“Weekly” J-Song Roundup #9 – Awesome City Club, Nujabes, Hanazawa Kana (and more!)

Hello hello and welcome back to another J-song roundup! Finals/exam week is right around the corner for me and I need to take a step away from studying for a bit or else I’ll go crazy, so here’s a few songs I’ve been listening to in the past couple weeks!

Let’s just jump right in!


“Catch the One” – Awesome City Club

As I’ve mentioned multiple times throughout this segment, Apple Music is incredible for both providing J-music and suggesting some good ones. Awesome City Club has been a band I’ve really enjoyed ever seen fellow music enthusiast Leap250 recommended them to me, mainly because of their really nice duet style of singing and the funk-pop-rock style they express in their music. ACC posted their most recent album (?), Catch the One, on Apple Music and I’ve had a great listening experience with it. I wish there were a few particular songs from the album that are available on YouTube (so that I can include them here) such as “Taiwan Romance” and “One Scene” but if you ever get the chance to listen to that album, definitely check out those tracks (they’re probably my favorite ones out of all of them).

“Catch the One” is the first track off the album and it’s definitely a great one to start with. It has that “Awesome City Club” charm to it, with the synthesizers and especially the vocal performance from atagi and PORIN.  While atagi has a more dominant presence in this song, PORIN accompanies as a background vocalist nicely (plus she has some really nice solo songs later in the album).


“No Scrubs” by TLC (Cover) – Takeuchi Anna

Yeah, so, I actually stole this recommendation from Leap once again (lol) but I just couldn’t resist! Takeuchi Anna, in a nutshell, is an aspiring musical artist who was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Kyoto, Japan. As you can tell in this cover, she can definitely sing (and I assume also speak) in English pretty well and even incorporates a ton of it in her own songs like “ALRIGHT”.

This is Takeuchi Anna’s rendition of a song called “No Scrubs”, originally by the American R&B girl group TLC. While the song’s lyrics are almost a little depressing (one line being “Well a scrub checkin’ me but his game is kinda weak / And I know that he cannot approach me / Cause I’m looking like class and he’s looking like trash / Can’t get with a deadbeat ass”), I think the main thing to focus on here is Anna’s performance both on vocals and the guitar. It was interesting to see someone who really doesn’t have the same image as the original group who performed this song, sing their own and unique rendition of it. Her guitar picking skills are admirable, and the fact that this song was played with only two instruments just fascinates me.


“Synapse” – SIRUP

I’ve only heard of SIRUP from a couple collaborations/remixes he has done with other artists like Ohashi Trio and SHE IS SUMMER, but I think after reading a post from fellow blogger RisefromAshes of Phoenix Talks Pop Culture Japan that included him, they really sparked my interest in this artist. So, I listened to his two EPs on Apple Music and I gotta say… SIRUP is nice.

Let me admit that I never exactly thought that there would be a Japanese artist that makes R&B, pop-like songs really well but SIRUP basically crushed my expectations and proved me wrong. There are a ton of SIRUP songs I could talk about like “Do Well”, “LMN”, “SWIM”, but I think “Synapse” is a great example when showcasing an artist like SIRUP. The combination of smooth, cool and almost hip-hop like vocals mixed with that mellow beat… too good (him and his style almost reminds me of music from Takahashi Kai and LUCKY TAPES).


“Love Dramatic / ラブ・ドラマティック” – Suzuki Masayuki feat. Ihara Rikka

As you may know, the Winter 2019 anime season begun a couple weeks ago and I have been having a blast with some shows like Dororo and The Promised Neverland. There is one particular show that I really liked just from the first episode, it being Kaguya-sama: Love is War. Other than it being an enjoyable romance anime, the opening blew my mind when I first heard it and because the video on YouTube will most likely be taken down soon, I included an alternative and made sure it wouldn’t disappear (it’s that good).

Suzuki Masayuki, apparently, is a very well-known Japanese singer and even is considered Japan’s “King of Love Songs”… and just from listening to one song of his, I can totally see why. Masayuki sings with a very deep and alluring voice, and pair that up with the 80s-like funky jazz music with the wind instruments and smooth bassline, you got yourself an incredible song. I’ve always been fond of 80s funk/jazz music, ever since watching Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro and listening the iconic Lupin theme song; I just find them to have a pretty mysterious yet enjoyable vibe in them. But yeah, Masayuki being a popular artist in the 80s/90s, I’m glad he could bring his expertise genre in modern times and even include one of his songs in an anime (which “Love Dramatic” being the very first song Masayuki has made for and included in an anime).


