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

Leap Commissions_small

Here I thought August was a good month of releases.

This month’s new releases just knocked it out of the park. I mean, where do I even start, the Guiano x RIM collaboration album, new Bungei Tengoku EP, KAF’s I SCREAM LIVE2….. And then you have the Monthly Recommendation Roundup to close out September for you. What a time to be a Japanese music fan! 😛

That being said, 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 got a lot of stuff to talk to you guys about after the songs so I’ll just keep it brief up top here.


言っちゃいけないことばっか浮かぶよな/icchaikenaikotobakka ukabuyona
by Guiano x 理芽 (RIM)
Low key one of my most anticipated releases of the year

The duo of Guiano and RIM find themselves back in the Roundup once again in quick turnaround after I featured them just last month with the song Karappo nara, Odorouze. Icchaikenaikotobakka Ukabuyona is yet another track off of the pair’s collaborative album in imagine which dropped this month which has, for all intents and purposes, lived up to expectation (at least ones coming from myself after hearing how good they sound together the first time) and then some by being an absolute banger of a release that I highly recommend you go check out. If I’m being completely honest I was a little bit skeptical as to how this collab was gonna go as I thought someone like Harusaruhi would’ve been a better fit for this, but I severely underestimated RIM’s capacity of singing to some fun Electro/Dance Pop.

by a子 (a-ko)
It’s a mystery to me why anime fans in particular have seemingly yet to get behind A-ko

Like, I feel like with the way Ako chooses to carry herself, I’m surprised the 2D/2.5D fandom has yet to really take note of her, despite being this eccentric character with dyed red hair who has a penchant for guns and swords. Of course, it could be just a lack of exposure which can very quickly be remedied by an Anison debut; something that I do feel she would be well received at doing if she was ever interested in entering that market. That being said I there was a point while I was watching the PV for trank (and Atashi no Zenbu Aisenai before that) where I thought, maybe A-ko is little*too*mature for those audiences considering the subtle dark undertones of her songs. I mean, one of the lines in this song is literally “throw me in the trunk (of the car)” while A-ko ponders if “it might be love” presumably in a fit of Stockholm syndrome… XD

フィルムカメラ/film camera; “silver halide”
by 文藝天国 (bungei tengoku; “blooming bungei”)
Seeing their story unfold before my eyes is truly remarkable

I am of course talking about not only the amazing past couple of years that the pair shinonome ko and Sumi Aika have been having (which has been nothing short of beautiful to watch), but also the overarching narrative that the two have slowly cultivated in that time which is now starting to bear fruit with its latest installment in Film Camera here. Talking more about the latter, if you take this song and stitched the visual elements and literary aspects of it together with the ones you can get from Mariage and Ryokuchi-ka keikaku, and all of sudden we’re now able to piece together, albeit partially, a story about two friends from a previous life finding each other once again after being reincarnated. While I already liked these songs independently of one another, the fact that they actually all tie together like this make me love them even more.

by Hammer Head Shark
It’s like I’m back in 2016 listening to Kinoko Teikoku’s Long Goodbye EP again

Specifically, Hammer Head Shark’s Takaramono reminds me a whole lot of Paranoid Parade which is a song that is very near and dear to my heart, and is one that I think of as being integral to my formative years as a Japanese music listener considering it’s one of the first ever that I’ve listened to from the aforementioned Kinoko Teikoku, which in turn is one of my all time favorite bands. Suffice for it to say, this song resonates with me a lot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hammer Head Shark directly took inspiration from Shoegaze bands like Kinoko Teikoku if not also being fans of the latter themselves. Let not all of this takeaway from the band’s own musical capabilities though as Takaramono is a treat in and of itself, particularly with Nagai Hiyu’s vocals at its haunting best here. Happy to see more them active in the latter half of the year.

by afloat storage
It’s been four years since, and I still love her voice

The last time I got to feature afloat storage was back in 2019 where I talked about how much of a fan I was of vocalist Inami Mayu’s singing and is a sentiment that I would continue to carry so long as afloat storage continued to make music. However, on September of 2020, the band would seem to halt activities. I had presumed that this was mostly in light of the global which would’ve been at its height around this time, but as the months went by and turned into years there was never really any indication that afloat storage was ever coming back. It wasn’t actually until earlier this year that signs of life would surface from the band, marked by them hosting a one man live that was swarmed by fans who were all but ready to celebrate their long-awaited return. Enei reminds me once again how much I truly just adore Inami Mayu’s singing.

