Haru Nemuri
set the gold standard for newcomers in 2018 with her masterwork, Haru to Shura. With that, she set her fanbase alight, and caught the attention of the world, propelled by exposure from Anthony Fantano. It was also my favourite album of that year, and I’ve been waiting with bated breath for her follow-up, LOVETHEISM. I also have waited with caution, as that is some lofty heights to follow on from.

Haru Nemuri didn’t just deliver a decent comeback, she shattered all expectations and gave us yet another amazing work of art, that will not disappoint anyone who was blown away by Haru to Shura. In-fact, it might just blow them away even more.

Haru’s singular vision drives this mini album for it’s entire runtime. No matter how much playing around she does production wise, whatever new instrument palates she experiments with, whatever emotion she conveys; it’s always, always trademark Haru Nemuri. There’s no confusing who you are listening to; quite an amazing achievement in itself for someone so new.

She always manages to keep breaking new ground with these songs, which are consistently engaging to the listener- because she writes them with such passion that it’s absolutely infatuating. There’s a real sense of elation in many of these tracks, from the anthemic Fanfare, to the beautifully romantic Apple Song.

Haru’s delivery seems tighter than ever, she’s more melodic and when she does the occasional scream, you can fucking FEEL it. Her vocals are backed with some more absolutely breathtaking instrumental arrangements, that range from cathartic to downright inspiring. This mini album feels huge, and most excitingly- determined.

There’s no denying that the overall result is awe inspiring; it makes the listener feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. Haru Nemuri continues her winning streak with LOVETHEISM, and releases another album that feels like a big deal, and while its still too early to say for sure, likely will be the J-pop event of the year.

10/10– Haru Nemuri delivers another landmark album that for me, cements her place amongst the greats. Expect her to be the voice of the 2020s for many fans.



Hey there! I know it’s been a long time coming, but finally I’ve had time to sit down and look at the best five Japanese releases from the first two months of 2020. So far, it’s been a damn good year for music, but unfortunately not the best for just about everything else. Anyway, check out the following!

CY8ER- TokyoCY8ER’s Tokyo is a welcome breath of fresh air from the group, it truly feels like they’ve taken the mantle for the lofty heights that the short lived BPM15Q set. This one is a good one- there’s so many tracks to love here; everything is catchy and bright, and melodies get their nails in and are hard to get out of the listener’s head. It’s ironic that the weakest track here is by it’s most prominent producer- Yasutaka Nakata. Something just doesn’t quite meld as well as the other songs on the album, instead it becomes another run of the mill Nakata track, that feels like a late era Kyary Pamyu Pamyu song. Having the same song twice on the record just adds more insult to injury, and unfortunately is a distraction from the rest of the near perfect release. 7/10

REOL- Kinjito
REOL continues her absolute gold run of album releases, and her latest stands out just as much as her previous work. Where her 00s avex diva inspirations are well and truly on show here, she never feels too derivative either. She instead uses them inspirations, tightens the screws (this album clocks in at under 40 mins, a fair cry from the 70 min+ opuses of the noughties), brings everything up to speed with modern touches, and cuts out the filler. The results speak for themselves, with the best Koda Kumi/Ayumi Hamasaki album they never put out as the end product. 9/10

Chara+YUKI- Echo
Chara and YUKI reunite and deliver one of the best records of the year so far. Catchy, well produced, trendy yet traditional noughties style J-pop all wrapped up neatly with the instantly recognisable voices of the two legends. While the duo mainly stick to a nostalgia tinted album, there’s still some nifty bits and pieces in the mix to keep it fresh and demand repeat listens. A must get. 8/10

Chiaki Mayumura- Gekidan Ogyarizumu
Chiaki Mayumura once again got in really early this year with her second major album. This is her best work to date in my opinion, while it may not be as eclectic or jump around the place as much, it feels like she has finally got that kite of hers under control and knows where to go with her sound. The songs have even stronger writing beneath them, vocals are incredibly good. She’s tightened up that running time, allowing less chance to lose track or meander like some of her previous albums. It’s great to see her keep her bubbly spirit while also showing that she finally has the reigns, and is another great stepping stone for one of the most exciting newcomers around. 8.5/10

Seiko Oomori- Seiko Oomori
Is there any way to talk about the start of the year without mentioning this gigantic best of collection? A monolithic undertaking from Seiko, collecting every single one of her singles, some of her better deep cuts and even a fair chunk of newly recorded material over 3 CDs. This one is a must get for the new recordings alone for hardcore fans; for newcomers and casuals, there is no better starting point- an amazing pickup for a reasonably small price compared to many other lesser best of offerings out there. It really manages to capture the feel of Seiko’s excess, resolve, workaholic output, amazing song writing style and even her bad habits throughout the last 5 years- and really makes for a strong argument to why she is Japan’s artist of the decade for a lot of people (myself included, obviously).  9/10



5. Tool- Fear Inoculum

This year’s biggest album for me was definitely the return of Tool after an excruciating wait. The prog rock legends album delivered for me on all fronts. It’s definitely Tool by the numbers, but for such a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation, I think going with what they do best was the correct way to go. I have spent so many hours absolutely engaged in the 85 minutes provided here, and all the main tracks (clocking in at over 10 mins each) are what I’ve been missing. The familiar motifs and time signatures really play well with the aging band; while they don’t go as hard as they used to, they take their time to paint an audio canvas. The plodding pace on which some of these songs unfold makes it all the more rewarding with repeat listens (‘Pnuema’s gigantic chorus riff being the biggest payoff on the album), and feel like a build up to a gigantic storm, which is here in the form of the 15 minute opus ‘7empest’, easily one to add to the list of Tool’s finest tracks. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait over a decade for a follow-up.


CHAI once again hit a home run with this follow-up to their excellent album PINK. The cute catchiness, crunchy production, insatiable hooks and punk attitude are all there, this time tightened up that little bit more. It came out early this year, and has stayed my favourite Japanese record of 2019 this entire time. What can I say, CHAI are the real deal, and PUNK is further proof of this.

3. Kim Gordon- No Home Record

Kim Gordon’s debut solo album is absolutely wonderous to behold. This is a fucking ROCK album through and through, and Kim Gordon brings all her trademarks to the forefront throughout. Instantly recognisable of course, is her trademark raspy vocals, song writing and lyricism. Consistently managing to bring forward all the eclectic sounds and experimentation of her entire career whilst still sounding fresh and relevant; the album walks that razors edge of being both punishing and accessible. The production is impeccable, the guitar work intense and weapon-like. The album is a true piece of art, a modern nightmare that will capture you in it’s grasp and spit you out absolutely blown away. Don’t miss it.

2. Angel Olsen- All Mirrors

Angel Olsen goes full diva on All Mirrors, the follow-up album to her amazing ‘My Woman’. This time though, Angel holds no punches on the theatricals. Full orchestration, swooping, swooning epics and an absolute disregard for the subtleties of earlier work makes this one of the more surprising works of the year. There’s so much to take in that it will take multiple listens for the dust to fully settle, but it’s a truly rewarding work to spend the time on. Angel Olsen once again proves that she’s one of the most important voices on the scene today. A must hear.

1. Rainbow Chan- Pillar
Finally, this year’s top pick comes from Australian/Hong Kong producer Rainbow Chan. Opening with the amazing single Oblivion, it sets the tone of what’s to come- a deep, multifaceted art pop album with deep political and cultural undertones. From here on you will be blessed to an amazing mix of house, dance, trap, club and hip hop wrapped in a wonderful electronic bow. It’s complex as fuck, yet arrestingly simple in it’s presentation. Use of repetition, language, emotion and cultural heritage are all a major part of why this album is so damn breathtaking. The listener can fully engage with Rainbow Chan’s own notes on the record, but that doesn’t mean that a casual listener can’t enjoy as a pure musical experience either. An album that is seemingly endless with depth, repeat listens will reveal more little details not noticed before- and makes it a truly amazing ear worm experience you’ll want to visit over and over. Album of the year.


10. PUP- Morbid Stuff
PUP’s Morbid Stuff is one of the best punk albums this decade, and truly solidifies PUP’s place in the genre. Perfectly produced, amazingly written and deeply affecting, PUP don’t hold back any punches with this record. Building on the band’s last album, The Dream Is Over, PUP have opted for a more lo-fi sound here- its crunchy and heartfelt, and that layer of fuzz really adds a new warmth to the band’s sound. Catchy pop punk with a real bite, easily deserving of it’s place in my top 10 albums of the year. Excellent.

