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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Legends of Note: Japan Edition

Hello again, monster friends. Last time I said I would talk about Leonard Cohen for this installment of Legends of Note. As you can see from the title of this post, I am not going to do so.
As someone who has spent much of his life devoted to the study of Japanese language, literature, and film, has lived and studied in Japan, and has many friends still living in Japan, last week’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami has been weighing heavily on my mind. I am heart-broken and extremely worried for friends and strangers alike, and mourn the destruction of Sendai, a beautiful city I was lucky enough to spend some time in.
So, I’ve decided to take a break from scouring the web for news and force myself to do something positive. This installment of Legends of Note is dedicated to 4 Japanese bands that have indeed become legends of the Japanese indie scene, although criminally unknown outside of Asia.
First off is Supercar, my personal favorite. Active between 1995 and 2005, Supercar have an extremely solid discography, ranging from their early, Jesus and Mary Chain-esque noise-pop (see videos 1 and 2) to their later electronic/experimental work (video 3). Track down “Highvision” in particular, one of my favorite albums of all time.

Quruli is another great Japanese band, albeit one that has sadly become a bit less interesting in recent years. The pinnacle of their work is 2001’s “Team Rock” and it’s follow-up, “The World is Mine.” Video 1 below is the opener to “World,” and nicely illustrates the quiet/loud dynamic that defined their early work. Video 2 is a live version (complete with an orchestra) of what I consider their finest moment: the electro-pop hit “World’s End Supernova.” Don’t let their goofy hats dissuade you from watching!

Next up we have the much-beloved Number Girl. Often compared to the Pixies and Sonic Youth, Number Girl, who disbanded in 2002, were produced by Dave Fridmann (of Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev production fame) on their final 2 records. Truly exciting to watch perform, Number Girl brought an energy to the Japanese indie rock scene that was really unparalleled.
Last up, we have Tha Blue Herb, Japan’s finest underground hip-hop act. With a discography of several self-released but well-loved albums, Tha Blue Herb mix abstract beats with a calm, odd flow to create a style of hip-hop truly Japanese yet universally transcendent.
I highly recommend seeking these artists out. Japan is a culture rich with music, and this is only the very tip of the iceberg. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction, and I hope you’ll send good thoughts to this great nation in dire circumstances. Please also consider donating to the many organizations providing help to Japan, easily found from the Google main page.
I’ll look at Leonard Cohen next time, so please email me at if you have anything to say.


  1. Excellent list. Here are some other Japanese artists worth checking (sorry, I couldn't get the html to work in this comment):
    -Shonen Knife (power/pop/punk)
    -Boredoms (noise rock)
    -Mono (post-rock)
    -Flower Travelin' Band (Stoner/classic rock)
    -DMBQ (heavy psyche-blues rock)

  2. All of the bands previously listed are great but I would also like to add some of my personal favorites.

    Boris (Drone Rock, Psyche-Rock, Heavy Metal)
    Guitar Wolf (Garage Rock)
    The Pillows (Rock)