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

You know what time it is~!!

Of course, it’s time once again for the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up, now for the the month of July 2019. The summer season is kicking in with some hot new anime, so let me follow that up with some hot tracks to go along with it (xD)

That said, if you have no clue as to what this is going to be —

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.

I had a lot of time to really just settle down and comb through songs over the course of this month, so I do hope that going through this list ends up being just as fun for you guys as it had been for me making it 🙂

I’ll get back to y’all later after the cut. NOW, however, please grab your favorite pair of headsets (I just bought an upgrade cable for mine and it’s sweet), set your audio levels to somewhere north of 60, and well, take it from here~!

ーー

New world
by 熊川みゆ (kumagawa miyu)
So I completely missed this last month 0_o

Yeah, for someone who claims to be such a fan, I sure dropped the ball on catching this little number from Kumagawa Miyu (whom some of you might remember from her absolutely stellar releases at the start of the year). Nevertheless, I’m gonna make good on it now by featuring “New World” here right off the bat. Interesting to note; something that stands out in this song (compared to her earlier ones where it’s a little more subtle), is kumamiyu’s very distinct intonations with the way she stresses certain syllables… if that makes any sort of sense (xD) It’s hard to find the right words to explain what it is exactly (a music major or a linguistics major would know better really) but you’ll know it when you hear it. Also if you’ve kept track of Kumagawa Miyu’s releases, either by your own accord or through here, you’ll notice too that this is the first PV of hers where we actually get to see what she looks like, and, well, it’s nice to finally be able to associate a face to these otherwise wonderful vocals.

空白 EP/kuuhaku EP
by Miyake Haruka
zankyorecords revolutionizing the game right now

Now, this is something I haven’t seen anywhere else really, or at the very least for Japanese Music speciifcally. Literally ALL FOUR tracks off of Miyake Haruka’s latest EP (at the time of writing) are played sequentially in this long form PV. While a 20+ minute-long video might seem rather daunting at first glance, trust me when I say that it’s absolutely worth the musical experience that you’ll get out of it. If you caught last month’s Round-Up you might remember that I featured Miyake Haruka’s “Kuuhaku”, which finds itself again here, along with  “Ai wo Oshiete”, “Kuchuu Buranko” (my favorite of the four), and “Kimi no Teiden no Machi ni”. Seriously, with their easily accessible web platform (by way of bandcamp) and this EP PV, zankyorecords really know how to entice listeners into getting ahold of their content (I mean, I bought the EP right after this video dropped so I should know). Of course, it helps too that Miyake Haruka’s sound it just an absolute treat to the ears especially after a long day.

four side effect
by lical
Chills. Absolute chills.

Progressive Rock is a subgenre of Alternative Rock that is best characterized by the complete dismantling of conventional song structures — where the near-ubiqutous Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus is often rearranged to follow a wholly different ‘progression’. lical’s “four side effect” here for instance, goes Verse-Verse-Bridge-Chorus into an outrageously mad Outro. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I was at the edge of my seat waiting for the chorus to drop the first time I listened to this song (which has become a bit of a habit of mine that I’ve picked up at some point). When it does drop though, it’s just absolutely… cathartic, considering the build up that leads to it. I love what lical is dong (and has been doing) here and I can’t really stress how criminally underheard these guys are. The band has been on my radar for the better part of three years now as they continue to trudge along in the indie scene (granted, they’re still relatively young in that regard) and I’m still holding out hope that they breakthrough in the mainstream sooner if not later.

不死蝶/fushicho ~Le papillon immortel~
by Mili
momocashew sprinkling some French in there like it’s nothing

Which, to be fair, probably really isn’t much to her considering her fluency in not only Japanese and French, but English and Chinese as well (and Korean too if I’m not mistaken). I know, vocalist Cassie aka ‘momocashew’ is amazing ain’t she? :3 That said, I do find it pertinent to bring up languages here as Mili (despite being a ‘Japanese’ band if only by virtue of their collective nationalities) have more songs written in English primarily with touches of French and Chinese here and there. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one surprised when they went and came out with “Fushicho ~le papillon immortel~”, a predominantly Japanese song, in what feels like a good while now. Of course, all this is only half of what makes it so beautiful, with the other half being Mili’s decision to make this PV a showcase of free and unadulterated self-expression put on full display by women coming from different walks of life. It’s a powerful message delivered masterfully, and I’d be hardpressed not to do my part in spreading their possitive message along.

