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

No spooks, just good music 🙂

Happy Halloween~!! Welcome back, once again to the Monthly Recommendation Round-Up, this the month of October 2019! I wanna get this out of the way real quick but, as you might be able to gather from my little preamble before the cut, this isn’t a themed list of horror tracks so don’t you worry — this is a safe space 🙂

As for what you’ll find in said space (to those who are new here) —

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.

Fall/Autumn is just so so good for Japanese music, and this first month of the season alone proved to be jam-packed with new releases — so much so that I had to cull a significant number of songs to feature to keep the Round-Up at a reasonable length (where I always want to shoot for eight or nine tracks max). Hopefully I did a good job in leaving you with what I at least believe to be some absolute gems.

Y’all should know the drill by now, but all the same; grab your favorite pair of listening gear (or if you have a nice speaker setup you’re more than welcome to use that at your disposal), set your audio to your preferred volume settings, and… you know the rest :p

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melt with suis from ヨルシカ (yorushika)
by TK from 凛として時雨 (ling tosite sigure)
Now who saw this one coming?!

If last month’s Round-Up entry of Utada Hikaru’s “Nijikan Dake no Bakansu” feauring Ringo Sheena didn’t clue you in, I’m actually all for off-the-wall collaborations, and this unusual pairing of TK (whom you may all know as the frontman of Japanese Prog Rock royalty Ling Tosite Sigure) and suis (one half of the popular doujin duo Yorushika) is as bemusing as it gets. Being polar opposites in styles notwithstanding, these two individuals do at the very least share a commonality of sorts in being “faceless” (suis more so than TK) which might’ve led to this uncanny venture, but by that same token it could very well be that the two groups are just fans of each other and thought it’d be fun to do a song together. That being said, “melt” is still predominantly a TK song here, with suis just harmonizing with him (there are some parts too where their two voices become very indiscernible from one another, lol). Probably not as magical as one would assume these two would sound together, but let that not take away from the fact that this was a thing that happened (xD)

沈丁花、低く/jinchouge, hikuku
by FUKUSHIGE MARI
No wonder that name sounded so familiar!

To save you the same trouble I ended up subjecting myself into, FUKUSHIGE MARI here is none other than Gesu no Kiwami Otome‘s premier keyboardist ちゃんMARI (!!!). I’ve said it before many times in different places, but it’s very easy to forget how much of an aggregate of talent Gesu is, given the band’s eccentric nature — which, in turn further lampshades the fact that ちゃんMARI in particular was already a prospect in her own right well before her involvement with Gesu, as a member of the then up-and-coming band Crimson. In the time she’s spent being part of these bands, it would appear that ちゃんMARI (now FUKUSHIGE MARI) has further refined her already-credentialed craft, as she’s now starting to dabble in solo work. More than her piano work (which we already know to be stellar), what surprised me most in “Jinchouge, Hikuku” was MARI’s singing, which, we almost never get to hear in Gesu’s songs (save for the occasional hums and a spoken line or two). It’s completely different from what you’d expect her voice to sound as I’m sure you’re gonna be in for a surprise here.

この夜が明けるまで/kono yoru ga akeru made
by eill
Hands down. Instant fave.

Long time listeners and followers of the Round-Up know that despite my slight aversion to Pop I’m very much partial towards chill Trip-Hop/R&B (on top of my vocal appreciation for Girls Rock and Idol) so it may or may not not come as a surprise for some of you when I say that I’m really loving eill’s sound right now. I’d attribute a lot of that to the… ‘velvety’ quality to her voice (akin to Utada Hikaru), but I also think there’s something to be said about the structure of her songs that make them feel just a touch unique. In that regard, it might be interesting to note that eill’s bio lists “K-Pop” as one of her musical roots (alongside Soul and R&B) and you can actually kinda hear some of that style of music bleed into “Kono Yoru ga Akeru Made” with the way it escalates as well as its slight (but very pleasing) emphasis on vocal hooks and heavy-hitting downbeats — and I mean, c’mon, who’s not a fan of that? (xD) As an added bonus, here’s eill doing a cover of an actual K-Pop song. Neat right?

