The Really Good Japanese Rock Music Guide

SupercarSUPERCAR

Supercar started out as a nice indie rock band. Which is good, but it gets better. About halfway through their career they started experimenting a little more with electronics, which is where it gets really good. Their album HIGHVISION is probably one of the happiest union of electronic and rock music to ever be made. I’ve heard them be called the Radiohead of Japan, and it’s a good description. Try them out if you like good music. They’re one of my favorite bands.

Buy Supercar Albums: iTunes | cdjapan
Listen Online: Grooveshark

BorisBoris

Boris is one of those bands that are just about impossible to classify because they fall into so many genres. Some of their songs are long, epic drone-fests, some are slow and doom-y doom metal, which is basically what heavy metal would sound like if you slowed it down to the speed of molasses, and some is very fast, noisy and sludgy rock music. But they’re not afraid to try anything. They’ve done collaborations with Japanese noise musician Merzbow and an album with the very drone-y Sunn O))) and then they made a pop album, just for the heck of it. Whatever it is, their sound is big, heavy, and it’s all-around awesome.

Buy Boris Albums: iTunes | Amazoncdjapan
Listen Online: 
Grooveshark | Spotify

Spangle+call+Lilli+lineSpangle call Lilli line

Spangle call Lilli line’s sound is a mixture of slow, complex post-rock and soft indie rock songs overlaid with soft and beautiful female vocals. Spangle call Lilli line plays with the standard rock instrumentation but also throws in a little electronic percussion and piano and violin from time to time to create a unique sound. Spangle call Lilli line is definitely a very feel-good band. All of their songs are warm, soft and nice and relaxing. And who doesn’t like to feel relaxed?

 
 
 

Buy Spangle call Lilli line Albums: iTunes | cdjapan
Listen Online:
Grooveshark

MonoMono

Mono is an internationally-famous post-rock band. If you’ve never heard of the term, post-rock is rock instrumentation without the rock music. Instead of typical rock-music-structure and snappy choruses, Mono creates long and complex arrangements usually starting out soft and calm but swelling into blisteringly loud crescendos. Don’t listen to Mono thinking you’re in for a good time, though; Mono’s songs are gloomy and depressing and it makes me sad just writing about it. But their music is beautiful, and they’re one of the few bands I can honestly call epic.

Buy Mono Albums: iTunes | Amazon
Listen Online: Grooveshark | Spotify

42704217東京事変 (Tokyo Jihen)

If you’re a fan of 林檎椎名 (Shiina Ringo), whom I mentioned in a previous post, you’ll probably love these guys because she’s the front-woman herself of 東京事変. 東京事変 is straight up rock and roll and they have some of the catchiest songs I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Besides being a great rock band, they also include a lot of elements from jazz. And I love jazz. And I love 林檎椎名 and her vocals. And ya know what, I love the whole band. You should listen to it.

Buy 東京事変 Albums: iTunes | cdjapan
Listen Online:
Grooveshark

72517362凛として時雨 (Ling Tosite Sigure)

凛として時雨 is a loud and abrasive emo/post-hardcore band. I think everybody in this band is completely crazy. Besides the great guitar work and drumming, the vocals steal the show, and they use both male and female vocals which range anywhere between soft rock-ballad singing to wails and screams. As can be expected, they have a very dark and claustrophobic sound. It’s pretty scary, but it’s good.

Buy 凛として時雨 albums: iTunes | cdjapan
Listen Online:
Grooveshark

MeltBanana+mbpillcase_promoMelt-Banana

Melt-Banana is a crazy awesome (but mostly crazy) noise rock band. It’s what rock music would sound like if you stuck it in a blender. If you like abrasive, dissonant music, you’ll like these guys. Besides the great music, you also have the great vocalist, who sounds like a J-Pop singer on meth. Yeah. This band is probably the whole reason everybody thinks the Japanese are really weird.

 

Buy Melt-Banana Albums: Amazon | iTunes
Listen Online: GroovesharkSpotify / Spotify

The+PillowsThe Pillows

The Pillows are pretty close to being the Japanese rock band. If you’ve heard of them, it’s probably thanks to the anime FLCL, which besides being pretty good itself, featured a great soundtrack by The Pillows which made them internationally famous. As for their music, it’s loud and fun alternative rock, basically the Pixies if they moved to Japan. Since FLCL, their sound has slowly evolved into more of a pop-rock sound, which ain’t too bad, but if you want to see them at their best, I’d start near the beginning of their career.

 

Buy The Pillows Albums: iTunes | cdjapan
Listen Online: Grooveshark

4850296マキシマム ザ ホルモン (Maximum the Hormone)

マキシマム ザ ホルモン is one of the most fun bands I know. Their music is a big mash-up of heavy metal, punk, and pop music. On one hand they have all the brutality of hardcore punk, with shrieking vocals and screaming guitars, and on the other you have silly pop choruses that would give the AKB48 gang a run for their money. And they manage to blend the two ends of their music absolutely perfectly. I actually find it pretty hilarious. These guys are so much fun.

