Listening to Japanese Music — Favorite Japanese Cover Artists

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Back in the day, aside from just plain chain searching for bands/artists on last.fm, one of the ways I discovered new music to listen to was through song covers. Often times I’d hear a cover of something that I thought was pretty rad and I’d end up looking for the original rendition of said song  — which would then occasionally lead me to the rabbit hole of wanting to find more of the original artist’s entire discography.

What ends up happening more often than not though is me just liking the cover artist/band over all (lol). Now, personally, I don’t believe that appreciating covers is about them “sounding better” than the original nor do I think that that’s the only way you can gauge whether or not a cover is good. For example, I’m a huge fan of alternative takes and styles in relation to their original counterpart, especially for conventional J-Pop where I’d much rather hear certain songs with certain instrumentation as a point of personal preference. That said, if there’s one thing that I would like to impart with you with this here feature list, it’s a sense of valuing the cover as not being mere a copy of an original.

SO, with that outta the way, here’s a list of my favorite Japanese* cover artists!
(*meaning, Japanese artists that cover songs, as I’m well aware that there are non-Japanese cover artists that cover Japanese songs too xD)

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Goose house
Okay, so, no self-respecting list of Japanese cover artists would be complete in my opinion without a mention of arguably the most popular and accomplished cover artists in recent memory in Goose house.

> “Music” by Sakanaction [link to the original]

The group was initially called “PlayYou.House” back in 2010 as part of the campaign SONY’s 「Play You」Walkman series that saw to the gathering of a bunch young and very talented musicians that were put up in a “shared house” to record songs, the videos of which subsequently going up on UStream. The project culminated in early 2011 but the group, headed by consensus leader d-iZe, continued their activities as they slowly but surely built their home over on YouTube. To date Goose house has retained most of its original members (notable departures being d-iZe himself, as well as Kanda Rioka who went on to have a solo career of her own), whilst maintaining their now-trademark ensemble style which feature harmonizing vocals over mostly acoustic instrumentation. They perform covers for a wide-array of J-Pop songs, the occasional anison or two, and even songs in English when they feel like it. The group has gone on to becoming a bit of a mainstream act themselves (having even done their own anison) but at present they still continue to do their thing further cementing themselves as one of Japan’s most prominent cover artists.

kobasolo
kobasolo may not be as much of a household name as Goose house just yet (at least in the West), but he’s certainly on track to becoming one.

> “LOSER” by Yonezu Kenshi [link to the original]

kobasolo is the solo project of singer-songwriter Kobayashi Makoto (hence “kobasolo”). After his initial debut of being one-half of the fairly promising J-Pop duo “Little Turtles” back in 2005, kobasolo has since turned his musical talents towards doing song covers some two or three years following his last album release with his partner Kamegawa Akame, This new venture saw to a bit of a re-invigoration for koba‘s career, as it became a platform to showcase his markedly impressive grasp of his own capabilities as a composer, producer, and really as a one-man band most of the time. While he does still every now and again, he more often than not invites relatively new and unknown artists to do vocals and, not for nothing, but the guy has an excellent ear for singing as much as he does for music. The singers (mostly female) that he ends up featuring for his covers are all without a doubt very talented future prospects that just shine all the more thanks to koba laying the groundwork for them with his solid renditions (which are generally more of the “studio” variety) of primarily J-Pop songs.

GIRLFRIEND
I love it when already-established bands do covers.

> “FLASH” by Perfume [link to the original]

GIRLFRIEND is an all-girl Pop/Rock outfit that burst out the seams in 2016 during the wake of a passing era of Girls’ Rock, which included the likes of Stereopony and Silent Siren, and had been primarily spearheaded by the now world-renowned SCANDAL. The members of GIRLFRIEND all have a pretty open admiration for their predecessors owing to the fact that the two groups attended the same dance-and-vocal school in Osaka, with vocalist SAKIKA even admitting that she more or less knows all of SCANDAL’s songs by heart. Entering the stage at an average age of 16 with their debut single Hide & Seek (the ED track used for Soussei Onmyouji), GIRLFRIEND comes across as a group with overwhelming potential being as good as they are in what we can consider their early years as a band. Their fast rise to stardom aside though, we do still get to see their aforementioned admiration not just for SCANDAL but for Girls’ Rock/J-music in general, through the covers that they release from their official YoutTube channel. They only do one roughly once a month (mostly Girls’ Rock songs) but the sound, presentation, and the overall production quality for these covers are absolutely top notch.

AnimeSongCollabo
I mean technically they are a cover group (xD)

“This game” by Suzuki Konomi [link to the original]

Just that they’re not physically with one another for the most part. AnimeSongCollabo is a MASSIVE collaboration of different utaites and musicians that first formed in 2009 and hosted their covers of anison primarily on the Japanese video sharing site NicoNicoDouga, before opening up a YouTube channel two years after. Their videos are unique compared to everything else on here in that the covers are essentially stitched-together clips of separate covers (like, say, one person only pays the guitar part, and a different person sings, but they edit the video so the two parts sync up). The group is most known for their numerous renditions of some of the OPs and EDs used in shows per season — and that’s a strict “per” in that they always do it after every season ever since they started. It’s kinda hard to tell how centralized ASC is in terms of how everything is managed (a little digging did lead me to their home page, but all I could really takeaway from navigating the thing is that the group now boasts a total of 75 different vocalists, lol), but they make it work and that’s all that matters. Fun fact; current LL! idol/seiyuu/celebrity on the rise Takatsuki Kanako had also been a contributing member of ASC at one point in time.

LambSoars
As I’ve said before, you really can’t go wrong with acogui + synth.

