Ever heard about a new band, but had no idea where to start listening? Breaker Japan’s resident music expert, Luke, emerges from a dark corner of the office to help you out. Every month, he’ll be handing out his thoughts on the most original musical acts in Japan. In a musical landscape usually associated with girl groups and anime robot singers, these are the artists that make the Japanese music scene come to life.
At first listen, you would never know The Fin (stylized The fin.) is Japanese. The lyrics are sung convincingly in English, and the dream pop sound is reminiscent of Beach House, Tame Impala, and M83. It’s something that I’ve never really come across before in Japanese music. However, on closer inspection you’ll find tucked away on their website a brief description by the band themselves simply stating “We are from Japan.” So the rumours are true!
Hailing from Kobe, The fin. now consists of vocalist Yuto Uchino, guitarist Ryosuke Odagaki and former drummer, now bassist Kaoru Nakazawa. With a stint of activity in England, they recorded their latest album “There”, which was released in March 2018.
Unlike a lot of Japanese bands, The fin. didn’t just hear a sound that they wanted to replicate and try to be adopted as a carbon copy into that foreign scene. They have said they listen to all kinds of music from around the world, but the opportunity to be managed in the UK was given to them. It was something they couldn’t refuse and a choice that ultimately fine-tuned that inherently non-Japanese sound.
What makes that sound compelling is how all the elements work together to create inoffensive, easy-listening songs that could work perfectly on your “chill” playlist (We all have one…). The guitar and synths layered with delay and reverb set the dreamy scene. Vocalist Yuto’s high falsetto voice cuts through and delivers a natural English accent. Tied together with–personally my favourite element of this band–the bass that powers out creative and sexy riffs no one can hate. The drums are simple and well-produced with interestingly layered effects, such as tremelo, giving them a playful character.
Unlike a lot of Japanese bands, The fin. didn’t just hear a sound that they wanted to replicate and try to be adopted as a carbon copy into that foreign scene.
In interviews, Yuto has stated that he tried to write lyrics in Japanese, but for the type of music that they were creating, the rhythm and mood of the Japanese language just didn’t seem to fit. When he started to write in English, his lyrics merged naturally with the music. It created a relationship between the details of the music influencing the lyrics and the language of the lyrics influencing the music. Sounds deep, but all I care about is that it doesn’t sound like some try-hard copy band. They are genuinely doing something cool and interesting.
The fin. sparked an interest with not only an international audience but a Japanese audience as well, allowing them to grow quickly. In 2014, they got the chance to play on Fuji Rock’s “Rookie-a-go-go” stage, which, as the name suggests, is a stage that showcases Japan’s up-and-coming music scene.
The process to get on that stage in the first place requires going through a tough selection system. You only get the chance if you beat hundreds of other bands applying. 2017 saw them back at Fuji Rock, this time playing the bigger and better “Red marquee” stage alongside bands such as Sampha, Temples and Slowdive.
They have experience touring Asia, England and America and have played South by Southwest twice. The fin. also have a solid discography to keep you interested, boasting three albums.
And now, it’s time to recommend some of my favourites so you can have a listen and get hooked just like I did.
First up is “Outskirts” off their newest album There. What starts as a little bit of a moody synth number bursts out into a lovely chorus with quite possibly one of the sexist basslines ever. Yes, I said that. Check it.
Next is “Illumination,” the opening track from their second album Days with Uncertainty. This one really reminds me of Beach House with it’s synth chord stabs. Take a look at this cute music video all filmed in 8mm.
Here’s another one from Days with Uncertainty, “Veil”. The minimalist chorus along with use of noise on the synths rather than sounds adds another layer of interest to this track. Enjoy.
Last recommendation is “Shedding”, another one from the latest album There. This one has got an interesting mood and swing to it. Listen for that well-crafted English accent when Yuto sings “Well I haven’t got a clue”. It will make you smile. Here’s the music video.