New Year, New Season of the Roundup!
Yep, you heard that right; the Monthly Recommendation Roundups are back yet again for what will now be the sixth (!!!) year since I’ve commenced this series (crazy to think about really) and for those who have been tuning in since then or started tuning in at some point along the way, I’ll be in your guys’ care once more 🙂
If, however, this is actually the first time you’ve come across this blog 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 time frame, 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.
The first Roundup of the year is always a bit weird as I tend to mention every time it comes around as it’s mostly me reconciling releases from December of last year. As a reminder we do hold the Roundup Awards in place of the Monthly Roundup during that time so as a direct consequence I don’t get to talk about songs that came out since then until the following January (which would be this month).
On the bright side though that just means I have *that* many songs to sift through and listen to which is always nice 😛
JYOCHO be like “Y’all must’ve forgot”
It’s actually twice now that it has happened where right after we give out the award for Best Instrumentation for the year in the Roundup Awards, JYOCHO comes out with a song that has an absolutely bonkers arrangement shortly thereafter. The first time was back when they won it back in 2018 after which they released sugoi kawaii JYOCHO. While they couldn’t quite clinch it in the most recent Awards, the band still answers in kind with Iu Toori here and I mean c’mon, I can’t even begin to wrap my head around even just the first twenty seconds of this song. Something that Nakagawa Daijiro, guitarist and lead composer for the band, brought back from his days as part of UchuConbini which I thought was interesting was the rapidly syncopated guitar and drum sections splashed around here and there, reminiscent of cult favorite EverythingChanges.
That bass line is killer
A growing “complaint” I’ve sort of been having with arne’s sound as of late was that they seem to have started to rely heavily into grainy distortion with each succeeding release of theirs when they can most certainly do with less of it if not completely without. It’s a bit of a shame at times when they overdo it as it just muddies the entire track altogether which in turn takes away from the things that they do so well at like their guitar work. While you still hear that very same distortion at work here in nostalgia, they also show something here that you don’t normally hear from arne and those are these smooth Jazz bass lines that pair really nice with the more retro-sounding arrangement of the track with its Vaporwave guitars. The vibe that I’m getting is that the band is trying to break free from doing just Math Rock so let’s see how this pans out.
Arguably one of the best songs of 2022
I would even go so far as to say that had this song come out just a tiny bit sooner, the entire narrative behind the 2022 Roundup Awards with it specifically being pretty much a clean sweep by Chilli Beans. could’ve shifted ever so slightly in favor of chilldspot (who, as some of you might recall was my *runner-up* for Favorite Discovery that year). Alas, get high released mid-December which made it ineligible for the Awards, and since there wasn’t a Roundup for that month I was left unable to talk about a song that for the most part just blew me away. I’m here now to give it its fair dues. chilldspot has always had a good guitar sense, but the drum work in this track is just superb in my opinion. It gives the song just have this nice weight to it where every time you listen it’s just this thunderous rumble to an impactful peak of a chorus.
by 輪廻 (rinne)
Interesting route they’ve chosen to take here
My initial impression of the Seijin Seijin here was that it sounded like two different songs rolled into one. Like, it starts out with this really nice aggressive rhythm switch which sort of gives you the impression that the rest of the song is going to sound like that as it bleeds into the verses but then the chorus hits and it’s now more your typical Girls Rock. Not that there’s anything wrong with of course, but it does kinda show you where Rinne is at as a band. The Tokyo-based three-piece is still very much young in their music career so there’s plenty of time for them to experiment with different sounds (as is the case for most bands just a couple of years removed from when they first started out) and I do think that’s what we’re hearing here. Personally for me I believe the route to take here is something more along the lines of Hump Back.
by カネヨリマサル (kaneyorimasaru)
This might just be the year KaneYoriMasaru breaks through
I’ve been keeping a close eye on this Osaka-based three piece ever since I first featured them on the Roundup but I honestly feel that it’s only right about now that the band will start to reach new heights. At the very least I remember thinking that KaneYoriMasaru “suffered” the same sort of problems as similar bands before it like say Lucie,Too or even Hitsujibungaku too where in their earlier work the vocals are just way further back than they need to be. That is not at all the case in 26 here and Chisato Mina’s vocals are definitely the star of this track here. I’m especially a fan of the hook at the end of the choruses in particular. KaneYoriMasaru will have already dropped their first full album by the time this Roundup goes up, and in my opinion I do genuinely believe that this is the release that’s gonna put them over.
