Japanese Indie

Six more artists worth checking out from the land of the lobster vending machine

Believe it or not, Japan doesn’t just produce uncomfortably sexualized, 48-member girl groups. If you dig deep enough—past the brain-shattering preteen nu-metal (and hilariously named plus-size idol bands) you’ll find that there’s a whole lot of alternative talent to be discovered in the world’s second largest music-buying market (the U.S. of course, takes top spot).

Matt Hart from The Morning After listed his favorite Japanese indie back in May. Today we bring you six more artists worth checking out.


Without a photograph, back-story or even proper LP to their name, Tokyo’s LLLL, became one the most blogged-about artists on the web back in 2012 thanks to their haunting, enigmatic debut EP Mirror. Binding the moody drone of My Bloody Valentine, nostalgic dreaminess of Millionyoung and the warped R&B of Purity Ring into their own tightly coiled bit of magic, the mysterious two piece have been poised to become major players internationally for a hot minute. With their new release Paradise, this might finally soon become a reality.


Wildly gimmicky, brilliantly meta, and incomparably fun, Polysics have dominated the Japanese New Wave scene for the better part of the last two decades. With their matching, orange boiler suits (think Devo, but without the hats), and penchant for surf-rock and synthesizers, Polysics are a band that need not be understood to enjoy. Just sit back, make sure nobody in the office is walking behind you and start trawling Youtube.

Avengers in Sci-Fi

What happens when you mix spacey dance rock with just a hint of early 2000s emo-pop? The answer (other than Angels in Airwaves), is Avengers in Sci-Fi, a Tokyo-based three-piece that formed after meeting as high school students in 2002. It wasn’t until almost 10 years later that the trio hit it big with their 2010 album Dynamo. Since then they’ve graced the stage at massive Japanese festival likes Fuji Rock, and Summer Sonic and have also performed at Texas’ South by Southwest (SXSW) festival.


With the walls being as thin as they are in Japanese apartments, making music as a bedroom producer can be tough—especially when it comes to tracking vocals. For Mayuko Hitotsuyanagi (aka Cuushe), however, this has never been an issue. Muted and minimal, Cuushe makes dream pop that’s both intimate and restrained. And with her ability to write totally in English, she’s picking up plenty of blog love outside her native Japan. Like Grimes? Like FKA Twigs? Cuushe is definiately an artist to check out.

Jesse Ruins

Frequently compared to artists like M83 and Washed Out, Jesse Ruins is a Tokyo-based unit made up Nobuyuki Sakuma and Nah with a gift for crafting driving, ethereal shoegaze. Vocally androgynous and always mysterious (seemingly a common trait among Japanese DYIers), Jesse Ruins is a beefier, more nostalgic version of New Order, without the 5 minute percussion solos.

Sapphire Slows

Speaking of soft-singing bedroom producers, Kinuko Hiramatsu, better known as Sapphire Slows, is one of the top indie artists in the country. Signed to influential Bay area boutique label 100% Silk and part of a small Tokyo-based collective of house-inspired producers (including Jesse Ruins and Faron Square), Hiramatsu makes swirling, blissed-out electronica for people who like a little bit of creeping dread with their dance music.