Captivating, poignant indie pop
After gaining notoriety with four EPs, Amber Bain perfects her lush sound on her full-length debut as The Japanese House. This album uses infectious dance beats to explore the emotional turmoil and subsequent malaise that comes with the end of a romance. Filled with hooks and employing various degrees of autotune, Good at Falling follows many of the conventions of pop music, but its sugary sound often belies the darker emotional depths that the lyrics explore. Most likely, Bain intended for this inconsistency to produce a certain effect: perhaps to demonstrate the euphoria that accompanies any intense emotion, or simply to offset the prevailing attitude of gloom.
Though the album is generally defined by the sheen of glossy pop production, there are some experimental moments. The opener, for example, “went to meet her (intro),” combines a tribal beat with heavily autotuned vocals, setting an idiosyncratic tone which—though not sustained for the entirety of the album—instantly grabs the listener’s attention. On the next track, “Maybe You’re the Reason,” Bain creates a luxurious soundscape with her ethereal vocal harmonies, fuzzy drums, and crisp synths. “Maybe You’re the Reason” also introduces Bain’s expressive lyricism; lines such as “Should I be searching for some kind of meaning? / Apathy’s a funny feeling” demonstrate her ability to succinctly summarize her state of mind, and work surprisingly well with the catchy, upbeat music.
The entire album is peppered with similarly evocative lyrics: on “We Talk All the Time,” Bain sings, “We don’t touch anymore / But we talk all the time, so it’s fine,” capturing the denial phase of a deteriorating relationship. On the sixth track, she wants to “Follow my girl / ’Til I find myself a sense of direction,” but the bridge laments that “Nothing feels good, I can’t fix it, it’s not right,” indicating that she worries her desire will not be actualized. Though Bain’s confessional lyrics are often relatable and authentic, they occasionally falter—on “Everybody Hates Me,” for example—when the morose and self-pitying elements are given too much prominence. The misfires are few and far between, however, and not sufficient to overshadow the abundance of high-quality content.
Closing with “f a r a w a y,” which features backing vocals from The 1975’s Matty Healy, Good at Falling leaves the listener in a wistful, meditative state. It is the type of album that feels simultaneously personal and universal, allowing listeners to develop a close relationship with it. No doubt, The Japanese House will accrue a devoted fanbase and probably become a major figure in the world of indie pop.