Over the last four years, a busy release schedule and tours with Dirty Hit label-mates The 1975 have seen The Japanese House – the alias of Buckinghamshire-born Amber Bain – build a reputation for her melancholic brand of indie pop. Long-awaited debut album Good At Falling is the product of writing which has constantly evolved in sound and ambition across the four EPs that preceded it.
‘went to meet her (intro)’ immediately catches the listener off guard with tribal percussion and heavily autotuned lyrics which give way to the least cheery song set in Ibiza you’ll ever hear. Second track and single ‘Maybe You’re The Reason’ sums up why The Japanese House remains so popular. Lyrics about lack of contentment and faith are balanced out by a rich synth-led beat, a flawless vocal performance, and a refrain which will not leave your head.
‘We Talk all the Time,’ the latest single is another of Good At Falling’s stronger tracks, with an eighties inspired feel and layered harmonies. The album as a whole is an immersive one, and ‘Wild’ serves as another meditation on romance and escapism where Bain breaks free from the confines of an unsatisfying relationship.
The more upbeat ‘You Seemed so Happy’ is probably the closest the record gets to a conventional indie pop song, and even so it is still underscored by more eccentric elements. While clear inspiration comes from Imogen Heap and The 1975, Bain’s music remains easily recognisable as The Japanese House. Occasionally it feels too familiar, with ‘Follow My Girl’ serving as a charming love song but bringing nothing new to the table. By contrast, the charmingly catchy ‘Lilo’ and the moody aura of ‘Everybody Hates Me’ reveal further layers to an artist whose music is constantly characterised by an air of compelling mystery.
‘Marika Is Sleeping’, ‘Worms’ and ‘f a r a w a y’ consolidate the last third of the album as more electronic. The latter captures the thrill but also the dissonance and reliance that can come with love. Its gorgeous harmonies precede ‘i saw you in a dream’, a stripped back reworking of Bain’s breakout single which beautifully captures the confusion and heartache of grief.
Good At Falling is a strong full length debut which boasts rich soundscapes, heavenly vocals and a clear knack for writing good alternative pop. The album treads an appealing line between weary heartache, curiosity about a surreal world, and a subdued but persistent sense of hope.