25 Essential Japanese Albums

After posting a lot of translations back in October, I took a long break, but I’ve finally found my way back to the site, and I hope to keep up with it regularly from now on. I’m a huge fan of Japanese music — I’ve listened to hundreds (if not thousands) of albums since I discovered Japanese rock in 2002–, but I know there are a lot of people out there skeptical about its place in the world. “Why would you listen to Japanese music when you could just listen to music in English?” seems to be the usual question asked by people who don’t understand that the language of music is universal. The other reaction tends to be, “You like that kiddie-pop crap?” — usually from people who have only heard the more obnoxious anime theme songs. So, without repeating artists, I’ve narrowed down a list of twenty-five Japanese albums — spanning forty years — that I think are essential to any music lover’s collection, albums that I believe should answer the burning question “Why Japanese music?” — a list that just might have the power to convert the unbelievers. Without further ado, here are the albums, in no particular order:

椎名林檎 (Shiina Ringo) — 加爾基 精液 栗ノ花 (Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana, 2003) Video
Number Girl — NumHeavyMetallic (2002) Video
ジャックス (Jacks) — からっぽの世界 (aka Vacant World, 1968) Video
Flower Travellin’ Band — Satori (1971) Video
J. A. Seazer — 国境巡礼歌 (Kokkyou Junreika, 1973) Video
友川かずき (Tomokawa Kazuki) — Fault of Flowers (1993) Video
Boris — Heavy Rocks (2002) Video
Cocco — くムイウタ (Kumui uta, 1998) Video
ゆらゆら帝国 (Yurayura Teikoku) — ゆらゆら帝国のめまい (Yurayura Teikoku no Memai, 2003) Video
芸能山城組 (Geinoh Yamashirogumi) — 輪廻交響楽 (aka Ecophany Rinne, 1986) Video
Happy End — Happy End (1970) Video
頭脳警察 (Zunou Keisatsu) — 頭脳警察 1 (Zunou Keisatsu 1, 1972) Video
金延幸子 (Kanenobu Sachiko) — み空 (Misora, 1973) Video
INU — メシ食うな (Meshi Kuu na, 1981) Video
The Blue Hearts — The Blue Hearts (1986) Video
The Roosters — The Roosters (1980) Video
Bloodthirsty Butchers — Kocorono (1996) Video
Bugy Craxone — Northern Hymns (2002) Video
Cowpers — 揺ラシツヅケル (Yurashitsudzukeru, 2000) Video
Eastern Youth — 雲射抜ケ声 (Kumo Inukegoe, 1999) Video
Quruli — The World is Mine (2002) Video
高円寺百景 (Koenji Hyakkei) — Nivraym (2001) Video
Thee Michelle Gun Elephant — Sabrina Heaven (2003) Video
King Brothers — King Brothers (aka Rainbow, 2001) Video (clip is from their 2010 album)
World’s End Girlfriend — Hurtbreak Wonderland (2007) Video

2 thoughts on “25 Essential Japanese Albums

  1. “In no particular order,” he says… How am I supposed to believe that when you put Sheena Ringo at the top? =]

    World’s End Girlfriend is new to me! … I think. Don’t kill me if we talked about them before.

    • When making a list like this, it’s hard for me not to start with Shiina Ringo. Although Eastern Youth was my first taste of Japanese rock music, Shiina was my first true love 8>} But more or less, there’s not much order here. Just as they came to mind. And looking back through, it would be hard to put these in any order anyway, since they’re all so great. I’d be surprised if I never sent you any WEG before, but if not, take a listen to Hurtbreak Wonderland and The Lie Lay Land at the very least. I love his work.

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