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

Yo! 😀

In stark contrast to how long last month felt, April felt like it just breezed by (well, for me at least /how’s it been for you guys?), as we’re now back again for yet another Monthly Recommendation Roundup. The season of new begginings is upon us and, staying true to that, I hope to bring you guys some fresh tracks to listen to as we bring this first month of Spring to a close.

Before anything else though, if you’re new to the blog and/or this is your first time being on the Monthly Roundup,

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 a fun month for Japanese music, all things considered. A lot of familiar names, some Roundup regulars here and there, and even a handful of promising new talent. I do try our best to strike a nice little balance here between introducing artists that you may not have heard of before whilst also hyping stuff just because (lol), so as always I do hope I managed to do just that once more.

Hope you’ve all made yourselves ready by now ’cause here we go~

ーー

weekend
by the peggies
They grow up so fast :_)

‘the peggies’ are a band that at first sight you wouldn’t really think of as a band that has been around for a fair amount of time, until you find out that the Kanagawa-based three-piece began making music as early as 2011 (with their first indies release dropping late-2014). That being said, the peggies have always just been that one band with a bunch of young girls regardless of the time they’ve put in, owing to the fact that they literally were just plain young. Not to say that that’s anything bad, but the notion does allow a bit of preconception with what to expect in terms of their sound which, to be fair, the band did play into for the better part of their career thus far; that is, a very youthful Girls Rock sound. “weekend” takes everything I’ve said out the window (lol), with the peggies now sounding a bit more archetypical, quite possibly in lieu of having since been signed to a major record label.

WORLD IS PAIN
by PEDRO
Such an odd audiovisual experience this was

A lot of it is because at first glance (and subsequently when you first hear them), without really knowing anything about this three-piece Garage Punk band, the vocals standout as being fairly dissonant. It has a very… Idol-like quality to it (albeit with a little bit more grit and edge), which I can best characterize as generally being thin and singsongy, and very unusual to hear accompanied by a live band setting. At the very least that was my initial reaction to PEDRO’s “WORLD IS PAIN” and it wasn’t until I started digging a little deeper into the band’s bio that I ended up confirming my suspicions. Turns out the band isn’t really a band after all, and is actually the “instrument-less” solo punk band project of BiSH idol アユニ・D (Ayuni D) which has already been it’s own thing since 2018. Idols trying their hand at being a frontwoman for a band has always been an interesting thought experiment for me personally, and this didn’t disappoint.

yumeutsutsu
by 赤い公園 (akai kouen)
Not ‘Welcome Back’ anymore, but a ‘Pleased to Meet You’

AkaiKouen as a band is so interesting to me, given this resurgence they’re now having following the departure of the band’s longtime frontwoman and founding member Sato Chiaki (not to be confused with former Kinoko Teikoku frontwoman Sato Chiaki who just so happens to bear the same name). Their story is one that I personally would love to chronicle in my own time now that we have a sort of break-off point between ‘old’ AkaiKouen and ‘new’ AkaiKouen, with the latter’s increase in activity towards the latter half of 2019 which then continued on to this year. “yumeutsutsu” is a fun little rowdy track with a sound that for all intents and purposes isn’t really something you would have associated with AkaiKouen a couple of years back (with Chiaki’s presence making AkaiKouen sound a bit morepolished overall), and is a real testament to the fact that the band’s rebirth came with it a bit of restructuring as well.

Champon
by 黒子首 (hokurokubi/hockrockb)
Her voice just melts

Whenever it’s time to do the Roundup again, a lot of the times there’s really just one or two songs that I’m dying to let everyone know about. Of course, while one of the primary reasons why the Roundup even exists is to do just that, there are moments where I hear something for the first time and have thought, if I only had to choose one song for the whole month to feature, it would be this; and for this this month, it’s without a doubt “Champon” by Hockrockb. The band has a lot of really neat things going for it in this track, with the most apparent one being frontwoman Hori Ageha’s tremendously lush vocal work sure to be the envy of Japanese artists all around (I mean, just listen to that rasp, oh my…). The band composition is also something of note here having an acoustic guitar accompanied by just bass and drums, which I thought was nice as it isn’t something you hear all that much.

