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

It’s the end of the month already!?!? Geez, time flies

Chalk up another one as we’re now just about to wrap up the month of May 2019 with another edition of the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up! We are back in full force once again, coming off of a tight writing schedule of sorts back in April with my trip and all, with fewer songs being featured than I would’ve wanted as a result. But, well, it is what it is. Besides, I had a full month this time around, so I got you guys covered (xD).

If you happen to not know what the heck I’m talking about here though —

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.

Let’s just cut right to the chase (as we do have a good number of songs to go through here) so everyone grab your favorite pair of heaphones, in-ears, buds, whatever the cool kids call it these days. Plug ’em in, set your audio levels to ‘just right’, and away we go~!

ーー

二人セゾン/futari season (cover)
by Spangle call Lilli line
Another SCLL feature?! What year is this?!??

Normally I forego featuring covers in the Round-Up (because doing so would make choosing songs exponentially more difficult) but I just had to make an exception for this one. I mean, when else are we going to get this kind of disconnect between song and performer (xD). That is to say, you very rarely see such a well-seasoned band cover an idol song, if at all in recent memory — and I mean that in absolutely no offense to SCLL nor to Keyakizaka46. I just expect idol song covers to generally be coming from more pop-oriented groups (GIRLFRIEND being a prime example with their covers). I guess it helps too that SCLL has throughout the years fancied themselves as an experimental group when it comes to their sound and that Keyakizaka46 is a bit of an outlier in the world of idol. At any rate, we get a beautiful “Futari Saison” cover out of this fateful musical encounter, and while I’m not entirely sure how this came about, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want more.

AWAKE
by ヤなことそっとミュート (yanakoto sotto mute)
Heeeey, speaking of idols :p

It’s been a good while since we had some Alternative Idol in here and as you all (or at least all of you who’ve been following this series for a while) know, I do unironically like the genre more than I do conventional Idol Music by a very good margin. I believe (correct me if I’m wrong, lol) I’ve only ever had Alt. Idols on the Round-Up for that very reason; with groups such as Maison book girl, sora tob sakana, and DotsTokyo. Now, I do feel that because of that artist lineup, some of you may have formed a misconstrued notion that Alt Idol music only concerns itself with more aesthetically inclined genres like Math Rock and Shoegaze. Fans of good ‘ol Japanese Alt Rock will be pleased to know that YanaMyu has their back. I’d go so far as to say that if one didn’t know any better they might even think YanaMyu is simply an Alt Rock band with four lead singers (xD).

クロノスタシス/chronostasis
by きのこ帝国 (kinoko teikoku)
Bit of a sentimental pick here

I didn’t really plan on having you guys listen to some Kinoko Teikoku until this past week (at the time that I’m writing this) when I found out that the band will cease any and all activities as a group following bassist Shigeaki Taniguchi’s decision to take over the ownership of his family’s temple. The news was (and still is) immensely saddening to me personally, as Kinoko Teikoku has in many ways influenced my musical preferences, and is a band that I will forever hold very near and dear to my heart. I stumbled across Chronostasis by chance back in 2015 while listlessly clicking through YouTube PVs one night, and while I can hoestly tell you that I don’t remember what else I listened to that night, what I do remember was playing the song over and over (and over xD) again. I’ll make a separate tribute post of sorts to Kinoko Teikoku once I sort out my feelings, but for now, do allow me to try and imbue unto you what I felt when I first heard this song.

ばけもの/bakemono
by NakamuraEmi
Our resident home girl continues to tear it up!

NakamuraEmi has been and continues to be quite the staple in the Round-Up and not without good reason. Her absolutely impeccable flow is in full display yet again with “Bakemono” in one of the oddest PVs I’ve seen in a loooooooong while (like, seriously, wtf is going on there xD). Of course, as with almost all (if not entirely all) of her previous work, the song is a surge of uplifting and empowering messages addressed this time around towards women specifically (YAMABIKO, for example, is a song for the everyman trying to make ends meet). My favorite line from “Bakemono” has to be the last couple, which goes more or less like; ‘[t]hat I can be happy amidst all the world’s evil is just me and my complexity’. She’s telling all women who are feeling insecure about themselves and where they’re at in their lives that they’re okay… all while hopping and bouncing around to some VERY catchy beats. Never change, NakamuraEmi.

