Tokyo Music Scene: 2024 Winter Release Wrap-Up

Tokyo Music Scene: 2024 Winter Release Wrap-Up

Your monthly dose of new music from Japan


We’re back with another roundup of our favorite new releases from artists on the forefront of the Tokyo music scene to carry us through the winter chill. Zazen Boys’ rock anthems along with dodo’s invigorating rap album bring the heat while Manami Kakudo’s melodic ballads set the tone for introspection and clarity to guide us through the new year. This year also brings us two hot tracks by rapper MFS, a new single from Hikaru Utada and Yuki Chiba’s first new hit after undergoing a creative transformation. Check out the full playlist here and get to know some of our favorite artists below.

ZAZEN BOYS – 八方美人 

This past January, Tokyo-based rock band Zazen Boys released their album らんど (rando). Formed in 2003 by Shutoku Mukai, Zazen Boys’ albums have always been highly experimental, and this one is no different. Their name Zazen originates from Zen Buddhism as they draw inspiration from hip hop, funk, jazz, and Buddhist chants. The songs on Rando are riddled with emotion, loneliness, and introspection in the context of day-to-day experiences. They are simultaneously complex and simplistic, something we all can relate to.

dodo – kelly

The new year has brought us dodo’s 4th album coronas. Following his album release, the Nagano-born hip-hop star toured Japan, performing in Fukuoka, Sendai, and Osaka before wrapping up in Tokyo on February 2. Despite his recent success writing tracks for Shiseido and NHK, the new album is entirely self-produced and centers around his life during the pandemic and his relocation to Tokyo. The 13-track album is made up of six previously-released singles and seven newly-written tracks and with dodo promising new music in 2024, there’s still plenty more to look forward to later this year.

MFS – Combo

These first two months of 2024 have been busy for Tokyo-born Osaka-based rapper MFS with the release of her two new singles, “Combo” in January and “SAICO” in February. The genre-hopping “SAICO,” produced by Taydex (Joji, Anderson Paak), sees the artist continue her collaborative efforts with established producers, with the hard-hitting “Combo” receiving the coveted Stones Taro treatment. MFS will be performing alongside the beloved rapper Awich on May 23 at Zepp Tokyo in Otemachi. Get your tickets ASAP as it is sure to sell out quickly.

Manami Kakudo – i o e o

Having graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts with a degree in percussion, Manami Kakudo is a percussionist who makes use of her extensive training to make experimental, percussive and genre-defying music. Her new album Contact features “i o e o,” which sees the artist combine traditional instrumentation, wind, water, minimalist vocal loops and odd time signatures to take listeners through a nearly seven-minute journey of lush avant-garde craziness.

Hikaru Utada – 何色でもない (A Flower of No Color)

Hikaru Utada is one of the most influential pop artists in Japan and has been releasing music since their first hit album in 1999, First Love. An icon of Tokyo’s music scene, the US-born Japanese singer has collaborated with American artists like Skrillex, Ne-Yo, and Timbaland. Their latest single “何色でもない花” (A Flower of No Color), written for Fuji TV drama “The Gift of Your Heart,” is a moving piano-based ballad buoyed by Utada’s iconic vocals. The track’s music video is directed by previous collaborator Tomokazu Yamada, with dancer Aoi Yamada taking up choreography duties.

Yuki Chiba (formerly known as KOHH) – チーム友達 (Team Tomodachi)

“Team Tomodachi” is the first track released by Yuki Chiba under his real name after abandoning his previous moniker, KOHH. This release marks the Tokyo-born rapper’s much-anticipated return to the Japanese rap scene after his 2014 album MONOCHROME earned him recognition as an influential rapper in Japan. After retiring as KOHH in 2021, he ventured into music video directing and production under his real name, Yuki Chiba but his latest release is evidence that he has not left the music scene.