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

/spoiler: this one has a bit of a theme to it 😀

It’s very rare that the Roundup falls into a theme of sorts with regard to the songs that end up being featured, but it does happen from time to time as with this month, as I get to talk a lot about vocal work with most of the recommendations I have for you guys.

Before all that though, allow me to welcome you all once again to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup for the month of May 2020~!!

If you guys are new around here, the Roundup is where –

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.

Truth be told, I had a lot a bit more fun than usual writing my thoughts for this month’s lineup of songs because of some interesting talking points that kept rearing their heads as I continued to type away. It’s one of those times where I wish I knew more about what’s going in terms of audio and sound production from a technical standpoint, but by that same token, I do hope you find my largely pedestrian ramblings on the musicality of the songs entertaining enough of a read. If by chance I manage to make you guys think about or at least pique your guys’ interest on the way someone sounds with their singing, I would be more than satisfied 🙂

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だぶんにんげん/dabun ningen
by 空白ごっこ (kuuhaku gokko)
The Roundup is in the midst of a paradigm shift

I’d be remiss to acknowledge the surge of Doujin Artists in the past year and, if my Roundup features are anything to go by, then this year alone is shaping up to be quite the year for ’em. Joining their ranks in my ever-growing library is Kuuhaku Gokko who, from the sound of it, seems to be cut from the same cloth as the now-highly acclaimed 美波/minami. At the very least, セツコ/setsuko’s raw and unabashed singing style is reminiscent of the 2019 standout, and that alone is already promising I would imagine. The instrumentation lends itself to a more traditional, almost barebones traditional band ensemble, which, oddly enough is actually refreshing considering the genre’s penchant for piano and synth/keyboards generally. “Dabun Ningen” here in particular supports my assumptions from last month’s Roundup with its overtly dark theme, with the lyrics depicting more or less depict a highly abusive student-teacher relationship. Indeed, these are interesting times for Doujin Music.

clover
by Ratrium
Formerly, Groovy groove

Some two or so years ago I made a list of my personal Favorite Japanese Cover Artists and in it I featured the pair of Shige and Mori, both of who comprise the acapella duo Groovy groove. Fast forward to back in March of just this year, the two have since started to come out with their own songs, as they now perform under the name Ratrium. “clover” marks their third official release, following “Jinsei Itsumo Sanyuukan” from last month and “Koko Dake no Hanasahi” the month before that. While Ratrium does not perform their songs in acappella (which is a bit of a shame), Shige in particular does in turn gain a bit more freedom in his synth instrumentation which, when coupled with Mori’s piano work just makes for a clean sound all in all. Speaking of Mori, there’s an interesting dimension present here in her singing after having transitioned from acapella work. It’s subtle, but she distributes weight in her syllables very nicely I feel, and it might be a direct result of having to do the vocalizations for when she sings acapella.

夜に掛ける/yoru ni kakeru
by YOASOBI
She’s great :3

Now, I’d meant to talk about YOASOBI’s latest single “Halcyon” instead (which is sick btw), but then the absolute godsend of a channel that is THE FIRST TAKE went ahead and made a studio rendition of “Yoru ni Kakeru” for us all and I can’t not talk about it. I mentioned it in passing when I first had them on for the Roundup but YOASOBI finds itself in a unique situation as far as Doujin Artists are concerned where singer Ikuta “Ikura” Rira is very much visible to the public eye. Being a member of the vocalist initiative/cover group PLUSONICA, as well as being an aspiring artist in her own right, Ikura is now just announcing herself to the world and I can’t be happier. More so since we actually get to see her sing as YOASOBI this time around. This version is about a quarter step slower than the original (if you play around with YouTube’s playback speed options you’ll see what I mean), but I think with the slower tempo Ikura has free reign to flex her vocal prowess and she knocks it out the park tremendously.

TOMORROW
by BiSH
I feel like BiSH is slowly but surely starting to creep into my feeds

More so after BiSH member アユニ・D (Ayuni D)‘s appearance in last month’s Roundup by way of PEDRO. Not that I really mind it as much, given the Roundup’s increasing propensity to be biased towards Alt Idols the more I get exposed to them. That said, “TOMORROW” gets a feature spot this month because, perhaps rather unironically enough, of how completely non-idol-like it is (of course, barring their uniforms). Not for nothing, but the group does pull off the whole band aesthetic quite nicely in my opinion, and anyone not familiar with who BiSH are might even be fooled for a second thinking they actually are a band. One thing I’d like to point out here is the interesting dynamic we have with the voices of Ayuni D and アイナ・ジ・エンド (Aina The End); with Aina The End’s deep and husky vocals acting as an excellent foil to Ayuni D’s bright and airy singing, the combination of which works extremely well in a band setting like this one.

エピローグまで/epilogue made
by クレナズム (culenasm)
That’s the sound!

I mention Kinoko Teikoku almost every other month I feel like, and while I do know I sound like a broken record a lot of times because of that, I can’t really help it being that I hold the band very near and dear to my hear and I do owe a lot of my appreciation for Japanese Music to them. Of course, a lot of that comes from their Shoegaze sound which just blew me away the first time I heard it and when they themselves stopped making that kind of music I was left searching for it any chance I get. I’ve praised many bands and artists since who came close to the transient atmospheric vibe Kinoko Teikoku gave off whether it’s in the instrumentation like with Hitsuji Bungaku or the vocals like with adieu, but Culenasm, in my opinion, is the one that has come closest to that overall sound. “Epilogue Made” took me back to the early days of ‘Uzu ni Naru‘ and ‘Long Good Bye‘ where Kinoko Teikoku’s Shoegaze was at its very peak. The guitars, the vocals – everything, and it’s so good.

