Asobi Seksu – S/T

The first track on Asobi Seksu’s self-titled album is entitled “I’m Happy but You Don’t Like Me.” It opens with lead singer Yuki Chikudate singing sweetly over an 80s-sounding synthesizer backdrop. Things move along as expected until near the one-minute mark, when a sudden wall of loud, reverberating guitars suddenly join the mix. Once my initial surprise wore off (and everyone within vicinity shouted “hey, that sounds like My Bloody Valentine!”), the combination of shimmering guitars with ultra-catchy synthesized sounds started to grow on me.

The band’s lineup is unconventional at a glance – a female Japanese lead singer backed by three male American musicians. When Chikudate sings, she switches frequently between English and Japanese lyrics. While I am unqualified to comment on the quality of the Japanese lyrics, I can assume they are similar to the English ones: adequate and inoffensive, but not particularly exciting.

There is more variation on the disc than just the language switch. Guitarist James Hanna takes over vocals on a few songs, including “Let Them Wait” near the halfway point of the album, which helps prevent Chikudate’s vocal style from growing tiresome. Similarly, not every track resorts to the power-guitars -“Walk on the Moon” and “Taiyo” are, for the most part, quite mellow tracks that remind me of Cardigans’ Gran Turismo release. “Before We Fall,” the album’s final song, is a contemplative and moody acoustic guitar number.

On the whole, Asobi Seksu has given us an impressive, polished hour of music. They won’t win any awards for originality, but their influences have been smartly melded into a subtle sound that is indeed their own. A perfect soundtrack for a rainy Sunday afternoon.