More of the best J-music from 2021

Outside of all things video games and anime, I’ve found a solid amount of time discovering and enjoying J-music this year.

While I will not have covered everything music-related from the year in just this one post, be sure to check out my mid-year favourite discoveries for some other mentions. And if you still think I haven’t mentioned your own favourite tunes or artists, fill us in to who they are through out socials! We’re all ears after all.

Favourite breakout artist: Chilli Beans.

Chilli Beans. formed in 2019 as a 3-member girl band consisting of vocalist Moto, bassist Maika, and Lily on guitar. In August of this year, they released their first EP “Dancing Alone” with their breakout single Lemonade, which was co-written by a high school friend of theirs and popular singer-songwriter and producer, Vaundy.

You might already catch that their name originates from the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, and while their indie rock sound is distinctively inspired by such talents, they adopt a distinctive touch that made them truly stand out among the music of 2021. Their music videos and overall vibe fixates on nostalgia; their first single Lemonade focuses on the nostalgia of our innocent days having gone by with a retro inspired music video direction featuring a rustic setting and vintage fashion.

Their sound being predominantly pop-punk inspired makes them well-suited to throwback-style numbers, with their latest endeavour Andron (heard above) really sealing the deal on their potential. With catchy music and a solid understanding of the “throwback” inspiration they’re attempting to capitalise on, Chilli Beans. will be an act you’ll cherish in this day and age.

All of their releases are available on Spotify.

Favourite artist discovery: Nagisa Kuroki

I was late for the hype train on this one, since the once indie rock band now turned solo artist Nagisa Kuroki has been active since 2010. Her newest release of the album “Shinizokonai no Parade” was love at first listen thanks to its addicting sixth track of Da Capo — this track helpfully comes with English translations in its lyric video that makes its relatable themes understandable to an international audience. The repetition of our daily lives, the rinse and repeat of it all, and the existential dread of putting it into words. (“Big mood”, as I am led to believe the kids say – Ed.)

Kuroki’s timeless voice contrasts nicely with the burst of energetic production, and the pop/rock sound marries the themes of the track hypnotically with its stylish presentation. In regards to the album itself, at only 8 tracks long you’ll be left wanting so much more, so luckily Kuroki has an impressive discography your ears will be happy to explore! While every single song is simply amazing, her album’s final track is one of the most memorable album finishers I have heard in years, ending on the highest high possible. Stumbling upon this release opened up a gateway to even more of her bangers, such as Kakusei.

She also seems to have quite a presence online, as there are plenty of opportunities to catch online live shows and livestreams. You can check out more of her discography on Spotify.

Favourite MV: WORLD ORDER with CENSORSHIP

I have been faithfully following WORLD ORDER since their highly successful single release of HAVE A NICE DAY back in 2014, and have never been the same since. Managing to make political statements through poking fun at serious issues were brave moves, but it really helped the band attain international attention in order to both present and challenge assumptions about the everyday Japanese salaryman.

The band is fronted by the extremely charismatic Genki Sudo, who has a number of responsibilities and talents such as singing, dancing, being a retired MMA fighter and even becoming a politician for a short period — that had him become inactive from the group in 2019. With the release of CENSORSHIP, they came back just when the world needed them most.

Their entire purpose is to parody, but that does not mean that they do not bring the goods as a musical unit. There have been plenty of cases where the unit have brought us emotional and nuanced tunes such as MISSING BEAUTY that deserved to climb the charts for their lyrical finesse and stunning production.

All kitted up in matching suits and dancing rhythmically in what can be best summed up as hypnotising robotic dance moves, they have made past jabs in regards to digital surveillance with Big Brother, and even Trump with Let’s Start WW3. Now, even censoring does not stand in their way, with some great coverage of conspiracy theories, eye catching locational aesthetics, wonderful choreography and camera trickery we know and love to see from the unit. What a return to form!

Check out WORLD ORDER on Spotify now, or preferably, YouTube for their awesome MVs.

Favourite album: I Don’t Like Mondays. with Black Humor

I Don’t Like Mondays. have been around since 2012, and have been one of my favourite units to follow. It’s been exciting and inspiring to witness first-hand their startling growth as both musicians and fashion icons — yes, the 4-piece band even has its own fashion range.

And their appeal will be understandable once you see them and their effortless sense of style, always following their main motif of “BE PLAY BOY”. But their discography should not be locked behind selling just to “Tokyo’s it girls” when they’re turning out tunes of this calibre!

“Black Humor” is a fantastic record which will almost certainly not get the attention and recognition it deserves — probably not helped by how the band moved from the label Nippon Columbia to Rhythm Zone within the Avex Group. At 17 tracks long, the album never runs out of steam, with each song somehow having enough pizzazz to make a lengthier than usual track list consistently engaging. The album has an engrossing flow to it that makes its 58-minute runtime fly by.

YU’s smooth vocals make for a record that is extremely catchy, with sounds including R&B, rock and funk-inspired numbers. The album as a whole truly captures the band’s idealised image of a unit that produces dance tracks to play all year round, and not just in the summer.

They’ve really come into their own in the last few years, with their looks and sound being elevated to the best they have ever been, and I still believe they can raise the stakes even higher. They couldn’t have been a better pick by Eiichiro Oda for One Piece’s upcoming anime series opening song. I am so hyped for it!

So, what are you waiting for? Become a FRIDAY LOVER today!

Favourite song: BRADIO with Ai wo, Ima

BRADIO has been one of the bands to keep an eye on from Japan even before their triumph with their anime-tie in Flyers for 2015’s Death Parade. The band’s jazz-inspired sound sets their music apart from other rock units, and their name’s meaning “Break the Rule And Do Image On” — meaning to break the rules with your own sense of style — is a good message to send out to the world while establishing their own uniqueness and originality.

They represent a positive, and feelgood message across their discography which is heavily funk and dance based. But with Ai wo, Ima, the band takes a step back with a surprise ballad as one of their only MV releases of 2021, and what a breath of fresh air it proves to be. It’s heavily emotional in its lyrical work, cinematically captivating with its filming, and gorgeously expressed by the stunning instrumental work. Frontman Takaaki Shingyoji also demonstrates some noticeably improved vocal work, too, projecting plenty of emotion and belting out those hard-to-reach notes to do this ballad more than justice.

Ai wo, Ima is my personal anthem of 2021 for its rough vulnerability and rawness that I hope we will get to see again from the band again in the future. But for something more up their usual alley if it is your first time seeing them, their MV Be Bold! is an entertaining watch for its reverse footage, and is a great showcase of their signature sound!

For more where that came from, head on over to Spotify and give their “POWER OF LIFE” a listen. Spoiler – it’s one of the best modern Japanese albums out there, but that’s a list for next time!


As always, we’d love to hear your own picks for favourite J-music. Let us know some of your faves down in the comments or via the usual social channels!

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