…and I’m back! After a 3 month hiatus, I have decided to return with a new batch of the best Japanese albums to recommend. This time around, I’ll be releasing an article every 3 months because it’s tough to keep this consistent as a busy university student. However, this also means I’ll be doing more recommendations of music from other countries too!
The rules are the same as before. These aren’t all records that were released in 2020, rather they’re just projects from any time period that I just want people to enjoy.
Scarf and the SuspenderS – Invitation
Genre: Rap, Jazz
Released: 22 / 11 / 2017
Invitation sounds like how a warm glass of wine would feel as it sinks down your throat. The Tokyo-based band engage with jazz rap in the purest sense of the genre, as lead vocalist MC Scarf lays down buttery smooth rhymes over densely arranged and luxurious instrumental playing.
Maison Book Girl – Umi to Uchu no Kodomotachi (海と宇宙の子供たち)
Released: 27 / 11 / 2019
Maison Book Girl’s last album was incredible and their latest one is no different. There’s no bubblegum pop pandering despite their girl group status, instead they enlist production that’s noisy, layered and bombastic.
The group’s brand of art-pop is refreshing in the sea of pop-rock inspired works that are prevalent today. It’s pop music with an unfaltering edge.
Junko Ohashi – Neo History (ネオ・ヒストリー)
Genre: City Pop
Released: 21 / 9 / 1993
Anyone that has an inkling of interest in Japanese music would know what city pop is. It’s arguably one of the country’s most influential entertainment exports outside of anime. On Neo History, Junko Ohashi proves to us why the genre still sounds as endearing nearly 20 years later.
Front-loading the record with her powerhouse voice, it complements the light-hearted production that is just begging to be played at a beach resort…or a very classy bar.
Kobasolo – Collection 2 (これくしょん2)
Genre: Pop, Folk
Released: 20 / 2 / 2019
One of Japan’s biggest YouTubers, Kobasolo eventually dived into original music after reaching global success through his covers with other artists (think Kurt Hugo Schneider), but the album I’m recommending here is one made solely of covers.
Collection 2 is sounds exactly like its name suggests, an arrangement of songs that seemingly have no correlation with one another. There are ballads, folk tunes, pop rock tracks and more; with the underlying interrelation being that they are all very good songs, packaged under a light and breezy aesthetic that’s all the more welcoming.
KENTINMIN (ケンチンミン) – RUNT
Released: 16 / 10 / 2019
Lo-fi hip-hop is an aesthetic that’s been heavily associated with Japanese culture, largely thanks to the endearing influence of the late Nujabes; And RUNT largely follows in the same aesthetic that he popularised.
Rapping over gentle piano loops, grainy samples and snappy drums, KENTINMIN effortlessly carries the entire project of his innate charisma and icy flows. There’s a level of comfort that the project brings too in its familiarity, which made me love the album all the more.
Helsinki Lambda Club – Tourist
Genre: Indie Rock
Released: 5 / 12 / 2018
Helsinki Lambda Club is a band that knows their strengths. On Tourist, the band yanks listeners into a world of bright hot suns, shimmering sea waves and rough sand between the toes. Their dazzling playing and electrifying energy injects life into every song over the album’s brief 26 minutes.
Still, the star of the record is lead singer Hashimoto, who’s nasally vocal deliveries provide a perfectly passive backdrop to the band’s vigour. It’s creates a lazily bouncy aesthetic that’s as infectious as it is catchy, which makes one of my favourite Japanese albums to date.