More so than any other season, summer finds me relistening to my favorite oldies—Sam Cooke, opens a new window, Bob Dylan, opens a new window, the Beatles, opens a new window, and more start showing up in the late spring and a month later, they’re dominating the airwaves. What can I say? The sixties and summer are perfect complements.
This year though, I’ve been bopping my head to another perfect summer soundtrack from across the Pacific: City Pop, Japan’s funky, jazzy, disco-y 80s pop.
(Mariya Takeuchi's "Plastic Love" from her album Variety, opens a new window)
I’m no music critic so I’ll just say that as a new initiate, City Pop is a blast. You’ve got groovy basslines, slinky guitars, all kinds of synths doing their thing, propulsive trumpets and sax galore, not to mention some seriously catchy English singalong choruses.
Tatsuro Yamashita's "Love Talkin' (from his album For You, opens a new window)
Apparently, most of the City Poppers grew up listening to American radio stations set up to broadcast US music to troops stationed across the Pacific after WW2. City Pop was a Japanese take on the Western tunes of their childhood. For Americans to listen to it now some 30-40 years later is like hearing music history through a new set of ears. For a lot of listeners these songs evoke a sense of nostalgia for a place they've never visited in a time before they were born. Just check out the comments section in any of these videos.
(Tomoko Aran's "I'm in Love" included in Pacific Breeze 2: Japanese City Pop, AOR, and Boogie, 1972-1986), opens a new window
If any of this has piqued your interest, then lucky you! You can get your hands on a lot more City Pop through the library. Make your way down to the list below to check out your new summer soundtrack.
Haruomi Hosono's "Sports Men" (from his album Philharmony, opens a new window)
PS: If you want to learn more about City Pop, I’ll let Pitchfork, opens a new window or Rolling Stone, opens a new window take it from here. Vice, opens a new window has got a nice deep dive on the genre as well.
Jump headfirst into Japanese 80s disco funk with these excellent albums.
-Ian Stepp is the Materials Handling Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.