メルシールー/Merci Lou
by ねごと (negoto)
Truly an end of an era

With Kinoko Teikoku having since announced their indefinite suspension of any and all activities not too long ago, I continue to see more bands that I’ve grown fond off over the years now start to call it quits, as we now say good bye to Japanese Electro/Synth Rock exemplars — Negoto. Towards the end of last year the band had already penned out the date of their eventual disbandment, which would now have been just two weeks ago (July 20, 2019). In a previous post I talked about my not being a fan of theirs when I first heard their songs, and it’s true; it took me quite a while to truly appreciate Negoto. Specifically it took until me hearing ‘Merci Lou’, a good three years after the fact that I’d begun to wholeheartedly appreciate their quaint musicality and sense of rhythm. It’s only fitting then that I feature this song at this time, both as me doing my part in letting people know of the magic that is their sound, and also as my way of showing thanks to a band whose music have in some capacity changed my life. Merci lou, Negoto; merci lou.

Esp feat. GOODMOODGOKU
by TAMTAM
Y’know it’s serious once kuro pulls our her trumpet

Seriously good I mean. As a general rule, I tend to avoid featuring studio sessions of songs as part of the Round-Up if I ever come across them because they will evidently sound different from their official release versions. It’s not that I think that that’s a bad thing and if anything studio sessions tend to actually sound better at times, and it’s more so me just not wanting to set a precedence with how songs get featured here. I do however have to make an exception here (lol) because of one reason and one reason only: vocalist ‘Kuro’ and her trumpet (ok, maybe two reasons then), and I’m not even kidding. I think that Kuro’s trumpet-playing is very underappreciated when talking about her presence in TAMTAM as it is a bit of a centerpiece for a lot of their songs. Hearing brass in a song is one thing, but actually getting to see her pull the thing out and play it herself does sort of give you a different perspective (or at least for me it did) towards their sound as a whole. Huge shoutout to Spincoaster for making this possible (subscribe to their channel right now!).

アイスクリイムは溶けるから。/ice cream wa tokeru kara.
by 文藝天国 (bungei tengoku)
Something about Bungei Tengoku is just so wonderfully raw

I’m sure a huge part of it is how noticeably young-sounding vocalist Mizuya is, thought that too is to be expected considering that her and composer Shinonome Ko (the duo that comprise Bungei Tengoku) are 17 and 18 years-old respectively, which is absolutely bonkers. Seeing this kind of talent from artists as young as they are being put on display like this always just warms my heart. There’s a lot to take away from their already well-conceptualized sound here, but I personally believe that their grainy (and almost Shoegaze-y) approach to Alternative Rock will undoubtebly catch the attention of a lot of people in the coming years if not sooner. If anything, BungeiTengoku is showing a ton of promise here with “Ice Cream wa Tokeru Kara” (those guitar licks are just so… emotional, I can’t :(((), in a genre that’s very much wide-open and ripe for the taking — especially now following long-time Japanese Shoegaze standout Kinoko Teikoku’s recent departure from the music scene.

I’m Free
by ワタナベシュウヘイ (watanabe shuhei)
He’s free! Take that Goose house!

I’m kidding, please (xD). I’m sure Goose house’s complete restructuring to the now Play Goose channel (in lieu of Takezawa Migiwa, Takebuchi Kei, and Johnny Saito’s departure from the group in recent years) was an amicable one, and it does look like that the now-remaining foursome are continuing to do their thing as one of Japan’s most known cover artists (albeit at a lighter schedule). It did seem that even long before, the group was never really all that strict as to what the members chose to do as artists when it came to their activities outside of their little home studio, as we did see founding member Takebuchi Kei venture into solo work whilst stil being an active member of Goose house a couple of years back. I would surmise that the same would apply (if not to greater effect) to Watanabe Shuhei, and well, good for him right? The man has more than paid his dues, and now it’s time for fans to hear what he’s really capable of.

線香花火/senkouhanabi
by BabySitter
I’ve been waiting for this :3

Well, not this song in particular, but I’ve been VERY hopeful for this Nagoya-based four-woman band back when they dropped their first PV close to two years ago. BabySitter bill themselves as “a new type of girl band that combines catchy looks and Girls’ Pop sound” and, well, that’s exactly what we’re getting here in ‘SenkouHanabi’. Girls’ Rock (which, in this case I mean to refer to Girl Bands in Japan in general) comes in waves, and while contemporary icons of the genre still remain active to this day (SCANDAL for instance), it’s not that hard not to see parallels in the newer crop of talent that have since come out. Where the highly touted GIRLFRIEND is seen by many (including myself) as SCANDAL’s clear-cut succesor, I can’t help but look at BabySitter and not be reminded of the models-turned-musicians SILENT SIREN, who have already been out there rocking out with their own catchy looks and Girls’ Pop sound. As it stands, there is a clear path to notoriety here thanks to the road paved by their predecessors, and I’m excited to see them finally start to walk it.

