The Best Japanese Shoegaze and Dream Pop Releases of 2017

In 2017 things got pretty interesting in the Japanese scene.  The Daydream events took off this year, drawing some more of the focus away from Tokyo and further establishing Kyoto as Japanese shoegaze’s “second city”.  Elsewhere, Nagoya’s local scene got a big bump thanks in large part to releases from local bands and the emergence of some new, young bands.  There were also some long-awaited releases, a shoegaze idol group that blew everyone’s minds, and a couple of tragic break ups.  It was a busy year with a few intriguing storylines.  

In 2017 things got pretty interesting in the Japanese scene.  The Daydream events took off this year, drawing some more of the focus away from Tokyo and further establishing Kyoto as Japanese shoegaze’s “second city”.  Elsewhere, Nagoya’s local scene got a big bump thanks in large part to releases from local bands and the emergence of some new, young bands.  There were also some long-awaited releases, a shoegaze idol group that blew everyone’s minds, and a couple of tragic break ups.  It was a busy year with a few intriguing storylines.  

Release-wise, there was still the “not enough full length releases and too many EPs” problem, but it was more manageable.  The bigger issue this year was the closeness of the contenders.  At least for the LP and EP lists, the top spots were pretty obvious in my mind.  Below that I did a lot of shuffling throughout the year.  So, as is usually the case, I could very easily change this list around in a week or so.  

As is the case everywhere there will be some seemingly notable omissions on this list, but there’s a good reason for them.  The most obvious one would be Plant Cell, who re-released Flowergaze? in 2017.  As it’s just a re-worked version of a 2016 album, I left it off this year’s list.  Then there are bands like Apple Light and Crunch who both released really good music this year (the new Apple Light is seriously so good), but neither falls in the blurry realm of shoegaze or dream pop, even at its blurriest.  Cairophenomenons, Amsterdamned, Kill My 27, Acidclank, and Looprider all released good stuff this year that would have qualified on their own but ultimately didn’t feel right in this list.  

With that out of the way, here are my favorite releases of 2017:


★ ☆ ★ BEST SINGLE ★ ☆ ★

“NEO TOKYO” BY YOUTHMEMORY

At first listen, Neo Tokyo sounds like a pretty big departure from youthmemory’s previous material.  This is true in the feel of the music with the usual bouncy rhythm and jangly guitar backdrop replaced by drum machine beats and dense synth pads.  However, the Tokyo band’s M.O. of crafting danceable, lush, dreamy pop music remains unchanged.  There’s something cold and even a bit gloomy about this release, but it was a great change of pace without ever straying from what had made youthmemory a really enjoyable band.  (Bandcamp)

If this list took live performances into account, Fog Park would be right at the top.  The Saitama-based newcomers put out two demo singles in 2017 – “cigarette punch” in January and then “sleeping cat” in May.  While neither of the demos demonstrates how brutally loud these guys are capable of being, the songs are still really good.  I’m looking forward to their recently announced debut mini album “beautiful blood”, that was released on 1/20.  (Currently only available at shows)

The Kansai region consistently produces some of the country’s best dream pop acts, and the best of the bunch in 2017 was Mariana in our Heads.  The five-piece put out a single an an EP this year, and while the latter received some consideration before ultimately falling to some strong competition, their “Anemone/Yarn” 7-inch was among my favorite singles.  While I generally favor harder-hitting, noisy chaos, I do occasionally have a soft spot for really warm synth-laden dream pop.  2017 was a good year for that, and Mariana in our Heads nailed it.  (Flake Records)

The most bittersweet entry on this whole list belongs to Ether Feels, whose “moonshine” single would be the last material they released before announcing all of the members would be going their separate ways.  The track actually starts off uncharacteristically peppy before transitioning into the sad but catchy melancholic pop sound that Ether Feels spent years doing so well.  (Bandcamp)

I have mixed feelings about Japan’s hottest shoegaze band, ・・・・・・・・・(pronounced “dots”).  The idol group’s surge in popularity is probably due more to their live gimmicks and cute-but-edgy idol shtick, but their debut single “CD” features some legitimately good music – particulary “Slide” which was written by For Tracy Hyde’s Natsu-bot.  I remain skeptical of “alt-idol” acts, but credit where credit is due here.  (Amazon)


★ ☆ ★ BEST EP ★ ☆ ★

“INTO THE DREAM” BY SOFTSURF

With all due respect to the rest of the bands who released EPs this year, this one was never going to be close.  It’s been fun watching softsurf’s rise over the last couple years, and “Into the Dream” helped solidify their status as the best shoegaze band going in Japan right now.  I’ve beaten the Slowdive/Pastel Blue comp into the ground to this point, but it’s pretty remarkable since that sound is so rare here.  With their first proper release and a three-city tour in support of it, Softsurf had an incredible year which saw them establish themselves within the national shoegaze scene.  And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better live band in that scene.  (Amazon)

Though Softsurf was in a league of its own in 2017, there were still some really good EP releases in the next tier.  17 Years Old And The Berlin Wall put out their second EP Reflect last year, following up their excellent 2015 debut.  17Berlin’s sound pretty much reflects the popular sound in the Japanese shoegaze scene, with male-female vocal harmonies and poppy guitar melodies.  What has set them apart, besides the fact that their songs are really catchy, is the fact that hit a bit harder they’re willing to muddy it up a bit and drown some of the sweetness in guitar noise.  (Flake Records)

My 2017 Rookie of the Year award goes to Kyoto-based newcomers Nurse, who released their debut EP ODD.  Nurse sort of spawned from the very short-lived Hakusen Shikatsu, who released a couple impressive demo tracks earlier in the year and then split.  But the new project is even better and way way noisier.  Hopefully these guys stick around for a bit. (Bandcamp)

Chiba’s plant cell may not have been qualified for the album of the year award, but they put out two really good EPs in 2017.  The first, titled Queen of the Nebula – Fairy Lurking In the Thundercloud, was a thematic departure from their usual nature/spirit-based content, but featured their usual dense, dreamy sound.  The second, Cyan, was a collection of new versions of songs previously released on CDs or as singles on Bandcamp.  To be clear, the rebuild version of Flowergaze? wasn’t included in the list because it was just a modified version of a previously released album.  Cyan, on the other hand, was recorded from scratch and marked plant cell’s first recording as a full band.  The result isn’t really all that different, but the live drums add a bit of warmth to some familiar tracks.  For a band that’s put out some of the same tracks more than a couple times now, plant cell always manages to keep things interesting.  (Disk Union)

Perhaps better known as half of Hachioji-based alternative band The Weddings, singer-songwriter, kano, has been writing some seriously good dream pop tunes over the last 2 years. Her second EP, Shochuu, is short and sweet, including three whimsical, feel-good tracks with some really pretty textures woven along with gentle, breathy vocals.  The release was fairly low-key, but the release really hits the spot and rose to the top of a very deep list of 2017 EPs.  (File-Under Records


