These songs are generally those that stuck with us throughout the year. The ones that were memorable, that we found ourselves humming even though we hadn’t heard the tune for ages. From Mayudepth’s EBM shaker, “Angels from Hell” and Aisho Nakajima’s addictive “Luna” to Xiangyu’s “Tofu So Good,” which one has taken our top spot?
10. Shachi — “Elisa”
Very slick, broody track with barely-there vocals from the newly formed duo of Dr Pay from DNA and Kyoichi Mikuriya. “Elisa” is the epitome of cool. Never slipping past the ‘smoldering’ stage. It could be a track from The Matrix.
9. Sara Wakui — “Escape” ft. Mimiko
In September, Sara Wakui released a lovely, modern jazz vocal track that kept us coming back. The accomplished session musician took things a step further with her solo project, with tinkling piano and joyous percussion.
8. Sorane — “Gimme HPN”
Hyogo Prefecture rapper Sorane released “Gimme HPN” in August, a funky, breakbeat-inspired rap track with Mondo Grosso’s Shinichi Osawa on production duties. Lyrics of “breath in” (breathes), “breath out” (breathes), remind us to take a deep breath.
7. Mayudepth — “Love is Resistance”
The Tokyo promoter and DJ showed that she can produce, too, with a frenetic EBM-style track featuring local director Umi Ishihara. Screaming synth and pulsing beats swirl throughout the tunnel of “Love is Resistance,” as the track heads down into the depths of eerie hissing before the final, driving push.
6. Aisho Nakajima — “Luna”
In 2022 Aisho Nakajima showed his energetic side, releasing his most danceable single yet with producer-of-the-moment Yohji Igarashi. Not only did he reference one of the most iconic movies of the 2000s, but he completed it with a k-pop inspired dance routine. The lyrics, which introduce Nakajima’s ‘alter-ego’ Luna include: “all these straight people make me wanna act more gay!” as he cackles through the track.
5. Tohji, Mechatok – “Ultra Rare”
Mall Boyz head boy, Tohji, released his mixtape early in 2022 and dropped “Ultra Rare” after that. Super-charged synths and Tohji’s proclamations include the humble “my existence is ultra-rare,” accompanied by y2k-esque semi-dropping melodies. Always floating on the surface, yet never reaching that EDM-style bass drop is what we love about this. And it’s super-catchy.
4. Frankie Paris – “Hot Gyal” ft. Lef!!!Crew!!!
“Hot Gyal” from Okinawan singer Frankie Paris, came out in January but we’ve had it in our heads the whole year. A collaboration with Okinawa-based producer Lef!!!Crew!!!, the single has a beach time feel, with hints of dancehall beneath the over-pitched vocals.
3. Rung Hyang – “Awake”
We kept coming back to “Awake,” from Korean-via-Fukuoka artist Rung Hyang. Her husky vocals over the funky bassline is like a throwback to Japanese city pop of the 1980s and ’90s. Production by Shin Sakiura keeps the song firmly in the ’20s, traversing the eras. Perfect listener for the mornings, to put you into a good mood for the whole day.
2. Xiangyu – ‘Tofu So Good”
Since reviewing Xiangyu’s “Tofu So Good” back in July, I have found myself singing the song’s refrain on more than one occasion. Washing the dishes, on the train, you name it.
“Tofu So Good” is one of those songs that doesn’t need to be anything else. Washing synths, bongos, waves and even the album art screams ‘woo.’
1. Bed – “Kare Wa”
“Kare Wa” was the most surprising single of 2022, for sure. It made me, a youngster who grew up on a diet of British rock and random genres with the ‘alternative’ hashtag, stop and think ‘wow, this really is original.’
Snarling guitars and unapologetic lyrics, ferocious drums and relentless bass, “Kare Wa” is a song designed to make you sit up and take notice. Even though it was released in August, it stayed on our minds the whole year.
We’ve been periodically checking the bands socials, waiting for the announcement of the debut album. If it arrives in 2023, boy we are in for a treat.
Writer note: The format of the ‘best songs of ..’ article is tricky. The most memorable songs tend to be the ones with the most going on, big beats and flashy hooks. Conversely, the ‘best albums’ genre lends itself to albums that are best as a whole, making the whole idea of ‘best of’ lists somewhat contentious. They are to be taken with a pinch of salt. We hope you enjoy reading them.
If you’re a Japan-based musician and interested in featuring here in 2023, please send any forthcoming releases over to editor[at]tokyoweekender[dot]com and include the subject line: “FAO Music Editor.”