MUST LISTEN:
“four side effect” by lical and “MerciLou” by Negoto
lical never fails to blow me away with each new release of theirs, but “four side effect” just sent me to the moon and back the first time I heard it. Granted much of the novelty of this song is in not knowing what to expect, but that’s all the more reason to at the very least try it out at least once. I’d also, again, like to use this opportunity to implore that you go and listen to Negoto. I’d like to believe that now would be the best time to start if you haven’t done so yet, and in my opinion there’s no better song to start you off with than this one right here.

ーー

The YouTube playlist is updated so no worries if you weren’t able to listen to some of the songs featured on here at this time 🙂 Do note that you can bookmark this link, or better yet just append it to your playlist folder if you have a YT account.

I teased a sort of artist highlight last month, but to be perfectly honest with y’all I just couldn’t find the time to do it as much as I would’ve wanted to (it’s almost a miracle I was able to do my tribute post for Kinoko Teikoku really, lol, check that out if you haven’t yet :D). That said, I guess I can tell you guys now that I was actually planning on writing another tribute post but for Negoto this time. As I mentioned above, Negoto’s disbandment had been put into motion ever since the end of last year, which was a fact I’d been made aware of for a couple of months now. Of course, as I say that you’d think I would’ve started drafting something right then and there, but my attachment to Negoto really pales in comparison to the one I have with Kinoko Teikoku, and I couldn’t really draw much out of myself to write something for them without first just diving into their discography and their history and really just immersing myself in their journey as a band.

Luckily, one person did do exactly that (!!!) Allow me now to direct you guys over to Phoenix Talks Pop Culture Japan, so that you may go and read RiseFromAshes’ tribute post “Negoto – A Girl’s Rock Pillar Falls”. Rise is awesome, both for doing this, and in general too so do go check out her other stuff while you’re there (xD)

Before you leave though, lemme know your thoughts on this month’s Round-Up down in the comments section below. If you have suggestions of your own, feel free to throw those in as well 😀

Happy Listening~! and I’ll see you when I see you. Till next post.

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

  1. That Kumagawa Miyu song heavily reminded me of this one non-Japanese artist, Ellie Goulding, mainly with the way she sang and like you mentioned with the stressing of syllables. Usually it’s nice to hear some Western influence, whether that be with the vocals and/or music style, in Japanese music (that is, if there was any lol).

    Ayyyy, pretty sure I mentioned this before but “Merci Lou” is also one of my favorite songs from the ex NEGOTO album you sent to me, apart from the really nice and emotional-sounding “Beside / ビーサイド. But I had no idea they actually ceased band activities recently; just from hearing that one album, I really did love their music and especially hearing someone like Sachiko on vocals. Probably will have to go on and listen to the rest of their stuff now 🙂

    Oooooh man that trumpet was truly incredible to hear lol. I’m a sucker for chillax/jazzy music so that song was a great recommendation! Also the Spincoaster/Tokyo Sounds videos are super good and cool to watch, both visually and sound-wise.

    You actually scared me for a second there, I thought Goose house/Play.Goose was dismantling even further (lmao). But yeah, Shuhei has been one of my favorite GH members to watch/listen to (other than Kei and Johnny), just because he’s so expressive and passionate-sounding when performing. It’s really nice to hear him change it up and sing a more modern-pop/electronic song since obviously you know how Goose house performs music most of the time.

