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

Ngl, I’m actually a bit glad this month’s over 😅

Mostly for personal/work-related reasons (we good now though), but also because the end of the month means another… episode(?) of the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up! We’re just about to close out the month of August in a couple of hours so do allow me then to take some of that time by having you listen to some songs for a bit (xD)

If this is your first time 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.

This month saw to a bunch of Round-Up regulars with regard to which artists I ended up featuring here which, oddly enough, made it hard to cull the list down to a reasonable number (where we usually shoot for 8~10 songs per month). I did try my best to sneak in some unfamiliars in there as well so, don’t y’all worry, I still got you guys covered for those looking for some new discoveries.

So enough talking — grab your favorite pair of earbuds (what’re you guys rocking anways? lemme know!), lest you wanna use your speakers, which is totally fine by me; set your volume to your preffered levels, and by all means go on and listen 🙂

ーー

闇色の朝/anshoku no asa
by Maison book girl.
@ 01:30 No, don’t worry, the video’s not broken (lol)

I might be wrong, but I believe this is the first time (at least in a while) that I’ve heard Maison book girl. employ as much acoustic guitar in a song as they did here with “Anshoku no Asa”. In line with that, I think it’s also fair to say that this is the most subdued I’ve heard Mbg. be, whose sound historically has been laden with heavy synth and off time signatures. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan those too (xD), but this is a nice change of pace in my opinion. I for one absolutely LOVE the escalation (upward rhythm and tempo change) in the chorus in particular. It’s a thing of beauty to hear, especially in the context of Alternative Idol (to which Mbg. have always been at the forefront of aesthetic instrumentation in the genre anyways), and is a real testament to producer Sakurai Kenta and what he’s been able to pull off (and continues to pull off) with these otherwise very talented girls.

endless Story
by BAND-MAID
God that hook is addictive T.T

Like, seriously, I’d just be walking around sing-songing ‘endless~ story~~’ for a solid week when I first heard this (xD). Which I feel is a bit of a weird thing to say considering “endless Story” here is a bit atypical when compared to what would be the typical BAND-MAID song structure (primarily characterized by smashing Metal/Rock and wicked escalation). What we have here instead is a more controlled offering from this Tokyo-based 5-piece, which ended up giving greater emphasis on SAIKI’s vocal prowess and MISA’s basslines, both of whom tend to get a tad overpowered by AKANE’s drum work and KANAMI’s guitar riffs. Even MIKU gets a bit of shine here too with her backing vocals (one of my favorite parts of hers is @01:45, which I feel is a direct pull from “Gion-cho”). All in all this was a good showing for BAND-MAID. Not to say that they don’t always, but I like seeing bands mix it up every now and again.

眠らない夢を見た日/nemurenai yume wo mita hi
by あのね (anone)
Let’s talk about Japanese 3-piece bands for a sec

Now, I could honestly devote an entire post just on this (I just might further down the road so this would serve as a good starting point) but I feel like we’re at a point now where we could say that “Japanese 3-piece” is in itself a genre more so than it is a descriptor for a fairly common band member composition, much like how “Idol Music” is a thing. Not to say that all three-man bands sound the same, but on the contrary even, it’s actually fascinating (to me at least) how much variety has come out of what is otherwise a limited ensemble. anone here for instance consists of Gt./Vo. Hasshii, Ba./Cho. Satou Natsumi, and Dr. Hikkichan; which is more or less the traditional setup. While it’s definitely easy to hear marked similarities to other 3-piece bands out there right now (see Lucie,Too or The Wisely Brothers), it’s the little touches that often times leave the most lasting impressions, and I’d be damned if that electronic organ didn’t make you smile like it did me when I first heard it.

リブート/reboot
by miwa
Yes, throw your shoes at me, miwa 😐

Depending on who you ask (which would then again be dependent on when they started listening to Japanese music), you might get some different answers to the question of which artist from the early-to-mid 2000s would you most associate with the Singer-Songwriter artist template with — but I would like to believe that the answer ultimately boils down to these three: the fast-rising (at least at the time) and undeniably talented YUI, Japanese Pop/Rock princess LiSA, and of course the premier AcoGui stylist miwa. “AcoGui” is a word you’ll see me throw around every now and again and it mostly just means ‘acoustic guitar’ to refer to what would be the equivalent of the “acoustic” genre for Japanese music. Whenever I think of AcoGui, I almost always think of miwa with her long blck hair, rocking out with her guitar. She has since cut her hair (xD), but she’s most definitely still rocking out; and in the case of “reboot” here, harder than ever it seems like. She hasn’t been away to my knowledge (she just dropped a single not too long ago) but with this I just can’t help but say ‘she’s back!’.

