Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (February 2021)

You *love* to see it~

Hopefully that’s the case for you guys, that is (XD), but all the same, welcome back to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup! This is for the month of February 2021, and whaddaya know, the month is all but behind us already. I can only hope everyone is well and good at this time.

Before anything else though, if this is your first time here ー

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.

I have only ever done so spontaneously and on occasion, but I actually tried picking out a good handful songs to feature in this month’s Roundup with a bit of a theme this time around. With this month having been the “month of love” and all I figured I can at least do this much 😀

I’ll be talking a bit more later down below so in the meantime, do enjoy the music 🙂

ーー

魔法/mahou
by Myuk
If she sounds at all familiar, there’s good reason as to why

More so if you’ve been following the Roundup for some time. That is because ‘Myuk’ is actually none other than Kumagawa Miyu herself (thanks to @aCarriageReturn for clueing me in on the rebranding XD). Some of you might remember ‘kumamiyu’ as being my pick for Most Prolific Artist back in my 2019 Roundup Awards, a year where we really just got introduced to the young and VERY promising AcoGui stylist whose vocal stylings have since been such joy to listen to. Something to note is that her first EP release *as* Kumagawa Miyu ended up being subsequently met by the global pandemic wave shortly after, and while she kept herself busy with her song covers in that time, she largely kept under the radar. She has sinced resurfaced with Mahou, sporting a new name, but with a lot of the same sound we came to love her by.

sketchbook
by 楠木ともり(kusunoki tomori)
Like I said before, truly blessed as a fan of her music

I mentioned in last month’s Roundup that my first real exposure to Kusunoki Tomori’s artistry outside of her involvement with various multimedia projects was through her own independent releases at the time, and interestingly enough, she has since gone back and revisited all of the original songs she’s written for them after now having debuted as a proper solo artist. The last song she has effectively re-released to the public is sketchbook, which not only sports an entirely different arrangement (as with all the others), but she also went and rewrote the lyrics for it entirely. I honestly do believe that her doing so just speaks to where her head’s at in terms of being an artist in that, she cherishes her songs and the sentiments attached to them by a great deal, and I do think there’s beauty to be seen there. I really do.

浮気されたけどまだ好きって曲。/uwaki saretakedo mada sukitte kyoku
by りりあ。(riria.)
…You might notice a bit of a theme going on here so far

If you guessed it’s ‘AcoGui’, then you’re absolutely correct! This comes to us by way of Japanese TikTok sensation riria (yes, you read that right), and I’ll be honest, I never would have thought that to be the place where young and up-and-coming talent would make a name for themselves (XD). She rose to fame with her short song covers, and is now on track to being quite the breakout star in her own right thanks to her original song Uwaki Saretakedo Mada Sukitte Kyoku which has since gone viral among the Japanese youths for its themes of an adolescent millenial romance. There’s just something very charming about hearing such a sweet and innocent-sounding girl talk about stuff like love and infidelity that really just tugs at the heart. My advice: keep an eye out on riria. I have a feeling she’s got something here.

別の人の彼女になったよ/betsu no hito no kanojo ni natta yo
by wacci
Because we do try to keep with the festivities every now and again

And by that I mean, this having been the month of Valentine’s Day and all, I figured I should at least try to feature more songs that talk about love and romance. Of course, it helps too that it’s right around this time of the year too that various Japanese cover artists go and do their thing covering the songs that most lovestruck Japanese teens can relate to (the previous Uwaki Saretakedo Mada Sukitte Kyoku being among them). Much like the aforementioned song however, wacci’s Betsu no Hito no Kanojo ni Natta yo, isn’t so much a love song in the conventional sense. It’s more so a heartrending song about a girl who writes to her former-boyfriend back at their hometown, continuing to pine for him even after moving away, and pleading for him to find someone else like she already has so she can finally move on. Yep…. *sighs*

