New music from Japan (Spring edition)

Notable Japanese releases from 2020, in brief

Writing about music in the middle of a pandemic feels even more frivolous than it does the rest of the time, but I’ve been finding it strangely easy to listen at the moment. Here are some of the new releases from Japan that have grabbed me during 2020—focusing, as ever, on artists who are actually based here, irrespective of nationality. While this looks set to be a devastating year for the live music scene (see below), a lot of musicians have also seen their income dry up. If you like what you hear, and have the money to spare, I’d encourage you to buy some of this music rather than just stream it.

Tokyo Gigs, June 2020

JUN 7 Hijokaidan, Dobrok, Totsuzen Danball Club Goodman, Akihabara ¥3,500
JUN 10 American Football Studio Coast, Shinkiba ¥6,800
JUN 13 Downy WWW X, Shibuya ¥4,000
JUN 15 Awich (band set) Liquidroom, Ebisu ¥4,000
JUN 30 Kenta Maeno, Kaneko Ayano Liquidroom, Ebisu ¥4,000

Prices are for advance tickets, unless otherwise stated

Best Japanese music of 2019

A personal Top 10 Japan albums of the year

When I joked a couple of weeks ago that we’d probably all be feeling nostalgic for the 2010s by early January, I hadn’t imagined quite how bad things could get in the first few days of the new decade. Writing about marginal music as the world seems to be hurtling into oblivion feels futile, but if nothing else, perhaps some of the sounds featured here will persuade you that humanity doesn’t deserve to be consigned to the dustbin just yet. These are the 10 (okay, 11) albums by Japan-based artists that tickled me the most during 2019. For a more thorough rundown of the year’s releases, you can also check my Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter wraps of notable music.

Notable Japanese releases of 2019 (Winter edition)

So that’s 2019 done with, then. As we prepare to embark on a decade that will probably be even darker and dumber than the previous one, here’s my final round-up of the year’s notable Japanese releases (which, as ever, I’m defining as artists based in Japan, regardless of nationality). I’ll be posting a best-of list in early January, because I imagine everyone will already be feeling nostalgic for the 2010s by then.

Note: you can read the previous editions here, here and here.

Notable Japanese releases of 2019 (Autumn edition)

Looking back at the last few months, I’m as impressed by the quality of music coming out of Japan at the moment as I am struck by how little of it is tied to any identifiable scene. While there are still some labels that insist on only releasing stuff in pricey and poorly distributed CD editions, Soundcloud and Bandcamp have removed many of the barriers that used to make Japanese music so inaccessible to overseas audiences. For artists and listeners alike, geographical location feels less relevant than it’s ever been. Akuphone’s recent Seitō: In the Beginning, Woman was the Sun compilation (featured below) purports to be a survey of the current Japanese underground, but it’s a portrait defined by nationality and gender rather than place. Meanwhile, a producer like Yosuke Tokunaga or Meitei can cultivate an audience outside Japan without having to maintain any kind of presence closer to home. Maybe a sense of community is getting lost along the way, or perhaps it’s just evolving. In the meantime, here’s some music.

Note: this is the latest in an occasional series of round-ups of interesting Japanese music. You can read the previous editions here and here.