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

LTJM-ROUNDUP-SEP21

I just can’t stay away man…

You’ll see me venture off every now and again, but what can I say, at the end of the day I keep coming back to these awesome bands. Jumping the gun there a bit, but speaking of being back though, welcome once again to the Monthly Recommendation Roundup for September 2021!

If you’re new to the blog and 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.

The month saw a dip in Youth Pop/Rock (or ‘doujin’ as I’ve referred to it prior), which has otherwise dominated the Roundups this past year, while also seeing an uptick in activity for Japanese bands that I follow. A lot of promising ones have also started making themselves known too, so I figured it’s about as good of a time as any to do yet another band-themed Roundup similar to what I did in the past.

Not gonna waste any more of your guys’ time so let’s get to it!

ーー

ダイバー/diver
by ポルカドットスティングレイ (polkadot stingray)
… Yeah no Shizuku would totally kick my a**

I had a bit of a moment listening to this song. Those of you who have been following the Roundups for a time would know that Polkadot Stingray is somewhat of a mainstay on this blog, earning at least a feature every year dating back to when the Roundups first started (some might even remember me talking about the band as “underheard” back when they first starting out). In that time I talked about how progressively different the band’s sound had since become, which now lends itself to being ‘safer’ and more polished-sounding, compared to their arguably grittier sound in the past. I was on my way to having the same sentiments listening to Diver here… but then I started listening to Ejima Harushi’s riffs and Mitsuyasu Kazuma’s drum work in isolation and I thought, if *this* is a safe sound for PDSR, then they’re in a pretty good place.

brilliant city
by そこに鳴る (sokoninaru)
Talk about a band that never misses

Sokoninaru has been dialed in from the jump, consistently putting out bangers each and every time they release a new song, and brilliant city is certainly no different. It’s always a treat for the ears hearing this quaint pair of guitar virtuosos perform, and in that regard I do think that in itself puts them in rarefied air. I mean, Suzuki Juko’s deft fingerstyle being on par with the best Progressive Rock, or even Math Rock guitarists out there (at least in my opinion) aside, where else have you heard that level of technique be applied to a bass guitar the same manner as Fujiwara Misaki does so here? I rest my case. I feel like I say as much whenever I feature them here on the Roundup, but I really do think this band can make some serious headway if given an inch. I can only hope their day in the spotlight comes sooner rather than later.

杞憂/kiyuu
by arne
Speaking of fingerstyle and bands that I want to get famous

Earlier this year I talked about how I would want nothing more than for this to be the year that arne would finally get the recognition they very much deserve, it doesn’t appear that the band themselves are in a hurry from the looks of their channel activity given that they’ve taken up streaming video games on the side (XD). While it could just be a way for them to engage and interact with their fans, they could also just enjoy doing that sort of thing themselves, and that’s perfectly well and good. At the very least, it doesn’t appear that the band has since lost interest in making music altogether, and here they are yet again with another promising Math Rock track in Kiyuu. I said it back the last time I featured them (and I believe even a couple of times before that as well), but this is a band that just keeps getting better. The rewind at the end is *chef’s kiss*.

きれいなもの/kirei na mono
by Hump Back
Yep, that’s the sound

Something that I’ve been calling for ever since Hump Back released just their second EP was for vocalist Hayashi Momoko to pull back a bit in her vocal delivery, which lends itself sounding ‘shout-y’ more often than not. Whether or not that’s a critique shared by Japanese commenters is beyond me, but I’m inclined to think so, seeing how she dialed it down a notch in the band’s more recent outings. Now, speaking for myself at least, the reason why I wanted Hayashi to mellow out was because I always believed that her voice carries better (and in my opnion is able to shine more) when she’s not singing at the top of her lungs (as evidenced by her short stint going solo). That’s what we got here in Kirei na mono, and the resulting sound is about as good if not actually even better than what I expected to hear just with that specific adjustment.

TEENAGER
by Split end
I can’t help but love this band

More than anything, I think what I felt after seeing that Split end had come out with a new song, was a sense of relief. Often times a band that remains unsigned (either by an indie label or a major record label) for a fair number of years end up fading into obscurity, with said band having to call it quits without even having had their time in the sun. I’ve seen it happen to bands I’ve followed in the past, and suffice it to say I had the same fears with regard to Split end’s fate. Thankfully (or hopfeully, at the very least), it seems that the emotionally charged now-four piece Alternative Rock band from Nara are gonna be sticking around for a bit longer after coming out with TEENAGER here. There’s just something about their spirited melancholy that I can’t get enough of, and I’m hardpressed to think of any other band that’s as captivating in that regard.

