J-pop recommendations
September 18, 2005 5:14 PM   Subscribe

I'd like some J-pop recommendations, please.

If you could include a snippet about why you like a specific artist/song, that would be awesome. Ideally, recommended recordings would be available domestically; I'm in Los Angeles, with access to good music stores.
posted by the_bone to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Ryoko Hirosue - Daisuki.
posted by fire&wings at 5:18 PM on September 18, 2005

I love Shina (aka Shena, aka Sheena) Ringo, who I suppose is more j-rock but who has a wonderful Radiohead-meets-Avril-Lavigne thing going on. Tujiko Noriko is in the same vein.
posted by Marquis at 5:35 PM on September 18, 2005

Came in here to recommend Shiina (one more spelling) Ringo, guess I'll have to settle for seconding. Shoso Sutorippo is fantastic.

Marquis- have you heard her "new" band Tokyo Jihen? Any good?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:42 PM on September 18, 2005

Ideally, recommended recordings would be available domestically

This is kinda the problem with getting into Japanese pop/rock: not a lot is available domestically in the States for regualr CD prices. Shonen Knife, Zoobombs, The Pillows (and only some of their stuff), a few more... from there you're stuck with really pricy imports (or piracy, yar!) from what I've seen.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:59 PM on September 18, 2005

I like the groovy dancy mod kind of J-pop. I'm not impressed with wailing Japanese teenage singers -- but this is because I'm not impressed with wailing teenage singers of any nationality.

My three favorite groups are Qypthone, Fantastic Plastic Machine (site uses Flash -- you can also learn about FPM from Wikipedia), and Mansfield. (Actually, the site with Mansfield's page covers a lot of other good artists.)

Konishi Yasuharu also holds a special place in my heart, not so much for Pizzicato Five as for his remixes (he's on the Jackson 5 remix album! And I listen to the Popshopping Mixed Up EP almost every morning. Yes, almost every morning.)
posted by oldtimey at 6:01 PM on September 18, 2005

Shiina Ringo love here too. If you're downloading, try a couple different things, because there's so much range between her pop-punk stuff and her ballads. Shouso Strip and Muzai Moratorium are both some of the finest albums I own.

The Brilliant Green: poppy cute sound. Lots of their lyrics are in English, but my favorites by them are their sweet Japanese ballads.

Overblown pop-goth: X Japan, Luna Sea. They're good if you like that kind of thing, but much better if you find lyrics like "Crucify my love, if it should be that way" hilarious.

Mellow pop-rock: Bump of Chicken, The Yellow Monkey. I especially like them for their lyrics, so I'm not sure how they compare when you don't know the language, but there's a tender nostalgia in them that's fabulous. Plus, Bump of Chicken is the best band name ever.
posted by Jeanne at 6:15 PM on September 18, 2005

Does Cibo Matto count?

(Probably not, but I'm a big fan.)
posted by ryanhealy at 6:24 PM on September 18, 2005

Handsomeboy Technique. You'll like them if you like the Avalanches or the Go! Team. I mentioned them in a previous thread about indie dance music.

Advantage Lucy. More jrock than jpop. Sweet girl vocals and nice melodies, without massive sugary overdose.

Cymbals. Again closer to jrock, but with a little more of that retro pop feel. They broke up a while ago, though. I included one of their songs in my summer comp, if you want a sampling.

Every Little Thing. (WARNING: audio on website.) An old favorite. Soaring, breezy melodies and clean, shiny vocals. Good for summertime (I guess it's kinda late?) oceanside drives, as the sparkling waves crash on the shoreline, and your friends crack open a cold Kirin... Or was it Asahi... Or Sapporo...
posted by shortfuse at 6:58 PM on September 18, 2005

I don't think it is available domestically, but get your hands on the song "Bara No Hana" by Quruli asap (it is on the album "Team Rock" which I love love love). One of my all time favorite songs in any genre, by all means a "perfect" pop song.

Here is the video, which is the best I can offer. (it is in real to - ugh).
posted by Quartermass at 6:59 PM on September 18, 2005

pizzicato 5, cibo matto, and a seconding for for fantastic plastic machine and the pillows.
posted by puke & cry at 7:00 PM on September 18, 2005

One Too Many Chocolat by Chocolat from about 2000 is one of my favorites. A beautiful, richly melodic first tune with light electronics(after a pretty but slightly goofy "overture"), an exuberant pop-rock second tune, a not-off-putting attempt at soul and a bunch of other things that I never went nuts for, but that I like a lot anyway.

Roomic Cube by Takako Minekawa is also great. Produced by Buffalo Daughter, also from about 2000 and full of off-the-wall instrumentation and odd lyrics, mostly in English. Contains one of my favorite lines ever: "face like a cake", and a song called "Fantastic Cat" with what sounds like plastic whistles.

Other CDs I bought by the same artists were let downs. Chocolat's CDs have always been imports as far as I know, but Other Music and Amazon both have some listed. The Takako Minekawa was definitely domestically released.

