Asako Toki “Pink” (Rhythm Zone)
After the demise of post-Shibuya-kei band Cymbals in 2003, vocalist Asako Toki took the band’s jazzier sound and parlayed it into a solo career. She dabbled in city pop during this stint on her own, but on her latest album, “Pink,” she commits wholeheartedly to that nostalgic 1980s-indebted subgenre.
The tracks on this album, her seventh, are more upbeat than usual due to the city pop presence, but all that happiness could also come from the fact that Toki recently got married. Nevertheless, the sounds are woven all through “Pink.” The polish of ’80s R&B is evident in the bass and talk box of the midtempo “Blue Moon,” the album’s standout track and arguably the most sonically seductive song in Toki’s repertoire.
“Fried Noodles” dips into the urban dance music rhythms of that decade, complete with record scratching and robotic voice samples. Both “Noodles” and the simpler “Shibou” (“Fat”) are collaborations with G.Rina, an artist who herself has also made a comeback by channeling the ’80s.
“Rain Dancer” plays around with Hi-NRG elements, and the end result sounds like something a modern Stock Aitken Waterman could have come up with. AOR (album-oriented rock) was a big influence on city pop and it makes an appearance in the light and funky groove of “Peppermint Town.”
As much as it may sound like Toki has just regurgitated city pop, “Pink” is successful in creating a new slant on the subgenre. Given J-pop’s penchant for the past as of late, it’s nice to be able to pick up on some progress as well.