Count the references

AC/DC, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Guns N’ Roses, Slipknot, and BABYMETAL. What do these bands have in common? Of course, they are some of the most iconic Rock and Metal bands in music history. Now, you might think that one of these is unlike the others, but I think it’s fair to say that BABYMETAL has more than made a name for themselves not just in Japan but worldwide to warrant such praise. “We created this work with respect to the rock stars who rose to stardom.” is the tagline for this song and while ASTERISM still has a lot of work to do to even be in talks alongside those legends, they make a decent account for themselves in STARDOM here. Vo. Gt. HAL-CA in particular had a really good showing of her powerful singing here as well as her guitar work and … boy can she shred. There’s some serious traction here I feel.

by 乃紫 (noa)
JP TikTok springboard-ing the careers of up-and-coming S-SWs is the new meta

Noa’s artist profile might be one of the most thought-provoking ones that I have had the pleasure of reading, at least from recent memory. In it, it states that she is a singer-songwriter of the new era who does everything herself; from the lyrics, to the composition, the arrangement, singing, directing the PV and even making the promotional artworks, all on her own. Equally as fascinating is that it seems that her preferred mode of delivering her music isn’t through the usual streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, but through TikTok and LINE, with her main claim to fame being her song Seppun no Tebiki becoming somewhat of a viral hit amongst the Gen Z crowd. Senpai continues on the same trend being a particularly catchy (and perhaps more importantly, ‘clippable’) little tune that evokes a sense of “young adult” youthfulness

by McGrady
The disconnect never fails to amuse me (in, like, the best way possible)

Like, I feel like vocalist Soshiro should be singing ballads at wedding receptions or in some Jazz club somewhere, but instead he’s out here letting loose and dropping mad verses in a Jazz/Rock fusion band and if Tenbatsu here is indicative of anything I think it’s that we should all be thankful for it. In all seriousness though, McGrady seems like a ton of fun, at least going by what we’re able to hear from them in this track. Personally, the instrumentation being utilized in the song with the Swing-y snare rolls, the roaring guitar riffs, and the synth accentuation that sort of ties it all together reminds me a lot of the funkyness that made me a fan of Roundup favorite Dannie May. The band does seem to be a bit more on the experimental side of the musicality spectrum though I wouldn’t be mad if they kept going for this sound.

飛行少女/hikou shoujo
by Klang Ruler
This is what I mean whenever I say “they should’ve went harder on the brass”

I first found out about Klang Ruler when I came across guitarist Gyoshi’s cover of Yorushika’s Roujin to Umi a couple of years back. I’ve been wanting to feature the band here on the Roundup ever since but things never lined up for that to happen, though it also doesn’t help that the band doesn’t have a whole lot of songs yet out there to begin with (Hikou Shoujo already first came out back in February of this year). Hopefully that changes sooner rather than later because, as you’ll hear here in the song, the band is just oozing with potential. In particular I do really like their approach here of, what sounds to me personally like, making music that adheres to a J-Pop standard but with a more band-oriented flavor to it. I dunno, I can’t describe it the way I feel like it makes sense other than structure-wise this bizarrely sounds like a repackaged milet song.

鉄筋コンクリート/tekkin concrete
by ペッテルズ (pettels)
Huge fan of those switch ups

Those of you who have been following the Monthly Recommendation Roundup for some time should already know by now that I always tend to reserve the furthest recesses of the Roundup to Indie/Alternative Rock hopefuls. A lot of that is due to the sort of format I’ve since starting formatting the Roundups with where the first half is reserved for bands and artists that have been here before at least once so the latter half is where I get to feature new and up-and-coming talent. But also, it’s probably a tough sell leading with a band like the pettels right out of the gate. At the very least, based off of what we can see and hear in Tekkin Concrete here, the band is still definitely very raw. I do however like the ideas they have in terms of the sound they’re going for. Kinda reminds me of when POLKADOT STINGRAY was first on the come up.

“Enei” by afloat storage and “Tekkin Concrete” by pettels
A lot of this is me just being so glad and relieved that afloat storage is still continuing to make music, as a band that I personally consider to be very instrumental in the inception of the Monthly Recommendation Roundup, being one of the first ones that I began following in earnest when I first started listening to Japanese music in earnest. And as such I will take any and all opportunities I can to promote them so by all means listen to Enei and hear for yourself what I’ve been on about with regard to Inami Mayu’s vocals. I promise you it will not disappoint. Tekkin Concrete gets the other special mention here as I do honestly see something in pettels. They are a VERY young band (they’re looking for a drummer right at this very moment even, lol) with a lot of potential in my opinion and I’m excited to hear more from them in the (hopefully) near future.


