Best Albums of 2018
selected by Toyokazu Mori

CRCK/LCKS <BR> “Double Rift”

“Double Rift”

All members of this Tokyo-based quintet are also studio musicians playing in other acclaimed bands or music projects.

While the drummer Shun Ishiwaka recently played in his favorite band Quruli‘s new song, the vocalist and keyboard player Tomomi Oda supports cero. This way, they always get new ideas and new feelings from their daily works. In CRCK/LCKS, Ryo Konishi or Tomomi Oda usually make the basic tracks. Afterwards, the latter one sings the melody, and other members arrange it.

The result is so-called jazz/soul/classical-inspired J-Pop, or a new style of music we could simply call “CRCK/LCKS”.

♪♫ Listen: “Mado” (Window) + album stream

CRCK/LCKS on Twitter, Instagram, www.

cero <BR> “Poly Life Multi Soul”

“Poly Life Multi Soul”

Polyrhythms, polyphonic voices, and mind-boggling synths from Tokyo’s acclaimed alternative trio Cero. Stemming from western Tokyo, they have many supporting members and that’s the reason why their musicality seems completely different on each album.

For example, the supporting guitarist and percussionist Baku Furukawa may add Japanese folk or Brazilian taste to their sound. And the new keyboard player Tomomi Oda from CRCK/LCKS adds more jazz/soul/classical taste.

In an interview with Natalie, they said: “When we’re performing live, we can add more rhythms furthermore, and the audience can dance in their own rhythms, feel free.”

♪♫ Listen: “Floating on Water” + album stream

cero on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Baku Furukawa (古川 麦) <BR> “Seascape”

Baku Furukawa (古川 麦)

Inspired by anything from traditional folk to J-Pop, the singer-songwriter Baku Furukawa offers us songs both in English and Japanese on his new album “Seascape”. This album includes various influences, from Bossa Nova, jazz or traditional folk to J-Pop.

Baku’s personal history may explain it. When he was a high school student in Sydney, he took singing lesson and started to play classic guitar. After coming back to Japan, he took up horn as a high school club activity. Then he went to Tokyo University of the Arts, where he teamed up with class mates as the folk quartet Hyogen.

Such background makes his music deep and refined.

♪♫ Listen: “Halo” + album stream

Baku Furukawa on Facebook, Twitter, www.

JYOCHO <BR> “the beautiful cycle of terminal”

“the beautiful cycle of terminal”

Coming from Kyoto, JYOCHO finally released their first LP “Utsukushī shūmatsu saikuru” (美しい終末サイクル), which includes some great songs from their past EPs. Math-rock combined with multicolored pop melodies and cinematic flute parts is what they offer.

JYOCHO (“emotion” in Japanese) started as a solo project of the guitarist Daijiro, but now it’s a quintet. Their sound is as magnificent as space, and Netako’s lovely vocals are seem as familiar as a convenience store – there’s a reason Daijiro’s former band was named Uchuu Conbini, or Space Convenience Store.

And with JYOCHO, they’ll surely change everything in the music world again.

♪♫ Listen: “circle of life” + album stream

JYOCHO on Facebook, Twitter, www.

tofubeats <BR> “RUN”


Acclaimed Kobe-based producer tofubeats can write songs that express silence that follows a dance party – just as New Order can do, for example.

On his 4th LP “Fantasy Club”, he sung out his philosophy about music that we really needed to hear, but it was a difficult theme for many listeners to understand. So on his 5th effort “RUN”, tofubeats concentrates on love and loneliness – also all by his own, without inviting any guest singers.

“RUN” is his first album that included his vocal only, and it’s his masterpiece that has managed to move hearts of many young boys and girls.

♪♫ Listen: “Fumetsu no Kokoro” (Eternal Love) + album stream

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

skrew kid <BR> “(s)”

skrew kid

Stemming from Nagoya, now based in Fukui, producer skrew kid recently released his first album in seven years. He uses acoustic guitar and vintage rhythm machines to create his own misty funkiness.

