#22 for 2022! (actual coincidence)
What’s good, and welcome to yet another installment of the Infrequent J-Song Roundup! In case you’re not familiar with what this is about: this is essentially a segment where I just chill, showcase some songs from Japanese artists and give my thoughts about them in a post. It’s a simple type of write-up, yet as you can tell by the name, I don’t do it all that often. However whenever I do, I try my best to compile a sweet list of songs that, I believe, most people will find to be enjoyable. The main purpose of this segment is to show my appreciation for these artists and the work they’ve created, and I hope you end up feeling the same when going through these roundups.
And while I usually gather a random list of songs that I’ve been listening to lately or one that revolves around a certain theme (i.e. favorite album covers), this one in particular is special, as I discuss my ultimate list of songs that I thought were some of my favorites from the past year. Ten songs that I heard and loved throughout 2022, and as always, it was incredibly difficult to narrow it down to such a small list. There were so many great tracks I listened to over and over but I managed to do so, and this is what I’ve come up with.
Also some notes before we start:
- not all of these songs were released in 2022, some are older ones. Never really limited myself to only including tracks that came out within the given year, so just letting you know beforehand
- unlike prior years, I will not be including any songs from any of the albums I reviewed as part of the J-Music Exchange/Rate. I realized that if I did, tracks from those albums would probably take up a large portion of this already limited list, so I kinda wanted to stick with stuff that I discovered on my own (no offense to Leap lol). However I did make a mini roundup of my favorite songs from each of those albums on my Twitter, so click here if you’re interested
- these songs are not listed in any specific order or ranking (except for the last one)
Anyway, let’s begin!
⋙ “fish in the pool” – Hekuto Pascal ⋘
Figure we’d start out with something more on the chill side.
Life can be pretty damn rough sometimes, and when I do feel stressed out (like many times this past year), I tend to put on something that can really calm me down and put me in a better mood. And this track originally from 2015, titled “fish in the pool”, by the group Hekuto Pascal was definitely one of those types of songs that I often listened to.
While this track’s main path towards popularity (I believe) was through the many recent Instagram posts and TikToks it’s been used in, there is no denying how pleasant of a song this is. The simple and playful melody from its prominent piano parts; when mixed in with the other featured instruments such as the violin gives off a very nostalgic feeling, at least to me. It really does remind me of a Hisaishi Joe composition, a.k.a. something you’d hear in a Studio Ghibli movie. This song expresses such a peaceful and whimsical-like ambience, specifically one that’s usually felt from said Ghibli movies, to the point where it really does feel like it’s a sort of homage to those iconic Hisaishi songs we’ve all come to love. Add on Kotono Shiina’s relaxing vocals, which were all in English and performed pretty dang well, may I add… it’s a pretty great track.
⋙ “Kibun Janai no” – Utada Hikaru ⋘
Continuing on with the ‘chill’ theme, this was also another song that I found myself playing whenever I felt like I needed to relax for a sec (especially recently, for some reason).
Utada Hikaru was one of the fairly major artist discoveries I made this year, despite being a fan of Japanese music for the past five or so years. Finally getting to listen to one of the J-pop queens of the past two decades has been a fun experience, with some of my favorites ranging from the 2000s-centric “traveling” to the more emotional “PINK BLOOD”. Her latest album release from this very year, BAD Mode, was probably one of my favorite albums of the year and like my guy Leap said in his Exchange/Rate review, it was a fascinating showing of Utada Hikaru’s more personal and honest side.
And if you asked me a few months ago what my favorite song from said album was, I would’ve immediately said “Find Love”. It’s a fantastic song with a simple melody and an Utada vocal performance for the ages… however, while “Find Love” is an incredible song, I think I’ll now have to go with “Kibun Janai no” for my personal favorite choice. No shade to “Find Love” but jeez, what vibe this track is. Its Nujabes-esque beat with the smooth percussion, the subtle sound of raindrops falling, and of course, Utada Hikaru’s vocals with her own sweet rendition of the classic “Rain Rain Go Away” nursery rhyme in the chorus… I love this song so much, as it actually does give off that gloomy, ‘chill rainy day’ kind of mood. And I definitely do get the feeling of wanting to be alone and just take my mind off things while listening to this track. All in all, it’s an excellent and absolutely underrated release from Ms. Utada here.