SUNKISSed GIRL -ONE SUMMER DAY-
by 竹内アンナ (takeuchi anna)
*insert AcoGui segue here*

Takeuchi Anna is back once again in our lives for what would be the third time this year with “SUNKISSed GIRL -ONE SUMMER DAY- “, coming off of her third EP (aptly named ‘at THREE’) which dropped just a couple of months ago. In stark contrast to the EP’s lead-in track “20 -TWENTY-“, this song strips down (hey!) a good bit of what we’ve come to know and love from Takeuchi Anna’s sound. Gone for now are the Techno/Pop beats, and in its place we get a more straight-forward and honest-sounding performance, which (in my opinion at least) reflects Takeuchi Anna best as an AcoGui stylist. Of course, I’m not saying that she needs to be seen as one to be succesful or anything, and I’m mostly positing all this out of personal preference. Takeuchu Anna’s stock rises exponentially with each new release and while I’ll always be excited for every song of hers that drops, part of me honestly just wants this side of her to never truly go away. If anything, this is a good look both to showcase the fact to those who’ve only ever come across her songs through her prior PVs.

シャミナミ/shaminami
by ジェニーハイ (genie high)
Nakajima Ikkyu and Kawatani Enon is such a dangerous pairing

Now, I don’t really get the novelty behind a couple of comedians be part of this… artist-cross-personality project going on with Genie High, and whether or not they actually do play these intstruments proficiently is something I’ve yet to discover for myself (I know, how uncharacteristic of me to not do research, lemme fix that real quick… EDIT: Oh wow, they actually do know their stuff, my bad xD), but if there’s anything we can take away from it all is that we get to witness two absolute talents in tricot‘s Nakajima Ikkyu and the superfluous music virtuoso Kawatani Enon of Gesu no Kiwami Otome and indigo la End fame. Kawatani Enon takes the helm in composing for Genie High, and it shows in the band’s Progressive Pop style largely reminiscent of Kawatani’s work in his aforementioned bands. Being able to hear Nakajima Ikkyu sing straight-up Pop (a la Sakanaction, or even TokyoJihen in some parts) is also in itself quite the blessing, as we get to hear vocal runs from her that tricot fans have never heard from her before (and quite possibly ever) in any of their songs. She’s also gorgeou-

バイバイ/bye bye
by afloat storage
Short, but oh so sweet

“Like I said, don’t say ‘Bye-Bye’ just yet”
I’m still in love with you after all
“Did you say anything?” [you answered back] in your usual kindness
I’m sure, someday, we’ll be brought together again … (x2)
Aaaaand that’s the entire song (xD) I mean, hey, if anything “Bye Bye” here might be a lead-in track to an upcoming album (*fingers crossed*). This song structure makes perfect sense otherwise if that were in fact the case, but if not well, that’s fine too. I’ll take any opportunity I can get to plug any and all of afloat storage’s releases in the Round-Up because I adore Inami Mayu’s voice so so much. Back in February I talk about the “wholeness” that I find in her voice, and I’d like to expound on that a bit more in saying that Inami Mayu’s singing is very much imperfect. Amidst the breadth and depth of her vocalization lies also a very delicate timbre that feels like it could break at any moment, and it’s in this frailty that I’m able to really just resonate and even empathize a bit with Inami Mayu and her songs.

白昼夢/hakuchuumu
by 深根 (fukane)
Always nice seeing cover artists go on to do their own stuff

Fukane is/was primarily a piano cover artist, whom you might recognize in some of the work she’s done in ths past, like her covers of Yorushika and ZutoMayo (which would be where I first found out about her and her channel). It appears she has now since started to dabble in performing her own songs, making “Hakuchuumu” her proper debut into the world of Japanese music (as an artist in her own right), and while I knew beforehand about her skill with the piano I had absolutely no idea that she could sing too (!!!) so this one kinda caught me by surprise. A pleasant though as we all come to find out here that Fukane’s singing is such beautiful melancholy with her low vocal register (I for one got a lot of serious aimer vibes while listening to this song). Something to note is that “Hakuchuumu was used as the theme song for a stage play that ran in mid-August entitled “If Only For Tonight, the Moon Is Beautiful Isn’t It?”, in reference to classic Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki and his works.

