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

This one’s for the doujin fans (xD)

I would like to welcome everyone back to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup for this, the month of July 2020, and as I do (and before I get us all rolling here), I would like to wish you all good health in these trying times. I sincerely hope that you guys are safe, wherever you may be as you read this now, and by all means do treat the Roundup as a brief moment of distraction from everything that’s going on should you feel the need. If I can at least offer you this reprieve in exchange for the time you choose to spend here, I would be more than happy to oblige 🙂

If by chance this is your first time here on the Monthly Roundup and you’re not sure what to expect to find on 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.

As I said before the cut, this month ended up being a solid showing for the Roundup’s favorite doujin music artists who, for some reason or another, all ended up releasing new songs over the past month. I mean, Eve’s like, probably the only one that didn’t drop a new song from the ones I regularly listen to I think (lol). That said, I also ended up mixing in an interesting crop of new and (in my opinion) underheard bands in here, not to mention a VERY promising return of sorts for an early Roundup favorite as well.

Suffice it to say this month’s Roundup was a lot of fun for me (as it always is of course), but whether or not this is a fun listen at the end of the day well, as always, I’ll let you guys be the judge of that 😀

ーー

永遠はきらい/eien wa kirai
by 上白石萌音 (kamishiraishi mone)
Sounds kinda familiar right?

If it does, then you may not even be that surprised to know that the music for “Eien wa Kirai” was composed by none other than n-buna who remains a constant presence on here for his being one-half of the roundup favorite and widely-acclaimed Yorushika. The biggest giveaway (at least for me) are the short instrumental breaks that n-buna (and doujin stylists in general) likes to employ in a good number of his compositions that usually come in the form of an explosive chord progression. I call these sections ‘title card sequences’, as they would be the spots during a PV to flash the song title (lol), which also happens to be the case here. What should also sound familiar is Kamishiraishi Mone, who I surmise most of you might already know of already as both the voice behind Kimi no Nawa’s Miyamizu Mitsuha, and just the absolute supernova of a breakout star that she is, having already made quite a name for herself in contemporary J-pop as a youth brimming with talent.

盗作/tousaku
by ヨルシカ (yorushika)
Speak of the devil (xD)

I’ve been trying to put a finger on what it was exactly that I was feeling as I listen to Yorushika’s more recent offerings, or rather, what n-buna and suis were making me feel with the noticeable agressive and darker undertones that they have since chosen to employ in their songs. At first I thought this was a reflection of n-buna’s growing dissatisfaction with Yorushika’s fame (here’s a very insightful video on the matter), but the more I listen to “Tousaku”, the more I find that what’s being conveyed is not so much dissatisfaction but more so frustration. “Tousaku”, which translates to plagiarism (and is also the title of Yorushika’s upcoming album), illustrates the plight of the creator. n-buna speaks of how he is commiting plagiarism every time he makes a song, as he uses words and melodies that people (even himself) have already used in the past. He is frustrated at not being able to create something he can truly call his own. Yet, it is in how we perceive their sound that he believes his art is truly recognized.

MILABO/milabo
by ずっと真夜中でいいのに。 (zutto mayonaka de ii no ni)
Yes, this is a happy ZUTOMAYO song for a change /jk (xD)

That said I don’t think it can be helped that ZUTOMAYO songs tend to lean more towards being angsty and conflict-laden (as would be a sort of norm for doujin music generally, as we briefly discussed when we featured TUYU a couple of months back). At the very least I do find that these sort of themes really do suit ACAね’s harrowing voice oh so well and, couple with the rich and striking piano and guitar work that usually accompany her singing, everything just makes for a beautifully tragic sound alogether. So “MILABO” sounding as fun and cheery as it does is already interesting in itself, given how much of a rarity it is for ZUTOMAYO. Like, off the top of my head other than maybe “Kan Saete Kuyashii wa” I think the song closest to how zany this is would probably be “Inemuri Enseitai” off of their HisoHiso Banashi album. The PV reflects this too which, granted still presents some form of conflict, does do away with the band’s usual troubled heroines with an innocent-looking that actually smiles for once (lol)

たぶん/tabun
by YOASOBI
You never really know what you’re gonna get with YOASOBI

Given what we’ve been able to hear from them, or at least from the four songs they’ve released thus far, this fast-rising pair of Ayase and Ikura offer quite a mixed bag of delight when it comes to their sound. While doujin is a genre already in itself, I can’t help but feel that YOASOBI toes the line between what can be considered traditional doujin music with more conventional J-pop. A lot of the reason as to why I think as much, and I bring this up the last time we featured YOASOBI, is that it might come from the fact that Ikura is already an established singer-songwriter/acogui stylist with a naturally soft and resounding singing style in her own right, which in turn might be something that’s taken into consideration when Ayase composes as a song for her to sing. At the very least “Tabun” is a very laid-back easy listening sort of song much unlike anything they’ve put out so far and is almost a farcry from your typical fast-paced doujin track that if anything really speaks to YOASOBI’s versatility.

アメヲマツ、/ame wo matsu,
by 美波 (minami)
Ayyy, long time, no see 🙂

It’s been a hot minute since we last heard from the early-2019 doujin standout, ever since her explosive debut into the mainstream by providing the opening theme to the anime adaptation of Domestic na Kanojo with her song “Kawaki wo Ameku”. In line with that, I believe this might even be the first time in the history of me doing the Roundup that I’ve ended up featuring minami alongside fellow doujin favorites Yorushika and ZUTOMAYO, and even YOASOBI for that matter, so it’s just a fantastic time for the genre right now. Going back to minami’s return though, interesting to note about “Ame wo Matsu” here is the fairly distinct contrast in terms of the tonality and the general mood of the song when you compare it to her last showing in “Kawaki wo Ameku”. Both songs feature the same central theme of rain, but where we see strife and despair in the latter, “Ame wo Matsu” comes across as a brighter and more optimistic take. Of course, that didn’t stop minami from absolutely destroying my soul at the 03:30 mark.

Marty, My Dreams/marty, my dreams
by Crispy Camera Club
This is, like, really cool ngl (xD)

It stands to reason that the Roundup is the way it is, with links to official PVs being the feature as opposed to maybe just a Spotify link that you can just play and listen to is that I do want you guys to have something to watch whenever you’re on here. I’ve said it before on multiple occasions in the past that I encounter most of the stuff I listen to on YouTube primarily, and more than anything I want to at least relay that experience to you. That said, I don’t typically go and tell you guys to actually watch these, but do let me implore you to for “Marty, My Dreams” here by Crispy Camera Club. Now, it’s no visual spectacle or anything of the sort, and at first glance doesn’t really look special in any way, that is until you start paying attention to the subtitles that pop up during the song. It shouldn’t take you long to realize that these aren’t the actual lyrics, and are instead a bunch of 90’s movie titles, which does match their aesthetic as well serve as very subtle references to what’s actually being said.

秘密 no フィクション/himitsu no fiction
by ドアノブロック (doorknobrock)
Weird Indie bands are so fun to listen to

It’s a shame these sorts of bands sort of went out of vogue in the latter half of the decade, where we kinda saw a bit of a decline to the more ‘artsy’ indie sound the likes of Suttoko Dokkoi and Peroperoshiteyaritaiwazu (now PERO) used to be primarily known for before committing to a change in styles. It’s not totally gone from the landscape of Japaenese music as we do see glimpses of it to varying extremes with lical or vivid undress, but I would draw the distinction here between bands like this that have already settled in to more defined genres (Progressive Rock for lical and Alternative Rock for vivid undress, respectively), and bands like, say, Lapintet from recent memory or DoorKnobRock here who still have a sort of rawness to their sound that you only really get to hear from indie bands. It’s an unrefined sort of sound, not to say that it’s amateurish, but in the more vulgar and brash sense (in a good way of course) as you’ll hear in “Himitsu no Fiction”.

ガールズユースとディサポイントメント/girls youth to disappointment
by カネヨリマサル (kaneyorimasaru)
The lifeblood of Girls Rock is the continuous arrival of new talent for it

While the biggest Girls Rock bands in the contemporary Japanese music are your standard four-man setups (SCANDAL and Silent Siren come to mind), it’s with three-piece bands like KaneYoriMasaru here with which I believe truly captures the essence of Girls Rock; the fleeting springtime of youth, with cherry blossoms flittering in the air, and a pure and earnest pursuit of dreams alongside friends who share the same desires. At the very least that is the feeling endowed unto me every time I hear songs like “Girls Youth and Disappointment” (killer song title btw) from these bands bands who more often than not start fresh out of high school. Their sound might be different, but the narrative largely remains the same, and I think that is what resonates more to me personally. I mean, of course, I’d also like it if their sound was to my preference (as would be the case here with KaneYoriMasaru), but I just can’t help but to root for them whenever I happen upon these sorts of bands generally.

ティーンエイジサンセット/teenage sunset
by Hump Back
It took ’em some time, but they’re here now

Hump Back has now most certainly arrived in my opinion, and quite fittingly so, since the band had been on tour for the better part of the past year (emphasis on “better part” given the current state of things). There’s something about being on the road I feel like, where bands just seem to grow exponentially, both in their sound and in the way they carry themselves, once they get back from touring. At the very least, that’s what I see having happened to vocalist Momoko, who I couldn’t help but criticize a couple of times for her shout-y singing style. In the time since we last heard from her, it appears she picked up a handful of tricks to take the edge off of her otherwise powerful vocal delivery, most notably the addition of a cheeky little growl in her arsenal which you can hear at the 0:15 second mark, along with some very beautiful pitch slides scattered throughout the song (the one at around 00:50 in particular is my favorite) that just shows so much promise in terms of vocal control.