PORTLAND
by Kuro
How did I not know that this was a thing?!

Let this be a short lesson to y’all that it pays off to both check out albums based on album art alone (lol) as well as being familiar with what some artists actually look like, because if not for both, I probably would’ve missed Kuro’s solo debut release (or at best I would’ve gotten to it way later). I suppose a bit of introduction is in order. Kuro is the vocalist and trumpeteer for a long-standing favorite of mine in TAMTAM (a band which I got to feature in a Round-Up a couple of months back). I’ve mentioned this every chance I could get and I still stand by the fact that Kuro always had (and still probably has) deceptive power in her vocals, but over the years, it appears she has since traded that off for a mellower style of singing — which, in my opinion, was a very welcome change. Kuro seems to think so too, as she now doubles-down on this Chill/Downtempo stage of her career with “PORTLAND” here being just the second track of a full-length album of the same mellow goodness which  she dropped not too long ago (check it out, it’s pretty rad)..

UVB-76
by AOAZA
Ngl, they won me over with that song title

I mean, right? I didn’t even know what that was supposed to be at first, but I figured it must be something more than just a random string of letters and numbers, and before I know it I’ve been lead to a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about a mysterious Russian radio transmission (like, what??). You actually hear a recording of it at the start of the song but “UVB-76” is actually the name of some sort of radio signal that’s apparently been a bit of an urban legend for forty years now. I don’t know what AOAZA is doing even knowing about all this stuff, (lol) but make no mistake, I absolutely adore them for making this oddly obscure reference (xD). AOAZA might be the youngest band I’ve featured in the Round-Up (being fresh out of high school and at only a little bit over a year of activity) but this quirkiness is a good sign in my opinion, as it shows they have character. Coupled with a solid Alternative Rock base and a nice vocal showing by Vo./Gt. “Sanpou”, AOAZA is definitely a band to look out for.

逆境のフィロソフィー/gyakkyou no philosophy
by Raon Lee x コバソロ (kobasolo)
This is wild (xD)

There’s just something about cover artists now putting out their own stuff that makes me feel proud for them. Maybe it’s because as viewers we kinda get to see them just grind and work their way to notoriety with each video. Add to that the fact that Raon Lee, despite being primarily known as an anison cover artist (which in itself is pretty neat), she’s a non-native Japanese speaker (she’s Korean, to those who might not know) who’s here singing an original Japanese song. How crazy is that? Of course, a lot of that too comes from the involvement of fellow Youtube Japanese cover sensation Kobasolo, who is the acting composer for “Gyakkyou no Philosophy”. Kobasolo is (if you’d remember my feature list a while back) one of my favorite Japanese cover artists, largely for his instrumentation and ear for talent, so him having the opportunity to work with Raon Lee’s raw and powerful vocals is (to me at least) just an insane thought experiment brought to life. This appears to be a product of Kobasolo getting into YouTube Space, so this might very well be just the beginning to many more stuff like this coming out in the future.

眺めの空/nagame no sora
by 楠木ともり (kusunoki tomori)
Idols aren’t always the best singers.

But do not let that detract from how much of a talented individual Kusunoki Tomori is, because she can absolutely sing. And I mean that, not even from my being a fan of the Love Live! franchise (of which she is a part of, and in hindsight is the only reason why we’re even classifying her as an idol in he first place), but as a fan of performance in general. Like, who else is out there right now with her media presence and name value (both of which are growing exponentially as we speak) that’s also dropping doujin style tracks like “Nagame no Sora” right here? If I’m being honest though, it really is a genre that suits “Tomoriru” well, and even she herself appears to draw inspiration from those kinds of artists (having covered songs by notable AcoGui standouts Sayuri and Minami on more than one occassion). While part of me thinks that in a different timeline she’d be on the other side of that equation, I also do believe that Kusunoki Tomori is just one of those geniuses that come once in a blue moon that the stage and the lights simply can’t help but chase after. Suffice it to say, I’m excited for what else she has in store for us all.

