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

LTJM-ROUNDUP-OCT

No tricks, just tracks. Always a treat though 😉 

At the very least that’s what we strive for here on the Monthly Recommendation Roundup, to which I can only hope to deliver. Welcome back (and welcome all the same to any new readers out there), we’ve now reached the end of October and also now nearing the end of the year with the first month of the last quarter of 2021 now already in the books. Damn, even typing that just feels insane to me.

Before anything else though, if this is 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.

I notice that I’ve yet again ended up with a five-five split of bands/artists that I’ve featured before and bands/artists that will be making their first appearances here on the Roundup, which is something that happens ever so often here the more I’ve taken to prioritizing introducing new talent over already established ones. Moving forward (basically guaranteeing season five next yea-), I’m actually thinking of purposely doing this now in future Roundups.

Discovery will always be at the heart of why I do this anyways, so I figured this was a better way of going about doing just that, instead of me sticking to what you can consider staple acts of the Roundup. This month is gonna be a bit of a trial run of this idea so if you liked how it ended up, do tell me in the comments down below 🙂

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アルケミラ/alchemilla
by リーガルリリー (regal lily)
These girls’ understanding of Rock is unreal

This was something I remember saying back when I featured Regal Lily back in the first year of Roundups that we’ve had. The band was an early favorite of mine when I first started getting into Japanese music, and while I can definitely say that they have grown tremendously since then, a lot of the things that made Regal Lily a bit of a darling to Western fans is still very much present to this day. I think it’s fair to say that most of that lies in the sort of gap between the band’s unabashed delivery, coupled with grainy distortion and roaring riffs, and the band’s visual appearance. If you looked at a picture of Regal Lily’s members, I doubt you’d automatically think they came out with something like Alchemilla here. Of course, vocalist Takahashi Honoka’s light and airy singing style sounding the way it does probably doesn’t help either.

月に吠える/tsuki ni hoeru
by ヨルシカ (yorushika)
I can’t shake this feeling that n-buna is trying to trick us into not liking this song.

I don’t know why that is. Like, objectively speaking, Tsuki ni Hoeru isn’t really a *bad* song if I were to so myself. It is, however an… off-sounding song, for lack of a better term. The rhythm and the melody are very syncopated. It’s not like Math Rock where the time signatures, albeit seeming chaotic, are all following a measure. Here it’s almost arrhythmic. The stereophonic effects being used pull you away from the music at times, and on the whole the delivery comes across as dreary and uninviting. That being said, n-buna’s crisp guitar work and suis’ soul-grabbing vocals still make me want to listen to this song despite what everything that I’ve outlined. It’s messed up, but part of me thinks that this is by design. It’s almost as if n-buna is going out of his way to test us, the listeners, what about his work do we truly like and appreciate?

嘘つき/usotsuki
by あたらよ (atarayo)
The transposition at the end is nothing short of brilliant

Right around the three minute and fifty second mark of Usotsuki, you’ll hear guitarist Maashi sing a completely different chorus from what vocalist Hitomi is singing. If you’ve been listening to Atarayo’s offerings prior, you might be able to recognize that the lines he’s singing are from ‘10Gatsu Mukuchi na Kimi wo Wasureru‘; specifically the last chorus, which serves as a bit of a climax to an otherwise rollercoaster ride of emotions, much like Usotsuki here. I absolutely love that the band went and wove together these two songs of theirs, as I do feel it amplifies the thoughts and emotions that they respectively have, and the end result is just this heart-wrenching narrative of seeing both sides of a breakup told in two parts. Atarayo has made quite the name for themselves with their melancholic and emotional brand of Rock, and I’m definitely here for it. 

私じゃなかったんだね。/watashi janakattane
by りりあ。(riria)
I said keep an eye out on her, so here we are

If you’d remember the first time I featured the Japanese TikTok sensation riria. back close to the start of the year, I talked about how much promise I saw in both her singing and her artistry as a whole, wherein without a shred of doubt I felt she was gonna run with the popularity that came with her viral hit. I mean, say what you will about the primary medium with which she made her start in, it can’t be denied that this doodle-faced singer-songwriter has put in *a lot* of work in making her music known (just check the amount of short covers she has made on her TikTok). All of her effort now of course rewarded by now being officially signed under a major record label, with her PV debut Watashi Janakattane, showcasing a lot of the things that made her popular; that is her clear and resounding vocals coupled with straightforward guitar work. Also feels.

あなたはさよならをここに置いていった/anata wa sayonara wo koko no iteitta
by クレナズム (culenasm)
Songs like this are what make being a fan of this band so rewarding

In as much as I’ve talked about culenasm penchant of playing around and exploring many different musicalities over the course of this past year, I’ve always known in my heart of hearts that the band do their best work with songs like Anata wa Sayonara wo Koko ni Iteitta. Now again, this isn’t to disparage culenasm’s attempts at trying out something new, but I never really pegged them as being a “fast” sort of band (in reference to their more Youth Pop oriented releases as of late). It’s with these slow-burning Shoegaze-y tracks where the band truly shines, which is funny considering that’s what they started out doing. That being said, another layer that culenasm seems to have added (perhaps as a result of their experimentation) is Moe’s more forward vocals. The band is close to finally breaking through I feel, and this could be the song to do it.

