Nostalgia for the 1980s typically takes one of two forms in contemporary Japanese music. Artists either embrace laid-back, acid jazz-leaning pop, or they double down on the washed-out fuzz of old VHS tapes. G.Rina finds a balance on “Live & Learn,” her first major label release. Ignore the keytars she often holds in music videos — this isn’t an ironic exercise in bubble-era kitsch but an earnest set constructed from synthesizers and a drum machine that always sounds lively.
G.Rina works best when moving at a quick tempo, whether she’s singing above rubbery bass lines on “Machi no Requiem” or rapping through the synth whirlwind of “Close2U.” Even near-wordless creations such as the dazed electronic jam “Memories” tower over the slower tracks — and authenticity cops take note: G.Rina herself wrote, produced and recorded everything on “Live & Learn.” That may be why the album doesn’t come across as dated.
The highlight, though, is “All Around the World,” which features Asako Toki, formerly of Cymbals and a retro-loving creator in her own right. The track is inspired by well-worn ideas but, like on most of the album, G.Rina easily flips it into a sunny pop travelogue that sounds just as great in the 2010s.