Buy マキシマム ザ ホルモン Albums: cdjapan
Listen Online: 
Grooveshark / Grooveshark

5478763308_5b51b09c03_b東京酒吐座 (Tokyo Shoegazer)

東京酒吐座 is a loud and beautiful shoegaze band. Shoegaze, for those not in the know, is made up of lots and lots of guitar effects and indistinguishable vocals which creates basically a wall of sound made out of droning guitar riffs and a lot of distortion. If you’re a fan of My Bloody Valentine and the rest of the gang from the ’90s, you’ll love this band because they’re just about the reincarnation of them. They even were a part of a tribute album for My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless if you needed any convincing. If you like noisy, droning rock music give these guys a chance. I think you’ll like them. The only bad news is that they broke up last year. I’m still sad.

Buy 東京酒吐座 Albums: cdjapan
Listen Online:
Grooveshark

Any others you want to add to the Japanese rock music list?

We’re all always looking for more and better music. What amazing Japanese rock have you found?



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Eric

Eric

A writer for Japanese Level Up, a part-time graphic designer, and purveyor of fine Japanese art (which consists mostly of anime, manga and weird music). When he's not wasting time in Japanese, you can usually find him making pretty pictures or studying something that sounds interesting.

Comments

The Really Good Japanese Rock Music Guide — 37 Comments

  1. I love 東京事変 and The Pillows! I like a few songs by マキシマム ザ ホルモン too. I’ll have to try out these other bands.

    You should give ミドリ and 385 a listen. Both are pretty similar to eachother. They’re like noise/punk rock and they’re really insane. Female vocals too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTk3nqYZKiQ

    • Oh yeah, I am a big fan of Fishmans too. :) I just wasn’t sure if I should include it here because it isn’t entirely rock. Whatever it is, it’s a lot of fun. Good to see another fan. :) Also, they probably had the best vocalist ever. R.I.P.

      Glad you liked the post! :)

  2. Of all those bands there, “Mono” was by far the most interesting to me. I’ve always liked long, slow and melodious rock like that. Unfortunately it doesn’t fit into my (still very small) Japanese music list, since I want vocals for immersion purpose.

    Does anyone know of any similar band like that, but with vocals? Or any type of laid-back, Japanese vocal rock music that you can just chill to.

  3. I love Japanese music. I’m hoping to be working in the Japanese music industry at some point, and it’s a big part of why I’m studying Japanese. I go to a lot of Japanese Rock concerts in Tokyo, and I think Eric and I listen to a lot of the same music. I saw FLiP, tricot, Unlimits, Scotland Girl, and Four Get Me A Nots, this past Sunday (I mostly went to see tricot (Math Rock) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZjTXh_zaXc). I also went to my friend’s concert last Thursday; he’s the singer for Nothing’s Carved In Stone (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYZT0JzCfjU). One of my favorite bands that I saw live was きのこ帝国 (Kinoko Teikoku), a Indie Rock/Shoegaze band (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLLqGseXBTs) when they played with la la larks (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLLqGseXBTs), a new band with the former singer of School Food Punishment.

    Ah, man. This kinda makes me want to write an article or two for JALUP. I’ll at least share one last thing. I write for a website that promotes Japanese Indie, Alternative, and Electronic music over at SparkPlugged.net. If people like the music in this article, there is definitely some overlap.

    • Oo, スゴイ! I don’t see much live music, mostly because half the bands I like are overseas and I live in a fairly isolated part of America. I was really mad last year because Melt-Banana, one of my favorite Japanese bands was playing just about right next to me, but I couldn’t go because it was at a 21+ venue. A year too soon. Life is rough! :) Very cool that you’ve gotten to see all of those bands live, tricot and きのこ帝国 are especially amazing.

      Thanks for the link to SparkPlugged! It’s good to find another good Japanese music blog. Oh, and glad to hear you enjoyed the new 惑星アブノーマル album too :)

      • I hear Melt Banana’s new album is great, but I haven’t heard it yet.

        I also love ゲスの極み乙女。 (same singer as indigo la end), I mention them because I found them around the same time as 惑星アブノーマル. In fact, I believe ゲス signed a major contract the other month.

        I mostly see Indie bands (I saw Czecho no Republic a few weeks after their major debut last Fall), but I saw my favorite current Visual Kei band, Jupiter, in December, too (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h78r7MnWRkM). I also saw one of my favorite Japanese rappers, Ken the 390 (pronounced さんきゅうまる) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T0-yG–Fss) perform somewhat recently.

        There is some sort of weird misinformation in the West that the audiences at Japanese concerts are very dull. Don’t believe these lies. I think they were spread by people who had strange experiences, or went to dull shows. The most extreme moshing and crowd surfing I’ve witnessed in my life was at the show for a Japanese female Punk rock band. Crowds here are extremely into audience participation. I hope you get to see Melt Banana (or Maximum the Hormone, perhaps. I really want to see them, personally) some day soon!

        • Melt-Banana’s new album is great, I was very glad to see a new album from them after a long break.

          Oh, I haven’t heard anything from ゲスの極み乙女 yet, but I have heard a lot of good things about them. Funny, because I always hear them mentioned in the same breath as 惑星アブノーマル as well. I should get around to checking them out.