The YouTubeSpotify, and Apple Music playlists have all now been updated with this month’s featured tracks so if you haven’t yet make sure to follow the Roundup on your preferred music-listening platforms so you’re always up to date 😀

What are your thoughts on this month’s selection of songs? Let me know which were the ones you liked the most down in the comments! Likewise, if you have your own recommendations for this month, feel free to drop me a link as well 😛

We had three weeks of the Spotify J-Music Playlist Draft this month, with Week 18, Week 19, and Week 20 (which just came out today, lol) now down in the books. Be sure to catch yourself up to this month’s Draft picks as we are nearing the end of the season. Short time for Spotify with only a few weeks left to make that 100-song goal. Will it make it? Keep tuning in to find out! (I mean, I don’t even know XD)

The J-Music Exchange/Rate released a fresh new pair of album reviews this month as well. The theme for this month was albums by multilingual/multicultural Japanese artists. I got the chance to listen to and talk about Misato Ono’s something invisible which you can go and read over here (Misato Ono herself says she enjoyed reading it so, y’know, seal of approval right there JK). Al in turn got to review low key one of the funnest albums that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year in reina’s You Were Wrong. You can catch his review of it over at Omunibasu.Blog.

Lastly, I was actually invited to be a guest contributor for an issue of Ryo Miyauchi’s This Side of Japan, a Substack newsletter that discusses Japanese music both new and old. This month was a “Flipped” issue, meaning instead of it’s regular formatting, the songs featured are from older albums and singles. I pretty much had free reign to talk about any song that I wanted so long as it was within the specified time period so I took the opportunity to write a little something about one of my favorite bands in Negoto (give it a read here!). Eternally grateful to Ryo for inviting me to write, especially alongside awesome fellow writers Musty/Mustafa whom you can find at his own Substack newsletter An Extension of Musty and Luisa of NANTE JAPAN.

Aaand, that’s it! lol

Thank you so much as always for dropping by 🙂 As many of you already know I do the Roundups for fun, and my only hope is the Roundups are equally as fun (if not even more) for you guys whenever you make it out here 😀

Stay safe, be well, and as always ー

Happy Listening!

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

    • Happy to have caught you at a good time then Moya! Likewise, glad you found some favorites! “Senpai” in particular was a last minute include so it looks like I made the right call featuring it 😀

  1. That a-ko song is pretty awesome, and I do agree that an (maybe, inevitable) anison feature would help increase her popularity. And it’s very quaint that I went from knowing a-ko through a cute song like “Ai wa itsumo” to something like “trank” 😛

    Not gonna lie, at first glance, I mixed up bungei tengoku with hitsujibungaku lol… but after listening to “Film Camera”, I think both of those groups are really solid! It’s always nice to see artists develop a storyline within their MVs, cause it really is a good medium/opportunity to express such an idea. I know SHISHAMO did that with some of their older stuff, and heck, even an idol group like =LOVE has attempted to do so over a few of their releases as well. On that note, and kinda going off topic here, it made me think that it would’ve cool if reina had some accompanying MVs for some of the songs on ‘You Were Wrong’. Given how narrative-based and connected that album was, I think it would’ve made an already great record even better (as well as the possible increased exposure but if reina preferred to keep it low-key, I totally get it). But yeah, to go back to bungei tengoku, that song was really nice and I love the vocals in it!

    Maaaaan, I underestimated your opening line with that Hammer Head Shark song, but that really does sound like a Kinoko song 😅 That’s pretty amazing tho, and I would imagine that bands and songs like them can really relieve the craving for those wanting more traditional/authentic Japanese shoegaze cause damn, as far as I can tell, they do a really good job expressing that style of music.

    I honestly do understand Noa’s unique approach towards putting out her music, and I completely get why she’d wanna go towards that direction. As both of us know, TikTok has been a genuinely good source to find music and seeing how easy TikToks and sounds can get on trending (actually witnessed it myself when I posted my first TikTok and surprisingly, it immediately got dozens of likes lol), it definitely seems like a- I don’t know if I wanna say ‘better’ but an almost reliable way to get a decent amount of traction. There’s still some luck that’s needed but considering how many new artists I, and many others, have discovered through TikTok trends (which coincidentally includes Klang Ruler)… it’s certainly not a terrible idea to distribute your music like that. Plus it seems like promoting/marketing your music through platforms like TikTok or YouTube Shorts or Instagram should already be a standard for every artist, aspiring or popular.

    Also that McGrady song is tight. I love that guy’s vocals and it pairs so well with that jazzy-rock combo.

    Sweet roundup this month!

    As for suggestions: kind of an odd/weird one but I listened to ASOBOiSM’s “TRENDO MENDO” ( last month and was blown away with it for a number of reasons. I dunno if it’s something you’d enjoy but if anything, it’s a pretty fascinating/authentic take on a modern + Western/Latin style of music from a Japanese artist.

