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#201 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Another quick set of songs, all from this year.

Recycle - MINT Mate Box (2017)

Super neat instrumentation in this song. The beat's a lot of fun, and the bass riff is a great throughline for the song. The vocals aren't overly impressive from a technical standpoint, but there's an enthusiastic energy to them I really enjoy, especially when they transition from the verses into the chorus.

Someday We'll Know - FAKY (2017)

A pleasantly mellow, EDMish pop track from FAKY. The vocals are nicely thoughtful and subtle during the verses and climb in intensity (just slightly) during the catchy chorus. The production is a bit plain and repetitive, but it manages to work due to the song's simplistic nature.

Water Lily - Tokyo Girls' Style (2017)

Tokyo Girls' Style tracks always have fantastically layered production, and Water Lily is no exception to that rule. The sound rarely stays the same for more than a single verse and neatly glides between subdued to intense. The vocals are particularly noteworthy too for their superb harmonization and skillful flow.

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#202 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

JPOP keeps trucking along! Here's another group of songs to check out, all of them "bands" of differing types.

Return to Zero - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (2017)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is an interesting group, one I've posted before. Their style mixes synth and typical band instrumentation into a chaotically frenzied sound, with vocals that bounce between EDM-esque autotune and metalcore screaming. Return to Zero is maybe one of their most energetic tracks yet, with an intensity that is not for the faint of heart--or those with delicate hearing.

Bye Bye - Shishamo (2017)

Shishamo is a solid favorite of mine in the JROCK genre. Their songs always have great instrumentation and enjoyable vocals, and Bye Bye is no exception. Most notable is the absolutely killer bass line that opens the song and continually thrums throughout its entire length. It's a fantastic centerpiece to a wholly superb song.

We Go - Drop Doll AND Just My Way - Drop Doll (2017)

Another new girl band (I know, I know, I have a problem). While I think the proficiency on display in these two tracks is a bit weak, I do appreciate that Drop Doll seems to be trying for a sound a bit more akin to pop rock, a sound particularly evident in Just My Way. I'll be interested to see if newer tracks from this group have a bit more complexity to their instrumentation--a little bit of work could go a long way.

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#203 Edited by Dixavd (2855 posts) -

Just commenting to say I appreciate this thread as my little taste of JPop while I'm mostly out of the scene. Utada for life (but why must her new websites be animated so I can't translate them)!

Online
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#204 Posted by redwing42 (451 posts) -

Would also like to say thanks for this thread. I poke around on here occasionally, and it is super helpful. I've been able to add a couple of channels to my Pandora because of it (Scandal and Band-Maid), though there is so much more K-pop available on that service. Hopefully they will continue to add content to the J-pop side of things.

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#205 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Not a lot of releases lately that I'm super into, so I thought I would go back into some (WAY) earlier stuff that I enjoy.

Kiss One More Time - Tommy February6 (2001)

Tomoko Kawase originally started out as part of a band called The Brilliant Green but tried her hand as a solo artist, Tommy February6, in 2001. This song, Kiss One More Time, is only her second single, but it already highlights her unique visual style--cutesy on the outside with a harder edge beneath the surface--and synthpop sound. She is also known as Tommy Heavenly6, focused on a more pop-punk concept and sound she desired after Tommy February6 not being exactly what she hoped. Both of these personas continued, however, with releases up until 2013. Kawase also released an album under her own name in 2015. Listening to tracks like Kiss One More Time, it's easy to see that she was incredibly influential throughout music, both visually and aurally.

Oh, and Midnight Brown covered this song and ABSOLUTELY KILLED IT.

Fashion Fashion - Capsule (2003)

I've talked at length about both Capsule and Yasutaka Nakata before, but I haven't talked much about Capsule's early work. Capsule, made up of producer Yasutaka Nakata and vocalist Toshiko Koshijima, released their first album in 2001, but the first album that really featured their Shibuya-kei sound, Cutie Cinema Replay, came out in 2003. Shibuya-kei was a new style of music, made popular by artists such as Cibo Matto and Towa Tei, that appeared in Japan in the 90s, usually featuring a mellower sound that often mixed with electronic beats. Capsule was part of the new wave of this style, often referred to as neo-Shibuya-kei. I love some of these early tracks from Capsule because, despite being identifiable as Nakata, they have an entirely different style and sound. Fashion Fashion, despite not having Koshijima's vocals (instead using guest Eel), is a cheery and playful song that ranks among my favorite of Nakata's.

If you're interested in this era of Capsule, I also recommend checking out Weekend in My Room and Portable Airport (which starts to transition a bit more into modern Capsule).

Flower - Bright (2010)

Bright was a Japanese group consisting of 4 female members that tried to infuse some R&B elements into pop songs. Many of their songs feature their smoother vocals and more subdued beats, making them fairly unique even to this day. Flower is my favorite song of theirs, for multiple reasons. It's a beautiful song, with an ethereal production backed by a solid beat that pares extremely well with the gorgeously mellow vocal performances. The video, despite being a little cheesy, manages to be striking despite its simplicity, at least for me. This song is also one of my earliest obsessions with the genre, a song I stumbled into before really being "in to" JPOP. I've seen this video so many times that it, and the song, will always have a special place in my heart. Sadly, this group disbanded in 2013, but they left behind four really solid albums that I highly recommend to anyone who likes Flower.

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#206 Posted by Optix12 (693 posts) -

Not much to add in the kpop department but a few weeks back Frederic came out with a new song which I think is off a mini album that they created this year. It is getting a lot of air time as it is an opening song to a big ish anime happening right now and I am happy that Frederic is getting introduced to a larger audience.

As an aside, I want to thank @wemibelle for introducing me to FEMM from this thread and I was lucky enough to spot them for some reason do a very intimate show in London a couple months back. They are awesome live and if anyone has the chance I thoroughly suggest they give it a go! (At the start of the set they have a couple of roadies carry them out like actual mannequinns which was a silly little neat touch).

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#207 Edited by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Before we get to the new songs, I just wanted to thank those who have commented recently. My entire reason for starting this thread was to hopefully introduce people to new songs and artists they enjoy. Considering how important some songs have been to me, I hate the idea of anyone potentially never hearing something they truly love just because it slipped under their radar. I will continue to do my best to show off a variety of Japanese songs I think are worth a listen, ideally getting them noticed by people who would have otherwise missed them entirely. Please continue to provide feedback on my posts or just let me know about songs you’ve enjoyed recently. It’s always great to hear from you!

@optix12 FEMM is so good! They were a group I knew I needed to post IMMEDIATELY, both for their stylish aesthetic and skillful production. I’m super jealous you managed to catch them live, as I could see that being a unique experience due to their firm dedication to an absurd gimmick. Sadly, that will likely never be an option for me, due to my location.

Okay, now for this week’s songs! I’ve chosen three fairly different sounding songs, each from 2017.

Mayoi No Mori - Devil no ID (2017)

Since I know I have a tendency to post a few too many rock-styled groups and songs, let’s go for something a bit more mellow, shall we? I was fascinated by Mayoi No Mori’s sound when the mellow beat and spacey sound effects started. It’s a very deliberately paced song, picking up in tempo slightly but never getting too fast. This gives it an almost tropical/reggae rhythm that I really enjoy, especially when paired with the subtle vocals. The fact that the group dances around in pajamas during the video is amusing yet still adds to the laid-back style of the song. My only real dislike with this track is the breakdown sections: I don’t think they’re terrible on their own, but they don’t mesh with the rest of the song particularly well.

Lemon - Inshow-ha (2017)

Friend of the site @aurahack is a HUGE fan of Inshow-ha, and it was a post of hers that originally turned me onto the group. It’s been a couple of years since their last release, but they’re back with a new video for Lemon, a track off their upcoming album Inshow-ha Asks You on October 14th. The opening synth is immediately attention-grabbing and continues throughout the rest of the track, joined by a pleasant variety of other instruments (keyboard, guitar, drums). It has that same mesmerizing draw that every Inshow-ha track has, managing to sound both unmistakably familiar and entirely new at the same time. The vocals are on point as always, especially during the punchy chorus. Last, but certainly not least, is the excellent video which, while not as instantly unforgettable as something like Beam!, is still an enjoyable ride through the surreal minds of Mica and Miu.

Blush - fusq (2017)

Okay, Blush is technically produced by an artist in France (according to fusq’s Bandcamp page, at least), but the vocalist is MYLK, who is Japanese. Also, this song is too good not to post! The production is so delightfully playful that it never fails to make me smile and perk up my mood--it’s like an injection of pure adorable energy directly into my ears. The bassy synth line that reverberates frequently during the song is also quite satisfying. MYLK’s vocals are subtle but pair perfectly with the lively composition. It’s also worth mentioning that this song is part of an album called Polarity that is definitely worth a look if you enjoy Blush. The other MYLK guest track, Inner, is another particular highlight.

