We’re back with our monthly dose of new Japanese music and April – May has really brought the goods. From much-anticipated new releases via established artists such as indie sweetheart Ayano Kaneko and the psychedelic band of instrumentalists Kikagaku Moyo, all the way to newcomers like Salasa, we’ve rounded up 13 of our favorite new tracks which you can listen to here with some special mentions for you to check out below.
Hitsujibungaku – OOPARTS
The already prolific Hitsujibungaku (translating to Sheep Literature) are back with their third album in four years. Formed in 2012, the current three-piece lineup came together in 2017 and, since then, has been consistently releasing some of the coolest and most polished Japanese alternative rock tracks around. OOPARTS (short for out-of-place artifacts) perfectly captures all of the elements the band has come to be known for, with a soaring vocal performance from Moeka Shiotsuka and a tight and dynamic rhythm section with driving, fuzzed-out bass and metronomic drums. Catch Hitsujibungaku playing a series of spring festivals this month as well as their own run of tour dates in June.
Salasa – 温度 (Ondo)
Salasa is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from the Shonan region of Kanagawa. Bursting onto the scene with her debut single, “ネイルの島” earlier this year, she’s quickly earned a name for herself as an artist to watch with the single gaining high recognition — reaching 4th place on the J-WAVE TOKIO HOT 100 list. The EP, also named ネイルの島, features lush modern jazz, soul and blues compositions illustrating the range the young artist already possesses and her ability to turn negative experiences into smooth-as-silk saxophone-laden neo-soul tracks. Salasa will definitely be one to keep an eye on this year.
Kikagaku Moyo – Cardboard Pile
Kikagaku Moyo started out in the summer of 2012 as a group busking on the streets of Tokyo. Though the band started as a free music collective, it quickly evolved into a tight group of multi-instrumentalists. Kikagaku Moyo calls their sound psychedelic because it encompasses a broad spectrum of influence. Their music incorporates elements of classical Indian music, Krautrock, traditional folk, and 70s rock. Most importantly, their music is about freedom of the mind and body and building a bridge between the supernatural and the present. Improvisation is a key element of their sound — leading to astonishing live sets. Go & Tomo run their own record label Guruguru Brain currently based in Amsterdam. Guruguru Brain has released about 10 artists from Asia including Kikagaku Moyo since 2014.
THE 2 – 恋のジャーナル (Koi no Journal)
Vo. Yutaro Furutachi / Gt. Ayata Kato / Ba. Natsuhiko Mori / Dr. Nao Utagawa was formed in 2017 by Yutaro Furutachi (ex. The SALOVERS) and Ayata Kato (ex. Ponytail Climb). Both of them had been out of music for a period of time, but their drive to create something as a band was impossible to ignore. Thus, on February 22, 2022, Ba. Natsuhiko Mori (ex. Shiggy Jr.) and Dr. Nao Utagawa (ex. Akai Koen) joined the band, and the group switched its name from “2” to “THE 2”. The band name means “Episode 2” of the member’s musical life. Yutaro Furutachi’s original and frustrating linguistic sensation rides on a sharp alternative sound and plays a sour main tune.
Ayane Yamazaki – Void Time
Ayane Yamazaki (山﨑彩音) first performed at FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL back in 2016 when she was just 17 years old. In October 2019, the artist debuted worldwide distribution with the album “LIFE” from the UK label/agent AWAL. In August 2020, she covered the legendary city pop song “MAHOU O OSHIETE.” Seemingly unstoppable, in November of the same year, she released the album “Yobikakerarete” from the same label. Yamazaki’s music has been picked up by DJs across the globe and her sound became a No. 1 hit on the German indie music chart. On May 21, 2021, her new single “Melody” was released by Friendship worldwide. It’s an ambient pop song with a dreamy melody and a stateless sound, connecting listeners around the world.