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

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Happy Halloween!

Welcome back to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup for October 2023! If you’re here seeking shelter from the night’s terrors, then may these tracks for tonight bring you comfort. If not, well, you’re welcome to stay all the same 😛

If, however, this is actually your first time here and you’re not exactly sure what being here entails 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 nice selection of treats for you guys tonight in the form of some pretty sweet Japanese music (if I do say so myself) so let’s not waste anymore time and let’s get to listening shall we? 😀

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月光浴/getsukouyoku
by ヨルシカ (yorushika)
It’s been a while hasn’t it?

I realize the last time I got to talk about Yorushika on the blog was before the release of their largely divisive album Gentou, which had fans questioning if they liked the duo enough for them to buy a physical copy of the album in order to be able to listen to exclusive songs that would not otherwise be available anywhere else for the time being. I do think enough time has passed that people have since forgiven and forgotten this slight transgression (or just found… other ways to listen to the paywalled tracks, lol), and Yorushika is back in everyone’s good graces with Getsukouyoku here. n-buna isn’t as big of an offender as YOASOBI’s Ayase is when it comes to rehashing his favorite song structures, but you do hear a little bit of it here. However, suis cutting through that chorus like a hot knife through butter more than does a good job saving it.

まどろみ/madoromi
by chilldspot
How this song hasn’t broken 100K on views yet is beyond me

Of course, I do also acknowledge that I’m far from being the most objective person when it comes to talking about this band given how much I’ve sang their praises just this year alone, so do take what I said (and will be going to say) with a grain of salt. That statement I just made might actually a bit misleading too in that chilldspot does rake in more than 100K views on average with their songs, albeit some more belatedly than others, so that might just be the case for Madoromi here as well. At the very least I personally don’t see why it wouldn’t given the many good things it has going for it. Chief among them of course being the contribution of producer/track-maker mabanua, best known for his vibey “Lo-Fi” productions which, in tandem with the always groovy offerings of chilldspot, the two seem to be a match made in heaven.

Hyper
by Kroi
I think these guys are going somewhere

As some of you might already be aware of, to pull the curtain back a little bit, I do a “Roundup Awards” post at the end of the year in place of a Roundup for December, where I give out different awards. One of which is the award for “Bands/Artists To Look Out For” in the following year, and I was honestly considering Kroi to be the recipient where I was going to predict a potential anime tie up for them come 2024. They beat me to the punch though with the release of Hyper here which is being used as the opening theme for the show UNDER NINJA. I did genuinely believe they would do well putting out something like this given their fun and funky style coupled with J-Pop’s current increasing fascination with Rap/Rap-adjacent styles as of late, where it really felt like it was inevitable for Kroi to breakthrough in the mainstream.

ヘントウタイ/hentoutai
by 乃紫 (noa)
I wasn’t expecting to get flipped off, but here we are (XD)

Noa returns to the Roundup in a relatively quick turnaround and, not for nothing, but it does feel like she almost has this IG/TikTok song down to a science. I talked a little bit about her approach the last time I featured her with how most of her distribution is geared towards SNS or ‘social networking services’ (“social media” as we refer to it outside of Japan) over more conventional means like through YouTube or Spotify. Expounding on this a bit further, it does seem as though she structures her songs with that in mind. Of course, there’s no real way of determining what goes viral or not (if there was then everyone would be trying to do it I imagine) but, as you’ll hear in Hentoutai here there*are*ways to increase your odds, by purposely incorporating catchy hooks, punchy one-liners, and invoking youthful themes like forbidden romances and infidelity.

Soap Flower
by 紫 今 (mulasaki ima)
I didn’t peg her a as balladeer but this might be her calling

When I first listened to her, subsequently when I first featured her music on the Roundup, I had thought she was an AcoGui soloist with a more laid back style along the lines of someone like a Fujiwara Sakura. What I didn’t expect was how good Mulasaki Ima would sound in an Emo-y Pop Rock ballad-type of a track like the one we have here in Soap Flower. I love how she plays around a bit more with her vocals here, where we’re seeing her take full advantage of her dynamic range by going into some particularly nice high notes which do get emphasized by her naturally low vocal register. Producing and composing the song herself, I also really like Mulasaki’s choice of instrumentation here, especially the nifty piano that she incorporates. If she wasn’t already promising, she is now. Plus, she’s rocking a pair of Koss Porta-Pros. Gotta love that.

眠れない/nemurenai feat. 楠木ともり (kusunoki tomori)
by MIMiNARI
How is this my most listened to Tomoriru song this year…..

