Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (February 2020)

Spreading the love~

The love of music is universal I hear, and what better way to exhibit that by spending a moment of your time over here on the Monthly Recommendation Roundup for this month of February 2020 ❤ (you’d think I prep’d something Valentines-themed or something, but alas, I’ll temper expectations now)

For those of you aren’t really sure what to expect on this post 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 Roundup that I’ll update and share at the end of each post.

It was short time as always when it comes to this particular month of the year, but as it is a leap year this year, the extra day does help in that regard so all is well (xD). It also helps too that this ended up being such a good month for Japanese music so it’s not like there was any shortage of stuff to feature and talk about. I feel like I say that every time, but I do mean it whenever I say it :p

If you haven’t yet, I suggest you guys go grab your favorite pair of listening peripherals (unless those happen to be your speakers, in which case you’re almost good to go already), set your volume to ‘just right’, and go listen!

ーー

The Dragon Cries
by BAND-MAID
BAND-MAID coming in with some fire (!!!)

I’ve gone back and forth thinking about which BAND-MAID album between WORLD DOMINATION and CONQUEROR I thought was better overall (ever since the latter dropped two-ish months ago) and despite the former’s VERY strong second half, I can now say after having listened to it extensively these past two months that CONQUEROR is not only better than WORLD DOMINATION but is (in my opinion at least) the best album BAND-MAID has put out to date. “The Dragon Cries” is only one of the album’s complete tracklist of straight up bangers, but it does own the unique distinction of being the first BAND-MAID song to be sung completely in English. Granted, the band’s notorious use of gratuitous English is well documented in a good majority of their previous work, but I don’t think it’s ever been this… grammatically well-structured? (xD) Saiki’s vocal hooks are the main highlight for this song, but the guitar sections are just as powerful, and as always Akane’s drumwork is impeccably clean. Now please make a PV for Liberal and Wonderland too :p (Speaking of, what is up with this PV anyway? Feels very Rise Against if you ask me, loljk)

sixteen
by 熊川みゆ (kumagawa miyu)
Speaking of gratuitous English (xD)

I’m kidding of course, I mean, it’s still generally good (lol) so it should be fine. Much like the above BAND-MAID, ‘kumamiyu’ does fancy adding a couple of lines in English to her lyrics here and there as early as the first track she ever released, so if anything it’s more like a trademark to her style at this point. We are met yet again with another heartful AcoGui performance by Kumagawa Miyu who really just continues to make a name for herself both in the genre as well as the Japanese music world as a whole by consistently putting out such pleasant-sounding songs like “sixteen” here. Pleasant… I don’t think we, as a collective, use that word often enough around these parts, or at the very least it comes across as trite and unimaginative. That said, I’m also hard-pressed to think of any other word that could best describe the soothing nature of Kumagawa Miyu’s voice coupled with her gentle guitar work and song composition that make for a sort of nostalgic sound that makes you feel things you’ve felt before. Kumagawa Miyu is set to release her first album less than a week from now (March 4th to be exact) so mark your calendars!

I My Me Myself
by 竹内アンナ (takeuchi anna)
I can’t never not have Takeuchi Anna on here when I talk about AcoGui

It almost feels as though Kumagawa Miyu and Takeuchi Anna are intertwined when it comes to the Roundup as I can’t for the life of me seem to have one without the other. That in itself is interesting to me at least, coming from someone who has listened to their respective music styles for more or less an equal amount of time, as the two have continued to drift further away from one another with regard to their being fellow AcoGui stylists. Whilst both can be considered Pop artists, Kumagawa Miyu slowly but surely has begun to lend herself to more soulful and melodic Pop offerings; in stark contrast to Takeuchi Anna’s approach to Pop which now comes across as a touch more agressive and volatile. “I My Me Myself” sees Takeuchi Anna really just fully embrace this techno-laden club/R&B-like sound she has going on with just the right touch of AcoGui to keep true to her roots. It does comfort me to know that she’ll always have that guitar-playing of hers in her backpocket. As is the inseparable fate of these two artists, Takeuchi Anna will also be dropping her first full album in the coming month (March 18th this time).

