Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (January 2019)

Another year of J-music recommendations? Aye~!!

We’re back! Welcome once again to what is now the second season (lol) of the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up for the year 2019!

We get a proper start for January now as we’re coming off fresh off the heels of the Round-Up awards just last month (feel free to check out who the winners are if you haven’t yet), BUT if you happen to be coming across this kind of post from me for the first time, do allow me some lines of introduction —

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 Round-Up that I’ll update and share at the end of each post.

Now that we’re all up to speed, let’s… actually have a bit of a warm up 😀 Now, I mentioned that we had the Round-Up Awards last year and (spoiler) we actually ended up crowning JYOCHO as our “Band/Artist to Look Out for in 2019”. We’ll have to see whether or not that comes to fruition BUT it appears JYOCHO have caught on to all the good things we have to say about ’em as we actually get this little number from them to start us off — and these guys are just straight up flexin’ (xD)

sugoi kawaii JYOCHO by JYOCHO

OK, now we can start :p
Grab your favorite pair of ear/headphones if you haven’t been wearing ’em yet (or if you prefer raw speakers that is also quite fine), set your volume levels to your liking, and let’s have our first set of songs for 2019~!!

ーーー

僕はもういない/Boku wa mou inai
by ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ (Boku no lyric no boyoumi)
This guy’s flow is SICK.

I’m sure a lot of you guys may have heard of Boku no Lyric no Boyoumi from the ending theme that he sang for Winter 2018’s Kokkoku. Some of you guys who happen to be subscribed to the Victor Entertainment music label’s channel might have seen his videos in your subscription feeds (such as myself on numerous occasions in the past). Suffice it to say, “Lyric”, whose real name remains a mystery, has in fact been around and has been quite the enigmatic phenomena in the J-Rap/Hip-Hop/R&B scene and not without good reason; the guy has mad flow. Having had his start as a rapper through the Japanese video sharing website NicoNicoDouga, it’s hard not to see how Boku wa mou inai kinda plays into his doujin roots quite a bit and in retrospect is actually neat to see in a more Western-oriented platform such as YouTube. Lyric has since however announced his departure from the music scene however (making the song title boku wa mou inai [lit. “I’m no longer here” a bit more foreboding) and this may very well be one of the last few times we’ll be hearing from him. Sad.

RISE
by MADKID
Can’t get a bit of controversy get in the way of such hype anison (xD)

Winter 2019 has some straight bangers for anime opening and ending themes, and Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari’s (Rise of the Shield Hero) bop OP RISE by MADKID is no exception. It’s very rare to see J-Rap troupes (and just J-Rap in general) get in on the anison scene and if I hadn’t brought up Lyric’s ED theme for Kokkoku in the previous song I’d be hard-pressed to think of another example off the top of my head. It’s a bit of a shame that Shield Hero got marred by controversy right out of the gate but it is what it is for now and while I myself see no real issue with it, I do believe that both parties (that is to say those that do and do not have a problem with Shield Hero’s premise) most likely get equally pumped-up by this song (lol). Jokes aside, MADKID low-key has some really neat vocal stylings in its ranks, and is a nice change of pace for anison all things considered.

Bubble
by BAND-MAID
As the saying goes: don’t judge a book by its cover. On that same note, don’t judge a band by their attire; maid-like or otherwise.

The number one thing that I think a lot of people tend to overlook about BAND-MAID is that they’re all very talented musicians in their own right. Not in the ‘oh, they’re surprisingly good for such a gimmicky-looking band’ sense but rather that they are (in my own honest opinion) arguably the best all-girl metal/rock band at present when it comes to pure skill in instrumentation, and it definitely shows each and every time we see them. I said it before in passing but the maid aesthetic really does play a factor as to how these girls are perceived as, but I would surmise that any and all preconceptions as to whether or not BAND-MAID is just a pandering “bandol” (band+idol) group goes away instantly once you hear what they have to offer — and for Bubble here in particular, its masterful riffs and bass lines, crisp drum work, and a song structure with downright wicked escalation.

ラピスラズリ/Lapis lazuli
by SEENA SHEEP SKIN
I knew something sounded familiar… Hi there Ichiru~!

Back in April of last year, I wrote a post about bands and artists that have since moved on from creating music, and in it I mention one band in particular in the way of spunky Alt Rock duo FuyuSuruNeko. I wasn’t really keeping tags on where the band’s members have gone (or whether they still perform at all) so I was genuinely surprised to see ex-Neko bassist Yagawa Ichiru offering up her talents as a support bassist for the (seemingly?) one-woman project SEENA SHIP SKIN. Whether or not this was just a one-off thing between these two is beyond me, but if anything I’d say they kinda brought back a bit of that FuyuSuruNeko-spunk fans know and love with Lapis lazuli here. I’ve actually been very intrigued after having found out that “Senya” may very well be a solo-act (or at least nothing really says otherwise) and I do have a soft spot for singer-songwriters who go this route so I’m definitely keeping an eye out.

