I’m already looking forward to them. See, TooNoNemuri’s c caught my attention primarily because the singing was right up my alley, both in terms of vocal quality and the powerful singing style that they have. After doing some digging, I found out much to my own surprise that the voice behind TooNoNemuri is none other than Tsuru whom we featured before in a previous Roundup. If I were a more diligent fan of hers I would have known beforehand that this was a song she already performed on her own, but I just found it funny that I came across her on two separate occasions unknowingly like this. Suffice it to say, I am a fan of her singing, and here’s hoping she’s found a new home in this new project.

雫/shizuku
by @onefive
I must’ve played through 1518 at least twenty times this month

I’m not even exaggerating. Rather, I think I’m even underselling just how much I listened to @onefive’s first album 1518 this month. It’s a fun little album that to my knowledge houses all of the singles that the group has released so far and there’s something to their sound that makes them such an easy listen, especially if you’re like me does delve into Idol Music and EDM every so often; so of course a marriage of these two genres is gonna find its mark on me. I think the fact that their songs, like Shizuku here, manages to be so light and cheery despite their sound leaning so heavily on its use of synth/electro beats is what ends up resonating with me the most. I wanna say it’s the Idol-y nature of the songs (and by extension the manner in which the songs are being sung) that offsets the otherwise aggressive EDM droning.

MUST LISTEN:
“My Boy” by Chilli Beans.
This isn’t really a shout towards this song specifically than it is a call for you guys to check out the rest of the band’s discography, and My Boy just serving as your entry way so to speak to Chilli Beans. and what they have to offer. I wasn’t really lying when I said that the band might very well be my favorite discovery of the year, and I feel that most of their other songs out there would reflect that even more. They only have two EPs so far so do check them out. My gut tells me these girls are just about to pop off, so if you’re the type who likes to catch the wave early, Chilli Beans. might just be it. At the very least, definitely a band to be on the look out for, without a doubt.

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Our YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music playlists have all been updated with this month’s selection of tracks 😀

Find anything you like? Lemme know down in the comments section below! While you’re at it, if you have anything you want to recommend to me and to everyone else checking out the Roundup, feel free to drop us a link! Some of my favorite bands and artists have come from your guys’ recommendations after all, so I’m always down to try out anything you think I might like.

If your Japanese Music fix hasn’t been satiated just yet, you can always swing by the J-Music Exchange/Rate where you’ll find album reviews by both me and Al from Omunibasu.Blog. The Exchange/Rate is our review series that we do each month, and for this month of May we went ahead and talked about albums by bands/artists who became a viral hit on TikTok. My review is for Kairiki Bear’s “Darling Syndrome” (check it out here if you haven’t yet), whereas Al goes and talks about Ohashi Chippoke’s “Popular no Arika”.

That’s about it for me. Thanks as always for tuning in, and I’ll see y’all in the next one.

Happy Listening!

2 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (May 2022)

  1. whoa, not so fast! I know time flies, but this is only your fifth monthly post of ’22, which means we have thirty days left of the first half of this patchy on/off year. I counted on my fingers just to make sure.
    Meanwhile ….. at a quick first listen, the gem-of-the-month for me is tononemuri. Fine singing, but also a great band. It doesn’t sound like a Tricot song, but right from the top I thought the dry, bell-like guitar tone sounded a lot like Motifour, and so did the actual picking style. Later on, although the basic rhythm didn’t change, the drums got Tricot-clattery too, with the bass winding busily around it all. Makes me want more from them, anyway.

    • Funny because the folks over at the Japanese Music subreddit are pointing that out to me too, LOL
      Oooohhh, tricot is suuuch a nice comparison here. The guitar phrasing is definitely reminiscent of early, Shogakusei to Uchuu-era tricot too I feel. Love the subtle raspiness to the voice too when hits the high notes.

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