★ ☆ ★ BEST ALBUM ★ ☆ ★

“HE(R)ART” BY FOR TRACY HYDE

For Tracy Hyde outdid themselves and delivered the most enjoyable album of 2017.  While most bands are putting out singles and EPs, the Tokyo-based dreamy indie pop/shoegaze outfit released an incredibly well-written 17-track album (16 if you don’t want to include the intro) that draws on western indie pop influence while conjuring youthful imagery of life in Tokyo.  That imagery is key, as He(r)art is structured like a film, down to the movie poster album cover and “Opening Logo”.  It’s a nostalgic, playful, and emotional walk through a massive city and impactful relationships made there.  While He(r)art is an extremely cohesive album that is best consumed as presented from start to finish, the individual tracks stand well on their own as well.  “Leica Daydream”, “Houbutsusen”, and “Teen Flick” are among my personal favorites, while “Ghost Town Polaroids” might be my favorite track of the year.  There are some strong contenders below, but For Tracy Hyde owned 2017. (Amazon)

There’s not much to say about Shelling‘s latest album, Waiting for Mint Shower!!  The Tokyo-based duo gave us another gorgeous album based on the simple-but-effective formula of blanketing everything in a cascade of reverb-soaked guitars, warm synths, and Aya’s gentle, breathy vocals.  The way the tracks subtly evolve over the repetitive beats and lulling bass lines is hypnotic.  But you’ve heard all this before.  (Amazon)

Taffy is an interesting inclusion, because I almost have to remind myself that they’re a Japanese band.  More appreciated overseas than in their home country – which is crazy for a band of their quality – Taffy occasionally emerges in the Tokyo scene as they did in 2017 following the release of their Nyctophilia album.  Taffy pushes guitar texture to the foreground, making the deeper lying melodies more subtle and the overall tone of the tracks harsher.  The result is a much different album than most of the releases you find on these lists.  (Amazon)

One of the biggest surprises of the year was the announcement from Nagoya’s Tokenai Namae that they’d be returning from their fairly lengthy hiatus with a new album.  On Seifuku Kanro Kurabu the kayo-pop shoegaze band stayed true to their sound with a cute but chaotic blend of bubbly vocals, bouncy synths, crunchy bass, and ear-blasting guitars.  It’s pacier than the first, and everything below the synth leads feels like it’s been bumped in the mix, making things sound a bit messier.  A really solid release, which is remarkable considering the band was inactive for the better part of 2017.  (File-Under Records)

There are two albums dueling it out for the fifth spot on this best albums list, both of which were fairly long-awaited releases.  Cruyff in the Bedroom‘s first full-length album in almost 5 years, Hate Me, was probably the most highly-anticipated Japanese shoegaze release coming into 2017.  Caucus‘ first in four years, Sound of the Air, came later in the year and was fairly low-key in comparison.  Hate Me had higher highs with a few bangers including HATE and my personal favorite Laurelei, but got a bit too clean and rock n roll at times.  Caucus’ record had its own hot track in lead single, “What Have You Done”, but the album was more consistent start to finish, giving it the nod.  Caucus changes pace well on the album, going from fuzzy pop tunes to slower, more textural tracks like the almost 9-minute “Circles”.  Overall it was a more interesting listening experience. (Caucus on Amazon) (Cruyff in the Bedroom on Amazon)

A Fond Farewell to Ether Feels

A lot of bands come and go.  The Japanese shoegaze scene has seen so many really good bands just disappear out of nowhere or break up without notice that I’ve become desensitized to it.  Late last night, however, Kansai shoegaze legends Ether Feels announced that its October gig in Taiwan was its last.  The band’s members would be splitting up, and Ether Feels would be going on an indefinite hiatus.  The news really hit home (enough to get me to come back and post after a few months away).  

A lot of bands come and go.  The Japanese shoegaze scene has seen so many really good bands just disappear out of nowhere or break up without notice that I’ve become desensitized to it.  Late last night, however, Kansai shoegaze legends Ether Feels announced that its October gig in Taiwan was its last.  The band’s members would be splitting up, and Ether Feels would be going on an indefinite hiatus.  The news really hit home (enough to get me to come back and post after a few months away).  

On a personal level, Ether Feels was an extremely important band.  I had been to various gigs since moving to Japan in the spring of 2012, but my first ever venture into the heart of the Japanese shoegaze scene was in January of 2013 at the Osaka leg of the Japan Shoegazer Festival.  The bill was headlined by the likes of like Lemon’s Chair and Cruyff in the Bedroom, but the band that blew me away was the lesser-known Ether Feels – then a three-piece.  The performance was mesmerizing.  It says a lot that Ether Feels was the highlight of the night, when Lemon’s Chair also played.  Since that night, the band’s founder Tomo, has been one of the coolest, most supportive people I’ve known.  He’s one of the really good guys in a scene in which the veterans aren’t always the most pleasant or sincere.  

 Ether Feels at the 2013 Japan Shoegazer Festival Osaka
Ether Feels at the 2013 Japan Shoegazer Festival Osaka

Shoegaze in Japan in the early to mid 00s – unofficially referred to as the “golden age” of Japanese shoegaze – was strong but derivative.  Shoegaze in the current Japanese scene is often criticized for being too poppy and melodic, and not strong enough.  Ether Feels’ sound combines the best of each of these periods.  They borrow the requisite “wall of sound” guitar waves from the forefathers of the genre, using that element as a backdrop for their signature melancholy.  It’s powerful and sad and the vocal melodies will rip your heart to pieces.  Ether Feels’ sound is unique in a genre where pastiche is praised, and that’s helped to establish them as one of the best shoegaze bands on the planet.  

I will say that a fair criticism I’ve heard about the band is that their songs can be a bit repetitive.  It’s totally true, but I’ve never found it to be a bad thing in Ether Feels’ case.  The repetition almost hypnotic (think The Fleeting Joys’ “Kiss a Girl in Black”)  The song that stuck with me from the first time I heard it was “Annabelle”.  It’s basically just two and a half parts played over and over, but the song hit me hard and showcases the dreamy sadness that made me fall in love with them in the first place.  

I’m biased and a bit emotional in light of the news, but the love I have for this band is genuine.  It’s been a bit disappointing seeing Ether Feels somewhat underappreciated within the Japanese scene.  There’s the perception that the scene here runs through Tokyo, and in particular Koenji HIGH, but Ether Feels managed to forego that step of the process en route to playing all over the country as well as in Taiwan and Hong Kong, while also being included on a massive international shoegaze compilation.  All the while, Ether Feels has also helped usher in a new wave of shoegaze bands in Japan, while encouraging the scene to continue to grow in the Kansai region.  