9. DJ Mariko Goto- Gainsbourg ni Aisarete

Goto Mariko has returned after what seemed to be a dramatic end to her solo career with a fucking bang. I’ll give it to you straight- this is her most intense work since being in Midori- it’s aggressive, insane, vulgar and personal. This is the record that we’ve been waiting for from her, a beautifully chaotic noise pop experience that reminds you of the power this legendary songstress has behind her. It’s hard not to feel emotionally overwhelmed, both from the sheer emotions on display, but also from a sense of relief that Goto Mariko has finally made an album that showcases her true potential. A late, but absolutely essential addition to any serious Japanese Music fan’s collection.

8. Kazu- Adult Baby
The debut album by Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino is one of the most overlooked gems of 2019- a gorgeous, lush, minimalist pop record that demands to be heard. A lot of the lushness is owed to friend Ryuichi Sakamoto’s amazing synth work here, an essential voice in this powerful mix of overdubbed vocals, trap, subtle beats and vignette like tracks. The album is best digested as a whole, in good headphones, without distraction. It’s as rewarding as the time you put in, and one of the best art pop albums you’re bound to come across from 2019.

7. Ezra Furman- Twelve Nudes
This was one of the most highly played albums of the year for me- a completely unabashed angry punk rock album from Ezra Furman. The lyrics are so grim with despair, socio economic problems, bleak truths and utter anger for the current state of America. Ezra has never made an album quite as hard hitting as this, certainly never as brutally short and snappy. It’s a reminder of the romanticism of music as a form of rebellion; all the more amazing because it’s backed with some of the most exhilarating hooks you’re gonna find anywhere in 2019. Painfully brilliant.

6. Chiaki Mayumura- Mejya Mejya Monjya
Chiaki Mayumura continues to aim high with her latest album Mejya Majya Monjya. This one, her debut major label release is a blend of rerecorded indie tracks and brand new songs (at a whopping total of 20 if you include the 2 bonus tracks). However, Chiaki has such fantastic charisma and song writing pizzazz its an irresistible record despite its length. Every song is full of life, sweetness and the kind of childlike playfulness that only the best Jpop can provide. A songwriter that is constantly evolving and expanding, this is a real showcase of her current range and one of the absolute best records on offer this year.



15. Liturgy- H.A.Q.Q.

Liturgy have been one of the best modern black metal outfits on my radar for quite some time now- always taking themselves super serious (to the point of being almost comical to naysayers)- and trying their damn hardest to make something spectacular each time. H.A.Q.Q. is no exception, it truly lives up to it’s subgenre name ‘transcendental black metal’, because these pieces are absolutely cosmic in scale. From start to end, there isn’t a track that isn’t impressive, both techincally and emotionally engaging. The best black metal album this year, perhaps this decade.

14. YAPOOS- Yapoos no Fushinna Koudou Reiwa Gannen
Yapoos no Fushinna Koudou Reiwa Gannen, the 40th anniversary release for Jun Togawa, sees her legendary new wave outfit Yapoos reunite for some absolutely breathtaking live performances, and their first new studio songs since 2003. It’s an absolutely essential listen, the band gives their all, Togawa sounding the best she has in years (she sounds breathtaking on Red Tank). Spine chilling, the stuff legends are made of.

13. Pernice Brothers- Spread the Feeling

2019 was a year for old favourites returning for me- and this, a long awaited return by Pernice Brothers was a real treat. Simple, catchy rock tracks with Joe Pernice’s trademark vocals are the centrepiece here- no gimmicks or flashy production. Soulful lyricism, excellent folk pop ballads and a real comfiness that is just delightful to hear. One of the best country/indie/pop rock outfits of the last decade are back at full strength, don’t miss it.

12. The Dance for Philosophy- Excelsior
This one absolutely took me by surprise on just how good it turned out to be. I had been getting more and more impressed by The Dance For Philosophy’s singles recently, and when it was time for their full album release, I hopped on it. What a release it turned out to be. I still find myself listening to it consistently, there’s not a dull track to be had. The theme and execution of the group is impeccable, the song writing excellent. Vocals are some of the best I’ve heard from any idol group, and overall, it’s one of J-pop’s biggest treats this year.

11. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Ghosteen

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the mighty Ghosteen, one of the years most adored records by critics and fans alike. Music takes a big step back on this record, it’s far more of an ambient experience, where the lyrics are the guide. Nick Cave sounds the most vulnerable he has ever sounded- even more so than on the previous album Skeleton Tree, which deals with similar themes (particularly around the death of his son). Ghosteen takes things to a new level though, where acceptance has been reached, and true grief has finally settled in. It’s beautiful, mournful and most of all, still carries a glint of hope throughout. Unmissable for any Nick Cave fan.



