Monthly Listening: Best Albums of 2022
Listing the newsletter's favorite Japanese releases of 2022 from Wednesday Campanella, Laura day romance and more
Hi! This is December’s Monthly Listening list. Instead of a quick rundown of new Japanese albums I checked out this month that I enjoyed, this list goes through favorites from the entire year to keep up with our recent year-end coverage. You can browse past Monthly Listenings in the archives.
Happy New Year! In lieu of a proper December Monthly Listening list, I decided to put together my list of favorite Japanese albums of 2022. December was actually pretty solid when it came to new releases—capsule, PASSEPIED—and some listens actually make an appearance—SAYOHIMEBOU! RYUTist! The list below is loosely ranked, though the first 7 definitely reside among the top for me.
Happy listening! No playlist for this entry, but you can still check out my 100 favorite songs of the year on Spotify. Many artists on this list make an appearance there.
Neon by Wednesday Campanella
pop | ► “Maneki Neko”
“[Utaha] sounds so one with the song’s world, fascinated by its own myths, and her infectious exuberance elevates the shallow premise behind the song. Like the best Wednesday Campanella tracks, describing what ‘Maneki Neko’ and ‘Edison’ are about ruins the magic. You got to listen close to get the full experience.” —Read more about the singles from the album on This Side of Japan issue #49.
BAD Mode by Hikaru Utada
R&B | ► “BAD Mode”
“Hikaru Utada breaks down the music in BAD Mode to its bare necessities, enough for much of the songs to consist of just their skeletons. Impressive as their perfectionism can seem, however, the album also feels exhausting in its austerity. Despite them appearing so articulate of their ideas and emotions, Utada in BAD Mode admits even the most headstrong artist such as themself can reside at the brink of losing all control.” —Read more about the album on This Side of Japan issue #46.
BIG WORLD by MONDO GROSSO
house / pop | ► “IN THIS WORLD” ft. Ryuichi Sakamoto & Hikari Mitsushima
“Shinichi Osawa’s collaborators all embrace the producer’s pumping dance beats to inspire others to feel the moment and start moving with purpose again. Even at its most gentle, BIG WORLD expresses a deep hunger for life and love with the caveat either can disappear at any minute. The understanding behind every song is that there won’t be another day like today.” —Read more about the album on This Side of Japan issue #47.
Let’s Promise to Be Happy by JYOCHO
indie rock / math rock | ► “The End of Sorrow”
“The album title, Shiawase Ni Narukara, Narouyo, translated by JYOCHO as Let’s Promise to Be Happy, emphasizes the symbiotic nature of the relationship between you and the band: they promise they will persevere as long as you do too. They weave that message within tender math-rock riffs and serene flute passages, keeping the spirit warm and lively, so they can reach the light at the end of the tunnel together with you.” —Read about “The End of Sorrow” from the album on This Side of Japan’s Top 100 Songs of 2022.
Overture by Midnight Grand Orchestra
EDM / pop | ► “SOS”
t-mix by Tohji
rap / hyperpop | ► “Super Ocean Man” ft. banvox
xYZ by ExWHYZ
electro-house / idol | ► “Wanna Dance”
“‘Wanna Dance’ inherits the yearning for life that drives BIG WORLD by MONDO GROSSO, the producer who hands the newly rechristened ExWHYZ a sleek piano-house beat that fits neatly alongside the other tracks of his latest album. The idols’ straightforward request to get bodies moving echoes as a vital call-to-arms to inject life with more, well, life, connection and the thrills that once seemed to slip away out of reach as the world began to close in. The idols sound so natural in these rhythms and attitudes, but more than that, ExWHYZ make it look easy to adopt this lifestyle.” —Read more about “Wanna Dance” from the album in Idol Watch’s Top 100 Idol Songs of 2022
ANORAK! by ANORAK!