⋙ “Koi no Yukue” – Akase Akari ⋘
I had to have a fierce, internal debate on whether to feature the official music video or the anime ending version of this song…
There were a TON of fantastic anime that aired this past year, and while I currently can’t give you a definite answer for my personal AOTY, CloverWorks’ adaptation of Sono Bisque Doll wa Koi Suru, or My Dress-Up Darling, is FOR SURE up there.
I really enjoyed this show. Sure, it’s waifu bait, so on and so on. But damn, this story was charming, the jokes were there, it had an acceptable amount of fanservice for my taste, and most of the characters were very likable, in my opinion (it also included one of the most memorable anime OSTs I’ve ever listened to, with gorgeous compositions like this). And the overall relationship between the two main characters, Marin and Gojou, was SO sweet to follow and their progression is something I’m very excited to watch in the possible/inevitable season two.
Other than the anime itself, it probably had my favorite ending theme of the year: “Koi no Yukue” by artist/famous cosplayer Akase Akari. It’s fascinating to see someone who’s primarily known for cosplaying pursue other areas of otaku-related work (a la Liyuu), and Akase Akari has certainly proved to many that she is a great singer/performer with this track. It’s such a bright, fun song that’s perfect for the kind of show KiseKoi was, and it always puts me in a FANTASTIC mood whenever I listen to it. Plus, you get to see probably the best-looking Marin and Shizuku-tan cosplays you’ll ever see in the track’s music video.
⋙ “HELL! or HELL?” – RAISE A SUILEN ⋘
As I’ve said in many occasions on this blog, finally dipping my toes into the BanG Dream pool this past year was most likely one of the best things I did in 2022. While I don’t follow/know EVERYTHING about the series, learning more about the characters, the individual bands and their seiyuu, and especially the original music has been a blast. One band in particular, the electro rock-centered RAISE A SUILEN, is probably my favorite out of all the groups in the franchise. Their songs are really fun, hype to listen to and they do a great job putting on a performance, especially from their live counterparts.
And while most of the tracks on their ERA album are all bangers, “HELL? or HELL!” remains as my favorite song on the list, as well as it being one of my favorite RAS songs of all time. There is so much going on and so much to like in this song, from the ear-catching opening sequence, the bumping percussion, Raychell’s incredible vocals to Tsumugi Risa’s well-spaced out one-liners. I also think that this is definitely a good representation of the kind of music RAS makes, as beautifully mixes in loud rock music with electro sounds, creating this absolutely hype and catchy song for people to enjoy. Especially when I watched them perform this song live in the recent Bandori special live back in November… it was so hype that it made me tired from how much I jammed out to it (lol).
⋙ “4 Challenges” – Photon Maiden ⋘
A lot of my attention this past year certainly went towards Bushiroad and the stuff they produce since in addition to BanG Dream, I ended up also becoming interested in their other popular project, D4DJ. While the overall feel of D4DJ is extremely similar to BanG Dream’s, it does have its unique charms, as shown with its characters and especially the electro, DJ-focused music. I like a handful of the groups in this series such as Lyrical Lily and Merm4id, but if I had to choose who had the best songs out of all of them, it’d be Photon Maiden, no question.
“4 Challenges” is what made me fall in love with the Photons, and I think the way it surprised me with its style also swayed me to dive deeper into this particular franchise. EDM, the genre I think of when I hear the term ‘DJ music’, is something I was never really into beforehand. But I feel like the way D4DJ (as well as another project I got into a tiny bit called Denonbu) produced their songs made it a lot easier for me to digest, if that makes sense. Maybe it was the 90s-like cheesy hip-hop style or the fantastic vocal performances from the voice actresses I was already familiar with, but Photon’s music really is bop after bop and “4 Challenges” might be my favorite release from them (although “G.A.M.E.” gives it a run for its money).
And on the topic of Photon Maiden, they recently went through a member change (Nanaki Kanon replacing Maeshima Ami as the role of Ibuki) so it’ll be interesting to see how they sound from here on out.
