Just the other day, I plunged deep into my album collection and pulled a few albums I haven’t listed to for a while, for the purpose of listening at work. One such album was My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, widely considered a classic album, a must for any self-respecting indie snob. And prior to that day, I had always designated shoegazer rock as “lazy day inside the house, preferably while it’s foggy out” music. But as I listened while walking outside, enjoying the newly ushered-in summer weather, I discovered that Loveless went remarkably well with my sunny disposition.
Asobi Seksu seem to agree and have crafted an album clearly influenced by shoegazer music that also embraces pop sensibilities. All this makes for a pretty damn awesome summer album. This band, based in New York, takes one part shoegazer rock and one part Japanese pop and mixes them together with a sound that supposes like what would happen if Kevin Shields moved to Tokyo and made infectious pop music. What sets Asobi Seksu apart from other My Bloody Valentine/Lush-influenced bands, is lead singer Yuki. She effortlessly blends English and Japanese lyrics so well that you hardly notice the change in language. While I almost wish I understood the Japanese lyrics, not knowing the meaning does not take away from the experience of listening to Citrus.
The album kicks off with a short, seventeen-second dreamy instrumental, but leads right into the shimmering guitar at the beginning of “Strawberries.” Referencing the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” (“like a red sky it goes on forever/ when you’re in the strawberry fields“), the song is full of effects pedal-friendly guitars with swirling synths layered atop, giving the song a psychedelic feel. Psychedelic by way of late ’80s British rock, that is. The whole effect manages to make the song sound eerily familiar yet fresh at the same time. However, at the two-and-a-half minute mark, the song suddenly switches gears, upping the tempo so much that I had to check my CD player to see if it was the same song.
“New Years” is an energetic song with a really killer, frenetic bass line. I can just see those hipster kids dance now! The real winning moment of the song is when the music stops and Yuki’s vocals stand on their own, revealing her melodic chops. “Strings” is a lovely song driven by James Hanna’s slide guitar, creating a dreamy landscape around Yuki’s romantic lamentations. The summer pop song of the album could be “Goodbye.” Kicking off with a drum roll, the song has the charm of California ’60s pop while borrowing guitar riffs from Echo and the Bunnymen.
“Citrus” sees Asobi Seksu creating rich musical textures that create a gauzy feel and makes listening a rewarding experience, as you hear and feel the different strata layer themselves over you. The upbeat songs are catchy and prompt some major foot-tapping, if not full on dancing. But even the slower songs are just as catchy, perfectly suited for some lazy summer introspection.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
Serena-Maneesh – Serena-Maneesh
Lush – Split