- Brian H.
Melodies from Japan and AAPI Artists Vol. 3
Updated: Jul 26, 2021
When I hear about “summer songs," they’re often upbeat songs, the kinds you hear at amusement parks or music you would put on at a barbeque.
But summer songs to me are actually those that make me nostalgic. As a child, summer was the time where I had all the time in the world to do anything I wanted. But when I entered the workforce, that feeling vanished, replaced with a feeling of gaping indifference as I still worked in those summer days.
It was the natsumatsuri in Japan that made summer special to me again. I loved the atmosphere: the rewarding cool summer air after enduring a hot summer day, the excited chatter of kids and parents after a long day, and the moment when hundreds of people and I gaze in unison at the night sky as the fireworks bloom beautifully.
Summer is “nostalgia” to me. And today’s theme will be music that might remind you of the carefree, childlike summer days. It’s throwback time!
We are not sponsored by any of the bands mentioned in these posts, and all opinions expressed are of myself, Brian Hsieh!
Image from Yorushika’s music video, “That’s Why I Gave Up on Music”
Boy howdy does this band know how to put together a music video. A secretive pop rock duo consisting of two members, n-buna and suis, Yorushika stands out with their colorful and well-drawn music videos. They often stand out with a strong usage of piano and traditional rock instruments, which gives them more of a soft-rock feeling. One big thing to note is that they are one of the rare J-rock bands that also provide English subtitles for a majority of their lyrics on YouTube. The lyrics are often poignant and all about the human experience, so please read along as you listen.
you enjoy watching beautifully colored and directed music videos.
you appreciate heavy lyrics dealing with emotions, such as about growing up.
you enjoy rock that’s not so harsh on the ears.
Check Yorushika out on their official YouTube channel or listen to them on Spotify. I’d recommend their beautifully 3D animated song, Spring Thief (春泥棒). There is a corgi in it.
Kenshi Yonezu / HACHI
Album cover of Stray Sheep, Kenshi Yonezu’s 2020 album
If you were in Japan in 2017, I can guarantee you would have heard Kenshi Yonezu’s voice in his collaboration with Daoko, “Fireworks." You may also know him from his 2018 hit song, Lemon, which blasted in every department store I went to. Yonezu produces music using voice synthesizers under his alias, HACHI, and music with his own voice under his real name. This duality makes him interesting, as while he’s most definitely a mainstream artist, he has creative beats and sound effects that make his music stand out from other mainstream sounds.
you prefer slightly nasally vocals.
you enjoy synthetic voices or electronic beats, specifically Vocaloids.
you want to impress Japanese youth with your knowledge of mainstream pop music.
Check out Kenshi Yonezu on his official YouTube channel or his Spotify channel. You can start with his most popular song, Lemon.
AAPI Highlight: mxmtoon
Image from mxmtoon’s official Twitter
Maia, also known as mxmtoon (pronounced as em-ex-em toon), is a YouTuber and singer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is most well known for her original and intimate indie pop, often using ukulele or guitar, although she does also post frequently about her life happenings on YouTube. A 21-year old with Chinese, German, and Scottish heritage, and who identifies as bisexual, mxmtoon’s lyrics often focus on empowering people, or telling people to be proud of where they come from and to avoid comparing themselves to others.
you want to know what type of music much of Gen Z listens to these days.
you like comfy ukulele or guitar beats.
you enjoy artists that genuinely want to empower people through their lyrics.
you’re looking for an influencer who is friendly and genuine on their channels.
Catch mxmtoon on her official YouTube Channel, Spotify, or Twitter. I would highly recommend first listening to her whole live NPR Tiny Desk Concert; it’s a great representation of her style!
That’s all for June! Have a great start to your summer, and stay safe!