When I was in Japan, there was an ultimate sense of victory in being able to turn on the radio and listen to a little Nakashima Mika or something, or go to a family restaurant and hear Utada remixes playing. But then I came back to the US and thought….’good heavens…what is this?’ Yes, back to the land of garbage Top 40 for me. Ugh. You know, I’m so much of a snob, I never listen to what I call “communist radio” (aka any form of organized radio). I just can’t bear it. I would end up spending the whole time clicking through the stations until I finally settle on the fuzzy no-service sound. It’d be better than anything they’re playing these days.
There’s nothing we can do.
I know just as well as the rest of you how difficult it is to listen to as much Jrock as you like, whenever you like, wherever you like. Purchasing your favorite band isn’t always an option, so I decided to look into the alternatives I use, and go over them briefly. Here it is, the great alternative: internet streaming radio. Yes, my friends, we can now listen to Jrock and Jpop whenever and wherever we like. It’s true, you can’t take it with you– but let’s not get greedy. Here are a few of the cleanest, happiest, most useful online streaming radios available to suit our starved Jroc elitist needs. And remember that later, when this post has disappeared into the rest of them, the links will always be available either in the Banners or in the site-links dropdown menu in the sidebar. ——->
THE RADIOS~ ラジオです
Top pick: Kawaii Radio
Ups: All Jpop, all the time. 24 hour streaming free online radio. Kawaii-radio was started up by college students who loved Japanese music as much as we do! They have a massive library of popular Jpop, video game OST tracks, and anime OSTs. Great for just leaving on while you’re surfing the web or blogging– expect a generally up-beat, scrambled playlist.
Downs: Mostly pop and soundtracks. Hardly any Jrock or Visual Kei, although they do play some mellower stuff occassionally such as Gackt and Pierrot. (Note: while writing this post I’ve been listening to KR, and I just hit a patch of Nightmare, Abingdon Boys School, and Pierrot, so don’t be disheartened, VK elitists!)
So what do I do?: Although I don’t remember if I’ve tried or not, I believe you can listen straight from the web-site. For best results, go to the click to listen link in their sidebar menu on the home-page and download a play-link. Once you’ve downloaded the link, you can play kawaii-radio straight through iTunes or Windows Media Player, without having to have a window open. You do need the site up to get the song info and rate songs, though.
FYI: Make an account so you can rate songs. Whenever you rate a song, it is “bookmarked” into your rated-songs library, organized by highest rating to lowest. You can keep track of songs you like this way. :)
Overall: While not the most high-tech radio out there, Kawaii has tons of integrity, an awesome Jpop and OST library, and DJs whose taste is commendable.
Second Choice: last.fm
Ups: Probably the biggest library of music on the internet. They have pages for almost any band you could ever want to look up, and each band has a brief bio and link to “Play Gackt Radio”. When I’m working I can put on Uematsu Nobuo radio and chill to some Final Fantasy, and when I’m web-browsing I can put on Buck-Tick radio. You can “favorite” any song and it saves it to your library for later. Each song has a “buy” link that links to iTunes or another seller.
Downs: The stations aren’t particularly varied. I find myself changing stations every so often just because I get tired of them playing songs that all sound similar. The Visual Kei stations are screamo-heavy. No personalization options, which isn’t an issue with varied Kawaii Radio, but with last.fm’s “naive” station organizing, it can get annoying. The pop stations seem to be varied, though.
So what do I do?: You listen straight from the website– no downloading or accounts necessary. Make an account so you can favorite and buy songs if you like and bookmark stations.
FYI: You can make last.fm widgets and embed personal playlists into websites and blogs.
Overall: despite its faults, last.fm’s library can’t be beat. A great source for discovering new bands and remembering their names without having to physically write them down.
If at first you don’t succeed…there’s always a Plan C: Pandora Radio
Ups: Free and yet completely personalize-able stations. Add “core” bands to stations at any time you want so they’ll play more like them, hate and love songs to ban them or get more like them rotating. Favorite and buy songs.
Downs: Not much Jrock or Jpop– but it is there. The real problem is that, unlike last.fm, Pandora doesn’t stick to Japanese music. If you put in “Utada Hikaru” they’ll probably end up playing Shakira or something two songs later. No banning Western music at large.
So what do I do?: Make an account– you just need an email address– so you can keep your personalized stations and edit them whenever you want. Listen streaming through the internet, no download necessary.
FYI: If you know a friend’s email address and they use Pandora, you can listen to any of their stations without them ever knowing….Creepy.
Overall: Great if you’re interested in more traditional Japanese music and Shamisen, such as Agatsuma and Yoshida Brothers. I’ve also heard some good stuff off video game-root stations. If it’s Jrock and Jpop you want, stick to Kawaii and last.fm– I’d rather have to hear six Pierrot songs in a row than have Gackt turn into Metallica.
Other options to consider….
I haven’t used these servers, but you’re more than welcome to try them on your own and if you find something good, do let me know.
Live365— Apparently they have a “major label Visual Kei and Jrock” station (here’s the direct link). “JSHOXX 24/7” that means it plays every day, all day long, which is a good sign. They attached the letter “J” to the beginning of the station name– also a good sign.
(My first impression of the site: it looks kind of impersonal. I like how friendly Kawaii Radio is, and last.fm, while a major deal at least seems kind of comfortable. But if they have a good station, that’s mostly what matters.)
Later I’ll cover some places to buy Jrock (yes, it is possible!). Look forward to it.