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#208 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

This week, I’m going to lead with a bit of important news. Recently, Namie Amuro announced that she will be retiring from music in September of next year. She is an incredibly influential and iconic part of Japanese music. Her 25-year career has spanned a variety of genres and styles, earning her the moniker “the Queen of J-POP” for her persistent relevance in Japan. I don’t know nearly enough about her to write anything meaningful about her career, but I did find this excellent video that highlights her prolific history, starting from all the way back in 1992; it’s a fascinating time capsule that I highly recommend watching for the snippets of 90s/00s era music videos. I’d also like to link to my personal favorite Amuro song, Hide & Seek. I fell in love with it when I heard it in the equally fantastic WoW machinima Craft of War: Blind, which uses the slick beat perfectly in time with its action. Namie Amuro has been a huge part of Japanese music, and her presence will surely be sorely missed.

Of course, I’ve also included some new songs for everyone to check out.

Everyday - Perfume (2017)

Perfume recently released a new single, If You Wanna, and while it’s fun, I’ve enjoyed the B-side, Everyday, MUCH more. It has delightfully happy production, with a repeating bubbly synth line that I absolutely love. The chorus is where it shines in particular: a catchy and playful sound that never fails to make me nod my head along with the beat. The vocals are stellar as well, especially the sweet and mellow verses. It’s definitely not the most complex or energetic Perfume track, but it works remarkably well and stands out as one of their better songs to me. The one bummer is that the video, being a promotional tie-in to Panasonic, isn’t available in full on Youtube; however, the track is available on Spotify for those who want to hear the full thing.

Keep It One Love - color-code (2017)

I hadn’t heard a new color-code track since I Like Dat, which instantly grabbed me with its pounding beats and intense aesthetic. As such, I was surprised when their newest song, Keep It One Love, was an entirely different sounding approach (with obvious advertising for Lay’s to boot). Despite being somewhat disappointed in the change in style at first, it’s really grown on me during subsequent listens. It’s a much more subdued song, with smooth vocals and simple production. The verses are maybe a bit too plain for my liking, but the bridge and chorus are fantastic. They just have this lazy flow to them that is entirely pleasant to my ears. It’s a very likeable song, one that I keep enjoying more and more each time I hear it.

Wonderland - Triampersandy (2017)

ring+A+ring, a Triampersandy song from 2014, very nearly snuck its way onto my Top 10 list for that year. For whatever reason, I hadn’t payed much attention to them since then--even though they put out albums in both 2015 and 2016. On a whim, I decided to revisit them and discovered Wonderland. The instrumentation is interesting, switching between a typical J-rock sound and a pleasing, almost-ska style that’s only really missing a horn section. I still greatly enjoy the singer’s voice--it has this mischievous tone to it that always seems to convey her enjoyment in performing. The way she flips between the understated verses and the intense chorus in this track is also fantastic. This is a perfect showcase of this group’s strengths.

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#209 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

For this week, I felt like getting away from the rock/upbeat-pop songs I tend to focus on a bit too often. These songs are all pleasantly mellow and playful, perfect to pep you up after a long day!

Kirakira feat. Kanna - AI (2017)

AI has been in the Japanese music game forever, pretty much as long as Namie Amuro (and even guested on a few of her tracks). This new song of her, Kirakira, has been a pretty huge hit in Japan, likely due to its upbeat sound and positive message. I really enjoy AI’s deeper voice, especially as they are quite uncommon in typical Japanese music. It also pairs really nicely with guest vocalist Kanna, especially during the choruses.

Bye-Bye - Billie Idle (2017)

I still find myself fascinated with Billie Idle’s sound and aesthetic after discovering them last year. Bye-Bye is their best song yet, a delightfully strange and oddly appealing track that I like more and more every time I hear it. It has a deliberate pace that gives it this undefinable allure that I find endlessly appealing, despite having a hard time explaining exactly why. The video, despite being obviously low budget, is entirely endearing as well.

Suga Sweet - FAKY (2017)

FAKY remains the only Japanese girl group I think manages to succeed at emulating the style and production of KPOP. This has never been more evident than in Suga Sweet, a track which feels like it fell straight out of the Korean summer charts. The lyrics are a tad ridiculous, dropping multiple names of sweets in English, but fit perfectly into the pleasant production. This song is just FUN, a perfect summer track in every way (except the timing, I guess).

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#210 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Another two weeks have passed, so it’s time for more songs! Here are some recent finds of mine that I thought were worth sharing.

Blissful Transistor - Shakalabbits (2017)

Shakalabbits is a newer discovery for me, despite being an almost 20-year old group. Blissful Transistor, one of their newest songs, was an immediate surprise. It has a sound that I find evocative of early-00s alt-rock but tinged with Japanese energy and style. The instrumentation is simple but effective, especially the playful guitar plucking during the verses. It pairs nicely with the vocals, as the vocalist effortlessly glides between the slower verses and the upbeat chorus. Her style in this video is also a highlight--an absurdly over-the-top and dated look that suits her surprisingly well.

Dog Days - Man With a Mission (2017)

Time for another Japanese group that sings predominantly in English AND another Japanese group with a crazy aesthetic gimmick. Man With A Mission is a rock group where each member wears a wolf mask (for some reason). They also have an entirely absurd “backstory” that I highly recommend taking a look at sometime. Dog Days is my current favorite song of theirs, a fast-paced track with a catchy chorus. That chorus is easily the most memorable part of the song, but I really enjoy the tight rhythm and punchy vocals of the verses as well. If you enjoy this song, I suggest checking out the other recent release of theirs, Dead End in Tokyo.

Slapback - Young Juvenile Youth (2017)

2015’s Animation gave me an instant appreciation for Young Juvenile Youth’s sound and style. Slapback is not entirely dissimilar to Animation, albeit with a bit more pep. The ethereal production and lethargic vocals are again present, but the increased beat/tempo gives it a much different sound. The video is stylish as hell too; while not as visually impressive as Animation’s stunning CG video, it is a delightfully colorful trip that makes me feel like I just took LSD. If you’re a fan of minimalist songs, as I am, you absolutely need to check out Young Juvenile Youth’s work.

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#211 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Here’s another group of recent songs for your enjoyment!

N.E.O. - Chai (2017)

While Chai may seem like just another female Japanese band on the surface, they actually have quite a unique style and sound. N.E.O. may be their most striking song: an almost-discordant, in-your-face track that doesn’t sound like anything else. The instrumentation, while simple, has an addictive flow and melody. The vocals are the true highlight, however. From the smooth and compelling verses to the punchy English “chorus,” the main singer keeps you entirely enthralled in the chaotic energy of the song. The video is also fascinating, with a vibrant color palette and bizarre cutaways to random actors doing strange things without any context whatsoever.

GeGeGe no Kitarou - Tokyo Gegegay (2017)

GeGeGe no Kitarou is a manga series written in the 60s by Shigeru Mizuki. This manga dealt with yokai (essentially Japanese ghosts) in a fun way and became a hugely popular series, getting made into anime and video games countless times ever since. The theme to the original show, also written by Mizuki, has been quite popular in Japan since its creation. This new version by Tokyo Gegegay is a modernized, darker take on the original fun song. It uses a more sinister sound in its production, in addition to new “rap” verses that try to ratchet up the horror atmosphere. The video also takes an ominous tone, with dark sets/costuming and harsh choreography.

Danger Lover - Nona Reeves (2017)

Nona Reeves is a 3-person male pop group that has been steadily making music since their debut in 1997. After celebrating their 20th anniversary earlier this year with a best-of album, they also put out their 15th full album Mission on October 25th. Danger Lover is my favorite song from this album, featuring guest vocals from Charisma.com’s MC Itsuka. Itsuka’s lines are easily my favorite parts; her sharp rap verses and fun interjections (“She’s a bitch”) are solid additions to the mellow vocals from the main group. The production is smooth and mellow during the verses but maybe a bit too cacophonous during the chorus. The video is also quite strange, with a heavy blur filter obscuring sultry behavior between clearly naked women.

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#212 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

With the impending holiday (in the US at least), I figured I’d make a shorter post this week.

Dreamer - Miki Furukawa (2014)

As a huge fan of dreamlike/ethereal sounding music, the aptly named Dreamer is a delight. The chorus, for lack of a better word, is simply produced, but the bassy riff nicely complements the airy cries of “dreamer.” The rest of the vocals are equally modest but enjoyable nonetheless. I also enjoy the part where the audio drops out entirely, paired with a calm shot of water, before rushing back all at once.

