5 bands from Japan you need to listen to

Japan has the second biggest music market in the world, and produces some great music. Here are 5 must-listen-to musicians/bands who hail from Japan.


This 4-piece allegedly began in the mid 90s as a ‘fake’ band for a magazine shoot – as you do. But they’ve got cred – the band was founded by Yoshimi P-Wi (drummer for 80’s Osaka band The Boredoms) and the band’s first live gig was as the opening act for Sonic Youth in 1997. This female quartet produce a unique experimental collaboration of beats, jangly tribal elements, chanting and guitar breakouts. The band released their seventh album, Gamel, in Japan last year, here’s my favourite track:

2. Hearsays

Some sweet indie. Fairly new on the scene, with an EP released last year, the band have just dropped their mini-album In Our Time – under independent label Dead Funny Records (it’s worth checking out some of the other bands they’ve signed). With an undercurrent of 80’s shoegaze mixed with a touch of surf-rock, their music is just dreamy. Have a listen to The Blind – one of my currently-on-repeat tunes.

3. Cornelius

At Meredith Music Festival several years ago I danced to his eclectic synth-rock under an entrancing light show. And even though Cornelius hasn’t released an album since 2006, whenever I think great music from Japan, he’s always at the top of my list. His real name is Keigo Oyamada and he first hit Japan’s music scene in the late 80s as one half of Flippers Guitar. When the band split in the 1991, Oyamada went solo and Cornelius was born. All 5 of his albums are ahead of their times blending a mix of electronica, rock, and experimental synth-pop. Here’s one of his better known tracks, Breezin’

4. The Back Horn

This J-Rock band have mixed up their sound several times over the span of their 16-year career, kicking off in 1998. Still going strong with their tenth album released this year, the band produce some great rock, punk and indie tracks. While I have to admit, I’m a bit love and not-so-love with their music (I find there’s a tendency to write mid-range, ‘anthem-y’ tracks). However, I would love to see them live – they’re known for energetic stage performances, you might get a vibe for it in this clip of them performing Cobalt Blue – so good!

5. Lemon’s Chair

This is one for MBV fans. This three-piece outfit love their fuzz and reverb, even naming their latest album My Favourite Reverb, which was released March this year. The title track off the album is a 12-minute atmospheric track that billows out half-way through into some grandiose noise patterns. The band formed in the early 2000s and have a pretty cult shoegaze following in Japan. Here’s a clip of them live: