Shibuya-kei was a Japanese musical and artistic movement in the 90’s that amalgamated tropes and aesthetics of the past with elements of futurism to create a “New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular.” Shibuya-kei was more than just mere pop music. The list of influences was as wide and eclectic as it could be, from electronic and house music, to British pop from the 80’s. In a Japanese media landscape that is equal parts self-referential and absorbent of outside influences, Shibuya-kei emerged as possibly the height of J-pop; something uniquely Japanese composed of bits and pieces from a wide array of places and times.
What follows is a list of 5 of the most iconic Shibuya-kei tracks.
- “Twiggy Twiggy” by Pizzicato Five
During the peak of Shibuya-kei, Pizzicato Five managed to not only become a sensation in their home country, but also developed a following over here, as well as in Europe. It’s hard to deny the groove inherent in this song, made up largely of samples created by producer and bassist Yasuharu Konishi, with vocals by the always-glamorous Maki Nomiya. This song was released in America by Matador Records on a greatest hits compilation called Made In USA.
Fun fact: the music video for the song above was shown once during an episode of Beavis and Butthead. You can check that out here!
- “Le Roi Soleil” by Kahimi Karie
Kahimi Karie was largely influenced by French pop music of the 60’s. So influenced, in fact, that she lived in France for a time and learned the language. This song stands as proof of her affinity for all things retro, and serves as a perfect launching pad for her voice, which wouldn’t sound out of place in the French ye-ye scene, among greats like Francoise Hardy and Chantal Goya. This track was produced by Shibuya-kei legend Keigo Oyamada. More about him to come.
- “Goodbye Our Pastels Badge” by Flipper’s Guitar
Keigo Oyamada takes lead vocal duty on this song, joined by fellow band mate Kenji Ozawa on lead guitar. Flipper’s Guitar was formed in the 80’s, clearly inspired mainly by British indie bands of the time like The Stone Roses and Orange Juice. The title of this track even name checks Scottish indie pop band The Pastels, and sounds like a dead ringer for a Housemartins song.
- “New Music Machine” by Cornelius
Under the stage name Cornelius, Keigo Oyamada (again) released the album “Fantasma” in 1997. In doing so, Oyamada unleashed a varied and lush sonic pallet to dive into. Drawing from the growing dream pop/shoegaze movement, mainly My Bloody Valentine, “New Music Machine” both bashes you over the head and helps you relax at the same time.
5. “Technova” by Towa Tei
Towa Tei’s claim to fame in America is his involvement in the group Deee-Lite, famous for their 90’s hit “Groove Is In The Heart.” In Japan, however, he’s perhaps better known as a master producer who incorporates retro soundscapes into his version of electronic music, comparable to DJ Shadow. His 1994 album “FUTURE LISTENING!” creates a futuristic, yet retro vibe that’s so sonically dense you could fall right in.
Every song listed above, as well as other Shibuya-kei favorites, will be made available for your listening pleasure HERE.