If you’ve spent some amount of time here on the blog, you should have a pretty good idea how much of a fan I am of one Kusunoki Tomori of Love Live! fame based on how I talk about her. If anything else, if you happened to come across my tribute post addressing her departure from the aforementioned franchise, you’d know that I do adore her music a great deal. Though I say that, and considering she also released her first full length album earlier this year (check out my and Al’s review of them), you’d have to forgive my shock when I come to the realization that Nemurenai has become my most played of hers this year. I always knew these Doujin-y Youth Pop sort of tracks were more of her speed, but man did she do such an amazing job here. Massive props of course to MIMiNARI for recognizing that and bringing out some of that potential here.

花がら/hanagara
by tayori
I know what you’re thinking

And yes, you’re 100% right, this does indeed sound like a cross between Yorushika’s Roujin to Umi and Kusunoki Tomori’s Taruhi. …O-oh, that’s actually*not*what you were thinking? My bad… (XD) I’m only half kidding, of course, as I really am genuinely reminded of those two songs when I first heard tayori’s Hanagara here. Something to note is that tayori was originally a project under a different name which some of might be familiar with in Islet (what’s funny is I actually include one of their songs in a playlist video I made about bands/artist you might like if you liked Yorushika, lol). tayori does still seem to consist of the same team and it’s sounding more like a restructuring of management more than anything. At the very least, their sound still largely remains the same so hey, if you like Yorushika, then you might tayori too 😛

金木犀の花の名を/kinmokusei no hana no na o
by tonari no Hanako
Well this is a first

With this feature of Kinmokusei no Hana no Na wo, tonari no Hanako is going to be the first band/artist in the blog’s history to have made appearances on (my side of) the Exchange/Rate, the Spotify J-Music Playlist Draft, and now the Monthly Recommendation Roundup (at least… I think that’s true, someone fact check me on that if I’m wrong, lol). In any case, they’re here now with a song that actually proves me wrong with regard to something I said in my review of the group’s Kittara, Sora debut EP. In particular, I talk about how slower songs might be the way to go for tonari no Hanako but as you’ll hear in this track, vocalist/lyricist/composer/producer ame can more than handle a song with a faster tempo. I do want to give credit in that regard to Naisho no Pierced for nailing it with the arrangement as well.

Head for München
by Moon In June
I’m packing my bags as we speak

I got into a Shoegaze-y headspace towards the end of this month, thanks in large part to the release of idol/vocal unit RAY’s third album Camellia (which I do highly recommend that you guys go and check out), which got me looking at my ever-growing docket of bands and artists to revisit. One of whom is Moon In June; a humble Tokyo-based Shoegaze/Dream Pop band who themselves dropped an album not too long ago as well, which I*also*think you guys should listen to if you have the time 😛 I’m very much fond of the graininess of Head for München here which coupled with the reverb effect on vocalist miho’s singing really give the song that mystifying ‘detached from the present’, floating kind of feeling that Shoegaze tend to induce. It’s absolutely criminal that this band only has less than a thousand subscribers right now.

月が綺麗な夜でした/tsuki ga kirei na yoru deshita
by esoragoto
I want everyone to keep a close eye on this unit

Now, I’m not saying what they offer here is anything we haven’t seen or heard before, especially since we just got done talking about units that sound like Yorushika a little while ago with tayori/Islet. While I would agree that we are (if we haven’t already) reaching a critical mass of these kinds ‘Yakousei‘-type groups, I do want to hold out some hope that esoragoto won’t follow in that same trajectory. The reason being that their only song so far, Tsuki ga Kirei na Yoru Deshita, does lend itself to being more Rock/band-oriented than most others, which I think is the effect of what’s looking to be the new encroaching music trend that has slowly and surely begun to surface. That is, of course, the oncoming surge of bands in the 2/2.5D space as a direct result of the immense popularity of Bocchi The Rock following it’s success in the mainstream.

MUST LISTEN:
Soap Flower by Mulasaki Ima & Nemurenai by MIMiNARI feat. Kusunoki Tomori
When I queued up Soap Flower as I was doing my customary sampling for the Roundup, I was expecting a vibe-y slow jam type of song… not the emotive, hard-hitting, Atarayo-like song that it ended up being. Mulasaki Ima threw everyone for a loop with this one I imagine, and really goes to show how Gen Z singer-songwriters like her (and Noa who we also had this month) who do… pretty much everything for their production are definitely ones to look out for. On the subject of being reminded of things, after sitting on it for some time, I wanna say the main reason why I gravitate towards Nemurenai and why I like it so much is because the track, to me at least, feels very reminscent of the sounds that I attribute to Soutaiseiriron’s TOWN AGE album (specifically those from YOU & IDOL and John Q, which are some of my favorites from the band).

