With the power to transport you across space and time, music is the perfect escape from Japan’s COVID-19 state of emergency. As working from home and social distancing become the new normal, a good playlist is a necessity to make it through the day (with some shred of sanity intact).
Here’s what some of our staff have been jamming lately. These playlists are a bit eclectic, but it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round, as they say. You may find something new and awesome, or your ears may just bleed. Either way, enjoy it.
Randiah Green’s rockin’ jams
Genres: Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop, Rap
Who Will Enjoy it: Anyone with decent music taste, duh
Stand up and shout to these heartfelt and inspiring tracks because sometimes life is so absurd you just have to sing to avoid crying.
Man on Silver Mountain, Rainbow
This empowering classic will put you on top of the world, right where you belong. If you can’t enjoy the powerful vocals of the king himself, Ronnie James Dio, there’s something wrong with your ears.
Another feel-good jam. Mirror, mirror, on the wall don’t say it cause I know I’m cute.
I’m Alive, Cirith Ungol
As it goes, “I’ve pulled the mighty from their thrones and laughed at death’s own door, cause I’m alive.” Be thankful you are too.
Raw Deal, Judas Priest
A harrowing journey of self-discovery as lead singer Rob Halford takes us through the motions of doubt and acceptance. Not only does this song have some of the most emotional riffs of JP’s catalog, it unsuspectingly climaxes into an LGBT rights anthem.
Savage, Megan Thee Stallion
The ultimate song to hype yourself up to. Hey, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.
Amandine Coyard’s nostalgic throwbacks
Genres: Anime, Japanese and French pop
Who Will Enjoy it: Anyone curious, weird, or both
If you are practicing self-isolation to protect yourself and others, you might be riding a nice nostalgic wave right now. My favorite songs of the moment are a mix of my teen years back in France and my most recent years in Japan.
残酷な天使のテーゼ A Cruel Angel’s Thesis, Megumi Hayashibara
I love a good anime song and Evangelion’s opening is forever on my karaoke list. When I spotted this Italian neighborhood quarantined but still singing together to this classic, I had to listen to it again. And again.
Lemon, Kenshi Yonezu
Lemon was a huge hit in 2018 in Japan. Despite being highly sad and nostalgic by essence, I find it very comforting to listen to, especially while stuck indoors.
２時間だけのバカンス feat Shiina Ringo, Utada Hikaru
This duo with Shiina Ringo is as soul-soothing and calming a song can be. Enough said.
L’autre Finistère, Les Innocents
Every French person who was a teenager in the ‘90s knows this song. Perfect to sing-along really loudly when you’re cooking. Believe me, I know.
Song for Jedi, Dionysos
Another classic from the ‘90s in France, I couldn’t finish this playlist without something to boost your mood a little bit. If you were singing to the previous one, you’ll be dancing to this one!
Sabria Meg’s K-pop bangers
Position: B2C Marketing Manager
Genres: K-pop, J-pop, EDM
Who Will Enjoy it: Anyone who needs to scream
Confined, stressed, and frustrated? Listen to these songs and shake off all your bad feelings by dancing, screaming, and singing.
Dope (쩔어), BTS
You can’t claim yourself a K-pop fan if you don’t have any BTS on your playlist. Punchy, playful, energetic, and fun to listen to, Dope is also worth your watch time as the choreography is the strongest element of the MV following the “one-shot” trend back in 2015. Warning—you’ll have the saxo parts forever in your head!
Made for shouting. Sia’s repertoire is full of powerful songs but this one adds a special meaning to fighting the situation we are in right now. Just turn it on and scream “I’m still breathing, I’m alive”.
Side Effects (부작용), Stray Kids
Don’t be fooled by those eight juvenile looking “kids.” This song is very aggressive with screams, trap parts, fast raps, and deep baritone voices. As with any good K-pop song, you’ll find easy dance steps that only involve hectic arms movements. This is a great way to move your body from time to time, as a healthy break from work.
A classic “love being in love” type of relationship song. Practice singing along with these rather simple lyrics to help improve your Japanese expression flow.
