Best J-Pop/J-Rock Albums of 2016

It’s been a whirlwind year in the Japanese music industry. Influential singer/songwriter Utada Hikaru released her first album in eight years; Boom Boom Satellites released their final (gorgeous) record before the passing away of vocalist Kawashima Michiyuki; iconic boy band SMAP disbanded after a run of nearly three decades; and BABYMETAL took one step closer to world domination when they opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers on their UK tour. To nobody’s surprise, fan-favourite idol groups such as Arashi and AKB48 continued to top many of the charts, but they were far from the only fare on offer in 2016. Continue reading

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5 First J-Pop and J-Pop Acts

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Japanese music can be potentially quite difficult for English-speaking listeners to get into, and not just because of the language barrier. With the record charts saturated by saccharine-sweet idol units such as AKB48 and their numerous sister groups, and bishounen-heavy boy bands like Arashi and Kis-My-Ft2, the industry might seem off-putting to those wanting something with a little more depth. However, even lovers of mainstream pop might find the comparatively high-pitched and sometimes rather nasal vocal style of many J-pop singers overly harsh on the eardrums – and besides all that, it can simply be tricky to know where exactly to begin. Continue reading

Best J-Pop/J-Rock Albums of 2014

So many new albums, so little time. Each year I seem to listen to more than I did the previous one, and whether this year has been a poorer one for Japanese music or whether I’m simply continuing to become pickier, there’s a lot more in my discard pile this time around. Still, that doesn’t mean 2014 has been bereft of good music; as with the last two years, six albums managed to stand out from the rest – albeit every single one of them from a female artist or band. Continue reading

Best J-Pop/J-Rock Albums of 2013

It’s been an interesting year for Japanese music. At the beginning of drafting this article I was actually feeling rather daunted, finding myself with a far larger number of titles on my potential top albums list than this time last year – many of which I hadn’t yet had the chance to listen to in full. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be), I quickly ended up crossing a lot of these off said list when considering my top choices. Plenty of variety there may have been, but comparatively very few of these albums were anywhere near as good as I had gone in expecting. As a result, there are exactly the same number of titles listed here as last year’s selections. Continue reading

PopRockMetal Gods: A Look at Visual Kei

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It’s not easy to pin down a musical movement without referring to a genre of sound. Be it pop, rock or metal, visual kei has at one point or another been involved in all of these yet at the same time can be defined by none of them. This stems from the fact that visual kei – literally ‘visual style’ or ‘visual system’ – is as the name suggests not a musical genre but rather an aesthetic one. Even then, the style can be incredibly diverse, making it notoriously difficult to define. Continue reading

Best J-Pop/J-Rock Albums of 2012

It’s only five months overdue, but better late than never right? Musically-speaking, I still have about as much respect for the likes of AKB48 and Arashi as I did when I first started really getting into Japanese music a few years back but despite the usual predictable chart-toppers, 2012 saw some excellent J-pop and J-rock albums released, so I’ll be going over a few of what I consider to be the best of them. For the sake of originality and fairness, I’ll be counting full studio albums only and excluding any best of and compilation albums. Continue reading