Welcome back to another J-Song Roundup; in case you don’t know what this is about (can’t blame ya), this is essentially a rarely done segment on the blog where I compile a bunch of songs that I’ve been listening to lately and/or are worthy of mentioning, and just talk about how good they are. Despite me not doing these kinds of posts that often, I still have a lot of fun showcasing some great music that, I believe, should be heard by others.
However, instead of doing a roundup where it’s a random set of songs, I decided to base it off a fun theme. I would say that the cover art on albums, EPs and singles are a very important aspect of a music release. I mean, obviously, right? It serves multiple purposes, whether that be giving us a preview of what the music/artist is all about; contextualizing a song; and most importantly, be a way to grab the attention and interest from both experienced fans of those artists, as well as ones who haven’t heard of them at all. Similar to how music videos aim to get people interested in an upcoming album or single release, cover art is equally as crucial, especially if you’re browsing physical CDs/vinyls or just scrolling through online music streaming services for something to listen to.
That said, here are a few songs (either from a full album/EP or a standalone single) that feature some of my personal favorite pieces of well-produced, eye-catching cover art. And of course, I’ll also be talking about the tracks themselves.
(by the way, I suck at interpreting and describing art. I barely passed my AP Art History class back in high school, so please do not expect good or detailed descriptions of these covers lmao)
Let’s jump right in!
“The Last Chance” – LizNoir
Digital Single: The Last Chance ║ Release Date: 2021.01.25
Not gonna lie, this song is the reason why I wanted to make this post lol
If you’ve been following the blog, or my social media accounts for a while now, you might know that I’ve been a huge fan of the IDOLY PRIDE multimedia franchise and how I said it was one of the best things I discovered in 2021. Especially when it came to the music, as I even declared that “First Step” by Nagase Mana was my absolute favorite song that I listened to that year. However, if “First Step” wasn’t such an incredible and meaningful song, I think the track from her rivals over in LizNoir, titled “The Last Chance”, would’ve taken its spot.
When I first heard this at the end of episode 3 in the anime TV series, I immediately loved it. Such a cool and super catchy rock song that has a hint of ‘retroness’; LizNoir’s whole style and vibe is displayed beautifully in this track, and it’s another great example of IDOLY PRIDE’s fantastic and well-produced discography. And if you’re familiar with the group that portrays the LizNoir characters, a seiyuu-idol unit named Sphere, you may be surprised/impressed with how different this type of song is compared to what they usually perform. Plus, it’s a nice contrast from the main groups of Sunny Peace and Tsuki no Tempest.
As for the cover art, it’s honestly one of the coolest and most badass things I’ve seen from an idol franchise. I love the old school, Japanese city pop aesthetic from the 80s/90s, and seeing all four of them lined up looks SO COOL (lol). I really like this cover, as well as the accompanying music video for this song, and I think the IDOLY PRIDE staff really knocked it out of the park with this one.
“Asayake to Nettaigyo / 朝焼けと熱帯魚” – Boku no Lyric no Boyomi
Album: Fruits Decaying ║ Release Date: 2017.11.22
I discovered this song a looooong time ago, probably around when I seriously got into Japanese music (2017-18 or so). Must’ve been another random song suggestion from the Spotify algorithm, but whatever happened, I ended up finding a great track.
Originally used as the ending theme for the mystery thriller anime Kokkoku, “Asayake to Nettaigyo” has a pretty intriguing mix of styles, ranging from indie, pop, mild electro, R&B; all done alongside a fast-paced rap performance by Boku no Lyric no Boyomi himself. Even though there’s definitely a lot going on in this song, it honestly feels like a relaxing-type of song. What I assume is either a guitar or keyboard throughout the song adds a more mellow layer that helps slow things down, and it’s such a great contrast from the quick percussion. I also enjoy how the vocals are digitized in certain areas, which was a nice touch.
When I first saw the cover art for this song and album, I thought it was super interesting. As the album is titled ‘Fruits Decaying’, you can see a person imitating an eaten apple that is on its way of decomposing, and how spot-on it looks just amazed me. The way they used red clothing to show certain parts and the peel of the apple, as well as how the person’s torso is shaped incredibly well to depict an apple core… it’s such a fascinating album cover and one that’ll be memorable to me personally for a long time.
“Plastic Love” by Takeuchi Mariya (Cover) – Friday Night Plans
Digital Single: Plastic Love ║ Release Date: 2018.12.05
While I have enjoyed the original version from 80s pop star Takeuchi Mariya, I will say that this cover of “Plastic Love” from Friday Night Plans remains as my all-time favorite interpretation of the song. FNP really took it and put an entirely new spin on a classic, and I really love the more modern atmosphere of their rendition. And despite the drastic changes in styles, I think FNP still does the original version justice, with it having a hint of ’80s-ness’ in it. Plus, you can’t not notice how awesome the bass is in this track.
Another one of my favorite things about this song is the cover art, which shows Masumi (the person behind FNP) imitating the iconic cover from the original 1984 release, as she’s got on a white shirt, bowtie and suspenders, similar to what Takeuchi Mariya wore. I find it really neat how Friday Night Plans didn’t just stop at the music part of this single, and went above and beyond to even pay homage to the original CD jacket. And seeing Masumi in a different pose, with her hair covering her face, totally adds to the ‘modern’ aspect of this song cover.
“Kokoro Koko ni Arazu / 心ここに在らず – Polkadot Stingray
EP: Honenuki E.P. ║ Release Date: 2016.11.18
To be honest, I didn’t necessarily include this song because of the actual art in the cover, but rather the nostalgia that I feel when I look at this EP cover.