かくれんぼ/kakurenbo
by 優里 (yuuri)
On the subject of heartrending songs…

Here’s another one (XD) that also became a favorite among both Japanese covers and young Japanese music fans alike when it first came out a little over a year ago. I know I’m a little bit slow on the uptake in that regard, but again, I do have to thank this season of love for bringing yuuri’s Kakurenbo to my attention. The song paints a story of a girl leaving someone (seems like a predominant theme here) without any prior notice, which is then made analogous to a game of hide and seek, with the other person left wondering where she went. Now, my apparent taste for angsty love songs aside (lol), the song is beautifully sung, owing to yuuri’s very heartful delivery. yuuri is primarily a cover artist over on YouTube, but interesting to note is that after his song covers, he actually talks a little more about the song itself which I think is really cool.

平行線/heikousen
by Eve x suis from ヨルシカ (yorushika)
Something a liiiiitle bit more cheerful this time :3

Not to say that this song doesn’t bring its own brand of heartache, giving us… actually quite the similar scenario we had with wacci’s Betsu no Hito no Kanojo ni Natta funnily enough with a girl moving out to the city, leaving a cherished male friend back in their hometown. If that wasn’t enough, it happens on Valentine’s Day of all days! Thankfully, the people depicted here fair better (XD). Eve’s Heikousen here is actually his second collaboration with Lotte Ghana chocolate (link to his first collab PV here) and as you might’ve already noticed, he’s not alone this time around as he employs the help of suis from Yorushika. I can’t stress how much I adore this interaction of arguably two of some of the biggest names in the genre. The song also appears to have outtakes from a radio conversation between the two. Something of a bonus for their fans.

hailsham
by arne
They get better each time I see them

I can’t stress how much I want this year to be the year for arne to really breakthrough to a bigger audience than they currently have. I mean, of course, I want that for all the Japanese indie bands that I follow, but there are some that I do cherish just a touch more than the rest, and this Gifu-based twin vocal Math Rock band is one of them. If you’ve been following the Monthly Roundup for some time, or at least happened upon a good handful of Roundup posts every so often, you might know that I’m an absolute sucker for the kind of Japanese Math Rock that you’ll hear in hailsham here. In particular I’m most definitely the type to gush over fingerstyle guitar plucking and airy vocal work, which both guitarists/vocalists Waoshun and Hirame respectively offer in droves. Give these guys a listen if you haven’t yet. I promise they won’t disappont.

メタンハイドレート/methan hydrate
by 文芸天国 (bungei tengoku)
One of the more fascinating pairings you’ll hear of I imagine

When I first featured Bungei Tengoku back in 2019, I talked about how much I appreciated the raw and unadulterated sound that the duo of vocalist Mizuya and lyricist/composer Shinonome Ko brought to the table, but it appears I ended up leaving out an important name in the equation. More over, I wasn’t even looking at the proper formula it seems, as following a brief hiatus that Bungei Tengoku took (so they can focus on their studies) Mizuya would actually leave the band, leaving Shinonome on their own. Except she was never truly alone as it’s now come to light with Methan Hydrate here that her real partner in crime has and always been Visual Director Sumi Aika (who was in charge of directing their first PV). In that regard, it’s honestly quite interesting how the whole thing feels like an art project between the two.

ダンスの理由/dance no riyuu
by 平手友梨奈 (yurina hirate)
She will NOT go quietly into the night it seems

Back in November of last year I featured Sakurazaka46’s debut single Nobody’s Fault, which was meant to serve as a fresh start for the previously-named Keyakizaka46 following the departure of its longtime “center” Hirate Yurina, for undisclosed reasons. Speculations largely pointed to Hirate’s deteriorating health caused by overwork, and a lot of people (myself included) figured she would’ve called it quits after basically casting away the industry the way that she did. However, it appears she has since chosen to answer back to both the naysayers and the like, by pursuing artistry in her own terms. Dance no Riyuu sees the dynamic virtuoso of a dancer bare her heart and soul in her craft, and it’s truly something to watch. Of course, I’m also just glad to see her doing well and in good health amidst all that was said on the matter.