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The YouTubeSpotify, and Apple Music playlists have all now been updated with this month’s featured tracks so make sure to follow one (or all!) of these so you never miss a Roundup 😛

What did you guys think of this month’s recs? Lemme know your favorites down below! Likewise, if you have Japanese that you yourself would like to recommend, feel free to drop a link in the comments and I’ll be sure to check it out 😉

Week 21 and Week 22 of the Spotify J-Music Playlist Draft are now officially in the books this month so make sure to check out this month’s Draft picks if you haven’t yet. Things are shaping up to be quite the finale for the series this year with Spotify really pulling ahead with some of the best tracks it has had to offer yet!

We got a new set of album reviews for you guys again courtesy of the J-Music Exchange/Rate. I got to pick this month’s theme and, given the festivities I thought it’d be fitting for me and Al and to talk about albums that gave us chills/goosebumps. Al gave me Hanazawa Kana’s Coco Base to listen to so if you happened to miss it, you can check out my review on it here. You can also catch Al’s review of my pick, ChoQMay’s SurudoiSasakure over at Al’s*new*home over at Omunibasu.Substack.com.

That’s gonna do it for me. Thank you so so much for stopping by whenever you guys do.

Stay safe out there, and of course ー

Happy Listening!

4 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (October 2023)

  1. chilldspot is pretty tight (lol). I also ended up listening to some of their stuff this past month or so (more specifically with “Kiss me before I rise” and “Neon wo Keshite”; both fantastic tracks), and “Madoromi” is also really solid. Hiyune singing in a bit more of a fun/upbeat tone was enjoyable to hear, since I feel like I’m very much used to the melancholic atmosphere of other chilldspot songs (such as the ones I mentioned). But either way, it’s cool to see them put out some great stuff especially when they’re still relatively young/new. (also nice to see that collab they did with chiaki sato 👍)

    I actually didn’t get past episode one of that anime with the MIMiNARI track, and thus it kinda went over my head. But now listening to it, it’s very much a song that Riru would put out herself, I feel haha. I’ve always enjoyed hearing her sing in a much softer tone and I think MIMiNARI’s easy-sounding composition allowed Riru’s vocals to really shine here. Honestly didn’t expect this one to be your most listened-to Tomori song of the year, but I can totally see why 😛

    “Hanagara” is kind of a wild song. It did, at first, remind me of American teen/SSW/pop tracks from the early 2010s (probably because of those guitar riffs/melodies being combined with an electronic drum loop) but as it progressed, hearing those synths and even that sax solo that came out of nowhere just added more interesting layers to the song. Overall a pretty cool feature this month, and the vocals sound really nice and definitely helps bring everything together.

    Admittedly, I haven’t listened to tonari no Hanako in a while but happy to see they’ve been putting out some solid stuff lately. It does sound like they have improved a bit since listening to Kittara, Sora and while ame’s vocals still might not be for everyone, I think she sounded great in “Kinmokusei no Hana no Na wo”.

    Great roundup!

    As for suggestions, there’s this cool Sam is Ohm song that you may like (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fh-Z4sAs75I). Very much in-line with the R&B stuff we’ve been listening to lately, and Sagiri Sol/YonYon’s vocals sound fantastic here, especially when they overlap towards the end (reminded me a bit of BATTEN’s WatashiKoi).

    Also one of the B-sides from Misaki Nako’s new single (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX-jXKEf9Wk) is really really really nice. I feel bad that I never exactly realized how great of a singer Nako is after years of listening to Liella’s music, but I love how she sang a beautiful ballad track here. Fits her pretty well and I’m glad to see that her solo music career is off to a great start.