テイクミー!(take me!)
by PERO
Take me Mukaidaaaaaaa-

I said it before back when PERO launched their first PV under their new band name (having been called PeroPeroShiteYaritaiWazu. prior), but the band nowadays really do look like they’re having the time of their lives when they play their songs more so than ever, and I’m all for that. They really do seem to genuinely enjoy just doing their thing, even if that entails licking popsicles that match their admittedly cute PERO-themed clothing, whilst jamming out to some Girls Pop/Rock. “Take Me!” is a bit of a mixed bag depending on how you feel about Mukaider’s vocal work (an acquired taste surely) but I think what we can all agree on for this song is the instrumentation here is pretty tight — specifically the lead guitar work by “Araragi”, which is just a clinical treat for the ears. It’s been kinda hard to gauge where PERO is at right now owing to Girls Pop being not much of a thing as the years pass, but if this is the sound that they’re more than happy to play, then I in turn am ore than happy to listen so long as they make ’em.

キスをする/kiss wo suru
by 佐藤千亜妃 (sato chiaki)
I mean, how could I not, right?

I would want nothing more than Sato Chiaki, now-former vocalist of Kinoko Teikoku, to find success as a solo artist. And by all means it does look like she’s on track to make waves. Granted, “Kiss wo Suru” is a massive departure from songs she used to sing for Kinoko, with the most apparent difference being that Sato isn’t even holding a guitar anymore (though I suppose we were already supposed to glean that fact back in her dolo debut). This is to be expected of course, and one could surmise that she’s rebranding herself as a balladeer, which she’s shown on occasion to have a real penchant for given the opportunity (the entire “Ai no Yukue” album  in particular was notably ballad-heavy). It’s honestly quite fascinating to see the direction she’s taking here as I honestly thought she was gonna go all in as an Downbeat/Electronica artist but now we’re really seeing her just experiment with all sorts of sounds — and that’s always been (in my opinion at least) at the heart of Kinoko Teikoku’s creative drive with Sato at the helm, so I’m curious to see how she channels that into her solo work.

MUST LISTEN:
“Kono Yoru ga Akeru Made” by eill
At the time of writing, I’ve already gone and picked up eill’s debut album (which you can listen to on Spotify right now as well), and I don’t know what to tell you other than that I think she’s just really really fun to listen to. “Kono Yoru ga Akeru Made” in hindsight is actually a nice introduction to her sound, as it’s not as in your face as some of her songs might come across while still giving you a good taste of her brand of JPop/R&B. I mean, when was the last time you saw me rec a Pop artist? (xD)

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The YouTube playlist is updated and ready for you to use should you need to (and if you haven’t bookmarked it yet or added it to your own playlist, feel free to do so as well)

Like I said earlier, it was a good month for Japanese music, but I’d also like to add that it’s really just a good month for all sorts of Japanese media in general. We’re already four weeks deep into this year’s fall anime season (which is looking to be amazing btw just based on the lineup of titles that’re airing right now) so there’s that as well. And on the subject of anime, do allow me to segue a bit here, as I actually went and did some aniblogging this month (!!!). Granted, it’s me talking about someone talking about anime, but I mean technically speaking, I still was taking about anime soooooo- *ehem* If you haven’t yet, do check out my little write-up on the Netflix documentary “Enter The Anime”, where I try to explain how it all went horribly wrong (xD)

But enough about me (lol), what did you guys think of this month’s Round-Up? Lemme know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this month’s enterfeatured songs. If you yourself have some recommendations of your own this month, feel free to share them with everyone too!

Happy listening, and I’ll see you on the next one~

 

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