Obviously, I haven't listened to much J-Pop since about 2000, but, for what it's worth, Tujiko Noriko's Make Me Hard sounds like she wants to be Bjork. I liked it anyway at first. Supposedly her more recent releases are not so Bjork-like.
posted by dmo at 7:10 PM on September 18, 2005

Quartermass - Thanks for that. I've ripped the video. Great song.
posted by shortfuse at 7:10 PM on September 18, 2005

Seconded Takako Minekawa (oh my god she is brilliant; unfortunately, she's sort of retired from the music industry to raise her kid; a noble goal, I guess, though). If you have all her albums, PINE*AM are pretty good, too; a very similar vein, but TM does that sort of thing way, way better. But, you know, if you want someting like TM that you haven't heard before, Pull the Rabbit Ears is decent enough. (I don't recommend listening to it right after listening to say, Cloudy Cloud Calculator, though. Then you'll be all "Oh, um, hm." just by comparison.)

Also on the TM-style front, her former bandmate was Kahimi Karie, who's got a bunch of solo records, too.

And, they don't have any records out in this country, but they do seem to pop up with relative frequency in US Used Bins (maybe they did a US tour? At least a west-coast one?) is Love Psychedelico. The lead singer was born in Japan, moved to San Francisco when she was a baby, then moved back to Japan when she was about 8 -- which has done WEIRD things to her accent, but her voice sounds really, really good. It's a bit more indie-pop, but it's really cool. I've heard her voice compared to Sheryl Crow, which isn't entirely unfounded, but I like Love Psychedelico way, way more (and their songs are better, too).
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 12:09 AM on September 19, 2005

Shonen Knife
posted by Pericles at 1:37 AM on September 19, 2005

Yukari Fresh - Yukarin Disco
posted by PenDevil at 2:27 AM on September 19, 2005

Throwing some names out there: Bonnie Pink, Love Psychedelico, Advantage Lucy, Quruli, Singer Songer

I'm no good at describing music but these all have very nice "melodic" songs.
posted by milov at 2:48 AM on September 19, 2005

Imai Eriko, because even though she's theoretically Japan's Britney Spears, her music is so crazily intense. It's mostly at crazy bpm with over the top production, orchestral hits, and all that stuff.
posted by wackybrit at 3:12 AM on September 19, 2005

Don't forget j-brainfucks Acid Mothers Temple and Melt-Banana.
posted by yesno at 4:25 AM on September 19, 2005

I'm not sure if my suggestions, and a lot of the above, count as J-Pop other than in the sense that they're pop bands from Japan (I always imagined J-Pop to be a more insipid top-40ish sort of thing), but here goes... Puffy Ami-Yumi; Go!Go!7188; Hang on the Box. A couple great compilations of Japanese pop are the Readymade Records and Escalator Records comps.
posted by Gortuk at 5:34 AM on September 19, 2005

Dir en Grey is an incredible J-rock/pop band. They're most known for 'death metal'-ish type music (the heavy bass and drums, screaming), but having some very sophisticated 'pop' music as well. Their appeal is in the lyrics for the Japanese audience; they cover taboo subjects like suicide, S&M, but I swear you wouldn't be able to tell from just the music. I like them because they're clearly a versatile and talented group of musicians who can make the switch from what seems like mind-less typical death metal (if you're not into that to begin with), to almost orchestral-like sound using your typical band elements and incredible vocals.

They also have great stage presence. Costumes, make-up, so elaborate you'd wish every day was halloween.
posted by margaretlam at 6:41 AM on September 19, 2005

Gortuk - Yes I think you're right.

I was suggesting pop/rock bands from Japan that I like, but "jpop" first brings to mind Top 40 people like Amuro Namie, SPEED, all the Tetsuya Komuro projects like Globe, SMAP, Morning Musume.

It's maybe similar to how we use the term "otaku" outside Japan as loosely describing nerdy fanboy/girl, while inside Japan it seems to refer to someone much more... focused and hardcore.
posted by shortfuse at 6:56 AM on September 19, 2005

Already a lot of great suggestions above. If you could name some J-pop and non-J-pop bands that you currently enjoy, it's easier to name others based on your taste.
posted by junesix at 7:57 AM on September 19, 2005

Shiina Ringo's three studio albums are worth exploring, but my hands down favorite is her third album, Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana. I had that album on repeat for most of 2003. Her cover album, Utaite Myoori, by comparrison, isn't that great.

Check out Nippop for more recommendations. The site is run by English-speaking professionals in the Japanese music industry.

Keikaku.net is a fan-run site with some pretty good content. It focuses more on indie rock acts of the non-visual kei variety.

Are self-links bad form on AskMe? Because I maintained a site that covered a lot of Japanese artists.