I can’t, for the life of me, remember if “The Mermaid” or “Telecaster Stripes” was the very first track I ever heard from Polkadot Stingray but whichever one it was, it helped lead me to one of my absolute favorite PSDR songs, “Kokoro Koko ni Arazu”. I LOVE this song, with one reason being that it’s a track that truly resonated with me when I was first getting into Japanese music. With me already having a great appreciation for the kind of music PSDR does, as well as being a fan of slower, more mellow songs; “Kokoro Koko ni Arazu” is kind of the perfect combination of those two things. Shizuku’s recognizable vocals are slowed down yet still effective; and while the overall pace of the song is much different compared to their previous releases, the usual themes of this band’s music are still present, such as the way Harushi continues to be amazing with his guitar solos. And how it all comes together towards the end… I may sound like a broken record at this point but I really love this song (lol).
And while I’ve never really thought about it prior to writing this post, the actual art in the cover is nice. Gives me, as well as a lot of other fans, a reminder of the music video for “The Mermaid”.
“EXPOSE ‘Burn out!!!’” – RAISE A SUILEN
Album: ERA ║ Release Date: 2020.08.19
Just like how I got into certain multimedia projects such as Idoly Pride and Selection Project in 2021, the same thing happened to me this year; this time with BanG Dream (and D4DJ).
I talk more about my thoughts and first experiences with the BanG Dream franchise in Leap’s Exchange/Rate review on RAS’ ERA album (which you should definitely check out) but overall, it’s been fun getting into Bandori and its content. Even though I’m more into the seiyuu stuff and the music, the Bandori project has been an entertaining and impressive series to learn more about, and I think they really do deserve to be one of the more popular media franchises in the industry.
While I’ve listened to other featured bands like Poppin’ Party and Roselia, RAISE A SUILEN is still probably my favorite out of the bunch. Love their electro-rock style, all the band members are super talented, Raychell’s vocals are unreal and their music is really hype, as shown in a track like “EXPOSE ‘Burn out!!!’”. And the most interesting part about RAS is that they sound like a real band you’d find in the general rock music scene, rather than a group in an anime-based multimedia franchise. It’s a little strange to think about/realize that.
Anywho, what I wanted to talk about here is how the Bandori staff decided to feature the actual voice actors on the album cover, rather than the usual choice of including the 2D characters; most likely because RAS is one of the few Bandori bands that actually performs the music themselves. I personally think that they should do that more often; not only with Bandori but also with other popular series such as D4DJ and even Love Live (some other examples off the top of my head is Roselia and the D4DJ group Merm4id having album covers that show the voice actresses). Maybe it’s the seiyuu bias talking, but I think having the VAs appear on album/single covers is a lot nicer. At the very least, they should make seiyuu-focused covers an alternate choice when buying a physical CD.
“3:03 PM” – Sharou
Digital Single: 3:03 PM ║ Release Date: 2022.02.24
Sharou has recently become one of my go-tos when it comes to easy-going music. They’re another great artist who specializes in lo-fi hip-hop style instrumentals, and there’s no doubt that their songs help people focus while studying/working or are tracks to put on when you just want to chill out. For the past two years or so, Sharou’s gotten a ton of traction due to their most popular song, “2:23 PM”, being used in many TikToks and Instagram Reels (pretty sure some well-known V-Tubers have also featured it in their videos).
Why I wanted to include this song is because the cover art was actually done by an artist that I’ve started to really like, them being Keke-san. They’ve provided the art and even sometimes the animation for series and projects that I’m a fan of, such as doing the animation for Matsuura Kanan’s “Motto ne!” music video, as well as the “IDOLY PRIDE” lyric video. They’ve also done other, smaller things like providing visuals for Pochi korone’s cover of “Omae wa Mou”, and even the adorable Twitter banner for seiyuu Kanno Mai. I’ve really come to love Keke’s illustrations; they’re super cute and simple, and I’m glad they’ve gotten to show off their work in various ways, especially within popular franchises like Love Live’s and IDOLY PRIDE’s.
“Koi wa Mizuiro / 恋はみずいろ” – Nanasaki Ai (CV. Yukana)
Single: Koi wa Mizuiro ║ Release Date: 2011.01.01
Similar to how I believe Amagami SS is one of the best romance anime I’ve ever seen, “Koi wa Mizuiro” is one of the best anime ending themes I’ve ever heard. I am not kidding.
As much of a Kaoru devotee I am, Nanasaki’s performance in this song is legitimately unmatched. Yukana, the seiyuu for Nanasaki Ai, does an amazing job conveying the emotions in Ai’s character and as a result, it gives us a super catchy, sentimental and overall incredible track to end off each episode in the Nanasaki arc.
Another really fascinating thing about the Amagami ending/character songs is actually within the CD jackets for each one. If you look at every cover, you might notice that alongside the featured character for that specific single, one of the other five girls is shown in the background. And what’s even cooler is that each CD jacket cover is depicted in different angles, as if these photos were taken at the same exact time. And while there are some inconsistencies that people have already pointed out… who cares. It’s an amazing detail.
That said, I started playing the Amagami PS2 visual novel/dating sim so… can’t wait to experience this series in a whole new way. (i’ll try to give my thoughts on it when Christmas rolls around!!)
Alright, I think that’s all for now. This is getting a bit lengthy.
So yeah, as I said earlier, the cover art for albums/EPs/singles is equally as important as the music itself. It’s so cool to see the creative and artistic ideas that connect to the songs within these releases, and it really does add another layer of enjoyment. I’ve only started to appreciate the cover jackets for a lot of the music I listen to, but writing this post was a great start towards my goal of doing so.
All that being said, I hope you liked reading this fun post. If you have a cover you liked from this selection, or if you have some favorite album covers of your own, definitely leave them in the comments! I’d love to see more of them.
Thanks for reading!! 😀