If there’s one bit of good news in all of this, it’s that Ether Feels technically isn’t over.  Some would argue that the most recent lineup was the band’s best ever, but the fact remains that Tomo is the brains of the operation and he still seems dedicated to continuing what he referred to as his “life work”.  It would appear that there is still hope for the future, but for now it’s a good opportunity to sit back and reflect on the career of one of the best Japanese bands in recent memory.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already familiar with Ether Feels’ catalog, but if by some chance you’re not, I recommend diving right in on their Bandcamp page and enjoying everything they’ve done.  Sadly, the Raindrop Sparkle CD – my personal favorite – isn’t up here, but the rest of their stuff is great as well.

 

 

 

The Best Japanese Shoegaze and Dream Pop Releases of 2016

There was a lot of new shoegaze and dream pop coming out of Japan in 2016, and , even more so than in previous years, album releases were way outnumbered by EPs, singles, and mini albums.  As a result I was faced with a couple of problems when putting together my annual “best of the year” list.  The first is that there weren’t ten full-length releases that qualified.

There was a lot of new shoegaze and dream pop coming out of Japan in 2016, and , even more so than in previous years, album releases were way outnumbered by EPs, singles, and mini albums.  As a result I was faced with a couple of problems when putting together my annual “best of the year” list.  The first is that there weren’t ten full-length releases that qualified.  Rather than making a numbered list this time around, I’ve decided to just name my favorite single, EP/mini-album, and album of the year, and then name a few honorable mentions for each category.

It’s a completely different feel from what I’ve put together the last couple years, but it serves the same purpose.  Enjoy, discuss, buy some music.

Note: I’d like to preface this whole list by saying that I’m aware of the new releases from Kinoko Teikoku, My Dead Ishikawa, Qujaku, and others, and I really liked a bunch of them.  Defining genres is tricky, but I decided not to mess with an already blurry line and include the releases that I felt qualified.  The aforementioned did not.


 ★ ☆ ★ Best Single ★ ☆ ★

“Planet Heaven/Perfect Lies” by Juvenile Juvenile

It’s no secret that Juvenile Juvenile is one of my favorite bands in Japan.  Their “Our Great Escape” album topped my 2014 list, and the band came back strong with its first recorded material in 2 years.  The single was produced by The Bilinda Butcher’ Michal Palmer, and further solidified their status as the finest dream pop band in Japan.  It’s also worth noting that Juvenile Juvenile also submitted a really good cover of “I Wish I Was Skinny” for The Blog That Celebrates Itself’s Boo Radleys tribute comp this year.

This was a pretty clear cut winner, but there was some quality in the next group of singles released, headed by Nagoya shoegaze newcomers Softsurf.  Their “Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day” single was a really solid debut.  If I was doing a “liver performances of the year” list, they’d be right at the top along with Juvenile Juvenile for their performances at Daydream Nagoya.  

Saitama’s Collapse was another newcomer to the Japanese shoegaze scene, and they put out a couple of releases in 2016, including their super-gazey “Curse/Drop” single.  More on them later.

Tokyo’s Youthmemory put out perhaps their catchiest track yet on the spring 2016 “April Kisses” release.  One of the more underrated bands in Japan walking the line between shoegaze and jangly indie pop.

Yukino Chaos – a band that’s established itself as a mainstay of the Japanese shoegaze scene, and one of the best young alternative rock acts in Japan – had a busy 2016 that kicked off with the release of its “Hope for the Future” single.  Despite a really positive 2016, the band has unfortunately announced it will be on an indefinite hiatus.


★ ☆ ★ Best EP ★ ☆ ★

“Night Falls” by Magic Love

At this moment, there may not be a better shoegaze band in Japan than Magic Love.  The Tokyo band left us wanting more with its 2014 “Dawn” E.P., and after a couple years they delivered.  On Night Falls, the band showed that they can deliver big walls of sound and more chilled out dream pop, switching back and forth between male and female vocals flawlessly.  “Midnight Baby” has gotten all the love, but “Ghost Novice” was one of the best tracks of the year.  

This one wasn’t as easy to pick, due in large part to the fact that there was so much quality released in EP format this year.  One of the pleasant surprises was that some of the best EP releases of the year were put out by brand new bands.  Collapse made the best singles of the year list, and they also appear on the EP list for their self-titled EP, which was released in February.  The Saitama band, not unlike a number of newcomers to the Japanese shoegaze scene, doesn’t shy away from big wall-ish guitars, citing metal among its genre influences.

Scale is another new band that has made the best EP list, but it’s important to note that since the release of its debut EP “Hidden Blue”, the band has changed its name to Waterblink.  A throwback to the early 2000s shoegaze scene, Scale goes in hard – its founding member also plays in post punk hardcore band Deviation – but also balances things out with some catchy melodies.

Shiga’s Yuragi turned a lot of heads with the release of their debut EP “Bedside” earlier in the year.  Their “Nightlife” EP, which made it in right at the end of 2016, was a massive next step.  The band’s second EP had some of the same pop appeal of the first, but also ventured off in a bit more of a darker, more exploratory direction.  

One band that’s remained a mystery to me over the last couple years is Sapporo, Hokkaido shoegaze outfit Edy Two Arc (formerly known simply as Edy).  Confined primarily to their hometown and Koenji’s HIGH venue, it’s been difficult to access the band from here in Nagoya, but that changed on Christmas Day 2016 with the release of their debut EP “Hide Intention”.  Released via Only Feedback Records, the EP boasts a perfect balance of blaring, fuzzed out guitars and beautiful, subtle vocals.  


★ ☆ ★ Best Album ★ ☆ ★

“Blood Music” by The Florist

Just like Juvenile Juvenile and Magic Love, 2016 saw The Florist release its first material in two years.  The band’s 2014 debut featured a couple of killer singles, but Blood Music is start to finish a more complete album.  In tracks like “Marigold” and “Ghosts” – my personal favorite off the record – Blood Music boasts its own signature tracks, and those weren’t even the album’s singles.  A very emotional eleven-track ride with some excellent guitar work and gorgeous tones.  

Picking the best album of the year was tough, as there were three that I felt strongly qualified.  The debut full length effort from Tokyo-based indie/dream pop outfit For Tracy Hyde was right there at the top.  Film Bleu is the culmination of the band’s hard work and development since it’s inception in 2012.  Featuring a number of tracks previously released on EPs and as demos, Film Bleu showcases some seriously good songwriting in the band’s signature sweet pop style.  “After” is a song of the year candidate.