Chotto Yatte Mita Dake - Rhymeberry (2017)

Japanese hip-hop fascinates me, especially as a student of Japanese and overall fan of linguistics and the differences between languages. Chotto Yatte Mita Dake is an energetic hip-hop track with a lot of personality, particularly from the three members of Rhymeberry, and excellent lyrical flow. The instrumentation, what little there is, reminds me of a (much) lighter Rage Against the Machine.

All Generations - Hi-Standard (2017)

All Generations, from long-running Japanese band Hi-Standard, is an exhilarating trip back to retro pop-punk, a song that sounds like it fell directly off a classic Tony Hawk's Pro Skater soundtrack. Both the instrumentation and vocals go 110% from beginning to end, with a video that fits their tone and style to a T. The song is even under two minutes long, just as you’d expect from a pop-punk song!

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#213 Posted by Optix12 (693 posts) -

Figured I would do a quick post as I finally got around to listening to FEMMs new album which sort of revives songs from the 80s and 90s Jpop in a modern style refreshing. There are some really awesome songs on here and it really is worth a listen.

There are not many youtube videos of the actual songs from it but it is on (UK) spotify and on Itunes so you should be able to find sources but it really is a great listen through.

Konyaha Boogie Back - Femm feat Lil Fang from FAKY and Yup'in

I do like how Faky and FEMM seem to collaborate on quite a few tracks, I think even to the extent of creating a different name called FAMM'IN

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#214 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

@optix12: FEMM's new album is okay, but I still wish it had been more original songs instead of covers. I do really like Falling for a Lullaby though, the B-side to the single you linked to. It's a really good original song in FEMM's usual style.

For this week’s selection, I chose to highlight a group of songs with unique vocal performances. As someone who enjoys striking vocal styles, I enjoy finding those artists that bring something a little different to Japanese music. Hope you enjoy!

Everything - Morning Glory (2009)

This vocalist (or vocalists, I believe) has a cadence that I simply find pleasant, particularly due to her punk-esque delivery. There’s also an interesting filter on her voice that gives it a bit more punch, which makes it stand out even more. As for the instrumentation, there isn’t much to say: it’s simplistic and does its best to stay out of the way of the vocals. I do like its sound though, a typical JPOP style with a touch of punk rock. The video also has a great aesthetic, especially the stylish suits the group wears and the crazy curly hair of (one of) the vocalists.

I Will Give You My Heart - Nagisa Kuroki (2012)

Here is a vocalist that has a style that reminds me of late-90s female pop artists, such as Alanis Morissette and Sheryl Crow. There’s an intensity to it that wholly demands your attention, despite its slow pace and overly soft cadence. The rest of the song suits the tone and style of these vocals nicely, with harsh yet straightforward instrumentation. The lyrics themselves are actually quite unsettling, particularly the English chorus. This is reflected in the video, with a stark and creepy blood aesthetic that gets progressively bloodier as the video continues.

Unit 3 - Misui Drops (2015)

Finally, we have Misui Drops with a vocalist who sings with a powerfully raw and throaty style. It’s so intense in this song that her voice sounds like it’s nearly breaking at times. It’s a great contrast to the sweet and cutesy voices typically found in JPOP. This performance is aided by smooth, bassy instrumentation that flows nicely with her voice. A great moment in particular is when the instrumentation slowly fades out for a while before building back to an intense crescendo along with another vocal barrage--it’s easily the highlight of the song.

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#215 Edited by sea_anemone (40 posts) -

Pear of the West - All Unfit

Pear of the West - Radiant Boy Wonder

This is a weird and kind of terrible japanese pop punk band I used to listen to like 10 years ago. I don't think they're around anymore and their stuff is almost impossible to find. I don't know if this is really up to any of y'alls taste, but it's always bothered me that literally no one I've ever met has heard of them before.

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#216 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

@sea_anemone: I certainly hadn't heard of this group, but I only really starting delving into JPOP fully about 5 years ago. As a fan of pop punk, I'm always happy to find new groups, especially Japanese ones. Doing some research revealed they are in fact still around (!) and just put out a huge compilation album in July of this year on Japanese iTunes which can also be streamed on Spotify. Maybe we'll even see more from them in the future!

With the end of the year fast approaching, I'm hard at work on my Top 10 lists. As such, I'm going to make this a short post this week and return to regular posts in the New Year. Keep an eye on either my blog or this thread for a link to the list when it's done!

Sunday - said (2017)

Sunday is a pleasantly mellow track from new group said. It opens with a fantastic freestyle section that is easily my favorite part of the song. The vocals aren't bad either, but I still find myself enjoying the parts without vocals a bit more.

Shunrai - Kenshi Yonezu (2017)

Kenshi Yonezu's strange style is always a delight, and Shunrai is maybe my favorite song of his now. His vocals flow smoothly and effortlessly through the whole song, managing a rhythm that is entirely hypnotic. There's some decent production work too.

Junkie's Revolution - Kitano Rem (2017)

An oddly named song from a slightly odd artist, Junkie's Revolution is intense and singular. The vocals are quite enrapturing, demanding your attention almost as much as the singer's moody performance in the video. The instrumentation goes some interesting places as well.

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#217 Edited by sea_anemone (40 posts) -

@wemibelle: Oh wow you're right. This is super weird. For years I couldn't find anything about them online, and now as soon as I post about them they put that compilation out.

There's some youtube videos of them playing shows recently and I guess they're putting out a new 7"? RAD

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#218 Edited by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

My Top 10 for 2017 is now available on the site and can be found here if you're curious. I'll be back at some point in January and will get back to regular bi-monthly posts as soon as the holidays wrap up. Hope everyone has a good holiday!

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#219 Edited by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

It’s time to return with more JPOP music for 2018! This year, I want to try and post a better variety of songs, highlighting tracks from different styles and genres instead of focusing just on things I tend to listen to personally, such as all-girl rock bands . I won’t stop including songs like these entirely, as I do enjoy them quite a bit, but I’ll tone it down a bit. This might mean I have to go back to some older stuff more frequently, as I can’t guarantee being able to find a good variety with newer tracks, but I’ll do my best to keep things fresh and exciting.

As 2018 is not even a month old, there’s not a lot from this year to post yet. As such, I picked a few songs from the tail end of 2017 that I hadn’t talked about yet. Hopefully, I can throw up a 2018-focused post before too much longer. Without further ado, let’s get to the music!

Never Enough - Koda Kumi (2017)

Koda Kumi is a well-known R&B/pop artist in Japan, famous for her sexier style and image that is contrary to many Japanese artists. You may actually be familiar with a few of her songs, as she contributed two vocalized tracks--Real Emotion and 1000 Words--to Final Fantasy X-2, although they were covered in English for the Western release. Never Enough is a much different song from either of those, however. The production is light, only utilizing some basic piano, which allows Koda’s soulful R&B vocals to take center stage. It’s a fantastic performance, smooth and emotional and full of excellent vocalizations. There’s not much to it, but it makes an impact nonetheless. The video is also simple yet perfect, an intimate portrayal of the artist that suits the tone of the song well.

Jazzclub - BoA (2017)

BoA is quite famous in Korea, known in the country as the “Queen of KPOP,” but she’s also had a lot of success in Japan. In fact, she’s almost put out more albums in Japan at this point, despite starting out in Korea. Her newest album, coming out in February, will push her over that line. Jazzclub is one of the songs off that new album and it’s a lot of fun. The upbeat production actually sounds more like a KPOP track, mostly due to the heavy use of horn that is all over the genre. The pacing and rhythm of the powerful chorus is also reminiscent of many Korean songs. BoAs voice switches from smooth and sweet in the verses to strong and resounding during the chorus. I really enjoy the video as well, set in a dance club with elaborate choreography and flashy outfits.

Kowashite - Drop’s (2017)

We can’t start a new year of JPOP posts without an all-female rock group (cue groans here)! Drop’s has only been around for a handful of years, but they’ve put out quite a few albums in that time. Despite that fact, Kowashite was my first introduction to them. The instrumentation is my favorite part of the song. Right off the bat, I was struck by the tone of the guitars and the slickness of the riffs; it’s an aural delight that perfectly hits the pleasure centers in my brain. They repeat throughout the entire song, stopping only for some slower sections and a beautiful mellow guitar solo. It’s a tremendously composed song that had me racing to listen to more from the group. The vocals, on the other hand, are still growing on me. I’m not entirely in love with the singer’s voice and her harsher delivery here, while accurate to the tone of the song, isn’t quite doing it for me as well as I’d like. Even still, this is a song worth hearing.

BONUS: Ribbon - Charisma.com (2017)

I wanted to include this before I forgot it about moving forward into 2018, as it is likely Charisma.com’s final music video. The song isn’t my favorite, particularly the somewhat abrasive chorus, but I still enjoy MC Itsuka’s verses quite a bit, especially as they are a bit more reminiscent of earlier songs of hers like Hate. The production’s a little meh too, mostly due to my distaste for the chorus. It’s not a great song but it’s still good, and seeing as how this thread started with a Charisma.com track, it felt only right that I include the final video here too.

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#220 Posted by picot (16 posts) -

I know it's not exactly JPOP, but I was a huge fan of The Gazette back in the day. Not sure if anyone else listens to them or enjoys J-Rock instead?

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#221 Edited by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

@picot: I put "JPOP" on the name of this thread, but I've shared a variety of genres of Japanese music. There are a quite a few J-Rock groups I enjoy--Band-Maid, Scandal, Alexandros--and I also have enjoyed some visual kei groups too. I've heard of The Gazette but haven't ever checked them out. I'll be sure to give them a listen, though. They seem to be still somewhat active, which is always nice to hear.

Time for some music that’s actually from 2018! I’m pretty excited about this group of songs, as I think it’s a fun, unique mix of tracks that don’t really sound like anything else out there in JPOP right now. Hope you enjoy them!

Innocently - Tamu Murata (2018)

Tamu Murata is a talented young drummer (25 years old) who has appeared in a lot of different projects in Japan and has a fairly large online following. Innocently is the main track off her album that released last September. The video I linked is an updated version of this song that she performed live sometime this year. While I generally shy away from live versions of tracks, due to the way they often sound different from the studio version, I have to admit that this is a fantastic video. Murata’s pure enjoyment from drumming is clear in every second of her performance, often displaying a huge grin on her face as she drums with lively aplomb. Her skilled, speedy drumming is also a lot of fun to watch in the moment. The song itself is distinctive, an energetically diverse song that mixes peppy synth lines with a variety of drum sounds and solos. I’m actually quite impressed with the synth bits in particular, as I find them pleasantly reminiscent of Persona soundtracks at times. I have a hard time defining this song as it’s rather unlike anything else--a peculiar freestyle drum-focused “pop” song? What I do know is I want to hear more; if you do too, I suggest checking out Murata’s Youtube channel via this video.

Dolls Look The Moon - Gentle Forest Jazz Band (2018)

NOTE: The “actual song” starts at 1:36 if you want to skip ahead, but I recommend listening to the great instrumentation that plays up to that point as well.

The Gentle Forest Jazz Band is a huge group comprised of 17 instrument players, a conductor/leader, and 3 female vocalists (also known as the “Gentle Forest Sisters”). They are likely the most well-known big band active in Japan today, with countless popular appearances and songs used in everything from movies to commercials. Their style is reminiscent of 30s-era jazz/swing instrumentation and barbershop singing, a style that is clearly evident in Dolls Look The Moon, their newest release. The orchestral instrumentation has a phenomenally rich sound, deftly mixing slick guitar, sharp horns, and a solid drum throughline. It actually has a bit more focus in this track, with multiple instrumental sections such as a delightful trumpet solo. The vocals may be a bit underused here, but they certainly stand out when they are present. The trio works well both as individual singers and when singing in harmony, their unique voices each adding something meaningful to the overall production. If you like old-school jazz/big-band style music, you should give this group’s catalog a listen.

New Days - Rei (2018)

I’ve talked about Rei before, both in this thread and on my Top 10 list for last year. She was born in Japan but grew up in New York and turned her appreciation for American blues music into a style that is entirely her own. Her songs often mix elements of Japanese and American music together and feature impressive guitar compositions that are a blast to listen to again and again. New Days is her newest track and it’s astoundingly good. She chose to sing mostly in English this time, throwing in the occasional Japanese lyric or two for effect. The delivery on them is particularly noteworthy, as both their intensity and the effect layered onto them give them an almost overwhelming fierceness. This is most apparent in the “chorus,” where Rei channels a bit of Karen O (lead vocalist of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) in both the sound and power of her voice. The instrumentation is even more impressive, maybe Rei’s most impressive yet. She uses an upbeat mix of bluesy riffs and frenetic solos that clearly demonstrate her skills with a guitar. The first time I heard this song, I was left speechless when the song suddenly ended, unable to comprehend what I just heard. It’s a hell of a ride, one I can’t recommend enough.

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#222 Posted by packerman120 (111 posts) -

It was because of this thread that I got introduced to BAND-MAID, who are now one of my favorite Japanese bands, so this thread is awesome. Speaking of them, I really like this song.

DOMINATION

And I believe they have a new album coming out soon. Very excited.

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#223 Edited by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

@packerman120: Their new album, World Domination, is fantastic. I’m particularly fond of I Can’t Live Without You, Play, Turn Me On, and DICE, but the whole album is pretty damn great. There’s some excellent, and varied, vocal work, and it has the best instrumentation the group has produced yet (especially those drums!). It’s on Spotify now (link is for US Spotify) and I highly recommend the entire album to anyone who has enjoyed the group in the past.

The three songs for this week aren’t from 2018, but they jumped out at me as I was choosing for this post so I decided to use them. And not one of them is a rock song!

ChuChu - Moumoon (2011)

Moumoon is a duo comprised of YUKA, the vocalist, and Kousuke Masaki on guitar. They have been around for over a decade, releasing tracks in a variety of styles. ChuChu, released in 2011, uses a laid-back retro-pop sound that is incredibly pleasant. The production is simple but undeniably charming, with a solid beat to tap your foot or nod you head to. The verses are great, but the chorus is where this song shines. It’s almost unbearably cute and absurdly catchy, especially being in English. This is one of those songs that bores its way into my head for a week or two once I hear it again, making me hum/sing it to myself CONSTANTLY until it finally fades away. The video is simplistic, but the concept works perfectly with the song, especially due to the entertaining actions and reactions from YUKA.

Letter - Yosi Horikawa (2014)

Yosi Horikawa is a little-known indie electronic producer based in Chiba, Japan; the only reason I even know his music exists is because I happened to stumble upon it in my weekly perusal of Japanese music. He makes music to lose yourself in, immersing you in wonderfully deep sounds that make expert use of soundstaging. Letter is a perfect example of this, utilizing the sounds of rustling paper, scratching pens, and other writing sounds to evoke the spirit of the song’s title. It’s a minimalist track, but it uses its soundstage to make it feel so much bigger than it actually is, filling your headphones with beautiful production. I can’t really do it justice; it’s something you just have to hear. If you like this, be sure to check out the rest of the album Vapor on Bandcamp; it’s filled with more great tracks just like this one.

Hiking - Rhymeberry (2016)

Rhymeberry, as you may guess from the name, is a hip-hop/rap group. They were established in 2011 but only one of the original members remain. The group is currently a duo, with the other members having graduated or moved on from the group. Hiking is a fun track that delightfully captures the spirit of its subject matter both lyrically and visually. The highlight of this song is the rhythm of both the production and the vocals, with each flowing smoothly along with the other. I particularly like the almost-marching beat-esque drums. The verses are great, although I do prefer the blonde’s deeper voice and sharper delivery a bit more. The chorus is enjoyably adorable, if a bit repetitive. I also like how the video follows along nicely with the vocals, making good use of props and excellent timing from the duo.

BONUS: Hands Up!!! If You’re Awesome - Ryuchell (2018)

I’m not a huge fan of the way this song sounds, but the video is ASTOUNDING. It perfectly captures the look and feel of an 80s Japanese music video in every way and I had to share it with someone.

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#224 Edited by GenericBrotagonist (357 posts) -

I really like the song Sayonara Elegy by Masaki Suda from the currently airing drama Todome no Kiss. Looks like Sony Japan is blocking all the youtube links outside of Japan though, so I guess I'll post one of the dozens of covers.

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#225 Posted by jewunit (1128 posts) -

I don't have much to add here other than that Wednesday Campanella is pretty good. I like her song 'Aladdin' a lot and she says, "Stan Hansen lariato" in...'Diablo', I think.

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#226 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Bit behind on these posts due to an unexpected illness making me somewhat uninterested in listening to music. Still feeling a bit under the weather so this week's post will be a bit lighter than usual too. Hope everyone enjoys my selection.

Hizumi - Haruhi (2016)

The first single from Japanese-American Haruhi, which was also used as the theme for a movie. It's a very light and simple but gives a nicely peaceful feeling while expressing a good deal of emotion.

Waiting for the Few - IMOCD! (2018)

This is the first video from IMOCD! and it's a striking one. This song is incredibly chill and spacey, reminding me a lot of a David Bowie song. The vocals are in English but the song still feels very Japanese.

Tadashi, BGM - Nigami17 (2018)

I can't find much about this group, but this song was immediately catchy for me. It has a great beat and rhythm, and the weird repeating lyrics are a lot of fun. Really like how mellow it is too.

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#227 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Time for more music! Going forward, I should be back on schedule for the most part, posting (at least) three new songs bimonthy for everyone’s perusal. This week, I found three songs that are a bit different than the usual things I post, so I figured I’d give them a shot here.

Jam Studio - Afra x Chinza Dopeness x Mamiko x Kojoe (2018)

Jam Studio is a release featuring four artists collaborating together: Afra, a semi well-known beatboxer out of Osaka; Chinza Dopeness, a funny rapper-performer known for his smooth flow; Mamiko, one half of rap-duo Chelmico; and Kojoe, a billingual rapper who strives to integrate Western and Eastern styles of rap music. This track is somewhat unique due to the fact that the only “production” is provided from Afra, whose slick beatbox performance gives the beat and melody for the other three to rap over. Each of those three delivers impressive verses, highlighting their individual strengths while also managing to compliment the others and feel cohesive at the same time. My favorite is Mamiko’s verse: the tone of her voice and mellow delivery create a pleasantly hypnotic flow that I nod along to every time I hear it.

Bad Kicks - DYGL (2018)

DYGL (which stands for Dayglo) is a relatively unknown Japanese indie rock group that is starting to gain some traction thanks to their upcoming first full album, Say Goodbye to Memory Den. Bad Kicks, which is from that album, is a delightfully UK-punk inspired track that doesn’t really sound like anything else in modern Japanese rock. It features simplistic instrumentation, albeit with a catchy little main riff, and somewhat abrasive vocals, especially during the chorus. It’s a short, intense ride that delivers its style and message succinctly. This song features a much different direction than the group’s previous singles, which felt decidedly more “Japanese” and didn’t stand out. Bad Kicks is a striking track that represents a much more interesting potential direction for the group, one I hope they pursue.

Wakarimasen - Miyachi (2018)

Miyachi is a newcomer on the scene, a talented New York-born rapper who utilizes both English and Japanese in his songs. One of the trademarks of his style is how proficient he is at using both, often switching between the two with lightning speed and even in the middle of a verse sometimes. His whole image radiates typical rapper swagger; for example, his homepage, named kingmiyachi.com, immediately displays him giving two middle fingers. He manages to earn this swagger (for the most part) with his stellar flow and production. Wakarimasen is a great example of his abilities, particularly his talent for smoothly jumping between Japanese and English while retaining his superb flow. The lyrics are a bit generic and predictable, but they work for me due to their at-odds nature with his bilingual nature and place of birth. Plus, the song (and video) is just funny and enjoyable.

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#228 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Another two weeks, another three songs. No real theme to this week--just some stuff from this year I've enjoyed.

Tokyo Lights - Monkey Majik (2018)

Monkey Majik is a long-running group fronted by two Canadian brothers, Maynard and Blaise Plant, and backed up by a Japanese drummer (Tax) and bassist (Dick). This group, as well as both brothers individually, are fairly well-known in Japan for their numerous releases in the music industry; it’s not a stretch to count them among the most acclaimed “Western” artists making Japanese music today. Although their catalog has some diversity to its sound, Tokyo Lights is indicative of their usual style and tone. The production on this track is not noteworthy--it flows well but is simplistic in composition. The focus is instead on the vocals, which are easily the most striking thing about the track (as with most of their tracks). Not only are they stellar and full of emotion, but also sound very unlike most Japanese songs, mostly due to the more Western vocal styles/tones of the brothers which are atypical in Japanese pop. The video’s also not too bad, showing off some pretty bits of Tokyo, including the Robot Restaurant that has now been in countless videos.

Rocket Girl - Mismope (2018)

A two-piece self-described “moped band,” Mismope is comprised of Izumi (keyboard and vocals) and Noriyo (drums and backing vocals). They are a relatively new group who sport a soft, affable aesthetic and are becoming known for their exciting and fun live performances. Rocket Girl is the first song of theirs I heard and I was instantly hooked. It has a bit of a spacy sound to it, particularly the ethereal synth lines that punctuate the chorus. This sound fits the lyrics and video perfectly, also being space-themed. The verses are perfectly fine, but the chorus is where things really get catchy: despite its incredibly simple repetition of “rocket, rocket, rocket girl,” the delivery has burrowed its way into my head for weeks. I also love the look of the video, oversaturated and with a fuzzy filter on top. There’s even some delicious vaporwave aesthetics from time to time, with a cheap yet charmingly cheesy green screen effect.

Camelia - Mili (2018)

Mili is a rather unique indie group, even by Japan’s standards. They are made up of six members, four of which make the music while the other two manage the behind the scenes work. The band features momocashew (vocalist), Yamato Kasai/HAMO (guitarist), Yukihito Mitomo (bassist), and Shoto Yoshida (drummer). Many of them have classical training, and their music features a diverse mix of classical styles and more modern sounds. Also noteworthy is the vocalist’s trilingual talents, singing songs in Japanese, Chinese, and English. Camelia is in English and is off the group’s upcoming album. The instrumentals are absolutely gorgeous from everyone involved, especially the guest performers. The Latin sound of the song comes to life thanks to the sounds of a violin, cello, and even bandoneon (the accordion-looking thing). Where the song really shines, however, is in the vocal performance. It is absolutely breathtaking and arresting in its unique delivery via the clear and evocative voice of momocashew. These vocals are not only performed beautifully, but they are also packed with meaning and emotion. The simple video ties it all together, highlighting all the top-notch performances in a stark yet apt visual style.

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#230 Posted by llamaegg (246 posts) -

As always, thanks for keeping this thread updated! I absolutely adore popping through stuff I've missed, and probably would have never stumbled across. Like, holy smokes, Mili is fantastic, their new album was a trip, and Momocashew's voice vocals gives me shivers.

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#231 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

@llamaegg: Glad you enjoy it! It's always nice to hear that people are making use of this thread, as it sometimes feels like I'm talking to no one with these posts.

Time for more songs!

Let It Punk - Hey-Smith (2017)

A ska-punk band originating in Osaka in 2006, Hey-Smith is a group that has been steadily gaining in popularity for years. The current lineup is comprised of Igari (guitar/vocals), Yuji (bass), Task-n (drums), Mitsuru (saxophone), Kanasu (trombone), and Ken (trumpet). Some of their tracks tend more towards traditional punk, but Let It Punk is an example of their sound when it leans hard into the ska . This track has a relentless, in-your-face energy driven by the manic guitar chord progressions and pounding drums. When the chorus hits, the energy reaches its frenetic peak: the horns join in and everyone sings along and the intensity becomes almost overwhelming--but in a good way! The video matches this intensity with rapid cuts, flashy text effects, and lively camera mugging from the band members.

Kirameki Dancin' - Bradio (2018)

Bradio is an indie Japanese rock band that mixes disco, funk, and soul elements into their music. Their name is actually an acronym that stands for “Break the Rule And Do Image On,” which refers to their desire to stand out from the norm but to do so in a positive manner. The main core of the group consists of Takaaki Shingyoji (vocals), Soichi Ohyama (guitar/backup vocals), and Ryosuke Sakai (bass/backup vocals). For Kirameki Dancin’, the group brought in a bunch of extra musicians--including horn/bongo players and backup singers--to achieve a grander sound. The end result is an incredibly funky track that drips with panache. Instrumentally, this song nails its style inspirations, creating an evocative and enjoyable experience. The guitar solo is especially noteworthy, a screaming yet smooth 30 seconds of bliss. Shingyoji’s vocals are also slick as hell, using a throaty style of singing that is a bit strange but perfectly suits a song like this. He especially nails his performance in the video, sliding around with a swagger he earns with his rad dance moves and contagious energy.

Kemuri (Retune) - Mondo Grosso (2018)

Mondo Grosso, real name Shinichi Osawa, has been producing electronic music for over 25 years, working with countless artists in the industry as well as releasing plenty of his own music. You may know him from the original Lumines soundtrack, which he both produced all the songs on and included a few of his own creation; the most noteworthy of these being Shinin’, the very first track and one of the best in the game (at least, in my opinion). After 2017’s Labyrinth, which ended up on my Top 10 list for that year, I started to listen to more of his music. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with his skillful beat production and great collaborations. I’ve been listening to his new album Attune/Detune since it released and wanted to share my (maybe? not sure yet) favorite track from the album, Kemuri (Retune). There are actually two versions of this track on the album with two different vocal performers, but I prefer this one with English vocalist Rhyme.

