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 September and October 2021.
This October Yuta Orisaka released State of Mind, his first album in three years. His previous, 2018’s Heisei, was chosen as the best album of 2018 by the CD Shop Awards (an award voted by CD shop clerks all over Japan. Previous winners include Hikaru Utada and Gen Hoshino), and was the main reason I became such a fan of Orisaka’s work.
I was tremendously excited about this album before it even came out. Listening to it on release day, I found it to be a collection of songs full of his charm. It easily surpassed my expectations. The song “Shin” in particular caught my ear with its exciting tempo and light vocals.
“Shin” mixes traditional Japanese expressions throughout Orisaka’s voice and the lyrics. The Japanese language is said to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, but the complex combination of kanji, hiragana, katakana and other forms of expression is still fascinating to me even as a person born and raised in Japan.
Formed in 1998, Humbert Humbert is a duo formed by Ryosei Sato and Yuho Sano, both of whom are the primary vocalists of the band, whose songs have been used in a wide range of Japanese TV commercials and TV dramas and are popular with people of all ages. I heard their music once at a music festival and was captivated by their beautiful harmonies.
Their new song is called "Koi no Tenmatsu". Tenmatsu means ‘from the beginning to the end’ (the entire story) – while there are lots of songs about love in the world, many are about the joy of being in love or the sadness of it ending.
This time, Humbert Humbert sing about heartbreak. But it’s different from other songs. The lyrics sing:
“These times will end. I knew it from the day it started.”
“I'm the one who starts it, I'm the one who ends it.”
As you can see, the song is from the perspective of foreseeing the end of a relationship from its very beginning. Everything has a beginning and an end, and it's strange that after all of it we still want to fall in love again. Perhaps it's because there are more emotions to be gained than the sadness of the end.
Spitz is a Japanese four-piece band that debuted in 1987. Their music is often sung in classes by Japanese students, and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the band's debut. In September this year, four new songs from their early years, including “Hibari no Kokoro” [Heart of a Lark], were added to a new album and released as Kacho Fugetsu +.
There are many great songs by Spitz, but I love “Neko ni Naritai” [I want to become a cat]. The lyrics are not direct, but rather imaginative, and can be interpreted in many different ways by the listener.
I think the song is about a sad love story between the main character and "you", but you can see different relationships in the song depending on who you listen to. It can be interpreted in different ways by different people, and I think that's the charm of Spitz. In addition to “Neko ni Naritai”, Spitz is one of Japan's most popular bands, and I hope you find your own favourite song.
Kaze Fujii is a singer born in 1997, she made her debut in 2019 at the young age of 22.
Fujii Kaze is a singer who has spent much of the past few years near the top of the Japanese album charts. Since last year’s release Help Ever Hurt Never, Kaze has also appeared on plenty of Japanese music shows – he’s now a household name throughout Japan.
Kaze's new song is called “Moeyo” [Burn], and every time I hear it I can’t help but think this is what I’ve been waiting for. The chorus repeats the song title and the lyrics are so playful that I can’t help but hum along. It's a different kind of song to his previous projects, with a strong sound and straightforward lyrics.
Also, the entire video was filmed on a Google Pixel smartphone – but it’s of such high quality that it’s kind of hard to believe. In any case, I’m excited to hear what his future has in store!
aiko is a Japanese singer-songwriter who made her major label debut in 1998. She has been one of the top musicians in the Japanese music industry for more than 20 years, with hit songs like “Kabutomushi” [Beetle] and “Hanabi” [Fireworks].
The appeal of aiko's songs is their unshakable core strength. With so many love songs to her name, the expectations of the listener are bound to be high, but she always manages to exceed them – and with ease.
Each of her songs is not about a particular kind of love, but rather about the love in everyday life that we all experience, and when you listen to her songs, you feel as if you are experiencing the same things as she does.
The song "Atashitachi" [Us] by aiko is about a relationship with someone special. The music video depicts friendships, but depending on the listener, you may think of images with a wide range of important people such as lovers and family members.