Monday, February 16, 2009

Review: Asobi Seksu - Hush (* * * *)

With their previous release, Citrus, Asobi Seksu grabbed hold of the shoegaze banner and proclaimed themselves the new royalty of the genre, which, while still influential, has become fairly diluted of late. Admittedly, I'm not shoegaze's biggest fan, but the band's beautifully shimmering sound is hard to resist, and their new album, Hush, is another gorgeous collection of tunes with an even bigger, warmer, and brighter sound than its predecessor. While the duo of Yuki Chikudate (vocals/keyboards) and James Hanna (guitar/vocals) take a slightly different approach for Hush, their signature sound remains ever present throughout the record.

The appropriately titled opening track, "Layers," builds into a wall of sound of keys and guitar behind Chikudate's breathtaking vocals that should have shoegazers (is that what you call them?) drooling. About half of the album follows a similar pattern and feels fairly familiar, like the soaring "Sunshower," the airy "Mehnomae," and the lovely duet, "Blind Little Rain" which closes the album. Although many of these songs offer little in the way of progress or exploration, the duo's musicianship make for some spectacular moments among them.

The other half of the record shows Asobi Seksu branching out with a less claustrophobic, more open pop sound. The second track and first single from the album, "Familiar Light," has a harder edge with its machine-gun drumming and a slightly louder and more direct guitar line. The more rock-tinged songs throughout the album are some of the highlights, including the straightforward "Sing Tomorrows Praise" and the driving, bass-heavy "In The Sky." Occasionally, stripping away the layers of sound has less interesting results, like "Glacially," which feels a bit awkward and empty, but the careful shift in sound generally seems like the right move on Hush.

The attention to detail throughout Hush is admirable; each sound carefully chosen and arranged with nothing out of place, and the vocals and guitar work continue to impress. Whatever you call their particular brand of music, Asobi Seksu have created another uniquely beautiful album