New Japanese Vibes (95) – STUTS 夜を使はたして feat. PUNPEE ‘Yoru Wo Tsukaihatashite’

The realms of jazz, soul and hip-hop have faced a revival in the past few years, including in the Japanese music scene. While my appetite for soulful neo-soul and chilled jazz/hip-hop mixes was rejuvenated by the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote and SoundCloud sensation Tom Misch, Japanese beatmakers like STUTS have captured my listening ears with tracks like夜を使はたして ‘Yoru Wo Tsukaihatashite’ (‘Use up the night’). With the help of fellow hip-hop artist PUNPEE, the song struts through the music video’s city nightlife with neon synth colours, seductive beats and harmonies and polished rapping.

Other Info

  • STUTS’ first album Pushin’ (new 2LP version) will be released on February 2nd 2017.

© Isaku Takahashi

Picks of the Week #15

  • Nulbarich – ‘NEW ERA’

Jazz, soul, funk etc. have somewhat been a minority on my blog compared to other genres. That’s until I discovered five-piece band Nulbarich and their track ‘NEW ERA’, from their first album Guess Who? Right from first listen, the quintet cocoons the listener’s senses in a sumptuous, feel-good atmosphere with groovy riffs, rich harmonies, rocking beats and lead singer JQ’s charming vocals.

  • The fin. – ‘Night Time’

I first discovered Kobe-based band The fin. courtesy of an article by Aoki Ryotaro on The Japan Times. Since then, their ethereal mix of dreamy retro pop/rock and electronic colours in tracks like ‘Night Time’ has tingled my sensations for Japanese indie rock. A palpable British rock sound permeates their music, with hazy colours, dreamy harmonies and riffs, and enchanting melodies bringing back traces of 80s/90s bands like Cocteau Twins.

  • Gotch – ‘The Sun Is Not Down’

Gotch (後藤正文 Gotou Masafumi) , lead vocalist in J-rock band Asian Kung-Fu Generation showcases his talent away from the voltage-driven stage of his band in his mellow number ‘The Sun Is Not Down’. Laden with shimmering guitar colours and floating harmonies, the Shizuoka-born vocalist and guitarist carries the listener gently through a wistful indie rock ambience.

  • サカナクション Sakanaction – 多分、風 ‘Tabun, Kaze’

It was immeasurably exciting to hear the sparkling new-wave sounds of サカナクション Sakanaction back on the new music motorway, and they certainly don’t wane in creative energy as my senses dance away in their new track多分、 風 ‘Tabun, Kaze’ (‘Maybe, Wind’). An adrenaline rush of pulsating beats, radiant synths and sparkling melodies fan the flames of a burst of musical euphoria. Find out more about Sakanaction here, and listen to more of their tracks here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (86) – Caro kissa メリーゴーラウンド ‘Merry-Go-Round’

A nostalgic and gentle 80s vibe shimmers in Caro kissa’s new track メリーゴーラウンド ‘Merry-Go-Round’. Evoking the breezy sound world of ‘city-pop’ (a term or ‘mood’ genre used to describe the growing trend and popularity of Western popular music in Japan in the 80s), the Osaka-based duo’s craving for musical indulgence is conveyed to great effect in the track’s beautiful mélange of smooth jazz, soul, fusion and funk colours.

Other Info/Context

  • Caro kissa’s new mini album LaLa Luna Park will be released on October 30th.
  • Listen to another track by Caro kissa here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (72) – 宇宙ネコ子 Uchuu Nekoko ‘Summer Sunny Blue’ (with 入江陽 Irie You)

Featuring the seductive vocals of入江陽 Irie You, 宇宙ネコ子 Uchuu Nekoko are the latest alternative duo to ripple a wave of dazzling summer vibes to today’s listeners with their new track ‘Summer Sunny Blue’ from their debut album 日々のあわ Hibi no Awa. Glittering electric piano harmonies, warm brass and sunny guitar riffs radiate a feel-good atmosphere, while the smooth vocal melodies of Irie shimmer a feeling of nostalgia and a vivid landscape of the sun setting over the relaxing beach.

Other Info/Context

  • Uchuu Nekoko’s debut album Hibi no Awa will be released on August 17th.
  • Listen and find out more about Irie You in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (70) – ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi ‘Newspeak’

ぼくのりりっくのぼうよみ Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi is back with another seductive hip-hop number ‘Newspeak’, from his latest EP Dystopia. The track spawns an attractive blend of ebbing and flowing rapping, silky melodies, sleek harmonies, pumping beats, and a gorgeous chorus that is enough to grab the musical heartstrings of Japanese soul/hip-hop enthusiasts.

Other Info/Context

  • Boku no Lyric no Bouyomi’s new EP Dystopia will be released on July 20th.

© Isaku Takahashi


Tokyo band Ovall’s spiritual jazz/hip-hop sound treads between the present and past. The trio looks back to tradition for creative juices, but is equally akin to the fresh and forward-thinking outlook that is a prerequisite for any modern musician or band.

‘Feverish Imagination’ from their 2011 EP Heart Fever is a slick fusion of classic hip-hop, soul, funk and contemporary jazz, dictated by voltage-driven guitar solos, dazzling jazz/soul piano chords and licks, punchy drum beats, mellow Rhodes harmonies and shimmering synths. It’s the ideal soundtrack fit for a warm evening at the beach enriched by a bright orange sunset.

Equally seductive are tracks ‘Take U to Somewhere’ and ‘I Need Your Music feat. Hanah’, both featured in their debut album DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS THAT. Both tracks meander through sumptuous yet spiritual nu-jazz vibes coaxed by twinkling electric piano riffs tinged with radiant effects, groovy electric guitar licks, vintage organ textures, foot-tapping rhythms and alluring, hazy vocal melodies that gently slip through the listener’s senses to wind their minds down. From the first chord, one knows that Ovall will take listeners through a magical journey like no other.

Ovall’s ability to resonate the universal appeal of jazz and hip-hop is also captured in tunes like ‘mistakes’ from their album DAWN. Describing their music as “Absolute Mixture Music”, the trio paints a rich fusion of styles and sounds ranging from laser-coloured synths, shimmering electric piano and vintage organ licks that ring the 70s and 80s back to life, jazzy bass lines, catchy drums and sensual vocals.

Other Listening:

  • Hold You feat. Yu Sakai
  • The Skin I’m In feat. Wayne and Kenn Starr

© Isaku Takahashi

New Japanese Vibes (50) – Yasei Collective ‘Lights’

Yasei Collective return with their new track ‘Lights’ from their new album Lights, radiating their multi-coloured modern electro-pop sound world to great magnitude.

Lights’ breathes a gentler vibe than some of their previous material, drifting away with vocal utterances, otherworldly electronic textures and stuttering through an ambivalent rhythmic impulse. The track gradually climbs towards a clamorous wall of noise before cascading down for a voltage-coloured guitar solo to trigger another sonic crescendo. Each member also took the time to shoot video footages under the concept of ‘lights’, showcasing their own interpretations and another side to their personality.

Other Info/Context

  • Lights will be released on April 16th.
  • Find out more about Yasei Collective in my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi