By Jacob Newman
Recently, I have been binging on City Pop and various other forms of 20th century Japanese genius. Although City Pop has taken on a larger than life status in popular memory in the past decade, it lived in relative obscurity outside of the region before the internet could teleport it across time and space.
City Pop is optimistic and upbeat, but also impossibly smooth. It is meant to represent a new style of life centered in cities, and the joys of cosmopolitanism.
It is sometimes used as an all-encompassing word, but the various styles that are today referred to under this name are often widely varying in sound and approach.
Tatsuro Yamashita is perhaps the most famous city pop artist, and his album For You (1982) has achieved worldwide recognition. It is also heavily sampled.
Masayoshi Takanaka made some distinctly city pop albums, but he is not a product of the movement, rather, he could be seen as an influence, because his smooth funk and disco fusion from the 1970’s experimented with some of the sounds and concepts most closely associated with City Pop.
In any event, this week’s album is Memories In Beach House by The Seaside Lovers, from 1983. If the title alone is not enough to convince you of how smooth this album is, let the music speak for itself.
Flutes, crooning vocals, a saxophone, and harmonies create an enticing invitation on the first track, “Lover’s Paradise”.
This album is slick from start to finish, but it is creative for taking the idea of ‘easy listening’ in every direction imaginable.
“Melting Blue” has a xylophone and a talking bass, evoking many of the same emotions in a totally different way. A different singer with a very different vocal mix contributes to the tune’s flavor.
Tracks like “Sunset Afternoon” are unafraid to experiment with electronic drums, and “X’s and O’s” uses a sliding synth.
The album feels like Wii Sports Resort, as some great Japanese soft pop rock albums do.
It represents a rich culture of music that was created in Japan, and lives on the surface where so many other great albums wait to be heard.
It is high time that the talented pop musicians of Japan receive credit for their crowning achievements. In various ways this seems to be happening right now. I can’t stop listening to this album, and I found it just in time for my own Thanksgiving vacation.
Now all I need is to find a hot tub, and I will be in top shape to get all that I can out of this record.
“X’s and O’s”