I’ve similar posts to this on about a yearly basis, and it’s about that time again!
This is a list of groups that often bring the response of “who?”, or “never heard of them”, or “huh?”.
Part of what I love about music, and idols here in Japan is the seemingly endless amount of new groups and indie artists that fly under the radar of the mainstream attention of overseas (and local) wota. With that being the case, I try to follow some ground rules for myself when making these recommendations. If I didn’t narrow it down the list would be ridiculously long!
I’ll try to limit myself only to groups that are still active, and that I’ve seen live. Also, I’ll try to stay away from major label groups in general because they’re usually getting more attention by default anyway. Also, this list is in no particular order.
additionally, I’ve created an accompanying spotify playlist. While not all of these groups are available on spotify I got a decent amount of them.
CRUiSE! is a group based in Fukuoka that I’ve mentioned before on lists, however since they don’t travel far from their native town very often they’re still relatively under the radar here in Tokyo. Several members of this group were part of Stereo Fukuoka / Stereo Japan a few years ago. This is a great group overall due to their high level of singing, dancing, and great choreography all brought together with excellent songs.
ULTRA BUZZ is a great group that I’ve been getting into lately mainly because they have a bunch of eurobeat/parapara type songs that are really hype live. Their fans are pretty hardcore in Tokyo but they’re still really under the radar. They’re available on youtube music and spotify so that’s a good place to start checking them out.
Follow their twitter for updates!
わんちゃんいやほい！(1 Chance Yeah Hoi)
This is one of those groups that’s kind of a continuation of a few past groups under a different lineups and name changes, so they have a nice back catalog of songs, and while their singing and dancing isn’t super high level, it’s all done with great energy and the vibe of the shows is really fun. I always have a great time seeing them live. Their music a nice mix of uptempo rock, and some nice electronic songs.
Here’s a link to their twitter
NEMURIORCA is from the same company responsible for MAPLEZ, however this group has a much different sound variety. It’s almost verging on the alt-idol ethos with emotional rock and progressive electronica mixing with a almost a artsy punk vibe to their performance. It’s still a bit difficult to get their music online, but they have a youtube channel with audio versions of their songs uploaded. Having seen them live, it seems their definitely building a strong following, and they have a fresh sound that I can see catching on. I recommend them if you liked Bellring Shoujo Heart or early BiS.
Go snag their twitter here
MAJIBANCH caught me off-guard at a show recently, and I really liked their high energy performance. The music is also really hard-hitting! I highly suggested checking out their music videos and songs via their youtube channel.
BOY MEETS HARU
BOY MEETS HARU really surprised me when I first saw them live, they’ve got the rock idol sound thing going for them and I recommend if you like groups such as ぜんぶ君のせいだ! Their youtube has a decent amount of tracks uploaded, so it’s pretty easy to go check them out. Follow their twitter for live info
While Devil ANTHEM are getting more and more well known with overseas fans of J-Pop, I can’t tell you how many times I talk to people into to idols and still don’t know about them. Their known for some really banging tracks and their lives are kind of a crazy situation in the crowd with lots of jumping and rowdy wotas. I’ve really caught the DEVIAN FEVER, and the only cure is more Devil ANTHEM!!!
Sakura Ebiz are part of a bigger parent company, however they’ve kept a low profile and really play up the indie scene with a diverse song catalog and very complex sound that goes from deep electronic to almost indie brit-rock and shoegaze. Their performances are very spirited and their singing and dancing is pretty notable.
I suggest checking out their youtube channel and following their twitter for more!
If you’re more into city pop or dance/vocal idols like Tokyo Girls Style or Especia, Merry Merry Fanfare might be right up your alley. It’s a group produced by Chanmomo from Band Ja Naimon, and they have a more mature midtempo disco sound. This is more of a cultured and adult sounding group.
This is a little complicated but essentially Meteonomicon is the new MAPLEZ to keep it simple. The group is gearing up to be the successor of the original legacy left by ひろしまMAPLE☆S absence. Their have one of the original maplez members in the group leading the way, and between woltanative and them they both perfom songs from the maplez back catalog. However, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Meteonomicon has the edge performance-wise and they’re set to release their first original single next year in February I believe. MAPLEZ are one of those groups that were very special to me, and now that the re-incarnation of their legacy is based in Tokyo i’m excited to see where they take the latest form of the group.
Little resources are available online as far as their music because even the groups staff/members will just point to the old original MAPLEZ discography links. There is an active website though, and their twitter is the best source for news.
Woltanative was originally a sister group of MAPLEZ, however due to a lot of lineup changes it’s a very different group recently, however they’ve still got some excellent songs and they still perform songs from the MAPLEZ catalog of hits. Their live performance is kinda rough with the current lineup but i’ve been seeing vast improvement over the last couple months, so I’m really optimistic that they’ll continue to get better live. I highly recommend their original songs if you’re into EDM.
Very new group, however it seems that they’re very popular already but i’ve yet to hear overseas fans say anything about them. They fall under the rock alt-idol kinda vibe and their songs very powerful and emotional. Their fans are very diverse and it’s one of those girl idol groups that are even popular with females as much as men. When I saw them it was about 40% females in the audience (which is a bit uncommon). Judging by their rapid growth, I can only see them getting bigger over time so get in early you hipsters.
I caught WIZQN by chance at a free live in Ueno, and I gotta say that these 2 girls really give their all and their songs are kind of in the same vein as PassCode but without screaming. I’m looking forward to when there’s more music available from them because right now there’s just not much available online about them. However if you’re in Tokyo I recommend looking them up!
Another local rock idol group but I think their sound is pretty unique. More of a lo-fi sound and more underground vibe. They’re pretty strong live and I enjoyed their performance overall.
Nice little indie group, and when I saw them they were also doing some idol group covers to fill their set a bit. They’re a bit rough around the edges live still, but they definitely are worth a second look.
Follow their twitter for more
A good overall group if you like that high energy cute vibe to get your wota energy going at their shows. I don’t know a whole lot about them, but they’re excellent live.
Currently this group is down to 2 members, but I really enjoyed their performance recently and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them. I highly recommend them for that indie idol experience as you can easily catch them for a inexpensive show.
Lily of the Valley
Saw them at TIF 2019 and the raw energy of their performance and dancing was really infectious! Their songs are high tempo and very driving with a lot of power. It’s one of those live experiences that you need to be right up front with all the crazy wota to really appreciate the group for what it is.
Hachimitsu rocket are great all around group with great songs. While they’re on a bigger label, I still think they’re a bit under the radar overseas still.