Veterans of the Japanese shoegaze scene, and one of the best around, Osaka’s Ether Feels released a Greatest Hits album in 2016.  The nine-track record consists of two previously released EPs and three newly recorded songs, including a new version of fan-favorite “Annabelle”.  The melancholy shoegazers continue to pump out heart breaking, nostalgic tunes, with “She’s Wanderlust” highlighting the newest batch of music.  Toward the end of the year, Ether Feels also collaborated on a split EP with Yukino Chaos.

Last year, Plant Cell released a lot of quality tracks, but did so one track at a time and thus didn’t really have any material to qualify for a list of best EPs or albums.  This year, however, the band released a couple of demo EPs as well as a full album titled Flowergaze?, so their inclusion this time around is a no-brainer.  Some of the more beautiful shoegaze you’ll find, Plant Cell’s strength is the ability to weave subtle melodies through dreamy layers of synths and guitars.  “Snow and Luculia” is the recommended track off this one.

A Guide to Daydream pt. 4 – Nagoya

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.  I will be previewing each of the events as they come.  The fourth and final Daydream event will be held on Saturday, January 21st at Tsurumai Daytrip in Nagoya.  Click the link below to reserve tickets. 

ここ数年京都シューゲイザーは日本のシューゲイザーを特集する一番大きなイベントになってきている。今年、12月から4日程3都市でイベントDAYDREAMを行う。このイベントに日本の高品質のシューゲイザー、ドリームポップ、オルタナのバンドが出演する(あと、香港からのゲストも出る予定!)。Muso Japanは各イベントをプレビューする。次は1月21日に名古屋鶴舞DAYTRIPにて行われるDAYDREAM NAGOYAである!チケット予約は以下のリンクから。

Home Page/イベントホームページ

Ticket Reservation/チケット予約


JUVENILE JUVENILE

Osaka’s Juvenile Juvenile has established itself as Japan’s premier dream pop band. While there’s no shortage of dreamy indie pop in the country, few bands have demonstrated the ability to craft a thick, swirling atmosphere around jangly guitar hooks and catchy melodies as proficiently as Juvenile Juvenile.  In 2016, the band released its first material in two years – the 7” double A-side single “Planet Heaven/Perfect Lies”, produced by The Bilinda Butchers’ Michael Palmer.  Their ability to transfer the tight, dreamy sound of their recordings to the stage makes for impressive live performances.

大阪のJuvenile Juvenileは、日本の主要なドリームポップバンドとしての地位を確立した。国内で多数ドリーミーインディポップバンドが存在する中、Juvenile Juvenileのようにジャングリーなギターフック、キャッチーなメロディで厚く渦巻く雰囲気を醸し出すバンドは数少ない。2016年、2年ぶりにThe Bilinda ButchersのMichael Palmerがプロデュースした7インチ両A面シングル“Planet Heaven/Perfect Lies”をリリースした。ステージ上で奏でられるタイトでドリーミーなサウンドは、印象に残るパフォーマンスとなるであろう。


APPLE LIGHT

Veterans of the Nagoya music scene, Apple Light is one of the city’s most recognizable alternative rock acts.  Formed in 2008, Apple Light has released three albums, the most recent of which was 2015’s Are You Happy Now?  Their emotional, melody-driven throwback to 90s alt rock is super-catchy – and at times quite danceable – and has caught on overseas as well.  The band has shared the stage with the likes of Ringo Deathstarr and Stockholm’s Last Days of April.  

名古屋の音楽シーンのベテランApple Lightは、地元で最も認知されたオルタナティブロックバンドのひとつである。2008年に結成された彼らは2015年の最新作“Are You Happy Now?”を含む3つのアルバムをリリースしてきた。エモーショナルでメロディアス、90年代のオルタナティブロックを彷彿とさせるサウンドはキャッチーで聴く者を踊らせ、また海外でも注目を集めている。これまでRingo DeathstarrやストックホルムのLast Days of Aprilなどと競演を果たしてきた。


YUKINO CHAOS

One of Japan’s brightest young acts, Yukino Chaos has come on strong over the last couple years with dynamic live performances and some really impressive recordings.  2016 saw the release of a new demo single “Hope For The Future” and a supporting slot at Tokyo’s Niman Den-Atsu alongside Melt Banana, Looprider, and Qujaku.  The band was also invited to Shanghai along with Broken Little Sister earlier this year.  They’ll be releasing a split EP with fellow Daydream performers Ether Feels in December.

日本の輝かしき若い才能のひとつYukino Chaosは、精力的なライブ演奏と印象的なレコーディングで近年目を離せない存在となっている。彼らの2016年は、デモシングル“Hope For The Future”のリリース、東京の二万電圧でのMelt Banana, Looprider そして Qujakuとの共演、Broken Little Sisterと共に上海へ招かれた年でもあった。12月には共にDAYDOREAMに出演するEther Feelsと制作したスプリットEPがリリース。


ME IN GRASSHOPPER

With members based between the Kansai and Tokai regions of Japan, it’s only fitting that me in grasshopper will be performing at Daydream events in both Kyoto and Nagoya.  Over the past few years the band has become one of the flag bearers for the Nagoya shoegaze scene on the strength of their sweet melodies and subtle yet persistent guitar noise.  Their 2015 “NEW SATURDAY e.p.” was one of the best of the year.  In 2016 the band supported YUCK on their Japan tour, and they will be supporting Brooklyn’s Lazyeyes in Nagoya in January.

メンバーが関西・東海地方出身のme in grasshopperは、DAYDREAM KYOTO・NAGOYAの両日に出演する。美しいメロディーと緻密且つ鳴り響くギターノイズにより、この数年で名古屋シューゲイズシーンを代表する存在となった。2015年にリリースされた“NEW SATURDAY e.p.”は、その年の最高傑作の一つ。2016年、YUCKの日本ツアーをサポートし、来年1月にはブルックリン出身Lazyeyesの名古屋公演をサポートする予定。


SOFTSURF

Local Nagoya shoegazers Softsurf went from being virtually unknown at the start of the year to Nagoya’s most promising new shoegaze band.  The band announced its presence at this summer’s Nagoya Shoegazer Expo with a performance that drew wide praise within the shoegaze community.  Softsurf’s debut single “Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day” showcased the band’s ability to create big “wall of sound” shoegaze as well as dreamy pop tunes.  Fans of shoegaze done loud will want to keep an eye on these guys.

2016年の初めにはほぼ無名だった地元シューゲイザーSoftsurfは、ここ一年足らずで名古屋で最も有望なバンドへと成長した。彼らは昨夏のNagoya Shoegazer Expoでのパフォーマンスでシューゲイズコミュニティから広く賞賛を浴び、注目を集めた。デビューシングル“Blue Swirl/Beautiful Day”は、Softsurfに大音量ウォール・オブ・サウンドも、ドリーミーポップも創り出す才能があることをしっかりと示した。


BALLOON AT DAWN

Yet another impressive dream pop band produced by the city of Osaka, Balloon At Dawn finished 2016 strong with the release of their Our Finder EP.  The band has made a name for itself by creating thick textures using numerous layers of synths and reverb-soaked guitars, all of which they drive with super-danceable beats and addictively melancholy melodies.  More than anything, their music is a lot of fun.  The new record was released by HOLIDAY!RECORDS, who will also be setting up shop at Daydream Nagoya.

大阪から生まれたドリームポップバンドBalloon At Dawnは、”Our Finder EP”のリリースによって力強く2016年の幕を降ろした。踊りやすいビートとクセになるメランコリーなメロディ、いくつものシンセを重ねた濃いテクスチャーとリバーブに浸ったギターで、その名を知らしめる。そして何よりも、彼らの音楽は聴いていてとても楽しい。最新作はDaydream Nagoyaで物販として参加するHOLIDAY!RECORDSからリリースされたことも要チェック。


THE SKATEBOARD KIDS

The Skateboard Kids is another of Japan’s finest young acts. The four-piece has rapidly gained popularity in Japan on the back of strong live performances and a couple of impressive releases, culminating in their 2016 major label debut, Newtopia.  They’ve shown a propensity to create beautifully intense music, whether on the foundation of shoegaze-infused alternative rock or mellow, acoustic tracks.  One to keep an eye on in the years to come.

The Skateboard Kidsは、日本の輝かしき若い才能のひとつ。4人組の彼らは力強いパフォーマンスと印象的なリリースで国内で急速に人気を集めている。2016年には“Newtopia”でメジャーレーベルデビューを果たした。シューゲイズの息が吹き込んだオルタナティブロック、メローなアコースティックトラックなど、美しくも激しい音楽を創り出す。今後目が離せない。

A Guide to Daydream pt. 2 – Kyoto Day 2

This time I’ll be looking at Daydream Kyoto Day 2, which will take place at Nijo Nano.  Follow the links below for event info and ticket reservations.

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.  I will be previewing each of the events as they come.  This time I’ll be looking at Daydream Kyoto Day 2, which will take place at Nijo Nano.  Follow the links below for event info and ticket reservations.

ここ数年京都シューゲイザーは日本のシューゲイザーを特集する一番大きなイベントになってきている。今年、12月から4日程3都市でイベントDAYDREAMを行う。このイベントに日本の高品質のシューゲイザー、ドリームポップ、オルタナのバンドが出演する。Muso Japanは各イベントをプレビューする。今回は12月4日二条NANOにて行われるDAYDREAM KYOTOのDay2!チケット予約は以下のリンクから!

Home Page/イベントホームページ

Ticket Reservation/チケット予約


Honeydew

Honeydew is a Tokyo-based alt rock power trio.  Originally formed in New York, the band’s sound is influenced by a number of 90s American alternative bands, and versatile enough to appeal to a wide range of fans.  Their live performances are ultra-tight, and their high-energy performances are absolutely must see.

Honeydewは、東京を拠点に活動するオルタナティブロックトリオ。元々ニューヨークで結成された彼らのサウンドは、90年代に活躍したアメリカのオルタナティブバンドより影響を受け、その多様性から幅広くファンを獲得している。タイトでエネルギッシュなパフォーマンスは必見だ。


me in grasshopper

With members based between the Kansai and Tokai regions of Japan, it’s only fitting that me in grasshopper will be performing at Daydream events in both Kyoto and Nagoya.  Over the past few years the band has become one of the flag bearers for the Nagoya shoegaze scene on the strength of their sweet melodies and subtle yet persistent guitar noise.  Their 2015 “NEW SATURDAY e.p.” was one of the best of the year.  In 2016 the band supported YUCK on their Japan tour, and they will be supporting Brooklyn’s Lazyeyes in Nagoya in January.

メンバーが関西・東海地方出身のme in grasshopperは、DAYDREAM KYOTO・NAGOYAの両日に出演する。美しいメロディーと緻密且つ鳴り響くギターノイズにより、この数年で名古屋シューゲイズシーンを代表する存在となった。2015年にリリースされた“NEW SATURDAY e.p.”は、その年の最高傑作の一つ。2016年、YUCKの日本ツアーをサポートし、来年1月にはブルックリン出身Lazyeyesの名古屋公演をサポートする予定。


Yuragi

Hailing from Shiga prefecture, Yuragi is yet another young, exciting band to emerge from the Kansai-region over the last couple years.  Their sweet but strong sound incorporates whispy vocals and big wall of sound guitars driven by uptempo pop beats.  2016 has been a big year for the band with the release of their “bedside” single and the announcement of their upcoming “nightlife e.p.”, which will be out on 12/27.  They’ve also announced they will be supporting Lazyeyes on the New Yorkers’ Japan tour.  

滋賀出身の「揺らぎ」は、ここ数年関西地方から現れた、とても若いエキサイティングなバンド。ウィスパーボイスとアップテンポでポップなビートに乗せられたギターサウンドとが合わさる、美しく力強いウォール・オブ・サウンド。シングル“bedside”のリリース、“nightlife e.p.”(12/27リリース予定)の発表と、2016年は重要な年となった。またニューヨーク出身のLazyeyesの日本ツアーでサポートすることも決定している。


Acidclank

Acidclank is another one of those exciting young Kansai bands.  The Osaka indie rock outfit put out a really impressive album titled nner in 2015, on which they demonstrated their ability to create a range of sounds from shoegaze to psych at a consistently high level.  Once a home recording project, Acidclank is now a fully functioning live band that has been gigging a ton over the last year or so.  These guys have a bright future ahead of them.  

Acidclankは、関西の注目すべき若いバンドのひとつ。大阪のインディーロックバンドであるる彼らは、2015年にアルバムInnerを引っ提げ、シューゲイズからサイケまで幅広いサウンドを、ハイレベルな領域で制作できることを証明した。ホームレコーディングプロジェクトに始まったAcidclankは、今や数々のギグ経験を積んだライブバンド。彼らの輝く未来が楽しみだ。


ether feels

There are few active shoegaze bands in Japan that have put out as much consistently good material as Ether Feels.  Their melancholy blend of pop and shoegaze has resulted in a sound that is all their own, and their quality has earned them a good amount of attention outside of their home country.  Their Daydream performances will wrap up a busy year that’s included gigs around Asia, the release of a greatest hits album titled hen The First Time We Met and an upcoming split EP with Yukino Chaos.  