Re Start
by Gum Girl
I’m normally not a fan of dual vocals, but C’MON THESE TWO THO

Whenever talk of Light Rock/Alt Rock bands with twin male and female vocals come up I can’t help but recall to mind the success that Tokyo KaranKoron and ScenarioArt had in recent memory. Gum Girl, to me at least, feel cut from the same cloth from the two so I do honestly believe that it’s only a matter of time until they start hitting their stride, possibly making their way into the more mainstream market of J-music. That is, if they keep to the sound that they have here which, in my opinion, is remarkably solid considering how long they’ve actually been at it. They’re a very young band (just two years in their activities) that, as far as I can tell, aren’t even currently signed to a major record label so there’s no real rush for these guys just yet if they’re already sounding this good. But I dunno. After hearing Re Start here I just have this gut feeling that Gum Girl have something special going on here, and I wholly believe we’re gonna see a many good things from this band.

Cinderella
by Drop’s
Sounds very Western, but I think I say that most of the time for Drop’s anyways.

Like, for Cinderella‘s song structure in particular, I can’t help but get a Clean Bandit kind of feel from it. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past the (now) well-experienced Drop’s to be taking notes from foreign artists, and good on them if that was in fact the case here. If not, it’s all good, as it still reflects Drop’s’ growth from traditional Girls Rock to standard Pop Rock which in my opinion better suits the band’s image, sound, and overall style. Drop’s vocalist Miho was our runner for last year’s Round-Up awards and it really does continue to show here; with her voice that just cuts through with its depth and clarity that’s just a rarity around these parts. Granted, in a lot ways Cinderella is a definite far cry from what many fans consider Drop’s ‘true sound’ (more Blues-y/Slow Rock) subsequently earning their subsequent ire — with the irony being that most of them are Western fans. While I do see where they’re coming from, we’d all do well to remember that this is simply par for the course of being a band trying to branch out and reach a broader audience, and you can’t really hate on that I don’t think.

Blue Bird
by 熊川みゆ (Kumagawa Miyu/”kumamiyu”)
Fans of Yorimoi will like this a lot I reckon.

The reason I say that is because this kind of AcoGui/Singer-Songwriter Power Pop reminded me a lot of saya’s insert songs (Haruka Tooku and Sora wo Miagete) used in the show whenever something big happens on screen, and I can totally see Blue Bird here used in one of those scenes (xD). Of course, don’t let that take away from kumamiyu’s own brand of Power Pop, which is just all sorts of promise. This track was actually a recommendation from Carriage (aCarriageReturn) over on Twitter, whom you might recall introduced us (or, well, me at least) to Yorushika last year, which I in turn ended up crowning as my Favorite Discovery of 2018 in last year’s Round-Up Awards. The new year has just begun so it’s a bit too early to tell just yet, but I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Carriage again ends up giving us our favorite discovery for 2019 in kumamiyu here.

Free! Free! Free!
by 竹内アンナ (Takeuchi Anna)
Bold prediction: Takeuchi Anna will make serious waves in 2019.

I mean, how can she not? She has the look, the right attitude it looks like (based on how she’s been promoting herself), and she most certainly have the sound to be an absolute hit — if not at the very least someone to look out for. Rise from Phoenix Talks Pop Culture Japan was the first to bring Takeuchi Anna to my attention, and while I did try to check out more of her discography after reading through Rise’s stellar experience of watching Takeuchi Anna perform live, it wasn’t until I stumbled across her cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs” that I started really paying attention. Free! Free! Free! is a nice showing of what she brings to the AcoGui/Singer-Songwriter table is a funky, soulful, and downright fun and nostalgic kind of J-Pop that is oddly lacking at present (wherein Anna actually comes across as having a more ‘mature’ sound; funny how that works). Equally if not more so amusing is that she’s only 20 years old. Suffice it to say, the sky’s the absolute limit for this rising star, and I’m honestly very excited to see her take off.

MUST LISTEN
Boku wa mou inai by Boku no Lyric no Boyoumi and Bubble by BAND-MAID
I can’t really stress how genuinely impressed I am with BAND-MAID and their work. Their song secret MAIKO lips won last year’s “Most Played Song of 2018” in the Round-Up Awards, and while we’ve only just got done with January for the most part (already??), Bubble has already been racking up some play counts for me. Boku wa mou inai is an eerily fitting swan song (both in theme and in name) for Lyric if it does end up becoming the last we see/hear from him and I wish him well in his future endeavors — that aside, this track is a bonafide bop to go out on, so good on him (xD)

ーーー

The new playlist is here. By all means save it to your guys’ YT dash for easy access whenever you need to go back to some tracks that you might have opted to skip at this time. Do comeback on here however and share your thoughts on what you just listened to. I’d be immensely pleased if you did 🙂

Stuff in the way of Feature Lists are always in the works so stay tuned for when they eventually drop (lol), but hey, if you have an idea about fun playlists that I could do/make then feel free to throw them at me in the comments section below. If you don’t, that’s fine, but while I still have you down here do tell me what you thought of this month’s round-up! Did you find anything you like? Lemme know!