“Blessing Bell” – Hanazawa Kana

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I think based off of past J-song roundups, I’ve decided that it’s mandatory to include at least one song from a seiyuu. So, here’s a great one!

Most of you probably know who Hanazawa Kana is if you just watch anime. She is considered one of the most popular female seiyuu in today’s industry and has had many many roles in popular anime like DurararaSteins;Gate, Shinkai Makoto’s The Garden of Words, and Nisekoi; and if you follow more recent anime simulcasts, HanaKana was most notably the voice of the clumsy and lovable Red Blood Cell in Cells at Work. She is quite a big deal, and for good reason.

Just like with a lot of HanaKana’s roles where she has a high-pitched and soft voice, it’s more or less the same with her solo musical career (good example being the famous opening for Bakemonogatari, “Renai Circulation”). “Blessing Bell” is a pretty simple song with everything about it being joyful and gentle, from HanaKana’s voice to the mellow guitar playing, violin and piano being included. This song is also a part of HanaKana’s single, Kimi ga Inakucha Dame Nanda, which is also the name of the drama short film she starred in as a main role. Now that song… is also amazing.


“Fiction / フィクション” – sumika

So apparently this opening for the 2018 romance comedy Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii is a finalist for the “Best Opening Sequence” in Crunchyroll’s Anime Awards; and while I usually don’t give a shit about award shows, let alone Crunchyroll’s show, I think I should talk about this for a second since I absolutely love this anime, the opening, and the opening’s artist.

In the past two years, I’ve definitely and personally started to believe that opening and ending theme songs are a big factor in if I enjoy an anime or not. Not only that but openings and endings have helped me develop a strong interest in diving deeper into the featured artists’ discography, as well as it being gateway songs to discover other non-anime Japanese music like a lot of the ones shown in this post. I say this because sumika is a great example of an artist that has opened up my taste in J-music, as I’ve taken a listen to their first full album, Familia, and really enjoyed everything else they have to offer as an indie band. Songs like “Lovers”, “Summer Vacation”, and “Someday” are other incredible songs from sumika; and there were some tracks that completely surprised me since they were so much different of a vibe/tone as “Fiction” such as “Persona Promenade / ペルソナ・プロムナード”.  I think it’s appropriate to say that sumika was definitely a major factor in my interest and urge to discover more Japanese music in 2018, and I have to thank A-1 Pictures and Wotakoi for introducing me to them.

But let’s talk about “Fiction” for a bit because I would consider it my absolute favorite opening theme of 2018. It’s such an upbeat and fun song to listen to with the acoustic guitar-keyboard combination and Kataoka Kenta’s lovable vocals transitioning from soft to loud throughout the song; it was honestly difficult to skip this OP whenever a new episode came out, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

If you didn’t know, sumika was also featured in the highly-praised anime film Kimi no Suizo wo Tabetai, or in English, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas, as they did both the opening and ending themes! I’m glad to see them getting more attention, and I hope their music gets featured in more anime 😀 (They also have a new album coming out March 2019!).


“Plastic Love” by Takeuchi Mariya (Cover) – Friday Night Plans

I don’t know about you but as I’ve been listening/watching to Japanese content on YouTube, I’ve kept seeing one particular video over and over in my suggestions. That one video is a 1985 J-pop song called “Plastic Love” by Takeuchi Mariya. You’ve probably seen it too if you see the thumbnail again:

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Apparently there’s a reason why this song from the 1980s boomed in 2018, something with YouTube’s algorithm or whatever. But it wasn’t until last week when I finally listened to this viral song… sort of. Story is that I found a cover of “Plastic Love” on Apple Music by an artist named Friday Night Plans; and when you compare the original to FNP’s cover, it’s significantly different as FNP puts a chill and modern twist from the original 80s funk-pop vibe.

To be very honest… I prefer Friday Night Plans’ version of this song. There’s nothing wrong with Takeuchi Mariya’s version, I guess I just prefer more a mellow/chill style of music. Plus, I really like FNP’s smooth vocals and if you notice in the single’s cover, she actually wore the same outfit as the one Takeuchi Mariya wore in her cover art. Very nice touch 😛


“Aruarian Dance” – Nujabes

I had no idea who Nujabes was until a few days ago but after listening to his stuff, I immediately became interested in discovering his other music. Nujabes is considered to be a Japanese music legend, as he was a huge factor and influence in the genre of hip-hop, not only in his home area of Tokyo, Japan but also internationally. Chillax and sensual beats mixed in with older jazz elements, he essentially broke boundaries when creating music of this kind. While he did unfortunately pass away in a car accident back in 2010, his music and legacy has lived on within the modern hip-hop culture.

