Early into 2018, we’ve seen a resurgence of disco and the sounds of Japan (from this era) across dance floors of the world.
Mix in Frank Ocean’s cover of Steve Monite’s 1984 Afro-Boogie gem “Only You” on his latest tour, and this conversation is making its way into the mainstream. DJ’s are digging for those gems your handsome papa used to listen to cruising the Big Sur in a vinyl roof Cadillac. And unlike the herd of Hypebeast sheep looking for that latest Supreme drop, disco and dance music fans are looking to the past.
The ’70s and ’80s were one of the greatest eras for American music, putting out some absolute bangers during that time period. Yet across the seas and out to the east, Japan put out some incredible music that resists easy classification. The genre combines Disco, Funk and Boogie into what the Japanese refer to as City Pop.
“Hey, do you want to hear something new? No, show me something old I’ve never heard before.” Here are 5 tracks to get you started with the goldmine of Japanese music spanning the 70s & the 80s.
Hiroshi Satoh – Say Goodbye 1982
Satoh’s production has aged extremely well. It sounds contemporary even in 2018. With vocoder vocals, you’d think they were paying homage to the legendary French duo Daft Punk but considering this came out 11 years before they’d even formed, that is impossible. Satoh’s able to create an extremely original sound blending the funky synths and jazz piano melodies to compliment the summertime beach vibes of the vocal.
Shigeo Sekito- The Word II 1975
This song came to the attention of Mac Demarco fans after he sampled this on “Chamber of Reflection” and later for fans of Quavo & Travis Scott on “How U Feel”. The original consists of a dreamy melody that would even assuage the nerves of my Jewish grandmother.
Tomoko Aran- I’m In Love 1983
The soft vocals of Tomoko overtop the funky basslines, electric keys and guitar solos all come together for a simply classic love song of the boogie era in Japan.
Tatsuro Yamashita – Sparkle
This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one track from Tatsuro Yamashita. Yamashita was a massive star in his home country and had also experienced some success abroad. He was a prolific artist and this tune is a testament to why. Hooking you in with an uplifting guitar rift, Yamashita adds punchy synths to get you moving. Certified banger.
Seaside Lovers- Evening Shadows
If Marvin Gaye, a Rhodes Piano, and an Elevator had a psychedelic orgy this down-tempo dream-pop track would be the product of that completely abstract and impossible love triangle. Like all things the Japanese do, they have the dedication to perfect their craft. Whether its food, tech, music or art, they just get it. Speaking of Japanese Ingenuity, Tatsuro Yamashita actually invented the Soy Sauce bottle. What a perfect invention, the sauce comes out one side and the air comes out the other, creating a perfect pour every time. You’re my boy, Yamashita! Full disclosure I have no fucking idea who invented the soy sauce bottle.