日本でEther Feelsほど、コンスタントに良い楽曲をシーンに提供してきたバンドはそういないだろう。彼ら独自のポップとシューゲイズのメランコリーな配合は、日本国外でも注目を集めてきた。DAYDREAMでのパフォーマンスは、アジア各地でのライブ、ベストオブアルバムhen The First Time We Metのリリース、Yukino ChaosとスプリットEPの共同リリース、と忙しい年の有終の美を飾るだろう。


twelve fluffy chair

Local band Twelve Fluffy Chair offers a sparkly brand of shoegaze pop.  The Kyoto foursome recently released their second EP B A R, which features some cute guitar-driven pop tracks.  Their strength lies in their ability to write ultra catchy choruses and melodic hooks, as well as adding a little edge to otherwise light, playful songs.  

京都の地元バンドTwelve Fluffy Chairの特徴は、キラッキラのシューゲイズポップ感。ギターが効いているポップなセカンドEP B A Rを、最近リリースした4人組バンド。とてもキャッチーなコーラスとメロディアスなフック、そして軽快で遊び心のある曲にエッジを与える才能が彼らの強み。


boyfriend’s dead

Boyfriend’s Dead is a Kansai-area shoegaze veteran and a band that adds an element of fun to any gig they play.  Their sound is an upbeat, danceable blend of shoegaze and pop, and their energy and stage presence makes for a great live show.  The band’s most recent release came in the form of a self-titled EP released on local Osaka-based netlabel Thru The Flowers.  

Boyfriend’s Deadは、関西のシューゲイザーのベテランで、彼らが出演するギグはいつも楽しさ与えてくれる。アップビートで踊りたくなるようなシューゲイザーポップ、そして強いエナジーとステージでの存在感が素晴らしいライブ演奏を作り出す。最新作は、大阪のネットレーベルThru The FlowersからリリースされたセルフタイトルEP。


A Guide to Daydream pt. 1 – Kyoto Day 1

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.

Over the last few years, Kyoto Shoegazer has emerged as the biggest showcase of the local shoegaze scene in Japan.  This year the Kyoto Shoegazer team has put together Daydream, a four day festival spanning three cities that will kick off in December.  The event will host some of the finest shoegaze, dream pop, alt rock, etc. that Japan has to offer.  I will be previewing each of the events as they come.  First up is day one of Daydream Kyoto, taking place on December 3rd at Nijo Nano.  Click the link below for ticket reservation.

ここ数年京都シューゲイザーは日本のシューゲイザーを特集する一番大きなイベントになってきている。今年、12月から4日程3都市でイベントDAYDREAMを行う。このイベントに日本の高品質のシューゲイザー、ドリームポップ、オルタナのバンドが出演する(あと、香港からのゲストも出る予定!)。Muso Japanは各イベントをプレビューする。最初は12月3日二条NANOにて行われるDAYDREAM KYOTOである!チケット予約は以下のリンクから。

Home Page/イベントホームページ

Ticket Reservation/チケット予約

colm

Colm is sort of a Kyoto Shoegazer supergroup, consisting of members of Ether Feels, Kailios, shelives, and AOQ.  The band is relatively new, and Daydream Kyoto will be their third gig since forming up earlier this year.  Though they haven’t made any music available to this point, Colm will be releasing their first recorded material at Daydream.

Ether Feels, Kailios, shelives, 青くのメンバーから成るバンドColmは京都シューゲイザーシーンのスーパーグループ。今年結成して、DAYDREAM KYOTOが3回目のライブ。このイベントで初めての音源リリースとなる。


yukino chaos

One of Japan’s brightest young acts, Yukino Chaos has come on strong over the last couple years with dynamic live performances and some really impressive recordings.  2016 saw the release of a new demo single “Hope For The Future” and a supporting slot at Tokyo’s Niman Den-Atsu alongside Melt Banana, Looprider, and Qujaku.  The band was also invited to Shanghai along with Broken Little Sister earlier this year.  They’ll be releasing a split EP with fellow Daydream performers Ether Feels in December.

日本の輝かしき若い才能のひとつYukino Chaosは、精力的なライブ演奏と印象的なレコーディングで近年目を離せない存在となっている。彼らの2016年は、デモシングル“Hope For The Future”のリリース、東京の二万電圧でのMelt Banana, Looprider そして Qujakuとの共演、Broken Little Sisterと共に上海へ招かれた年でもあった。12月には共にDAYDOREAMに出演するEther Feelsと制作したスプリットEPがリリース。


broken little sister

Making the trip to Kyoto from Yokohama is Japanese shoegaze mainstay Broken Little Sister.  Broken Little Sister has grabbed attention from shoegaze fans all over the world with their iconic “memories, violet & demon” LP as well as the Beatles cover album “Beatless” they released under the moniker Meeks.  Just this year the band has played in Taiwan and China.  Though seasoned veterans of the Japanese shoegaze scene, Daydream will mark the band’s first performance in Kyoto.

日本のシューゲイズシーンの重鎮 Broken Little Sisterが、横浜から京都へやってくる。彼らはLP“memories, violet & demon”、Meeks名義でリリースしたビートルズのカバーアルバム “Beatless”によってシューゲイズファンの注目を浴び、今年は台湾と中国でもパフォーマンスを行う。彼らは日本のシューゲーズシーンの経験豊かなベテランであるが、DAYDREAMが今回京都初のパフォーマンスとなる。


kailios

Local Kyoto-ites Kailios create simple but catchy music.  The band’s sound, which draws on 90s US alt rock and indie pop, is very upbeat and super easy to listen to.  Their feel-good style and energy translate to fun and entertaining live performances, which also happen to be really tight.  Kailios’ three-track “Cars” EP is highly recommended.

地元京都のKailiosは、シンプルでありながらキャッチーなバンドサウンドを作る。90年代のUSオルタナティブロック、インディーロックの影響が感じられるサウンドは、アップビートでとても聴きやすい。楽しく愉快でタイトなライブパフォーマンスは、心地よいスタイルとエネルギーが感じられるはず。3曲入りのEP “Cars”は必聴。


the seadays

Formed in July of last year, The Seadays is a four-piece alternative rock band from Kyoto.  Over the last year-plus, they’ve gigged in Tokyo and Kyoto and hosted their own event “Umi Rock Festival” this past July.  Whether they’re playing uptempo aggressive tunes or slow, melodic stuff, The Seadays’ sound is strong and explosive, making for high-energy, highly entertaining live performances.

昨年の7月に結成されたThe Seadaysは、京都出身の4ピースオルタナティブロックバンド。結成以来、東京と京都でギグを積み重ね、この7月には“Umi Rock Festival”を主催。アップテンポでアグレッシブなチューンや、ゆったりとしたメロディーの曲であっても、爆発的な力強いエネルギーを感じさせるそのパフォーマンスは、観客を魅了する。


shinda boku no ishikawa

My Dead Girlfriend frontman Yuki Ishikawa will be performing at Daydream Kyoto as his solo project My Dead Ishikawa.  He released his debut solo album “A Corpse in the Happy Valley”, earlier this year, and while there are some shades of MDG-esque shoegaze on the record, the new project explores a wide range of sounds from guitar pop to noise to grindcore and more.  As a performer, few can match the energy and flamboyance of Ishikawa on stage.

死んだ僕の彼女のフロントマンである”石川”は、今回ソロプロジェクト「死んだ僕の石川」として登場する。今年前半にソロデビューアルバム“A Corpse in the Happy Valley”をリリースし、「死んだ僕の彼女」色を含みつつもギターポップ、ノイズ、グラインドコアと幅広いサウンドを冒険している。石川のように、エネルギッシュで刺激的なライブパフォーマンスをする人物はなかなかいない。


sea of tranquility

Sea of Tranquility will be making the trip from Hong Kong to perform at Daydream Kyoto.  The band has been picking up steam recently thanks to their beautifully dense and dreamy brand of shoegaze, which has drawn comparisons to the likes of Slowdive and Cocteau Twins.  Earlier this year Sea of Tranquility played in Taiwan at Leave No Trace But Gaze, where they shared the stage with Daydream Kyoto day 2 performers Ether Feels.  This will be their first performance in Japan.

Sea of Tranquilityは、DAYDREAM KYOTOでのパフォーマンスのため、香港からやってきます。SlowdiveやCocteau Twinsと比較されるほど、美しく深くドリーミーな独自のシューゲーズサウンドで最近人気を集めています。今年台湾で行われた、Leave No Trace But Gazeでは DAYDREAM KYOTO  DAY2 に出演する Ether Feelsと同じステージに立った。本公演が、彼らの記念すべき日本初のパフォーマンスとなる。

The Return of Muso Planet (English/日本語)

After a fairly lengthy absence that started right around the time of my wedding, Muso Planet is going to be back, and it’ll be a little different this time.  Putting together the zine involved a lot of interviewing bands, translating (English, Japanese, AND Spanish), signing contracts with record labels all over the world, editing, doing minor graphic work (which I’m shit at, by the way), etc.  It was a lot of fun, but I got away from my original goal of discussing Japanese music.

After a fairly lengthy absence that started right around the time of my wedding, Muso Planet is going to be back, and it’ll be a little different this time.  Putting together the zine involved a lot of interviewing bands, translating (English, Japanese, AND Spanish), signing contracts with record labels all over the world, editing, doing minor graphic work (which I’m shit at, by the way), etc.  It was a lot of fun, but I got away from my original goal of discussing Japanese music.  Now with the blog re-focused on Japan and a somewhat regular radio show – as well as some other fun projects this year – I can’t go all out on the zine, but I can still effectively run Muso Planet in the form of a blog.  I’ve admittedly lost some touch with music outside Japan over the last year plus, so this will be a great opportunity for me to dive right back in.  This time, I’ll be focusing on reviewing material from overseas in both English and Japanese.  While it may not be as thorough as the zine was, I’m hoping that the blog will serve the same purpose effectively while also being a little more accessible with no downloads and everything embedded.  Anyway, it should be getting under way soon.  

Muso Planetという世界的なウェブジンは久しぶりに再開する!でも今回はちょっと違う形となる。ウェブジンを作るためにインタビュー、翻訳(英語、日本語、スペイン語)、世界中のレーベルとの契約、編集、レイアウト等をほとんど1人でやっていて、各号に沢山の力を入れていました。楽しくて、毎号完成後は満足していたが、このブログを作る目標「日本の良い音楽を海外の方に伝えること」からちょっと離れていた。この1年間半逆に日本の音楽に集中していて、日本、アジアのシューゲイザーラジオ番組をアメリカのDKFMでやっているため、以前のようにMuso Planetを一生懸命やる時間がないけど、ブログの形で出来そうだと思った。ということで、これからMuso Planetブログで海外のシューゲイザー、ノイズ等のアーティストの作品をバイリンガル(英日)でショーケースしていく。ウェブジンのように徹底的なプロジェクトではないだろうが、良いバンドを紹介する目的は変わらないし、ダウンロードする手間のないもっと便利な形になると思います。もうすぐ始まる。

A Guide to Japanese Shoegaze in 2016

The first month of 2016 has come and gone and I’m finally getting around to posting about some of the year’s potential story lines and some things that fans may want to keep their eyes and ears open for. 

The first month of 2016 has come and gone and I’m finally getting around to posting about some of the year’s potential story lines and some things that fans may want to keep their eyes and ears open for.  Fortunately, January didn’t really see a whole lot of action on the Japanese shoegaze front, with the most noteworthy release being a full-length release from Tokyo’s 7eyes40days.  It’s been a slow start, but recent years have seen a significant growth of the Japanese scene and there’s no reason to think that 2016 will be any exception.  

1.  New bands to watch out for in 2016…

One of last year’s most impressive newcomers Plant Cell can hardly be considered a new band, but 2015 served as sort of a warm-up year during which the Chiba outfit recorded a bunch of music, solidified its lineup, and even squeezed in a couple gigs right before the end of the year.  They go into 2016 poised to do big things, and we can only assume that there will be a lot more music to be heard in the coming year.  Their sound is deep, thickly-layered, and raw and they’re right at the forefront of new Japanese bands balancing out the country’s pop-heavy scene with a heavy dose of swirling noise.

Citrus Nowhere is another band whose noisy approach to pop music is extremely welcome to the Japanese scene.  The mysterious Tokyo-based band released a self-titled EP just before Christmas after putting out some extremely unrefined – yet quite satisfying – demos throughout the year.  They’ll be releasing some new material at a special Nagoya-only (yes!) event at the end of February alongside one of last year’s ‘bands to watch out for’, Yukino Chaos.  

From Tokyo to nearby Kanagawa-prefecture, Kawasaki’s Spicy Ground Floor are another new band that wasted no time getting to the studio and pumping out demo tracks.  They’re still a bit raw, but it’s early days for a band whose Soundcloud page has filled up quickly, and their swaying gently between bouncy pop-driven verses found in their single “Chili Chili” and the steadily marching, guitar driven style of “Flood”.  It’s not perfect just yet, but these guys are on the right track.  

As a resident of Nagoya, there are two local bands who got started last year whose progress I’ll be monitoring closely in 2016.  The first loosely qualifies for this list, but The Skateboard Kids essentially do everything you could ask of a shoegaze band with bouts of thunderous guitar noise exploding out from their sweetly melancholic, occasionally playful pop verses.  The other is haguki, a three-piece shoegaze band hailing from Anjo-city, about a half hour outside Nagoya.  Their three-track EP tobira gets a bit math-y at times, and there’s also a bit of a post rock influence that reminds me of prefecture-mates Aysula.  The EP was a short but sweet sampler of their music that has me really interested to see which direction they ultimately decide to head.  

