This Side of Japan: Quarter Two, 2018

My main interaction with Japanese music and its media coverage in the past couple years has been through YouTube. I’ve been saving whatever interesting single that comes my way on a video playlist since the beginning of this year, and sure enough, that playlist is getting way too big to navigate. So I thought I should unload some stuff that I want to keep to make my experience a little easier, and maybe some add side notes to my finds.

(For this round-up, I tried not to include idols for more variety. I did, however, put together a different video playlist of my 50 favorite Japanese idol songs from the first half of 2018, if you want to check it out.)

With no further ado, this is a portion of quarter two of 2018 (April, May and June) in Japanese music as found through YouTube.

Genie High: “Katame De Ijou Ni Aishiteru”

Indigo La End: “Haru No Iutoori”

Gesu no Kiwami Otome: “Mou Setsunai Nante Iwasenai”

One new name got added to Enon Kawatani’s long list of satellite bands this March. Genie High joined some unexpected names in entertainment to promote cable show Bazooka, though the result was far better than expected, showing a more sincere side to the usually bitter jazz-rock personality. He follows that emotional place somewhat for his other two groups, though Gesu no Kiwame Otome’s stuff has me on close watch: “Mou Setsunai…” may be touching, but the follow-up single that sounds like a Dadaray leftover gets back to his old favored topic about the hot mess within in a romantic relationship.

Asako Toki: “Black Savanna”

SAFARI | Avex Trax

Her follow-up to last year’s fantastic PINK is a much mellower affair, like a night-funk companion to the sunny sides of her previous album. Though I wish SAFARI cooled down to these temperatures more, Asako Toki still crafts compelling pop songs about her beloved city.

Mondo Grosso ft. RHYME: “Kemuri (Retune)”

Attune/Detune | Avex Trax

While the producer’s collaboration with BiSH’s Aina the End may have generated more buzz for his latest album, this wonky R&B track with RHYME is a worthy highlight as well. The distorted bass plays counter to the smoother, more lush jazz-house sounds of “Itsuwari No Sympathy,” making it even more of a statement inside of Attune/Detune.

Haru Nemuri: “Sekai Wo Torikaeshiteokure”

Haru To Syura | Perfect Music

I wrote plenty about Haru Nemuri’s album, Haru to Syura, so you can read about more thoughts there, but to lightly sum up my feelings on her music, her intensity as well as her urgency to be heard is one of a kind. “Sekai…” is a more straightforward rock song from the album, and it should make that impression immediately.

Shonen Ga Milc: “Eien Ekizokichu” / “Tokyo Blue Girl”

Tokyo Nekodamashii | Codomomental

In her debut full-length, Tokyo Nekodamashii, squeaky-voiced Shonen Ga Milc prances around a parade of neon synths, guided by her band’s jazzy rhythm section. The hyperactive “Eien Ekizokichu” recalls the primary-colored synth-pop creations of the mid ’00s. And if the surging pop screams too loud for your taste, opening song “Tokyo Blue Girl” offers a more laid-back alternative.

Cero: “Floating on Water”

Poly Life Multi Soul | Kabukarhythm

Instead of refining its mellow, nostalgic pop-rock into more accessible records, Cero breaks it down to explore what else it can dig up from that same set-up. Synths whir, jazzy keys dance around and the rhythm section slowly intensifies in “Floating Water,” and the jam moves forward more as a work in progress to solidify a hot inspiration into a pop song.

Homecomings: “Songbirds”

single | Second Royal

The jangling, ’90s-nostalgic guitar-rock of Homecomings has been great music to soundtrack teenage ennui in the suburbs, and the band’s latest contribution for anime film Liz and the Blue Bird brings a piece of innocent, emotional bliss. The guitars sigh with slight melancholy, but it’s really an ode to the beautiful present, no matter how fleeting it may be.

