Japanese Sunday – Taps Taps Lights Out

Japanese Sunday
Taps Taps Lights Out

Japanese Sunday play ambient progressive rock. On their new LP, Taps Taps Lights Out, clean tones converse in a brooding internal dialog that inevitably cracks. The release comes amplified in distorted highs and lows. Song parts alter and shift but, for better or worse, the overcast dysphoria never lifts. This largely instrumental album is good, but fails to set the band apart from the many others who play this stuff.

Japanese Sunday’s one distinction is vocal presence. Front man Eric Kusanagi’s vocals don’t convey a message, but rather serve as another ingredient in their instrumental dish. His singing is amateurish but usually passable enough to to earn some points for effort. He’s often pushed back in mix.

Taps Taps Lights Out works as background music, but not for concentrated listenings. Music fans can enjoy a song or 3, but soon find themselves writing grocery lists and wondering what Envy is doing these days. In other words, the songs are formulaic. But, then again, songs in this genre usually are.

It’s the same story over and over: The bass rumbles out the chord progression while clean guitars pick out scale notes, flittering and building before eventually busting into a series of distorted riffs that inhale and exhale before settling on one for the climax. The songs then retreat in to clean guitars.

There’s no denying that Japanese Sunday is good at this.

Their best efforts come early. Track 2, “Eight O’Clock Robot”, rocks with tension and melody, setting the bar for the rest of the album. Up next is “Kagaku”; this chameleon-esque track is a favorite, rising and falling with dynamics and intensity.

With phaser guitar effects, “The Genius of Anonymity” starts crashing before finding some patience and carrying onward. Track 7, “Tigers of Ships”, stands out. Here, guitars aim skyward, abandoning the grounded tension that envelopes the rest of the album. Dreams animated in drum rolls come welcomed.

The remaining tracks are either decent or tiresome, the worst being “Proxy”. This track’s cheaply emoted vocals and sour harmonies dismiss the music. Japanese Sunday would do well to improve their vocals because when vocals are present, they inevitably attract a lot of attention.

But the band perseveres. On Taps Taps Lights Out, this San Diego 4 piece sounds tight and focused. Problem is, so do lots of other bands. Nevertheless, rock fans should listen. Just don’t expect miracles.