The Sounds of Shibuya-Kei

With the changing seasons and my re-emergence into the world post-COVID-19, I have found myself drawn to an entirely new genre of music, Shibuya-Kei. Shibuya-kei is a style of pop music that emerged in the Shibuya district of Tokyo in the late 90s. It was heavily influenced by 1960s pop music, American hip-hop, French Yé-yé and so much more. It is characterized by its electronic and jazzy, yet nostalgic sound.

Here are six of my all time favorite Shibuya-kei tracks:

painty pots” by 800 cherries – Romantico (1999)
“Romantico” by 800 cherries is a Shibuya-kei essential. The album is chock-full of sweet sounding hits with my all time favorite being “painty pots.” The lyrics are simple at first glance but upon closer inspection, they are about falling in love. Even on my toughest day, this track never fails to turn my mood around.

Afterglow” by Pine am – Pull the Rabbit Ears (2005)
While this album was released a few years after Shibyua-kei’s peak, “Pull the Rabbit Ears” fits into the genre through and through. “Afterglow” is another sweet sounding track; however unlike 800s cherries “painty pots” its lyrics are Japanese. Overall the track, is airy, light and something I would categorize as a “mood booster.”

Star Fruits Surf Rider” by Cornelius – Fantasma (1998)
Cornelius is one of the cornerstone artists in the Shibuya-kei music scene. His tracks vary across genres and never fail to keep the listener hooked. “Star Fruits Surf Rider” is no exception. From the get-go, this track grabs the listener’s attention and takes them on an electronic journey.

Moonchild” by Cibo Matto – Stereotype A (1999)
Cibo Matto is another group that ruled the Shibuya-kei music scene in the 90s. “Moonchild,” one of their more popular tracks, is one of my absolute favorites. It is jazzy, dreamy and simply a masterpiece.

Like “Moonchild,” “LUV CONNECTION” falls into the more jazzy sub-category of Shibuya-kei. The track is upbeat and funky; however, it is contrasted with a sultry-sounding woman’s voice. This juxtaposition creates a truly delicious-sounding number.

come again” by m-flo – EXPO EXPO (2001)
I almost always follow “LUV CONNECTION” with “come again” by m-flo. Overall, the two tracks have a similar sound; however, “come again” has a much stronger hip-hop influence. Like “LUV CONNECTION,” it is funky and upbeat, but the track breaks ever so often for a rap cameo.