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

School’s back, and so are we!

Welcome once again to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup! Hope everyone had (or is having, depending on where you are in the world) a nice summer. If you’re back in school right now, well (1) bummer, but (2) don’t fret; I can at least offer you some music to listen to as you toil away with your homework tonight (XD)

If it’s your first time here and you’re not entirely sure what I’m talking about 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.

Stacked list again this time so let’s now wait around any longer and let’s get to listening to some tracks!

ーー

ICE CREAM.
by 竹内アンナ (takeuchi anna)
Long time, no see? 🙂

The last time we featured one of Takeuchi Anna’s songs as part of the Monthly Roundup, I told you guys it was gonna be her year. Unfortunately, that was back at the start of 2020, and I’m willing to bet that that wasn’t anybody’s year. After dropping a single and even going on a small tour since then, she’s made her way on here again with ICE CREAM and… well, not gonna lie, it sounds very different from the sound that we sort of knew her by. Notably absent in this song is the acoustic guitar which, as you’ll hear in the vast majority of her previous songs, is a bit of a Takeuchi Anna staple (I mean, both her Twitter *and* Instagram handle is @AnnaSingGuitar, so you know she loves the thing). Granted, it’s not as if artists aren’t allowed to change it up every now and again, and it’s not as though this song is bad either (rather, it’s insanely catchy).

あふれる/afureru
by Myuk (formerly kumagawa miyu)
I’m pleasantly relieved (XD)

In as many times as I’ve featured both Takeuchi Anna and Kumagawa Miyu (now known as  ‘Myuk’) in the same Roundup, I made it a point to always try to bring up how intertwined their musical careers are to one another, despite how much they have since deviated from being *just* AcoGui stylists. Though in an uncanny twist of fate, the guitar that served as the centerpiece for literally all her songs prior, has also now been pulled back in favor of synth and an overall more “produced” sound. Again, not really something I find fault with when it sounds this good. More than anything I’m just happy to see ‘kumamiyu’ continue to be relevant (with Afureru here being used as the ending theme for a variety show) seeing how her much awaited anison debut just so happened to be for The Promised Neverland S2 (and we all know how that one turned out). 

エンドレスロール/endless roll
by 黒子首 (hockrockb)
YEEEESSSSS!

Hockrockb has been a band that I’ve been very much hopeful towards ever since having come across them last year, so much so that for the 2020 Roundup Awards they came out with my Most Played Song (by way of Champon) as well as becoming my Favorite Discovery for that year. The band has not only now come out with their first full-length album (which I HIGHLY recommend that you guys check out), but they also went ahead and made *four* PVs of some of their new songs on their channel, and trust me when I say I was *this* close to just featuring all three (lol) in the interest of letting more people know about ’em. Endless Roll here is bar none my favorite out of the four though, featuring heavy acoustic guitar focus and vocalist Hori Ageha’s very captivating singing style, both of which I’ve come to love from Hockrockb.

積乱雲の下で/sekiranun no shita de
by クレナズム (culenasm)
See, this was what I was talking about

In last month’s Roundup I mentioned how culenasm seemed to have this sort of dichotomy in their approach to making music, as being a band that dabbles in both Shoegaze as well as a more conventional Pop/Rock sound. In a lot of ways it’s almost like a coin flip as to what you’re gonna get whenever a new culenasm song comes out. In what has been somewhat of a recurring theme here this month, I don’t think this makes Sekiranun no Shita de a bad listen, it’s just… bizarre (XD) in a fascinating sort of way. Like, if you go ahead and bump the playback speed of this song by a quarter of a step to 1.25x, this song all of a sudden becomes oddly reminiscent of Yorushika (which, as we’ve talked about previously too, appears to have had quite the influence on the band). I dunno, something about all this is just so interesting to me (lol)

対岸の彼女/taigan no kanojo
by yonige
Song starts at 06:00, but I implore you to watch from the beginning

Something that Japanese bands/artists do generally to this day (in contrast to the West) is treat music videos as a story-telling medium. Case in point, this PV for Taigan no Kanojo comes in at about eleven or so minutes in total length, with more than half of video dedicated to showing us the scene that puts the song in its proper context. The first six minutes depict a funeral for what can be inferred as the unceremonious passing of a female in her thirties, succumbing to some sort of heart condition. A man, presumably the husband (now widower) of the woman is seen going through the motions of losing a loved one, forcing to appear cheery in front of his peers to no avail. The song (the title of which translates to “her across the riverside”) starts and all we’re made to see after… is grief. Yeah, you can’t not love yonige for this, I feel.

