2018 Quarterly Review: January-March

Looking back on this past year, there hasn’t been much for Asian music enthusiasts to complain about. Many artist have released quality material; some of them releasing their best work to date. Despite the seemingly endless amount of year-end lists already in existence, there’s something cathartic about creating and reading them. Instead of a traditional numbered list in descending order. Read on for Wabisaabisu’s recommended releases from the first four months of 2018.

Note: All the releases listed are all easily available to western audiences through streaming services, bandcamp etc.

Phew – Voice Hardcore


If you’re looking for something “different”, Phew’s Voice Hardcore will likely more than satisfy that curiosity. The Japanese experimental music veteran started the year off with one of the most unique albums I’ve ever heard. This release is comprised entirely of recordings of her own voice, often with effects and filters alongside spoken word, to create bleak and ghostly soundscapes. If you’re thinking of a capella jingles, or something like Imogen Heap, you’re way off. Voice Hardcore is an unsettling and unconventional album that breaks new ground in music production. Not an easy listen, but its definitely an experience worth your time.

bandcamp, Spotify Apple Music

ÉMU – Rain in the Battlefield


Another experimental album from a Japanese artist, but not as inaccessible and strange as the previous one. ÉMU’s latest is an emotional and soothing offering to the senses. While the music is meant to stimulate many of our human senses, don’t start thinking this is some hokey pervy ASMR. However, to get the full ÉMU experience, you’ll need to listen to her music with the accompanying visuals, or see her live set. Rain in the Battlefield purpose is to stir up emotions and create colors, and abstract images in your mind. Less melodious and more soundscape driven than her previous work.

bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music

Tokyo Girls’ Style (Tōkyō Joshi Ryū) – Last Romance [Single]

tokyo girls style

I don’t typically listen to Japanese Idol groups and I’m not too familiar with the work of this one. However, Tokyo Girls’ Style’s Last Romance single is a glorious banger. It turns out that corporately manufactured music can be quite good when you leave the songwriting to capable people. For this single 2018’s music champion herself, Haru Nemuri, and the guy behind retro synth/funk group Lucky Kilimanjaro crafted an amazing pop song. Both artists seem to simultaneously incorporate the best of both of their styles. The cutesy idol vocals add the perfect charm to its sassy and addictive beat. Hopefully this Idol group gets to work with more talents great talents in the near future. On the other hand, lightning rarely strikes twice. Let’s be honest. This is probably too good for this world.

Spotify, Apple Music



Yet another Korean indie electronic artist making waves internationally with the likes of Neon Bunny and Aseul. I’m sure the US tour and the documentary of said tour didn’t hurt her growing overseas fanbase this past year. CIFIKA distinguishes herself among her peers with her cold mechanical style of electronic pop and a unique art style. The production is great and there’s a surprising amount of danceable beats. The album’s variety and lack of filler make is very easy for repeated listens. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for what’s next.

Spotify, Apple Music

Soror – new life wave


new life wave is a fun collection of EDM styled pop songs featuring a bunch of cute and quirky female artists. Vocalists range from leaders in the female alternative scene like Seiko Oomori and Kayoko Yoshizawa to some larger profile artists like koresawa and Akari Nanao to idols and even models who you probably didn’t even know could sing. Each song is crafted by producer SOROR (Sho Yamamoto) and features a different artist, making each track reasonably distinguishable. Those familiar with Japan’s female alternative scene likely wont be surprised that the Seiko Oomori track is the best of the bunch.

Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud

Manatsu Nagahara – GREAT HUNGRY

manatsu nagahara

Former Sebastian X vocalist finally releases her first solo full-length album, and its wonderful. She definitely has an interesting voice and you could probably take some short vocal sections from this album, play them out of context and they’d sound pretty weird. However, paired with the eclectic mix of cheery songs, this is a charmingly addictive album. Plus, she’s just so stinkin’ cute. Definitely a new favorite in the female alternative scene.

Spotify, Apple Music


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