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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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