It’s awards day babyyy!
Welcome, one and all, to the annual Recommendation Roundup Awards! Grab a seat, grab a snack, and we will begin momentarily after a few formalities.
As some of you might already know, the Roundup Awards is something I do in place of the regular Monthly Recommendation Roundup around December, wherein I like taking the opportunity to celebrate the many wonderful bands and artists that I’ve had the absolute pleasure of featuring this year. This, I aim to do by is by giving out awards, to commemorate these past twelve (technically eleven) months of awesome Japanese Music that we’ve had. Of course, it’s all in good fun, and while I might not give recognition to a particular band or artist in this here awards post, do know that I still think they’re all great in their own ways. After all, tonights winners are really only just decided by me and me alone, so if you think someone else might be more deserving, feel free to say as much in the comments section down below as well 😀
There are three categories of awards; namely Song Awards, Album Awards, and Artist Awards, with now five awards per category (where Album Awards before only had three awards under it), making for a grand total of fifteen awards up for grabs. As a reminder, only bands and artists whose songs have been featured in this year’s Monthly Recommendation Roundups are the only ones eligible to receive an award from me, so in the event that a favorite of yours doesn’t show up here, that might be a reason why. Of note, we will be pulling from the biggest pool that the Roundup has had to date, as for the first time in the blog’s history we actually ended up featuring our “max” of 110 songs! Very happy about that, and I’m definitely looking to keep up the same energy come next year’s Monthly Roundups 😉
Before talking about what next year has to offer though (specifically after the ceremonies) let’s go ahead and talk about this year’s offerings. We had an amazing year of Roundups as we always do, and I would like to thank each and everyone of you who took and continue to take part in listening to Japanese Music alongside me. I say this every year, and the sentiment hasn’t changed, but I can only hope that my monthly recommendations have been as fun of a listening for you guys (if not more so) than me making them 🙂
Now, on to the awards!
Sailing day [September 2022]
Our first award goes out to the song that I thought had the “best” PV this year. Now, this goes for the rest of the awards but I don’t really have a set criteria for any of them whenever it comes to picking out the year’s recipient. Last year the deciding factor ended up being the narrative that was presented in the music video, and in previous years it was in the visual aspect of the videos of themseves. This year, chilldspot’s Sailing day instead gets the nod for its symbolism. The PV depicts an orphanage of sorts where, over the course of the song we see the children depart one after the other, leaving both the house they presumably grew up in and the people they in turn grew up with. What I found to have been given emphasis here was the notions of the fleeting present and a fear of the uncertain, and I think the song really just nailed both here.
ブレーメン/bremen [July 2022]
by ヨルシカ (yorushika)
In as much of a meme “upbeat Japanese song with dark/sad lyrics” has become in recent years, as unfortunate as that sounds, it can’t be denied that that did become a bit of a phenomenon following the mainstream success of YOASOBI’s Yoru ni Kakeru. Despite arguably being the most popular example of it, the duo of Ayase and Ikuta Lilas are quite far from being the first ones to ever do it, and while Yorushika’s n-buna *would* be someone who has done it for much longer, I’m sure even he wouldn’t stake his claim to it (especially knowing his stance on plagiarism and “thought crime”). That being said, it was actually interesting (and honestly just nice) to see Yorushika come out with such a positive and uplifting song in Bremen here which really is just a song about being true to yourself and not minding what others think about you.
Reverb [October 2022]
by 水中スピカ (suichu spica)
In what has essentially become the “Japanese Math Rock song of the year” award (lol) I really am not doing myself any sort of favors by being a fan of the genre for its instrumentation aspect specifically, but here we are (XD) In line with that, JYOCHO has sort of become the de facto recepient of this award if not a yearly contender for it because of how much their brand of Math Rock ends up resonating with me compared to most. However, they are now no longer alone in that distinction, after my having come across Suichu Spica’s Reverb this year. The band carries with them a Midwest Emo-y flare to their Math Rock which is just so hard not to like. It’s also a sound that’s not as explored, at least within the context of Japanese Music (at least in so far as my own personal experience) so in that sense they stand out for me.
