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For the first ever installment of my monthly best Japanese albums list (and also every subsequent one from now on), I look back at the records that have been released from Japan at any point in time and recommend my favorite ones to you.
From rap to J-pop to rock, this edition of the list is comprised solely of women. Not that it was an intentional decision. It’s just that these 3 albums were easily some of the best records that I’ve heard recently, with each of them stylistically miles apart from each other. Still, I hope that you’ll be able to connect with at least one of the records here. Japanese and Asian music, in general, need all the exposure they can get.
Awich – 8
Genre: Rap, R&B
Released: 8 / 8 / 2017
33-year old Japanese-American rapper Awich has been obsessed with hip-hop since the tender age of 13. Inspired by 2Pac’s “All Eyes on Me”, her music is much more reminiscent to that of Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliot than 90s American gangsta rap.
Performing the bulk of the tracks in both English, the album is heavily influenced by its American counterparts. Yet, Awich manages to tie it back to its Japanese roots by enlisting the help of her home country contemporaries.
With outstanding verses from guests such as Yomi Jah and ANARCHY, Awich balances her English-oriented style with their Japanese leaning lyricism, creating an album that combines the best of both worlds.
Haru Nemuri (春ねむり) – Haru to Shura (春と修羅)
Genre: J-Pop, Noise Pop, Experimental
Released: 11 / 04 / 2018
Topping numerous international year-end lists last year and most notably reaching the number 7 spot on TheNeedleDrop‘s coveted list, Haru Nemuri is one of Japan’s biggest rising J-Pop stars for very good reasons.
Blending noise rock with dashes of bubblegum-heavy J-pop, all while delivering excellent rap inspired vocals, Haru to Shura is experimental music at its finest and most accessible. Equally brash and charming, Haru aims to hook listeners onto her sound without sacrificing any of her art.
It’s an album that unveils more of what it’s hiding underneath its layered production with each subsequent listen, inviting you to dissect it till your heart’s content.
Rei – REI
Genre: Rock, Jazz, Electronic
Released: 25 / 06 / 2018
Loaded from front to back with banger after banger after banger, REI is an exercise in excessive indulgence that is brimming with energy and individuality. Harboring back to the rock music of the 70s and jazz from the 60s, she modernizes them through the ingenious addition of sparse electronic production.
Over the course of its 12 tracks, Rei inflects you with the excitement in her voice while her dynamic guitar riffs inject the record with a dose of exuberance. The album is ultimately an experience of Rei and her guitar, her passion for the craft and delight that she has for music being placed front and center.
REI is pure joy rendered into the form of an album. And if my writing wasn’t able to convince you, the track below definitely will.