    Also I started listening to TOMOO’s latest album recently and it’s been a fun one (

    And I did check out the feature you had on This Side of Japan; “Mercirou” was also one of my favorite songs on ex Negoto so glad to see you give it some love as well. And obviously, that Misato Ono tweet was pretty awesome to see lol

    • Yep, definitely more of a ‘When’ not ‘If” for A-ko for sure. Like, she’s pretty much a shoe in for the next yandere-themed show whenever that is I feel, lol

      Happens to me sometimes too (likewise, love both groups as well :P). But yeah, a sense of continuity in MVs/PVs is always neat to see develop and get fleshed out over the course of however many songs. I think one of the more famous examples of it we’ve seen in recent memory is the entire Elma/Amy saga from Yorushika which really took on a life of its own among their listener community where at one point you had people making massive theory posts on Reddit piecing together that narrative with each new song that they put out. I feel like Bungei Tengoku can definitely get to that (if not already with their more immediate fan base) but it’s already cool seeing them attempt it all the same. RE: vocals /I’m really glad they’ve stuck to Haru as their vocalist. After the group came back from a short hiatus I was worried they were gonna make it a revolving door position. And yeah no, dude, I would so watch-through a PV series of ‘You Were Wrong’ XD

      I already had that feeling when I first heard their song ‘Koe’ ( which *immediately* gave me ‘Uzu no Naru’ vibes. It’s funny you mentioned HitsujiBungaku earlier as they were at one point also a candidate for being like a Kinoko Teikoku surrogate. Of course, their sound ended up developing towards a different direction than Shoegaze. There have been multiple bands since then (some I’ve even featured on the Roundup precisely for that reason) but Hammer Head Shark’s definitely the one with the most similar… bite (pun not intende-)

      It’s just so fascinating seeing instances like this where SNS as it relates to media and Pop culture operates on such a different axis than it does out here in the West for example. JP TikTok is probably the most anomalous example of course with the Japanese having a completely different use for the service (though I did find it absolutely hilarious hearing imase’s Night Dancer from my mom’s phone while she was browsing through her TikTok, LOL). I do agree though that with Twitter… X… slowly going to shxt bands and artists should really start looking taking these other platforms into consideration if they haven’t already. There is a bit of a downside to this practice being prominent though and that’s bands and artist *purposely* making a song meant to be used for like a TikTok or an IG Story as opposed to it being an accidental viral hit. These are hard to pinpoint but the general consensus is that we’re already sort of seeing it with bands like Atarayo for example and the way they structure their massive emotional choruses to be independent enough of the song itself that you can just clip it and it’d make for a good reel.

      Tbh I didn’t know what to expect from a Japanese band named “McGrady” of all things, but I’m glad I tried out their music XD

      I don’t think I’ve heard Reggaeton specifically a whole lot if at all in Japanese music (I think the closest Latin/Latin-adjacent that I’ve experienced would be, more, like Flamenco-style songs) so this was definitely a refreshing take. Like, I don’t listen to it a lot myself, but fwiw I would agree too that it does sound fairly authentic.

      TOMOO gets recommended to me a lot by YouTube and Spotify too funnily enough and I’ve given a couple of her songs a listen already as a direct consequence (I think she might be coming up in a future Draft if I’m not mistaken, lol) but didn’t know she dropped an album. I’ll for sure check it out then!

      Thanks for checking out the issue! 🙂 And lol, I was just relieved I didn’t write anything in there that was completely wrong or inaccurate, Haha!

      • When I was working on the CHIAKI SATO album review, I do remember her mentioning in an interview how she, kinda, researched what made popular songs hit and even implemented those ‘short and catchy’ elements that’s heard in a lot of these viral TikTok tracks into some of the stuff on PLANET. Which, like I said in the review and what I’ve told you, I *definitely* don’t think that’s Sato’s main intention when making music (especially given her track record with Kinoko) and I think that can apply to many other artists like Noa. I do agree that there are/will be blatant attempts at making a TikTok-worthy song, but I feel like there just needs to be a decent balance between having a genuine approach towards making music and a good sense of what clicks with people/how to reel them in with your stuff (which has been seen with a lot of the artists I’ve come across on TikTok/IG, I’d say).

        I think between that ASOBOiSM song and all the hip-hop/rap and R&B I’ve listened to this past year, it’s neat to see another country’s perspective and take on certain Western genres. Pretty clear that they have a decent grasp on those styles so it’s cool to see and enjoy.

        Same, honestly. I found out about her after stumbling upon “Ginger” and I liked her style/vocals a lot. Didn’t know she released an album either until recently but it’s really solid; I’d say it’s worth giving a shot!

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

Leave a Reply