You can thank Spotify for this one
The top two genres I listen to on Spotify based off of last year’s #SpotifyWrapped was Japanese Alternative Rock and Japanese Hip-Hop and R&B. Now, if you’ve been following the Roundup, me being an avid fan of Alt. Rock shouldn’t be news to you but I don’t think I get to talk about how much I listen to Japanese Hip-Hop and R&B. Truth be told, Spotify’s ‘Chill Mix‘ is actually the playlist I put on the most whenever I want to listen to something in the background (XD) So it shouldn’t really be a surprise that the marriage of these two genres in the form of Kroi here would be a constant recommendation to me by Spotify (lol). It took me a while to actually bite and check them out though but I finally did and yeah no these guys are fun. I really like the way they seamlessly blend in rap portions in songs like you’ hear in Hard Pool here.
by みきまりあ (miki maria)
Miki Maria’s RAW was an EP I picked up blind last year and, if I had to put a number on it (since I already named POP ART TOWN’s ART MUSEUM and Furui Riho’s Green Light as my favorite and second favorite blind pick-ups respectively from the previous year), it would comfortably be my third. Perhaps known better as the front-woman for NOMELON NOLEMON, Miki Maria is yet another member of PLUSONICA (whose other notable products include nishina, Foi, and Ikuta Lilas to name a few) who has gone out to some solo work. It appears her involvement with her band is more of her bread and butter, so in a sense tracks like Mascara here are more so just downtime for her (lol) but fwiw as the vocalist for such a high energy Pop/Rock band like NOMELON NOLEMON, she does a bang up job as an Chill Pop singer.
Her come up is nothing short of amazing
It’s actually not that long ago since Anonymouz was mostly doing song covers on her YouTube channel and, not to disparage that at all but going from doing that to then performing the theme songs for two very popular shows (Boruto and now Vinland Saga) is insane. I’m sure there’s more to it, like, I’m pretty sure she has a manager handling a lot of the stuff that goes on in the background but regardless, still quite the upward trajectory for her. That being said, the surprise isn’t so much seeing her in this spot than it is just how seemingly fast it took. If anything, given her voice, her character, as well as the story she brings it does feel as though it was only be a matter of time until the light finally shone on her and that time is now. Something to note is that River here actually shows her unique penchant for singing in fluent English.
by ジョナゴールド (JONAGOLD)
Yet another star in the making
Back in the October 2022 Roundup I already had the opportunity to feature JONAGOLD but ended up not doing so to make way for ao instead. A lot of that is because I think they’re both on the same sort of career path as potentially being among the next big J-Pop Artists of today and I didn’t want to crowd that month’s Roundup features too much with prospective J-Pop artists so I just went with one over the other. That is to say, JONAGOLD has just as good of a shot at making it as ao does. She might even have a stronger case as, unlike ao, the former idol turn Pop singer is at present a more complete artist in terms of both her singing and the way she carries herself. JONAGOLD just dropped her first full album this month too with WEEKEND here as the title track and, not for nothing, but it’s a very solid release by her.
in this room
by tiny yawn
You know I gotta do it for the last featured song of the month
It’s pretty much tradition for me to save the final recommendation for songs by Japanese Indie bands specifically and I think it’s only fitting for the first Roundup of the year to feature possibly the most promising Japanese Indie band in the scene right now in tiny yawn. Math Rock bands in always get a huge pop from international fans for some reason and, as you can see in the comments section in the PV for in this room, that’s the case here too. Of course, while an overseas audience is well and good, building a strong local fan base is number one priority. It’s a good time to be a Japanese Math Rock fan with JYOCHO becoming popular in the mainstream and bands like Suichu Spica and now tiny yawn all coming up so at the very least we can surmise that the scene is most certainly thriving over there now more than ever.
“get high” by chilldspot and “WEEKEND” by JONAGOLD
I said to myself I’d make it up to chilldspot come January of this year for not being able to feature get high back when it got released, so here we are. Just a very solic track all around in my opinion, from a band that’s actually been on a bit of a tear with their last couple of releases. chilldspot’s last full album was a good number of years ago already so we might see them drop a banger this 2023. Speaking of releases this year, JONAGOLD’s debut album WEEKEND is now live on Spotify and Apple Music so do give that a spin when you can. I’ve been listening to it a lot since it came out and the title track WEEKEND here might very well be my favorite song off of it. It has the kind of chorus that I like from J-Pop songs specifically, and overall the album is just good fun all around. Definitely someone to keep an eye out for, 100%.
The 2023 YouTube Recommendation Roundup Playlist is now live! Go on ahead and save it to your YouTube playlists so you always have the Roundup with you wherever the Internet takes you 😉 The Spotify and Apple Music playlists have also been updated with this month’s featured tracks respectively.
What are your guys’ thoughts on this month’s selection? Lemme know down in the comments below! Likewise, if you have any songs you would like to recommend to me, feel free to do so as well. In as much as I like recommending songs to you guys, I also really just love getting recommendations myself 😀
On the subject of me being recommended songs, in case you missed it this month, I actually started a new series on the blog call the Spotify J-Music Playlist Draft! The gist of it is that every other week I run through five songs that Spotify suggests that I listen to based on my preferences, where I keep the songs that I like into a special Draft playlist. The goal of the series is to see if the playlist can get to a hundred songs by the end of the year, thus giving validity to Spotify’s ability to recommend songs. We are now in Week 2 of the Draft going into Week 3 relatively soon so if you missed the previous installments and are interested, do check them out. The Draft is a but more short form and informal compared to the otherwise more structured (lol) Roundup so if you think you might prefer something like that then that series just be for you.
