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

LTJM-ROUNDUP-MAY21

We certainly “breezed” through another month, have we?
Get it? ‘Cause it’s still sprin-

I mean, really, part of how I’m able to keep track of the seasons is through which anime are airing right now, but I digress (XD) Welcome back once again to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup! It’s now May 2021 and gosh darn it we’re almost halfway through the year again. Crazy that it feels as though we still only just started with this year too, though I’m sure those who have school would like to beg to differ (I mean, hey, most of you guys are on break right now so I get to make this joke :D)

At any rate, if this is actually your first time here on the Roundup 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.

It seems as though I really can’t keep it to under ten songs nowadays (unlike before where I would usually try and shoot for somewhere in between seven to nine features at a time), but I guess ithat’s also somewhat of a good thing in a way? 🙂

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HomeComing (Paradigm Shift ver.)
by AOAZA
“Light before dawn” gets stuck in my head whenever I listen to this, lol

I believe the last time I featured AOAZA as part of the Monthly Roundup, I talked about the band’s use of synth in the majority of the songs included in their first EP, as well as the songs they’ve released subsequently thereafter. It would appear that they have since doubled down on this particular aspect of their musicality in this here alternate rendition of one of their earlier songs HomeComing, which sports an even punchier (almost Dubstep-y) sound in comparison to how it had originally been released. While this direction is most certainly welcome, it’s definite a farcry from AOAZA’s more band-centered approach from a couple of years ago, of which I was already quite excited for. Important to note in that regard is that the Tokyo-based four-piece is VERY young still, so this much in the experimentation of their sound is to be expected.

Here
by HomeComings
Speaking of “homecomings”

Homecomings would be one of the up-and-coming bands that I can clearly recall having begun their activities right around when I first started getting into the hobby of listening to Japanese music. I distinctly remember them for being the only Japanese band that I had listened to at the time that predominantly sang and performed their songs in English, which is really in large part what made them so memorable for me (XD) Though I say that, it was also because they wrote their songs the way they did that I didn’t follow their releases  as much compared to other bands that I’d been following. Not because didn’t sound good (in which they already did), just that I wasn’t feeling the lyricism. Fast forward to close to seven years to today, and Here they are now (pun intended) singing, to my genuine surprise, a song in Japanese!

美しい終末サイクル/utsukushii shuumatsu cycle (Machiya Session)
by JYOCHO x KYOTO
‘Beautiful’ indeed

Last month I got to feature JYOCHO’s collaboration project with Aoi Kyoto Stay, a rental guest house service out in Kyoto, which has the band performing some of their most iconic songs in different areas of the resort villa. The project, dubbed “Machiya Session” is slated for six acoustic performances, with this rendition of Utsukushii Shuumatsu Cycle being the fourth one released. The song is the title track of JYOCHO’s first full album, and as the the title would suggest, this alternate rendition is just as beautiful as the original, if not even a bit more so because of the change in instrumentation. Where Nakagawa Daijiro is known for his peculiar brand of Japanese Math Rock, what he gets to show off through these acoustic versions of JYOCHO’s songs is the gentleness that can be had in a genre otherwise known for its erraticism. 

ユメノ嶌/yumenoshima
by 有形ランペイジ (yuukei rampage)
On the subject of the erraticism of Math Rock

In stark contrast to JYOCHO’s sway-inducing approach to Math Rock, at the other end of the spectrum you will fine the head-splitting use of irregular time signatures as employed here in yumenoshima. ‘YuukeiRampage’ is a band formed by Vocaloid producer and composer sasakure.UK; who is primarily known for his contributory work in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA and 7th Dragon 2020. Something we talked about with regard to the advent and subsequent rise of Doujin Music in recent times was how most of the prominent names in the genre (like say, Yorushika and YOASOBI) stem from the pairing of a a Vocaloid composer/producer and aspirant singer-songwriters, and it appears that YuukeiRampage would have the same sort of origins here with sasakure.UK employing cover artist and KONAMI talent singer mami to do vocal work. 

永遠愛歌/eien ai uta
by squid heaven
If anything, they make in the list of my list of favorite Japanese band names

I will never not enjoy finding and discovering new indie Japanese bands and artists to listen to and subsequently follow. I’ve been doing so now for a good numer of years now, and the feeling I got whenever I stumble across a group on the come up that I would then grow to love is still the same feeling I get now whenever I happen upon up-and-coming talent. I get a sense of excitement, thinking about how I’m lucky that I get to enjoy their music for (ideally) a good number of years. Whether or not that ends up being the case for squid heaven (awesome name btw) of course, remains to be seen, but if anything else, they already have a fan in me here with Eien no uta. Theirs is a more straightforward female-fronted Japanese Rock sound which oddly enough I do find there to be a lack of nowadays, and you can really do no wrong with that I feel.

DREAMY COLOR
by Aqours
Quite momentous, I would think

I don’t get to talk about the Love Live! as much as I used to in the past, but let it be known that I still try to keep up with the multimedia franchise’s offerings (if my banner is any indication) that now has under their stable effectively three concurrently active performing groups. While that in itself is momentous enough, it was never really clear what was going to end up happening to Aqours, the franchise’s second generation of idol seiyuus, once the new generation began kicking into high gear. We might have our answer in DREAMY COLOR here. What this song presents is yet another layer of performance to the already-transdimensional nature of their 2.5D existence, where perhaps this now is also part of the natural progression of LL! idols moving forward. That is to say, them being able to perform as their own selves.

