Lots of good music came out of Japan in October, but keeping track of it all can be a challenge, especially for those living outside of the island. Don’t sweat it, we've highlighted a few Japanese releases well worth hunting down...
1. CHAI “PINK”
CHAI excel at controlled chaos. The Tokyo four-piece’s debut album PINK zig-zags all over the place through 11 songs, but this simply isn’t a group throwing whatever idea they have straight at the recording booth. What makes their first full-length such a thrilling listen is how well every sound and song fits just right into the next one. CHAI have gotten a lot of attention in their home country thanks to their dizzying rock numbers, here highlighted by the shouty “N.E.O.” (below) and the effects-loaded freak out of “Gyaranbu.” Yet for every instance where they bounce off the walls, CHAI conjure up a sweeter moment to match, from the wistful “Horechatta” to the playful “sayonara complex.” It’s one of the year’s best releases out of Japan, mostly thanks to how its unpredictability clicks together into something well rounded.
2. YUC’e “Future Cake”
Better load up on caffeine or sugar or whatever your energy-providing supplement of choice before digging into Future Cake. Few albums zoom ahead like this collection from electronic artist YUC’e, who specialises in a busy sound that refuses to relent. She’s skilled at making single songs feel like dancefloor epics - her breakout banger “Future Candy” goes through at least five separate parts. Yet all of it works within the context of the song, and never fails to deliver high-energy thrills.
Over the last few years, rock outfit PASSEPIED have felt out of step with the world around them. They were one of the first groups to clearly take inspiration from whisper-rock outfit Sotaisei Riron, a group who since sounds like ground zero for half of all bands debuting in Japan after 2015, but probably arrived too early. Since, they’ve tried to be many things, to mixed results. Otonari captures them still searching for a solid identity, but with stronger results. They rattle off solid slabs of catchy pop (opener “Oto No Naru Hou E,” below) and less convincing ballads (“Sora”). It doesn’t all click, but there is a willingness to experiment here that makes this the most interesting PAASSEPIED release since 2014’s Makunouchi-Ism.
A rap unit called SUSHIBOYS should not be a real entity in 2017. This generation doesn’t need its own Teriyaki Boyz. But a funny thing happens when listening to their new album “Nigiri,” despite the goofy name and having an album named after a type of sushi (c’mon!), this set shows that the trio are worthy of the spotlight. Part of their charm here lies in how much they push themselves, trying out all types of different sounds. They can pull off contemporary shout-along rap as on “Yuenchi,” but can also glide over Cashmere-Cat-esque beats and chopped-up, faded samples (“Minicar” below).
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