Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (May 2018)

You know what it is~!!

If not, that’s fine (xD), welcome to my Monthly Recommendation Round-Up of Japanese Music for the month of May 2018, where I basically just share some songs that I like. These may be songs that came out in the past month, older songs that I’ve only come across in the past month, OR just songs that I feel like putting on here for you guys to hear — to give you a nice little playlist of tracks that I personally would recommend.

SO, like we always do; grab your favorite pair of earphones (if you’re an over-the-ear headphones kind of guy that’s a-okay); for the more adventurous, set your speakers at a comfortable level, and let’s dive into this shall we!?

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FREAKS & GEEKS, by Nerd Magnet (ナードマグネット)
So, I didn’t know what it was about this song struck so close to home — until a redditor said it was like I a Blink182 song and I was like, ‘it totally is O_o’

Kind of a fitting way to open up our lineup here and really just an apt song for this series in general — a song that’s all about blasting your favorite tunes over the airwaves despite what everyone thinks or says about it (xD). Nerd Magnet have fashioned themselves as a reliable Pop/Rock outfit over the years (they’ve been around for about four years and some change now), and I’d be hard-pressed to associate any other sound to this seasoned Osaka-based quartet than their high energy “Power Pop”. “Freaks & Geeks” is that of course and then some, as the band channels some late 90’s/early 2000’s American Pop/Punk with an almost an anthem-y sort of “fight the power” type of number… ‘cept instead of sticking it up to “the man”, it’s a fun little jab at conformity (yes, contrary to popular belief, the Japanese people marginally do not subscribe to, and are not fond of the notion, that they are a conformist type of people). At the very least, having some sense of individuality in whatever things you choose to devote your time to (…like Japanese music, lol) shouldn’t really hurt, right?

Lightpool, by sora tob sakana
You guys should know by the now that whenever I go and recommend idol music, you can count on it to always be this good.

Then again there’s a good chance you didn’t catch my idol music recommendations in the past so I’ll give you a pass for now (xD and if you really haven’t yet, check ’em out here and here). Now, sora tob sakana used to pretty much be in a league of their own as far as being “Math Idols” are concerned until Maison book girl entered the scene (though both groups started activities in the same year) — but a stark difference between the two is that while Maison book girl played with irregular time signatures using synth in tandem with glockenspiel and strings, sora tob sakana have a VERY legitimate Prog-Rock band doing their music for ’em (the minds behind haisuinonasa and siraph specifically). As a result the biggest knock on sora tob sakana as an idol group was that their singing was weak compared to the instrumentation offered by their songs but “Lightpool”, I would think, begs to differ now with the girls’ ephemerally transcendent vocal stylings coupled with some clever and playful arrangement in singing order.

Garando/がランド feat. Hatsune Miku (初音ミク), by Picon (ピコン)
Where my Vocaloid peeps at??

Not that I think that only fans of Vocaloid would enjoy Picon’s work here. More than that, I believe his offerings to be the perfect entry-way for people looking to get into Vocaloid or conversely for those who’ve become averse to it over the years. Y’see, at some point during the rise of Vocaloid’s/Hatsune Miku’s popularity, “Vocaloid” became a genre of its own — when in reality, the Vocaloid software was developed not as end all be all consumer product but a product for musicians and artist to aid in the creation and expression of their own music; and Picon’s Vocaloid is just pure creation and expression. “Garando” is a bit more of a bop than most of Picon’s songs but don’t let that take away from the artistry on display on this here club track (xD). I mean, c’mon, this is Hatsune Miku dropping some legit Downbeat Trip-Hop with some edgy, almost emo-y, lyrics (the songs are translated so don’t forget to hit that CC button!). Can’t really go wrong with that I think.

Tada kimi ni hare/ただ君に晴れ, by Yorushika (ヨルシカ)
A summer song for ya!

Yorushika makes their way back in to the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up in quick turnaround as they go and give us a fresh new track; this time to usher in some warm sun-filled vibes with “Tada kimi ni hare”. Composer n-buna’s unique sense for lyrical structure continues to shine with this track in what quite frankly sounded to me like I was hearing a poem — or a haiku even — sung in a very folk-y sing-song-y way thanks to suis’ magnificent little voice curls in some parts, giving the song just the slightest touch of traditional min’yo/enka stylings. The duo’s theme of bittersweet melancholy is still also very much here as well, with the overall feel of the song appearing to evoke a fleeting sense of reality that comes with the passage of time, via the imagery of youth reminiscing about the summer days of old that had been spent with someone dear. Really this is just Yorushika continuing to flaunt a certain polish to their always catchy sentimental hits, and it’s getting harder and harder not to be a fan with each track they put out.