Lastly, if you have your own song recommendations for the month (Japanese or otherwise), feel free to share them too!

Looks like I’ll be in your guys’ care for this year as well so here’s to a good 2019, and I look forward to another good run of listening to Japanese music with you all (along with the occasional anime-related post here and there :p)

With that I bid you Happy Listening, and I’ll see ya in the next one~!!

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (January 2019)

  1. Kumagawa Miyu’s track was a pleasent surprise and I might just have to start going back through her stuff when I have time to take a longer listen. In that one track alone though I was very impressed. Also I officially hate Youtube since somehow I unsubscribed from Takeuchi Anna?? I am a bit livid at Youtube but thankful that you had her new track to recommend this month! She has such amazing potential that I really agree she could and should blow up this year. Loved listening in to your suggestions for this month!

    • I’ve since looked further into Kumagawa Miyu’s existing discography and, while the rest of her songs lean mellower than Blue Bird here, are still a treat to listen to (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eAPUVHQzKk)
      I have you to thank for more or less letting me know about her, so I’m glad I was able to repay that somewhat (xD)
      Glad you liked the round-up this month Rise, and thanks for swinging by!

  2. God, that guitarist from JYOCHO is something else 😛

    I’ve only heard a couple of songs from Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi but yeah, it’s a little sad that he decided to step away from music. Like you said, his flow is incredible (like in this song) and it’s nice to hear a little rap/hip-hop within the Japanese music I discover.

    You reminded me that I should go on and listen to more BAND-MAID lol. The only song of theirs I’ve really listened to (other than the one on this list) was another suggestion of yours, “secret MAIKO lips” and I really enjoyed the traditional Japanese-metal genre combination in that one. Metal isn’t really a genre I listen to a lot, even with American music, but they definitely have the talent to make music of that genre.

    That Gum Girl song is really nice actually, and I think I’ve garnered a love for duet songs thanks to artists like Awesome City Club and some of Ohashi Trio’s stuff. Especially with the male-female ones, that combination of vocals just makes for some lovable songs.

    Nice songs this month and as for suggestions, I’ve been listening to a good amount of Perfume after NHK Kouhaku event, their recent album is a great listen. “Let Me Know” is probably one of my favorite songs from it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXxDNaSzRwg). Also I’ve been meaning to ask if you’ve taken a listen to PDP/Nijigasaki’s TOKIMEKI Runners album (if not, I can give you the MP3s if you’d like :P). But if so, IMO pretty much all the solos are actually really good, especially with Shizuku, Karin, Setsuna and surprisingly Emma’s, as well. 🙂

    • The guy’s a mad genius (xD)

      Part of me thinks it could be one of those ‘I’m stepping away from the music scene as this particular persona’ type deals where the whole thing is just a reimagining of his career moving forward. But I guess we’ll see, lol

      I’ve only really gotten into BAND-MAID myself only recently, and was only ever trying out their songs on a whim before I decided to dive into one of their full-length albums. Wouldn’t really classify myself as a fan of Metal either to be honest, and it helps that BAND-MAID’s brand of Metal still has that Girl’s Rock touch to it that kinda softens an otherwise “hard” genre of music, but ngl those double pedals get me so hype a lot of the times :p

      I have high hopes for Gum Girl for sure, and the only thing really keeping me from being more appreciative of twin vocal/suet band setups are the male vocals, Haha! I think I’ve said it before somewhere, but yeah no, I’m pretty finicky about it to a fault (xD)

      Ooh, I made it a point to listen to more Perfume towards the end of last year after getting absolutely hooked on “FLASH” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6T0wOMsNrI) for like a month straight. I’ve barely scratched the surface of their discography though so good to know about their recent album. Will definitely check it out.

