While the Oricon charts tend to look more or less the same (perhaps a little worse) year in year out, the indie scene remains a haven of small delights, with new discoveries constantly cropping up to brighten your day. Here are five discoveries from 2013 that would be well worth keeping an eye out for next year:
Jangly guitar pop proliferated the indie scene in 2013, with excellent releases from Osaka’s Wallflower, Fukuoka’s Hearsays (see below) and Kyoto’s Homecomings. Tokyo’s finest proponents of the form were DYGL (pronounced “Day-Glo”), whose passionate, energetic, raw performances blew minds and broke hearts wherever they played.
This Yokohama-based duo made a name for itself by confusing and beguiling audiences in equal measure with its stop-start onstage dynamics and bone-dry sense of humor that recalls an even more stripped down version of early Cardiacs in its combination of punk aesthetics and offbeat prog/psych whimsy. Probably the most original new band of the year.
Hearsays are another jangly, melodic guitar band, and one of numerous top-notch 2013 releases from Fukuoka indiepop label Dead Funny Records. Hearsays are sweeter and more low-key than DYGL, reminiscent of cult Australian twee-popsters Frente! and artists from 1980s Bristol label Sarah Records. The song “Blind” off March’s “A Little Bird Told Me” mini-album is sublime.
This industrial noise duo made a reputation for itself by performing semi-nude and painting each other’s bodies onstage, but with its sophomore album, “Initiation,” Group A revealed itself as a serious musical proposition beyond the theatrics, incorporating influences from German new wave and British experimental weirdniks Throbbing Gristle, as well as a refreshingly imaginative and conceptual approach of their own. The band is satisfyingly brutal live.
Taking the synth-based new wave songwriting style of P-Model or Devo and playing it with the feedback squalls and ferocious guitar noise of Friction or Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Compact Club overcomes its retro influences with the sheer immediacy of its performances and a frontwoman with the easy, unaffected charisma to hold together the relentlessly fizzing energy of her bandmates into something coherent and still fundamentally pop. [I.M.]