Koi no Tougenkyo/恋ノ桃源郷, by THE INCOS
As much as I love a good three-piece, I’m also quote fond of bands with a person on the synthesizer (and I dare you to tell me Hiiro-daisensei does not look like Takatsuki Kanako)

China is good aesthetic apparently 😀 Now, if you were to ask me why exactly The INCOS are wearing traditional Chinese clothing in a what appears to be a Buddhist temple while they sing about “The Forbidden Fruit” as the video is flashing Chinese subtitles — I could only venture you this guess. The Japanese have actually borrowed the term TouGenKyou (“Peach Blossom Spring”) from the Chinese (specifically from the works of poet Tao Yuanming, in his fable of the same name) to refer to Shangri-La, or Eden, or sort of utopian paradise that is both of this earth and not. Bit of a history/linguistic etymology lesson for you (xD). *ehem* With that out of the way… bands like Che-a and Qaijff that feature their keyboardist as the “face” of their group come out every now and again but are always few and far between, so THE INCOS are definitely welcome to stay — especially if they keep making fun tracks like Koi no Tougenkyo here.

Lonely Planet Buster/ロンリープラネットバスター, by Riaru San-ku (リアル3区)
One of my markers, for whether or not a song is gonna be good, is if it makes me go ‘oooooh~ >w<‘ within the first couple of seconds.

Suffice it to say, I was baited by this smooth smooth ElectroJazz/Vaporwave — which I wanna say is almost a shame because you can’t really expect Riaru San-ku to keep to just one genre. They describe their sound as “Hardcore Girl’s Pop” (wut) but really they’re as Experimental Pop as they come — so far they’ve dabbled in plain Girls’ Rock, a bit of Rap, some Hip-Hop, and sometimes even a mix of all three. I take it they’re just having fun being a bit different then the rest and being that they’re now gonna go four years into it, I’d reckon they must be doing well enough for themselves (lest the view counts of their videos are an indication of it being the other way around). “Lonely Planet Buster” does seem to be more palpable to the general music-listening public compared to their earlier work at least, and really, I don’t think they’re gonna find much competition in the Hardcore Girl’s Pop department (xD).

potage, by tricot
I mean, it’s tricot. ‘Nuff said.

In many respects, listening to any tricot song really does feel almost the same as trying to appreciate the beauty of an oil painting — other times it’s like making you through a bowl of hot soup (this’ll all make sense I swear, but for now, potage = soup …damn it tricot). tricot’s Math Rock has won the hearts of many fans throughout the years, both in and outside of Japan, and a large part of that comes from the trademark eccentricities of their sound. If this happens to be your first tricot song then there’s a good chance you might be a bit overwhelmed right out of the gate, and I assure you that is the right response here. Their songs tend to be just a straight-up flood of music (is my best way of describing the feeling) and with “potage” in particular you’ll find that it starts slow enough but if you’re not careful you’ll for sure be left behind when you least expect it. …Which is why I say we treat it like hot soup; just let it settle down on its own for a second or two and you’re good.

Raincoat to Kubi no Nai Tori/レインコートと首の無い鳥, by Maison book girl
That intro is some Last Boss level sh*t — it’s insane.

Like the rest of this song really (xD). Maison book girl is back again (!!) in our round-ups — much to my surprise, as “Raincoat to Kubi no Nai Tori” not more than a week ago, when I thought I was already done with this post (lol) but I digress. When I brought up Mbg in my little commentary up top on sora tob sakana’s “Lightpool”, I didn’t do so with the intention of directly comparing the two by featuring an Mbg song further down the lineup, and it just so happens that they released a new song in the same month that sora toba sakana did. While we are on the subject though, I’ll take this opportunity to bring up then that while Mbg and sora tob sakana are indeed cut from the same cloth in so far as their styles are concerned, Mbg does boast a stronger vocal lineup (Wada Rin and Koshouji Megumi in particular, as you’ll hear here) despite arguably having the “weaker” instrumentation of the two depth-wise. This of course isn’t meant to take away from the Mbg’s crazy synth/orchestra game, which is also VERY on point here.

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Must Listen: Lightpool by sora tob sakana and Tada kimi ni hare by Yorushika
sora tob sakana is criminally overlooked in my opinion and I think a large part of that comes from the fact that they are an idol group and that stigma alone is enough to steer people away sadly. While it’s true that I favor the instrumentation behind sora tob sakana more so than the actual singing, I’d also like to believe that without the latter, the former wouldn’t be able to shine as much. “Tada kimi ni hare” is quite simply a really good song from a really good duo in Yorushika, and I can only see them being better moving forward.

The playlist is updated so if by chance you’ve found yourself here, but can’t actually go through all of the songs (because of time constraints, or you’re just not feeling it), just queue this up on your YouTube dashboard and listen at your own leisure. If you’ve missed previous months, fret not, just hop on over to my Japanese Music page where you can find past entries of the Recommendation Round-Up along with my Feature LIsts WHICH, if you haven’t seen those too then feel free to do so as well (also, if you have any ideas for Feature Lists that I could do, by all means send ’em my way through the comments section down below!)

How was this month’s round-up? Find anything you like? Or did you like a previous month better? (now that we have a decent sample size, lol) Lemme know! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And lastly, if you have your own recommendations (doesn’t have to be Japanese music, but, y’know xD) then please please please drop me them links!

Happy listening guys — see ya next month~!!

 

 

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