Best Albums of 2017
selected by Toyokazu Mori

V/A “Throw Away Your CDs Go Out to a Show”

V/A “Throw Away Your CDs Go Out to a Show”

Surprisingly, this showcase of Japanese post-punk, new-wave and hard-core bands was compiled by an English man in Tokyo who toured all around Japan by bicycle to look for great bands, and who wrote the book paradoxically named “Quit Your Band! Musical Notes from the Japanese Underground”.

Melt-Banana, Otori, Panicsmile will destroy your head so that you can live a brighter life. Jebiotto, NoiseConcretex3CHI5 or Second Apartment are some of the coolest new-wave names in 2010s Japan.

Yes, all bands in this CD are worth listening. I guess many boys and girls will get a guitar or drums after listening this CD.

♪♫ Listen: “Height” by Second Apartment

V/A on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, www.

Yasuyuki Horigome <BR> “Good Vibrations“ EP

Yasuyuki Horigome
“Good Vibrations“ EP

Japanese AOR, Shibuya-kei musician Yasuyuki Horigome (堀込泰行) had a new idea to make collaboration songs with musicians of the new generation, which became this six-track EP.

Every track is amazing and brings new challenges. On the last song, self-cover of KIRINJI’s song “Aliens”, he sings about feeling out of place or alienation in the dark side of the moon.

Yasuyuki started his musical career in KIRINJI, collaborating with his brother Takaki. So he closed his new collaboration EP with the most popular song of KIRINJI.

♪♫ Listen: “EYE” + album stream

Yasuyuki Horigome on Instagram, www.

JYOCHO <BR> “Day in the Bluish House”

“Day in the Bluish House”

Kyoto-based JYOCHO’s mastermind Daijiro Nakagawa recorded this album in less than one year since the project’s first release. This time, his band members are bassist Sindee, drummer Hatch, new flute player Hachi and new female singer, keyboard player Nekota Netako.

Math-rock combined with multicolored pop melodies and cinematic flute parts is what they offer us on this second mini-album. Throughout “Day in the Bluish House”, they express fragile and gloomy emotions you tend to have when you’re young, but they give us a little bit of hope as well.

♪♫ Listen: ” A Glass of Night

JYOCHO on Facebook, Twitter, www.

Tricot <BR> “3”


Formed in Kyoto, now based in Tokyo, this female rock trio released their third LP “3” via Topshelf Records in the US and Big Scary Monsters in UK.

Their songs are about various situations that happen in our daily life, particularly in a young person’s growth. For example, the single “DeDeDe” is about confusion in human relationships. Dizzy guitar sounds express the hesitation when thinking at night: “What was I supposed to do that time?”.

Sometimes we keep regretting something again and again. We are all a walking disaster. Actually, at the end of this song the singer confesses: “It is always my fault.”

♪♫ Listen: “DeDeDe” + album stream

Tricot on Facebook, Twitter, www.

Mondo Grosso <BR> “Nandodemo Atarashiku Umarekawaru”

Mondo Grosso
“Nandodemo Atarashiku Umarekawaru”

Inspired by soul, funk, jazz, Brazilian music, Mondo Grosso – the moniker of Shinichi Osawa – has been making his own original version of electro J-pop for 26 years now.

His first album in 14 years, “Nandodemo Atarashiku Umarekawaru” (何度でも新しく生まれる), features different guest vocalists and collaborators on each song. For example, “Planet Tantra” co-produced by Etsuko Yakushimaru from Sōtaisei Riron, is sung by Asuka Saito from female idol group Nogizaka46.

Meanwhile “Labyrinth” features the actress and singer Hikari Mitsushima. In a moment of late-night forgetfulness, she dances through some of Hong Kong’s most characteristic streets.

♪♫ Listen: “Labyrinth” + album stream

Mondo Grosso on Facebook, Twitter, www.

Tofubeats <BR> “Fantasy Club”

“Fantasy Club”

In 2017, tracks by beatmakers Seiho, Carpainter and Tofubeats were featured on Kohaku Uta Gassen, the most popular music program in Japan. Tofubeats, who started making music in Kobe using second-hand CDs, finally has got on the top position in the Japanese music industry.

But on his 4th LP “Fantasy Club”, he seems to destroy all the fantasy spread by the show business world. He stopped using loud effects or familiar melodies. Instead, he tightened his rhythms and mostly sings by himself to tell us what he thinks nowadays.

In the Spotify age, when we mostly listen to million hit tunes, we should choose what we really need to hear.

♪♫ Listen: “What You Got” + album stream

Tofubeats on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

NUUAMM <BR> “w/ave”


The name of this male-female acid folk duo means “We sew the night. We knit the morning”. Mahito the People, the frontman of rock band GEZAN, explains that their second LPs title “w/ave” is about stopping a wave, which has always been flowing in our daily life.