ノーチラス/nautilus
by ヨルシカ (yorushika)
This one’s pretty… heavy

Yorushika’s previous PVs very rarely (if at all) contain any form of direct narrative that’s detached from the words being sung in a song (where most of them still follow the traditional doujin-style PVs with lyrics flashing on the screen) so “Nautilus” here was a shocker with its story-telling, which touches a bit on the darker themes of real world hardships that may lead to the taking of one’s own life. While Yorushika generally evoke an element of somberness amidst n-buna’s now-trademark guitar work and suis’ emotion-driven singing style, this song in particular just tugs at the heartstrings, largely due to how direct the visuals are for the most part with what it wants to portray (of course, massive ups to the beautiful animation used for this PV too). The song by itself is a bit of departure from Yorushika’s usual offerings that tend to feature stronger guitar melodies that the song forms itself around on, whereas what we have here is a more standard balladic kind of progression. “Nautilus” is the final track to Yorushika’s second full album which dropped just a couple of days ago (at the time of writing).

MUST LISTEN:
“Anshoku no Asa” by Maison book girl.
I was blown away when I first heard this song, mostly because of how… different it sounded from Mbg.’s usual stuff. The acoustic guitar work, the synth claps, the rhythm changes; this song had a lot of things that I liked to hear, not even from an Idol/Alt Idol standpoint but for Japanese music and music in general. I poke fun at how Mbg.’s instrumentation, albeit unique, got a bit repetitive over time so I take this as a direct response to that claim (xD).

ーー

The YouTube playlist is updated so no worries on that end. Links to the songs will always be there unless the PVs get privatized or region-restricted, and the playlist itself is easily accessible especially if you have your own YT account (just add the playlist to your personal dashboard and you’re good).

Against all odds (lol) I actually managed to put together a Feature List this month on my Favorite Band/Group Names so do check that one out if you haven’t yet.

How’d you like this month’s Round-Up? Lemme know your thoughts down below!
Lastly, if you have your own recommendations for the month, please don’t hesitate to throw those at me too (xD)

Happy Listening! Catch y’all next month~

 

 

 

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

  1. I’ve been digging the MBG single as well. I haven’t heard of Anone, but they seem up my alley so I’ll be checking them out ASAP! Thanks for the monthly dose of awesome!

  2. Even though I knew about genie high before, I actually never listened to one of their songs prior to the one you mentioned. But damn, now I’m wondering how many more groups Kawatani be a part of and still be able to make great music 😛

    I’ll be honest here and say I didn’t particularly enjoy “20 -TWENTY-” as much as her other songs; I felt like the change was a bit too drastic for my taste. But yeah, “SUNKISSed GIRL” is another great song from her and the English-Japanese back-and-forth lyrical style she usually does was superb in this one.

    Nice round-up this month 😀 I’ll give some suggestions, why not

    I think you saw my tweet about Ikimonogakari and I actually didn’t know they were the original artists of the “Kimagure Romantic” song. First times I heard it was Takahashi Rie singing it for the Takagi-san anime (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnLPu7QGVyA) and even Akarin covered it before (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vkCItJGzoA). But it was nice finally finding the source of that song lol

    Also here’s a pretty damn good instrumental band if you haven’t heard of this one yet (https://youtu.be/_uNmfLh71TQ)

    • Ikr (xD) Guy’s a savant when it comes to composing and producing music. I hope he continues to dabble in all sorts of projects in the future as well. So long as he stays out of trouble that is :p

      What’s funny is I actually thought the same when I first heard “20 -TWENTY-” but then I went and gave it a proper listen on my lossless player once I got my hands on the EP tracks and it made a world of difference for me. One thing about it though is that Takeuchi Anna’s vocals were definitely missing in that song no matter which way you try to listen to it, so “SUNKISSed GIRL” works as a nice contrasting accompaniment (lol) to it really

      Oh, yeah, that was a nice surprise. I mostly know of Ikimonogakari through anison from way back (alongside bands like AKFG for example) and I didn’t really expect for them to pop-up on my feed. Interesting to note is all of the EDs for Takagi-san are covers of some pretty big J-pop songs from the 90s-early-to-2000s, so that might be a nice little rabbit hole to jump into (xD). Another anime that does this is Re-LIFE (which I do recommend if you haven’t watched it, Haha!)

      And damn, no wonder this instrumental piece sounded so familiar (I could hear traces of “Koi” from it during some parts), freakin’ Hoshino Gen is in it!

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