悪魔の子/akuma no ko [January 2022]
by ヒグチアイ (higuchi ai)
I do find it a bit funny how, barring the inaugural 2018 Roundup Awards, the award for Best Vocals has only ever gone to artists who either end up making an appearance on THE FIRST TAKE or to Utada Hikaru specifically (LOL), but I digress. While there were definitely a lot of worthy candidates for this award, I did ultimately (and after much deliberation) manage to narrow it down to both the awardee and the runner-up whom you’re seeing now, in what I would like to call a showdown of “moments versus minutes”. What I mean by that is, while yutori’s Satou definitely has some amazing moments with her singing, Higuchi Ai just has a more rounded and complete vocal performance in Akuma no Ko that she manages to sustain for pretty much the entire duration of the song. One of the most impressive showings of the year for sure.
＊＊＊MOST PLAYED SONG OF 2022＊＊＊
L.I.B [July 2022]
by Chilli Beans.
Much like how things ended up last year, L.I.B is actually a proxy to what would be my *actual” Most Played Song of the year (at least according to Spotify) since I never actually featured Tremolo (or really any of the songs in that top five there) in any month of the Roundup prior. The numbers don’t lie though, and I really have listened to Chilli Beans. the most this year out of all the bands and artists that I follow, so I think this substition is fine. Rather, I’m pretty sure my playcounts of Chilli Beans.’ songs should all relatively be close to one another given how I sometimes just hit the big green play button on their Spotify page and let the program do its thing. Not to say that L.I.B doesn’t have a lot going for itself though, as it is a nice and catchy tune on its own, and does a good job of highliting Chilli Beans.’ strong points as well.
＊＊＊FAVORITE ALBUM ART OF 2022＊＊＊
花咲く君の滑走路/hanasaku kimi no kassouro
by 文藝天国 (bungei tengoku)
This is the first of two *new* awards that will now be included in the Album Awards category and it’s for my Favorite Album Art from this year’s releases. Much like the award for Best PV, I’m not really looking for anything technical in terms of design (not that I’d know what to look for), and if anything I actually like a lot of album artwork for a lot of different reasons. Why I like the one for Bungei Tengoku’s Hanasaku Kimi no Kassouro the most this year is how this one image is how much it ties in to their songs, namely Snorkel and Air Blast. What you’re seeing in the photo is the titular blast of air shooting out of a snorkel submerged in water. This is in reference to the shared narrative between the two songs, which describe living as being in a constant state of snorkeling to prevent from drowning, and air blasts being a display of our will to live.
Runner-Up – “Dokuritsu joushou-kyoku daiichiban” by Kuroki Nagisa
Just a badass looking album cover by a badass woman
＊＊＊FAVORITE SINGLE OF 2022＊＊＊
I think it’s pretty fair to say that Ado had quite possibly the biggest year this year, perhaps out of all Japanese Music, thanks in part to her massively successful collaboration with ONE PIECE FILM RED, which involved her contributing a total of eight theme songs that garnered immense positive reception not just in Japan but the world over. While all the songs can now be found in one album, each one was released as its own single as part of the One Piece movie promotion, and of those singles my favorite is without a doubt Gyakko here. Most of the songs part of this project share this trait too, but I really just love the energy Ado brings here especially once the chorus kicks in. Of note, the song is also composed by the very talented Vaundy, to whom we can probably attribute the neat 90’s Grunge-esque instrumentation.
Runner-Up – “Jiyuu Made no Kyuri” by Harusaruhi
Aboslutely insane flow
＊＊＊FAVORITE EP/MINI-ALBUM OF 2022＊＊＊
I told everyone back in last year’s Roundup Awards that yutori was the band to be on the look out for this year and while I do think Moratorium is exactly the kind of release I was expecting from them, I also can’t help but feel as though it came out just a little too late into the year. Specifically, I felt as though they released it well past the wave of momentum that they had been riding with their first couple of singles. However, all is not lost, and we’re still left with a very promising EP by still one of the most promising Japanese Alt. Rock bands on the come up (at least in my opinion). Satou’s vocals are still outstanding, and while we don’t really get much in the way of *new* songs in this release, it does just enough to fan the flames so to speak in terms of interest, and I continue to look forward to hearing more from them in the coming years.
Runner-Up – “Acoustic Session” by Atarayo
Cheating just a little bit by calling this an EP, but it’s sooo good
＊＊＊FAVORITE ALBUM OF 2022＊＊＊
by Chilli Beans.
