George Ward
George Ward

Freelance journalist based in Bristol. Can be found at the Grain Barge, Rough Trade or in his tiny basement bedroom writing for CLUNK.

Label: Dirty Hit

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It’s been 4 years since the last album from The Japanese House, the indie pop project of Amber Bain. In that time, Bain has been working on this new album, which began its life in 2021. Inspired by her experience moving to Margate, joining a throuple and the eventual ending of this relationship, the album feels deeply personal, honest and beautiful.

Bain doesn’t want us to view the ambiguous album title as positive: “I think a lot of people hear the title and think about it in an optimistic way but that’s not what I mean. I hear the title as sad because things always end, no matter what you think is going to happen”.

It’s a sad thought and it’s a sad album. Each track builds up a soundscape with gorgeous production, never overcrowding Bain’s vocals and her brutally honest lyrics.

The album opens with ‘Spot Dog’, a fascinating though slightly disorientating track. We hear a mix of acoustic and electric sounds, some recognisable, some bathed in effects and other-worldly. It feels like a dream throughout, with glitchy, pitched up vocals. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the album’s experimentations with textures and treading the line between pop and electronics.

Most of the other tracks are not nearly as experimental, leaning towards more of an indie-pop sound. ‘Touching Yourself’ is a banger, similar to a HAIM track and just as catchy. The sound is poppy and its melodies will worm their way into your brain. However, honest lyrics hide under these poppy aesthetics, telling a sadder story of longing than the instrumental lets on: “I know I shouldn’t want it but I need attention”.

One thing that this album nails is its atmosphere; the soundscapes created are gorgeous. The descending piano lines and dreamy production of ‘Sad To Breathe’ are heavenly and the album closer ‘One for sorrow, two for Joni Jones’ is devastatingly beautiful. The stripped back production leaves the vocals bare, showcasing the lyrics: “it feels something like I’m missing you / but also that I’m missing me”.

While this atmosphere is the album’s biggest strength, there are moments such as ‘Indexical reminder of a morning well spent’ which seem to sacrifice engrossing songwriting for a dreamy atmosphere. The album really shines when it manages to combine both of these factors, not just one.

This album is a great starting point for new fans. You have the catchy indie-pop of the MUNA-supported ‘Morning Pages’, the devastating sadness of the album closer and the fascinating production from Bain and George Daniel which keeps things always fresh. Despite the mix of sounds and genres, the album feels complete and satisfying.

Listen to ‘In The End It Always Does’ here:

For Fans Of: Phoebe Bridgers, HAIM, MUNA

Catch The Japanese House at the following:

SWG3, Glasgow – 12th October

Newcastle University, Newcastle – 14th October

New Century, Manchester – 15th October

Rescue Rooms, Nottingham – 16th October

The Trinity Centre, Bristol – 18th October

O2 Academy Oxford – 19th October

1865, Southampton – 20th October

O2 Academy Birmingham – 22nd October

Outernet, London (SOLD OUT) – 23rd October

CHALK, Brighton – 24th October