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 May and June 2021.
Japan's leading hip-hop group Scha Dara Parr, this year celebrating its 30th anniversary, and the popular four-piece rock band Never Young Beach (commonly known as "Nevayan" in Japan, formed in 2014) collaborated for the first time on “Nevayan to Schayan” [Nevayan and Schayan] in a way that transcends generations.
It's a shock to see these two groups from such different genres collaborating – but I’m overjoyed. Despite the differences in style and era, they’re very similar in the sense that they have their own pace and relaxed vibe (even their clothes are somewhat similar).
Scha and Nevayan released two collaborative songs in total. In both, the lyrics and tunes reflect the two groups’ common pace, and are full of kindness that will help you relax when you're tired of being overworked. The rhyming scheme is also interesting, showing the playfulness of the Japanese language.
Kyoto-based musician Kaho Nakamura’s first new song in a year and nine months, “Aimiru” had been played several times at her live shows over the years – and Nakamura’s fans (me included) have long been pleading for a recorded version.
The intro starts with clapping hands, a timely hint of the glory of being able to sing and dance along at an outdoor concert. I've heard Nakamura sing once at the Sweet Love Shower outdoor music concert, and she was powerful with great sense of rhythm. I enjoyed it very much – and can’t wait to hear her outdoors again. The compellingly positive lyrics to “Aimiru” are also available in English onYouTube.
adieu, not only a very popular actor in Japan, also has a wonderful singing voice. “Tenshi” [Angel], adieu’s first song, was written and composed by singer-songwriter Ayano Kaneko, and arranged by Yaffle, the same musician who has arranged huge hits for popstar Fujii Kaze. “Tenshi” supposedly came about because of adieu being a big fan of Kaneko – for me, it’s a very exciting collaboration.
With lyrics such as "it's all right now", "moonlight is gentle", and "put yourtears gently in a vial", Kaneko's sparkling lyrics are like a talisman that gently accompanies you in your daily life. When you’re depressed, the song is cheerful and refreshing – an instant remedy. However, I can’t help but wonder what the song would sound like if Ayano Kaneko herself sang it.
Osaka-based musician Strange Reitaro’s voice has been used in many Japanese TV commercials, so much so that, in Japan, even if you don't know who Strange Reitaro is, you probably know his voice.
“Omoide no mise” [Shop of Memories] is one of the tracks from Strange Reitaro’s new album, Hummingbird. One of the best things about it is his distinctive, slightly muffled singing voice! I can't help but listen to it. In his TV commercials, Reitaro has covered many famous songs by the legendary Japanese idol Seiko Matsuda, such as "Akai Sweet Pea", "Sweet Memories", as well as the French song "Au Champs Elysees" – but this album is an original work.“
Omoide no mise” reminds him of the shops he remembers and the special people he visited them with. It's a relaxing tune, one where you can take your time enjoying his voice, so give it a listen!
This is a solo song by Yuma Abe, the vocalist and guitarist of Never Young Beach (I mentioned their collaboration with Scha dara parr earlier). Written to express loneliness and tenderness, it’s a song of real warmth – perfect for lazy evenings or late nights. Abe's nostalgic and warm voice is reminiscent of the folk songs of the ‘70s and ‘80s in Japan.
If you like his voice, definitely listen to other songs by Never Young Beach – my favourites are “Akarui mirai” [Bright Future], “Dare mo ikanai kissaten de” [At a coffee shop where no one goes] and “Owakare no uta” [Farewell Song].
I love all Abe’s songs because they’re warm and gentle – and especially “Omaemo”, which will be released as a physical edition later this year.