| May 31, 2012

Perfume needs to walk a fine line on its path overseas

As Japanese pop culture is increasingly dominated by insular subcultural groups with little interest in what’s happening outside Akihabara’s otaku haven or Shibuya’s gyaru mecca, the news that electro-pop trio Perfume had moved to major label Universal and made its music available online to ...

2NE1 'Collection'

Apr 26, 2012

2NE1 "Collection"

With Korean idol groups now saturating the Japanese pop market to the extent that the initial breath of fresh air and rush of slick, electropop energy is passing, it takes a more seasoned kind of fan to differentiate between the legions of immaculately rehearsed ...

A tale of two paths to indie success

| Mar 29, 2012

A tale of two paths to indie success

Tokyo postpunk quartet Otori is an archetypal product of the city’s underground live-music scene. The band’s sets feature a machine-gun rattle of drums, slashes of guitar that explode in fierce climaxes, and bursts of scattershot vocals that teeter on the brink of hysteria — ...

capsule 'Stereo Worxxx'

Mar 15, 2012

capsule "Stereo Worxxx"

While electronic duo capsule’s hit 2011 album “World of Fantasy” was undoubtedly a development of ideas introduced in earlier songs such as “The Music,” it was also a discrete (if frequently indiscreet) work in its own right: a near-concept album linked by a uniform ...

| Feb 23, 2012

The not-so-odd coupling between noise acts and J-pop

From mod rockers The Who covering the “Batman” theme, through punk pranksters The Dickies taking on The Banana Splits, to former Megadeth shredder-in-chief Marty Friedman’s transformation into J-pop svengali, there has always been a flirtation between the fiercer and heavier outposts of music and ...

Shibuya style with an Akihabara twist?

| Jan 26, 2012

Shibuya style with an Akihabara twist?

Shibuya-kei was one of the defining features of the music and fashion scenes of the 1990s, and it helped spawn the idea of “Cool Japan.” The genre’s sound was eclectic and openly embraced Western musical influences such as ’60s lounge music, bossa nova, French ...

Five freshman acts to watch out for in 2012

Dec 22, 2011

Five freshman acts to watch out for in 2012

Formed in April 2011, Hysteric Picnic could be set to make a splash in the Tokyo indie scene with a sound influenced by 1970s/’80s British new wave, echoing Joy Division and Young Marble Giants in their simple but memorable melodies and arrangements. On a ...

Natural disasters rock year in music

Dec 22, 2011

Natural disasters rock year in music

The year 2011 in Japan was undoubtedly defined by the triple disasters of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent nuclear crisis. The impact of those catastrophes was also felt across the entire entertainment world. The industry pretty much put itself on ...

Perfume 'JPN'

Dec 8, 2011

Perfume "JPN"

Whatever else you might say about idol trio Perfume’s new album, “JPN” is a title fraught with possible meanings. Is it a postquake rallying cry? A doomed attempt to reach out to overseas audiences following the use of “Polyrhythm” in Pixar’s pointless “Cars 2″ ...

| Nov 24, 2011

Late-night dancing should not be a crime in Japan

Imagine a town where playing rock music is under a curfew and police crack down on unlicensed late-night dancing. Are you thinking of the town from the film “Footloose”? Or are you thinking of Fukuoka? Kumamoto? Yokohama? This unbelievable scenario is the result of ...