Regal Lily: “Boku No Lily” / “Utsukushii Hito”

The Telephone | Biotope

The glossy, bashful indie-rock riffs of Regal Lily make a fitting companion to the equally meek, slightly sleepy voice of Honoka Takahashi. In the fuzzy “Boku No Lily” from its new mini album, The Telephone, the two signature elements of the band come together for a charming pop-rock single addressed to the one that catches her eye. “Uchikushii Hito” meanwhile gets a bit heavier, both in sound and content — especially that music video.

Kayoko Yoshizawa: “Muse”

single | E-stretch

The newest from Yoshizawa is one upbeat anthem from the celebrating those toughening out yet another day, and the triumphant string-driven chorus is a signature hook from the singer/songwriter. Coming from a much mellower acoustic-driven single, it puts the mood of her current music right back where it needs to be.

Sakurako Ohara: “Nakitaikurai”

Enjoy | Victor

A few months back, I wrote a bit about Leo Ieiri’s “Harukaze” (a single that I like) and this adult-contemporary brand of J-pop that’s very earnest to the point it’s relatively unfashionable. Sakurako Ohara’s lead single also belongs in this category, and it’s kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. The sentimental pop is schmaltzy, especially the chorus, but it’s oh so reliable to tug at a certain part of me.

BRATS: “Kimarigoto” / “Doudatte Yokatta”

BRATS | TK Bros.

Rei Kuromiya left Ladybaby for good this year, and now she’s focused her attention on her rock band BRATS. The three piece — consisting of Rei, her sister Aya, and guitarist Hinako — releases its new self-titled album very soon, and it sounds promising based on its grungy advance single, “Doudatte Yokatta.” First shared in February, the equally hard-hitting “Kimarigoto” also makes its way into the track listing of the new record.

Taichi Mukai: “Siren”

Love | Toy’s Factory

Produced by Tofubeats, the throwback funk production of this late-night R&B single provides a solid entry to Taichi Mukai’s latest Love EP. The narrative isn’t smooth as it sounds, though, with the singer trying to get the other to open up.

Utae: “Supersonic”

single | Purre Goohn

Lute Media chose this Utae single as the candidate for the company’s limited-budget music-video project U-25, and the resulting video came out stylish as her sleek electronic-pop single. The dreamy big-room production aims epic yet it wears an intimacy that’s bashful as its central singer.

CHAI: “Center of the Face!” / “Future”

Wagamamania EP | Otemoyan

CHAI has done many wonderful things in 2018 from touring the U.S. to appearing on Music Station, and the band’s new Wagamamania EP is yet another success to be enthusiastic about. While the four piece chose the previously released “I’m Me” from the EP to play on TV, they shared two more worthy songs from the new record. Each takes on a different tenet of their self-esteem-boosting “neo-kawaii” philosophy, with “Center of the Face” getting more specific about beauty standards while “Future” expands their approach with broader points.

Recommendations always welcome!

Bonus: favorite idol songs from April to June

  • Airi Suzuki: “Distance”
  • Avandoned: “After School”
  • Babymetal: “Distortion”
  • Band Ja Naimon!: “Koisuru Kanzen Hanzai”
  • Burst Girl: “Greak Fxxking My World”
  • Hiragana Keyakizaka46: “Kitai Shitenai Jibun”
  • HKT48/Yappari Mitarashi Dango: “Aitakute Iyaninaru”
  • Idol College: “”Akatsuki”
  • Kolokol: “Squall”
  • Malcolm Mask McLaren: “Light on!!”
  • NGT48: “Whatcha Gonna Do”
  • Nogizaka46: “Synchronicity”
  • =LOVE: “Teokure Caution”
  • Payrin’s: “Sore Demo Bokura No Kokyu Wa Tomarenai”
  • PiXMiX: “Pump it Up”
  • Qumaridepart: “Piano”
  • RYUTist: “Mujuryoku Fantasia”
  • Someday Somewhere: “Kono Koi Wa Transit”
  • Takoyaki Rainbow: “Niji Iro Shinkaron”
  • Tokyo Girls’ Style: “Kiss Wa Agenai”
  • Wasuta: “Tapioca Milk Tea”
  • Yanakoto Sotto Mute: “Louvre no Sora”
  • Yuru Meru Mo!: “Okaranaide”

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