ゆらゆら/yurayura
by Lucie,Too
This really was a good month for our Roundup regulars

As evidenced of course by our lineup thus far consisting of some of the blog’s staple Japanese music acts. Lucie,Too is coming in here as our Most Improved Band/Artist Of 2019 and “YuraYura” is just more proof as to why that is. In our awards post last year I gave special recognition to the continued refinement and maturation of the band’s sound. I’ve since promised myself to point it out whenever I could but yeah no right now Lucie,Too features some of the most straightforward and beautiful bass lines that I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing from a three-piece band, and I wouldn’t even consider myself a bass head in so far as my listening preferences are concerned (at the very least I feel like tend to lean more towards drumwork for instrumentation and vocals generally). We get to hear more of Sekizawa Kanako’s handiwork here, though the other members are not to be undone, with some solid drum sections by Shibahara Naho and the constant allure of Kokubo Chisa’s transient vocal stylings. I feel like we can expect great things from Lucie,Too moving forward so I do hope to get you all on this hype train as early as now (xD).

航海の唄/koukai no uta
by さユり(sayuri)
Mad respect for this girl, always

“Before I made my debut I did street performances. I’d sit on the floor with a cushion under me like this. I’d like to sing in that sort of undergroud style for you guys today. …This is Sanketsu Shoujo Sayuri! I’ll be singing only one song today! Please lend me five minutes of your time!”. I think it’s fair enough to say that Sayuri has come a long way since her debut, being now one of the bigger names in modern anison. Which does make it all the more impressive that she’s able to maintain the sense of individuality that she brings with her in her songs. I’d like to think that it’s because of this certain appeal of Sayuri’s background as a doujin AcoGui street performer that’s just so… raw, and real. I’ve seen videos taken by fans before of one of her sidewalk live shows being cut short by police on the grounds of loitering for instance. This rendition of “Koukai no Uta” presented to us by THE FIRST TAKE (again, I highly suggest subscribing to this channel if you haven’t yet) provides something of a glance of Sayuri in her early days, and the performance as a whole here is just so endearing to watch considering where she’s at now, guitar and all.

笑おう/waraou
by yonige
Yo, did they just sample “When The Saints Go Marching In”????

Because I think they totally did, and yonige are awesome for doing that. Before Lucie,Too came into the scene, and well before the Roundup was a thing, yonige was one of my early favorites back when I first started to venture out into finding Japanese music on my own (you can find one of my early song translations of one of their songs here). The Osaka-based duo (formerly trio) were amazing prospects back in 2015 with their debut mini-album ‘Coming Spring’ that served to introduce to the world the band’s emotive brand of Girls’ Rock. I admittedly fell off following yonige’s activity up until recently when I decided to clear some of my album backlogs and found that I had not yet listened to their 2018 mini-album HOUSE which in turn had “Waraou” here as its last track. I was reminded of how good yonige was, and at the same time I realized how much better the girls have become since I last heard them. Vocalist Ushimaru Arisa in particular has shown marked growth in the strength of her singing which I surmise really could just be the result of having more experience and confidence in her performance over the years.

常温じゃない関係/jouon janai kankei
by 印象派 (inshouha, INSHOW-HA)
Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a while

On the subject of my early years listening to Japanese music, I remember coming across this Osaka-based duo thanks to the recommendation of someone I met in college; a massive Japanese music fan and true Japanophile that frequented exchange programs to Japan throughout his academic tenure. Suffice it to say, the guy knew what he was talking about, more so than me even now I’d assume (xD). At the time I only ever listened to a handful of artists and after having browsed my music library one day, he went and recommended to me some newer artists to follow that he thought would suit my tastes. One of them was the then-up-and-coming Experimental/Pop standout Inshow-ha. The mysterious pair of office workers (lol) and their enigmatic approach to Pop proved to be too much for my inexperienced self, and I’d since neglected to keep up with their work (which wasn’t all that hard given their sporadic release schedule. Imagine my surpise a full six or so years after when I randomly see Inshow-ha again in my feed with their release of “Jouon Janai Kankei”. It’s been so long since I last heard anything from them that I forgot they had a band setup (Haha!).

Shout Baby
by 緑黄色社会 (ryoukushoku shakai)
Ryoukushoku Shakai is on the come up (!!!)