The production here left me speechless the first time I heard it, despite its relative simplicity: a hypnotic, minimalist drone and beat occasionally augmented by filthy distortion. The vocals are equally simple, intertwining with the purring synth and delivered in a lazy, almost bored, manner. It is incredibly straightforward but has an undeniable allure that many songs with twice as much energy or production can’t manage. The video suits the song perfectly as well: the aloof performance of the woman combined with the ghostly actors, rolling smoke, and bizarre imagery makes for an unforgettable, dreamlike experience. Kemuri (Retune) is already one of my favorite songs of the year.

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#232 Edited by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Taking it a bit easy this week, so I decided to go with three new songs from artists I've already covered before to give myself a little break.

Dice - Band-Maid (2018)

Dice is one of my favorite tracks off Band-Maid's newest album, World Domination, so I was thrilled to see a video for it. All the instruments are fantastic, especially the bass and guitar solos, and Miku's vocals just get better in every track. It's one of their best songs and might just be my new favorite.

Kimino Mikata - Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (2018)

It's been awhile since I've actually really cared about a Kyary track, probably not since 2014's Yume no Hajima Ring Ring (which is still my favorite song of hers). However, the peppy yet leisurely-paced rhythm of Kimino Mikata is something I found myself really enjoying. The video is also creative and fun, despite being a lot less crazy than most of her past releases.

Distortion - Babymetal (2018)

I'm really only posting Distortion because I know Babymetal is quite well-known here in the West, as I kind of hate this song. The instrumentation and lead vocals are still powerfully energizing, but I dislike the direction they took on the rest of this track, namely the scream-o vocals and odd mismatch in feel between the verses and chorus.

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#234 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

After the rushed nature of my last post, I wanted to do something a bit better for this week. I’ve picked out three fantastic songs, two of which are easily among my favorite songs of the year (and the third one is really good too!). I really hope everyone will enjoy them and am ecstatic to share them with others. Let me know what you think!

Full Drive - Tri4th (2018)

Tri4th (pronounced Truth, I assume?) is a jazz band that was formed in 2006. The group started with just three members, but they added two new people and switched pianists over the next 6 years. The current lineup is made up of Tomotaka Sekiya (bass), Yusuke Orita (trumpet), Junnosuke Fujita (saxophone), Daisuke Takeuchi (piano), and Takao Ito (drums). Full Drive is one of their more energetic, upbeat tracks and is a great introduction to the group. It’s a delightful ride from beginning to end, moving from the slick “chorus” to back-to-back solos before ending with a thrilling, cathartic crash. The video is pretty simple, but the cocky performances from the group, particularly the horn players, make it a blast to watch.

Tic - No Buses (2018)

Just a few years old, No Buses is an indie rock group that hasn’t really taken off yet. In fact, the group is so small that I couldn’t even manage to find out anything about them, even the members’ names; all I could learn was that both their Twitter and Youtube profiles were created in 2016. Tic is their first music video, a simple yet intimate look at the quartet and their style of music. This song is not even two and a half minutes long, but it makes great use of every second, catching your ear and keeping you entertained until the end. The sharp hook immediately reminded me of The Strokes, and I even hear a bit of resemblance in the vocal delivery (more in tone than sheer power, obviously). It’s a tight, catchy track that I cannot get enough of and find myself enjoying more and more each time I hear it.

Nakunaru Watashi - Minna no Kodomo-chan (2018)

I’m very excited to talk about Minna no Kodomo-chan, an off-kilter idol duo who just released their first album, Kabe no nai sekai (A World Without Walls), last week. This group mixes the cute and innocent appearances of members Honoka and Cinnamon with bizarre imagery and song titles like “I Want to Kill the Morning” and “I Wish I Died.” Nakanaru Watashi is the most creative--and eccentric--track off their album, an indelible mix of harsh sounds and haunting vocals. The production shifts radically several times throughout the song and never looks back. It slides effortlessly from eerie synth lines to powerful guitar chords and cymbal crashes, creating a thrilling aural journey where you are always kept guessing. The vocals have this unsettling and hypnotic delivery, yet always perfectly suit the production no matter what style the song is in. The video is equally disquieting, with tons of distortion effects and visual filters, shots of the duo with blood dripping from the corners of their mouths or looking dead, and an intensely bright color palette. I ADORE this song and think everyone should experience it at least once.

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#235 Edited by HarbinLights (179 posts) -

How do you post urls proper in this site?

Posting urls, the way I'm used to, doesn't seem to work.

[url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEbqExwbX6Q]this is how I normally write hyperlinks.[/url]

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#236 Edited by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

@harbinlights: I don't think Giant Bomb uses (or even allows use of) HTML tags in their text editor. You have to highlight the text you want the link to be a part of and click the 'Link' button at the top of the editor.

With E3 this weekend, I figured I’d do a lighter post as no one’s probably gonna care much with all the game news going on. To complement this, I’ve chosen a trio of songs with soft-spoken vocals and (mostly) gentler production.

Commit Ballad - toe (2015)

Toe is a post-rock/math-rock group founded in 2000 and features Yamazaki Hirokazu and Mino Takaaki on guitar, Yamane Satoshi on bass, and Kashikura Takashi on drums. Commit Ballad is a track off their third full album, Hear You. This is a gorgeous song, thanks to both the ethereal instrumentation and the mellow yet haunting vocals.

Trend - Pinokko (2018)

Pinokko is a newer artist, debuting in May of this year. There’s not really a lot out there about her yet, except for a small profile on her website. Trend is her first video. She sings with a very whisper-y style that is reminiscent of Daoko. The production is pretty solid as well, with a fun beat to underlie the singing.

Don't Worry Be Happy - Asoboism (2017)

Asoboism, also known as Tamana (maybe her real name?), began work in 2017 and purports to mix rap and pop into something new. She came onto the scene with this song, Don’t Worry Be Happy. It alternates between nicely rhythmic rap verses and the repetitious chorus invoking the track’s name.

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#237 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

I get to start this post with some fantastic news: Victor Entertainment has finally lifted their region blocking on Youtube! Their restriction of videos in many Western regions has been a constant annoyance to me for a long time now, as they were easily the most commonly blocked label I ran into when looking for new Japanese music (with Sony Music Japan being a close second). Now that their blocking is gone, I can finally watch new videos from artists on their label, as well as go back to videos from some of my favorite artists--and share them here without worrying about them being blocked! It’s a huge step forward for Japanese music in the West, and I hope this trend continues with the remaining labels who choose to limit access to their videos outside of Japan.

To celebrate, I wanted to share some videos from artists signed to Victor Entertainment that I’ve been wanting to talk about but couldn’t due to blocked videos. Enjoy!

End - Reol (2018)

Reol was a longtime utaite (artists who typically cover other songs, mostly vocaloid ones) who started out in 2012 and built up a strong fanbase with both covers and her own original music. She eventually signed to Toy’s Factory as a group with Giga and Okiku, longtime collaborators on her music, in 2016. After the dissolution of that group last year due to creative differences, Reol moved to Victor Entertainment. Fictitious Collection is her first EP with the label, featuring collaborations with Giga and other producers. End is the first track and only video. It’s not my favorite track off the EP (see below), but it’s still a great song and nicely shows off her singing abilities. Out of all the artists blocked by Victor, Reol was easily the biggest disappointment for me, as all of her old videos, even the pre-Victor ones, had been blocked when she signed. Being able to see them again makes me incredibly giddy, as she’s done some remarkably great songs and videos.

Missing is definitely my favorite track off this EP. It’s a good chance to see Reol on a more rock-focused track instead of her typical EDM sound--her powerful voice works just as well, especially during the intense choruses.

Oteage Psychics - Shiggy Jr. (2018)

Shiggy Jr. is a pop-rock band that often melds retro styles and modern sounds. It was formed in 2012 by a pair of college classmates, Tomoko Ikeda (vocalist) and Shigeyuki Harada (guitarist + song creator). Norihoko Mori (bass) and Kazma Moroishi (drums) joined the group a few years later and rounded out the band. Their newest EP, Kick Up!!, is their best work yet and is easily one of the strongest EPs I’ve heard in a long time: every song is enjoyable and deserves putting on repeat. Oteage Psychics is the only track that received a (short) video and it’s a lot of fun. This song is bursting with energy and enthusiasm, especially the catchy chorus-- I could have sworn she was signing “Put your pants on!” instead of “Put your hands up!” for the longest time!