          Sounds like fun! Very cool that you are able to make it to all kinds of live shows. :) I’ve never heard of Jupiter or Ken before. I’ll give Jupiter a listen because I haven’t really listened to much Visual Kei that I’ve liked yet. A lot of bands were really boring and turned me off of the genre for a while.

          Thanks for the comment :)

          • Oh! Well you’ve heard of Versailles; Jupiter is the new band made up of members from Versailles, sans Kamijou (the singer).

    • I actually typed up a reply recommending three of the bands you mentioned, along with a few others (mass of the fermenting dregs *cough* just had to get their name out there despite them splitting up the year before last), but decided not to finish it because it was starting to turn into an article in itself.

      • Aww, too bad, I would have liked to see it :) Yeah, マスドレ’s split was pretty sad. They were a great group.

  4. Thanks for this list! Lots of cool stuff to check out. I’ve always been a huge fan of Maximum the Hormone. My favourite Japanese band is still UVERworld though. Here’s a random live clip for anyone who hasn’t heard them. They are more Pop Rock rather than straight out Rock.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwyzClhokyw

    Versailles are fantastic as well. I’d describe them as Power Metal.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWMY5oXKK5M

    Japanese bands always seem to be so tight live!

  5. Thank you thank you for introducing me to Maximum the Hormone! They’re awesome, and I’ve been looking for a band with that kind of flair for a while. My favorite band from here is Coheed and Cambria so I love the progressive, always changing kind of stuff (anybody know of Japanese prog. rock?). I also used to be big into metal as well so it’s rad to hear them throw that into the mix.

    As for any Japanese rock that I’ve listened to, I was really into the ska/punk scene for a while so of course TSPO (Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra). Also in the more punk ska scene I like some Feelflip and Miami Bazooka Head. Those 3 are the main guys I can name off the top of my head.

    • You’re quite welcome! :) They are awesome. Glad you liked them. I wish I could give you more recommendations, but I’ve never listened to much progressive rock, Japanese or otherwise.

      Japanese ska is awesome! :) I’m a big fan of TSPO and a bit of Oreskaband. (Jpop/ska band. It’s fun.) Haven’t heard of any of the others, though, sounds interesting.

    • Yep. Don’t worry, I’ll have some hip-hop picks posted soon. :) Do you have any you can recommend? I don’t know of a whole lot, to be honest, and it would be nice to find some more good ones.

      • DJ Motora
        North Smoke Ing – Herbest(album)

        OR just search Youtube for the channel nihongorapyoyo and you have an amazing playlist for the taking!! MUAHAHAHAHAAA! Seriously, it’s goooood stuff. :)

      • Ken the 390, Shing02, 環ROY, Aisha, Sky-hi (from AAA), Haiiro de Rossi, Cradle Orchestra, RHYMESTER, Steady&Co., 鬼, ケツメイシ, 般若… There are a bunch of phenomenal producers in Japan, too!

  6. Around 2003 a friend introduced me to some music by a band whose name a wish I could remember! I want to say they are Japanese, but really not sure. I know they have a song called “Smoke” and use sounds in some of their tracks such as birds chirping and water dripping to great effect. I know maybe it’s a long shot, but can someone please help me figure out the name of this band! I soooooo want to listen to them again!

  7. For those who want some good alt-rock and experimental music, my favorite producer in those genres (and probably my favorite musician ever) is 古川本舗, or FURUKAWA Honpo. I’ll provide two examples of his music: is relatively new 「スカート」(”SKIRT”) and one of his older songs, 「春の」(“Haru No”). Of all songs I’ve ever listened to, Haru No stands out as the best I’ve ever heard and, honestly, the only song to have made me cry.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHslWI27S4I (春の)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHOIuReWe4w (スカート)

  8. All mine are sort of on the pop rock side except for High and Mighty Color and Nightmare: UVERworld, School Food Punishment, andymori, Scandal, Stereopony. SFP and Scandal are the best and very different from each other, Scandal being fun and OTT and SFP really relaxed and emotion driven. UVERworld are beast too but I’ve over-listened to them recently. (Maximum the Hormone would also be on my list)

  9. FLOW is also a very good Jrock band. I love their music a lot! Literally listen to it every day. They have fast and slow songs and their vocalists and guitar/s are the best! The raps are also like really great! Hope you enjoy…
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rWcKivYS1zg
    This is only 2 songs though. Thank you for reading.

  10. This is a really great list! Usually these “good japanese bands”/ “top 10 japanese bands” lists are dominated by visual kei bands or bands like ONE OK ROCK and SCANDAL who are decent but definitely not the best Japan has to offer in terms of music. The only band I’d say is missing from your list is NUMBER GIRL, they’re considered one of the bands that strongly influenced the current generation of rock bands active in Japan right now – TK from sigure apparently said he probably wouldn’t be playing music today if it wasn’t for NUMBER GIRL!

  11. I know this thread is kinda old, but I’m hoping you can help me find a band I really enjoyed listening to, but I just can’t remember the name of them.. They were an atmospheric Japanese rock type band that reminded me a lot of the Deftones. They are fronted by a female vocalist. If that reminds you of any bands please let me know!

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