    Really nice round-up this month! Haven’t written a round-up myself in a pretty long time so I think I’ll take this opportunity to suggest some stuff now lol

    Not sure if you got to see this yet but Kusunoki Tomori/Tomoriru released a PV of her new CD and oooooooh it’s hella nice (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xq2lNfpRlWk). Not only are her vocals incredible to listen to but I was just amazed when I heard she actually both wrote the lyrics and composed the music for these three songs. I think because I’m so used to seeing these Love Live seiyuu solely work on that franchise when it comes to music and the songs are already created for them to perform, seeing them go solo and do those things like write/compose music themselves just surprises me a bit (and certainly uncovers their talents). The second song, “Akatoki”, probably is my favorite one so far, and I’m a bit sad that she’s only selling these at her live event. 😛

    Other than that (and a drastic change of style from the previous suggestion lol), I’ve been listening to a lot of ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION recently. Their Sol-Fa album is superb and there are some really great songs on it apart from “Re:Re”, the song that probably introduced the band to a lot of outsiders/anime fans. “24ji” is one of my favorites (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6bJsTf2-so) and this live version of “Mayonaka to Mahiru no Yume” I found recently is just excellent compared to the studio version, especially with the additions of the violins (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBbQjw0XYOs).

    • Ooh, nice catch with the Ellie Goulding comparison! On the topic of “Western influence” with recard to vocalization, this is something you may have heard being in a Filipino household; Filipinos use the term “twang” to refer to an “Americanized” inflection with the way they speak English (kinda like an accent) that bleeds into how they end up speaking Filipino/Tagalog. Could be the same going on here for Kumagawa Miyu and her singing (xD)

      You’re gonna be in for a ride then 😀 Also, silver lining amidst Negoto’s disbandment is that some (if not actually all) of the members are already teasing new projects, so something to look forward to at the very least.

      Here’s the release version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLKpN9w_o70) for TAMTAM’s “Esp” if you haven’t checked it out yet. The trumpets are a little subdued compared to the live recording up there, but it has the contributing artist ‘GOODMOODGOKU’s part in it, which is smooth af

      Kei and Migiwa had been my long standing faves so I was kinda bummed to see them not be a part of this new phase of theirs, but yeah, it was definitely interesting hearing this side of Shuhei.

      Thanks! Likwise, thanks for tuning in!
      Yep, I did actually manage to catch the hype for this when it was first announced. Tomoriru has been pegged by LL! fans as a genius (in a sort of tongue-in-cheek aside) but it does show quite a bit when she’s out here being both lyricist and the composer for her songs. She does seem cut from the same cloth as the archetypical AcoGui performer and I do love this side of hers now starting to show. I found myself to be very fond of the third track “Romanron”. Well, I’m sure there’ll be… ways of getting a hold of this (xD) Oh, on the subject of LL! artists, have you seen this upcoming release from Anchan? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XU5mHcrqU6g)

      Ooooh, AKFG! “[T]he song that probably introduced the band to a lot of outsiders/anime fans” I suppose this just goes to show how long I’ve been watching anime (lol) but AKFG have actually ventured very early on in the anison scene, having sang OPs/EDs for some pretty big titles like Bleach (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_IsnEZcl4E) and FMA (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmeudwRMrsU) in the past. This song, “solanin” (used in a fairly popular live action movie adaptation of the same name) however is my absolute favorite song of theirs that they’ve made (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZD1B1TskXs). Haven’t had a chance to try out Sol-Fa, but I’m loving “24ji” right off the bat. Oh, this might interest you; do check out the “AKG TRIBUTE” album if you haven’t yet. It’s a tribute compilation of various artists covering AKFG songs.

      • Yeah yeah, I think I know what you’re talking about actually (lol). Had no idea there was a term for it though 😛

        The studio version of “Esp” is really good too. And that trumpet solo has been stuck in my head for the past few days now and I keep whistling it around the house haha. Definitely am slowly getting into their other stuff now; “Canada” and “Karte” are also great songs I discovered from that band.

        Yep, that is possible. Although I haven’t come across her bottled-up EP yet so I’ll just hope for the best. And yeah, I actually took a listen to the PV of Anchan’s new CD; there’s certainly a great amount of variety between those three songs. I was just thrown off at first when she went from a cool and deeper voice into basically Chika singing lol. But I’m glad to see her start to go her own route, music-wise, and there were some performances of hers I’ve seen back then that really made me think she had a lot of potential (mainly this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8zTsiJYrlc). Plus, you have Shuka’s upcoming EP (lol) which I kind of had mixed thoughts about, regarding how she sounded in that first announced track but I’d still buy it. “Kutsuhimo” is probably my favorite from her new release.

        Ahh, I see. I actually didn’t know AKFG did songs for those particular shows but that must’ve been a great opportunity for them. It’s a bit weird now to see that AKFG kinda got more popular when Erased came out (at least from my perspective) 😛 And I’ll definitely go check out that tribute album since I saw some pretty interesting names involved.

  2. Pingback: Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Round-Up (October 2019) | Leap250's Blog

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