タルヒ/taruhi
by 楠木ともり (kusunoki tomori)
On the subject of story-telling

In her most recent fanclub-exclusive one-man livestream event, Kusunoki Tomori (of primarily Love Live! fame) came out with a unique proof of concept for a “concert”, that involved reading out the lyrics of her songs in the same manner as one would read passages aloud from a book, to coincide with the theme of ‘telling stories through words and music’. Something we’ve talked about in the past with regard to ‘Tomoriru’s’ approach to artistry is that she seemingly places a whole lot of sentiment in the songs she writes. The words she uses all appear to have special meaning for her personally, and lyricism suggest that she hopes to be able to convey that through the music she creates. Taruhi, I feel carries the same sentiments by essentially being a song in the form of letter written in prose meant for someone faraway.

夏霞/natsugasumi
by あたらよ (atarayo)
Ooooooh :3

While I’ve come across their hit song 10gatsu Mukuchi na Kimi wo Wasureru by way of a cover by Kohana Lam. I havent’y actually listened to Atarayo in earnest up until Natsugasumi started playing from my Spotify while I was in the middle of a jog (lol). In a lot of ways I do regret not having come across the band sooner, after hearing for myself how they truly sound, but at the same time I’m glad I’ve now found them. Theirs is a nostalgic sort of bittersweet melancholy that just resonates with you I feel, more so for the Japanese youths/young adults specifically, who appear to be the target audience for this band. Something of note that I found interesting in relation to that while looking up Atarayo is that they describe themselves as faving ‘fed off of sadness while growing up’. Definitely a relateable band to look out for.

ヨワネハキ/yowanehaki
by MAISONdes【102】feat. 和ぬか, asmi
Speaking of Japanese youths and young adults

It seems that one of ways songs get popular over in Japan right now, funnily enough, is through TikTok. While the Japanese definitely use the social media platform the way it was intended (or at least the same way that everyone else in the world is using it), a lot of Japanese artists have taken to the video-sharing service to put out their stuff. Some names of those who have enjoyed the notoriety that comes with one of their songs being used as a viral TikTok are Yorushika and YOASOBI with Tada Kimi ni Hare and Yoru ni Kakeru respectively. MAISONdes joins the fold, with their song Yowanehaki becoming the latest TikTok sensation. MAISONdes isn’t one entity, but is rather a collaborative *concept* across multiple indie artists, the room in which they operate in having been given a name (similar in a way to the now-reknowned Goose house)   

絶対零度/zettaireido
by 月詠み (tsukuyomi)
Chillingly powerful

Welp, it’s that part of the Roundup again 😛 Long-time followers and readers would know that I would refer to this as the Doujin portion of the Monthly Roundup, wherein I feature the collaborative band projects between Vocaloid composers with other musicians and singers. The rise of the likes of the aforementioned Yorushika and YOASOBI has since paved the way for other bands to follow suit, with Tsukiyomi here being yet another promising name to add to the ever-growing list of ‘Doujin’ artists out there right now making fantastic music. Something that sets Tsukiyomi apart from other bands of the same ilk I find is vocalist Mikoto’s singing, which is far and away some of the most resounding and overall poweful vocals I’ve ever come across in these sort of Doujin-oriented tracks. Very reminiscent of Wagakki Band’s Suzuhana Yuuko.

