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

And just like that, the year is almost over

It’s crazy how much the passage of time can just sneak up on you at times, ’cause I could’ve sworn I got to do all this not that long ago. That said, we have actually come to what would be the last true Japanese Music Round-Up….. of the year this November 2019, as what follows next would be our second official Round-Up Awards this coming December (!!!). The Round-Up isn’t going anywhere, don’t you worry :p

Tis the season of giving thanks as it seems, and I would like to take the opportuniy at this time to say that I do truly appreciate you all who’ve been following this venture of mine. I had, and continue to have, a lot of fun doing these, and I can only hope that those of you that happen to drop by here every month had as much if not even more fun discovering new music alongside myself.

Before I go any further though, if by chance this is actually your first time here, no worries, you’re still great for being here (xD), but do let me give you a quick rundown —

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’ll talk a little bit more about the upcoming Round-Up Awards later on. For now, I’ll let you be with our featured tracks for the month. We have a very stacked playlist with an equal mix of relatively known and unknown talent this time around, so strap in.

I’m sure you have all of these ready by now, but all the same — grab your favorite pair of headphones (or unplug ’em if you feel like using your speakers), set your volume to just right, and go, go, go!!!

ーー

DROWN
by milet
lol @ people in the YT comments calling her the Japanese Adele

Because they’re pretty friggin’ spot on, not even gonna lie (xD), especially with the low and husky vocal register that milet here is coming in with. A good number of you guys might know “Drown” as the second ending theme for the Summer 2019 sleeper anime hit Vinland Saga (which I do recommend as something to watch if you haven’t yet picked it up from the previous season), but all the same, I think it’s fair enough to say that the song is most likely everyone’s introduction to milet if at least in the West. Having only begun activities in the past year, you would think milet was only beginning to get her bearings with this release, but in truth she really skyrocketed into the mainstream with her explosive debut (I mean, just look at that view count, oh my). The future is undoubtedly bright for milet, and I look forward to hearing more from her.

ちっとも知らなかった/chittoshiranakatta
by NakamuraEmi
NakamuraEmi brings the house down yet again

If you’ve been following the Round-Up for even just a decent amount of time you’ll probably know that NakamuraEmi is a favorite mainstay over here. The vibe and the energy she brings with her soulful R&B offerings is something that I really can’t help but admire each and every time a new song of hers comes out. Fans of the show Radiant might know “Chitto Shiranakatta” as the ending theme for its second season airing this Fall 2019 season, and while I don’t follow the series myself (it’s not on any of the streaming services I’m currently subscribed to sadly), I do commend them for going with NakamuraEmi (xD). The song is almost atypical of what would NakamuraEmi’s faster and more upbeat style, but she does reel it in back home in the second half, complete with her trademark mannerisms of throwing hands in the air and bouncing to the rhythm.

パパパ/papapa
by 斉藤朱夏 (saito shuka)
A couple of things…

Now, I know I sound like a broken record every time I talk about how idols aren’t necessarily always known for their ability to sing or dance, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be either. Saito Shuka is a fairly pedigreed dancer in her own right (arguably *the* best dancer of the Love Live! idol group Aqours from which she hails), and she for sure has her moments in the singing department as well through her performances with the aforementioned franchise. Both skillsets are in full form here in “PaPaPa”, along with an almost uncanny poise from Shuka who now both looks and sounds the part of a full-fledged solo artist — something that I honestly can’t say just yet about members of the aforementioned group who have since gone on a similar venture. I mean, right? Leave it to Shukashuu to leapfrog everyone and pull off a smile-filled show.

最終兵器、君/saishuheiki, kimi
by SCANDAL
I’m biased, I love them :_)

Look, as far as I’m concerned, these girls are out there taking there victory lap right now. They are one of, if not (arguably) the biggest Girls Rock band out there at the moment, and have been so for the better part of over a decade now so I think that alone should mean that they’re free to do whatever they want. I say all this because I’m sure a lot of people will inevitably shake their heads at HARUNA’s gratuitous use of autotune, her not playing her guitar, and really just the bright Pop-y tone of “Saishuheiki, Kimi”. Fans who have listened to their music for as long as I have would not that these are not the first instances of all of this happening, but also, does it even matter when the song is actually good? Like, I get it, this is a different sound from what we’ve come to know, but that doesn’t mean this kind of stuff isn’t and can’t be as good.

NEO-FUTURE
by 相対性理論 (soutaiseiriron)
Yakushimaru Etsuko showing the young kids how its done

I am all but convinced that Soutaiseiriron exists in a vacuum outside space and time, lapsing into our plane of existence every now and again to prove that they still got it even after a whopping thirteen years of activity. I didn’t really expect to be talking about a new Soutaiseiriron single right now so you know (xD). To think that they’ve been such a unique presence in J-Pop for as long as they have, all the while never really losing a step, and even picking up some new tricks along the way. I mean, “NEO-FUTURE” here is basically Yakushimaru Etsuko telling all these new Low-Fi/Downbeat artists that she can still hang with the best of them. Soutaiseiriron are the de facto OGs of the genre and people would be remiss to be reminded of that. If anything, it does comfort me to know that the band is still keeping at it and then some.

TIMER
by bastetone
Ladies, Gents, we have a heavy hitter

We haven’t had a lot of bangers here on the Round-Up for a while I feel like, and while a lot of that can most likely be attributed to my inclination towards Trip-Hop and Idol music as of late, I do think too that there’s just a general scarcity of pseudo-Hard Rock when it comes to female-fronted bands — which, let’s face, makes up for the vast majority of featured talent here. That said, the prospect or even just the idea is very appealing (to me at least), as it really is very much uncommon at least in the mainstream. Not to say that it hasn’t been done in the past (I’m still disheartened by AkaiTsuki not becoming as popular as I thought they’d be), but as it stands, bastetone is that kind of band right now. The crunchy guitar riffs and Acchan’s growls here in “TIMER” is just a treat for those hurting for this kind of music.

あなたの光/anata no hikari
by Lucie,Too
Truly heartwarming

Lucie,Too will always be among the darlings of the Round-Up, by virtue of being one of the first bands featured on here, and as odd as it may sound I can’t help but feel proud for where they are now because of t hat. I feel as if I’ve watch them grow as a band in that span of time and I am all but impressed every time by how much they’ve both changed and stayed the same with each new song. “Anata no Hikari” just shows the continued refinement and maturation of Lucie,Too’s sound, whilst still keeping to their core Light Rock sound. In line with that, I believe a special mention should go to the Sekizawa Kanako’s absolutely beautiful basslines that are once again the instrumental highlight of a song of theirs (and is in my opinion Lucie,Too’s ace in the hole). Sky’s the limit for this three piece, and I’m excited to see how much more they continue to grow.

交差点/kousaten
by コトリア (kotoria)
Lightning in a bottle

One of the main reasons I got into this… hobby (if you can call it that) of scouring the internet for new and up-and-coming Japanese musical acts is because I believe that there are hidden gems out there just waiting to be unearthed, and coming across those on accident just fills me with inexplicable joy and excitement. Kotoria is one of those yet-to-be known bands to come out of the woodwork, and what they managed to do with “Kousaten” here is (in my opinion) straight up catch lightning in a bottle. Horimura Saki’s vocals are an immediate breath of fresh air with her deep and cool delivery, and the overall instrumentation hits surprisingly hard especially for a three-piece. I will personally keep an eye out on Kotoria as I do see and hear a lot of promise in this band, and I can only hope that everyone does so too.

ふれていたい/fureteitai
by Canaria
Yes, this is the third three-piece band in a row (lol)

There’s just something about them that’s just so… endearing. I talked about it briefly before in a previous Round-Up, but I really am quite fascinated about this particular band structure as it relates to Japanese music. While I did say that it’s in the variety that these bands are able to sound as that I find most intriguing, what I forgot to mention was the quaint commonality among them apart from all of their bands consisting of three members. I’m hard-pressed to really explain why I think this, but I see three-piece bands as all having a very pure and “honest” sound for most of them — especilly those in the indie scene Canaria here. “Fureteitai” is in a lot of ways just straightforward Alternative Rock and at times even sounds like a throwback. What you see (and hear) is what you get with this band, and hopefully we see them take off from here.

a drop
by ぷにぷに電機 (punipunidenki)
The trumpets sealed it for me

I can’t really pinpoint when exactly I began leaning towards Soulful Jazz-y R&B over genres I favored much more in the past (like say Girls Rock or Anison), and while I do try to be as varied with my picks for the month as I can, I just can’t help falling for tracks like this one so do forgive me on that end (xD). That said, I would think that PuniPuniDenki sets herself apart as a unique enough Round-Up entrant with her dynamic vocal work, which in this song here seemingly just jumps between a whisper and a full on note on a whim. That said, as I mentioned up top there, the trumpets really just won me over here (lol). I’m a sucker for brass accompaniments, and this one in particular brought “a drop” to life in my opinion. Not to say that the song wasn’t already poppin’, but it was definitely a nice touch.