20. Sunn O)))- Life Metal

While it was hard making a decision out of this and Sunn O)))’s second album from 2019,  Pyroclasts, I have ended up going with Life Metal, solely on how much time I spent with it. Sunn O))) have managed to create one of the most interesting experiences that a listener can have with drone; that is, create a drone album that isn’t oppressive, but, surprisingly,  uplifting. Yes, there is hope to be heard under these walls of feedback, and it’s wonderous to behold.


I debated over putting this one on the list because it’s an EP, but I feel it’s such an important listen for me this year that I had to include it. Lim Kim’s potent, political EP couldn’t come at a better time for the Korean music scene. Where pop is utterly homogenised, Lim Kim has made something truly unique- wrapping traditional Asian music with modern trap and grime- all whilst pushing an anti-orientalist agenda throughout. It’s angry, it’s in-your-face. It’s absolutely essential. The best EP of 2019 from an artist that you’d never see it coming from. It’s great to be surprised like this.

18. 3776- Saijiki

3776 gave us one of the most interesting concept albums of the year this year- a musical calendar. I’m going to quote Malkie from JPS because they can explain it better than I could ever:

“Each second of music on the album represents two hours exactly and the entire album represents one leap year. Each track is a month. Tracks 1,3,5,7,8,10,12 run for 6.12 (31 days), track 2 is 5.48 (29 days in this case), tracks 4,6,9,11 are 6 minutes precisely (30 days).”

Those months are all based in Japan, and have sounds that are traditional to those months, such as carnival sounds, festival music, summery and wintery songs etc. It’s a real wonder to behold such bold musical experimentation- and it set Rate Your Music on fire when it was first released. A must hear, if for the concept alone.

17. Yeule- Serotonin II

In the vast sea of Bandcamp dream pop albums that were released in 2019, none stood out as much as Yeule’s Serotonin II. There is just so much to love here, from it’s impeccable production value to it’s self awareness in the social media age. It’s sadness comes from the disconnect of real world relationships, lamenting on a time where the screen is more human to us than the people around us. It’s a fantastic listen, strong beats that melt into warm ambience carry you through the album’s runtime. It is a great release for Yeule and one that will surely gain her a plethora of new fans.

16. Jenny Lewis- On The Line

Jenny Lewis really hit a home run with her latest effort. The alt-country singer-songwriter’s poppiest album yet feels all the more darker because of its accessibility. The stories she tells here are so vivid they conjure in your mind when you’re listening. The hooks and melodies are amazing, truly catchy and make you want to come back over and over. It’s a real gem that came quite early on in the year, and is worthy of any listener’s time. Get on it.




25. Sharon Van Etten- Remind Me Tomorrow

Sharon Van Etten’s latest album was one of the earliest to catch my ear this year. Mainly consisting of punchy, sensible alt-pop tracks that really entrance the listener from start to end, Remind Me Tomorrow is a far more accessible record from Van Etten than usual. It’s likely a good starting point for a newcomer, and for longterm fans, to see her expand her sound into something with more sheen without losing any of her edge is quite a treat.

SASAMI’s debut album was a really charming debut, which is deceptively soothing from the outset. Listen further though, and like other people of her ilk, the lyricism is haunting and very soul bearing. She incorporates a pastiche of primarily 90s sounds- ranging from grunge to shoegaze, but never lets her identity slip, you never forget who you are listening to. It’s great and will be fascinating to see where SASAMI’s development leads next.

23. Thom Yorke- Anima

Thom Yorke’s ‘Anima’ is the solo album that Thom Yorke has been hinting at his entire career- its theatrical, gloomy, melancholic, insecure and claustrophobic, whilst also being his most lush and musically exploratory yet. Any fan is going to want to add this one to their collection, if for the amazing The Axe alone.

FKA Twigs album will no doubt end up quite high on many people’s lists- and for good reason. It’s one of the most uncompromising, mature and immaculately produced records of the year. FKA Twigs has poured her heart and soul into every facet of the album. It’s an exciting listen, and also cripplingly devastating. She’s an artist unafraid of going deep inside herself and presenting it for the world to gaze upon- and it in turn is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have this year.

21. Otoboke Beaver- Itekoma Hits
Otoboke Beaver’s “Itekoma Hits” got some real buzz when it dropped earlier this year- and for good reason. A super punchy, insanely tight pop punk record that is guaranteed to get heads banging for years to come. A good landmark record for the band, and worthy of all the success it gained.