Bit of a chill one if I do say so myself.
Welcome back to another installment of the Monthly Recommendation Roundup! We’ve reached the midway point of the year, and what a first half of 2023 it has been for Japanese music hasn’t it?!
Before anything else, if this is your first time here on the blog:
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.
Contrary to last month’s Roundup which ended up consisting mainly of bands, this time around we got ＊mostly＊ solo artists. I thought that was kinda neat (XD)
線香花火/senkou hanabi feat. 幾田りら (ikuta lilas)
by 佐藤千亜妃 (sato chiaki)
Kicking things off with an unexpected collab (!!!)
Sato Chiaki’s solo career continues to be a fascinating one to watch unfold, especially for those who, like me, knew of her first as being Kinoko Teikoku’s frontwoman. And I say that of course with respect to how we have since seen her rub shoulders with SCANDAL, sample an Utada Hikaru track, and now collaborate with YOASOBI’s Ikuta Lilas on a song in Senkou Hanabi here; all ＊after＊ her band’s indefinite hiatus. Whether these are the result of residual notoriety from her time with Kinoko Teikoku or her just having made her presence known in the J-Pop scene is beyond me, but part of me likes to think it might actually be the latter. In any case, I love hearing these two sing together, more so when you realize how close their vocal timbre is to one another. In relation to that, funnily enough, Ikuta once covered a Kinoko Teikoku song.
愛の唄/ai no uta (Prod by Guiano)
Speaking of sick collabs
We got another banger collaboration this month, this time around between longtime Roundup staple Myuk (formerly Kumagawa Miyu) and Guiano whose work I had incidentally started listening more of just days before they both came out with Ai no Uta here. She has mostly been doing either more Ballads or Chill Pop sort of tracks as of late and such it’s actually been a while since we last heard Myuk sing a song that’s a bit on the faster side (rather, the “fastest” song she’s come out with would be, like, Yoru no Budoukai which isn’t ＊that＊ fast) so this was actually quite refreshing to hear from her. Of course, this is not also without the help of Guiano’s prod work which I’ve really taken a liking to as of late. I particularly like his use of more organic sounds like the flute you hear here and the way he mixes it with his House beat.
火の鳥/hi no tori
by 青山幸子 (aoyama sachiko)
Signalling a resurgence perhaps?
I wanna say the reason why it feels like we haven’t seen ex-Negoto vocalist Aoyama Sachiko in a while is because her debut album Highlight (which I do highly recommend you guys to check out if you haven’t yet) came out all the way back in January of last year, after which she would not release anything for the remainder of 2022. It wouldn’t actually be until a couple months ago that she would resurface with a new single Harbor View (a release that I did miss the initial launch of admittedly). She follows it up in relatively quick turnaround with Hi no Tori though which ＊could＊ be hinting at a comeback of sorts (hi no tori loosely translates to “fire bird”, denoting a phoenix; the mythical creature that revives itself from its ashes). Great to see her back nonetheless, with her singing being as peerless and unique as ever.
by Split end
On the subject of unique vocals
Split end’s Nanami has, undeniably, one of the most recognizable singing styles out there for better or worse. I can see it being an acquired taste for some as I mentioned in the past, which could also tie into why the band’s following has been on the smaller side throughout their career thus far (of course, amidst other factors too like over-saturation of bands with a similar sound, them being based in Nara and not being out in Tokyo etc.), but I personally still do find a certain charm with her delivery and is largely the reason why I’m a fan of their music. That being said, Nanami does actually reel it back in here for Haru, which does feature a much more subdued vocal performance from her. Interesting to note is that it seems they have gone back to their old indie record label for this single. Curious to see what that means for the band moving forward.
I’m telling you, they’re getting better
I talked about it a bit when the last time I featured B/U on the Roundup when they dropped Haru Haru Ya (which has now crossed 200k views mind you) but yeah no it really does feel like re:caco and her team now have a pretty solid handle on the “Dark Pop” that they want their music to have. Like, I honestly think you can’t describe Asatsuyu as anything other than just that. What’s interesting is that the imagery in the PV here isn’t dark in the literal sense (rather, it’s mostly shot during daytime) but the eerie synth in the background and the thumping bass tones do a tremendous job giving off this unsettling (in a… pleasant way? lol) sort of vibe. That being said, while do they seem like they have it all figured out, I’d be interested to see them work on a track with a guest producer (maybe like maeshima soshi). I feel like that would really put them over.
キミの話/kimi no hanashi
Such an uplifting sound this band has
I was first made aware of Aivy thanks to Spotify recommending to me their second full length album; Shikaku-teki Jouhou ni Okeru Mikansei no Tokei which came out just last year. I must’ve listened to its opening track Iruka to Suisei at least a dozen times on repeat after hearing it for the first time. Very reminiscent of fellow Melodic Pop/Rock prospect and now fellow Roundup-featured band HYLUL, which are both bands that I’d classify as being Youth Pop adjacent with how much they seem to take inspiration from the likes of Yorushika; specifically the combination of resoundingly clear vocals and energetic guitar work. Kimi no Hanashi is a good showing of exactly that, with vocalist Kamo having this sort of quality to her voice that makes you think it’s sunny outside when you hear it (lol). Very promising group that I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of.