His musical partner Ichiko Aoba said: “NUUAMM is a symbol of the way to spend time. NUUAMM is vulnerable but it runs through me to protect me with a strong belief, which helps me so much.”

Their songs tell us about fantasy when our soul sometimes goes out from our body, sometimes goes back to our body, but their music also suggests that our daily life is actually not far from fantasy at all.

♪♫ Listen: “Moon Hill

NUUAMM on Twitter.

Oshiripenpenz <BR> “Crystal Body”

“Crystal Body”

Stemming from Osaka, but now based in Tokyo, Oshiripenpenz belong to the movement named Kansai Zero Generation a.k.a. Boredoms’ Children. They sing sorrow outsider music with dislocated rhythms, which remind us of Captain Beefheart or ‘80s post-punk bands.

“We have no other punk-rockers than Oshiripenpenz,” said 80s Kansai No-Wave legend Ko Machida. And it says it all. But let me tell you the reason why Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe) has more unique musicians than Tokyo.

Kansai’s culture allows us to be stupid and foolish with each other. We don’t have to be “right” person. We can choose any way of life.

♪♫ Listen: “Beautiful Life” + album stream

Oshiripenpenz on Twitter, Instagram, www.

Okada Takuro <BR> “Nostalgia”

Okada Takuro

Recording engineer, music writer, singer-songwriter, multi-talented musician Okada Takuro finally started his solo career mixing indie-rock like Wilco, Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes and Japanese indie rock started from Happy End.

After his band Mori wa Ikiteiru disbanded, he made his first LP with help of his friend musicians. Mifune Masaya from ROTH BART BARON is the guest singer on “Amorphae”. Nishida Shuta from Yoshida Yohei Group plays guitar on “Irony on Glass Bottle”.

Even his old fellows from Mori wa Ikiteiru – drummer, pianist and sax player – are helping him here.

♪♫ Listen: “Irony on Glass Bottle” + album stream

Okada Takuro on Twitter, www.

Kicell<BR> “The Blue Hour”

“The Blue Hour”

Founded in Kyoto, but based in Tokyo and Matsumoto, the brother duo Kicell (キセル) make psychedelic, dreamy, mellow and funky soundscapes with their own guitar and bass guitar – and supporting members on drummer, sax and flute.

With help of some new guest musicians, On “The Blue Hour” they describe brighter landscapes, and might take us to another world or another time.

For example, climbing Mount Fuji in twilight (“Fuji to Yuyami” or the time when we are waiting someone special (“Kimi wo Matsuaidani”) or the time we rest on the way to somewhere (“Ikkai Oyasumi”).

♪♫ Listen: “Mount Fuji in twilight

Kicell on Twitter, www.

Supernoah <BR> “Time”


Mixing Japanese folk music with post rock in an approach quite like American Football or Mogwai, Supernoah take us to a place where different people could live together – as the lyrics of “What Light” suggest.

This Kyoto-based alternative rock band sounds like a supernova, which may warm and raise children as you can see in the “What Light” video. That’s just one of great singles off their first LP “Time” – which might be Noah’s Ark.

♪♫ Listen: “What Light

Supernoah on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Special Favorite Music <BR> “Royal Blue”

Special Favorite Music
“Royal Blue”

Based in Osaka, Yusuke Kume is a Japanese Paul Weller. His career started in a post-punk band NOKIES! which played at the Fuji Rock Festival and SXSW, and toured in the UK and France. In 2014, he started a new project named Special Favorite Music which plays any music he likes with musicians on violin, sax, and trumpet.

On the second LP titled “Royal Blue”, they mixed ‘70s J-Pop and Disney classics with gospel, soul, disco music, and even Blood Orange or The Smiths. I guess, they make music about hope for future in difficult times.

♪♫ Listen: “Royal Memories” + album stream 

Special Favorite Music on Twitter, Instagram, www.

SuiseiNoboAz <BR> “Liquid Rainbow”

“Liquid Rainbow”

Experimental and catchy at the same time. Funk, blues, folk, jazz, post rock, hip-hop. Numerous music components brought into each track. Tokyo-based rock band SuiseiNoboAz was at first influenced by Japanese No Wave band Number Girl. Since 2010, they have released three albums and have built their own original musicality.

They sing about living in the post-apocalyptic world with hope and love. Their name was borrowed from “Boaz on Mercury” (Suisei means Mercury) by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s science fiction novel “The Sirens of Titan”, which is about free will, omniscience, and the overall purpose of human history.

On their 4th album “Liquid Rainbow”, SuiseiNoboAz seem to be absorbed by these issues seriously.

♪♫ Listen: “ Liquid Rainbow” 

SuiseiNoboAz on Facebook, Twitter, www.

