I purposely didn’t learn anything about The Japanese House before listening to their debut album, Good At Falling. I’m glad I didn’t because it’s an absolute delight to listen to unfold.
What I did find out first is that The Japanese House is not actually a "they", it’s a person named Amber Bain from Buckingham, England. The name is inspired by a property in Cornwall once owned by Kate Winslet. This is her first record, and it was preceded by four EP’s. Bain has worked closely with The 1975 and even toured with them. That sort of crystalline pop sound many are familiar with from The 1975 is very evident here on Good At Falling.
“Maybe You’re The Reason” tows that line perfectly. It feels part guitar-power ballad, but with synthesized vocals and a programmed beat, it feels both ethereal and unassailable. It breezes, but it keeps pace. It’s a lot of fun.
What’s amazing about The Japanese House is how genderless Bain’s voice sounds. It one shade, it sounds a little more male, but as the light hits it, it can bend and sound slightly more feminine. This is by design and is deployed incredibly, especially on tracks like “Marika Is Sleeping,” which sounds alternately lithe in the early section, but then opaque after the song’s breakdown. It’s an endlessly fascinating listen that makes rewards constant replaying.
The real mindblower comes with the album closer, “i saw you in a dream,” which sounds like something maybe Brian Wilson would have written if he existed on the ethereal plane. Bain’s voice sounds upbeat, but it sounds a little sad at the end of each couplet. The music: a guitar somewhere in the foreground, slide guitar there, beds of pillowy synths. It’s just a dream blend. The Japanese House has brought forth a record in Good At Falling that is great to discover and rediscover and has a little bit of magic in it. That’s pretty special.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.