On his debut single, Portland-via-Tokyo singer-songwriter Jun Parker launches a new retro-modern musical movement, bringing together City Pop and modern Aussie flavors.
Having recently made his foray into music in recent years, Jun Parker has already stood out among his peers as a pioneering, innovative and genre-defying artist.
As an independent singer-songwriter, Parker’s music is fundamentally unique, fusing the mainstays of jazz, funk and pop music within the confines of his creations; his captivating live performances flood the ears with cross-cultural melancholy grooves, danceable beats, metaphysical soundscapes and jaw-dropping emotions.
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Parker’s debut single brings together these many talents, affirming what many have long known about the Japanese-born singer-songwriter: that he delivers smooth, crooning vocals over funky bass lines, that he strips music to the core for an acoustic performance or providing an outlet for nostalgia, Jun Parker stirs and stuns with passion, determination and a feverish feeling.
Released earlier this month, ‘つつまれながら（Embracement)’ feels like a breath of fresh air and stands out for its willingness to go against current mainstream pop and funk trends.
Steeped in all the hallmarks of the city pop genre – with a fusion of funk, jazz and pop, topped off with vibrant instrumental solos, mid-tempo vocals and incredibly warm retro production – ‘Embracement’ is the definition of background music: the first note, this piece encapsulates you with this extremely good feeling.
With groovy bass lines, smooth infectious vocals, poignant touches, a 70s R&B-inspired melody, Japanese lyrics and an almost jazzy soft-rock aesthetic, Parker here combines the essence of Japanese urban pop with influences from the slick and funky sounds of the 70s and cultivates this in the Australian rural landscape dotted with soaring melancholy.
Boasting a textured atmosphere and danceable beat, “Embracement” explores themes of memories, dreams, past, present and love.
Parker takes these themes to another level using the motif of a woman wearing a blue scarf. But why would she do it when the winter was already over? Through her vocal intonation and delivery, Parker invites the listener to ask and answer this question for themselves as the music heightens the imaginative sonic experience.
With an eclectic mix of funk, jazz and even R&B, ‘Embracement’ manages to evoke a sense of ‘Funky Nostalgia’, interweaving Japan’s heady 1980s bubble era with funkier Australian sounds. This is where you realize you don’t even have to understand the lyrics to be captivated and immersed in this song. For Parker, triggering a funky nostalgia through music is something he believes can be unlocked in anyone, even more so through a foreign language.
With nods to Tatsuro Yamashita, Mariya Takeuchi, Toshiki Kadomatsu and Bruno Mars, Parker delivers a modern slice of City Pop, creating a perfect balance of instruments filled with funk, contemporary flair, soothing vocals and energy. pure that make you want to dance in serenity.
Landing on an undeniably infectious sound, Parker went one step further in creating an authentic Australian Neo City Pop sound, working with talented sound engineers in Port Fairy, Victoria and Yokohama in Japan.
“The song contains segments of recordings from two separate sessions. The portion recorded at Port Fairy formed the initial studio recording of the song in September 2021,” Parker explains.
“This version was recorded as part of The Moyne Sessions Pop-Up Recording Studio program, an initiative sponsored by Moyneshire for emerging musicians in South West Victoria. Kellys Lane Studio had set up a mobile recording studio at the Reardon Theater in Port Fairy.
“I then collaborated with Japanese musicians during my trip to Japan, and re-recorded some segments at Studio Penta in Yokohama in May 2022 and mixed and mastered them there for this updated version.”
Arriving in Australia from Tokyo with a large collection of 70s and 80s Japanese City Pop CDs many years ago, the nostalgic decision to pack allowed Parker to dive deep into the fusion of funk, jazz, pop and disco.
Soon the music became an experimental creative expression for the artist, with the legendary genre impacting his artistry, style and delivery, albeit with a more modern twist.
Armed with a unique songwriting ability, Parker – empowered and self-aware – began to make his mark on today’s music landscape with a new retro deja vu sound from Australian Neo City Pop last year.
Harnessing his talents and showcasing his signature neo-urban Australian pop sound with other local musicians in South West Victoria, Parker’s career trajectory has only gone from strength to strength ever since.
After performing in rural Australian pubs, his live gigs were successful in Melbourne’s trendy seaside bars and popular regional wineries and saw him score a spot as a performer for the On the Road Again program of Melbourne City in Melbourne’s CBD earlier this year.
A testament to his growth as an artist and his inherent creativity, Parker contributed an original song written specifically for the 2022 Melbourne Japanese Summer Festival, and in April Parker’s musical journey took him back to Japan where he performed in a series of successful live concerts, including at a historic City Pop concert venue ‘Shimokitazawa LOFT.’
“I play solo, in a duo, in a trio or in a group. In the performance, I hope the audience will get a taste of the feeling of the Japanese eras of the 70s and 80s mixed with cross-cultural content.
“The lyrics may be in Japanese or English, but what’s consistent is a sense of funky nostalgia. It’s a laid-back style of music, which can be played in the background in a living room or basement, or which you can immerse yourself in. The lyricism deals with melancholy tales of love and romance, interspersed with SW Victoria motifs and occasional philosophical musings.
With numerous appearances on Japanese radio shows and performances at music festivals under his belt, a debut single on the airwaves and an album in the works, this is just the beginning for Jun Parker.
Stream “Embracement” on Spotify here.
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This article was produced in partnership with Jun Parker