Guchon — GG

Hands in the air, it’s party time. Well, it’s not, but that doesn’t stop Tokyo-based producer Guchon bringing the party. GG follows last year’s release with Carpainter, and is even more of a dance trip. Imagine someone putting ‘the ultimate dance party banger’ into an AI prompt, they’d probably come up with something like this.

The title song features all the classic dance track elements: sirens, rewinds and wobs. “Spray Party” forces the dance with a popping, syncopated bass mix, followed by drum and bass scorcher “C Kawa,” which boasts a bass-face inducing breakdown. GG closes with Mariya Takeuchi-style opening chords on “Leaf & Key,” which then heads into a funky UK garage beat. Perfect for playing in a car on a sunny day. Full volume.

Kukangendai — Tracks

Veteran Kyoto band, Kukangendai, released Tracks in April, showcasing the trio’s percussive prowess. As a group going for nearly 20 years, they have had more than enough time on the edge of the mainstream to hone their craft as one of the coolest Japanese minimal bands. Kukangendai use guitar, vocals, bass and drums like no other group. The constant looping and re-looping, in addition to the delaying and glitching, creates extraordinary sounds from relatively ordinary instruments. Tracks will leave you unsure of what exactly you heard.

“Look at Right Hand” starts relatively tamely with a hi-hat and electric guitar. The song gradually builds each element to create what could be described as an ‘easy listener’ for the group. I once read that they make mistakes on purpose and that’s what “Beacons” initially sounds like. However, you soon realize that it’s a catchy grower. This album is just like a favorite uncle at a marathon who keeps stopping as you will him on. By the end, everyone is happy that he found his groove and is ready for the next challenge. It’s a record for repeating.

Tina Moon — My Arms

The undeniably cool Tina Moon released her debut album in April. A mix of rock and synth, Moon is part of the new Japanese femmes taking the scene with dark, twisted pop, à la Caroline Polachek.

The opener is a zorbing, swelling sound collage, with splashes of electronic dance music synth, building into “Lucky Guy,” which is an angry, minimal-wave chugger. Moon plays the ‘lucky guy,’ screaming into the abyss as the bass plows on. The track was previously released as a single, along with “Barbie Girl,” “Villain” and “Koshitantan.”

“Barbie Girl” was a hit when it was released last June, and we can see why. Moon spits and sings the bilingual lyrics about striving for an unattainable body with venom. “Give it to Me!!” sees slowed-down, distorted vocals and a sensual beat that’ll make you want to slow dance. At under 2 minutes, this is a sound we want more of. But Moon isn’t finished yet. We love “Koshitantan,” which we included in this column when it was released as a single. Falsetto vocals and a beat just as suited to the club, what’s not to love? “My Arms.” is more of an ambient soundscape for a neon-colored alien planet, disappearing as soon as it starts. “He.” and “Choose for yourself” compete for the ‘rockiest track’ on the album badge. After consideration, the accolade has to go to the latter, which invites Shunsuke Uehara (from Dawgss) on drums.

One thing that Moon’s debut ascertains is her incredible range, easily reaching operatic notes one moment and growling the next. An interesting debut album with all the elements to make something even greater. We’re excited about seeing where she goes next.

Togito — 9.

Michaela, also known as Togito, released her third album last month and her first purely in English. An album made for Sunday mornings, 9. sees Togito taking more of an R’n’B approach to beat making, toning down the jazz drums found in previous records, in favor of slow-movers and sensual heaters.

Singles and EPs

Week Dudus — Kazato

A new generation rapper, Week Dudus, blew up at the tender age of 18 producing and throwing bars over his own tracks in 2019. Since then, the 22-year-old has built a niche for himself in the Japanese rap scene, spitting across grime and footwork-influenced tracks. Kazato is an extension of this, pitting y2k bass against Night Slugs-style synth.

“Kakakaka,” is like a 2010s throwback track — Lil Silva’s “Seasons,” anyone? The next song sees Week Dudus bring the pace down with the slow-groover, “Life is Beautiful,” sprinkled with twinkling flourishes.

“Changara” is the grinding party track: heavy, satisfying and infuriatingly danceable. The EP closes out with the mini ballad, “Near Me.,” which sees the rapper at his most vulnerable. In a previous interview he compared Kazato to exchanging business cards. What comes across is his desire to prove his versatility, with dance tracks and slow-movers. Though he made waves in 2021 for recording over 50 songs, Kazato proves that Week Dudus is also a character of quality, not always quantity.

Ryoto and Franchise Owner — Bad Boy

Many successful musicians started off in a group and went on to launch successful solo careers. Ryoto Ohara, lead singer of the band Tempalay, looks set to do something similar. Each of his solo releases, as Ryoto and Franchise Owner, show that he doesn’t take himself seriously. We love him for that.

“Bad Boy,” from the CD-only EP release Bad Family, is a humorous frolic around the whimsical land of Japanese indie-pop. It’s a bit like something from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds or maybe even Damon Albarn. Either way, we’re fans.

Sakura Fujiwara — Like a Movie I Once Saw

Singer-songwriter Sakura Fujiwara released the lead single from her forthcoming album, Airport. VaVa from Creative Drugstore joins once again after collaborating with Fujiwara on 2020’s Supermarket album. “Like a Movie I Once Saw” takes VaVa’s hiphop influenced beats and smooths them over with Fujiwara’s vocals. An easy listener, this is a great one for soundtracking sandwich-making duties or springtime picnic preparations.

Onjuicy, Minami Nakamura, Iimori Masayoshi — Cho-chocolate drip

Onjuicy (stylized as ONJUICY) joins Minami Nakamura and Iimori Masayoshi for one of our favorite hashtag fun tunes of the month. It heavily samples a Snoop Dog track. We won’t say which one, but you can probably guess.


For a new part of the music column, we’ll be featuring a release or video to look out for in the coming months. This time, we feature an upcoming album and project by Tatsuro Yamashita.

Tatsuro Yamashita — For You

Often copied, rarely bettered, Japan’s reigning king of city pop started an official YouTube channel to prelude a string of remasters, beginning with an official video of his 1982 classic, “Sparkle.”

There will be five albums released over five months, starting on May 3 with For You. That will be followed by one of Yamashita’s most famous albums, Ride on Time on June 7.

Here’s our column from March if you missed it.

If you’re a Japan-based musician and are interested in featuring in this series, please send any forthcoming releases over to editor[at]tokyoweekender[dot]com and include the subject line: “FAO Music Editor.”