⋙ “Mixed Nuts” – Official HIGE DANdism ⋘
There is no question that the hit anime series SPY x FAMILY had one of the best opening/ending theme combinations of the year, and that goes for its recent second cour as well. And while I could’ve picked the vibey-ness of Hoshino Gen’s “Comedy” (season 1 ED) or the liveliness of “SOUVENIR” by BUMP OF CHICKEN (season 2 OP)… my personal favorite, like many others, obviously has to go to “Mixed Nuts” by the one-and-only Official HIGE DANdism.
It has to be some sort of magic they’re doing because it’s absolutely insane how literally everything this band releases becomes a gigantic hit. I love their music, yes, but dang, the unbelievably large amount of popularity HIGEDAN consistently has is crazy to see. Anywho, “Mixed Nuts” most likely has to be my favorite anime-related song of the year. It’s just so good, super catchy and the way they composed/performed this song does feel reminiscent of something you’d hear in an old school spy cartoon or movie, except in a more modern fashion. The blaring trumpets and the fast-paced percussion/piano gives it that ‘wacky’ or ‘silly’ flair which is fun to listen to, and Satoshi’s vocals are fantastic as always. It’s a great song that, for sure, reminds you of the hilarity of SPY x FAMILY and especially Anya’s obsession with peanuts.
⋙ “TOKYO WATASHI COLLECTION” – TINGS ⋘
2021 saw me getting super involved in the anime-related idol scene, with my fandom in various groups/franchises like IDOLY PRIDE, Selection Project, and the Love Live series’ Liella unit. And while I did maintain my ani-idol fandom in 2022, it was primarily with stuff I was already familiar with such as the aforementioned Liella and the Nijigasaki group having the second season of their anime air back in April. However when it came to brand new, fresh idol content: the Konami-run project titled Shine Post sort of filled in that gap for me this past year.
While I actually haven’t finished watching the anime, I really enjoyed the overall premise of Shine Post. The more realistic expression of the idol industry and how things worked, akin to the 2011 anime THE IDOLM@STER (aka my favorite idol anime of all-time), was genuinely nice to watch and I hope to write a full review/thought post on that show when I’m done with it. But regardless, when we look at one of the most important aspects of idol culture, the music, Shine Post does a pretty solid job with it, in my opinion. There are other groups in the series that are worth checking out (such as the star-studded HY:RAIN) but our main unit, TINGS, is fantastic in their own right. And “TOKYO WATASHI COLLECTION“, as of this post’s publish date, has to be my favorite track from them.
I listened to this song HEAVILY when I first heard it in an episode from the anime, and it’s such a fun song. Its opening sequence has a bit of classic feeling to it, the catchiness is there, and everyone in TINGS gets a chance to show off their vocals throughout. Chorus goes SO hard, too. I have yet to run into an 2D idol project that has mid-level music, and so far, Shine Post hasn’t disappointed either.
⋙ “Ai wo Itsumo” – Ako ⋘
Getting away from the anime stuff now, here’s a nice track Spotify recommended to me one day.
I feel like after I switched from Apple Music to Spotify as my main music streaming service, I’ve gotten the opportunity to discover more stuff and as a result, 2022 might’ve been one of the most diverse years I’ve experienced when it came to J-music (the J-Music Exchange/Rate segment also was a factor in that). Letting Spotify automatically play random songs ended up with me finding some bops and bangers throughout the year. And while there are a ton of super good one-offs from my ‘Liked Songs’ playlist I could’ve featured in this roundup such as JONAGOLD’s “Route 7”, DURDN’s “Conflict” or “Ecchi na Koto” by Kinoshita Momoka… “Ai wo Itsumo” by Ako takes the cake out of all of those.
A pretty simple sounding track, but I think that’s what makes it a lovely song to listen to. Everything comes together real smoothly, from the subtle inclusions of the violin or piano, all while the percussion takes more of a front seat throughout. This song being straight-forward while also giving off a vintage, 80s-like aesthetic (both with the music and accompanying music video) makes for a fun one, especially when you add in Ako’s softer/quieter vocals. And even though Ako’s voice does make this song sound a bit sad, it honestly gives off more of a wholesome vibe, given that the lyrics seem to portray a girl who’s super happy to be in a relationship but isn’t sure if she’s overdoing anything. It’s sweet.