“Hohoemi no Bakudan” by Mawatari Matsuko [link to the original]

LambSoars is the duo act of singer/song-writer Sasahara Shota aka “that” (who debuted as a guitarist in 2009 for the band absorb) and NicoNicoDouga utaite/keyboardist “kakerine”. “that” only infrequently did covers following the subsequent break-up of absorb and it wasn’t until two years ago in 2016 that he fully converted his personal channel to the LambSoars cover channel once he started activities with “kakerine”. The pair primarily deal in anison, sometimes featuring a guest singer or two, with the occasional J-pop track here and there. They (mostly “that”) do YouTube livestreams every now and again where they interact and even take cover suggestions with people in the chat. Compared to the bigger names up top, LambSoars aren’t really moving the needle so to speak in terms of views in the J-music cover scene (which is a shame, in my opinion at least, because of how good they are), but it really does kinda put to light this trend of some artists more or less having a second debut doing cover work after an “unsuccessful” first run. Whether or not  “that” and “kakerine” are actually enjoying more popularity now than they did before in their respective ventures is beyond me, but I’d like to think that they do.

Uru
Speaking of debuts and being more popular now

“Mighty Long Fall” by ONE OK ROCK [link to the original]

I started following Uru back in late 2014/early 2015 after having come across one of her covers, mostly because of her soulful vocal stylings (very reminiscent of aimer), and the fact that she exclusively sings over piano renditions of songs (which tend to be good anyway). Uru started her YouTube channel back in 2013, two years before I found it, wherein she used to upload covers of J-pop tracks fairly regularly. I say “used to” because she hasn’t done so leading up to 2016 and continues to not do so nowadays. The reason: Uru got signed by a record label that same year (!!). While I was a bit sad initially (because I wouldn’t be able to hear her covers anymore), I was immensely happy for her success, and a bit proud as well that I started following her before she got her big break. Uru continues to enjoy her newfound fame as she will be singing the theme for the upcoming (at the time of writing that is) Natsume Yuujinchou movie set to release on September 2018. I wish her all the best moving forward, and while she’s no longer doing ’em, at the very least a majority (as some have already been taken down) of her covers still exist for us to listen to.

Groovy groove
A capella ain’t dead!

> “Fukyouwaon” by Keyakizaka46 [link to the original]

“Mori” and “Shige” make up the Japanese a cappela duo Groovy groove, whose activities can be traced back to 2015, but only formally started putting up their covers  (and medleys!) of mostly J-pop songs (with a handful of English ones as well) last year. They claim to take inspiration from Pentatonix and VoicePlay with regard to their style which, as would entail any form of a cappela, the use of non-instrumentals (ie humming and beatboxing) aided by looping software. Now, I don’t know about you guys who’re reading this now, but I don’t really get to see/hear a lot of Japanese pure a cappela acts if at all. Not anywhere on the level of these two at least, and I can’t help but feel that fact alone will invariably propel Groovy groove to stardom (if not just widespread notoriety) in the years to come. Of course, it also helps too that they appear to be fluent in English and interact with their commenters a lot (drop ’em a line!). They’ve already released a compilation album not too long ago (if you’re on Spotify you can actually catch it there) but yeah no, Groovy groove is a fresh and very promising take on a genre that’s just wide and open in so far as Japanese covers (and music in general) is concerned, and I’m excited to see them grow.

soko ni naru/そこに鳴る
While already-established bands doing covers of pop songs is cool; niche bands doing niche covers, however, is totally my jam (xD)

> “abnormalize” by Ling Tosite Sigure [link to the original]

soko ni naru is a cult favorite in indie/alt-rock J-music circles following the release of their explosive debut single pirorhythm stabilizer ~only your world~ in 2015. Fans and listeners alike were quick to hone in on how similar they sounded to the cult standard that is Ling Tosite Sigure, and with good reason too, seeing that soko ni naru did portray themselves at one point as a Ling Tosite Sigure copy band. Along with that, the band does seem to enjoy just jamming out to songs that are more or less in the same genre as them. You’d notice that so far that all the artists here have been covering either J-Pop or anison, and while soko ni naru has anison covers too, most of what they take on are bands and artists that… don’t really get covered all that often, either by virtue of the  sheer technical mastery required to replicate some of their tracks (I mean, c’mon, only hardcore guitarists would dare cover UchuConbini songs) or the fact that most of them aren’t necessarily what you’d call “J-Pop” and are bands/artists that have their own cult following. Which is great (xD) because we can take that to mean that soko ni naru are not doing these for the views and are just happy to rock out to songs by bands cut from the same cloth as them.

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Now, I meant to do a section on BanDori and their covers too, but really there’s so much to unwrap when talking about BanDori as a project that I think it would warrant its own post (plus it gives me an excuse to talk about their first cover album more in-depth :p).

SO, that about does it for this here listing.
Find anything you like? 😀 Who are your favorite Japanese cover artists?
Lemme know in the comments below~!!

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6 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music — Favorite Japanese Cover Artists

  1. I go to kobasolo and ASC too! Though I would love it even more if ASC did full covers rather than op/ed length ones. No matter, they are still awesome!
    I havent seen the rest before, so I’ll check them out. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ooohh, right on 😀 Yeah, it’d be great if they did. I’d venture a good reason why they don’t though is that it would be a bit harder to splice together. Of course the real hope is that they meet-up and do studio covers at some point (xD). And lemme know what you think of the others if you get to listening to ’em!

  2. All of these cover groups were really nice but damn… Groovy groove is incredible. If that aimyon song wasn’t already good enough (there was also a Hoshino Gen cover I found that was pretty nice), listening to an acapella version just made it better lol

  3. Pingback: I was nominated… The Brotherhood of the World Bloggers Award – Keiko's Anime Blog

  4. Pingback: Weekly J-Song Roundup #1 – UNCHAIN, Goose house, Kamishiraishi Mone (and more!) – Slice of Alfredo

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