photo by Mutsumi Okazaki
Every two months, the Glow’s resident indie expert Mutsumi Okazaki chooses some of her favourite new tracks. Here are her five top Japanese indie tunes from January and February 2021.
“Koi wa māburu no umi he” [Love Goes to the Sea of Marble] is the new song by Sohei Oyamada – best known as the ex-guitarist and vocalist of andymori, an indie rock band that broke up in 2014.
I was too big a fan of andymori to have, up to this point, listened to much of Oyamada’s solo output. I was afraid of dismissing him as simply worse than his previous outfit. But this work is so warm and gentle that it seems to embrace my twisted sensibilities; it’s beautiful and intimate, as if Oyamada was singing it to me in the street.
“No Longer” sees singer-songwriter YeYe collaborate with Motoi Kawabe, the vocalist of Tokyo-based indie band mitsume. It’s the kind of collaboration, between two indie stars, that looked incredible on paper – and the track itself lives up to the billing.
Both have soft, clear voices that combine well with the expert pleasantness of the rest of the song. It’s the kind of track that enables you to take a deep breath in the midst of a hectic daily life, perfect for relaxing on walks, drives, or in a room glowing in the evening sun.
This is a cover of Spitz’s immovable 1998 masterpiece “Kaede” [Maple]. It’s a well-covered track, but Asako Toki offers her own take with a distinctly sleepy, sunny air – typical of her light, polite singing style. The album of which this is a part (Home Town~Cover Songs~) also features covers of many other Japanese classics, including tracks by Southern All Stars, Quruli and Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Also, the dog on the album cover is adorable!
The original “Momen no Hankachīfu” [Cotton Handkerchief] was released in 1975. It was written by Takashi Matsumoto and composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi, who later wrote many songs for Japanese idol Seiko Matsuda in the 1980s. They’re now known as makers of some of the biggest hits in the history of Japanese pop music.
Ai Hashimoto is an actor, born in 1996. She released her cover of “Cotton Handkerchief” at the very end of 2020. Unlike the original, Hashimoto’s version is a simple, piano-led composition that emphasises her ephemeral voice. Forty years after the first “Cotton Handkerchief”, the track is still being sung – in that regard, I think that this cover is an important moment in modern Japanese pop.
The moment I first heard ““Sōzō” [Create] in a TV commercial, I was instantly gripped by its coolness. Beginning with the lyrics: “let’s make something,” it has appropriately been chosen as the theme song for the 35th anniversary of Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros.
While “Create” contains many elements of Nintendo, it’s also fun and playful, brimming with expressions that remind us of Gen Hoshino’s personality.