夏暁/kagyou
by Leica
Give you five guesses what this reminds me of

If any of those guesses was Polkadot Stingray who we just heard from at the start of the Roundup, then hey, you’d be right (XD). Now, I do always try to be a bit wary making direct comparisons like this, as it can be taken as discrediting the object of comparison for their own merits, which in the case of the Osaka-based Leica would be the sound they bring to the table with Kagyou. That being said, I do feel like if you’ve been listening to PDSR for a fair amount of time (or at least for as long as I have), then guitarist Shimoyama’s high energy riffs should inevitably come across as eerily reminscent of the ones by Ejima Harushi. There’s a lot of similar phrasing too in terms of overall song structure, but I digress. At any rate, while they do say that too much of a good thing can end up being bad, surely promising J-Rock bands are an exception.

君と癖/kimi to kuse
by yutori
lol that beach looks familiar

Seeing as both yutori and Leica are under the same music label, it would make sense that the direction of their PVs would run a bit similar. We’re at the last vestiges of this year’s summer too so if there’s any time to be on the beach than it’s now or never (lol). All jokes aside, the Eggs indie label has consistently been pushing out promising bands and artists left and right just in the past year or so, and I do absolutely recommend scoping out their talent roster should you feel the need to listen to something new (after you check out the Roundup first of course, jk XD). yutori would be one of the bands I’m personally on the lookout for now after hearing Kimi to Kuse. The second I heard Gt./Vo. Satou’s strong and resounding vocals, I just knew I had hit on something special. Looking forward to hear more from these guys for sure.

ネバーグリーン/nevergreen
by 帰りの会 (kaeri no kai)
The switch in ~02:17 is so gooooood

That kind of rhythm shift, made famous by the likes of minami and YOASOBI is something that’s now largely prevalent in what we can call the broader Japanese ‘Youth Pop/Rock’ scene of today owing to the former’s influence on the Japanese music in general. If you’ve been following the Roundup for long enough you’d know that I’ve taken to calling this particular genre ‘doujin’, in reference to this sort of style being reminscent of Vocaloid compositions. We’re now seeing bands, like Kaeri no Kai here, adapt said style of music as you’ll hear in the part I timestamped above for Nevergreen. I talk about it almost every time I end up featuring culenasm on the Roundup, and Kuuhaku Gokko is yet another example of this too, of bands incorporating this kind of arrangement to their sound. It’s definitely a trend that’s catching on and I’m all for it.

ミッドナイトハイウェイ/midnight highway
by goomiey
From the sounds of it, she’ll be alright

It’s always tough hearing about a band where most of its members decide that they don’t want to pursue music as a career anymore, and one member stays behind to chase after the dream. Given the over-saturation of three-piece Girls Rock bands fresh out of high school (and really Japanese Rock bands in general), it can’t be helped that some aren’t able to find success as fast as they had hoped, where sometimes members opt to go into higher education and/or look for a stable job. We’ve seen it happen countless times with promiing groups like Rick Rack in the past, and even Hump Back’s Hayashi Momoko who we just listened to a little while ago also went though this. The same appears to have happened to goomiey’s Hirayama Mai. If Midnight Highway is any indication however, it seems there’s not much to worry about moving forward.

melt night
by miida
That chorus line is POPPIN’

On the subject of members leaving a band to pursue other interests, miida’s frontwoman is none other than Masuda Mizuki, former guitarist for the band Negoto (also a band that I just so happened to talk about this month as well). Whereas former Negoto vocalist Aoyama Sachiko’s foray into solo work still saw to her writing songs much in the same vein as Negoto’s Synth/Pop, Masuda appears to have veered towards a more band-focused approach to her musicality. Of course, there’s still some traces of Electronica here in melt night; primarily the use of autotune to accentuate her singing which I thought was rather tastefully done in how subtle it is. I only come across this relatively new venture of hers as a result of my research for the tribute post I wrote for Negoto, but all the same, I’m glad she’s still making music.