A band that’ll be getting things going this year, though one whose principle member needs no introduction is Tokyo’s Flaria.  Kensei Ogata – who is perhaps best known among foreign shoegaze fans as the man behind Tatuki Seksu – announced late last year that his band, talk, would be going on an indefinite hiatus and his focus would be shifting to his new Tokyo-based project.  Flaria played its first gig on January 15th and it probably won’t be too long before we get to hear what Mr. Ogata’s new project sounds like.  

2.  New releases to watch out for in 2016…

Hands down the most exciting release of the year will come from Aomori’s The Earth Earth, who promised us a new EP and then finally gave us some new music in the form of their single, “n e a r”.  There’s no real timetable for the release of the EP, but I’ll just be really optimistic that the rest of the EP is in the production phase right now and will be out sooner or later.  

Something I’ve been waiting for for a while now is new music from another of Japan’s best shoegaze bands, dive.  The band’s activity has been pretty slow in recent years, but there was word that Sasaoka and company would be putting out some new music in the fall of 2015.  Here we are almost a month into 2016 and there’s been no music, but one gig in the books so far this year and another coming up in March (a flurry of live activity by dive standards) might be an indication that they have the time to record some new music.  I’m not holding my breath, but if both dive and The Earth Earth were to put out new music in the same year there isn’t much else I’d need.

I may not have been paying enough attention when the project was initially announced, but one release that makes this list based solely on reputation is the solo album from My Dead Girlfriend‘s Yuki Ishikawa.  The quirky frontman is currently recording the album which features a ton of guest musicians, including the aforementioned Kensei Ogata.  There’s not a whole lot known about the direction of the album, but given the cast of contributors and the reputation of the man whose name will be on the cover, it’s at least worth checking out.

The Florist, whose 2014 album Middle of Winter was one of the best of the year, have been writing a bunch of new material and now appear set to record a new album over the next two months.  With the band collectively drawing on such a wide range of influences, it will be interesting to see if they decide to approach the follow-up effort differently or if they ride the same formula that produced their memorable debut full-length.  

3.  The festivals!

2015 was a pretty spectacular year for gig-going shoegaze fans in Japan, with Astrobrite’s Japan tour and all of the festivities surrounding it kicking off something of a flurry of resurgent 90s shoegaze acts touring the country.  This year probably won’t be as intense in that respect – though I’m sure we can count on a Lush appearance at some point in 2016 – so the focus shifts back to Japan’s domestic shoegaze events.  Since it’s inception six years ago, the Japan Shoegazer Festival has been the country’s most identifiable shoegaze showcase, and the Tokyo leg of what has mostly been a two-city event is generally more stacked and given more attention than its little brother counterpart in Osaka.  Tokyo is the shoegaze capital of Japan, as it seems to be for most genres, and events like the monthly Total Feedback at Koenji HIGH further solidify its reputation as such.  The first Japanese Shoegazer Festival of the year will be held in Tokyo in early March and while it looks like details won’t be out for another week or so, what we currently know is that Cruyff in the Bedroom will be appearing and we can assume that Lemon’s Chair will be joining them on the back end of the bill.  

The event that’s been slowly overtaking the Japan Shoegazer Festival as the premier shoegaze fest in Japan is the Kyoto Shoegazer/Noisy Pop event run by AOQ (pronounced ‘aoku’) frontman Katayama.  2016 will see the fourth installment of the event, which will be expanding from its previous two-day format to three days spanning two weekends this April.  The first show will double as the first leg of the Japanese tour of Taiwan’s Doodle, and the rest of the lineup should be excellent as the organizers have shown a tremendous ability to bring in talent from all over the country despite the not-so-prime location of the tour.  This show is also a great opportunity to get out to Japan’s most attractive city, take in some of the sights in the early afternoon, and then hop over to Nano for a long but satisfying evening of music.  

4.  The genre outside of Tokyo

It’s no secret that the Japanese shoegaze scene basically funnels its way to Tokyo, and understandably so.  There are a ton of people, a lot of great bands, and it’s really the best place for bands to attach themselves to scene as run by the elder statesmen of the genre.  It’s also no secret that I’d love to see the control of the shoegaze scene in Japan shift from the controlling hands of older bands in Tokyo and spread more evenly throughout the rest of the country.  I know this goes against the whole hierarchical nature of Japanese music as a microcosm of everyday social structure, but I also think it’s best for development.  I like the Kyoto Shoegazer model, and while this year that is sort of the main story outside of Tokyo, efforts to expand the event to other cities such as Nagoya and Osaka appear to be in the works.  I’d just like to see the endgame much less defined by one group and more molded by a generation of cocky young bands with the freedom to create and mold the genre as they see fit.  

Introducing Plant Cell

While 2015 has seen a lot of the heavyweights of the Japanese shoegaze scene releasing new material (with a few more to come before the end of the year) some new and lesser known acts have also emerged.  One such group is Chiba prefecture’s Plant Cell who managed to quietly release a ton of music via their Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages this year.  

While 2015 has seen a lot of the heavyweights of the Japanese shoegaze scene releasing new material (with a few more to come before the end of the year) some new and lesser known acts have also emerged.  One such group is Chiba prefecture’s Plant Cell who managed to quietly release a ton of music via their Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages this year.  The alt-rock/shoegaze newcomers formed in January as a two-piece consisting of frontman Sato and bassist Li.  Over the past 9 or so months Plant Cell has put out a steady flow of material including some pretty neat covers – they’ve done some Ringo Deathstarr, Slowdive, and quite a bit of Spiral Life, among others.  

The guitars are at the forefront of what Plant Cell does, which is fitting for a band whose members previously worked together at a guitar manufacturer.  It sounds like a bit of an obvious quality when talking about shoegaze, but Plant Cell takes much more of a Western approach than many of its fellow countrymen by burying the vocals and using them to supplement the overall textural of the music – primarily the big billowy guitars.  It’s a nice change of pace from the pop-heavy climate of the Japanese shoegaze scene.  I think fans of bands like magic love will be able to appreciate what these guys do based on the overall theme of the music.  

With the additions of Mori on backing vocals and keys and Oshima on guitars, the band is getting set to make its live debut at the end of the month, with periodic live performances being one of the plans going forward.  One would think that at the rate Plant Cell has been pumping out music a proper release would be a possibility in the near future, though at this moment Sato says that isn’t something that’s in the works.  With a very productive first year just about wrapped up for Plant Cell they’ve at very least established themselves as one to keep an eye on from here on out.

You can check out their body of work to date on Soundcloud and Bandcamp (the former has quite a bit more music and all of the covers).  A lot of their stuff is currently available for free download.  You can also give them a follow on Facebook.