Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Every day seems to bring news of some fresh hell in this troubled world. Fortunately, every week also seems to bring a new City Pop reissue. The R&B-fueled Japanese subgenre has been the belle of the reissue ball this year, most of it instigated by the crate-diggers at Light in the Attic, the label that has led the rediscovery of Japanese pop from the ‘60s to the ‘80s. With better pacing than the first volume and a bit more variety, Pacific Breeze 2 improves on the previous installment. Its ersatz funk is plenty entertaining, like a K-Tel album compiled from a pop scene that took place far from Western ears but was unimaginable without it. The subtitle Japanese City Pop, AOR and Boogie 1972-1986 lays out the criteria for this mix, but the grooves go deeper than volume one. Hiroshi Nagai’s artwork tells you much of what you need to know—or at least what you think you need to know: Palm trees and fluorescent colors invoke an alternate-timeline “Miami Vice.” The music suits that kind of stylish mood, but the funk is more convincing. It makes perfect sense to open this pop suite with “Pink Shadow,” by the somehow aptly named Bread and Butter. The group was made of brothers Fuyumi and Satsuya Iwasawa, and by chance got Stevie Wonder to play in their second album; this track comes from their third, Barbecue, originally released in 1974. The dense arrangement gives up a light funk with soulful backup vocals and a sonic sheen that seems to already look forward to ‘80s production. Happy End member Eiichi Otaki follows with “Yubikiri,” a convincing piece of Japanese swamp-funk, again with perfectly deployed backup singers and a lowdown groove supplied in part by bassist Haruomi Hosono, who regularly shows up in the best Japanese pop through the years, and has his own recommended reissue campaign. The ‘70s and ‘80s meant gritty action dramas, and that’s one of the influences behind “Kindaichi Kosuke No Theme” by The Mystery Kindaichi Band. It’s one of two tracks here inspired by author Seichi Yokomizo’s series of novels about detective Kindaichi Kosuke; this one opens with the sound of sirens and screeching car tires and turns into a more soulful version of Silver Convention. Yu Imai’s instrumental “Kindaichi Kosuke Nishi E Iku” comes from the soundtrack to a 1978 film adaption of a Yokomizo novel. Imai was a session keyboardist who joined Sadistic Mika Band, and he generates a mood right out of ‘70s neo-noir. Pacific Breeze 2 leans a little heavier to the AOR side, which improbably makes it funkier. Tracks like Kimiko Kasai’s “Vibration (Love Celebration)” and Anri’s “Last Summer Whisper” are showcases for female singers who seem like ancestors of Pizzicato Five diva Nomiya Maki. Anri’s contribution, complete with a Stevie Wonder-like harmonica solo, comes from a 1982 album, and the prolific singer would go on to collaborate with American R&B figures like Peabo Bryson and Philip Bailey. There’s one overlap here with a recent reissue series; the cheerful whistle of Piper’s “Hot Sand,” which seems to want to resolve to the “Hill Street Blues” theme, can also be heard on Summer Breeze. But the variety of voices here might put it in better context, its musical company revealing the distinctiveness of Piper’s electric guitar and tropical percussion arrangement. The pacing is better here too; Piper’s slick rock fusion is followed by Junko Ohashi & Minoya Central Station’s mellower “Rainy Saturday Coffee Break,” which sounds like exactly the kind of white-soul sound that Shibuya-kei group Original Love was after in the ‘90s. Yuji Toriyama’s instrumental “Bay/Sky Provincetown 1977” sounds for all the world like ‘80s smooth jazz. But somehow the guitarist-composer, who later wrote music for video games like Street Fighter II, turns that maligned subgenre into something more substantial. It’s the perfect closer to this easy-going summer suite. While some of the single-artist City Pop reissues may be more hit-and-miss, with Pacific Breeze 2 it’s hard to imagine getting tired of this stuff anytime soon.