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

Things are heating up!

As it should, given how we only just got done with the first month of the summer 😀 Now that I got my customary one-liner in (lol), let me now actually welcome you back again to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup! If you’re new here and you’re not entirely sure what we do 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 got a LOT in store for you guys after the cut so I won’t keep you up here for long. Let’s get down to business and listen to some songs!


Ready Steady feat. 吉乃 (yoshino) and 弱酸性 (jakusansei; AKA 梟note)
by Ado (Original: Giga)

Now, as some of you might have noticed over the course of following the Roundup, I generally try to steer away from featuring covers on here. Not only does doing so make it that much harder to pick out songs every month (lol), often times they won’t even be available in most streaming platforms (as is the case here). However, you’ve seen me pull the exception card every now and again, and Ado’s rendition of Vocaloid producer Giga’s Ready Steady is absolutely deserving of it. I do find it fascinating that despite having attained worldwide notoriety, Ado’s still dishing out covers on her YouTube channel. That and her collaborating with lesser known artists was cool to see. Worth noting is that Yoshino specifically is someone I’ve always thought as being very Ado-like in her singing so it was neat seeing her get called upon here.

by 黒子首 (hockrockb)
🗹 Anime Tie-up 🗹 TV Drama Tie-up… What’s next?

You know a band’s at a pretty good place when they went from singing a melancholic number about not being acknowledged by an unfeeling god to a cheery tune about building up yourself into being a better person… (XD) I’m only half-joking of course, as we’ve seen this trend before of bands/artists who made their start by putting out “darker” songs, to then having a positive vibe in their music once they started breaching into mainstream consciousness. Whether it’s a direct reflection of the trajectory of their careers or just the result of being asked to come out with something more radio-friendly is always the question, but I do want to believe that Hockrockb’s enjoying every second of what’s looking to be an amazing year for the humble three-piece now that they’ve secured their first Drama Tie-up single in Kanazuchi here.

by ao
Now we’re talking

I had pegged ao to have a massive year this year both in the 2022 Roundup Awards as well as in the Exchange/Rate. While we do still have the rest of 2023 to maybe see it happen, I do honestly think her first single for the year Gensou was a bit of an unfortunate stumble. This was largely in part of the track produced for her more than anything else where the mix just drowned her singing; arguably the strongest element of her music. By comparison, 4ever sees her vocals get a bit more breathing room, which makes (for my opinion at least) a much better song. Important to note is that this is only the second time she’s working with this particular producer so they’re just kinda learning along the way too, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. I especially really like those emphatic drops at 01:14 and at 02:34.

アオから遥か/ao kara haruka
by Nina77
That guitar lick is so sexy

Nina77 is a group that I think is fair to say got a little bit “left behind” so to speak by their Youth Pop/’Yakou-sei’ contemporaries from two years ago. This I do attribute mostly, if not wholly to the duo’s inactivity in terms of coming out with their own music (as they are otherwise very much active on their YouTube channel with their covers and variety-style content over on Twitch). It’s a bit of a shame considering, as you’ll hear for yourself here in Ao Kara Haruka, Nina77 have a lot of good ideas as well as the requisite ability to put said ideas to practice. In relation to that, something that might get easily overlooked is the fact that the pair use a lot of real instruments in their music as opposed to digital ones. May or may not make a world of difference depending on the person, but you can bet I’m humming that hook for a good couple of weeks.

by チョーキューメイ (ChoQMay)
A couple of artisans at work

When I last featured ChoQMay here on the Roundup I likened them to being like a modern day Soutaiseiriron. While I do still stand by that, I also do think that I may have done the band a bit of disservice in potentially misrepresenting them and their overall style. I had made the comparison based purely on the eccentric nature of both bands, but in so doing I neglected to highlight the core aspect of ChoQMay’s sound relative to Soutaiseiriron’s. While you do actually hear splashes of it in some of Soutaiseiriron’s older work, ChoQMay is instead deeply rooted in Jazz, which they incorporate quite heavily in their music like in PRIDE here. In addition, not to disparage the great Yakushimaru Etsuko, but I feel like also undersold the technical ability of vocalist Rei and the way she’s able to seemingly “play” her voice like an instrument here.