      Yeap, I’ve actually had TOKIMEKI Runners with me for a good while now so we’re good (mostly because I’ve been dying to listen to Starlight’s full version ever since they teased a little bit of it), lol, but yeah the solos are good! If I were to rank them it’d go:
      Karin’s (I’m a lost cause when it comes to club mixes apparently)
      > Emma’s (the intro for this is amaaazing) > Setsuna’s (Tomoriru’s anison potential is very apparent here) > Kanata’s (reminded me a lot of Princess Principal’s ED) > Ai’s (just a fun song really, lol), followed by everone else’s (xD)

      Oh, on the subject of LL! Have you listened to the Aqours 7/11 Bonus CD tracks for Over The Rainbow? I must’ve listened to “Hajimari Road” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gCWzbUlK-c) close to a hundred times now /rip

      • BAND-MAID definitely spices up the Girls Rock genre, and it’s pretty nice to hear something unique with their music. Plus, I’ve started to love the deeper tone of the vocalist’s voice 😛

        Yeah, I don’t know how I just discovered Perfume (if I can recall, I first heard Perfume and “FLASH” in that 2016 pop medley from Groovy groove but had no idea it was from them lol) but I can definitely tell why they’re such a well-known pop group in Japan and worldwide. Some of my other favorites off the Future Pop album are “If you wanna”, “Tokyo Girl” and “Chorairin”, for some more suggestions (surprisingly I’m not too big of a fan of the “Future Pop” song itself).

        Ahhh, got ya 😛 “Starlight”, not only was it a great song but it sort of gave me a chance to actually listen to Miyutan’s vocal skills since I had a bit of a hard time hearing her separately in some i☆Ris songs (speaking of i☆Ris, their new single “Endless Notes” is a pretty nice one lol). But yeah, Emma’s solo surprised me the most and quickly became one of my favorites. Sashide can definitely sing, and I hope Emma gets more recognition within LL/PDP fans. But on another note, I’m glad PDP subunit voting has started this soon since I never got to experience even the Aqours voting process. Can’t wait to see what groups will be made, especially with the new format 🙂

        Unsurprisingly I still haven’t kept up with the Aqours discography but I did listen to a bit of “Hop Step Nonstop”, which I can tell will be very catchy if I keep listening to it. But “Hajimari Road”, to be honest, miiiight be better than “Waku Waku Week”, which is already a great first-years song to begin with. And I can’t imagine what the SIF beatmap will/is like on the harder difficulties… 😛

        Excited for the movie though, and shockingly I haven’t run into any spoilers yet haha

        • It’s so powerful and smokey :3

          I wanna say I first learned of Perfume because of Capsule (same composer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdlPLFbiTbQ), but the first song I ever heard from Perfume was also from a cover (xD)

          True. I wasn’t able to cast a vote for Aqours either so it’s something new to me too, lol, for the record my quartet is 3rd Years + Ai/Nacchan (because I can, jk), my duo is KasuKasu/Mayuchi + Setsuna/Tomoriru (though honestly I wouldn’t mind Mayuchi and Miyutan), and my trio is Ayumu/Agupon, Shizuku/Kaorin, and Rina/Tanaka :p

          The only songs I’m actively keeping away from are the actual movie tracks (though that may change soon since the new Saint Snow single just dropped), but yeah no, Hajimari Road is so good and catchy it’s absurd. As for SIF, I have a marginally harder time with Waku Waku Week than Hajimari Road if that tells you something (xD)

          Me too (hope I’m free for when it premieres). As for spoilers, aniTwitter (at least in the West) has been pretty quiet which is nice. It helps that I also just ignore the “long trailer” that they put out that’s essentially the first 10~15 minutes of the movie. I’m assuming everyone else did, lol

          • It’s pretty impressive that they still work with their composer after almost 20 years. Other than him obviously writing hits left and right for the group (lol), Perfume must have a lot of respect for what he’s able to do, music-wise.

            Those are some pretty solid subunit choices! Especially with the 3rd years + Ai, it definitely sounds like they all fit together well. While I am excited to see something new with how they do groups this time around, I’m a little sad that the traditional ordering is gone since, well, the Dengeki/Famitsu/SIF trios were perfect IMO. Anywho, I’ll just go ahead and list my choices: Ayumu/Shizuku, Karin/Setsuna/Rina, Emma/Ai/Kasumi/Kanata. I definitely spent a bit too much time and effort figuring out who could go with who, but I think there’s some good potential within those groups.

            Yeah, that’s definitely a good idea… but now I’m dying to know what the “Bokutachi wa Hitotsu no Hikari”-esque song is in this movie (if there even is one) 😛 And damn… Saint Snow’s “Believe again” is just insanely good. I don’t know why I’ve been so late on finding out how good SS really is (I realized “Self Control” was amazing a year or so after I saw it in the anime lol) but Hinahina and Asamin are just a killer duo. Glad they’re getting more roles like in Revue Starlight and Zombieland Saga respectively.

            That’s a surprise to hear, actually. But now I think about it, both songs (Waku Waku Week and Hajimari Road) are pretty darn fast.

            Now I’m wondering where the movie will premiere around here in the SF/Bay Area. Hope it’s in similar locations like with past anime movies like Your Name and Dragon Ball Super Broly 🙂

            • ^If anything, New People Cinema over at SF JapanTown is a pretty safe bet I’d assume (since they’ve had all the DLVs there, as well as some major but still pretty niche movie premieres like F/SN Heaven’s Feel)

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