emo / math rock | ► “Kichioji”
L.S. by lyrical school
hip hop / idol | ► “The Light”
“L.S. revealed lyrical school’s music still had so much more room to grow. The idols seemed eager to try the newest ideas and follow what laid next in Japan’s rap scene. They ride the new wave no problem, and a track like “Find me!” makes you think of what other fresh styles this line-up could have experimented with. Imagine lyrical school working with SATOH for more pop-punk-indebted raps or STARKIDS for a full dive into hyperpop. The fact that these maybes aren’t actually out of the question goes to show how much they had ahead of them.” —Read more about lyrical school in Bring the Noise: 6 Essential Tracks of Lyrical School
Hamidete! by YeYe
pop / funk | ► “Tashikana Gogo”
The funk muscle behind YeYe as a project has strengthened considerably since her 2017 viral hit ‘Yurayura,’ and in Hamidete!, she sounds especially enamored of her current lifestyle, wishing to be present in no timeline other than the current. While the album provides sweet escapism, it’s better understood as a handed opportunity to take in a deep breath and be fully there in the current moment.” —Read more about the album in This Side of Japan issue #59.
adieu 3 EP by adieu
pop | “The Edge of Summer”
“A project existing separately from the personal realm of its central figure, actress Moka Kamishiraishi, Adieu remains a delicate balance act of personalities with its team establishing a voice that’s identifiable yet still malleable. The songs of adieu often deal with separation, usually assuming the acoustic-guitar sound and a meek personality, but the called-upon contributors present a different, unique angle to an unifying experience.” —Read more about the EP on This Side of Japan issue #58.
Fetish by Petit Brabancon
metal | ► “Kawaki”
“Let us review the musicians involved in the might-as-well-be supergroup Petit Brabancon: DIR EN GREY’s Kyo on vocals; L’arc~en~Ciel’s yukihiro on drums; and MUCC’s Miya on guitars and songwriting duty, who also invites Tokyo Shoegazer’s antz on guitars and THE NOVEMBER’s Hirofumi Takamatsu on bass to help realize the vision. The thick, muddy bass line emphasizes the nu-metal blood that runs through Fetish but also bands like DIR EN GREY and MUCC at least during their early eras. The dirty thrashing inspires Kyo to indulge in a series of raw, unhinged voices newly explored through this specific group.” —on “Kawaki” from This Side of Japan issue #57.
CUE-SAI by Batten Shojotai
dance-pop / idol | ► “Kounomisato”
It’s a small world by harmoe
pop | ► “HAPPY CANDY MARCH”
“My first impression of harmoe’s It’s a small world was, “this sounds like… J-pop.” Or at least a certain strain of it popular to the Western imagination: the whimsical, all-over-the-place synth-pop often sung by cutesy voices. If that defines J-pop, then It’s a small world provides a crash course of the genre as it developed throughout the years, filling the credits with names who’ve supplied the sugary, kawaii electronic-pop sound since the early ‘10s.” —Read more about the album on This Side of Japan issue #56.
WORLD’S ROT by BRAVE OUT
punk | ► “World’s Rot”
Drop by AMEFURASSHI
pop / idol | ► “Blue”
Rebound by Kudaranai1nichi
emo / post-hardcore | ► “Yarusenai”
LOST MEMORY by Haretokidoki
synth-pop | ► “winter memory”
Ninja School by SAYOHIMEBOU
electronic / dance | ► “BONSAI JUJUTSU”
roman candles by Laura day romance
indie rock | ► “well well”
…and here’s 30 more
Find Me Alone - Throw on Your Red Flannels and Old Skools Because We’re Going Home
Menace9 - Menace
For Tracy Hyde - Hotel Insomnia
Tokyo Girls’ Style - Nocturnal
Photon Maiden - 4 phenomena
HETH / ONLY THE LAST SONG - Intentions
Shinichi Atobe - Love of Plastic
Seimei - The Truth of the Myth
Moon in June - evergreen
Hoach5000 - FINAL EP
TORIENA - RAW
Perfume - PLASMA
HARU NEMURI - Shunka Ryougen
Asunojokei - Island
Miyuna - Guidance
Ado - Kyougen
Shapeshifter - Dark Ritual
RYUTist - (en)
Penguin No Yuuutsu - Aimaimu
Merm4id - V.I.P. Lagoon
Nerd Magnet - I’m Still Here
Dempagumi.inc - Dempakashic Records
Shaka Bose - AHIRU
DAOKO & Yohji Igarashi - MAD
Caeca - Oriori
Dai Dai Dai - Maybe Perfect
The Grateful a MogAAAz - Blue Wind
The Candace - The Candace 1
Fujii Kaze - LOVE ALL SERVE ALL
Cocco - Prom
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