しゅげーハイ!!!/shugei high
by 花譜 (KAF) x ケンモチヒデフミ (kenmochi hidefumi)
Alright, *now* I’ve featured everyone from V.W.P (lol)

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t have featured Shugei High here otherwise, as this is just a bop of a number, thanks in part to Wednesday Campanella‘s Kenmochi Hidefumi’s handiwork. Of course, the track is only one half of the equation, as you still need someone to ride it like WedCamp’s Utaha. KAF outdoes herself here in that regard as not only does she hop on the beat like it’s nothing, but she absolutely kills it with her rap flow. I mean, Harusaruhi will always be the rap queen of KAMITSUBAKI, but I do find it somewhat amusing that everyone under that banner seems to be able to rap to a certain extent (almost as if it was requirement for them to even join in the first place, lol). We don’t hear it as often from her compared to Haru, but KAF’s definitely the stable’s second best rapper and it was neat seeing her showcase that here.

by LioLan
A curious enigma

When LioLan dropped their song model (banger of a track btw) half a year ago with nothing else to follow thereafter, part of me did wonder whether or not this pairing of Sara Wakui and Catherine was just a one off thing. My worries, thankfully, were dashed with the surprise release of their first EP UNBOX which came out just this month. Interestingly, the duo seem to be gaining a lot of traction as of late. on social networking platforms (specifically Instagram) thanks to ads featuring their songs. Perhaps more interesting though is the direction that the two has since taken their music, which appears to have leaned more towards Hip-Hop. What I personally find curious in that regard, and you’ll notice this too around the 01:13/02:42 mark, is that not only can these two also sing, they also sing like, INCREDIBLY well.

Ctrl Z feat. Foi
by Sala
Chill? Chill.

I’ve mentioned it in passing here and there in different places, and we even made it the theme for this month’s Exchange/Rate, but my Japanese music listening has started to lean heavily towards Japanese Hip-Hop and R&B in the past couple of months. A lot of that is because I sometimes put up Spotify’s Chill Mix whenever I want to have something playing in the background. As a direct consequence, a lot of the artist recommendations I get are artists of that genre, one of whom is Sala here. Ctrl Z is just more of what I’ve already come to really like about Sala’s music which are her sultry vocals, coupled with the very smooth delivery of up-and-coming half-Japanese half-Chinese singer/songwriter Foi (she actually sings a portion of the song in Chinese which I thought was neat).

Night Glow feat. salto
by Foi
Double feature??

Yep, we’re double-booking Foi for another Roundup feature, this time around for her own song Night Glow featuring salto who… I can’t seem to find a whole lot about (lol, he does sound a lot like LUCKY TAPES‘ Takahashi Kai though fwiw). Whose background I do know of is Foi’s here who is *yet again* another product of PLUSONICA, with her now being the fourth talent we’ve seen come out of there and do extremely well (here’s her alongside NOMELON NOLEMON’s Miki Maria and YOASOBI’s Ikuta Lilas). Something’s in the water over there and at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if they have another star waiting in the wings. That is to say, Foi is most certainly one, and her singing pedigree being part of what’s looking to be more and more like a prestigious singer/songwriter collective definitely shows. Love her voice.

by マッシュとアネモネ (mash to anemone)
How those shoes lookin’?

In as much as Japanese R&B and Hip-Hop and all that are all the rage nowadays (a topic for another day), you know I gotta end a Roundup with Indie/Atl.Rock. Despite some notable departures from the scene in recent months (longtime standard-bearer For Tracy Hyde in particular a major one), Math Rock and Shoegaze have both been enjoying a second wind almost with bands like Suichu Spica and Hammer Head Shark making their presence known in the past year. Mash to Anemone aren’t *as* new as these two and have mostly just been inactive owing to a bit of a rough start with its original members, but after a near complete restructure, it seems like the band is raring to go and make up for lost time. 134 scratches the same itch, and it’s looking like we can continue getting lost in the reverie of our dreams for just a little while longer.

PRIDE by ChoQMay and Night Glow by Foi feat. salto
There’s something about ChoQMay’s songs where you listen to them and they kinda just linger in your head until you realize it was actually better than you first thought it was, and that remains to be true for PRIDE here. At the very least, once the blaring horns and the Jazz-y drum work get you, it’s a wrap. And that’s assuming Rei’s vocals didn’t already get their hooks in you. Good showing for Foi this month as well, with both a guest feature in a track in Ctrl Z and one of her own songs too in Night Glow, the latter of which again really is a good showcase of her vocal work. I notice a lot of artists in her scene converging and coming with guest features for each other, and I think a really cool one that’s well within the realm of possibility to happen at some point in the future (especially since Ikuta Lilas just had one) is a collab with Sato Chiaki.


