Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (April 2023)

I realize this is, like, the most I’ve posted in a month (LOL)

It’s been a minute since I’ve gone and put up five posts in a single month. At the very least, I feel like the last time I’d done so would be dating back to my ani-blogging days. …Who here remembers when I used to do that? If you’re one of the few remaining ones that do, you’re a real one for following me and the blog for as long as you have and you have my undying gratitude for it 🙂

IF, however, you’re actually new to the blog and/or don’t know what this is 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.

It’s one of those months again where because of how the days lined up, I actually had to start drafting this April Roundup a bit earlier than I normally would (mostly just to account for days I can’t write where I’m otherwise busy with work) so I definitely missed out on anything that came out in the last week. I have to give a shoutout to poor man’s rose, sabasister, and Suichu Spica in particular who both would’ve totally made it on (or at least made a strong case for it).


I can’t not lead with this

Of course I am talking about YOASOBI’s Idol, which is quite possibly going to end up as *the* Anison of the year. At the very least, it’s one of the strongest candidates, in large part due to its being the opening theme for the widely popular “Oshi no Ko”. That being said, that’s not to take away from the actual song itself, which is an absolute bop in its own right. Something to note here is that it’s actually a bit atypical of the sound one might have to expect from the duo of Ayase and Ikuta Lilas. One of my biggest criticisms towards YOASOBI’s music has always been that Ayase tends to rely on a lot of the same melodies in building his compositions, and while Idol isn’t entirely without his old reliables, the double times and the breakdown sections with Ikura’s rapping keep the song vibrant and fresh from beginning to end.

by 黒木渚 (kuroki nagisa)
Still as creative as she’s ever been

I’d argue even more so, the more I listen to Rakurai, which is quickly becoming my favorite Kuroki Nagisa song. I’ll wait to see if this is just a ‘honeymoon phase’ that will come to pass before I can say for sure, but for now, do know that this track absolutely blows me away. In a lot of ways Rakurai is a reinvention of Kuroki Nagisa’s style if only for this song which has very ‘modern’ feel to it with its implementation of synth and Electro (whereas before she leaned towards a more Japanese Rock approach). The real highlight though are the multiple rhythm shifts that occur throughout the song accentuated by a rather uncharacteristic syncopated singing style by Kuroki that really keeps you on your toes. Something I found interesting in relation to that is she actually snaps back to her ‘old’ singing style in the 02:00 minute mark. Very cool.

愛の歌/ai no uta
by 藤川千愛 (fujikawa chiai)
Speaking of creativity, this PV was taken in a single shot!

I really do like how I get to talk about both Kuroki Nagisa and Fujikawa Chiai again for this month’s Roundup as it does help reinforce this belief I have that the two are very much cut from the same cloth in terms of their approach towards artistry. While the two are my favorite examples to give for singers whose distinct singing styles help round out their overall performance and otherwise make up for abilities they might lack, for Ai no Uta here I want to point more towards their for story-telling (Kuroki being a novelist is something I’ve brought up on multiple occasions befroe so we already know this about her). I talked about it more in detail back in November of last year but Fujikawa has a very anecdotal sort of style to her songwriting where it’s almost as if she’s recounting a passage from her personal diary to you directly through song.

Girl in the mirror
by chilldspot
This year’s chilldspot album about to go hard

I had yet to come across chilldspot when they came out with their debut album ingredients back in 2021 but I’m here for ’em now in the midst of their second album Portrait set to come out in just a couple of days by the time this post comes out. While it might not be my most anticipated album of the year (if you know, you kno-), it’s certainly one that I’m very much excited about given how good chilldpost has been sounding as of late. I said as much in the January Roundup but they were close to being my Favorite Discovery of 2022 despite Chilli Beans. seemingly being a lock for it. That being said, depending on how Portrait shapes out to be they might end up taking home a different award this year. Of course, that’s neither here nor there yet but if Girl in the mirror is any indication of how that album is gonna sound, we might be in for a treat.