Dear. Mr「F」
by ずっと真夜中でいいのに。(zutto mayonaka de ii no ni/ZUTOMAYO)
If you can, please listen to this with your best pair of earphones/headphones

I know I always implore you guys to do just that for the Roundup every time, but I want to reiterate it once more if only for this song especially. ZUTOMAYO has made a name for themselves as of late as this high-energy Pop/Rock doujin group on the rise, known for their thumping and for the most part agressive ensemble that accompanies ACAね’s powerful vocals. Given the sheer prowess she has shown as also being the group’s lead composer, it might be easy to overlook just how much of a talent ACAね really is. Of course, this isn’t to discredit the hard work she has obviously put in to get to where she’s at now, but I really do believe she’s just a gifted individual on top of that when it comes to her singing. “Dear Mr F” strips down what would be the conventional instrumentation for ZUTOMAYO to just the piano and in doing so we get to hear ACAね’s voice just shine and reverberate beautifully. After listening to this, I recommend checking out the twin piano bathroom (…yeah) set she had recently.

選べない/erabenai
by Shiki
These guys have some pretty chill beats for a “drumless” band

It would be a year and some change ago since I last had Shiki on as part of the Roundup, and in between then and now the Kumamoto three-piece has been steadily active with their releases. The drumless band still, for the most part has stuck with what got them in the dance with their use of Synth/DTM in lieu of an actual drummer, and for what it’s worth I think Shiki sounds better than they already did before. This appears to be a constant narrative for the Roundup ever since the end of last year but yeah no I honestly do believe that a little in the way of vocal mixing and vocal control in general comes a long way. Compared to when I last heard them, vocalist Akari isn’t given such a hot mic anymore, and guitarist Yusei’s backing vocals gets toned down a bit in turn. The instruments are pushed back and mixed a little further back too which really makes the vocals pop and come forward naturally, as opposed to making one louder than the other.

fractal
by arne
Lovely, lovely guitars

arne makes it back on the Roundup in quick turnaround following their appearance here back in March but of course not without good reason. “fractal” is yet another example of the potential that I at least see from the band. Their instrumentation I feel is something to take note of, with their slick guitar work in particular having caught my attention quite a fair bit. The audio is a bit lower/weaker than your usual YouTube upload here so you might have to turn it up a notch or two to really hear, but there’s some reeaaally nice guitar sections scattered across the entirety of the song, most notable of them being the fingerstyle plucking in the verses which are just a treat to the ears. I have high hopes for this band and what they could be so I’m also giving them this feature spot so I can (hopefully) get more eyes on ’em too, or at least, as far as the audience reach of the Roundup is concerned. If anything, they have my full support and you can expect me to sing arne’s praises should the opportunity present itself again.

Continue
by TRiDENT
The revolution goes on, I guess (xD)

The band you guys may know of as ガールズロックバンド革命/girls rock band kakumei (revolution) has largely been a three-piece unit for the past couple of years, but unbeknownst to some they actually started out as a full on four-man band. The sudden decision to emphasize their being comprised of just three members thus felt a bit random. That is until I found out that the band’s original drummer had left back in March. A support drummer has since come in to the fray joining the band’s remaining two founding members. Perhaps in honor of their memories together, the band has rebranded themselves as TRiDENT, with “Continue” being a bit of a symbol of their desire to soldier on with upturning the Girls Rock scene. It’s a interesting premise, given the band’s hyper-aggressive Girls Rock sound, as well as the state of contemporary Girls Rock being largely spearheaded still by bands like SCANDAL and Silent Siren. Is a revolution of the current Girls Rock meta warranted? We shall see.

MUST LISTEN:
“clover” by Ratrium
Back at the start of the year in January, I told you guys that I saw 2020 as potentially being a year where cover artists take center stage, and I’m sticking by that statement 100%. At the very least, I’m even more confident that that’s the case now after hearing Groovy groove – nay – Ratrium’s entry into the Japanese Music scene. I find “clover”, and Ratrium’s music in general as genre defining, driven largely by Mori’s unique vocalizations which I theorize as being a result of her acappella training.

ーー

The YouTube Playlist is updated for all your backtracking needs.

As I said earlier, I really enjoyed writing this month’s Roundup, but I do hope it was equally if not even more of an enjoyable read for you guys 😀

Speaking of enjoyable reads, I’m gonna segue to one that also came out this month. If you’ve been following the blog for some time you might know that Al (formerly of SliceOfAlfredo, now Omunibasu) and I collaborated on a Japanese Music project titled “J-Music Exchange/Rate” back in 2018, where we gave each other albums from our own music libraries to review. We have since resumed this little endeavor of ours this month so do check out our reviews if you haven’t yet. This time around Al had me do a review for Ohashi Trio’s THIS IS MUSIC while I in turn had him write one for ねごと/NEGOTO’s ex Negoto album. We’re also gonna try to make this more of a regular thing from now on too so for sure be on the lookout for these!

That’s pretty much it from me, but before I send you guys off I do want to know your guys’ thoughts on this month’s Roundup so if you liked my featured songs, or if you didn’t, or if you wanted to discuss something that caught your attention going through the tracks, feel free to do so at the comments section down below! Likewise, if you have your own recommendations for the month, throw ’em in there too!

1 thought on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (May 2020)

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

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