FUTURE LINE
by 逢田梨香子 (aida rikako)
I’m allowed to be a little biased here aren’t I? :3

I mean, I always am (xD), but a little more so now most likely. Those of you who’ve seen/read my translation content within the last couple of years would note that I only ever did TLs for Love Live! Sunshine!!’s Aqours, and those privy to that fandom would then know that I translated interviews of seiyuu/idol Aida Rikako almost exclusively. To say why is, well, because she was (and still is really) my favorite out of all nine members for a multitude of reasons stemming mostly from her on-stage personality — not because of her singing. Now, it’s not that I don’t think she’s a good singer, but she’s arguably not the best in that group (something I would concede to Suzuki Aina or Takatsuki Kanako instead). Which is why her breaking out into the world of anison had caught me by surprise. I would have expected any of the aforementioned members to do so first, but more than that, I was pleasantly surprised with Rikyako’s debut attempt here.

ELEVATOR GIRL
by BABYMETAL
This song went hard and a half, hold up.

I’m not the biggest fan of BABYMETAL (and Metal as a genre in general), admittedly, but after my continuous exposure to BAND-MAID in the past couple of months it has slowly become a genre of interest for me. Of course, I’m not loading up my playlist with some Drowning Pool any time soon (lol) and if anything I’m just barely scratching the surface with this song here. If there’s any band that would allow me my baby steps into the world of Metal however, surely its BABYMETAL (believe me I thought long and hard about going through with that last sentence). I mean c’mon, of course it’s gonna be BABYMETAL for me — they’re an idol group (xD). Even if they weren’t, you can’t tell me that hearing an elevator girl say ‘No matter what you say or what you do you’re going da-da-da-da-da-down’ to some hard-pounding double pedals and heavy metal guitar riffs doesn’t get you hype.

Silence
by n-buna ft Sarah Furukawa
The Wise Wolf would be pleased

In a bit of a departure from his work with suis as one half of fast-rising J-Pop/Rock act (as well as the recipient of the Round-Up Awards’ Favorite Discovery of 2018) ヨルシカ/yorushika, n-buna has called upon singer/songwriter Sarah Furukawa (who’s actually pretty good by her own right!) to lend her vocals this time around for what is now the official theme song for Spice & Wolf VR (a project which I’m sure a lot of you have already heard of by now). It’s actually quite interesting to note how different “Silence” sounds compared to yorushika songs. Other than the fact that this song is sung in full English, “Silence” is markedly slower and more balladic to what would be the atypical yorushika style of striking guitar riffs, in lieu of which we have instead some very atmospheric electro/synth work. I see it as a testament to n-buna’s talent and versatility as a composer, and man does this get me right in the mood for new Spice and Wolf content.

フェイクワンダーランド/fake wonderland
by Split end
Some bands just know how to tug at the heartstrings

Even without knowing the words to “Fake Wonderland”, one can just simply feel this sense of both anguish and optimism, which is to be expected with Split end’s patented Emotional J-Rock. A lot of it though is to the credit of vocalist Nanami, who you can tell just really lays out her soul to bare whenever she performs. That said, I would surmise that her singing is very much an acquired taste for some, as her vocal stylings do border between ‘harsh and resounding’ and ‘tinny and ringing’. Obviously I’m a fan (lol), and I personally liken her voice as being very woodwind, which cuts through like a flute in a brass band. In the wake of indie and/or less-popular bands (by mainstream standards) falling off left and right, I’m relieved to see Split end still chugging along and churning out good music. While I do know that they too will invariably meet the same fate (sooner rather than later), I’ll (and hopefully ‘we’ll’) be here enjoying their work in the present.