Trap beats and retro electronic sounds wrapped in hip-hop vibes. K/DA is a fusion of K-pop idols with the massive e-sports scene in Korea, with members from the characters of online battle arena video game League of Legends. Basically, it’s the Korean response to Japanese virtual idols like Miku Hatsune.
Karla Engdahl’s sad songs to listen to in the dark
Position: Graphic Designer
Genres: Experimental/Art/Alt Rock, Dolewave, Indie Folk
Who Will Enjoy it: Probably just me and people who typically don’t share their musical tastes after being ridiculed for liking “sad music” for so many years
This oddball mix will work well in disrupting your music streaming service’s algorithm (if that’s even how it works) and deliver you some new and insightful music.
Pickles From A Jar, Courtney Barnett
This woman’s lyrics hit me right in the relatable feels sometimes, and while this isn’t the best example of her ability to wax poetic, I just love this track for its semi-rockabilly pace and reference to Christopher Walken.
Twist, Thom Yorke
Basically, anything this man produces, I will love, regardless of whether it’s with or without Radiohead. I know some Radiohead purists feel like everything after Ok Computer is basically Muzak, but I believe being a part of “Team Radiohead” means accepting them like a child or a pet… unconditionally.
Slo Fuzz, Sol Seppy
I’m happy to admit that this sounds very ’90s/early’00s and goes on a bit too long, but that fuzzy bass and melody are divine.
L’Heure des Sorcières, Methyl Ethel
Methyl Ethel is so Art-School Band sometimes, it hurts. This song sounds like a joyful expression of panic and fear, but it’s just so dancey!
Familiar, Agnes Obel
I heard this on the Netflix series Dark and fell in love with its strange combination of voices and general eeriness. I’ve always had a bit of a thing for breathy female vocalists and the contemporary application of stringed instruments.
Michael Luden’s shoegaze vortex
Position: Sales Executive
Genres: Shoegaze, Metal, Ambient, Anisong
Who Will Enjoy it: People who like staring at their shoes
It’s pretty eclectic but maybe you’ll get into some shoegaze with me. Anyone who spends way too much money on studio headphones or watches the original 1972 Solaris to entertain themselves during self-isolation will enjoy this playlist.
Charging the Void, Vektor
The opening salvo in one of the most interesting metal albums of the last decade. That is, if a grandiose story that’s half metal, half space opera sounds interesting to you. This is perfect for getting pumped up to work out in your room alone or to just lose yourself in for an hour.
Like a White Bat in a Box, Dead Matters Go On, Melt Banana
Great intro to Japan’s semi-well-known noise rock scene. Fast-paced and easy to get into, this song and the album is extremely addictive for the layered waves of dissonance and strangely upbeat vocals.
Burning in the Undertow of God, The Angelic Process
Drone metal with a real shoegaze vibe. The mixing on this album and this song, in particular, is amazing. It’s a pure sonic wall that washes over you like the rising tide of a hurricane. It’s the perfect song to dive into and check out of reality for a while with.
The Japanese shoegaze scene wouldn’t be complete without Tokyo Shoegazer. Bright is one of the easiest songs to get into. Its complex and layered textural soundscape is… bright.
Step!, Mio Honda
Look, sometimes you just need an energetic tomboy singing about having a good day. Don’t judge me.
Blain Armstrong’s instrumental opera
Position: Software Engineer
Genres: All over the place
Who Will Enjoy it: Anyone looking for some good instrumental music to work at home to
I’ve always had a wide range of musical tastes, which this list reflects quite nicely. Normally I’m into heavier classic rock—think Metallica, Slayer, or Led Zeppelin—but this list is more fitting for people working from home since it’s all instrumental and runs the gamut from mellow to energetic.
Art of Motion, Andy McKee
I really like Andy McKee’s style of playing, how he uses fingerpicking, harmonics, and even plays the body of the guitar itself as an instrument. This is from the album of the same name and is a good up-tempo song to get started.
Havona, Weather Report
A little bit of ‘70s era jazz fusion to pick up the pace. Featuring Jaco Pastorius who is arguably the greatest jazz bass player ever. His solos here are among my favorite of his.