青と足跡/ao to ashiato
by snooty
On the subject of shoegaze

I grew up (so to speak) in this hobby listening to Japanese Shoegaze, so the genre is an easy sell for me as is, and combine that with the fact that a three-piece band of all people is doing it is just all sorts of endearing in my book. The Fukouka-based snooty are relatively young in their music career, with barely even a year having passed since they made their first EP release back in November of last year, but even so the band are already proving themselves to be quite promising as you’ll hear her in Ao to Ashiato. The grainy distortion and the droning guitar riifs are all on point, making for a very atmospheric and immersive song that makes you just want to close your eyes and drift away, as are the markings of any good Shoegaze song. snooty are clearly on the right track with their musicalities, and I’m excited to hear more of what they can do. 

Morning
by OWl
That’s some good Punk Rock there

This is of course, coming to us by way of the Eggs indie music label/aggregator which, as I talked about in last month’s Roundup, has been quite the home for fresh and up-and-coming talent. Again, I highly recommend you guys check out their roster if you like what you’ve been hearing from them so far like I have. OWl is among such bands on the come up, and sees to be a cross between something like SECONDWALL and HomeComings, with both the kind of energy they bring and their penchant for English lyrics respectively. The band also seem to be taking a page from more Western/American Punk/Rock with their choice of lyricism, specifically them singing about wanting to leave their hometown (LOL). I find that you don’t really hear a whole lot of Punk in Japanese music (at least in my experience) so this was nice to come across.

お月様/o-tsukisama
by 輪廻 (rinne)
@ 00:45: Yep, she got me there

Ever had those moments where you’re listening to a song and all of a sudden you’re like ‘wait, let me rewind that’ because of something you heard? It happens to me a lot whenever I check out releases for the month, and when I end up doing it, it’s usually a good indicator that I liked what I was hearing. That much is true when I first listened to Rinne’s O-tsukisama, specifically around the forty-five second mark, where vocalist Futaba breaks into a raspy high note, which I do tend to favor a whole lot. Granted, they’re all young, and this might just be the result of ill-advised singing technique born from inexperience, but you do hear her hit high notes cleanly over the course of the song so I’d like to believe she’s doing it on purpose (lol). Something to note too is that Rinne is yet *another* promising band coming from the Eggs indie label.

沈黙の少年/chinmoku no shounen
by 大橋ちっぽけ (ohashi chippoke)
Here we have an interesting case study

Other than this being one of the rarer times I end up featuring male vocalists (jk), Ohashi Chippoke carries with him a sound that makes you think he’d be more popular than he is. Now, that’s not a knock on the current state of his popularity by any means (if anything he’s arguably doing a little bit above average as far as views go), but what I mean to say is that his music belongs in that category where you wouldn’t think it was out of the ordinary for him to be on a greater level of notoriety than his viewcounts would suggest. This I would attribute to his style being well entrenched into that sort of ‘Youth Pop’ sphere that seems to continue to grow and somewhat homogenize as time goes on. Regardless, Chinmoku na Shounen is testament to how Ohashi might be an overlooked name in the sea of Japanese Pop, but one to stop and listen to for sure.

お茶でも飲んで/o-cha demo nonde
by 八木海莉 (yagi kairi)
A household name in the making perhaps?

I’ve talked about it before on multiple occasions here on the Roundup, but I always do get hype whenever cover artists (especially the ones that I follow) go and release their original work. A lot of that is because most if not the entire reason behind me choosing to subscribe to someone’s covers is is that I like how they sound, both in the style they perform their covers in, and/or the voice they sing with. Yagi Kairi (whom you might know from the anime Vivy – Flourite Eye’s Song) is one such artist, who caught my attention early on with her AcoGui renditions of popular songs, being sung with her airy yet resounding vocals. O-cha demo Nonde sees Yagi make full use of her talents, and already you can see how polished everything is despite this being her debut single, whish speaks to the hard work she already put in. High hopes for her definitely.

MUST LISTEN:
Usotsuki by Atarayo
I’ve been looping Atarayo’s first EP ‘Yoake Mae’ this past month, which includes Usotsuki as one of its songs, so suffice it to say that I have listened to this more than good handful of times already (highly recommend you check it out too when you get the chance). While it’s fair to say that my appreciation for Usotsuki mostly stems from how it forms a sort of narrative with one of the band’s other songs like I mentioned, the song by itself is just one of those songs that puts you in a bit of a mood with how heartful it is. Of note is Hitomi’s crsytal-clear yet almost fleeting vocals, that at times sounds so… fragile that it might break under the emotion she sings with, which in turn is something that you can’t help but feel and resonate with once you hear it. Atarayo has been quite the breakout band in just the past year alone, and this right here is why.