⋙ “lovennu” – rirunede ⋘
As I finally broke into the non-anime idolsphere these past few months, I found myself discovering a lot of cool, new groups. TEAM SHACHI, i’mew, the Sashihara Rino-produced groups in =LOVE and ≠ME, etc, etc. However, as my Spotify Wrapped can prove it, the Akihabara-rooted Rirunede was one of my more favorable idol-related discoveries of the past year.
Similar to the previous featured song, I found out about Rirunede by chance, as Spotify autoplayed a song of theirs that was all about monkeys (it sounds odd but trust me, it’s a real bop). From there, I ended up checking out their first and only studio album release, titled Rirune!Rirune!Rirune!, and it turned out to be one of my most played and favorite albums I listened to in 2022. The Rirunede trio just had a fun and cute personality to them, and being someone who grew up liking those types of idols, it was natural that it didn’t take long for me to enjoy their stuff.
It was difficult to narrow down my favorite song from that album, but after some intense deliberation, it’s gotta be “lovennu” (“Futari no Summer Days” was a CLOSE second). I listened to this HEAVILY these past few months, as it gives off a really charming, fun and catchy sound that’s hard not to like. The combination of light jazz with bright pop music worked well here, and hearing the high energy from each of the members’ vocals always puts me in a great mood. But funny enough, it does also make me a bit sad reminiscing about this group and their music, since they actually ended their activities as an idol unit back in September. But despite their disbandment, I’m very glad I found out about Yuuka, Mizuki and Mayu; they’re a fun and talented trio, and I hope for the best in their future endeavors.
⋙ “Watashi, Koi Hajimetatteyo!” – BATTEN GIRLS ⋘
One of my favorite mottos that I tend to follow is: “save the best for last”. And just like how I apply it to various parts of my life, I do the same with these yearly roundups. That said, my choice for the best song I listened to in 2022 HAS to go to… “Watashi, Koi Hajimetatteyo!” by the Kyushu-based idol group BATTEN GIRLS.
Even though my Spotify Wrapped can prove it outright with the ‘105 total streams’ stat it gave me, that number really is justified. I love this song. It’s so good. While it does initially sound like a cool and more laxed electro-dance track, it also gives off hints of melancholy with the accompanied piano that sounds ‘raw/pure’ in contrast, as well as the lyrics expressing uncertainly about love. Mixing those two energies or emotions together worked out very, very well, and made for a pleasant sounding song. Plus, the way this track built up to the climax towards the end with the ladies’ vocals was really satisfying to listen to. And like Leap explained in his review of the album this song was featured, transposing the individual vocal tracks on top of each other in said climax didn’t sound off at all and was a beautiful showing of their singing performances.
I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but I LOVE this song (and group!). And if you liked “Watashi, Koi Hajimetatteyo!”, I highly suggest checking out their latest full-length release, CUE-SAI. It’s a fun album.
Some songs that barely made the list, but are absolutely still worth mentioning:
- “Private” – DIALOGUE+
- “At Night on the Galactic Railroad (Lyrical Anthology Remix)” – Lyrical Lily
- “Nan-Nan” – Fujii Kaze
- “D(evil) [feat. yama]” – haruno
- “Love・Me・Do” – Oonishi Aguri
- “good night baby [feat. Moe Shop]” – Inubousaki Shian (CV. Hasegawa Rena)
Aaaaand that’s all I got for you today, and for this year!!
Like I said earlier in the post, 2022 might’ve been the most diverse year in my lifetime as a Japanese music fan, as I ended up discovering A LOT of new, different and cool music throughout. I’m emphasizing this because it truly was difficult to narrow this list down to ten songs. However, somehow I managed to do it and I really hope you enjoyed this small roundup of some great tracks. This was a fun year for music!
Also, I compiled all the songs that were featured in a Spotify playlist for your convenience (“TOKYO WATASHI COLLECTION” isn’t included cause it’s not available on Spotify):
LASTLY, I just wanted to give my thanks to all of you for checking out the blog posts this year. Whether it was one or all of them, I’m grateful that you read some of the stuff I wrote! While I haven’t been doing it as much as I used to, I still have a great interest in writing these posts, and writing in general, so I hope you enjoyed the stuff I put out in 2022. On the other hand, I’m not sure what 2023 will hold for the blog (other than the monthly album reviews) but please stay tuned! I’ll do my best to make some good content next year.
Thanks for reading and hope everyone has a happy year!! 😀