If you follow this blog, you definitely don’t need a primer on the current “city pop revival,” and how that word has been glued to a lot of projects that don’t really touch on what the Bubble-Era-genre was all about sonically (let’s not even get to the spiritual side). Yet during this phase — and, oh, well after the bubble popped — there have been plenty of acts doing a more faithful representation. UKO is a recent name, having debuted in 2014 with a sound in the same zone as Especia, with plenty of brass and synthesizer swirling about. She put out her first album, Saturday Boogie Holiday, late in April, which features plenty of breezy gems, and familiar names such as PellyColo and Schtein&Longer. If you already miss Especia, look into this stat.
Another name from the Especia verse — Ai Kakihira, a member of Hi-Fi City and Costa De Palma — worked on one of the standout numbers from that album, “Sha La Lay,” which appeared via Kakihira on SoundCloud today. What sets it apart — from other UKO cuts and a lot of current-day city pop — is how the familiar elements work in tandem for an end goal rather than just remind of older times. On “Sha La Lay,” every saxophone blurt and piano note helps build the tension lurking beneath those smoky synth lines, driven home by UKO’s singing, which goes from reserved to cut-loose. If so much of this stuff sounds like vague NEON LIGHT NEXT TO BAY snapshots, “Sha La Lay” pulls off something far more intimate and dramatic, more like a detailed scene. Listen at the top.