If I were to sum up City Pop in a sentence, it would be as a kind of neon-dusted sound of sleek, luxurious metropolitan living in a Japan of the late 70s and early 80s. A world confined to classic anime series and fantastically rare vinyl records. A world of dazzlingly designed record sleeves which promised a tropical, Pop Art aesthetic that remains to this day impossibly cool in its chic-ness.
The closest English equivalent would be what’s classified as Post-Disco or ’80 Soul’ / ’80s Groove’ – but while the production styles are often similar (blending funky synthesized bass with a sweet mix of disco-esque strings n’ guitar riffs) I’ve found it’s never had quite the same resonance with English lyrics as it does in Japanese.
Most City Pop records remain frustratingly hard to acquire or even listen to legally in the UK – Spotify is practically barren when it comes to most of the most regularly cited artists.
In terms of recommendations, I’d definitely point people first in the direction of Tatsuro Yamashita’s For You and Taeko Ohnuki’s Sunshower as the most quintessentially ‘essential’ representative records of the City Pop sound.
So, for those looking to take their first steps into the hazy neon nights of City Pop, I’ve compiled below a list of some of the best English language pieces written on the sound: