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

Leap Commissions_small

An incidentally band-centric month!

What’s up everyone! Welcome back to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup! I hope you guys had a wonderful month of May as always 🙂

Before I start though; if this is actually your first time here 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.

I wanna say this happens at least once every year since I started doing the Roundups wherein we have a month that’s just purely all bands from top to bottom. As some of you probably know by now, I seldom go by a theme whenever I make these (if I did I would’ve probably ran out of ideas a long time ago, lol), so I do very much appreciace whenever these happy accidents occur 😀


you n me
by Chilli Beans.
“We all pretend to be cool” Don’t we all

I feel like it’s been a minute since we last heard from 2022’s overall Roundup Awards winner. Of course, this is because they’ve been on this nationwide tour that, from the looks of it still seems to be ongoing seeing as they have dates lined up all the way through September which is wild. I’m glad to see Chilli Beans enjoying this much in the way of success in that regard, in addition to now also being a provider of a theme song for a drama with you n me here. Depending on the popularity of the show, these are generally one of the bigger breaks that a band/artist can get, and are traditionally seen as a marker of band breaking into the mainstream. Perhaps that’s why this song feels more subdued than your usual Chilli Beans. track. If so, and as a direct consequence the angelic backing vocals here end up taking center stage.

ひるねの国/hirune no kuni
by chilldspot
That bass line is killer (and those finger snaps in the first verse my go-)

This year is really shaping up to be chilldspot’s year, as we’re treated to yet another banger of a track barely a month removed from the band’s second full album release. What’s neat about Hirune no Kuni here, aside from the sort of motion manga PV that it has (and the rotoscoped idol dance animation), is that it’s a collaboration with an actual manga title Saturn Return. Based on what I was able to gather from news articles as well the ‘making of’ video for this collaborative venture, it sounds like it really came about purely because the author of the work and vocalist Hiyune were both fans of each other respectively which I thought was pretty cool. With regard to the song itself, something I’ve always been curious about was how chilldspot would handle a faster song (as theirs tend to be on the mellower side). 100% does not disappoint. 

緑地化計画/ryokuchi-ka keikaku
by 文藝天国 (bungeitengoku)
More than just artwork, this is art at work

The artistic vision shared by composer shinonome ko and ‘colorist’ Sumi Aika shouldn’t be anything new to you if you’ve been following the Roundup for some time. I’ve long been a fan of this passion project of theirs (in that I really don’t think either of them are doing this for the money, rather they both seem to be well off, so their work really is purely for the sake of art) and it’s been great seeing them just… create. That being said, something interesting that shinonome said about his compositions once in relation to that is beyond the creation process, more than anything he looks forward to ‘destroying’ it. You can actually hear it in practice here in Ryokuchi-ka Keikaku where the first verse (or A melody in Japanese song compostion terms) gets absolutely shredded on by guitars at around the 01:20 mark before rebuilding again in the next pre-chorus.

by 水中スピカ (suichu spica)
The band’s dedication to Math Rock is something else

I had the wrong read for Suichu Spica when I first came across them. See, at first I thought they were purely going to be more on the Midwest Emo end of the Math Rock spectrum but from the sounds of it (and on closer inspection of their song Triage and the sort of message they’re trying to get across) it seems like the band aims to attack the genre from all angles, which would be quite the feat if they’re able to pull it off. At the very least, they do seem more than capable of doing just that, especially with the VERY techincally-sound Chiaki at forefront. Compared to their previous songs that were clearly inspired by current Japanese Math Rock flag-bearer JYOCHO (as well as by foreign/Western Math Rock band covet), their approach here for Hakudou is more on the aggressive side, much akin to something more like tricot.

by 楠木ともり (kusunoki tomori)
Long have I waited

In particular, I’ve been wanting for Kusunoki Tomori to come out with a full studio album for like close to three years now as I was of the opinion that she was long overdue for one after having dropped five EPs at this point in time. My prayers were finally answered this month with the release of PRESENCEABSENCE; a two-disc ‘split’ album consisting of a whopping *twenty-two* total tracks (or basically two regular full albums, lol). I won’t say too much about my thoughts on the album here (for… reasons that will become much more apparent later on), but I do want to talk a little bit about the title track presence here. Something that I’ve always wanted to see from ‘Tomoriru’  was for her to perform in a band setting. I knew she’d be a good fit for being a frontwoman with the way she carries herself, and it was cool to see it realized here.