Sun is Coming Up is another highlight from the EP. It has an incredibly mellow production and a groovy sound that is impossible not to nod along with. Tomoka’s smooth vocals are stellar, particularly the catchy chorus and her striking range during the verses.

The Crusade - Lovebites (2018)

Lovebites is an all-female heavy metal band that formed in 2015 from the remains of other broken-up metal bands and backup musicians. They debuted in 2016 with 5 members: Asami (vocals), Midori (guitar), Miyako (guitar/keyboard), Miho (bass), and Haruna (drums). The Crusade is the video from their newest EP, BATTLE AGAINST DAMNATION. It’s a great example of the band’s intense, skillful instrumentation which sounds just as epic as any western heavy metal, evoking a sound similar to bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The fast-paced, melodic solo work is particularly impressive. I also love the strong and distinct vocals from Asami. She has fantastic range to her voice and her powerful singing fits the song perfectly. It’s great to see so many fantastic and diverse Japanese bands pop up in the last few years, such as Band-Maid and CHAI. Lovebites in particular reminds me stylistically of symphonic metal; as a fan of that genre, I couldn’t be happier.

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#238 Posted by Bollard (8029 posts) -

@wemibelle: Good to hear that Reol's videos are unblocked again! I've been listening to her new EP non-stop since it came out (largely thanks to this thread for introducing me to REOL at the end of last year).

Lovebites have caught my attention. Some really killer guitar riffs in the bits I've listened to, and combined with the style of the singer they're a little Power Metal too, which used to be my favourite genre. I am enjoying it, but I do feel less "operatic" (for want of a better word) vocalist might gel better with the style, if you know what I mean? Sometimes I think the vocals could be more melodic. Will keep listening and see if they grow on me!

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#239 Posted by Dixavd (2855 posts) -

Utada Hikaru's new album "Hatsukoi" is one of the most beautifully mastered albums I have ever heard. I had high expectations going into this album and I'm honestly blown away*. I couldn't even buy the high bit-rate version outside Japan, so this is just listening to the iTunes version. It's especially annoying that I can't share her music other than this short-version snippet of the title track and link to the iTunes' page for tasters (unsurprising though).

When I heard the new Kingdom Hearts 3 track, "Chakai" ("Don't Think Twice" in the English version), during all those trailers, I thought it sounded lovely but not outstanding. I am so happy to find out she's taken greater risks and massively focused on memorable hooks and arrangements. She has truly mastered blending American R&B with Japanese ballads. Plus, while she only sings in English and Japanese on this record, she's clearly learnt some ways to emphasise words from Spanish and French lines.

My favourite tracks include: the determined "Forevermore" (which seems to be an uplifting response to her previous album, "Fantome"), the hook of "Good Night" which sounds lifted directly from the best Swedish-written pop-blockbusters of the last decade (which is great if you're not sick of these sorts of playful extended syllables), and finally "Shittosarerubeki Jinesei" which may be the most immaculately produced song she's ever released.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the high bit-rate version for myself..

*There is one track I absolutely hate, "Too Proud", but that's because it features Jevon, a British rapper, and I cannot stand listening to my own accent rapping over a song (so I’ll never like it)

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#240 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

@dixavd: I always mean to listen to more Utada Hikaru, but I just never get around to it, typically because I remember to do so when her new stuff comes out and then have no way to listen to the whole thing short of pirating the album thanks to stupid restrictive Japanese labels. She will always have a special place in my heart thanks to Simple and Clean, but I really don't have much of a reference point for the rest of her catalog. Maybe this will finally be the time, as a lot of her old stuff is on Spotify. Maybe this new album will be too in the near future?

There’s no real theme to this week’s picks--these are just a few songs I’ve been really enjoying lately. Hope you like them!

A_B - BOMI (2016)

BOMI is a Korean-American artist who was born in the US but grew up in Osaka, learning to speak Japanese. She first debuted on a major label in 2012 but had put out some smaller projects on her own prior to that. I first encountered BOMI on her 2015 album Born in the USA, which alternated intense pop songs with interesting radio play-esque tracks. That whole album was one of my favorites that year, and I included one of the tracks, Friday Night Butterfly, on my Top 10 for 2015.

A_B is the title track from BOMI’s last released album in 2016. I only recently discovered it and found it to be a great example of her unique sound. There’s a delightfully smooth thrum to the production on this track. It’s nicely bassy and is punctuated with sharp hi-hat strikes. During the chorus, the intensity is ratched up (but not too much) and the drums come in fully, which I love. The vocals are softer than other BOMI tracks I’ve heard but still feel distinctly her style--gentle yet powerful with superb flow alongside the beat. They build nicely into the punchier chorus and swell even further towards the end of the song.

e.g. - Bearwear (2018)

Bearwear is a self-described “indie/emo project from Japan,” according to their Bandcamp page. This is another one of those small groups that I had a hard time finding info about, as they don’t even have a website. I did manage to learn that the main group is comprised of vocalist/lyricist Kazma and bassist/music composer Kou. For e.g., they brought in three guest performers to create the track: Emily as the female vocalist, Mitsuki (from band Haiki) on guitar, and Hayao (from band FOAD) on drums. They appeared to have started out in 2017, as their one and only EP was released on Bandcamp in January of that year. As far as I know, e.g. is their only other song to date.

I stumbled into e.g. via a Japanese indie compilation called DIE IN POP, which highlights various Japanese bands with a similar sound. Immediately, I fell in love with its catchy hook and evocative English vocals. Those light, ethereal voices are easily my favorite part of the song. Both vocalists deliver fantastic verses, but they truly shine when they harmonize during the chorus. The instrumentation is noteworthy too; it may be simple but it manages to evoke the perfect feelings to suit the lyrics, along with a captivating main riff.

Start Over - Band-Maid (2018)

Band-Maid was actually formed on the idea of melding maid costuming with an all-girl rock band and wasn’t simply a gimmick dreamed up by a label. Backup singer/guitarist Miku Kobato, who had worked in a maid cafe, came up with the idea and formed the group from people she knew. The band consists of Miku along with Kanami Touno (guitar), Akane Hirose (drums), Misa (bass), and Saiki Atsumi (lead vocals). They started in 2013, playing around Tokyo and releasing a few mini albums. After steadily gaining attention for a few years, they blew up after their first music videos and full album released in 2015 (which was when I first encountered them). Since then, they have released an album every year, and each of them have ranked higher and higher on the music charts.

Start Over is a new single from the group, coming out just a few months after their last full album in February--as if that amazing album wasn’t enough already! It’s a very atypical song from the group, featuring a much softer, poppier sound than they are known for. After opening with a few bars of piano, it launches into some incredibly catchy riffs, despite the slower pace. This extends to the chorus as well, which has a more potent, yet subdued, energy. The true highlight, in my opinion, are the vocals--they may just be the group’s best yet. Saiki’s voice is mellow and clear and has a hypnotic flow punctuated with memorable lyrics.

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#241 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

No real theme this week. Just a few songs that have been on my mind lately and seemed good to post. Hope you like them!

We Should Kiss - Zombie-Chang (2017)

Zombie-Chang (Meirin Yung) first put out a very small, mostly acoustic EP in 2013, but her music career started in earnest in 2016 with a much more diverse album. She has said she was inspired by the anti-folk movement, even classifying some of her music as anti-EDM. Her songs are often off-kilter and each sounds quite distinct, though they all display her magnetic presence. It almost feels as if she throws ideas and beats around haphazardly, but still manages to make it all work through sheer charm. We Should Kiss is a single of hers from last year, which also appeared on her recent album Petit Petit Petit. This song is likely her most palatable, featuring a deceptively catchy synth line and beat along with her simple, yet mesmerizing vocals. It’s one of those songs that is incredibly hard to get out of your head once you hear it. The video is also a treat, with some fantastic visual style from Zombie-Chang and an odd fixation on fidget spinners.

Human Intersection 10:40 am - hy4_4yh (2018)

hy4_4yh, also known as Hyper Yo!!Yo!!, started out as a 4-person group all the way back in 2006. Over the years, they lost two members to academic pursuits. The current duo is MC Atai (Yukarin) and MC Chan (Chanchara), both original members and still going to this day. Having only heard one of their songs a few years back, Tickee on the Beach, I was shocked to learn they are quite prolific, releasing 7 albums and almost two dozen singles in the last 12 years. Over those 12 years, they have experimented with pop, punk, EDM, and most recently, hip-hop, for their music. They’ve also become known for their intense energy and entrancing performances, especially during live shows. Human Intersection 10:40am is their newest single, which just dropped last week. It features smooth production with a fun beat and superb vocal flow from both members. I love the feel of the verses, especially in comparison to the plainer chorus.