ナミカレ/namikare
by ツユ (tsuyu)
*English lyrics available when you click the CC button

A quaint commonality you’ll come across listening to doujin stylists is that, contrary to what someone might expect from the lively instrumentations and vibrant animations used to depict their songs in PVs, a lot of the times they convey very despairing and melancholic themes. I’ve always found this dynamic in their works to be fairly interesting, and I personally attribute it to two things. The first is that the subject matter to which they write their songs on (case in point here with TUYU’s “Namikare”) is that it resonates with the sufferings of being an artist, in the sense that lot of the times these are stuff the people behind the songs actually go through or have gone through at one point in their lives. The second is that the medium, that is to say to have illustrations be ‘the face’ of the songs, allows them to sing about topics people wouldn’t normally talk about in person. Something to think about.

UYAMUYA
by EOW
ngl that closet scene was kinda creepy

I said it before (and possibly even multiple times at that) but City Pop will never not be good to my ears, and will always be a welcome inclusion to the Roundup whenever I happen upon it. That being said, the last time we featured EOW on here would be back in June 2019 and since then the band has come out with their first full album and is now fresh off the heels of their third single release “UYAMUYA”. Laco continues to come across as just very unassuming in her smooth vocalizations as it does sound as though she were singing effortlessly throughout the song despite never really letting the breadth and depth of her voice to dip or falter. Of course, post-production is a thing and all, but make no mistake, Laco is definitely in the realm of what you hear is what you get, as evidenced by the live recordings that she does on the band’s channel (which I do recommend you to subscribe to as she does do occasional covers).

Tonight
by SCANDAL
Slay HARUNA ❤

As much flak SCANDAL about how their sound changed and all that ever since they hit the mainstream, one thing that you can’t fault the Osaka-based foursome for is that they never stop trying to evolve their game despite already being whom many (including myself) consider to be the epitome of contemporary Japanese Girls Rock. For as long as I’ve been listening to the band, I am of the opinion that the band generally does a good job keeping up with the times and delivering a sound that just fits the current landscape of Japanese music. “Tonight”, for instance, I think captures the hype brought by fast-paced doujin tracks like Eve and ZUTOMAYO, whose styles of music has seen exponential rise in popularity as of late. Also, fun fact: HARUNA was, at one point in time, a career dancer, and was largely responsible for the band’s choregraphed movements when performing songs during their earlier years.

MUST LISTEN:
“Champon” by Hockrockb
I thought I had a runaway winner for Prospective Band of 2020 with arne in last months Roundup, but Hockrockb is something special, at least in my eyes. I mean, c’mon, an AcoGui stylist as a frontwoman is one thing, but for her to have the vocals that she has, along with a sold three-piece band setup with Jazz drummer as an added touch? It’s like the band was tailormade for me and my tastes.

ーー

The YouTube playlist is updated with this month’s songs so don’t worry if you missed a song or two at this time. I mean, just coming back here is fine too but, y’know 🙂

I followed through with what I I teased in the last Roundup, but if you haven’t read it yet, do check out the post I made about the book 33 1/3 AKB48 if you’re at all interested about Japanese idols. I was experimenting a little bit with that shortform review format and I did feel good writing that one too so *fingers crossed* I get to try that out with more stuff that I feel like talking about (xD). I’m also thinking about running back some of my older Feature Lists so, y’know, some stuff are for sure in the works now 😛

That’s gonna be it for me now though so do let me know what you thought about this month’s Roundup in the comments down below. Also, don’t forget to drop in some of your own recommendations as well. I’d love to hear ’em 😀

Happy Listening y’all~

3 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (April 2020)

  1. Pingback: Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (July 2020) | Leap250's Blog

  2. Pingback: J-Music Exchange/Rate — THE PARK by Akai Ko-en (Album Review) | Leap250's Blog

  3. Pingback: Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (April 2021) | Leap250's Blog

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