by Atomic Skipper 
It’s like I’m in high school all over again

Atomic Skipper’s latest album Orbital fell on my lap this month after going through recommendations.I thought I’d give it a spin on a whim as I needed to put something on in the background anyway while I was doing some stuff… and almost instantly I was transported back to my sophomore year when almost all I listened to was a whole bunch of Punk and Emo Rock. It reminded me a lot too of how much bands like SECONDWALL and The Winking Owl resonated with me so much when I first got into Japanese music *because* they had that good 2000’s Punk/Pop vibe. Kokoro’s crushing high energy drums and vocalist Nakano Miyu’s raspy delivery made me feel immensely nostalgic, and I reckon a lot others (especially those who got brought up into listening to music the same way I did) would end up feeling the same.  

うみべの男の子/umibe no otokonoko
by the pullovers
01:50 just sends me

Atomic Skipper’s Orbital really did a number on me this month, so much so that I actually spent the past week or two just going back and listening to Japanese Alternative Rock bands that I either passed up in previous Roundups or just straight completely missed out on. the pullovers would belong to the former which, is unfortunate on my part as their sound really is up my alley. Specifically they remind me a lot of Split end which, as some of you may know, is a band that’s very near and dear to my heart, being amonst one of the ones I started following in earnest. I mean, I also just have a soft spot in me for Japanese Alt. Rock bands in general, and I can most certainly make room for the pullovers moving forward. I love the same sort of Split end-like heartful and emotive delivery that the band have here for Umibe no Otokonoko.

by 最果テルーティン (saihate routine)
shimatta shatta‘ is such a cool-sounding line I don’t know why, lol

I guess you could say another that I really like about bands like the pullovers and now Saihate Routine here are these massive emphatic choruses with the vocalists just singing their hearts out. Of course, that means the voice itself matters just a little more in that regard, and is also what tends to make or break these kinds of bands. You might recall that i’ve criticized Hump Back‘s Momoko here on the Roundup for being a touch too shout-y in similar spots on more than one occasion. The aforementioned Split end too ends up being a bit of an acquired taste for most people because of how vocalist Nanami sounds. Saihate Routine’s Momoka does have a more listener-friendly voice for how emotionally-charged the choruses get with their songs like with yumegiwa here, but our mileages may vary so do take that with a grain of salt.

Blurred Summer
by Hammer Head Shark
Probably my new favorite band name

Before I start, I would like to give a shout out to the ANGURA YouTube channel. They make very well-produced documentaries that cover the Japanese underground (hence ‘angura‘) music scene so if you’ve ever been curious about that particular subculture (if you’ve been following the Roundup, chances are that you are) give them a sub! One of the bands that they ended up doing a feature on is Hammer Head Shark here which does include an interview with the band, and in it you really get a feel of what they’re about. At one point, drummer Fukuma Haruhiko talks about wanting their music to be one that feels “like we’re sinking into the sea together”, and as I’m hearing him say those words all I could think about was how much that sentiment reminded me a lot of Kinoko Teikoku’s Uzu ni Naru. I mean, they even sound like them too so (XD)

祝日天国/shukujitsu tengoku
by 35.7
Gotta love that extended instrumental break 

If I had to pick a frontrunner amongst these Alt. Rock bands that I shared with you guys today, it’d be ‘Go-ten Nana’. At the very least, Shukujitsu Tengoku has, like, a million listens (and counting) on Spotify right now which is much, much more than literally all of the listens of the above nine other songs *combined* so if that’s not an indicator of a potential breakout hit than I don’t know what is (…though this might also just be indicative too of the level of popularity or lack thereof of the bands and artists that I listen to, lol). In all seriousness though it’s always an impressive feat seeing this amount of reception in the indie band music space no less. They actually remind me a lot of when Hump Back was still on the come up, particularly with how they sound, and I’d be curious to see whether they end up following in the same foot steps.

“Ryokuchi-ka Keikaku” by BungeiTengoku and “Blurred Summer” by Hammer Head Shark
Ryokuchi-ka Keikaku is one of those songs that I do think benefit a whole lot from a second or third listen, as I can imagine the first listening experience to be quite jarring, especially if this is your first time hearing a BungeiTengoku song. Now, for what it’s worth, I do also think this is one of if not the most radio-friendly song that the band has ever done, and part of me is excited seeing them try to cater to a more general audience with their sound. I’m also putting forward Hammer Head Shark’s Blurred Summer as a ‘must listen’ here as the band is still very much criminally underheard in my opinion. I know a lot of you guys who have been following the Roundup are Shoegaze fans (either of your own volition or my indoctrination, lol) so if you’ve been looking for something to fill the Kinoko Teikoku-shaped hole in you heart like me, this is 100% it. 


The YouTubeSpotify, and Apple Music playlists have all now been updated with this month’s featured tracks 😀

How did you like the Roundup for this month? It’s been a while since I’ve done one that’s not exclusively for newly released songs so that was its own kind of fun for me, but what did you guys think? Lemme know in the comments 🙂 Likewise, if you have recommendations of your own, drop me a link down there as well! I always listen to what you guys give me so don’t hold back 😛

The Spotify J-Music Playlist Draft had its regular run this week, where we’re now in Week 10 and Week 11 of the season. Make sure to get caught up on what songs have since been drafted as we now get ready to hit the halfway point for the series in the following month. There’s some fantastic finds in there so if the Roundup didn’t do it for you this month, maybe you’ll find something to like there 😉

Al and I celebrated the *third* year anniversary of the J-Music Exchange/Rate this month as we conducted our reviews with a very special twist, specifically with regard to *how* we ‘picked’ the albums we ended up reviewing, so if you haven’t yet do check them out; you can catch my review of Perfume’s LEVEL3 here, and Al’s review of SOMEWHERE IN THE BREAKFAST by Charlotte is Mine over at Omunibasu.Blog.

That’s gonna do it for me. Thank you guys so much for tuning in whenever you do. I hope you guys had a fun time going through the songs, and as always ー

Happy Listening!

3 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (May 2023)

  1. Nice & bouncy this month! although I have to say that I’m one who will never see the point of Chilli Beans. However, I’m here to address the eternal trope of people RUNNING, running determinedly across and into the camera in Japanese rock videos – what’s with that?
    At least most of this month’s bunch has had the sense to hire an actor to do the hard work, even the little hop-skip to catch that darn train in the bungeitengoku song. Though I’m pretty sure that Kusunoki Tomori is doing her own sidewalk scrambling. Thank goodness the singer from Saihate Routine, who does have to stretch her legs a bit, has the proper rock’n’roll attitude and looks like she’s about to collapse on a bench & roll a cigarette.
    But hell – last year they even got Moeka doing it, pounding through the woods & across the fields after a decade of elegant swaying in her flowing robes while looking like a strong breeze might knock her over. BiSH clocked up a fair few miles, of course …. it’s everywhere! There’s even an old BAND-MAID video which is nothing but Miku Kobato clomping around Tokyo in a maid outfit and stacked heels – at least they had the tongue somewhat in cheek.
    All too damn healthy, I tell ya.
    Thanks for the good tunes.

    • I think that’s fair. I liked the sort of garage sound that Chilli Beans. brought when they were first on the come up but with how Pop-infused their more recent offerings have been, I can totally see how they can be perceived as being a band having a different style altogether.

      LOL, it *is* interesting seeing the trend in the “meta” of Japanese PVs in that regard. I’m reminded of this one Lucie,Too music video ( that’s literally an entire chase sequence too (XD)

      Likewise, thanks for dropping by when you do Jim! 😀

  2. Pingback: Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (June 2023) | Leap250's Blog

Leave a Reply