The biggest flaw with the current “city pop revival” is how it fails to match the feeling of living in a city today. A lot has changed since the ’80s, when city pop matched the opulence of the times, and at its absolute best pushed past urban decadence and nailed the feeling of possibility that stretch of time provided. I don’t think 2016 reflects that at all — Tokyo is a place to work because everywhere else is contracting, and cities cater more to tourists than anything else. Songs in the “city pop revival” space don’t match this — and hey, most of the bands are more inspired by Daft Punk than “Dress Down,” so it ultimately does sound more like a museum piece.
Frasco bills itself as “contemporary experimental urban electro pop from Tokyo to everywhere,” and their recent batch of songs offer a welcome alternative perspective on city life. They can get lively and are charged-up on the same bright synthesizer notes and jazz touches a lot of city pop — revived or otherwise — utilize, but they unfold at a slightly more tired rate, whatever bright-eyed excitement matched by a hint of fatigue. At its most energetic, you get songs such as “Dance” (below), which have a kick to it but hold back from letting go completely. They can get laid back (and rap!) too, but then you come across something like “Tokyo Bay” which takes a familiar city pop motif (a bay by a major metropolis) which sounds more like a song written after a long crowded train ride rather than a breezy car trip. It’s a nice view that…and maybe I’m just revealing my current city-induced stress levels here…feels a bit more real.