Listening to this record, you might see some old friends or a lost scenery from your childhood. And actually, skrew kid recorded these songs with his old and best friends in Nagoya.

For example, asana plays piano on “Rocket ship”. And Lullatone’s Shawn together with Tomohiko from the folk band Qu-ki add some sounds in “Dear Stephen”, which might be a tribute song for Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, I guess.

♪♫ Listen: “(s)” + album stream

skrew kid on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Twitter.

Shuta Hasunuma Philharmonic Orchestra (蓮沼執太フィル) “Antrhopocene”

Shuta Hasunuma Philharmonic Orchestra (蓮沼執太フィル) “Antrhopocene”

15-member orchestra of Shuta Hasunuma – plus some special guests – are back with a beautiful new album “Antrhopocene”. It is dedicated to harmony, both in music and in human relationships – for Hasunuma the recording process is similar to human communication.

Compared with his first album, Shuta wrote more precise scores, and made an effort to understand all fifteen members of the band. But the results of the recording still surprised him, in a good way.

During 2017–2018, Shuta also released two other albums, A duo album with U-zhaan, “2 Tone”, which focused on rhythm, and then a 6-disc set of instrumental numbers called “windandwindows”. Both are also worth listen.

♪♫ Listen: “Meeting Place” + album stream

Shuta Hasunuma Philharmonic Orchestra on Soundcloud, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Sunny Day Service (サニーデイ・サービス) “the CITY”

Sunny Day Service (サニーデイ・サービス) “the CITY”

Formed in 1992, Tokyo-based trio Sunny Day Service has changed their musicality from guitar centric rock to Indie dance, R&B, Hip Hop.

In 2018, they has released new album “the CITY”, remix album “the SEA” and live album “DANCE TO THE POPCORN CITY”. Frontman Keiichi Sokabe also released two solo albums. Through these albums, they gradually update their depth of musicality. Keiichi said that he recently likes Nas, Frank Ocean, J.Cole, Kids See Ghost and more streaming only musicians. But still, his music has his own melodies of Japanese folk / pops.

Sunny Day Service could continue to update new form of Japanese Indie rock / R&B.

♪♫ Listen: “In the Sun Again” + album stream

Sunny Day Service on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Yuta Orisaka (折坂悠太) <BR> “Heisei” (平成)

Yuta Orisaka (折坂悠太)
“Heisei” (平成)

“We all are different people, and each of us has his or her own loneliness. Everyone is on the way to find his or her own place. No one can hinder it.”

That’s what the singer-songwriter and gut guitar player Yuta Orisaka said in an interview with CINRA.NET about the main theme of his second full-length album, “Heisei”. It was released in October – around the end of Heisei era in Japan.

Orisaka’s new album includes such diverse styles as Japanese folk, British indie rock, Brazilian music, jazz, afro beats and more. As if it was a microcosm of this world, which has so many races, ethnic groups, different genders and as many personalities as there are people on Earth.

♪♫ Listen: “Heisei” + album stream  

Yuta Orisaka on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Tatsuya Kokufu (国府 達矢) <BR> “Rock Buddha” (ロックブッダ)

Tatsuya Kokufu (国府 達矢)
“Rock Buddha” (ロックブッダ)

Tatsuya Kokufu has definitely created a new form of art, which will have big influence on our scene in the next years.

This singer-songwriter born in Kyoto, now based in Tokyo, has brought Asian symphony into indie music – think about “OK Computer”, “Nevermind” or James Blake. The result is music you wouldn’t find anywhere else. This is his original Japanese groove, which includes anything from Western rock to funk to hip-hop.

On his comeback album called “Rock Buddha” guitar riffs keep attacking our ears and hearts massively – as if he was Jimmy Page – and he’s assisted by the drummer and bassist of the rock band Skillkills.

Tatsuya Kokufu has already recorded two more albums to be – an album of mellow ballads, and a collection of folk songs. And he has many other ideas. These works, which will come out in 2019, might become his own book Buddhism, and maybe ours too.

♪♫ Listen: “Bara” (Rose) + album stream

Tatsuya Kokufu on Twitter, Instagram, www.