MUST LISTEN:
Anata no Hikari” by Lucie,Too
Short but oh so sweet, this song again really just adds to the claim that Lucie,Too needs to be included now in the discussion of more reknowned Japanese three piece bands. Lucie,Too has gone on to become even more promising than they already had been since we last saw them, which to be fair wasn’t even that long ago. The band’s seemingly minute yet exponential improvements over just this past year (compare “Anata no Hikari” to their debut single) is astonishing.

ーー

The YouTube playlist is updated if you need to backtrack on some fo the songs featured today or on any of the older Round-Ups.

As I mentioned earlier, we are having our second Round-Up Awards next month again in place of what would be the usual Monthly Round-Up (I mean, surely I can figure out a way to time both in the same month, but now is not that time, lol). Feel free to check out last year’s awards if you want an idea of what that would entail, but the gist of it would be me giving recognition to certain songs that have been featured in the Round-Up throughout the year. We handed out a total of eight awards last time, and, well the most that I can say now is that some awards will be making a comeback, but we will also be introducing some new ones too so you’ll have to see what they are on the actual thing (xD)

If you wanna stick around after this you’re more than welcome to browse through the Japanese Music tab up top and look through some older content you might’ve missed. I also have my discussion piece on the documentary “Enter the Anime” stickied on the front page as well if you want to give that a read. I don’t think I have anything planned in between now and my year-ender but hey, I mean, you never know 😛

What’d you guys think of this month’s Round-Up? I personally was a fan (lol), but I want to hear what you all thought down at the comments section. Also, if you have any recommendations of your own by all means throw ’em in there as well. More good music to go around yeah?

Happy Listening, and Happy Holidays everyone.
Catch you guys on the next post 🙂

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

  1. Yay, another one of these! My favourite from this round: “a drop”. “交差点” is a second-favourite.

    Really enjoyed the “Papapa” video. It’s like someone handed out doughnuts on the Spirited Away train and made all the shadows sugar-high.

    “NEO-FUTURE” is another interesting one. It seems to be set in…an appropriately disturbing futuristic China? At least, I’m catching a lot of Simplified Chinese in the MV.

  2. Pingback: The Otakusphere: Dead Women, Con Reports and Happy Holidays! – In Search of Number Nine — An anime blog

  3. I’ll be real (and possibly dangerously) honest here and say I have definitely given Shuka a hard time regarding her vocal abilities since hearing her live during Aqours concerts or even some of her first solo songs like “Ato 1 Meter”… she sounded a bit too stiff IMO. However given her recent tracks like “Papapa”, I think we’ve seen some real improvement on her singing and it can only get better from here, I’d say. And like you said, that music video was pretty damn impressive for a rookie solo artist like herself.

    Ooooh, Soutaiseirion. I remember the first (and pretty much only lol) song I’ve listened from them is “Kerberos” which is certainly different from the track you featured, but it’s nice to hear this electro side of them!

    Pretty sick lineup this month, and I definitely agree that that Lucie,Too song is a must-listen (guess now I gotta add another three-piece band to my mix lol). And I’d be happy to share some recs of my own:

    Speaking of milet, I forgot if I told you about this group (or if you’ve heard of them before) but this acapella group did a pretty nice cover of “us” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlEt5KfDVfc). Ever since listening to their LUCKY TAPES cover, it’s been cool following and hearing some really well done covers from them! Another good cover from them is their ACC Outsider one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTUOyQArENs)

    And I recently stumbled upon a nice Ishihara Kaori song (https://youtu.be/cp9RHV815eE) and while I definitely know more about the Ogura Yui part of the YuiKaori duo she was in (lol), her stuff’s pretty solid as well!

    • What I find fascinating is that Shuka has shown to have sneakily good power and range in her vocals, with her parts in “Thrilling One Way” being the example I point to the most. That said, I too would tend to agree that she was quite literally middle of the pack with her singing in Aqours, and for the most part I saw her more as primarily a dancer than a straight-up singer. The improvement as you say is definitely there though, and she sure as hell is proving a lot of us wrong with what she’s doing now (xD)

      Soutaiseiriron started to become a bit more experimental right around 2013 or so (right around the time “Kerberos” came out), bringing in more electro/synth into their still very Pop sound, so it might interest you to know that they were actually a fairly guitar-heavy band early on.

      Thanks! And yeah, definitely check Lucie,Too out on Spotify when you have the time :p

      Yeap, you told me about Nagie Lane before (I wanna say for their LUCKY TAPES cover) but I did miss this cover when it dropped I guess. Would’ve known about milet a little earlier probably (lol) but yeah, very nice. “Outsider” one is really dope.

      Ooooh, I love those fast run-offs that she does! I mostly know Ishihara Kaori from her seiyuu work so hearing her singing is a nice suprise.

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