by 浦小雪 (ura koyuki)
Love that chorus
I wasn’t sure at first as to how Ura Koyuki found herself in my recommendations, if it was just because of genre similarities with bands/artists that I already listen to or something else entirely. Of course, given how the algorithm works, most of the time it’s going to be the former. However, the times that it’s not merely that almost always end up being pleasant surprises, as was the case here. After a bit of preliminary digging on my part, I found out that Ura is actually the vocalist for a band that I ＊do＊ know in Sundae May Club. Turn out I had some of their songs in my Spotify library and is more than likely why it then recommended me what appears to be Ura’s solo work. It doesn’t appear as though the band has disbanded than it is just Ura wanting a separate avenue to showcase other aspects of her musicality and Shiokaze is a fun showing of it.
by ヰ世界情緒 × 春猿火 (isekaijoucho × harusaruhi)
That’s now, what, 4 out of 5 members of Virtual Witch Phenomenon?
I could’ve sworn I already featured KAF in a Roundup before but I guess not. At any rate, Isekaijoucho has now made it on here for the first time with Seizon accompanied by Harusaruhi who by comparison has had quite a number of appearances on the blog already. Now, when I featured Asu in a previous Roundup, I talked about KOKO potentially being the best pure singer under the KAMITSUBAKI banner. I got the chance to listen to Isekaijoucho’s live performances as well as her songs in general and… I might have to retract that statement. It took me a while to get behind her singing, as there was something about it that I couldn’t put my finger on for the longest time, but once I understood what it was I was hooked. You’ll hear it in some spots here too, but it’s this sort of… operatic quality to it that I found I’m very fond of.
by トゲナシトゲアリ (togenashi togeari)
Pardon my French but yooo this shxt goes hard what
I think it’s safe to assume that it’s thanks to how Bocchi The Rock! ended up being so well-received that we’re now having this sort of resurgence in bands in fictional media. Now, I know BanG Dream! is more than likely supposed to be that, I think it never really managed to get away from the Idol-y image that the Bushiroad is pretty much synonymous with when it comes to its 2.5D franchises, and as such it was never truly able to capture the “band” spirit the same way that K-On! did (at least in my opinion). What’s interesting about GIRLS BAND CRY in that regard, or at least what we’ve heard from it so far with Togenashi Togeari’s Namonaki Nanimokamo here is that it legitimately sounds like something you’d hear from a Japanese Alt Rock band ＊right now＊. Suffice for it to say, I will be keeping a very close eye on this project.
あたしの全部を愛せない/atashi no zenbu wo aisenai
by a子 (a-ko)
… You have my attention
I was first made aware of A-ko via Al from Omunibasu.Blog‘s Favorites of 2022 post as part of his Infrequent J-Song Roundup series that he does on his blog (check it out if you haven’t yet!) and since then I kept a mental note to keep an eye out on her releases moving forward. However, her follow up single Abaku no Haru ended up being quite the departure from Ai wa Itsumo which then got me even more interested, especially after I noticed the eccentricity that she seems to be going for with her songs (kinda like BURNABLE/UNBURNABLE with their “Dark Pop” really). Once I saw the PV for Atashi no Zenbu wo Aisenai was taking place in a bathroom, I was sold (JK XD). In all seriousness, it’s actually the switch she hits at 00:45 and the trumpet solo at 02:08 that got me. That and A-ko’s breath-y singing style is very much addictive.
“Ai no Uta” by Myuk [Prod by Guiano] and “Atashi no Zenbu Aisenai” by A-ko
I’ve started to really take a liking to Guiano’s work both as a composer and as producer like I mentioned, so it was awesome to see them do a collaboration with an artist that you all know is very near and dear to my heart in Myuk. It’s easy to forget that she started out her music career relatively young (Myuk literally has a song about her turning sixteen that came out like only three years ago, lol) so we really are still seeing her in the process of coming into her own as an artist and it was fun hearing her sing in a manner that we’re not used to hearing from her. A-ko also gets the nod from me this week. I love the sort of throwback to Air-y Breath-y vocals which was somewhat of a trend in the early 2010s (think Daoko or Etsuko Yakushimaru) but with a more Rock-centered approach. Definitely gonna be keeping an eye out for her.
What are your guys’ thoughts on this month’s Roundup? Find anything you liked? Lemme know down in the comments if you did! Likewise, if you have recommendations of your own, feel free to drop me a link as well and I’ll be sure to listen to ’em 😀
Speaking of reaching midway points, the Spotify J-Music Playlist Draft has also now gone through its first half Draft weeks this month with Week 12 and Week 13 now in the books. We’re currently at 51 out of the 100 songs that Spotify needs to win the series so things are really coming down to the wire.
We had a bit of fun for this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate courtesy of yours truly. As some of you might know, I fancy myself as a bit of a fan of one Kusunoki Tomori of Love Live! fame. She just so happened to release her first album this month, PRESENCE/ABSENCE, which in practice is actually two albums in one (PRESENCE and ABSENCE, respectively). I figured, since it was my turn to pick out the theme of the reviews, that it’d be fun if we could review ＊both＊ albums in what Al has now dubbed as Tomori Month (!!!). You can catch my review of PRESENCE over here, and Al’s review of ABSENCE over at Omunibasu.Blog if you haven’t yet seen ’em.
That’s about it for me. As always, thank you all so much for dropping by and tuning in whenever you do. Here’s hoping the latter half of 2023 is just as awesome (if not better!)