The Aichi-based foursome has always been on the shortlist of bands I would’ve wanted to feature here on the Roundup for the better part of its entire run thus far, only to be edged out by my eventual picks just simply as a matter of preference. Suffuce it to say Ryoukushoku Shakai has been in my radar for a good three or so years now and I’ve really just been waiting for a good opportunity to include them in one of these and I’m glad I’m able to now with this explosive release of “Shout Baby”. Some of you guys might actually recognize this songs as the ending theme to the current (or at least at the time of writing) ending theme for Boku no Hero Academia which has been host to some great acts already (the likes of amazarashi, Yonezu Kenshi, miwa, LiSA, UVERWorld and Sayuri to name a few), and I for one am happy that Ryoukushoku Shakai is now getting this anison rub. Not that they need it of course, seeing the continuously growing popularity of this band. Vocalist Nagaya Haruko’s immense vocal presence is of note here, which feels to me at least like a masterclass of power and control; putting on full display what it means to be a frontwoman.

MUST LISTEN:
“Koukai no Uta” by Sayuri
As much as I laud Kumagawa Miyu and Takeuchi Anna for their AcoGui background, Sayuri is really the person that first comes to mind (to me at least) when talking about this particular genre of Japanese music. While I do wish that she chose a different song to perform for THE FIRST TAKE (would’ve much preferred “Sore wa Chiisana Hikari no you na” or even “Mikazuki” personally), there’s just something about seeing an ‘unplugged’ performance by a bonafide AcoGui stylist.

ーー

The Youtube playlist for 2020 is updated for all your backtracking needs 🙂

I do wish I had some sort of thing to put out in observance of the leap year since, y’know, “leap” and all but yeah (xD) There’s still plenty of time in the year to do… something though, and any year can be “Leap’s year” so it’s fine… *sweats* whatever that would even entail, lol.

Anyways, thank you so much for making it out here! I hope guys enjoyed this month’s featured songs as much me, and if you did (or even if you didn’t!), I’d love to hear all about it down below. Also, don’t forget to leave your own recommendations if you have any. I’m always on the lookout for new stuff to listen to 😀

Happy Listening everyone~!! and I’ll see you guys in the next one.

 

2 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (February 2020)

  1. I actually had no idea it was a leap year until I read this post a day ago, but thanks for reminding me! lol

    Yeah going off what you were saying, it’s been real cool to see Takeuchi Anna, for a lack of a better term, “evolve” her AcoGui style throughout her three EPs. Going from soft songs like “TEL me” to stuff like “BMB” and the track you included, she’s one of the more unique artists I’ve enjoyed recently. Can’t wait to listen to her new album and on another note, I’d be pretty stoked if she ever does an EP (or even mini-album) with all covers 😛

    I haven’t heard Sayuri in a while but hearing her backstory and seeing that FIRST TAKE performance was actually hella cool. The popularity of the Erased ED was the first (and pretty much, only) instance where I’ve listened to her music but to see this particular side of hers was fascinating. I also noticed the last line of her FIRST TAKE introduction, I’d assume, could be reminiscent of her street performing days, as she’s yelling like how she would in that type of loud, noisy public space. And the FIRST TAKE channel is interesting on its own; I’m looking forward to seeing more artists on it.

    Nice roundup as always my man 🙂 And to stick with the acogui theme, allow me to add a nice cover of AKB48’s Koisuru Fortune Cookie from Fujiwara Sakura (https://www.bilibili.com/video/av51350787/)… just to hear it in her specific style is just pure bliss 😛

    • I didn’t really pay it any mind as well until only recently when a friend who knows about my blog asked if I had anything special in mind for the occasion xD

      She’s really revolutionizing AcoGui I feel like, with the way she incorporates Electric/Techno with her guitar work, and she’s just getting better and better at it with each song (this studio version of SUNKISSed GIRL is insanely good https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDA9PgTgeiY). She seems to be heavily inspired by Western Pop and I’d be down for a full on English cover album yep :3

      And on the subject of AcoGui, Sayuri is definitely an interesting case in that she really is a true example of *the* quintessential AcoGui performer owing to her background doing street lives (I can only think of a few artists that had this kind of start /one that comes to mind right away is Bandori/Poppipa’s Otsuka Sae https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwUPm-ROzW8). I really like what THE FIRST TAKE is doing here, and I can only hope some Roundup regulars make it on there in the future too :p

      Likewise, thanks for dropping by 😀 And ooooohhh, that’s a really nice cover! I love the coolness and the subtle rasp in her voice too!

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