On his debut single, Portland-via-Tokyo singer-songwriter Jun Parker is kickstarting a new retro-modern music movement, bringing together City Pop with modern Australian flavours.
Having only recently made his foray into music in recent years, Jun Parker has already stood out from his peers as a trailblazing, innovative and genre-defiant artist.
As an indie singer-songwriter, Parker’s music has been quintessentially unique, fusing the pillars of jazz, funk and pop music within the bounds of his creations; his compelling live performances flood the ears full of intercultural melancholic grooves, danceable beats, metaphysical soundscapes and jaw-dropping, heart-pounding emotion.
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Parker’s debut single brings these many talents together, asserting what many have long known about the Japanese-born singer-songwriter: Whether he’s delivering crooning mellow vocals over funky basslines, stripping music to its bones for an acoustic performance or offering an outlet for nostalgia, Jun Parker stirs and stuns with passion, purpose and feverish feeling.
Released earlier this month, ‘つつまれながら（Embracement)’ feels like a breath of fresh air, and it stands out for its willingness to go against current trends in pop and funk’s mainstream.
Flushed with all the hallmarks of the city pop genre – with a fusion of funk, jazz and pop, crowned with vibrant instrumental solos, mid-tempo vocals, and incredibly warm, retro production – ‘Embracement’ is the definition of mood music: From the first note, this track encapsulates you with this overwhelmingly good feeling.
With groovy bass lines, infectiously smooth vocals, poignant keys, a 70’s R&B-inspired melody, Japanese lyrics and an almost jazzy soft-rock aesthetic, here Parker combines the essence of Japanese City Pop with influences from the 70’s smooth and funky sounds and cultivates this in the Australian rural landscape with sprinkles of soaring melancholy.
Boasting a textured atmosphere and danceable beat, ‘Embracement’ explores the themes of memories, dreams, past, present and love.
Parker brings these themes to another level using the motif of a woman wearing a blue scarf. But why should she do so when the winter had already passed? Through his vocal intonation and delivery, Parker invites the listener to ask and answer this question for themselves as the music heightens the sonic imaginative experience.
With an eclectic blend of funk, jazz and even R&B, ‘Embracement’ manages to evoke a sense of ‘Funky Nostalgia’, intertwining the heady 1980s bubble era Japan with more Australian funk sounds. It’s here you realise that you don’t even need to understand the lyrics to be captivated and immersed in this song. For Parker, igniting funky nostalgia through music is something he believes can be unlocked in everyone, even more so through a foreign language.
With nods to the likes of Tatsuro Yamashita, Mariya Takeuchi, Toshiki Kadomatsu and Bruno Mars, Parker delivers a modern slice of City Pop, creating a flawless balance of funk-filled instrumentals, contemporary flair, soothing vocals and sheer energy that make you want to dance into serenity.
Landing on an undeniably infectious sound, Parker went one step further in crafting an authentic Australian Neo City Pop sound, working with talented sound engineers in both Port Fairy, Victoria and Yokohama in Japan.
“The song contains segments of recordings from two separate sessions. The portion recorded in 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, a Moyne shire sponsored initiative for emerging musicians in South West Victoria. Kellys Lane Studio had set up a mobile recording studio at the Reardon Theatre 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 had it mixed and mastered there for this updated version.”
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Arriving in Australia from Tokyo with a large collection of the ’70s and 80’s Japanese City Pop CDs many years ago, the nostalgic packing decision allowed Parker to take a deep dive into fusion of funk, jazz, pop and disco.
Soon enough, music became an experimental creative expression for the artist, with the legendary genre having an impact on his art, style and delivery, albeit with a more modern twist.
Armed with a unique songwriting ability, Parker – empowered and self-aware – began making his mark in the current music landscape with a new-retro deja vu Australian Neo City Pop sound last year.
Harnessing his talents and featuring his characteristic Australian Neo City Pop sound together with other local musicians in Victoria’s South West, Parker’s career trajectory has been on the up ever since.
From performing in rural Australian pubs, his live gigs have been successful in trendy Melbourne seaside bars, and popular regional wineries and have seen him score a feature performer slot for Melbourne City’s On the Road Again program in the Melbourne CBD earlier this year.
A testament to his growth as an artist and inherent creativity, Parker contributed an original song written specifically for Melbourne Japanese Summer Festival 2022, and in April Parker’s music journey led him back to Japan where he performed in a series of successful live gigs, including at a historical City Pop live gig venue ‘Shimokitazawa LOFT.’
“I perform either solo, duo, trio or as a band. In the performance, I hope the audience gets a taste of the sentiment from the Japanese 70’s and 80s eras intermixed with intercultural content.
“The lyrics may be in Japanese or English, but what is consistent is a sense of funky nostalgia. It is a laid-back style of music, one that may be played in the background in a lounge or winery, or one you may immerse yourself in. The lyricism deals with melancholic tales of love and romance, interspersed with motifs from SW Victoria and occasional philosophical musings.”
With numerous Japanese radio show appearances and music festival performances under his belt, a debut single out on the airwaves and an album in the works, this is merely the beginning for Jun Parker.
Stream ‘Embracement’ on Spotify here.
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