MUST LISTEN:
Uwaki Saretakedo Mada Sukitte Kyoku by riria.
I sense something in this girl. I don’t know what it is about her exactly; whether it’s her “faceless” style, her simple yet emotionally-driven AcoGui sound, or a mixture of both. Nevertheless, I honestly feel that she’s bound to go places. At the very least Uwaki Saretakedo Mada Sukitte Kyoku is quite the promising song to come across from a young propsective artist such as riria. here. Youth, of course being the key word here. You hear me say this a lot about up-and-coming talen on the Roundup, but I always mean it when I say I’m genuinely excited to hear more from them, especially at this stage of their careers where they’re still coming in to their own. riria. does seem to already have a pretty good idea as to what kind of artist she wants to be, and that’s always a good sign. Very interested to see where she goes from here.

ーー

Both the YouTube playlist and our new Spotify Roundup playlist are now updated with this month’s featured songs for you to put up and listen to at your leisure 😀

You’ll notice I ended up doing a bit more backtracking of older songs this time, or at least more than I thought I would when I was first drafting the list for this month, so I do hope I still managed to bring something “new” to you guys the same way these songs were new to me when I happened upon them. If I did end up featuring a song that you already knew, lemme know your thoughts on them down in the comments!

Of course, I also want to know your guys’ thoughts on this month’s Roundup as well. Like I said in the lead-up at the start of this post, I did gravitate more towards songs that talked about “romance” in a conscious effort to make somewhat of a themed playlist, and I’d be curious to hear whether or not this is something you guys would like to see more of in future Roundup posts, and if so feel free to share any ideas you might for playlist themes in the coming months 😛

Speaking of themed posts, we just had this month’s album review by way of the J-Music Exchange/Rate, which (for those of you who are unaware) is the review series that I and Al from Omunibasu do every month. The theme for this month was “idols” so be sure to catch my review of Itou Miku’s Rhythmic Flavor as well as Al’s review of Yanakoto Sotto Mute’s Beyond The Blue.

Tha’s gonna be it from me for this month! I’ll see y’all in March (lol)

Til next post, and as always, Happy Listening!

 

 

6 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (February 2021)

  1. Pingback: The Music and Me Tag – Phoenix Talks Pop Culture Japan

  2. Solid roundup as always! 😀

    I’ve also had a blast following Tomoriru’s solo career, and it’s pretty cool to see her reproduce and reperform her earlier songs like “sketchbook”. Similar to you, “Akatoki” is probably my all-time favorite Tomori song so far and comparing the new version of that song to the STROKE version really shows how much she’s evolved as an artist. Obviously (and IMO) the newer version sounds a lot better but it’s nice to see the different changes and improvements; plus the older rendition has its individual charms. “sketchbook” is pretty damn good as well! Her voice sounds great and that pure acoustic guitar performance was just hella nice to listen to.

    Speaking of Tomoriru, I’m sure you’ve seen the teaser for “Forced Shutdown”… definitely sounds like it’ll be pretty different from her previous tracks. That 15-second preview kinda reminded me of “Seinenki, Akisu” from the Plagiarism album… probably cause of the quick sounds and cuts 😛

    Hmmm, I’ve only heard one wacci song before (“Friends”, which was very upbeat and happy-sounding) so it’s interesting to hear that group do a more… upsetting song lol. Sounds really nice tho!

    Also I heard about that Eve/suis collab but I never got the chance to actually listen to it until today. It’s pretty cool to see those two icons perform a song together and the duet between them, for sure, sounds great. But overall the song sounds kinda different from what I’ve usually heard from Eve (I haven’t listened to him in a while so idk if his style has changed) and while “Heikousen” might not be on my ‘favorite Eve songs’ list, it’s still a solid track.