グー/guu
by 東山奈央 (touyama nao)
owo What do we have here?

It’s always fascinating to me whenever established names in the industry, such as Touyama Nao, try their hand at doing more Doujin style releases. Just last month we featured Aimi of BanG Dream! fame also come out with a song that’s much in the same vein as Guu here. One can’t deny that Doujin music definitely saw a boom in the past year or two (particularly amongst the Japanese youth), so I do wonder if this was a conscious decision by the ones that handle the music side of their work to sort of take advantage of the ever-growing trend, or it’s just been something they’ve been wanting to do as fans of this kind of music themselves. Whatever the case may be, ‘Naobou’ does a more than amazing account of herself in this song, in what appears to be a a part of an overall concept album based entirely on the theme of having a day off. 

ストロボ/strobo
by 空白ごっこ (kuhaku gokko)
It’s that time of the Roundup again~

By that I mean we have now again reached the Doujin part of the Monthly Roundup, but you might be wondering, wait is this even Doujin? To that I say, that’s a very good question (XD) It’s only recently that “Doujin” became its own genre of music, thanks in part to the rise of the likes of Yorushika and ZUTOMAYO, when the word itself only serves to represent unsigned independent artists. It was never truly one singular style, but just one that ended up sort of homogenizing the more proliferous they have become. Kuhaku Gokko is very much Doujin, but at the same time I wouldn’t chastise anyone for thinking otherwise. Something I noted when I last featured this group was that they do operate more as a conventional Japanese Rock band (at least as far as their sound is concerned), and that again rings true for Strobo here.

胎児に月はキスをしない/taiji ni tsuki wa kiss wo shinai
by 理芽 (rim)
I do love it when one of my favorite cover artists come out with their own songs

What makes RIM special to me (or at the very least makes her stand out) from most Japanese cover artists I find is that it would appear that she just chooses to sing whatever she feels like singing or whichever song she likes, rather than picking a song that’s popular.I mean, c’mon, who’s out there doing a cover of Hockrockb’s Champon? But I digress. RIM (who I’m half-convinced is nishina doing covers on the side) has steadily made a name for herself with her work, and based on her recent “live” event seems to be an artist with a good grasp of her identity as well as a clear direction as to what she wants to be, so I’m more than happy seeing her come out with her own stuff. Taiji ni Tsuki wa Kiss wo Shinai isn’t again your prototypical Doujin-sounding track, and instead finds itself more in the Math-y Progressive/Rock side of things.

あたしだけだったのに。/atashi dake datta no ni
by こはならむ (kohana lam)
If we’re talking about cover artists that stand out though…

I would be remiss not to bring up Kohana Lam, whose covers all share a… stylistic peculiarity unique only to her. If you were to take a quick look at the titles of her uploads, you’ll notice that she puts “while crying” or “with a lot of emotion” along with the song title, and if you listen to them she really does sound as thought she’s at the verge of tears when she’s singing. It helps of course that the songs she chooses to sing are all heartful and emotional songs themselves, and I guess in that regard it should also stand to reason that her own songs would be just as emotional. I mean hey, y’all know me, I’m a sucker for AcoGui stylists, and Kohana Lam is of course no exception. She’s a bit of a cross between the widely popular koresawa and the up-and-coming riria I feel, so I’m doubly excited to hear more of her original work. 

MUST LISTEN:
Utsukushii Shuumatsu Cycle (Machiya Session) by JYOCHO
Something that I believe to have yet mention either here in the Monthly Roundup or in the J-Music Exchange/Rate is that JYOCHO’s Utsukushii Shuumatsu Cycle is one of my favorite albums of all time, with this title track of course being a good part of the reason why. Nakagawa Daijiro is reimagining Japanese Math Rock with JYOCHO, which is a bit ironic in itself when I’m sure there are a lot of people out there (like me) whose first exposure to the genre was through his work as part of the now-defunct UchuConbini. While some might argue that his sound never really changed, I at least would like to think that there’s a peacefulness that can be derived in the songs that he’s able to make with this band (emphasized a great deal by these acoustic renditions), and if anything else I’m glad he finally found a home for his music.

ーー

Both the YouTube and the Spotify* playlists have been updated with this month’s songs (*some songs are presently unavailable on Spotify)

As I alluded to earlier, it feels like I’m just finding way more songs that I want to share with you guys than I used to with how much I end up having to cull in these past couple of Roundups that we’ve had, where it’s actually getting hard to keep the features under ten. I mean, I’m not really complaining, and if anything it’s a good problem (? if you can even call it that XD) to have because that just means there’s just so many songs out there to listen to and enjoy, right? 😀

Of the songs that I did keep for this month’s Recommendation Roundup, what did you guys think? What were some of your favorites? Let me know down in the comments section! I would absolutely love to know 🙂 Likewise, if you have any songs you want to recommend, please by all means feel free to do so. I’ll be sure to give it a listen.

This month also saw to the first full year (!!!) of J-Music Exchange/Rate which, as some of you may know is the monthly album review series that I do with Al over at Omunibasu.Blog. The theme for this month’s reviews are bands/artists that we discovered through covers of their songs. I reviewed back number’s Love Story, and Al reviewed koresawa’s Shitsuren Scrap, both of which went up just yesterday (at the time of writing) so do check those out too if you haven’t yet.

That’s gonna do it for this month. Thank you so much for dropping by. I hope you enjoyed your time here, and as always, Happy Listening~!

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