The J-Music Exchange/Rate has also been renewed for another season this year so if you’re itching for more Japanese album reviews, Al and I have got you covered. We’re starting out this year of review by talking about albums by Artists Who We Expect To Have A Major Release In 2023. Al predicts Hoshino Gen to drop another potential award-winning release this year so he went ahead and had me review the double platinum award winner’s critically acclaimed hit album POP VIRUS (check out my review here if you haven’t yet). I in turn had Al listen to LOOK by ao, which I thought was rather fitting considering ao was the 2022 Roundup Awards Winner for Band/Artist To Look Out For in 2023. You can catch Al’s review over at Omunibasu.Blog.
That’s gonna do it for me. Very active month here on the blog with all these projects running alongside one another, and I can’t be happier because of it 🙂 The hope is always, of course, that you guys are having catching these posts just as much fun as I do making ’em.
I’ll see you guys in the next one. Happy Listening!
That arne track is pretty sick. I think because of the ao album, I have a much better appreciation and perception of atmospheric-sounding songs (lol), and I think “nostalgia” is another good example of that. And yep, that bassline is fantastic to listen to.
I do agree with what you said about that rinne song, with how it sounds like two tracks mixed into one. The sudden tonal shift was a bit strange at first, but like you said, it does sound like something more on the experimental side. I do like how fun of a band they seem to be; not only because of their music, but the music video was also pretty amusing to watch. Them messing around in a park and other public places while wearing, what I’m assuming are, prison outfits was funny (lol). And maybe that’s another option in terms of which stylistic direction they’ll go towards.
I honestly didn’t know you were listening to Japanese hip-hop/rap a lot, but that’s pretty cool to hear! I’ve started getting into it myself but I may have to rely on you for some good recs lol. But for real, that Kroi track is actually an incredible find. I totally agree: the transitions between the rap parts and the alt-rock parts were legitimately smooth, and it’s just a really cool expression of those two genres. And I can’t remember how but apparently I also stumbled upon that band in the past, since I liked a song of theirs (“Balmy Life”) on Spotify so yeah, I’m certainly interested in checking out their other stuff now.
One thing I find great about JONAGOLD, when comparing “WEEKEND” to some of the other tracks I’ve heard from her, is that her voice sounds pretty consistent. Doesn’t really matter if it’s a more fun, pop track like “WEEKEND” or something that’s more on the low-key side with “Route 7”; I think she maintains that lower tone for the most part, which I find it be cool. And yeah, I can totally see her becoming a hit in the future.
Really nice roundup this month! As for suggestions: I’ve actually also been checking out a ‘Chill Mix’, specifically the one on Apple Music, and ended up discovering an artist by the name of Maica_n. I figured you might like this track of theirs, especially when it comes to her voice (https://youtu.be/6ulF7et3pz0).
Also this track from Takahashi Rie, the seiyuu, was a cool find (https://youtu.be/CbrXg11qfZo). I’m sure you’re familiar with her VA work but I think she’s really going for it with her solo music career now, which is great to see. Her recent EP is honestly one of the weirdest seiyuu music releases I’ve listened to, since it includes a wide range of styles/genres, but I’m hoping we’ll see more stuff from her now 😛
Yup. Grain-y distortion aside, arne does their best work (in my opinion at least) with these dreamy Midwestern Emo-y chord progressions, and in general their guitar lineup has always been pretty sick.
In a lot of ways Rinne does feel like a bit of throwback to when Girls Rock was at its most popular, but with more present day sensibilities in terms of sound. Like, they have the right look and attitude for it, and even their songs too kinda feels like it’d fit right in during that era of Japanese music if not for these rhyhthm switches and tonal shifts which I would attribute to something more modern. Sort of like a… Post-Modern approach to the genre in that sense (XD)
Oh yeah no my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist by Spotify is mainly giving me Japanese R&B and Hip-Hop songs as a direct consequence where at times I purposely cue up some Alt Rock again just to balance out my plays and get some recommendations for Alt Rock again (XD) Ngl part of me thinks it’s because I grew up listening to Linkin Park (LOL) that I find Rap juxtaposed with Rock so appealing, Haha!
I’ll save my thoughts for when I do my review but I 100% agree that you can definitely hear how much of a handle JONAGOLD already has on her identity as a singer, which is actually impressive when you think about how she only debuted as a solo artist not that long ago. (I’ll be linking you something really neat shortly :P)
Thanks! Oh nice, Maica_n was also another name that would occasionally pop up for me in my Spotify recs so I’ve heard some of their stuff before yeah. I remember specifically noting that I wish they released stuff more frequently, but yeah, definitely a unique (almost androgynous even) voice. This Rieri track is pretty neat though ngl. Kinda reminds me a lot of that Mikku album that you passed me a while back actually.
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