ーー

The YouTube and Spotify playlists have been updated with this month’s featured tracks.

As I mentioned at the top, I’m trying out something new with how I pick and choose which songs to feature on the Roundup, wherein I’ll basically be introducing five new bands/artists every month (or at least try to, to the best of my scouring abilities, lol). Of course, that also means you might end up seeing less of the bands/artists you usually see on here, so what do you guys think? I’m curious to hear your guys thoughts.

Likewise, I’d love to hear what you guys thought of *this* month’s songs. Lemme know if you found something you liked down in the comments, along with anything you’d want to recommend to me too 😀

The J-Music Exchange/Rate makes its return this month, and in case you missed it, Al and I went and talked about albums by bands/artists who perform in a style that’s different from what you’d expect them to. I taked about seiyuu Ueda Reina’s Nebula and Al talks about Fujikawa Chiai’s HiKiKoMoRi over on Omunibasu. A couple of VERY interesting albums in my opinion, so do check it out.

That’s about all I have for you guys at this time. I’ll see y’all in the next one.

Stay safe, and Happy Listening.

3 thoughts on “Listening to Japanese Music: Monthly Recommendation Roundup (October 2021)

  1. Thanks for this month’s interesting lot. Some of them made me think about the arrangments and mixing, and how they did or didn’t help the artists. I agree that yagi kairi has a wonderfully fresh and unique voice, but the arrangement sounds so slick that it might have been a bunch of 60 year-old session musicians sitting back in their easy chairs. On the other hand, the mix on Rinne’s tune sounds a bit awkward to me.
    This idea also gave me a clue as to what’s missing from culenasm’s songs: there’s not much character to the individual playing, as though all the members want to disappear into the mix – there’s no personality, no daring character that identifies the group, makes you think ‘hey, I recognize that band, time to turn up the volume.’ Less shyness, please! Strut more! Not a bad track, though.
    Atarayo does have character, both in the guitar and the voice. OWI does to a certain extent, but they swiped it all from Longman – including the rural scenery – and I’m sorry, but no one is going to be able to compete with Sawa-san’s joyful energy and bass playing!
    I have the same problem with Japanese male vocalists as you’ve had – whenever I make a playlist to introduce someone to Japanese music it ends up having all female singers (except for Ykiki Beat’s ‘Forever’). Recently, I’ve liked Yohei Hashiguchi of wacci, and now I’ve heard Ohashi Chippoke, who also seems pretty good and writes decent songs. Thanks.

    P.S. – you mentioned Fukuoka, which reminded me of a band you might not have come across? SACOYANS. A singer-guitarist named Sacoyan and three Fukuoka aces: the mighty Harajiri (of Hyacca) on bass, Miwako (of Miu Mau) thwacking the drums and Yamamoto Takeshi (of Macmanaman and various other groups) doing some of his guitar Stuff. They have a couple of really good CDs on bandcamp, and a new video, ‘House’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVj33BFSjls

    • Happy to remain interesting, Jim XD
      And yeah no, that’s definitely a neat way to look at out selection of songs for this month. The instrumentation for Yagi Kairi’s song here really does come across as more… mature, so to speak, than what her youth and appearance would lead you to believe. In a way it’s in direct contrast with Rinne, where their instrumentation here really shows their infancy as a band. A lot of room to grow though in my opinion. Reminds me of early Hump Back.

      That’s definitely true about culenasm. More over, I find that to be true for most female-fronted bands, where most of the attention is seemingly centered on the girl doing vocals, who in turn becomes the face and personality of the band. It rings doubly true for bands who play genres like Shoegaze, where the instruments tend to meld together, leaving no room for one to stand out from the rest. Wouldn’t mind culenasm’s Moe to go a bit futher up-front with her singing though.

      I’ve been slowly falling head over heels for Atarayo’s music as of late, which I attribute a lot to just the emotion that comes with their music. Longman is a nice lool here in comparison with OWl yep. Nice catch!

      I can count the number of Japanese male vocalists that I genuinely appreaciate with my two hands… which, I do acknowledge is pretty bad (lol), but it is what it is. There’s just a very specific vocal quality that I look for. I like wacci’s vocals too yeah. Has that AKG-like edge too it. Chippoke has a tendency to skew towards being a bit Pop-y, but his lyricism runs surprisingly deep at times which I thought was pretty cool. Glad you liked his song here, Haha!

      Oooh, I’ve seen them come up on my Spotify once or twice, but I never got the chance to really listen to SACOYANS until now and… I like them a lot, ngl! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Pingback: Listening to Japanese Music — 2021 Recommendation Roundup Awards | Leap250's Blog

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