New Japanese Vibes (152) – 小袋成彬 Obukuro Nariaki ‘Selfish’

小袋成彬 Obukuro Nariaki’s debut as a solo artist is a long time coming. While his extensive career as a supporting musician includes backing vocals in 宇多田ヒカル Utada Hikaru’s latest album Fantome, he breaks the shell and will launch his first solo album 分離派の夏 Bunriha no Natsu this month, which includes the song ‘Selfish’. The song immediately gives us a vivid glimpse of his individual artistry – musically, it is elusive in its narrative but has a unique charm to it. The opening beats deceives us into thinking Obukuro will escort listeners along a rhythmic soul/R’n’B road, but it serenades listeners in a pure and sensitive folk ambience for much of the track while peaking and ebbing in texture and expression. Obukuro also mesmerises us with his rich and fresh voice that reaches towards his sparkling falsetto range.

Other Info

  • Obukuro Nariaki’s new album Bunriha no Natsu will be released on April 25th. Find out more about him on his website.

New Japanese Vibes (135) – YeYe うんざりですよ ‘Unzari Desuyo’

Japanese singer-songwriter Yeye dabbles in a feathery soundscape of emotional sincerity in her new track うんざりですよ ‘Unzari Desuyo’ (‘Bored’). The track swims alongside both the spiritual folk of Sufjan Stevens and the genteel vibes of tropical pop and folk. From the quietly sparkling trail of 7th chords in the acoustic guitar to the elephantine trombone solo towards the end of the song, the song paints a vanilla-coloured sand bed and tranquil beach water for the listener to imagine.

Other Info

  • YeYe’s new album MOTTAINE will be released on November 8th.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (118) – 花男 Hanao ど田舎行進曲 ‘Doinaka Koushinkyoku’

Featuring on his new album 暮らし Kurashi, ど田舎行進曲 ‘Doinaka Koushinkyoku’ (‘Countryside March’) by 花男 Hanao is an unapologetic throwback country tune. Rewinding decades back and flying off to the Southern states of America with is country harmonica riffs, chugging guitar chords and husky and resonant vocals, one can picture a nostalgic camp side fire backdrop with the Hokkaido-based singer-songwriter warming up the ears and surrounding air with no-nonsense vibes.

Other Info

  • Hanao’s new album Kurashi was released on May 24th.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (87) – 青葉市子 Aoba Ichiko ゆさぎ – マホロボシヤ ‘Yusagi – Mahoroboshiya’

ゆさぎ – マホロボシヤ ‘Yusagi – Mahoroboshiya’ by Kyoto-born singer-songwriter 青葉市子 Aoba Ichiko is the perfect balm for my listening senses after another full week of work. The track’s simple façade of Aoba’s whispering vocals and cradle-rocking guitar chords delicately cocoons one’s ears with a crystalline folk beauty. Together with a music video featuring evocative clips filmed in Kyoto and Berlin, Aoba entrances her listeners with a wonderfully nostalgic musical and visual experience.

Other Info/Context

  • Aoba Ichiko’s new album Mahoroboshiya was released on October 19th.

© Isaku Takahashi


SHOKO enjoys expressing both her Japanese upbringing and relationship with London. She is an artist in the broadest sense (from art, illustration, photography, installations etc), and music is just one of many mediums in which she conveys her charming personality.

Set in London’s District Line, SHOKO heads towards the botanical beauty of Kew Gardens in the song ‘The Flowers of Kew Gardens’. The track features in her latest album A Love Letter to London, and cocoons the listener’s senses with twinkling celeste-like harmonies, gentle acoustic guitar strumming and SHOKO’s hazy and delicate vocal melody later joined by warm trumpets raising the sunny vibes of the song.

Filmed out in the pure greenery of Primrose Hill and other various locations and vintage streets in London, ‘Hope and Anchor’ kindles another gentle vibe but with an added pop vibe. The harmonies evoke that of a classic bossa nova number, but instead of the syncopated beats of the Brazilian style, the track wades through a tranquil acoustic pop backdrop. And just before the music fades away, how fitting that SHOKO visits a pub named ‘Hope and Anchor’.

SHOKO also has a close affinity for Paris, a relationship that is encapsulated in her track ‘Mizuiro’ (‘Light blue’). The concept behind this song stems back from her teens days and her strong love of 60s French culture. The song carries a nostalgic scent with tranquil harmonies, gentle instrumental colours, and the hazy vocals of SHOKO drifting away free-and-easy on the horizon.

Other Listening:

  • World’s End
  • After the Rain in London
  • Soon, you will know it
  • Train song

© Isaku Takahashi