My personal favorites are Cocco, Number Girl, Quruli, UA, ACO and Hajime Chitose.
posted by NemesisVex at 10:48 AM on September 19, 2005

I would like to second Bonnie Pink, although a lot of her songs are in English and she's not all that popular. She released a fairly interesting cover album recently, featuring a great version of the Bangles' Manic Monday, but I would say that her original work is far more interesting than the covers. I would also like to recommend my favorite singer, yuki. Her stuff is really quirky and interesting. The stuff she did with her former band Judy and Mary is also really good. She's got a bit of a cute, squeaky voice, but it's really good.

But I want to know too; when you say J-pop, are you interested in just good music from Japan, or what's popular with the kids these days? Because they are really two separate universes.

By the way, nobody in Japan has any idea who Cibo Matto is, because they're from New York. They're definitely not J-Pop, although I have found a few Japanese people who like them when I play it for them.
posted by donkeymon at 3:33 PM on September 19, 2005

the_bone, junesix is right. j-pop is a HUGE "genre." reading through the other suggestions, there are some i totally agree with a like, and some...um...i don't quite like. tell us what you like, and i'm sure you'll get more great suggestions!
posted by edjusted at 12:36 AM on September 20, 2005

m-flo (check out the cd Astromantic, especially. Haven't heard their new one yet)

Supercar (personal favorites are the song Yumegiwa Last Boy, Otogi Nation, I, and oh, so, so many others. They put out a collection of Singles and B sides earlier this year. Highly recommended. Some really nice, soaring electronic-based music.)

L'Arc~en~Ciel (one of the big ones. They used to be visual kei, but have graduated from it and made the transition to normal jpop/rock. Their best singles album - Clicked 13 best - was released stateside.)
- Hyde (lead singer for L'Arc, has his own solo project)

Shiina Ringo (another big one. Though you get some weird looks from Japanese people when you say you know/like her music.)
- Tokyo Jihen (her current project)

Spitz (light, melodic jpop. some really beautiful stuff here - especially the songs Hanemono, Fuu, and Kaede. All from Mikazuki Rock, I believe.)


The Brilliant Green
- Tommy February6/Tommy Heavenly6 (lead singer of BuriGuri, solo)

Love Psychedelico

Mongol 800 (really the only 'indie' group on this list so far. They're a bit hit-or-miss, but a couple of songs, especially Anata ni and Chiisana Koi no Uta, are really good.)

Teens Hate Chains!! (my second 'indie' recommendation. I've only heard their THC!! album, but it's not bad. Some good melodies and lyrics. And catchy as all get out.)

Glay (huge, huge group. Their recent stuff hasn't been all that interesting, but the older albums are good.)

Ketsumeishi (jrap? jhiphop? whatever. The singles Sakura and Tomodachi are my favorites.)

Bump of Chicken (love, love, LOVE this group. Almost as much as Supercar. And that's saying something. Catchy, melodic, good lyrics.)

Mr. Children

B-Dash (recently did a version/remix/cover of the Super Mario song, but one of my favorites is Boku no Shonen)

Blankey Jet City


Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her (all in English, but holy fuck it's good. Check out the Dying for Seagulls album)


Road of Major

Oblivion Dust

And now for some of the stuff you might not be as interested in, but is just as much jpop as the stuff above.

SMAP (I'm not a big fan, but they do have some good songs. The most recent single, Bang! Bang! bakansu was written by Kudo Kankuro (the most popular screenwriter in Japan - if you're interested in Jdrama, check for his stuff) and is all about things to do in the summer to make it seem more summery if you're stuck at work. Sekai ni hitosu dake no hana was played as 'wake-up' music for the astronauts on the last space shuttle mission. )

Arashi (another Johnny's group, like the above. Most of the stuff off the most recent album One is really damn good, with the exception of the generic 'Days' 'Romance' and 'Yume de ii kara'.)

KanJani8 (yeah, more Johnny's. But a group made entirely of Kansaijin. Yay Kansai! Currently have the top single in Japan, 'Suki ya nen, Osaka' all about how much they love Osaka. If you want to hear Osaka/Kansai-ben in lyrics, KanJani is the group for you. Also recommended are 'All of me for you' 'Naniwa iroha bushi' and 'Dreamin Blood'.)

Ok, done with that. There's always Utada Hikaru, as well. Her English album SUCKED ASS (with lyrics like 'you're easy breezy and I'm JAPANESEY you'd never believe she attended Columbia...) but her Japanese stuff is good.

Um... wow. That got long. Sorry.
posted by emmling at 7:41 AM on September 20, 2005

Shit, forgot Garnet Crow, and Yuki, and Judy and Mary.... if you want any more stuff, email me.
posted by emmling at 7:46 AM on September 20, 2005

I've been listening to a lot of Fukuyama Masharu (福山雅治). I also like 175R and ORANGE RANGE for more rock/rap type j-pop. Since you're in Los Angeles, you should hit up Little Tokyo; the Kinokuniya bookstore has a fairly big selection of current j-pop CDs.
posted by yasny_jp at 2:34 PM on September 20, 2005

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