Koji Nakamura <BR> “Epitaph”

Koji Nakamura

Alternative rock band Supercar’s frontman Koji Nakamura released new playlist called “Epitaph”. “We can consider making a pop song finished after many people have listened and sympathized with the song. By using a streaming service, we can guess when the song should be finalized,” Koji Nakamura explained.

“I started to be interested in releasing music on streaming services after 3/11 Tohoku earthquake. It is a simple thought: I didn’t like the situation that we couldn’t listen music because we had lost CDs because of the earthquake.”

We can listen to his songs being updated day by day. With his playlist, his fans could live the life after earthquake.

♪♫ Listen: “Chizu ni nai route” + album stream

Koji Nakamura on Twitter, www.

Climb the Mind <BR> “Channel 3”

Climb the Mind
“Channel 3”

Third city in Japan, Nagoya has many rock bands and rappers, but listeners were waiting seven long years for Climb the Mind’s new LP.

Hard-core, post-rock, shoegaze and various genre of alternative rock merge into one music with timeless melodies and soulful vocals.

Do you need more components for their music? Sometimes I feel enthusiasm at their concerts, I am always listening to their CDs in my room to get catharsis, and to keep working and loving my dear ones.

♪♫ Listen: “90’s fills my pocket” (ポケットは90年代でいっぱい)

Climb the Mind on Soundcloud, www.

YeYe <BR> “Mottainai”


Partly based in Kyoto, partly in Melbourne, the singer-songwriter YeYe last year released her 4th album “Mottainai” (もったいない), which means “What a waste”. It includes some songs made during her recent stay in Australia, and recorded at Red Bull Studios Tokyo.

According to the lyrics, “Yurayura” (“Swaying”) is a song about heartbreak or it seems to be a metaphor of many things which threaten our daily life. In “Unzaridesuyo” (“I’m sick” and “tired of”), she sings that they always say lies. But she also sings: “We must live with a smile”.

These songs seem to be so personal, but her friends support her both in the studio and outside, so she can always smile.

♪♫ Listen: “Yurayura

YeYe on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Satoko Shibata <BR> “Do You Need A Rest From Love?”

Satoko Shibata
“Do You Need A Rest From Love?”

Stemming from the northern city of Sapporo, now based in Tokyo, Satoko Shibata is a folk singer-songwriter, but she also loves alternative rock, hardcore punk and hip-hop. With such a musical background, her melodies can be catchy and at the same time go deep.

Some songs on her 4th album were produced by ex-Boredoms guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto and alternative rock band Quruli’s frontman Shigeru Kishida. The title implies lover’s separation, but she sings with humor and energy to deliver the true meaning of love.

♪♫ Listen: “Regret” + album stream

Satoko Shibata on Twitter, Instagram, www.

CRUNCH <BR> “Tenkiame”


If Tracey Thorn sung with TOPS or Echo & the Bunnymen, the result might be this female band.

Produced by a winner of our 2015 list, Masahiro Araki from Remigai, this female indie pop trio from Nagoya makes anything from ambient synthesizer music to guitar rock with R&B flavor.

Playing minimal instruments, both guitarist and bassist sing main melody by turns. They don’t play fashionable J-Pop, but timeless melodies for anyone who is in solitary or has lost something precious.

♪♫ Listen: “Blue” + album stream

CRUNCH on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Oomori Seiko <BR> “kitixxxgaia”

Oomori Seiko

Oomori Seiko continues to strive for the ultimate form of J-Pop, mixing its history with music minorities in her heart. For example, her new album’s opener “Dogma Magma” was played and arranged by Fox Capture Plan. The result is, so to speak, hard-rock jazz.

Meanwhile, “Positive Stress”” was composed by Tetsuya “TK” Komuro and Ling Tosite Sigure’s drummer joined to make electro new-wave nightmare. Each song has her own words about girls’ depression or public pressure to be a useful person.

She never sings easy-happy songs but makes us face serious issues of the society. We all have different roots. Music is not magic to make the world peaceful, let’s not rule the world with one ideology, but… We know that future is up to us. Can we see a light of hope?

♪♫ Listen: “Dogma Magma” + album stream

Oomori Seiko on Facebook, Twitter, www.

Cornelius <BR> “Mellow Waves”

“Mellow Waves”

In 2017, two musicians from the legendary Shibuya-kei group Flipper’s Guitar started to release new material. Kenji Ozawa teamed up with pop group Sekai No Owari to release a new song, while Keigo Oyamada a.k.a. Cornelius released his first proper album in 11 years as if he was summing up his great career.

After using ton of samples, Keigo Oyamada has been cutting through heavy amounts of information. Finally, he has arrived at simple, minimal melodies on “Mellow Waves”, which turns out more song-oriented, with a sparser sound and tricky tempos.

Throughout the album, there is a “swaying” atmosphere with tremolo guitar effects and a universal love that we can understand whichever language we speak.

♪♫ Listen: “In A Dream” + album stream

Cornelius on Facebook, Twitter, www.