4月の怪物/shigatsu no kaibutsu
by tiny yawn
Gotta love that acoustic guitar

It’s funny how tiny yawn looked as though they planned to win over fans with their Math Rock right from the jump, yet here they are now with Shigatsu no Kaibutsu which… isn’t really all that Math-y, at least in the traditional sense. Like, it’s still a very layered track despite what the acoustic guitar at the start might have lead you to believe, especially when the drums and the synthesizer start to kick in (…I swear I can also hear an egg timer in there somewhere too) where you really start hearing the different measures. A Japanese listener in the comments section of the video pointed this out but something interesting to note about this track is that it appears to be a rearrangement of one of the band’s older songs, drama which, curiously enough *would be* the Math-ier rendition of it. I thought it was kinda neat that they did that.

19才/juukyuu sai
by ちゃくら (chakura)
What is the future of Girls Rock?

This is something that I think about every so often, given how I pretty much ‘grew up’ on Japanese Girls Rock so to speak, with the genre being my first real exposure to the hobby. In particular, I first got into Japanese Music right around the time ZONE, one of the more prominent groups of the previous generation had begun to call it quits after more than a decade-long career. SCANDAL would end up taking the mantle from there on out but unlike before where they were clearly the ones waiting in the wings, I don’t think there’s a band *right now* that can pick up where SCANDAL will eventually leave off once they also decide to call it a career. I think of that, and I see bands like Chakura singing songs like Juukyuusai here and I can’t help but wonder ‘will they be the one’. Time will tell, but they’re definitely a worthy candidate.

I was not ready for that chorus

In continuing my discussion of Japanese Girls Rock in the present day, one of the things why I think there hasn’t really been a strong contender for the ‘next big Girls Rock band’ is that Japanese music producers, have since moved on from the concept of ‘Bandols’. Before, one of the main appeals of the Band + Idol hybrid was them being produced much in the same manner as that Japanese Idols who sing and dance, but that they can also play instruments on top of that. ZONE and SCANDAL notably started out as these Bandol-types before establishing themselves as being proper musicians primarily, where the Bandol distinction nowadays is reserved more for 2.5D projects. MARKET SHOP STORE’s Mesu is a good example of what this has since allowed Girls Rock of being, with the bands more aggressive look and tone.

by リスキーシフト (risky shift)
Are vertical PVs meant to be viewed on phones the new thing now?

One of my favorite feelings whenever I’m listening to a song that I randomly decided to check out is this natural reaction I end up having whenever I hear something that I thought was pretty cool (I’d been told before that I actually make a face whenever this happens, but I’ll spare you the details on that one, lol). Not to say Risky Shift’s NO SMOKING isn’t plenty cool already at the onset, but even more so is the subtle switch up around the 01:18 mark that leads into a neat solo at 01:33 that I’m almost positive was directly influenced/inspired by toe. I dug into their prior songs to see if it was a predominant element to their sound but what’s interesting is their sound (and even their image) was more on the darker Alternative Rock side. I for one think this change to a brighter look with a more Math-y sound might serve them better.

フリージアが咲く頃/freesia ga saku koro
by ハナユイ (hanayui)
My gut is telling me to pay attention to this band

I don’t know what it is, whether it’s in how vocalist Sumika’s voice kinda reminds me of Yorushika’s suis or I just have a soft spot for indie projects akin to Bungei Tengoku, which the visuals for Hanayui’s Freesia ga Saku Koro do remind me heavily of as well. I mean, it could honestly be both, and for all I know the young still-in-college band might actually be drawing inspiration from the aforementioned groups (some of the guitar phrasing here is very reminiscent of n-buna’s work I find). Saying I’m intrigued might be putting it lightly seeing how much I’ve been looping their debut EP which came out this month, for which this song is actually the title track for. Highly recommend checking it out when you have the time, especially if you’re a fan of the groups I mentioned. I can guarantee their music would resonate with as it did with me.

Well this is interesting

Speaking of Bungei Tengoku, the ever-adventurous composer Shinonome Ko tries his hand at making Idol Music of all things here for NEW POLARIS’ Makuake and… it’s actually not that bad (XD) Of course, I’m saying as much, not only because I would have never expected him to involve himself in something like this given the otherwise more auteur nature of his creative endeavors but also, I didn’t really think his music style would be fit for something more Idol-oriented. I am, however, glad to be proven wrong twice over here in that regard. I’m not exactly sure in what capacity Shinonome will be a part of this VERY new ‘YouTube Idol’ venture moving forward or if this was just a one off thing that he got invited to do but regardless it’s pretty neat that this is even a thing. A tiny part of me wishes he sticks around for ’em though.

“Rakurai” by Kuroki Nagisa and “NO SMOKING” by Risky Shift
Switch ups and shifts are the highlight for this month’s Roundup features (at least for me personally) and we got some amazing exemplars for them. Rakurai gets better and better every time I listen to it. Talking about careers spanning a decade, Kuroki Nagisa’s creativity continues to show no bounds and it’s been an absolute pleasure seeing her still evolving as an artist whilst still keeping true to her sound. I have to say this whenever the topic of Kuroki Nagisa and her music comes up, but she will always have my utmost respect in that regard. NO SMOKING gets the nod here too as I do honestly think Risky Shift might be one to keep an eye out for, especially now that they’ve sort of revamped their style, though I guess we’ll just have to see too if it holds. For now though, it’s a very promising showing of what the band is capable of.


The YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music playlists have all been updated with this month’s featured tracks. Make sure you have it saved on your preferred music app so you never miss a beat 😀

Find a song that you liked? Let me know which ones in the comments section down below! I’d be curious to know 😀 Also, if you have some recommendations of your own, feel free to drop a link to them as well and I’ll be sure to give them a listen 🙂

We had *three* weeks of Spotify J-Music Playlist Draft this month so if you missed out on any of them, do know that we held Week 7, Week 8, and Week 9 for April, and that all prior weeks are available in the dedicated page for the series. If you have yet to check them out, the Draft are more bite-sized posts compared to the Roundups with added personal twist so if you ever wanted to have just a quick read while still also getting some song recommendations, I got you there too.

The J-Music Exchange/Rate was back with yet another pair of album reviews for you guys this month as well. This time around Al and I went and listened to albums by fictional groups/bands etc. and well… if you know either of us and the kind of content we both consume, you’d have a good idea of where our heads were at for this one (XD) You can check out my review of Photon Maiden’s 4 phenomena here if you haven’t yet. Likewise, if you happened to miss it, you can also catch Al’s review of We’ll get the next dream!!! by AZALEA over at Omunibasu.Blog.

Next month is also gonna be the *third* year anniversary of the J-Music Exchange/Rate in its current monthly format and Al and I actually have something very special in store for you guys so look forward to that 😉

That’s gonna do it for me and this month’s Roundup! Thank you for tuning in whenever you do. I appreciate you all greatly, and I hope to see you guys again in the next one.

Happy Listening!

7 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (April 2023)

  1. I’m actually more into Oshi no Ko ending song Mephisto than the Idol… regardless they are both bangers!

    • This is very true. It’s getting overshadowed quite a bit considering how much YOASOBI’s Idol has since popped (and continues to pop) off, but Ziyoou-vachi/Queen Bee’s Mephisto is 100% a banger in its own right too definitely.

  2. I actually didn’t take a proper listen to “Idol” until like today/yesterday, but yeah, I really enjoyed the different sound in it. Definitely showcases more of a stylistic range for the duo, while also maintaining their overall and familiar vibe. I also thought it was pretty rad to see YOASOBI starting to make a major mark on the anison scene, especially recently with this and the Gundam OP. Obviously they’re ultra popular in general but I’m sure their features in various, popular anime have helped them reach more people (I guess, I’m talking more in terms of the non-Japanese audience).
    The simple and ‘raw-ness’ of the tiny yawn song was really nice! And compared to “drama’, I think the acoustic guitar and the low-key drums makes it a bit more upbeat and has a more ‘welcoming’ or ‘easy to get into’ feel to it, if that makes sense. And the transition from the first part to the main section of the track was an great one for sure.
    I think you are alluding to a interesting point with the vertical MVs. TBH I still think it’s odd to see a music video in that format since vertical videos are more associated with much shorter-length content, and being so accustomed to moving on from one TikTok to the next in literal seconds (you can tell my attention span has definitely been shrinking lol)… I’m sure it’ll take time for most of us to get used to actually watching MVs in a vertical fashion, if that even becomes an adopted idea. Song’s cool too, btw lol
    Great roundup this month!
    Speaking of Bandol groups (actually thought it was interesting to hear more about the band/idol hybrid stuff), I know you heard about them already but I thought you’d enjoy this song from the most recent Bandori band MyGO!!!!! ( Pretty sick and compared to their fellow groups, I think it’s cool that they have their own unique sound and style, which already seems to be a common theme throughout the franchise. Also crazy to think that’s Cocochan on drums, and hearing Yomiya Hina sing in such a different tone was fascinating, especially when I’m still so used to how she sounded in Selection Project (lol).
    Also someone I know came back from Japan and told me about an indie band he ended up watching at a live house (it was actually the IRL location that inspired the one from Bocchi the Rock). Thought it’d be interesting to mention; the band’s name is Aruyue and they seem cool! (

