The Selective Hearing staff take a look back at their favourite music from the second quarter of 2021.
EVERYBODY! EVERYBODY! – Serizawa Yuu with DJ KOO and MOTSU
Read the full review on This Side of Japan‘s substack!
Noise Cancelling – MZSRZ (read Mizushirazu)
Edgy, emo lyrics combined with idols is usually a surefire way to get my interest on board. Throw in one of the most legendary anisong composers of all time (DECO*27, whose very name is enough to convince people to give things a spin) means I am entirely for this. The lyrics in Noise Cancelling are enough to entrance me, complete with the chorus refrain of “I just simply can’t be bothered” (further elaborated in this edition of TSOJ).
Alcohol-free – TWICE
On the one hand, it’s effortless to take this song at face value and assume that, like a lot of pop songs out there, this is simply about a fling. But as Joshua Kim pointed out in his Pitchfork review of Taste of Love (also one of my favourite idol albums year to date), there’s a sense of contentment, almost relaxing sense of effortlessness in this track that is so unlike other TWICE A-sides of note.
To me, this song reflects so much more than just romance – it is the feeling of contentment, of a summer wherein we can feel at ease and relaxed in the presence of others – a sense that has quite honestly been notoriously absent in the past year and a half.
Kodou – Femme Fatale; 1995 – Hirai Ken
After coming back on my radar with his fantastic contribution to the Denonbu franchise, Kenmochi Hidefumi has decided to deliver with not one but two incredibly catchy beats. One, Kodou, is quite frankly the kind of music I would hope that J-pop idols would choose to compete on the global stage if they took a spin on a more “k-pop” style work, showcasing a style of rap and pop that is distinctly Japanese.
However, the other begs a lot of questions: what exactly is the head supposed to be? Why are the various phrases just interspersed throughout the song? And more to the point, why the hell does this slap so hard?
Doja Cat feat. SZA – Kiss Me More
As I mentioned in the last recap, I don’t listen to much English language music these days. However, this song caught my attention in a good way. The beat is hot, and the lyrics are playful and dirty but not overly explicit like similar songs. It’s a song you would not be embarrassed to be playing outdoors at high volume, even though its lyrical content could be questionable for some.
It’s not surprising that this song is popular among a lot of female K-Pop idols. However, STAYC’s cover is the most notable since members you didn’t expect to curse were swearing up a storm.
STAYC – Staydom
Speaking of STAYC, their second EP, Staydom, has been a mainstay in my playlist since its release. You can check out my review of the album here.
YUKIKA – timeabout
timebout is my favourite album of Q2. Sure the city pop sound might be starting to wear a bit thin, but it appeals so much to my musical sensibilities I’m willing to forgive a lot. Fronted by the lead single Insomnia and its predecessor Lovemonth, timeabout is a short but relaxing listening experience. For me, it’s a break from the monotony of mainstream idol pop and a pleasing way to cleanse the palette.
EVERGLOW – Last Melody
Another album that has been in heavy rotation in my playlist since its release. I like that EVERGLOW is going all-in on their brand of aggressive power-pop for their a-sides. They have been consistent with that since their debut, and FIRST is continuing that hot streak.
The b-sides on this album are also excellent. I didn’t like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell at first, but it grew on me after repeated listens. I like Please Please more, though. It’s the prettiest ballad EVERGLOW has done so far, in my opinion.
TWICE – Taste of Love
Taste of Love has a bit of bias towards it since it’s the most recent of the releases in this list. However, that still makes it a worthy addition since nonetheless. Taste of Love continues the maturation of TWICE’s sound with excellent results. The lead single Alcohol-Free certainly qualifies as a summer jam, putting other songs from girls groups released simultaneously (Hi Lightsum) to shame.
The remainder of the album is similar to 2020s More & More and Eyes Wide Open. Although, it’s probably a bit closer to the latter to my ears. Whatever the case, it comes a close second to YUKIKA regarding Q2 albums that have resonated with me.
Rocket Punch – Ring Ring
I’ve been very hot and cold with Rocket Punch and their previous releases, but Ring Ring finally won me over going all synthpop. The chorus has been such an earworm; it has such an 80’s feel that it has me shuffling my own feet as they do. The MV is standard RCPC fare, but I love the outfits as they go through the retro years. It’s also great to see some of the older tech like rotary phones, cassette players, and tube televisions.
I also enjoy I Want U Bad and Ride, with Ride being my favourite B-side from them. Ride continues with the retro feel but on a bit slower tempo. It’s a very easy listen and, along with I Want U Bad, compliments Ring Ring and its high energy feel. Ketchy should feel very satisfied with this summer release.
fromis_9 – WE GO
Another solid release continuing with fromis_9’s music evolution from last years Feel Good. WE GO has been that infectious summer song for anyone travelling to their vacation destination by plane or car. The video has many great Easter Eggs going from the type of editing programs being used, vintage Apple products, to even the names of the files being used. It just makes me smile watching the MV, as the song makes me happy with every listen. Flovers continue to be satisfied with another quality release.
Japanese Breakfast – Paprika
One of my favourite music discoveries this year is learning about Japanese Breakfast. Jubilee has many “just vibing” songs that I enjoy, they make you get up and move no matter which song is playing, and Paprika sets the tone.
The way I found out about them is when I was watching Summer Game Fest and Geoff Keighly was talking about “Crying at Hmart” being a bestseller book, but I had no idea the author was the singer for the band. So when I was watching her sing Glider for an upcoming game Sable, I was instantly hooked and in both visual and audio pleasure. Her song and vocals both complemented the game’s visuals and art style. I was fixated.
I can’t wait for the release of the game and its soundtrack. I’ve been a fan ever since. Here is the video from Summer Game Fest.
Olivia Rodrigo – good 4 u
I know the Sour album got fire when it came out, and frankly, I didn’t even realize any of this till I went to the trending section of YouTube one day, and I was immediately hooked on this song. We all enjoy pop music here, and it only felt right to have her on this list.
DMX – Bath Salts feat. Jay-Z & Nas
When the Exodus album came out, I immediately jumped to this song and never left. Not only is it exciting to get these three on a song together, but both Jay and Nas sound so energized about it. RIP DMX.
Also, I just really enjoyed this clip of Jay talking about DMX.