NO GIRL NO CRY
by Poppin’Party x SILENT SIREN
I LOVE that this is a thing

The band-themed multi-media franchise BanG Dream! has (since its inception back in 2015) already saw to the fulfillment of a number of projects including; manga and light novels, an anime adaptation, CDs, live shows, and a succesful mobile game — all centered around the franchise’s five (at present) bands. One of which (arguably the “central” band for BanG Dream!) is J-Pop/Rock five-man ensemble Poppin’Party, who we get to see/hear in a collaborative effort with Japanese Girls Rock icons and veteran band SILENT SIREN. Something HAS to be said about this convergence of ‘2.5D’ and ‘3D’ personalities (in Poppin’Party and SILENT SIREN respectively) and its implications to fan viewrship, but I’ll spare you the walls of text (xD) and in summary say that “NO GIRL NO CRY” is media interplay at its finest. That and, well, I don’t think I need to mention that this is rockin’ tune to boot!

MUST LISTEN
Chronostasis by Kinoko Teikoku
I would think that right about now would be the perfect time to just experience Kinoko Teikoku for what they were as a band now that they’re calling it quits (arguably for good given the circumstances surrounding their ‘hiatus’). Their discography will forever be nothing short of magical and I will always credit that to having encountered “Chronostasis” when I did. It’s never really too late to be a fan of someone’s music (or at least I would like to believe so), so yes, give ’em a listen and start here.

ーー

The YouTube playlist is updated for those of you who want to listen to the featured songs at your own time. Just save the playlist while you’re logged in. If by chance you don’t have a YouTube account, feel free to bookmark the link. All’s I ask is that you guys hop on over back here and drop me a line or two about the songs 😛

What did you guys think? Like anything in particular? Lemme know in the comments section below! While you’re down there, if you have any recommendations of your own, please please pleeaaase share ’em too 😀

I’ll be writing a little something about Kinoko Teikoku in a bit (and that’s most likely gonna be my next post *fingers crossed*) so I’ll see you guys then~

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

  1. Minus DOTSTokyo, I do believe our taste in Alt-idol is nearly identically lol. It was really nice to give that particular YanaMute song a re-listen so thanks for that!

    It is quite the same about Kinoko Teikoku. I only heard about them due to their unique circumstances for disbanding. It always sucks to lose a great band, but I’m glad you found them and featured them! I’m looing forward to reading more of your thoughts in the near future.

    My own monthly music round up is out but my personal top pick is SIRUP’s releases. I can’t stop listening and praising his work enough!

    • Very true (xD) I’m not even surprised to know that you listened to YanaMute too Rise, Haha! but yeah no, I was actually gonna use ZenKimi as my third example of Alt Idol instead but I realized I’ve yet to feature a ZenKimi song in the Round-Up.

      Yeah, the news really hit me hard, but I’m still happy for them and what they’ve achieved as a band.

      Ooh! I was actually very close to featuring SIRUP’s “Evergreen” from last month!

      • Lol, I guess it’s true that similar music tastes bring people together! ZenKimi is solid choice too, although I have yet to really dig into their music.

        Oh my god, that would have been too funny to see SIRUP in your lineup too!

        • Yes! I now know to ask you for Alt Idol recommendations now too, Haha!

          True, I know Al from SliceOfAlfredo hypes him up too on his recommendations sometimes to that would make three of us xD

          • I’d be more then happy to give them although I am behind on listening to new artists lol.

            Three fans in one place?! Crazy!!

  2. I did hear the news about Kinoko Teikoku and it’s certainly a sad thing to see, especially with an artist/group you’ve followed and loved for a long period of time. While I haven’t listened to them too much, I did still enjoy their style of music and I appreciate you introducing me to them with Uzu ni Naru 😀 Maybe I’ll dive deeper into their stuff now, and I’m looking forward to your future post about them.

    Ooooooooh, that’s a super nice NakamuraEmi song. I took a listen to her Nipponno Onnawo Utau Best album a few months ago and man, there were some really great tracks on there that I loved, one being YAMABIKO like you mentioned (that acoustic guitar is just superb). I actually didn’t know her songs dealt with somewhat social issues but that’s definitely interesting to learn.

