About half a year ago, I wrote a post discussing about and suggesting some Japanese musical bands/artists that I’ve discovered over the time I’ve been an aniblogger and learning about the entertainment culture over there. Some derived from the anime I’ve watched, some were just bands I happen to find on Spotify or YouTube, but I believe all of those artists I talked about were worth giving a try. Oh, and you can check out that post by clicking here, if you’re interested 🙂
But now that six months have passed by, I feel like I’ve definitely widened my knowledge of J-music a lot and listened to many great artists, which I have to give most of the credit for that to my dude Leap250 and the incredible music suggestions he provides on his blog and on Twitter… I’ll admit that some of the J-artists I’ll be talking about today are ones that I found through him lol
That being said, let me recommend you some really nice Japanese music to listen to!
(also don’t worry, all of the song suggestions here will be complied in a YouTube playlist that I’ll include at the end for your convenience)
If you happened to keep up with the previous Spring 2018 anime season, you may have watched a show called Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii, a nice anime essentially about the daily lives of working adults who also happen to enjoy otaku related things like anime, manga and video games (btw you can read my review on it over on #moe404). Other than it being an enjoyable show for many different reasons such as how relatable it can be, the opening, “Fiction” by the band sumika, was probably one of my favorite things about this anime.
Formed back in 2013 as a live acoustic band, sumika definitely has that fun and feel-good vibe to them while still being a pretty good rock group. The combination of having a piano alongside your usual rock instrument lineup, Kataoka Kenta’s incredible vocal abilities, and maybe a few other factors help with making them a fun and unique rock band to listen to. It seems like sumika’s only starting to get popular thanks to them being featured in the Wotaku anime, and their brand new song “Fanfare” is slated to be the opening theme to the upcoming anime movie Kimi no Suizou wo Tabetai.
More sumika Tracks:
- 「Summer Vacation」
Yorushika / ヨルシカ
Featuring music and lyrics by n-buna, as well as suis on vocals, this is one intriguing band to listen to. From my perspective and despite them being a pretty normal sounding rock group, Yorushika has a kinda gloomy vibe to them. And one of the reasons behind that is the style of lyrics behind a good amount of these songs, which sort of has the theme of struggling as a person in life (I might be wrong though). A good example of that is in one of their more popular songs, “Hitchcock”:
Why do I lie even though it makes my heart ache?
Why do only bad people prosper?
Why is it that the character for “happiness” includes the ￥ sign?
Is it on purpose that leaving out a single stroke turns it into the character for “pain”?
As a person who doesn’t really look into what the lyrics are in most Japanese songs and the fact that I don’t listen to sad-themed music, I think Yorushika’s music is worth knowing what the narrative is about. Another thing to appreciate about this band is their style for a lot of their music videos. The unique-looking animated style of these MVs are just fascinating to watch, plus they help convey their melancholic style of music.
Oh, and suis’s voice is fantastic.
More Yorushika Tracks:
- 「言って。」 / “Say it.”
- 「準透明少年」 / “Semi-transparent Boy”
- 「雲と幽霊」 / “Ghost”
I’ve only dipped my toes into the UNCHAIN pool but even from listening to a few of their songs, I already know they’re a really nice band. There isn’t much background info I could find on them other than that they formed about 20 years ago while in high school, I’m honestly surprised they aren’t more well-known in the J-rock community. But either way, I find this band really fun to listen to, and I think it’s because of the way they incorporate funk/soul into their music. Whether that be the way Tanigawa Masanori sings in their songs (I love his voice) or their style of instrumental play, they’re certainly unique from other rock bands.
More UNCHAIN Tracks:
- 「暁のコドウ」 / “Akatsuno Kodo“
- 「Smile Again」
- 「少女ジレンマ」 / “Girl’s Dilemma” (Spotify link)
Hoshino Gen / 星野源
Apparently back in 2016, this snazzy-looking gentleman’s song, “Koi”, was one of the most popular and most listened to songs in Japan that year. It was at the top of Billboard’s 2016 Japan Hot 100 charts for a while, alongside songs like “Zenzensense” by RADWIMPS and AKB48’s “Tsubasa wa Iranai”. It seems like both the song and dance shown in the music video were so well-known, thanks to it being the theme song to Japanese TV drama Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu, where Hoshino Gen also played a lead role in it. I guess it sparked a dance craze across the country of Japan as many people covered the Koi dance; even someone like Japanese figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Hanyu Yuruzu was spotted doing it.