モノクロのままで/monochrome no mama de
by しらぬい (shiranui)
Well that’s certainly promising

Now, as much as I do in fact really love Japanese Prog/Alt. Rock, it’s no secret that the genre is sort of at a weird place right now, where the most popular name in the genre at present is arguably the already-established Ling Tosite Sigure and outside of maybe sokoninaru and Cö shu Nie no one else really follows I would think. Add to that the fact that the other two bands that remind me the most of Shiranui here (namely aquarifa and lical) are bands that have since stopped making music, so suffice it to say it can’t be helped that it always feels a bit disconcerting coming across a band like this knowing how small the audience for it is. Nevertheless, I lean towards being hopeful than not, and I do think Monochrome no Mama de does at the very least instill some confidence for sounding the way it does with its ephemerally pleasing Prog Rock.

MUST LISTEN:
“Endless Roll” by Hockrockb
I’m sorry, I have to do it. I’ve been doing it for a number of Roundups now, but I have to take every opportunity I can to make these guys known. At the very least I want to try my utmost in making sure that some if not all of you reading this now would come away from this month’s Roundup thinking ‘Wow, Hockrockb is actually pretty great!’, because they truly are in my humble opinion. Endless Roll is far and beyond not even a fraction of what the band has to offer, but it is definitely a nice little taste of what they bring to the table. The song is only one of a whole slew of Alternative Rock goodness featured in the band’s first full length album Kokkaku, which dropped just last month. If you liked Endless Roll, I do again highly recommend checking that album out in your spare time when you can. I can guarantee it to be well worth your time.

ーー

The YouTube and Spotify playlists have been updated with this month’s featured songs!

Now enough about the song I liked the most from this month’s Roundup; what songs stood out for you? Lemme know down in the comments section below! Likewise, if you came across a song or a band/artist this month that I didn’t mention, feel free to share them with me too. I’d love to hear what you guys have been listening to this past month 🙂

Don’t forget to catch this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate if you haven’t yet. As some of you might already know the Exchange/Rate is the tandem album review series between myself and Al from Omunibasu.Blog, wherein each month we go and review Japanese music albums based on a certain theme. The theme for the month of August was “albums that (we think) are good to listen to while studying”. You can check out my review of LUCKY TAPES’ Blend over here and Al’s review of Fullkawa Honpo’s Girlfriend From Kyoto over at Omunibasu.Blog.

We also announced in this month’s Exchange/Rate that there will be no album reviews next month (at least as part of this series), and we’ll hopefully resume by October the following month 😀

Maybe I’ll write something up in the meantime, we’ll see (XD)

That’s it for now though. As always, thanks for stopping by. I can only hope you enjoyed this month’s featured songs if not even found a new band or artist to follow. 

Happy Listening~

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

  1. ….. finally, I’m getting around to saying thanks for these roundups, I enjoy reading them and have discovered some good music here, over the past year or so. Of course, our tastes don’t align exactly, whose do? (maybe I’m at the rockier end of yours) Very happy that we agree on Kuroki Nagisa, the woman is a tremendous artist, right from Track 1 on her debut album – bright, original and intensely hardworking. Very fond of Stereogirl, too. Maybe my favorite of the bands that I’ve first heard of through your posts is arne.

    This month ….. the tracks I liked were all in the last half.
    This is the first song from culenasm that’s sold me, there was something missing in their earlier efforts. I don’t know what scale they’re using (not a straight major or minor, that’s for sure), but its odd intervals and not-quite resolutions are fascinating.
    As for Tsukiyomi – good tune, you’re dead right about the Wagakki Band influence, vocals especially but the rhythms and structure too, with keyboards rather than the koto & such.
    Your last suggestion, Shiranui, was great, with a definite tricot feel to it, though not as heavy or in-yer-face virtuosic.
    The one that probably grabbed me most (though it may get old fast, too) was the one from MAISONdes, very cool. asmi’s voice and phrasing, especially the way she ends her lines, is very close to 4s4ki’s, and I like it. Looking further on their youtube channel, I wasn’t always impressed, especially by the city pop stuff. That’s a chance you take with so many contributing artists and collaborations.