    Again, great roundup this month 🙂

    A lot of what I’ve been recently listening to has been centered around Idoly Pride (lol) and there was one song that I thought you’d be interested in. I think you saw my tweet about that one Kawatani-composed Yuki Moeko (voice of Ichinose Rei) song, which was definitely a surprising discovery on its own. But interestingly enough, she’s been in the music game longer than when that particular debut EP released and instead went by an alternate alias, Wata Megumi. I was listening to one of the tracks she released under that name (https://youtu.be/j3JEMeDcKDM) and honestly enjoyed it. It’s kinda catchy and it does remind me, again, of a Gesu song 😛

    • Aye, thanks man!
      Likewise, thanks as always for dropping by when you do (XD)

      I think what I appreciate most about Tomoriru’s run so far as an artist compared to her ‘seiyuu performer’ contemporaries is that she’s not really changing her sound all that much from when she started. Not only is she growing as an artist, her continued success has allowed for more robust productions than the ones made available to her when she first released her music. Like with “sketchbook” and “akatoki” for example, it’s the same sound she has always gone for, but it’s even more fleshed out now that she has more to work with in terms of instrumentation.

      I have, yeah 😛 I’m genuinely excited. More so since I can hear some acoustic guitar in the cuts, and I’ve really been wanting her to sort of get back to that sort of sound, lol. I can definitely hear the similarties yep, though I’m also reminded a lot of Maison book girl (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2Wk1NgS118)

      Admittedly though, it was riria cover that first brought that wacci song to my attention. Than and wacci’s vocalist actually went and did THE FIRST TAKE with this very song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK-5SOBPPtg)

      This is definitely a… calmer and slower song than what we’re used to from Eve (and even suis too if you think about it) which might be why it sounds a bit off. I think a lot of why that is is because suis’ voice doesn’t really play well with Eve’s usual synchro-oriented sound I don’t think, or at the very least I have a hard time imagining suis being able to sing to it. Might just be me, lol

      Hah. That’s interesting. I’ve actually listened to Wata Megumi a whiiiiiile back (I think I might’ve even referenced her in an older Roundup /this was the first song of hers that I heard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7qS-_cW5tQ), but I had no idea she had since changed her name, that and how she’s the voice behind Rei! That’s actually pretty insane what XD

      • Mhmm, definitely. And I also think being able to follow Tomori’s solo career from the start, up until now, her growth as an artist has certainly been special to witness.

        Yeah, I can see the difficulties of suis adapting to Eve’s usual style. Even instrument-wise, Eve songs sound a bit ‘rougher’ and intense; I don’t think that’s really a style that’s synonymous with Yorushika/suis. But Heikousen’s still a solid track, like I said

        Ahhhhh that’s pretty cool that you’ve mentioned Megumi/Yuki before! And yeah, from what I’ve read about her, she actually wanted to stray away from the traditional idol image when coming into this whole industry of idols and voice acting. I think it’s apparent in that song you referenced, since it seems like she sings about a young person’s blunt perspective on today’s society/world. Which I kinda find to be a little funny cause she ended up joining the Idoly Pride franchise, an idol project that, to me, is very traditional/conventional (hell, Sunny Peace’s image is basically the polar opposite of what she has expressed in her solo music). But then again, you can argue that she’s a great fit for the role of Rei, who has a more serious and mature personality compared to everyone else.

        • ^ The irony of all this interesting in that regard yep (XD). On the one hand, it could just be a case of her just being who her current management wants her to be, but on the other it could be that she *was* in fact this individualistic sort of artist (or at least wanted to be) but ended up being forced to conform to traditional Idol/Pop artistry. Of course, I always want to err on the side of positivity, and I can only hope she’s happy with what she’s doing now. At the very least, I hope Idoly Pride ends up being all these girls’ (not just Yuki’s) big break 🙂

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

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