MUST LISTEN:
TEENAGER, by Split end
Split end is always such a hard band to recommend to people. I am very much aware that a lot of that comes from how vocalist Nanami’s singing sounds. Without mincing words, her vocal quality is tinny, shrill, and possibly harsh-sounding for some. You really have to flip a mental switch of accepting her vocalizations as they are, as well as learn to appreciate the better qualities of her voice (the raspy high notes she goes for have a certain… charm to them that I can’t quite put into words) to really get the most out of listening to their songs. Once you do though, I can guarantee that this band will grab at your heart the same as they have mine ever since I started listening to them back in the early days of the blog. TEENAGER only proves to show that Split end is as good as they have always been, and all they need is a willing ear that would listen.

ーー

Both the YouTube and the Spotify playlists have been updated for you guys to go and have a listen to at your convenience 🙂

I had a load of fun with this one, ngl. I mean, I usually do whenever I make the Roundups anyway, but it’s always just a nice treat whenever bands I follow all go and release new songs on or around the same time (XD). Likewise, one of my favorite things about this hobby is finding about new band and artists to follow. Discovery is and always be at the heart of why I continue to do this, and truthfully enough, the latter half of this month’s featured songs are from bands that I’m hearing for the first time myself. That is why in as self-serving as this venture is for me personally, I can only be so thankful for those taking part and are continuing to take part in this journey with me, whether you’ve been following the Roundups since the beginning, or somewhere in between. Hopefully this month’s recommendations were up to snuff, lol

On that note, what songs stood out for you this month? Let me know down in the comments section below! I’d be curious to know. Likewise, if you have any recommendations of your own, drop me a link! I’ll be sure to listen 😀

The J-Music Exchange/Rate was put on hold for this month and in lieu of our usual monthly album reviews, I took the opportunity to write about an album that I’ve been wanting to talk about for the longest time as part of my tribute to Negoto, which you can read all about over here. The band is very near and dear to my heart, making this one actually long overdue, so I’m glad I got around to writing it.

I’m not gonna keep you guys here any longer. I hope you guys enjoyed this month’s featured tracks, and as always, I’ll see you again on the next one.

Happy Listening!

4 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (September 2021)

  1. …… another package of good stuff, thanks. Lots of distortion on the guitars this month! I have to agree with your favorite, TEENAGER is really good – and it got me over to Split end’s U-tube channel, and I realized I’d heard at least three of their other songs. I guess they came out so far apart I hadn’t made the connection, but I certainly have now. And I noticed that the new video isn’t on their own channel, it’s on Evol, which indicates that they will keep going now , since they have a record deal of some sort. (Of course, that doesn’t always pay off – Akasick signed with unBorde and lasted one LP and an EP, wasn’t it? And that Coke song where they looked so embarrassed.)

    Nanami’s singing doesn’t sound shrill to me – yeah, her voice sits very high and doesn’t have a lot of body vibration, or what? warmth?, I guess, but it remains smooth. There’s a similarity to Hitsujibungaku, especially at the ends of lines. And the drummer definitely starts from the same base as Hitsujibungaku (man, typing that feels like a high wire act), but adds far more variety and propulsion.

    • Ayeee, Happy to deliver XD
      Likewise, thanks for dropping by Jim!

      Yup, as young as they might all look, Split end has been chugging along for a decent while now. I *will* say though, that even their earlier releases are amazingly solid and I definitely recommend checking them out if you have the time. Their ‘amamoyou’ EP in particular is suuuuch a gem. That’s true yeah, them being on signed under a label is definitely promising for the band, and I look forward to seeing where they go from here. (Daaang, I haven’t thought of Akasick for a while now, lol)

      I wanna say it’s because Nanami’s high notes feel very… dissonant. Like, they’re natural highs but it almost sounds like a falsetto because of how thin and ‘airy’ it ends up being. I personally love it XD And, mind you, I also love the comparison here with Hitsujibungaku’s Moeka. I would like to also draw parallels here with Regal Lily here too.

  2. I had the exact same reaction to Split End coming back with Teenager, too. They’d been one of my absolute favorite bands for years now (right up there with Regal Lily and Uchuu Nekoko), so definitely didn’t want to see them break up. I hope the deal with this record label does well for them and we get a lot more great music out of it, too!

    Also, yutori is another great example of why your blog is so useful. Dunno if I ever would have come across them so quickly without it haha. Thanks!

    • That’s definitely the hope for them yeah. I would want nothing more than the band to realize success the same way as Regal Lily is now (I absolutely love that they went and had their anison debut)

      It warms my heart to hear that, truly. yutori is very promising, and I look forward to hearing more from them. Likewise, thanks for keeping up and tuning in on the Roundup!

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