    One thing that stands out in all these songs is the quality of the lyrics, and the seriousness of most of them. I hope this is a sign of where Japanese music is going (but probably not …..).
    Thanks again, keep ’em coming.

    • Thanks Jim!
      First and foremost, happy to hear that you’ve been enjoying the Roundup for as long as you have (and for what sounds quite a fair amount of time already too!). Always glad to see a fellow Kuroki Nagisa fan. Very few artists captivate me with their singing the way she does. I wish I found Stereogirl a bit sooner myself, but I’m glad to have found them nonetheless. I’m immensely pleased knowing you discovered arne though the Roundup. They are suuuch a promising group who I sincerely hope can go on to do some amazing things.

      I tend to put all my Pop-ier stuff in the first half of these yeap XD

      I wanna say it’s culenasm trying to please two different sets of audiences that may have caused this sort of ambivalence in their sound. Slowly but surely though they really are finding their groove. (I wanna say it’s a lot of recursive 5ths but I could be wrong)

      Cool, lol, I thought I was completely off-base with my Wagakki Band comparison for Tsukuyomi, but I’m glad I was able to get the point across! And you’re right, I tried to transpose the keyboards in my head with koto and it really does fit.

      Shiranui definitely gives off tricot-like vibes (specifically from all the way back in their Shougakusei to Uchuu days). But yeah, I do love me this kind of atmospheric sound too.

      MAISONdes’ yowanehaki appears to be exception than it is the rule with their songs thus far (given how much popular it is compared to their other songs_, and likewise I do think a lot of that comes from asmi’s vocalizations. I would love to hear how she wound sound as a frontwoman to a band.

      I think the lyrics go hand in hand with the genre in most cases (where the Pop-ier songs tend to have more sing-song-y lyrics to them more often than not), though I do appreciate good lyricism when it’s there.

      Will do. Likewise, thanks for dropping by!
      Hope to see you again in the next ones.

  2. I forgot if I’ve previously made a comment about this band but yeah, Hockrockb is actually pretty great! 😛 Really like the vocalist’s voice and I think that band lines up with my overall taste. I’ll definitely check out that album of theirs.

    Always great when Tomoriru releases new music and a funny thing is that I actually didn’t think that was her singing the first time I took a listen to it lol. I don’t know exactly why I thought that but it was definitely interesting to hear her perform in a much softer tone! Plus, it’s cool to find out about how she views songwriting as a deeply personal thing.

    To add onto that, I don’t know if you heard about the recent (and super unfortunate) news relating to Riru’s physical health but as much as I would assume that she’s frustrated with not being able to dance/perform at full strength, at the same time, it honestly felt reassuring that her solo music career doesn’t rely on her doing choreography (unlike a lot of her other fellow seiyuu artists/idols). She does a great job being a pure singer-songwriter and it would 1000% suck if her physical health got in the way of that as well. But as we’ve seen, like, in her MELTWIST live where she’s just chilling, sitting and killing it with her vocals, I think that’s the best approach regarding how she expresses her music and performances… hopefully what I just say made some sense lol

    At this point, there have been so many songs that have gotten stuck in my head because of TikTok, to the point where it has pretty much become another legitimate source for discovering new music (I’ll have to mostly thank all the seiyuu that have jumped on these song trends like Nagichan and Seriko lol). But yeah, Yowanehaki is actually a solid track and I enjoy the catchiness of the vocals + music. That FIRST TAKE rendition was really nice as well 😀

    Really nice roundup this month!

    As for suggestions, not sure if you’ve heard this one before but I’ll give you another TikTok discovery. I found out about an artist named Rainych who does covers of Japanese songs, like this one of RIDE ON TIME (https://youtu.be/q1F8YWZtEGg). But it almost blew my mind when I found out that she’s actually Indonesian; I mean her vocals sound incredibly natural lmao. And she also made a Japanese version of this one popular American song which just… sounded amazing when you compare it to the original xD (https://youtu.be/pOWuBM2RNmI)

    • Even if you already did, either way, I’m glad you think so 😀 I love Hockrockb to bits, and yeah, if you liked the songs you’ve heard from them thus far then I guarantee their album will be to your liking as well.