Bassline Yatteru? w - Camellia ft. Nanahira (2017)

Camellia, real name Masaya Oya, is an electronic music producer who has produced tracks for various games and television shows. He is decently well-known in the Osu! community, as many of his tracks have been made into popular beatmaps (including this one). Guest vocalist Nanahira is a frequent collaborator with Camellia, teaming up for several tracks in the past. She is a freelance singer/voice actor who has lent her talents to many songs, some of which has even appeared in Konami rhythm games. Bassline Yatteru? w is a track off the pair’s newest collaboration album, Force!, a 17-track album that was released at Comiket 93, a hugely popular convention celebrating doujinshi (self-published) comic artists. It has a playful, energetic production that is quite memorable, but Nanahira’s vocals are easily the highlight of this track for me. She sings with a perfect pacing to the beat and her lyrics are delightfully silly, particularly the insistent chorus of “Bass, line, line, line.”

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#243 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

Another week without much of a theme. Just pulled three songs, two from recently and one from a while ago, that seemed like good picks. Hope everyone likes them!

ZZArin - Daidaidai (2018)

Daidaidai is a 6-member group that first debuted in 2016. Its members are Rio, Miyai Sawa, Tanamu, Uno Yuka, Ayu, Misuzu, and Rikka. Their songs are ridiculously intense in every way, featuring pounding beats, distorted synth and sound effects, and vivacious vocals. ZZArin is the group’s newest video and BOY, is it a trip. The main synth line is a tad repetitive but makes up for it by being extremely catchy, providing the perfect throughline for the song. Soon enough, everything else kicks in--the drums, the other sound effects, the vocals--to ratchet up the intensity even further. Those ethereal vocals nicely suit the chaotic pace and sound of the production, creating an oddly compelling final product. The video is equally nuts, with bizarre imagery and tons of distortion effects.

Japanese Rice Is The Best In The World - Uchikubigokumon-doukoukai (2015)

Uchikubigokumon-doukoukai (whew!), whose name roughly translates to “Beating/Striking Prison Club,” formed all the way back in 2004. Two of the three members were part of that original formation, but the original bassist left after a few years. They replaced him in 2006 and completed the longtime lineup of Atsushi Osawa (guitar), Asuka Kawamoto, (drums), and Junko (bass). This is a band with a fast, heart-pounding sound that mixes the lead singer’s throaty vocals with the softer female vocals of the other two members in a uniquely pleasing way, even including some skillful harmony at times. They also have a weird fixation on songs with lyrics about food, such as in this song, Japanese Rice Is The Best In The World. Its lyrics list tons of Japanese foods, all with the core staple of Japanese rice, which is the “best in the world.” This gives the song a fun rhythm with lots of easy to remember words to sing along with. The instrumentation gives it a lot of energy too, making a pleasant song even more enjoyable.

Slowly World - Koutei Camera Girl Drei (2018)

Koutei Camera Girl Drei has had a weirdly complex history. They started out as just Koutei Camera Girl in late 2014 before rebranding as Koutei Camera Girl Zwei in late 2016. There was also a short-lived subgroup, Koutei Camera Gal, in late 2015. About halfway through 2017, the main group disbanded entirely for a time, before returning this year as Koutei Camera Girl Drei with entirely new members. This new lineup has three members with the psuedonyms catch my heart, ramy t talata, and pacio to npa. Despite the frequent changing of name and members, this “idol-rap” group has always had the same sound at its core: a mix of pop beats and/or trance EDM combined with rapid-fire rap verses. Slowly World is the first video from their new/first album, New Way of Lovin’, and it’s my favorite track of theirs since Swallow Maze Paraguay in 2015 (a trance masterpiece I HIGHLY recommend). The production here is a lot more airy and cheerful, really kicking in only during the chorus. The best parts, however, are the rap verses. They have a killer flow that lands on the beat so tightly that I can’t help but nod along every time I hear them.

BONUS: Out of My Head - CHVRCHES ft. Wednesday Campanella (2018)

Just throwing this song in as a quick bonus, since it’s technically a Western song. CHVRCHES’ newest release features Suiyoubi no Campanella’s KOM_I as a guest vocalist. Her voice fits pretty nicely with their usual sound, although I wish she had a few more verses.

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#244 Posted by Bollard (8029 posts) -

So, I'm currently way into Nana Mizuki thanks to her wonderful songs in Symphogear. However, I just came across this fantastic collaboration/duet track she did and I'm enjoying it very much:

Kakumei Dualism - Nana Mizuki x T.M. Revolution Video, Spotify

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#245 Posted by JunkerWoland (87 posts) -

@bollard: If you haven't heard it already, you might like "Preserved Rose," another Mizuki-TMR joint. I kinda dig this live version (vid link) more than the studio track (vid link), but it's a catchy tune, either way.

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#246 Edited by Bollard (8029 posts) -

@junkerwoland: Thank you very much for the link! That was exactly what I needed this morning.

EDIT: Also, you're right, that live version is lit.

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#247 Posted by Wemibelle (2578 posts) -

For this week’s post, I’ve chosen three new releases from artists I really like and have featured multiple times in this thread. It was a good opportunity for me to learn a bit more about these groups, in addition to posting three enjoyable tracks.

Plastic - FEMM (2018)

FEMM, which stands for Far East Mention Mannequins, was formed in 2013. The group only released a teaser video that year, however, putting out their first two full music videos, UFO and Astroboy, the next year. There are two members: LuLa aka W-Trouble (real name Todo Hiro) and RiRi aka Honey-B (Emily Kaiho). As the name suggests, the group’s schtick is that LuLa and RiRi, the girls who appear in the videos and on-stage, are mannequins who cannot speak. W-Trouble and Honey B are their “managers” who provide the voice for their “clients.” In reality, the two women just portray both sides of the group, selling their gimmick as needed. It’s a fun, silly premise that gives the group a great deal of panache and creative potential.

Plastic is their first original release since the album of 80s/90s JPOP covers they put out last year. It features the standard elements of their music: autotuned, catchy vocals with punchy synth and a trippy video. Sadly, I think it lacks oomph. It doesn’t quite go far enough in any way to match up to the great FEMM tracks I love. It’s still fun to listen to, sure, but it lacks their usual identity.

Let Me Know - Perfume (2018)

Perfume is a group that practically needs no introduction. They are known all over the world as one of the defining Japanese pop groups, particularly for electropop. Their career has spanned almost 20 years, and they have been wildly popular both in Japan and around the world for most of that time. The trio of Yuka Kashino (Kashiyuka), Ayaka Nishiwaki (A~chan), and Ayano Oomoto (Nocchi) is the established lineup, but there actually was another member named Yuka Kawashima in place of Ayano for the first year of the group. Their early sound was also quite different, often more pop than electronic. It took a few years of refinement and the hiring of Yasutaka Nakata, who has produced nearly every track the group has done since, to create the style we know them for today.

Let Me Know is Perfume’s latest release; the full video just dropped after a short teaser came out a few weeks back. It starts with an intriguing sound, mixing snaps and effects-tinged guitar strumming in a delightfully pleasant combination. Unfortunately, it loses this sound during the choruses, instead opting for a simpler production that trades creativity for loudness. It really hurts my enjoyment of an otherwise standout track.

The Bamboo Princess - Suiyoubi no Campanella (2018)

Suiyoubi no Campanella, also known as Wednesday Campanella outside of Japan, is made up of three members: vocalist/performer KOM_I (pronounced kom ai), songwriter/producer Kenmochi Hidefumi, and behind-the-scenes overseer Dir.F. They formed in 2012 when Kenmochi and Dir.F, who had met before, decided to form a new group. The two recruited KOM_I to provide vocals and the lineup was complete. Suiyoubi is a group that’s hard to define due to its mixing of pop, EDM, and hip-hop styles into a distinctive sound that is unlike anything else, especially thanks to the mix of Kenmochi’s tight productions and KOM_I’s atypical yet mesmerizing performances. KOM_I is also oftentimes the face of the group, appearing in the videos and giving interviews. She is almost uncomfortably vivacious yet unabashedly confident in everything she does, making her an easy artist to enjoy and love.

The Bamboo Princess is the group’s newest release for 2018. It has a very light, airy production that only kicks up the intensity during the choruses; even then, it remains rather subdued. KOM_I’s vocals are as strong as ever, matching the ethereal sound of the production. I particularly love the use of panning on her singing, as it nicely adds to feel of the song. I wouldn’t call this the group’s catchiest song, but it’s still incredibly distinctive and pleasant.