    Yep, what you said about Rikyako was pretty much what I thought (lol). But it seems to me like she’s really going out there and branching out to new opportunities whether that be gravure modeling or a solo musical career, which is great to see. I definitely wish her the best and that she’s successful, which I don’t think will be much of a problem with the whole Aqours fanbase behind her 😛

    It’s weird hearing an n-buna song without suis, but Furukawa Sarah is a solid singer. It’s also nice to see this sort of change of pace and style from them.

    I actually haven’t heard or seen the actual song and music video for that PP/Silent Siren collab prior to reading this post but it seems pretty cool. I’m not an expert on either of these groups but it seemed like this was a perfect pairing of bands for a music collaboration, plus that Aimin-Suu duet/battle (?) was hella nice lol

    Really nice roundup this month! As for suggestions, I got a couple if I may. Shiggy Jr’s 2014 EP has been on repeat for a couple weeks now, there are some solid songs on there. “baby I love you” has to be my favorite, and I wish the actual song was on Youtube but this remix will have to do and is still a great variation (https://youtu.be/xRshjLzEj1o).

    This one will be an odd suggestion but I thought you’d appreciate this since I think I can recall you saying you were a Kito Akari/Akarin fan. She did a character song for a show she’s currently in (Hitoribocchi) and I was just surprised that Akarin performed this intense and epic-sounding track as a character song from a moe-type anime lol. But she sounded great here 😛 (https://youtu.be/UGoGwlNmZUQ).

    • I was gutted at first, but after properly reading through the band’s farewell message as well as the members’ parting thoughts on the whole thing, I felt some nice closure to it all. Of course, writing about them has helped too, in a way (xD) Oh, then you’re in for a fun ride, I can guarantee that (more so since their entire discog is on Spotify now /lucky :p)

      Yeah, she’s big on morals and empowerment in whatever form. Her song, “Don’t” for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CicnGW43Ukw) (used as the OP for ‘The Laughing Salesman’) is specifically geared towards salarymen, office ladies, and housewives and how they should present themselves in front of the youth.

      The trailer for her first EP’s entire lineup is out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d13bVIsYaSo) and it’s actually very promising to say the least 😀 I’ll always wish her the best in whatever she chooses to do, but if you were to ask me a year ago I would’ve thought she’d be dubbing more foreign series/movies at this time (lol)

      I know, n-buna and suis have become such a fixture together, and if anything I guess it was simply a creative choice to not go with yorushika for this project (as suis’s voice, compared to Furujawa Sarah, is way more powerful /and thus might not fit the aesthetic of Spice and Wolf). Would’ve been interested to hear suis take on a gentler song though 🙂

      I just love it when interactions like this happen really. The closest parallel I can think of would be when Aqours performed together with Momoiro Clover Z for a late night show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zWGpxpzWq0) And yeah, I’m hard-pressed to think of a band better suited to go against Poppin’Party than Silent Siren (Drop’s maybe, or even GIRLFRIEND, but I’d still give the nod to SaiSai)

      Eyyyyy, Shiggy Jr! Now that’s a name I haven’t seen in a long while. One of my uni friends was a big fan (whereas I would just be starting out with to Japanese music back then) and I never did get around to listening to their discography. Definitely gonna pick out some EPs/albums for my queue.

      Yes, yes I am :3 Akarin is very deceptively capable with her voice just going by her roles (funny though because she just mumbles and hums in the other anime she’s in this season in Kimetsu no Yaiba) but agreed, the strength in her singing really shows here!

  3. I just discovered Kinoko Teikoku a couple of weeks ago through their 2013 album, eureka, then a few days later I heard about their suspension of activities – that sucks. But from what I heard from them, they sound like the perfect nocturnal band, can’t wait to delve deeper into their discography. Any recommendations (album-wise) to what I should listen to next from the band?

    • I’m glad you found them nonetheless. The band may not be around, but (in their words) their music lives on forever in the hearts of their fans 🙂
      Their earlier EPs “Long Godbye” and “Uzu ni Naru” might be to your liking then. I would also recomment their latest (and, well, last) album “Time Lapse”

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