Do you like Jpop music? Of course you do. But are you tired of all the Johnny’s and AKB48 dominating the mainstream from week to week? Well then let me introduce you to some acts that are worth checking out, with reviews of course.
The start of the year saw a bit of staleness in the Japanese music scene. There weren’t that much interesting releases, and it was pretty much the usual popular groups selling a ridiculous amounts of copies. However in the past month there was a surge of good single releases by a few upcoming artists. They offer something a bit fresh and different to the charts, so here are some quick reviews of their new singles.
Negoto – sharp #
Negoto is a four-piece girl band hailing from Chiba. Blending innocence and dreamy melodies, Negoto plays a brand of indie pop and rock that has lots of energy. sharp # is strong driving pop-rock piece that’ll make you bob your head with a melody that should put a smile on your face. Coupling tracks include a chopped up, cut-and-paste electronic remix of the title track and for some reason, a past single, Charon. Somewhat of a letdown that it’s not a proper b-side, but sharp # is a good enough track that stands on its own. Look out for it being featured in Gundam AGE. In a mainstream scene that’s dominated by idols, it is good to see a good girl band making music. They’re also very cute. Check them out.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – CANDY CANDY
I think you should already know about this unique character. But if you don’t yet, let me fill you in. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu started off as a fashion blogger, then became a fashion model, then started making fashion items, and now is a recording artist. Her music video PONPONPON is famous on the internet. Sporting weird and crazy colorful outfits, Kyary presents an image that is totally new in this generation of Jpop music. Her music is cute and quirky electropop, and it’s a perfect match for her image. CANDY CANDY takes a more subdued approach compared to previous releases, but the cuteness is still there with bells and the title word being repeated in multiple cute ways. B-side Demo Demo Mada Mada kicks up the tempo with a chugging bass line and lyrics being spit out in quick fashion. It’s a decent contrast to the main track. She may be weird, but Kyary is lots of fun.
number0 – Returning
Take a seat and chill for a bit. number0 is a band that produces some very relaxing music for your ears to enjoy. The complex electronic stuff most artists dabble in today is thrown out and number0 instead opts for minimalistic beeps and ambience to accompany their guitars, bass, and drums. Returning begins with static noises and scratches with a gentle electronic sweep from underneath. As the full instrumentation joins in, the song comes together and it’s like a slow sunrise as it progresses. Returning is complemented by a remix by Spangle Call Lilli Line, a popular minimalist electronic band themselves. It is actually less of a remix but more of a cover, as Spangle Call Lilli Line reforms the whole song with their signature melancholic feel. With a mixture of electronic ambience and post-rock, you can’t go wrong. Take a listen to number0 when you feel like you want to be outside and enjoy nature.
Nanba Shiho – Shoujo, Futatabi
Eighteen-year-old Nanba Shiho comes from Fukuoka, a place in Japan where some of the most talented musicians originate, including Hamasaki Ayumi, Shiina Ringo, and YUI. Having started at the young age of 15, Shiho already has two albums under her belt. Her latest venture, Shoujo, Futatabi is a solid mixture of pop and electronic music. The instrumentation is all handled by synthesizers, giving the song a big, open feel. It is electropop that leans more towards the pop side, much different than Kyary’s cutesy style. Shoujo, Futatabi could easily also be a solid indie pop song. Shiho’s voice is unique, mature and soft, and is the finishing touch. Coupling track Travelin’ Light has a very contemporary pop sound, with electronic elements filling out the rest. It’s a pretty mature sound for an eighteen-year-old. Nanba Shiho has production support from people of popular bands, like Sakanaction’s Yamaguchi, Cymbals’ Yano, and Base Ball Bear’s Koide. She’s young, but she’s gonna do a lot. Keep an eye on her.
Yanagi Nagi – Vidro Moyou
Yanagi Nagi is kind of like the talented musicians from YouTube, who finally got recognized and received a record deal. Yanagi started off creating music independently and posted her work on video sites like Nico Nico Douga. She then became the primary vocalist of supercell, contributing in the band’s first few releases. Her most recent work is Vidro Moyou, a mid tempo pop-electronic song. The piece is smooth and flowing, with a strong piano presence. The instrumentation is multi-layered, but takes the backseat during verse sections, then comes back together during choruses. Nagi’s beautiful, airy voice ties everything together. I really really like her voice; it’s a style I don’t hear in many singers. Vidro Moyou is coupled with concent, which is a minimalist, almost ambient electronic track that opens up into a pretty complex piece in the chorus sections. Nagi is slated to release a full album later this month. Definitely give her a listen. Her voice is dreamy.
BABYMETAL / Kiba of Akiba – BABYMETAL x Kiba of Akiba
What would this be if I didn’t talk about idols? Yes, idols are everywhere nowadays thanks to AKB48 and Johnny’s. New idol groups have to find a way to differentiate themselves from others, be it a crazy image or silly gimmick. BABYMETAL, a sub unit from idol group Sakura Gakuin, have perhaps found the most different way. These three little girls talked to the Rock Gods and have been endowed with the powers of Metal. Furthermore, this is a split single, with an actual metal band. Yeah, they’re not messing around. BABYMETAL’s track ii ne! is a glorious combination of head banging metal, para para inducing eurobeat and cute idol pop, with a hip hop section in the middle. What? Yeah. The other party is Kiba of Akiba, an actual metal band that mixes in some electronic things here and there. They seem to be pretty cool otaku nerd ballers in their own right, singing about watching anime and partying at an internet forum. Splits usually have both participants covering one of each other’s songs, and they did just that. Both pretty much sound the same as their original counterparts, only difference being the vocals. The interesting part about this split release is that both groups are in their infancy. BABYMETAL x Kiba of Akiba is the second physical release for both of them. BABYMETAL is definitely something worth checking out. Idols and metal? that’s ridiculous and hilariously cool.
There you have it, six new(ish) single releases from the past month(or two) from some upcoming bands and artists. I listen to many different styles of music and enjoy looking for new acts on the rise. Spreading the word and recommending these new acts is the other cool part about finding them. Enjoy, I hope I expanded your musical horizon a bit.