It would have been impractical in the '70s and '80s to lump and neologize a multitude of Western music developments ranging from slick jazz-funk to R&B-leaning soft rock to egghead new wave, but "city pop" has rather cleverly classified Japan's responses to the forms. Nobody seems to know the origin of the term, but its usage among record nerds has spread during the 2010s with help from sources including the instructive Brazilian musician and collector Ed Motta, the Light Mellow compilation and album reissue series in Japan -- where the compact disc still thrives -- and the Cultures of Soul label's Tokyo Nights: Female J-Pop Boogie Funk, 1981-1988. Going by the similarly lengthy title of this compilation, Light in the Attic is uncertain itself about the stylistic boundaries, yet the label is intrepid enough to take a dive and also sail the margins, licensing a wide variety of material from commercial imprints and subsidiaries such as Alfa, Panam, and Blow Up, plus RCA and Columbia proper. There's some forgettable fluff, but a bunch of selections are more than lifestyle music curiosities. At the high-polish R&B end, there's Taeko Ohnuki's delightfully wispy "Kusuri Wo Takusan," falling somewhere between Earth, Wind & Fire and Seawind. Minako Yoshida's "Midnight Driver" rivals any deep cut from Kool & the Gang's synchronous pop-crossover work with Eumir Deodato. On "Exotic Yokogao," Hitomi Tohyama and company seem indecisive about whether to rewrite Ray Parker, Jr. and Cheryl Lynn's "In the Night" or make a megamix out of the Brothers Johnson's 1980-1981 output. Above all is Hiroshi Sato's "Say Goodbye," a simultaneously peppy and forlorn tune informed most by the technological aspects of 1978-1983 Herbie Hancock sessions such as Sunlight, Lite Me Up, and Future Shock. (The most unfortunately excluded artist associated with city pop is jazz singer Kimiko Kasai, who coincidentally recorded in the States with Hancock and other classification inspirations like Richard Rudolph, but didn't have her recordings distributed in the West.) The members of the innovative Yellow Magic Orchestra rightfully figure prominently in the standouts that are both more pop-oriented and categorically evasive. These include F.O.E.'s trance-state roller "In My Jungle" -- slightly reminiscent of the "Stretch Mix" of Hugh Masekela's "Don't Go Lose It Baby" -- and Yukihiro Takahashi's Roxy-tronic "Drip Dry Eyes," off the perfectly titled Neuromantic. This being a Light in the Attic release, Pacific Breeze is affectionately assembled with liner notes providing an overview and track-by-track details that instigate deeper exploration.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman