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

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We did it !

Welcome back to what is effectively the last Mothly Recommendation Roundup this year! Those of you who have been around the past couple of years would know that the reason why that it is is because we are set to have the Roundup Awards come December!

More on that later as, for now, to those who haven’t been following the Roundup and have found themselves here for the first time:

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.

Something I’d like to point as being momentous about this month’s Roundup before we formally start is that with the inlcusion of this month’s featured tracks this is actually the first year that we’ll reach 110 songs to close out the year with, wherein we managed to feature ten songs without fail over the whole 11 months of 2022! I thought that was pretty cool 😀

While I’m not looking to bump up the song count each month to beat that moving forward, I’d love to match that next year (/spoiler the Roundup is coming back next year, lol) and rest assured, I might have something in the works for those specific instances where I might have more songs by bands/artists that I want to talk about along with some other stuff I have planned out for next year that *fingers-crossed* all come to fruition.

I’ll talk about the specifics in the Roundup Awards which doubles as my year-ender for the blog so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, let’s give these songs a spin shall we?

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モラトリアム/moratorium
by yutori
I knew they’d deliver

On the subject of the Roundup Awards, some of you guys who caught last year’s might be able to recall that yutori was who I named as the Band/Artist To Look Out For In 2022 and, while it did take them almost the entirety of this year to make good on that distinction, the band finally came through by dropping their first EP this month. Moratorium here is the title track of the EP and again, as I said about them in their most recent Roundup feature, yutori has yet to really miss with their approach thus far of coninuing to lean on vocalist Satou’s powerful vocal stylings as the centerpiece of the song by keeping the ryhythm sections relatively simple thereby making the vocals rise above the instrumentation even more than it already does. The band continues to be a hot prospect in my eyes, and I foresee a major label signing for ’em soon.

ちゃんとした人不適合者/chantoshitahito futekigousha
by 藤川千愛 (fujikawa chiai)
Remains one of the most underrated singer-songwriters out there right now

I can’t help but get fascinated with Fujikawa Chiai’s work whenever she comes out with a new song. A lot of it is because of how consistent she is with both her performance and her approach to songwriting that makes it sort of easy to home in on the things that she goes for constantly as you’ll hear here in Chantoshitahito Futekigousha. If I I had to boil it down to only a few key things, it would be her use of repetition in the lyrics that she then variates throughout the song by using different intonations and syllable stresses which she has shown to be very much comfortable implementing. I’ve only ever described one other artist in the past like this in Kuroki Nagisa, but there’s just something “academic” about how much Fujikawa has also seemed to have gotten it down to a science. For what it’s worth, it’s not a bad formula in the slightest.

ROAD MOVIE
by Charlotte Is Mine
Literally every song they make is a vibe

I didn’t expect I’d be able to talk about Charlotte Is Mine so soon after I featured them the last time, especially in the context of new releases for this year with 2022 just about to wrap up in a month’s time. Granted, ROAD MOVIE isn’t technically a “new” song, being the opening track for Charlotte Is Mine’s second album SOMEDAY IN THE BREAKFAST (which I do recommend you give a listen) but hey, it got the PV treatment this month and that’s good enough for me (lol). Of course, this is also predicated by the fact that this song is also just a nice listen on its own and would have made its way here on the Roundup regardless. I talked before about how much of an obsession Charlotte Is Mine’s music ended up being for me for a good minute, and ROAD MOVIE here is a good reminder as to why. Here’s hoping for an actual new release next time.

自由までの距離/jiyuu made no kyuri
by 春猿火 (harusaruhi)
Reminded why she’s my favorite of the bunch

In between the last time I went and talked about KAMITSUBAKI STUDIO up till now, I’ve since gone and immersed myself even more in the project by getting familiar with the rest of the virtual singers in their stable along with its sister group SINSEKAI STUDIO (which I’ll hopefully be able talk more about at some point). And because I went and did that, I can now confidently say that Harusaruhi remains the one whose music resonates with me the most. While RIM’s cover choices reflect my music library the most, and Asu’s vocal stylings are more to my own preferences, what sets Harusaruhi apart (aside from being a nice intersection of the two) is just her natural flow. Perhaps that in itself is what allows her to be able to rap so proficiently, but yeah no even just the snappy little verse at 00:14~ of Jiyuu Made no Kyuri here is straight fire.

piece of gum
by Ran
Well I sure didn’t expect that

When I last featured Ran here on the Roundup, I had pegged her as an artist who veered more towards Pop/Rock (going into Girls Rock almost) with a penchant for songs with relatively slower tempo to make full use of her low vocals. So you can imagine my surprise when I queue up piece of gum here which just hits you with this massive wave of distorted Techno Synth in a faster paced song with a cadence reminiscent of a Sayuri song. This was something I noted back in the previous month’s Roundup too regarding Atarayo’s Akanechiru, but I do wonder if this kind of Synth distortion is starting to rise in popularity amongst J-Pop artists and is why we’re seeing much more use of it in more recent releases. In any case, Ran shows off a new layer to her musicality here, and I’m curious to see the direction she’s headed.

真冬のセレナーデ/mafuyu no serenade
by POP ART TOWN
Finally got around to checking these guys out

Spotify this year more so than any other year since I started using the service has been really good about recommending me bands and artists that it thinks I would like based on my listening history. One such band to come from there is POP ART TOWN who in some ways has been a staple recommendation to me by Spotify for a couple of months now and once the bey dropped their most recent album ART MUSEUM this month I figured now would be as good of a time as any to give them a listen. The album as a whole is something I’d consider as a very contemporary sort of album in that a lot of it feels very much influenced directly or otherwise by modern J-Pop. Mafuyu no Serenade for example has seems to be taking some inspiration in its pre-chorus/chorus from hooks popularized by YOASOBI in recent years.

Enigma
by Empty old City
On the subject of more modern J-Pop

Empty old City is another group that I’ve had my eye on for a while now owing to their DTM-oriented style that evoke a sound that would lead you to believe that they’d be more popular than they currently are given how their sound seems to fit right in in the “Youth Pop” sphere of Japanese music that’s largely dominated by producer/composer+vocal pairings of which I’m sure most of you guys need no introduction. By that same token, you guys know too that all it really takes is for one song to blow up for a group like Empty old City to reach crazy new heights. Whether or not Enigma is that song for them will perhaps remain to be seen, but for what its worth, it’s a good showing of the group’s penchant for bass heavy tracks accentuated by kahoco’s strong vocals singing reminiscent at times of ZUTOMAYO’s ACAね.

ちゅ、多様性。/chu, tayousei
by ano
What a time to be both an anime *and* a Japanese music fan

One of the more interesting developments in the world of Anime, if not a full blown phenomenon, as it relates to Japanese music comes from Fall 2022’s most anticipated adaptation of the critically-acclaimed and widely popular Chainsaw Man. In particular, the show having conscripted different bands and artists not all that known for doing anison if at all to perform the ending themes for each of its twelve slated episodes has left anime fans abuzz (myself included) after being introduced to a good handful of names they may or may not have heard of outside of the anime space; from ZUTOMAYO whom we just mentioned previously, to ano here from the most recent episode of the show (at the time of writing) with the song Chu, Tayousei. Fans of Soutaiseiriron and Etsuko Yakushimaru might feel right at home with this one.

天国/tengoku
by Dios
I was wondering what he’s been up to

When the artist now formerly-known as ‘Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi’ announced his departure from the world of Japanese music following the release of what would be his last single under that moniker in the apty titled Boku wa Mou Inai (lit. “I’m no longer here”) my impression was that he had retired for good due to discontentment. That is until I happened upon a song on THE FIRST TAKE of a song where ‘Lyric’ was supposed to be the featured artist, but in his place was instead a man named Tanaka. It didn’t take me long to find out that ‘Lyric’ and Tanaka are of course one and the same, and that following his rebranding of himself, he has since joined hands with famed composer Sasanomaly and equally famous guitarist Ichika Nito to form the group Dios. If there’s anything to take away from Tengoku here, this group is no joke.

鬱夢くたしかな食感/utsumuku tashikana shokukan
by エルスウェア紀行 (elsewhere kikou)
‘Cause I gotta always end it with something off the wall

Though I say that, it’s not as though what Elsewhere Kikou (cool name btw) is doing here for Tsuyumeku Tashikana Shokukan is anything crazy or technical in terms of its musical composition, but instead it’s in the peculiar song structure that they have chosen to employ which doesn’t follow the conventional verse>pre-chorus>chorus and instead seems to have… no chorus at all at least in the traditional sense. Sections where you would expect the chorus to be in (specifically at the 01:40 and 03:03) are instead both rhythm and genre switches with the band going back and forth between a more guitar-focused band-oriented sound to Jazz Noir/Noir Jazz. In that regard too, the duo seem to want to evoke a new age type of Japanese Progressive Rock with their music to coincide with the new Japanese Reiwa era, so that’s pretty neat.

MUST LISTEN:
“Chantoshitahito Futekigousha” by Fujikawa Chiai
I fall in love with this song the more times I listen to it, and I do honestly believe that’s the case (at least in my own personal experience) for the vast majority of Fujikawa Chiai’s work. You can actually click the Closed-Captioning option on the video to see an English translation of the lyrics where you can get a feel for the tone of her songwriting which I do find to be fairly uniform in terms of the themes she chooses to employ in her songs. They are for the most part seemingly anecdotal, otherwise mundane accounts and happenstances in her life that she weaves into this whimsical narrative with the use of her clever writing style that’s complimented by the idiosyncracies of her singing: ie. the repetition of whole lines but varied in their delivery. A very underappreciated singer-songwriter with a a very nuanced approach to music.

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The YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music Roundup playlists have all now been updated for the final time this year (!!!) with this month’s featured tracks 🙂

What are your thoughts on this month’s Roundup? Lemme know in the comments section down below if any of the songs stood out for you. Likewise, if you have a song that you want to recommend to me and to everyone else, feel free to drop a link to it as well! I always check out your guys’ recommendations whenever they come my way, and I love hearing what you guys are listening to too 😛

If you didn’t already know, we will be having the Roundup Awards in place of the Monthly Recommendation Roundup to close out the year next month (if you’re unfamiliar, check out the awards posts for previous years to get the gist of what this would entail). Last year we introduced a whole new category of awards for albums specificially, aptly named Album Awards where I gave out awards for my Favorite Single, Favorite EP/Mini-Album, and my Favorite Album for that year. Not to give too much away, but keep an eye out for this awards category this year 😉

Before I let you go, don’t forget to check out this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate! This time Al and I talk about some of our favorite albums that we own. You can catch my review of DUSTY FRUITS CLUB’s Seeds of sound here, and Al’s review of Hockrockb’s Kokkaque will be at Omunibasu.Blog, so if you’ve yet to see those and are curious about either/both albums, please feel free to do so. Talking about favorite albums, Al and I will be doing our now-traditional year-ender for the Exchange/Rate next month as well where we’ll be talking about our Favorite Album of 2022 so be on the lookout for those too!

That’s gonna do it for me. Thank you all so much for tuning in whenever you do, and I hope to see you guys in the Roundup Awards 😀

Happy Listening!

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