If you’ve been following the J-Music Exchange/Rate album review series between myself and Al from Omunibasu.Blog, you should already know what my favorite what my Favorite Album of 2022 is 😛 That and I already alluded to it as much while talking about my #SpotifyWrapped results earlier, but yeah no, Chilli Beans. all but took over my music listening this year. A lot of that is because they dropped their self-titled debut album this year and, as Al talks about in his review, the album is just banger after banger from the first track to the last. I honestly don’t think this is hyperbole, and I do also very much believe that each individual song really is that good as well, so if you haven’t yet yourselves I do highly recommend that you guys check this album out. I can almost certainly guarantee that at the very least it won’t disappoint.
Runner-Up – “PENCIL ROCKET” by Hockrockb
Without a doubt Hockrockb’s BEST release to date
＊＊＊FAVORITE BLIND PICKUP OF 2022＊＊＊
by POP ART TOWN
The is the last of the two *new* awards that we’ll be giving out under the Album Awards category, and is one that I surprisingly had a lot of fun thinking about. You see, something that I found myself doing more this year was “blindly” picking up albums by bands and artists that I hadn’t listened to before but was being recommended to me by Spotify. This has led to many unexpected discoveries that, more often than not, end up making their way into my library. This award thus goes to the ones who left the most lasting impression on me and that’s none other than POP ART TOWN’s ART MUSEUM here. The band has been a constant presence in my recommendations and after listening to the album I was kicking myself not trying out their stuff sooner. Vocalist Naruo Sayaka’s singing in particular is just all sorts of swoon-inducing.
Runner-Up – “Green Light” by Furui Riho
Can’t not be a fan of hers with such a fun listen of an album
＊＊＊BEST PROSPECT OF 2022＊＊＊
Much has been said, both here in this blog and I’m sure in other places as well, about Sawano Hiroyuki’s propenstity for finding “diamonds in the rough” so to speak in terms of vocal talent. In particular, Sawano’s “nZk project” has shone the spotlight on a good handful of talented but otherwise lesser known singers throughout the years such as UNIDOTS‘ Mizuki and EOW‘s Laco. What sets SennaRin apart from all of Sawano’s other muses is that she’s not the frontwoman of an already existing nor is she an already established artist like aimer whom Sawano also collaborated with. A cover artist primarily, SennaRin will be the first artist that Sawano will be the main producer for, and I do think that that prospect alone is already thought-provoking in itself. Add to the equation SennaRin’s singing and we might be in for a ride here.
Runner-Up – Gambit
Good chance they don’t ever make music again but if they do I’m there for it
＊＊＊MOST IMPROVED BAND/ARTIST OF 2022＊＊＊
To put this into perspective, eill was the recipient of my award for Favorite Discovery of 2019 in that year’s Roundup Awards. Back then I was talking about how she had just started to break through into the mainstream, and how excited I was to see how she’d do once she got there. A couple of years and a handful of releases later, I can now most certainly say that has carved out a nice little place for herself in J-Pop, though admittedly not one I saw her being when I first started listening to her. In the years since I gave her that award, eill went from imbibing this sort of “party gal” aesthetic into becoming a sensational balladeer. This reinvention of her approach is nothing short of impressive in my opinion, and it was a pleasure to watch it unfold. Of course, she’s still down to party when need be, and I think that’s awesome too.
Runner-Up – Takeuchi Anna
Her TICKETS album from this year is sooo much better than her debut album
＊＊＊MOST PROLIFIC BAND/ARTIST OF 2022＊＊＊
Allow me to preface this by saying that I grew up (figuratively speaking) on Emo bands when I first started purposely listening to music. In that sense, you can say that I’ve naturally been conditioned to be a total sap ever since high school. So of course, it stands to reason that Atarayo’s sappy breakup songs end up just being my kind of jam, hence why they made it on the Roundup a total of five times this year (XD) I’m really only half-joking, but it *is* true that the band has really leaned in on being (or at least trying to be) the premier Japanese Emo band, and that their music does resonate with me. That being said, I do honestly think too that they’re doing a bang up job doing their thing. At the very least, Atarayo will always find an audience in me (however reassuring that may be, lol) and there will always be room in the Roundup for them.
＊＊＊FAVORITE DISCOVERY OF 2022＊＊＊
Seeing as this is now the third time that I will be talking to you guys about Chilli Beans. you can probably see that there really is no denying just how much I enjoyed and continue to enjoy having found out about them this year, and as I hope I’ve been able to illustrate both in my Roundup features and through these awards, it’s not hard to imagine how and why I do. The band just has a sound to them that really clicks with me, whether its the relatively simple yet nuanced approach to Japanese Rock with hints of Garage and more Western Rock influences, the melodious harmonics of their gang vocals, their demeanor and how they carry themselves or any mixture of these things. Their debut album answered whatever questions left needed to be addressed in my opinion, and I do think that the sky is the limit for these guys from here on out.