      It’s definitely a much different style compared to what we’ve heard from her composition-wise, and as a direct consequences she does have a bit more of a relaxed delivery here, almost in a nostalgia-inducing sort of way (lol)

      I’ve seen it making the rounds yep. I mean, I think the suckiest part in all this is that she’s so young and already she’s having to face potentially career-altering conditions like this one. I can only hope it doesn’t hit her too hard emotionally. Like, she was visibly looking a bit dispirited during parts of Niji 3rd Live, and I surmised that it was because she was made to not take part for most of it. I get what you mean though. Her activities as part of LL! aside, she’s not really an “idol seiyuu” like her contemporaries, and she definitely has another avenue for her artistry through her singing should that be the *only* option left available to her.

      I’m finding about them secondhand through Spotify, lol, I should definitely look into being more in the loop with trending Japanese songs on TikTok XD It was wanuka’s involvement with Yowanehaki that initially caught my interest, but asmi’s vocals were a nice surprise.

      Ayee, thanks man, appreciate it!

      Well, speaking of nostalgia-inducing, Haha! Nope, I haven’t heard from her before, but you’re right, if you hadn’t told me beforehand I don’t think I would’ve been able to tell myself. I liked how you phrased it as “this one popular American song” almost as if you knew I wouldn’t know what song it was (XD I totally don’t btw) On the subject of non!Japanese artists performing Japanese songs though, MindaRyn (https://youtu.be/q8TGietS5Q0) is also one that comes to mind who’s also killing it recently in the anison scene (she’s Thai, lol)

      • Yeah that’s true. Sometimes I forget how young Tomori really is and just thinking about that is not fun. I did hear that they’re adjusting the choreography for the upcoming AZUNA fanmeet but I’m not really sure how much that’ll help her, in regards to the amount of participation she’s able to do. But yeah… I’m sure everyone’s just wishing the best for her 😅

        TBH a lot of the trending JP songs on TikTok that I’ve heard are very high energy, fast, pop, cutesy stuff which… line up perfectly with the kind of music I listen to (lol) so I feel like I appreciate these trends in that regard. One artist in particular, PMaru-sama, is someone I’ve been listening to a lot (https://youtu.be/paoXdQREpYM) and like you mentioned in your post, it’s cool to see indie/doujin/utaite artists gain a ton of recognition/popularity because of all these people using their music in their tiktoks.

        Oh don’t worry lol. With how out of touch I am with whatever’s trending here in the states, I’m not any better. I first heard that American song while browsing TikTok so for me to discover a Japanese version of it on the same platform was interesting. I do find it intriguing that this JP version is significantly different from the original, as Rainych’s rendition is a lot more ‘family-friendly/clean’ in terms of the lyrics lol. But yeah, that Mindaryn track, seeing super talented/capable foreign artists get the opportunity to be featured in anime must be an honor (Liyuu’s definitely another one of those kinds of artists that comes to mind).

        • They might opt to relegate her/them to doing songs on the truck/trolley in addition to more than likely reducing her solo performances to just one if I were to guess. Too bad she can’t really sit down for her songs like how she did for MELTWIST and TOMOROOM given how Setsuna’s songs are (lol)

          That song’s definitely catchy yeah XD I’m mostly in the same boat except think in contrast I end up finding out about Downbeat/Trip-Hop stuff more than anything. Like, on my end I came across BURNABLE/UNBURNABLE in a similar manner and I’ve been looping this song of theirs ever since (https://youtu.be/EQknNi-0x9o). You’re absolutely right though. It’s really neat seeing artists on the come up gain relevancy like this.

          It’s hard for me sometimes to answer when people not privy to Japanese music/culture in general ask what kind of music I listen to nowadays yep, Haha! But yeah, Liyuu’s definitely up there too yeap. Gotta wonder if non!native Japanese artists with foreign or mixed blood is becoming somewhat of a trend considering how both artists like Rainych and MindaRyn are gaining traction as well the latest additions to the LL! lineup.

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