MUST LISTEN:
“Tousaku” by Yorushika & “Himitsu no Fiction” by DoorKnobRock
I’ve always meant this spot in the roundup as my way of promoting a band that I feel more people should listen to. DoorKnobRock is one of those bands, and I reckon “Himitsu no Fiction” should make you understand why that is once you listen to it. That said, I’d be remiss not to put at least one of our doujin standouts as an absolute ‘must listen’ for this month, and as such, I’m going with “Tousaku” by Yorushika. There’s just this subtle feeling of annoyance and frustration that you can kinda feel from the song just by listening to it and it’s so… compelling. Their upcoming album is looking to evoke the same sentiments overall and then some, and is definitely something to look forward to in the coming months.

ーー

The YouTube playlist is updated and ready for your listening needs 🙂

Should you feel the need to listen to even more Japanese music (lol), do check out this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate if you haven’t yet! Exchange/Rate is a tandem album review series between myself and Al (from Omunibasu) where we basically give trade off albums for the other to review. This month we did milet’s album “eyes” and “Shade” by iri so by all means give those a read (and a listen!).

Happy Listening everyone, and ‘Till next post!

10 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (July 2020)

  1. It’s been a time since I’m not here, glad to see you are posting, love you choices for July.
    A lot of what I listen.
    I’ll make sure to not go away again, hoping to see more of you.
    (sorry if my English is not that good)

  2. Read the first line of this post and I already knew this would be a good roundup 😛

    Pretty sure I’ve told you that I (regretfully) have not listened to much ZUTOMAYO but maaaaaan, MILABO was a pretty damn good song. Definitely gave me some Shiggy Jr. vibes, both with the style of music (the violins in the chorus were amazing) and vocals! And if this is what the group sounds like when they make more cheerful music, I’m for sure interested in their more tragic songs.

    And given this is a doujin-themed roundup, I just noticed once again how well-made the music videos for these songs are. Not only the ones where it’s animated and looks incredibly produced but even the live action ones such as Himitsu no Fiction and Marty, My Dreams were interesting and fun to watch. Especially with the latter, as a big fan of the Back to the Future series, I really did appreciate that Johnny B. Goode solo reference (…at least that’s what I thought they were going for lol). I think when you consider the fact that these groups are not as popular as other obvious artists, yet they still have the abilities to make really nice MVs, that’s pretty impressive IMO

    Sick roundup this month 🙂

    As for suggestions, I’ll add something doujin-related with a Koresawa song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gk8eumgzKwM). I think I’m more used to their energetic songs but this one is a great one; I love the vocalist’s voice and they’re for sure a great example of having charming/well-made music videos.

    Also I was gonna ask you about Rikyako’s new song lol, cause the piano performance in that just felt so right 😛

    • Not often that they all put out songs in the same month so I figured I can’t not do it 😀

      That you did (I’ll work that into one of our Exchange/Rate’s one of these days, loljk), and while I did choose to highlight Yorushika’s song for this month, “MILABO” has been the song I’ve been replaying the most out of this Roundup recently. That opening hook just gets me so hype every sing time (xD)

      These are some beatiful PVs that we have here yep. I’m especially fond of Yorushika’s PV for “Tousaku” (something about seeing instruments being absolutely totaled, lol), and ZUTOMAYO PVs are always just a visual treat. Ngl, a lot of those 80’s references for “Marty, My Dreams” flew over my head so if anything you might know better about that than me, Haha! I only pieced together that they were using movie titles as like fake subtitles when I realized that they weren’t at all singing the words that was being shown on screen.

      Ayy, Thanks! Glad you liked this one 😛

      It was actually an Anchan tweet (or I think it was from a Q&A featuring her) that first turned me on to Koresawa because she mentioned she was a fan of theirs, lol, but yeah, I’d usually associate doujin with more energetic tracks so Koresawa is a nice change of pace for the genre. Ah! You might like this then. It’s another Mashup Battle featuring Yorushika, ZUTOMAYO, YOASOBI, and Koresawa (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdflcVyfVAg). I think I watch this one like, at least once a week, lol

      Oh, yeah definitely, “Blue Hour” hands down has the best instrumentation for any song Rikyako has put out thus far. Actually hoping for a PV to drop so I can slot it in for the August Roundup, Haha!

      • Yeah I would love to know/read the lyrics of “Marty, My Dreams” cause I got confused as well lol. I thought some of the English-sung lyrics were referencing, like, lines from certain movies, such as “Marty, My Dreams” itself, but then I realized nobody said that in any of the BTTF films 😛 Still a nice and surprisingly catchy song though!

        Oh damn I didn’t know Anchan was a Koresawa fan! I did see that one video where she covered “Say it”… really glad to know she’s a doujin music fan as well haha. And thanks for showing me that mashup; that Yorushika/ZUTOMAYO combo at the end was pretty epic 😛

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