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 July and August 2021.
Even though the COVID disaster forced cero to cancel in-person live shows, the group has still actively organised shows online. They were pioneers among Japanese indie artists for establishing paid streaming for online live performances. As a result, cero both energised their own fans and other artists in the industry.
I, of course, enjoyed cero’s online shows! It was so nice to be able to enjoy cero live from the comfort of my own home – but it’s also made me keen to hear the group’s music in-person. Hopefully cero’s proper live shows return soon.
The debut solo album Śisei by cero member Yu Arauchi was a shock – and a cool one, at that.
As well as having written lyrics and music for many cero songs, Arauchi is an essayist, having published a collection called Birds’ Plan under his own name. This song, titled “Whirlpool”, draws you in with its swirling hand-claps and various instrumental tones. If you like it, I’d recommend cero’s “Summer Soul” and “Yellow Magus”, which he composed and wrote the lyrics for. Arauchi will hold his first solo concert soon – and I, for one, can’t wait.
A four-piece band all born between 1999 and 2001, Inner Journey formed at the music club of a high school. “Petrichor”, the group’s new song, is a refreshing tune about July and the height of the Japanese summer.
The band's name, Inner Journey, is taken from a song title of Japanese three-piece rock band, andymori, which regrettably disbanded at the Nippon Budokan (the 14,000-capacity arena also known as the venue where the Beatles first performed in Japan in 1966. Many Japanese artists make it one of their goals to perform at the Budokan). Inner Journey’s vocals are straightforward, refreshing and tight – having only formed in 2019, the group are a very promising young Japanese band.
“Iseijin to Nettaiya” [Alien and Tropical Night] is the latest single from Tokyo-based five-piece rock band Cody・Lee, formed in 2018. The song is characteristic of the group’s combination of male and female vocals and has attracted a lot of attention from listeners in Japan and abroad – some dubbing it one of the top breakout rock tunes of the year.
Featuring lyrics around themes of “hanabi” [fireworks], “reibō” [air conditioning] and “nettaiya” [tropical night], the song is reminiscent of Japan’s hot summers. It’s featured in the end credits of It’s a Summer Film!, a movie released in Japan last August, the first time Cody・Lee’s music has been used in a soundtrack. It’s a Summer Film! is set to be screened at lots of overseas film festivals this year, so there should be plenty of chances for international readers to see it – and hear “Iseijin to Nettaiya”.
At the end of June, Cody・Lee released “Monmon” [Worrying Endlessly], the group’s first song of 2021. It’s very different to “Iseijin to Nettaiya”, with a music video worth watching. The videos of both tracks include English lyrics in the description box.
This is a track from the six-track mini-album you love by three-piece alternative rock band Hitsujibungaku. you love contains songs about home and places to return to, with upbeat, positive lyrics that reminisce through moments that marvel at past struggles and the beauty of the world.
“Ano machi ni kaze fukeba” [If the wind blows in that town] is light, gentle, comforting and empowering; a low-tempo song with a warm rhythm – all of which is typical of Hitsujibungaku. The group’s lead singer Moeka Shiotsuka, who also wrote the music and lyrics, has a refreshing voice. Hitsujibungaku is as pleasant as ever, and “Ano machi ni kaze fukeba” can brighten dark days and make your heart feel lighter.
The other five songs of you love are also worth a listen – especially the collaboration with Shuta Hasunuma.