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

How’d you like this month’s selection of songs? Lemme know down in the comments which ones you liked the most! While you’re at it, if you have songs that you want to recommend, feel free to drop a link down there too and I’ll be sure to check it out 🙂

Week 14 and Week 15 of the the Spotify J-Music Playlist Draft went down this month as well. Don’t forget to check them out if you haven’t yet. It’s looking like Spotify’s gonna run away with it with each month that passes, so tune in and see whether or not it makes it to a 100 songs by the end of the year. I haven’t thought of what I’d do if it does so much earlier, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there 😛

This month I launched the first couple (of hopefully plenty more) playlist videos in my YouTube channel! I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while now too so I was glad I was able to push two of them out this month ー

I don’t know how often I’ll be uploading, but these were a ton of fun to make (already have some lined up too) so yeah, keep your eyes peeled and/or subscribe if you don’t want to miss out 😉 Also, if you have ideas of a playlist that you want to see from me, lemme know down in the comments!

Speaking of these playlist videos that I made, one of them actually ended up being the theme for this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate. Specifically we talked about chill albums to listen to during the summer. I got to listen to and review WAVE MOTION by SHE IS SUMMER (check it out here!), and Al went and talked about Inner Ocean by salasa (give it a read at Omunibasu.Blog if you haven’t yet!)

And… I think I got everything! Thank you so much for dropping by whenever you do (doubly so if you make it all the way down here each time). Hope y’all had a good time, and as always ー

Happy Listening!

6 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (July 2023)

  1. I’d have to give some credit to the people in charge of that DIY live action adaptation, cause I do feel like hockrockb was a good choice to provide a song for something like that. The show’s simple and comfy atmosphere certainly fits their overall style of music (at least, sound wise lol), and Ageha’s vocals do give off that easy-going vibe. But in any case, it was pretty sweet to see them perform a theme for a TV drama I happened to also be interested in.

    Honestly haven’t followed ao since I reviewed her album but it does still amaze me that she’s hella young, and she sounds THAT good (and is still great at producing music) lol. Liked the fast-but-lowkey beat in it, really nice.

    The LioLan song was pretty cool! I definitely agree that the contrast between the odd poppy style and the slowed down sections where their singing voices shined, was executed well and sounded great. And the music video was actually very well made, with all the unique and wacky effects; probably one of the more creative MVs I’ve seen in a while.

    I feel like no matter how many times I hear the combination of hip-hop type beats and cool/chill female vocals, I’ll always enjoy it lol. “Ctrl Z” was pretty tight; loved the somber tone of it and it’s totally something I would put on for something easy to listen to. And after listening to Foi’s back-and-forth between Japanese and Chinese, it seems like I’ve gained a better appreciation for multi-lingual lyrics cause that was phenomenally smooth. And similarly, I know I’ve suggested his stuff a few times but the more I listen to Wez Atlas, the more I realize how well he can go from English to Japanese like it’s nothing (

    And I think it’s safe to say that you’ve put me on Foi, “Night Glow” was super good too haha

    Sweet roundup this month! Still got the chill stuff on my rotation lately, so these suggestions definitely were perfect to discover 👍

    As for suggestions, relating to the chelmico album I gave you, it was interesting when I recently stumbled upon this acoustic song they released a few years ago ( Was certainly surprised to hear something like this from them, as I’m much more familiar with their fast-paced rapping, but this was definitely a treat in itself. Mamiko’s got a super nice singing voice and it’s nice that Rachel still threw in a bit of a rap section lol

    Here’s another good R&B track you might like, technically not Japanese music (brb, the main artist, is from Singapore) but SIRUP had a really nice feature on it ( Definitely gives off a ‘boy band’ feel but I think it’s a vibey track. And again, the multilingual lyrics from SIRUP was another great instance of that idea.

    • I wanna say a lot of that is because hockrockb is one of the few bands out there that use an acoustic guitar as part of their main instrument line up which kinda gives it that home-y sound, but I guess if that’s all they were looking for they could’ve gotten any of the myriad of acogui singer/songwriters to do the theme instead, lol, so yeah, definitely good on the production team for that show to even consider hockrockb. Maybe someone in the crew was a fan (XD)

      I think it’s safe to assume that it’s not so much a question of if ao would have her big break but really just when. It’s be nice if “4ever” is the track that does it though.

