By Evan Jones
For those uninitiated with the city pop genre, it is a loose label describing Japanese music from the late 70s & 80s featuring heavy western influences from rock and funk to jazz-fusion and disco. In an effort to shed more light on the genre, I’d like to introduce three city pop albums from three artists to hopefully broaden your horizons a bit, and brighten up your day!
First Light (1981) – Makoto Matsushita
Favorite Track: “September Rain”
I’d like to start off with a deep cut from 1981: Makoto Matsushita’s “First Light”. “First Light” is an album full of fiery love-filled ballads that are as sultry as they are funky. Matsushita’s somber serenade keeps your heart burning while the slap bass and groove guitar keep your head nodding to the beat. It features beautiful moments of pure intimacy and soul that make for a prime example of the heights that city pop can reach and I would highly recommend it if you’re new to the genre or looking for something a little more moody.
Mint Jams (1982) – Casiopea
Favorite Track: “Domino Line”
Casiopea’s “Mint Jams” from 1982 is a showcase in finesse and showmanship if there ever was one. Each and every member of the band fit together so seamlessly, and make exquisite, intricate songs that require many, many repeat listens to fully grasp. The complexity of this album is only further uplifted by the electrifying energy present and produced in every motion the band makes. Every instrument supports one another in perfect union and provides a crisp, free sound that is sure to set your heart ablaze. This isn’t even mentioning the spectacular solos that each member of the band so deftly delivers and just as swiftly hands off to one another in a spectacle of musical prowess. It is truly a musical treat from beginning to end and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not sit down and appreciate it.
Spacy (1977) – Tatsuro Yamashita
Favorite Track: “Ienakatta Kotoba Wo”
Tatsuro Yamashita is by far the biggest name in this genre, and for good reason as his work features incredible compositional quality and charmingly genuine singing that is as tender as it is passionate. On this particular occasion, I’d like to highlight his 1977 release, “Spacy”, which I believe is most representative of those aforementioned qualities. True to the title, “Spacy” is dreamy romp through nebulous, ethereal funk that is simply out of this world. Yamashita’s singing carries this carefree joy that blends so finely with the instrumentation in the album. From the background singers to the piano to the bass, the entire band features this zest for life that never fails to lift your spirits. Every moment of every piece is so perfectly executed, curated, and polished I just cannot rate it high enough. Do yourself a favor and give it a spin!