Best Japanese Albums you need to listen to: July – August 2019

Squeezing multiple months into a single post again this time around because I’m horrible at balancing my university life with my blogging life. Still, I hope the albums I recommend this time around can be thoroughly enjoyed by everyone that reads on.

In July, I found albums by acts that are best known for soundtracking anime. Showing that they have more than just catchy opening tunes under their repertoire.

In August, I’ve chosen my favourite Japanese rap records that can give American rappers a run for their money.

*These aren’t albums that were released within the months that they are categorised under. Rather, they’re just records that I like which I really want to recommend.

 

July

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION — Sol-Fa (2016 Rerecorded Version)

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Best known for: “Erased” OP — Re:Re:

First formed in 1996, Asian Kung-Fu Generation is a band that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to anyone that’s ever had an inkling of interest in J-rock. One of Japan’s most influential bands, Sol-Fa arguably stands tall as the band’s best work. From the opening track down to its closer, the production qualities of the record is impeccable.

First released in 2004, the re-release sees the band adding extended riffs and extra details to the tracks, allowing the record to sound much more cohesive. Sol-Fa is Japanese pop-rock at its finest. The guitar playing is striking and the tunes are addicting. There’s nothing new under the sun here, but what you’ll find are qualities that have been perfected and mastered.

BRADIO – POWER OF LIFE

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Best known for: “Death Parade” OP – Flyers

Fans that are looking to sink their teeth into J-rock with a little groove in its DNA will love BRADIO’s work. Achieving Western popularity with the deliciously infectious “Flyers” on Death Parade’s opening, the band’s debut album is filled to the brim with similar energy-pumping moments.

Every song on here is joy incarnate, as lead singer Takaaki Shingyoji catchy vocals find its perfect match with the band’s backing instrumentals. POWER OF LIFE is exciting proof that funk is also going strong in the land of the rising sun.

Essential Listen

Unlimited Tone — Unlimited Tone “THE BEST” -10th Anniversary-

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Best known for: “Tanaka-kun is always listless” OP — Utatane Sunshine

I first heard of Unlimited Tone when they soundtracked the opening of my favourite anime – Tanaka-kun is always listless. Not long after “Utatane Sunshine” became my all-time favourite anime opening track. So imagine my surprise when I could barely find any of the band’s music on Western streaming services, save for this one greatest hits album.

The band’s music is soft, breezy and oh-so-sentimental. I don’t understand anything that they’re saying but the palette of every song on here is enough to put me in a good mood at any time of the day. At 28 tracks long, this compilation album takes a while to get through but that won’t be a problem when every song here sounds as good as the last.

 

August

KOHH — DIRT

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How can I make a list about Japanese rap without mentioning the poster boy of the genre – KOHH. His work has been seminal in shining a spotlight the country’s hip-hop scene around the world. On his 3rd studio album, he not only proves that he’s one of Japan’s best rappers, but is also able to improve upon the high standards set by rappers down in the US.

Embracing the trap production of the time, most of DIRT could have easily fallen into generic rap tropes. However, KOHH’s delivery and piercing voice stand strong as the highlight of the record. Able to switch between manic energy and calculated subduedness as a drop of the hat, KOHH’s talent is nothing to scoff at.

Coma-Chi — Day Before Blue

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The moment you press play on Days Before Blue, you’ll be greeted with the sound of NYC boom-bap hip hop of the 90s. The record is a love letter to the times of Biggie, Pac and Nas by one of Japan’s best female MCs. Coma-Chi’s rapping is technical and precise, reminiscent to that of early Missy Elliot and The Lady of Rage.

Other than wearing her influences on her sleeves, Coma-chi also proves that she has a strong knack for hooks and unique vocal inflexions. She’s both catchy and charismatic as she floats above the grimy beats that populate the album. It almost makes you wish that there was a subgenre of Japanese hip-hop that embraces the sound of 90s East Coast rap.

Essential Listen

5lack — Yume Kara Same

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Not be confused with American R&B singer 6lack, 5lack (pronounced ‘Slack’) has been grinding within the Japanese hip-hop scene for a while now. On Yume Kara Same, he’s clearly inspired by lo-fi hip-hop that’s similar to the sounds of Nujabes or Madlib.

Letting the beat take a backseat, much of the record’s emphasis is on 5lack himself as he unrelentingly drops bars across the entirety of the album. There’s no flashy production or bombastic hook here to distract you from the main attraction, only rhymes and rhymes and more rhymes.

← April – June 2019

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Based in Malaysia. Jensen is a part-time journalist and full-time music fan.

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