A majority of the music I listen to these days happen to be Japanese. Back in the day, my selection was limited to what I heard in anime opening and ending themes, as well as insert songs and the occasional character image song. These days, though a fair selection of my library have performed an anime song or two, there are quite a bit that haven’t. And I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten my hands on new, fresh-off-the-press artists too. So I like sharing, ’cause sharing is caring, and because it really surprises me that some of these artists aren’t better known because they certainly deserve the attention! Three artists in particular I’ve been a fan of for a while, and it continues to puzzle me that not many people I know listen to them regularly.
First up is ONE OK ROCK, a rock band formed in 2006 with a pretty modern and Western-influenced style. They usually sing in Japanese but are partial to incorporating a fair bit of English into their lyrics. The English is heavily accented, but once you figure out what they’re saying, it usually makes sense, so in that regard, it isn’t exactly Engrish. Their general style and some of their subject matter reminds me a bit of ELLEGARDEN also, but they’re hardly a clone; in particular, their vocalists’ voices have very different edges to them. Taka’s vocal range is also a bit more varied, I think; he tackles a good range of notes and has some pretty nice falsettos (I’m a sucker for falsettos, yes?). They’re a really energetic bunch all around and have a lot of energy. They’re something good to listen to when you’re working or in a good mood.
ONE OK ROCK currently has three albums, three singles, and two mini albums out. I definitely recommend their first album, Zeitakubyou. “Etcetera” (エトセトラ = Etosetora) is my favorite single of theirs, though it’s pretty different from most of their other stuff in that it’s pretty emo, lol. I recently got ahold of their most recently album, Kanjou Effect, and will probably be writing up a First Impressions post when I find some time to sit down and listen to it.
Next is JYONGRI, a j-pop singer of Korean ancestry who is fluent in both Japanese and English and debuted with her first single in 2006. She also incorporates a lot of English into her lyrics, but as she has a much better grasp of the English language than the members of ONE OK ROCK, the mixing of languages is deliciously smooth — something that always scores huge points with me. Think of Utada Hikaru and Rie fu’s English/Japanese songs; they’re that smooth. Her Japanese is pretty unique too in that her pronunciation is a little quirky at times; she annunciates a lot of syllables that are usually dropped or de-emphasized in casual Japanese, such as the first “ku” in “yakusoku.”
Her style is very upbeat and energetic… sometimes a little coy. She as a really beautiful and powerful voice, and I love her sustained and higher notes. JYONGRI’s lyrics are a little lacking sometimes (and it’s more obvious because there’s a lot of easy-to-comprehend English), but the general emotion and feeling of her songs are sincere enough that that doesn’t matter much to me. “Romeo and Juliet,” for example, has some of the most cliche lyrics I’ve ever heard, but her voice is so pretty when she sings them!
JYONGRI has released two albums and five singles.
JYONGRI Official Website, Blog
Recommended Album: Close to Fantasy
Recommended Songs: Possession (Japanese ver.), Let Me In, Yakusoku, YOUR SONG (Short clips of many of her songs can be found on last.FM)
Lastly…Akeboshi. What? Seriously? But Akeboshi is the guy that did Naruto’s first and thirteenth end themes! “Wind” and “Yellow Moon”! How is he unknown? Really though, I don’t think enough people have checked out the guy’s other stuff, and I like his other stuff much better than the songs he contributed to Naruto. Akeboshi generally has a very mellow and down-to-earth style that people have called folk, but I don’t listen to enough folk to really say. I don’t know how to categorize this music, but I know it’s soothing and calms me down. Music for a rainy day or for the middle of the night. Occasionally, he’ll have more upbeat and even bouncy songs, but the quality of his voice still grounds the sound somehow.
Akeboshi also sings in a mix of Japanese and English, but though he studied in Liverpool for a while, his English remains heavily accented — a bit easier to understand than ONE OK ROCK, but not nearly as clear as JYONGRI? I love the variety of instruments that show up in his music though: piano, something that kind of sounds like a marimba, violin, harmonica, trumpet …bagpipe. Seriously, what was the last musician you listened to that used bagpipes?
It’s also a little off-topic, but I love looking at Akeboshi’s blog — there’s very little in the way of text, but the guy takes some really beautiful photographs. Akeboshi has released three albums, five mini-albums, and a single.