Incident at Neshabur, Santana
This song from the Abraxas album features some amazing guitar and percussion work, plus really cool transitions between up-tempo and mellow.
Darkest Light, The Lafayette Afro Rock Band
An example of ‘70s funk at its best with a fantastic groove. Fans of early ‘90s hip-hop might recognize the saxophone riff.
Watermelon in Easter Hay, Frank Zappa
The penultimate track from Zappa’s 1979 three-disc concept album Joe’s Garage. If you’re not familiar with the story, the narration at the beginning will make no sense whatsoever. Featuring what his son Dweezil referred to as “the best solo Zappa ever played.”
Chris Betros’ timeless classics
Genres: Golden oldies
Who Will Enjoy it: Anyone born before 1980
These are timeless songs that have been popular for decades.
This version of the Pink Floyd classic was played during the Tribute to American Heroes TV special after the 9/11 terror attacks. It inspires me even during a pandemic.
Aaron Baggett’s hardcore breakdown
Position: Staff Writer
Who Will Enjoy it: Angry kids too old for girl jeans
For all the straight edge kids who grew up but still like to bounce.
Hammer The Nails, Casey Jones
Growing up, I was angry at the world. It can feel pretty lonely when everyone around you is smoking, drinking, doing drugs, and pressuring you to join. Then one day, a kid saw me eating lunch alone and invited me to listen to Casey Jones. Suddenly, I wasn’t so lonely anymore with this fast, aggressive, positive hardcore.
Final Backwards Glance, Bane
Nearly 20 years after discovering the hardcore scene, Bane is still my favorite band. They were the last band I saw live when I left the U.S. I talked to Aaron Bedard, the vocalist, and told him where I was going. Almost 10 years later, I saw them again in Tokyo for their final tour. I was going through some tough times and needed a show to vent. Aaron recognized me, hugged me, and said, “do great things here.”
Scared To Change, Blackhole
Choosing just one English hardcore band is tough. While Your Demise and Gallows (pre-MacNeil) are obvious picks, I had to go with Blackhole for their fist-pumping “hey!” gang vocals in Scared To Change.
You can’t talk about hardcore on GaijinPot without featuring some Japanese bands, and they don’t go much harder than SAND. You’re always in for a good time at a show. I’ve seen more stage dives and flying kicks in a SAND pit than any western band’s gig.
New Halloween, Touche Amore
Yeah, I know this is post-hardcore, but there’s nothing wrong with mixing it up a bit. Touche Amore is all over the place when it comes to sound. Whenever someone tries to tell me hardcore is just people yelling, I immediately think of this band. They are kind of like an aggressive poetry jam. You won’t find any breakdowns here, but there’s a lot of heart.
Shelley Momoko’s kawaii singalong
Position: Editorial Assistant
Who Will Enjoy it: Millennial kids who heart kawaii
Songs to sing along to in the middle of the night, not realizing your window is wide open for the whole neighborhood to hear.
When I found this song I fell in love. Sometimes I just leave it on repeat and soak it all in. If you just happen to be a 15-year-old girl looking for songs to send your crush, I highly recommend adding this to the playlist. But hey, you could be a middle-aged man and not hate it too.
Death Of A Bachelor, Panic! At the Disco
Lead vocalist Brendon Boyd Urie just gives off such good vibes. Panic! At The Disco’s I Write Sins Not Tragedies is one of my all-time favorites but Death Of A Bachelor even my grandma loves. This upbeat indie rock track is exactly what we all need during these dark times.
Say So (Japanese Version), Rainych
Say So, originally by Doja Cat, started a dance craze and blew up on TikTok, the popular video streaming app. Rainych took the disco-themed song, translated it into Japanese, and added her own special kawaii touch to it.
NASA, Ariana Grande
The perfect Ari song to motivate your self isolation. “Imma need space!”
Mic Vurchio’s experimental trip
Genres: Piano, Scores, Triphop
Who Will Enjoy it: The curious who are ready for an “experience”
This playlist is all about feeling the music while working.
Let us know what you’re listening to in the comments. #StayHome and stay safe!