Lots of great Japanese music comes out every week, but keeping track of it all is a tough task. The folks at OTAQUEST want to help. In this new series, we’ll cover new Japanese music highlights from various areas of the industry over the past seven days worth your time. This week: trans-pacific rap, idol songs with an attitude, and a novel approach to City Pop samples.
MIYACHI — WAKARIMASEN
Rapper MIYACHI tries to bridge two distant hip-hop communities over the course of WAKARIMASEN. This balancing act has been present in his work for a while now, starting with his breakout number “WAKARIMASEN” which found him wrestling with his identity while also flexing as much as possible. The songs on this full-length release zoom between Japanese and English, including a deliberate move to appeal to American audiences on the English “STARTED.” Whatever language he goes with, MIYACHI delivers confident lines full of references cutting across cultures. Listen above.
BiSH — Carrots and Sticks
Idol group BiSH aren’t exclusively a group focused on aggressive, rock-centric numbers, a fact echoed throughout newest album Carrots and Sticks. It showcases their diversity with several slower numbers, but after going through this collection it becomes clear they still do attitude-infused numbers better than the rest. Check the dramatic surge of opener “Distance” setting the mood for what’s to come, or dive into the fuzzed-out rip of “TSUiNiSHi.” They go in way more directions here, but still shine best when chugging ahead. Listen above.
emamouse — Black place on the ledge
Tokyo experimental artist emamouse creates her own world out of off-kilter singing and playful digital melodies. They boast one of the more intimidating collections of releases of any Japanese artist going, and knowing where to jump in appears initially as an impossible task. So why not just opt for the latest release. Black place on the ledge features songs built around pitched-up syllable barrages (the loopy “a grassy guitar”) and charming melodies begging to be played in some Tim Burton-esque carnival (“Yummest Bread”). Most importantly, it captures an artist ignoring any outside forces to craft a musical language all their own. Get it here, or listen above.
DYGL — Songs of Innocence & Experience
Tokyo quartet DYGL draw from decades of British rock, and have absorbed so much that you wouldn’t be shamed for mistaking them for the next big thing NME is trying to push on the masses. Songs of Innocence & Experience packs in 10 numbers guided by electric guitar and shout-along lyrics, sometimes hitting on the state of the world while other times slowing down a bit to get bittersweet (see “Nashville”). The influences are clear, but DYGL shift them into something with a lot of energy for 2019 and something that suits them just right. Listen above.