    • I didn’t get to talk about it in the post proper, but I thought them including crowd chants in the song was a really nice touch (XD) I always end up sounding like some sort of hipster whenever I talk about things like this, but it’s actually been pretty fun seeing the amount of discourse “Idol” ended up generating for Western/non-Japanese audiences, especially those who primarily watch anime and don’t listen to much Japanese music, and it’s great that they’re finally starting to get recognition in that market as well. I think you make a good point noting the growth of their popularity outside of Japan and if I had to pick *a* band/artist that would be able to break into the Western mainstream in the same manner as K-Pop has, it might be YOASOBI.

      Yup. One of the things I’ve always thought about Math Rock as a genre is that it’s a very… intimidating sound to want to get into. Like, not in the same manner as like Metal, but I can imagine the odd time signature can be an overwhelming listen more often than not. tiny yawn in that regard really did a good job as you said to gently ease you into their sound where the next thing you know you’re listening to Math, lol.

      YT Shorts has been having much of the same effect on me nowadays too recently, LOL. But yeah, I think this is definitely something that can be explored. I know that some PVs show up as like clips on Spotify for the song it’s for, so part of me thinks this was also meant for that too. Like, I don’t really use the YouTube app to listen to music as much as I do Spotify, but that doesn’t mean I won’t watch a PV when I’m out and about if I happen to see one, and vertical ones like the ones by MARKET SHOP STORE and Risky Shift there are perfect for those moments.

      I’ve thought about it more and I think one of the last real attempts at ‘producing’ a Bandol outside of 2.5D might have been B.O.L.T. funnily enough, if only because some of the members actually have experience playing instruments. But yeah no i first heard of MyGO!!!!! back when they had yet to announce its cast (a strategy that Bandori has since started to employ for its next generation of bands but I feel like finding out who the seiyuus are *now* ended up being more hype now that I know who Myatan and Coco-chan are than if I found out who the cast was before when I wasn’t yet familiar with them, lol. I do like how they sound though yeah, and it was pretty neat finding out that Coco-chan actually has experience playing the drums!

      Ooh, that’s sick. Definitely want to go to one of those too one of these days. Also yeah no I’m really digging Aruyue’s sound here! Love the vocal work here especially. Definitely gonna keep an eye out for this band from now on. Thanks!

      • Oh yeah, definitely. With how YOASOBI’s even gotten to the top global charts at one point, I think their exposure can be comparable to the, sort of, recent K-Pop boom. On another note (and I forgot to mention this in my original comment), but hearing Ikuta sing in a really different manner was fascinating. Kept imagining what it’d be like if she was actually an idol performer lol

        I also heard of MyGO when it got announced, but I feel like being an avid seiyuu fan, I kinda wasn’t interested in them at the time due to the fact that they kept the cast a secret for a while (although, the strategy of keeping their faces hidden during their initial lives was an interesting touch, and might be a reference to other artists who’ve done the same lol). But yep, I agree: now knowing Coco and Hina’s in it, and discovering some new faces Iike Aoki Hina (one of the guitarists), definitely made a fan outta me. I also was surprised that, apparently, MyGO and maybe the other group you mentioned, are part of a Bandori side project. I’m not that engaged with the franchise, but I would’ve thought they’re worthy of being in the main lineup.

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