It’s nearly March and the holidays almost feel like a distant memory. Between last-minute Christmas shopping, catching up with friends and family and getting back to the grind at work, time has cruised by over the past few months and, along with it, a tonne of amazing new Japanese releases. From major releases such as Hikaru Utada and Shinichi Osawa’s project, Mondo Grosso, to young guns like FiJA and Nao Kawamura, our February playlist covers what you might have missed over the Christmas and New Year’s period. Listen to the playlist here and check out some of our Tokyo music highlights below.
Mondo Grosso – IN THIS WORLD
Mondo Grosso is the musical project of Shinichi Osawa. Active from 1996 until 2003 and then resurrected in 2017 with two groundbreaking albums over two years, Mondo Grosso is known for its collaborations with up and coming and established artists and innovative musicality. True to its brand, Mondo Grosso’s new album, BIG WORLD, features some major collaborations with artists such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, ermhoi and CHAI and, as such, covers some serious ground sonically from upbeat pop-rock to dark electronica.
FiJA – WAGAMAMA
“WAGAMAMA” is the title track from Tokyo-based R&B and soul artist, FiJA’s, debut EP. The album was produced in collaboration with producer KOYANMUSIC and released via their independent record label FJKY records on February 11. The track “WAGAMAMA” is a minimalist contemporary R&B track that showcases her distinctive vocals and conjures up images of sunset cocktails on a beach-side resort.
May. J – Love & Hate
Japanese/Iranian pop star May. J released her long-awaited ninth studio album late last year to critical acclaim. Her first full-length release in just over four years is a collaboration with producer Miru Shinoda (from the band yahyel) and has been noted for its distinctly darker sound than previous releases. After having gone through what she describes as a dark period of her career, May. J says that the writing and recording of this album was an opportunity to exorcise some of her demons and experiment with new musical styles.
dodo – wrong
Nagano-born hip hop artist, dodo, released his third album again on January 11, his first major release since the popular normal in July 2020. The self-produced album has a decidedly more polished feel due to new recording gear which he says he was able to afford thanks to the popularity of his 2019 single “im.” The typically playful track “wrong” is a wordplay-laden rumination on the nature of making mistakes.
Odotte Bakari no Kuni 踊ってばかりの国 – ニーチェ (Nietzsche)
Odotte Bakari no Kuni has been fairly consistently active in the Japanese psychedelic and rock scenes since 2008 despite being plagued with lineup troubles since the outset. Their eighth full-length album, moana, was released in June last year along with a tour, during which the new track ニーチェ (Nietzsche) was recorded. Released as part of a dual-single in early January, the title track is a philosophical psych-rock ballad with a math-rocky midsection.
MIRRROR – Feedback
Feedback is the new track from Mei and Takumi of Japanese-American duo MIRRROR. Both originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, the pair have been releasing music as a duo since meeting in Tokyo in 2019. Generally spending their time together between Tokyo and LA, “Feedback” marks the first time the pair have produced new material remotely, resulting in a track that they’ve described as a turning point for the project. Fans of MIRRROR can catch Takumi performing with his band aTTn as well as providing guest vocals on D.A.N.’s single “The Encounters,“ which was released late last year.
Hikaru Utada – Find Love
Fans have been anxiously anticipating the release of a new album from Japanese American pop star Hikaru Utada since “One Last Kiss” dropped with the release of “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time” in March last year. Nearly a year later, on their 39th birthday, Utada’s 8th (Japanese-language) studio album BAD MODE finally became available via streaming platforms. Already topping the Billboard Japan and Oricon charts, their first bilingual release features six previously released tracks as well as remixes and collaborations with producers such as Skrillex, Sam Sheperd (Floating Points) and A.G. Cook. At points raw and introspective, the album crosses a variety of genres with the poppy single “Find Love” being featured in both English and Japanese-language versions.