I really wouldn’t be surprised if Hoshino Gen is considered an iconic pop artist in Japan, because he makes songs of that particular genre so well. The fun, happy vibe you get from his music is just really nice to listen to; plus, his voice is pretty damn soothing. If I were to compare Hoshino Gen to someone who’s well-known here in the United States, I would say popularity-wise (and maybe stylistically), it would be someone like Bruno Mars… Bruno Mars back in the day, not his 80s-style phase that he’s currently going through lol
More Hoshino Gen Tracks:
- 「ドラえもん」 / “Doraemon”
- 「Family Song」 (also you can check out the really nice cover of this song by Goose house)
- 「Crazy Crazy」
Ogura Yui / 小倉 唯
If you’re one of those anime fans who likes CGDCT anime and/or follow the female seiyuu culture (like myself), you probably know who Ogura Yui is. She has been featured in a ton of anime like OreImo, Pop Team Epic, High School DxD, and one of her more popular roles being in Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko. Personally I would consider her THE “moe” voice of anime since her roles tend to have that kind of cutesy, high-pitched voice and come on, just listen to her. I don’t normally say shit like this, but her voice is so sweet, it can give you diabetes.
Anywho, Yui’s solo idol musical career has some pretty good tracks that are just cuteness overload and honestly are good examples of what the Japanese idol phenomenon is all about. Happy pop music, high-pitched voice, flashy image, can’t get any more idol-y than Ogura Yui. Her songs seem to mix pop music with other genres like electro or rock, which makes for a good variety.
Also if you’re in the mood for something happy, here’s a video of Yui-chan going to a zoo and embarking on a journey to give her favorite animal, the otter, a high five lol
More Ogura Yui Tracks:
- 「Baby Sweet Berry Love」 (ED to Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko)
- 「永遠少年」 / “Eternal Boy”
Gesu no Kiwami Otome / ゲスの極み乙女。
Gesu no Kiwami Otome is honestly one of the most unique Japanese bands I have ever listened to.
Started by indigo la End’s Kawatani Enon, GnKO is essentially a group of close musicians who enjoyed playing with each other in the past while in different bands. They formed in 2012, and so far, have been pretty successful in the Japanese music and rock industry.
So going back to what I said earlier, I really find GnKO strange to listen to, mainly because of the very unique way they do rock music. Things like incorporating a keyboard, Kawatani Enon’s distinct voice, and probably one that stood out to me the most, the fast pacing in some of their songs. When I’m listening to various tracks like “Killer Ball”, there’s so much energy in this song, it feels like my head is spinning around, trying to keep up with the pace it’s going at.
But overall, Gesu no Kiwami Otome is a really good band and I should really listen to them more.
More Gesu no Kiwami Otome Tracks:
- 「スレッドダンス」 / “Thread Dance”
- 「小説家みたいなあなたになりたい」 (Spotify link)
- 「もう切ないとは言わせない」 (also you can listen to an incredible acapella cover of this song by Groovy groove)
We discuss yet another seiyuu idol unit, this time by the name of TrySail. Consisting of three voice actresses in Asakura Momo (Setoguchi Hina in Suki ni Naru Sono Shunkan wo.: Kokuhaku Jikkou Iinkai), Amamiya Sora (Aqua in KonoSuba), and Natsukawa Shiina (Kusakabe Yuki in Demi-chan wa Kataritai), most likely you know them from their roles in anime or their popular performance of the ending theme for Eromanga-sensei, “adrenaline!!!”.
I have listened to their most recent album, TAILWIND, and you know while they sound like a normal J-idol pop group, they do have some good and significant variety in that album such as with songs like “BraveSail”, a song that has a more “American country” style to it. Overall, they’re enjoyable as a pop idol group.
More TrySail Tracks:
- 「オリジナル。」 (ED for Demi-chan wa Kataritai)
Awesome City Club
I know that this post is pretty damn long, I apologize for that, but this is the last band on the list. Plus, there are so many good J-music artists, I can’t help myself 😛
My good friend Leap has made many amazing suggestions of Japanese artists and bands, but this particular group has to be one of the best he’s ever given me. Because Awesome City Club mixes in, what I think is, rock, indie pop, and electro/synth, it makes for some really really catchy and modern-styled music. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this band is popular with the youth, and I even think that this kind of music would be popular in American/foreign societies. Other than that, duet vocal style of the two main singers Atagi and Porin, it works so well and they definitely mesh well with each other.
More Awesome City Club Tracks:
- 「Don’t Think, Feel」
And that’s all for today 🙂
Like I said at the beginning of the post, I’ve put most of the featured tracks that are available on YouTube in one playlist, in chronological order, for you to enjoy! Click here to check it out 🙂
Hope I helped you find an enjoyable Japanese artist to listen to, and if you have any suggestions of your own, by all means leave them in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!! 😀