Runner-Up – chilldspot
Wish I got into them sooner, but I’m 100% a fan of theirs now
＊＊＊BAND/ARTIST TO LOOK OUT FOR IN 2023＊＊＊
I think it was when I first came across Change here specifically when I thought, “this girl is going places”. …That was before I found out how old she is (I’ll let you go and check that one for yourselves as nice little surprise). Now, her being such a capable singer *despite* being as young as she is, isn’t really what I’m trying to give focus to here. Rather, I’m more so intrigued by the potential for growth more than anything else. I mean, c’mon, ao is out here already sounding like milet (or at the very least I do think the two have a VERY similar cadence when it comes to their singing) and just her voice already shows so much promise. I do look at streaming numbers when it comes to this award too and ao’s YouTube and Spotify numbers and relatively speaking they do look really good. A real star in the making, in my own honest assessment.
Runner-Up – Kusunoki Tomori
She has an album debut next year and if anything else *I’m* excited
＊＊＊LIFETIME ROUNDUP APPRECIATION AWARD＊＊＊
I’m not sure how often I’ll give these out, but I did want to at least give BURNABLE/UNBURNABLE some form of special recognition this year as a show of my gratitude to them. I wrote a brief summary before about the whole thing but basically what happened was they offered to provide live concert audio for people who bought tickets for their live show but were unable to attend. I follow their social media so I ended up seeing this announcement and, just to entertain the idea, I reached out to them to see if they’d be willing to send me the audio if I covered the cost of the ticket. To my surprise their team got back to me and after some back and forth, they sent me not only the audio but photos from the live as well. I thought that it was really neat that they did that, and they will forever have a fan in me because of it.
＜ーー２０２２ ＲＯＵＮＤＥＤ ＵＰーー＞
The 2022 Rounded Up playlist above (cute name, I know, I know) is a compilation of all the “Must Listen” tracks from this year’s Monthly Recommendation Roundups to cap us off as we now draw the curtains to what has (hopefully) been a fantastic night of awards. As a reminder I do highlight one or two songs every month in the Roundup for the track/s that I felt needed to be paid special attention to for some reason ot another, and it’s actually kinda interesting looking back now and seeing these songs in particular and in turn seeing how much of this list ended up being reflected in this year’s Roundup Awards. The playlist also just serves as a nice little recap of this year of Japanese Music that we had, right before the date turns over and we usher in 2023.
And with that, the 2022 Roundup Awards are officially over! 🙂
I would again like to give my heartfelt thanks to though of you dropped by and are reading this now, especially those who sat through and read the entirety of the Roundup Awards. I can only hope it was well worth your time <3
Al from Omunibasu.Blog predicted a Chilli Beans. sweep to occur and seeing as they are the only band tonight to have nabbed an award in each category (making them our “overall” winner), it wasn’t a terribly inaccurate assessment (XD)
At this time, I turn the floor now over to you guys: What did you guys think of this years awards? Which bands/artists do you think are deserving of which awards? Lemme know down in the comments!
The Monthly Recommendation Roundup is coming back next year for its sixth year (!) so if you haven’t already been doing so, do stay tuned if ever you’re so inclined to catch those when I put them out. The Roundups go up at the end of every month here on the blog. You can also like and follow either (or both if you’d like, lol) the Spotify Roundup playlist or the Apple Music playlist which I also update each month.
The J-Music Exchange/Rate will also be coming back next year so if you’ve been following my and Al’s album reviews, we got you covered 😉 Al and I just got done doing our now-traditional year-ender review for our respective Albums of the Year for 2022 and since you already know my favorite album from this year, go ahead and check out Al’s review of it over at Omunibasu.Blog if you haven’t yet already. Likewise, feel free to catch my review of Al’s favorite album of 2022, CUE-SAI by BATTEN GIRLS if you also happened to miss that one as well.
I have a couple of ideas for some potential new posts come next year but I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much and I end up just not doing any of them, so you guys will just have to stay tuned to see if I follow through or not (LOL)
In any case though, whether it’s in the Monthly Roundups, the Exchange/Rates, or in something else, I do hope to see you guys here again next year 😀
I wish one and all a Happy and Blessed New Year ahead of us 🙂
Happy Listening as always, and I’ll see y’all in 2023!