    • It actually took me a while to warm up to chilldspot, funnily enough. For some reason Spotify would keep recommending me “Dinner” from their ingredients album and of my first couple listens of it I couldn’t really vibe with it. It was until I just gave ingredients as a whole for a spin that I understood their sound fully, with tracks like “Kiss me when I rise” and “groovynight” in particular becoming immediate favorites of mine as well (eventualy started to like “Dinner” too, LOL). They’ve improved a great deal since that album in my opinion as evidenced by their most recent stuff and it’s been a treat seeing them grow in such a short period of time. And yeah no that collab with Chiai Sato and Hiyuni with them singing “chronostasis” almost felt like an early birthday present yeah XD

      I get a lot of heat from a friend of mine who knows I don’t end up watching a lot of shows Tomoriru works on despite me otherwise being a fan of hers and her music and, suffice for it to say, I’m also not watching the show this track is being used for, LOL. After sitting on it for a while now, I’m convinced that the Soutaiseiriron similarity, whether or not intentional, is what appealed to me the most. I do agree though that this goes well with songs she has put out in the past herself, specifically “yorimichi” and “Mou hitokuchi”.

      I can kinda hear like Taylor Swift sort of intro to it now that you mentioned it sure XD but yeah, the sax here was pretty sick ngl

      If anything else, I feel like I constantly see tonari no Hanako in my feed whether on Spotify or just X where they always seem to be promoting a new song, lol, it’s cool to see them being as active as they are though for sure

      Thanks! Really liked this one myself 😛

      “Hearth” is sooooo nice what. Sagiri Sol reminds me a lot of FNP/reina here, and I really like YonYon slipping in some Korean in there too. The vocal layering is also pretty tight yeah. Definitely keeping an eye out now for Sam is Ohm’s prods.

      “Tsugihagi no Sekai” is doing that thing that I was talking about in my Coco Base review where I feel like any second I’ll forget this is Nakochan. Her dynamic range is insane, or at least not what I would have expected knowing how her speaking voice sounds. A pleasant reminder that Liella! arguably has the most stacked lineup in terms of vocals out of all the LL! groups so far.

      • Feels like I’ve only gotten to hear a few songs from ingredients here and there, and haven’t actually gone through the album as a whole, so hearing your praises makes me wanna finally take it for a spin. And yep, to me, Chiaki Sato and Hiyune give off a similar vibe when it comes to their vocals so seeing those two perform something together was cool!

        Honestly, I’m pretty much the same regarding watching the stuff that Riru’s in. It’s definitely great that she’s getting a ton of VO opportunities (the fact that she’s in, like, 6 shows this season and in the main cast within a few of them is pretty insane) but a lot of those shows were kinda mid and/or just not something I’m into. And yeah, I do kinda see the Soutaiseiriron comparison! Speaking of that band and a bit of a coincidence that we’re talking about LL seiyuu, not sure if you saw this but Konachi singing a Soutaiseiriron song on her TikTok was pretty neat (https://www.tiktok.com/@tuknekona/video/7298239048068517122)

        Kinda interesting that both of us got into this specific realm or group of R&B/rap/hip-hop artists + producers that all have some sort of connection to each other, one way or another. Finding out that stuff/songs we’ve talked about were released under the same label (such as You Were Wrong, Inner Ocean, Sala + Foi’s Ctrl Z) and seeing Wez Atlas/reina/Salasa/Sagiri Sol/VivaOla all perform on the same EP… it’s actually really neat that all these people have some level of overlap with each other and it definitely feels like a cool network that enjoys working together and constantly puts out great stuff. And interestingly enough, a few of those artists I mentioned actually went out and organized an official music collective together haha (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BazSJSwa-J8)

        I totally agree and hopefully we’ll see some of the other Liella seiyuu go into the solo music scene!

        • It’s a pretty chill album (pun notwithstanding) that I do still put on the background on occasion so yeah, definitely give ingredients a spin!

          Funnily enough the one time I do watch a Riru show for her voice acting specifically (Deca-Dence) ended up being a show that not a lot of people talk about generally, which is a shame because I actually think it was low key pretty good. I haven’t seen this cover yet but ooooh yeah no I love “Kininaru ano ko” and Konachi’s rendition here is particularly lovely as well.

          It’s pretty neat yeah ngl, also how there was no overlap with the artists we knew yet somehow or another they’re all in the same circles, lol. I agree 100% that they their connections reflect in their music through their guest features, and I personally really like seeing artists with their own distinct styles perform with one another too. It’s also cool that they really do seem like they help each other out, whether it’s through guest features or just helping to promote the other person and that’s always nice to see.

          Yup! Not sure if you caught it too, but Paychan actually dropped her 2nd single a couple of days ago and it’s right up my alley (https://youtu.be/7zN5px-HxKM?si=9BqK37TXj03vf3X9). We know she’s a huge Hatsune Miku/Vocaloid fan and that in the past she has expressed genuine interest in making DTM music so yeah, she might be whose music career I’m looking forward to the most from them at the moment.

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