Big Japan – Music for Dummies

Big Japan
Music for Dummies

All albums have their moments or time of day in which they fit best, and should you be lucky enough to find this moment, your enjoyment of the album will likely be at its fullest. My moment with the boys of Big Japan was while I was walking to the train station along with my rolling luggage early in the morning. My headphones were blasting so loudly in my ears that it drowned out the passing cars and made each person that walked by toss me a strange look. Perhaps it was the excitement that I was soon to be on an airplane bound for Hawaii, but either way, I couldn’t deny the fact that the album fit within this excitement and only enhanced it. With the fun and bouncy attitude of the tunes following me with each step, I even forgot about the heavy bag on my shoulder.

“Lifesaver” opens the album with a minute and a half of instrumental layers that build up until they break out into a song that rocks on for just over six minutes total. The music itself is certainly nothing spectacularly original, but there is nothing wrong with building on top of a good solid foundation laid by others before you. And with the help of Nathaniel Castro’s distinctively nasally whiney vocals, this Los Angeles-based quartet takes the art of indie rock and adds a dash of their own flavor.

I’m often amazed at the power of the simplest musical addition, like the few keyboard notes in “The Rise and Fall of Bill.” With just a few strokes of the keys, the song stands out and successfully sticks in your head. “Complex” is another of my favorites with its hoppy banjo addition and line to live by: “I don’t play to win.”

Big Japan also has to be one of the most endearing live acts I’ve seen in awhile. These guys were so delighted just to be on the stage at all when I saw them at the Sasquatch! Music Festival back in May, and the fact that they had a large group of fans and merchandise sold out before they even started playing was a fabulous bonus for them. Castro’s father drove them and his sister helped out on keys as well as photographing the band while they played their hearts out. By the end of their set, the excitement of the crowd made them nothing less than giddy.

With a hint of alternative country blended with radio-friendly pop, each song on Big Japan’s debut album is full of catchy hooks and lyrics that are sure to have you singing along or, at the very least, smiling.