Review Summary: Whistle through your window -- We act the same as you.
If there's anything that can be said about Asobi Seksu, amongst all the calls for praise and jaded put downs, is that James Hanna and Yuki Chikudate are dedicated work horses. Little other comparisons fit about a band who spends most of its given time not in the studio, out on the road. Over the past 10 years, they've compiled one of the stronger discographies to be found, built up a reputation as a killer live act and have spread their noise to all via various world treks and relentless touring. Even though many help create their sound live, and on record, Yuki and Hanna are the life blood of Asobi Seksu, and it shows on Citrus
. On this, their sophomore release, the Brooklyn dream pop band find a furious yet beautiful middle ground between Loveless
, Slanted and Enchanted
, Daydream Nation
, that's all at once heart breaking and earth shaking. Delivering, to the fullest extent, on all the promises of hazy pop greatness their self-titled debut hinted at. Citrus
mixes those distorted, shoe gazing tendencies, with some surf rock, classic punk and garage rock; then stuffs them in a cannon (filled with fruit!) pointed straight toward the sky.
Back in 2004, you would have had to mull through the mud and slop of Asobi Seksu
to find the assured skill and pop grandeur that practically bleeds out of Citrus
. Right off the bat much needs to be said for the production work of Chris Zane, who conducts magic behind the boards here. He manages to tame Hanna's guitar freak outs, previously mixed waaay too loud, while leaving them ripe and ripping, molded into flowing landscapes. He also brings Yuki's tremendous key fills to the forefront, turning them into one of Asobi, and Citrus'
, greatest assets. Then drummer Mitch Spivak and ex-bassist Haji maintain solid rhythm, moving between breakneck time signatures and wispy bridges flawlessly, keeping pace on an extremely well played album. But this is the Hanna and Yuki show, James finds new breadth for his guitar work, employing a more structured, but still massive sound to it. While Yuki's keys are less a of a background noise and more of a flowing force of sound, that breathes life into their music. Kevin Shields has taken the place of Thurston Moore as influential guru this time around, however these guys are anything but MBV knock offs, and Citrus
is no Loveless
Right from the first off-kilter guitar strums of "Strawberries,"Citrus
sets itself knee deep in shoegaze, but rather than spending it's time navel gazing, the band shoot for the stars. They infuse the hanging, distorted guitars and beating heart drums with keyboard fills and a warm bass riff. By the time you hit the chorus, the song has exploded into a tunnel of sound, encompassing a mass array of woozy synths and re-verb washed guitars -- but it's keenly soft, sweet. The rest of Citrus
follows suit, and not in the way that every other song sounds like this, or uses this pattern, as much as: every other track is as expertly crafted and care is taken to making it a great piece of music, as opposed to just a great shoegaze
finds such merit as a listenable album, because above all else, Hanna and Chikudate recorded songs that don't forget their roots, each track is steeped in classic pop, giving the music legs beyond the feedback. The tempo is kept rapid with beautiful dream-pop meets garage rockers "New Years", and "Nefi + Girly", and the woozy surf rock of "Strawberries" and "Goodbye" along with mod-rock closer "Mizu Asobi." All of which are stuffed with so much hazy distortion and sugary hooks you're liable to burst. This is thanks, almost completely, to lead singer Yuki Chikudate, with a new found confidence in her gorgeous falsetto, with which she navigates the maelstrom of sound surrounding her like a ***ing pro. Her and Hanna also offer up a seriously great lyrics sheet, full of intricate allusions and metaphors, chant worthy choruses, beautiful diary-page style expulsions -- Oh it's also about one third Japanese. But no matter the language, the verses pop and hooks are sweet, which in the end is what gives Citrus
it's ease to settle into.
Hyper-active rockers aside, the albums find its greatest strength in its ballads, if you can call them that. Really they're slow(er) paced, feedback washed exclamations of pop that have no issue with walls of distortion, and pedal play. The albums brilliant mid-section, composed of "Thursday," "Strings," "Pink Cloud Tracing Paper" and "Red Sea," presents a delicate balance between calm and storm, that Asobi Seksu are happy to play for you as though it were second nature. The latter two being Field Mice meets JaMC style epics that put other, "heavier," nu-gaze bands to shame, all the while kind of remaining twee as hell. The first two sounding like what would've happened if Pavement, The Cure and MBV all took a big acid trip together. Topped off with the hazy phycadelic pop of beautiful backenders "Lions and Tigers" and "Exotic Animal Parade," fuzzed out anthems, with Chikudate offering up allusions to divorce that are seriously heart breaking ( our TV's blasting/our words dividing/like little kids now/with faces hiding.
) With Citurs
, the band crafted an all at once blazingly loud, blisteringly catchy, delicately soft and sugary sweet piece of 'dream-pop' heaven, that skips the genre short comings by just crafting dreamy pop songs
. This fine, fine LP would do well to stand aside the greats of the genre, heralded as a true shoegazer classic, thankfully Asobi Seksu remember the tunes, and craft an all around superb album.