Speaking on a more anime-related note, Nujabes was the one who produced the very appropriate soundtrack to Manglobe’s Samurai Champloo. I personally have not seen that show yet but after listening to one of the songs on that album, “Aruarian Dance”, my interest in it has spiked. This track is so smooth and I just adore the combination of that sick beat with what I believe is just a electric guitar solo. This song is so simple yet incredibly relaxing to listen to; hell, I was listening to the 1 hour version while studying for my final exams this past weekend 😛


Aaand that’s all I got for today!

Hope you found a song you liked out of today’s installment and if you did, let me know which one was your favorite! Also, if you have any recommendations of your own, by all means leave it in the comments.

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Thanks for reading/listening!! 😀

-al

  1. I wish TakeuchiAnna had performed ‘No Scrubs’ live when I had seen her! That would have been a sight to behold.

    Also Nujabes got me right in the feels. I remember being recommended this song by a friend of mine and it’s been too long since I’ve listened. I hope you get the chance to really dig into his music you absolutely won’t regret it. I haven’t watched Samurai Champloo either… one day maybe lol.

    Thanks for the round-up! It certainly gave me more music to listen too!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. I’ve listened to a little bit of the rest of the Departure album (the Samurai Champloo OST) and the first few songs are already incredible 😛 But yeah, I hope to listen to more Nujabes in the near future.

      No problem, and thanks for reading! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. Glad my recs have been spot on (xD)
    These round ups have been a constant reminder for me to step my Apple Music game up. Doesn’t help that I’ve been mostly out of the Apple family of tech/software for a while now though.

    I’m a bit salty finding out that Takeuchi Anna actually performed somewhere in SF as part of tour just last year, but I actually didn’t know she was born in LA so eyy, good chance of her coming back (lol) She dropped her second mini album close to a week ago now (highly recommended that you give it a listen if you haven’t yet!) and yeah, very excited to hear more from her.

    Just a good season of anime OPs/EDs really, but I’m glad you did end up picking up Kaguya-sama, Haha!

    Blessing Bell, amusingly enough, reminded me a lot of μ’s’ Love Wing Bell (xD)

    Watching (and subsequently liking) a show based on whether or not I like its OP/ED is something that I did, and continue to do, ever since I started watching anime (it’s mainly the reason why I started watching Dororo now, lol) but yeah, I’ve yet to dive into sumika as much as you have and I’m definitely gonna have to try their stuff out. While I’m at it, I should also just watch WotaKoi.

    Oh! I also get Plastic Love suggested to me on my YT dash every now and again. But yeah, I’m with ya, I like this cover a whole lot better, lol

    It’s a real shame what happened to Nujabes, but his music does indeed live on, with this post right here being a real testament to that.

    As for recommendations from me, other than Takeuchi Anna’s second mini album (I *think* it’s on Spotify now?), here’s some Toki Asako (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWkzeTojD3w) if in case you felt like listening to more Jazz-y Pop.

    And speaking of Jazz, here’s Yucco Miller who does some pretty ho- sick sax covers. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0osh_C3h3zo)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. I just find Apple Music to be easier to deal with (and pay for) than Spotify since I’m pretty much used their products and such. But yeah, it’s a great music streaming service!

      I didn’t know that! And yeah, I took a listen to “Free! Free! Free!” and it’s a pretty nice track. Yet I’m so used to her style of music where it’s only her and her guitar (the “STAY TUNE” Suchmos cover she did was siiiick lol)

      I’m glad I could get you more interested in sumika (and Wotakoi for that matter)! If I had to suggest a good starting place, their first full album is just a great variety of songs and I just loved listening to it endlessly, especially “Someday”. Also think it’s a great time to listen to sumika’s stuff since their new album is coming in about a month or so.

      After listening to the rest of the Departure album, I can definitely see why Nujabes was such a big part of the hip-hop scene in Japan/the rest of the community. The last song on the OST, “Shiki no Uta” is another great track, especially with the inclusion of some really vocals accompanying his composition. (the album also really helps me focus on doing work and such lol)

      Ah, yeah! I’ve heard of Toki Asako before, from a song she did with Ohashi Trio. She definitely reminds me of Elle Goulding, an English singer whose music has been pretty popular as of recent. But dang, that song you suggested was really good. Love her voice in this one!

      Oooooooh. Yucco Miller is great haha! I was looking through her other songs, I love that Kiki’s Delivery Service/”A Town with an Ocean View” cover… bossa nova will always be one of my favorite kinds of music 😛

      Thanks for stopping by, man! Also appreciate the suggestions 😀

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