      Didn’t get to talk much about the PV for it but yeah no “nanikasa” has, like, one of the more ‘modern’ takes I’ve seen in a while too (I thought the AI generator references was neat, lol). But yeah no I really like LioLan’s energy, and in hindsight kinda feel almost like a throwback to duos like chelmico.

      Same, I’ve really been into songs that incorporate a language in addition to Japanese as of late thanks to certain followers that I’ve been listening to (here’s another cool Japanese-Chinese one by maeshima soshi and krage: Wez Atlas is an interesting case too where his delivery is more… Japglish, in the same manner that we would use Taglish (lol) where instead of lines being independent of one another because they get sung in different languages, the way he raps the languages are more interwoven, if that makes sense. Very impressive.

      But yeah no, Foi is great 🙂 here’s her in a cover medley with Ikuta Lilas (

      Thanks! It’s gonna be interesting to see by the end of the year how much I’ve listened to chill Japanese Hip-Hop/Rap compared to Alt. Rock, LOL

      Oh wow… I feel like if I listened to “milk” blind and you had me guess who was singing I don’t think I would have even guessed it was chelmico even with that little rap break by Rachel.

      Took me a minute to find SIRUP in there but yeah, definitely more of a boy band-y male idol group type of vibe. Definitely vibe-y. Reminds me of Dedachi Kenta ( who I don’t think(?) I’ve mentioned a whole lot if at all on the blog. I think you might like this stuff too actually.

      • The MV for another one of chelmico’s songs that I’m sure you’ve heard of before ( did something similar with the CGI effects and such, so I’d say the chelmico/LioLan comparison is pretty on point!

        It definitely is a cool idea to do since I think it’s nice that these artists/vocalists are able to tie different cultures together and express their backgrounds more by doing so. In addition to Chinese and English (the maeshima soshi/kurage song was also great to listen to), Korean is another big one and probably one that would interest a lot of people in the JP audience so… it’d be neat to see more of this! And totally, I think that’s a great way of describing Wez’s lyrical/vocal style. Him growing up a bit here in the states shows how well-versed he is with the hip-hop genre, and to see him implement it in a way where it’s a bit more palatable for a Japanese crowd is pretty awesome to see.

        I was impressed to see how people actually managed to perform music together during quarantine, and Foi/Ikuta nailed that with that medley. Song choices were great as well.

        I get that, I’ve even started listening to a couple American rappers lately so it’s interesting how our tastes at a certain time can drastically change lol.

        Feel like I had the same thought when I first listened to “milk”, so you’re not alone haha. You also might enjoy this other song from Mamiko’s solo stuff, where she did a sick collab with iri ( Just another cool chill-hop type song with some great jazzy elements thrown into it 👌

        I’m sure there’s a much better comparison someone can make but Ed Sheeran is the one that immediately came to mind when I listened to that Dedachi Kenta song (might be cause of his vocals + the acoustic guitar lol). It’s clear that that guy is really familiar with the more modern style of singer-songwriter pop that’s heard here in the West (seems like he grew up in LA, from what I looked up) so it’s nice that he’s kinda spreading that type of music over there in Japan.

        • I don’t think I’ve seen this actually, but yeah, I won’t be surprised if LioLan actually took some inspiration from chelmico not just for the song but their conception as a unit as well.

          Funny you say that as maeshima soshi has also collaborated with a Korean artist too in DJ YonYon who does sing portions of the song in Korean ( They’ve also done work with some Filipino rappers on more than one occasion (kiyo ; ALLMO$T Definitely one of the most… well-travelled (lol) producers I’ve seen in recent memory. I do very much like what they’re doing though.

          I wanna say the Japanese were uniquely positioned to do so because of how prevalent “online bands” are over there even before the pandemic. That being said, it was definitely interesting seeing named artists go about that route, leading to some pretty cool home studio performances we wouldn’t otherwise have gotten for sure.

          It’s interesting how Mamiko has like a deeper vocal register preset in my head since I’ve been listening to POWER this past week, but after now hearing her alongside iri all of a sudden her singing doesn’t sound as deep to me anymore, LOL

          I can see that yeah, maybe like a David Archuleta or a Jesse McCartney kind of vibe too maybe? (…you can tell by the names I’m bringing up that I don’t know a lot of more current Western artists XD)

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