Shirokuma
Clothes I Wear For The Space I'm In


4.5
superb

Review

by Mitchell D. W. CONTRIBUTOR (46 Reviews)
July 13th, 2019 | 56 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If it's broke, it works.

In describing the genre of emo, the one unifying concept that tends to prevail is that of emphasized emotion, which is where the relatively young and oft-maligned classification earned its namesake. Instrumental and vocal deliveries vary, their implementation never distracting from the primary focus: unadulterated feeling. It is underneath that central pillar however that emerges another factor of emo music, an aspect that is arguably just as critical to the category’s definition as its eponymous characteristic. This art of being imperfect—the willingness to be and the acceptance of imperfection—is potentially what draws me in the most above all else. Rarely is a release under this particular genre’s banner completely polished in the same manner as fellow musical outlets; production elements conquer a spectrum ranging from a soothing cloud of mist to an engulfing wall of unforgiving static, with lyrical constructions arriving cloaked in evocative, despairing metaphors or the brutal honesty of self-loathing. By rejecting the allures of cleanliness, retaining the core emotional experience in its pure state, collectives of this type paint the scenery of their world precisely through imperfection. The notes that appear serve as the brush strokes to a landscape; perhaps a soft, melodic strumming is a nostalgic breeze, and perhaps the clash of drums signals an oncoming downpour. The final product encompasses each individual moment of contact with the sonic canvas, cataloguing restraint and violence in their respective magnitudes, their colors intermingling to form what may appear as a mangled portrait. Such is emo’s goal: to erode the veneer of human skin to expose that which lies behind the façade. In a way, it is gorgeous precisely because it is not.

When Shirokuma enter in the opening seconds of their sophomore effort, Clothes I Wear For The Space I'm In, the resulting frame mirrors the wintry surroundings of the band’s locale, Sweden. A soft acoustic introduction quickly gives way to the discordant roar of the guitars, abrasive in their tone yet muted all the same. Combined with the anguish dispersed by a distant screaming, the album’s opener, “Black Lungs,” gives off the impression that the band is fading away into cold depths and is desperately searching for a foothold somewhere amidst the snowfall. The foggy haze that dominates the mix places the performers far from the audience, simultaneously accentuating every strike made to pierce through. Like a torch burning dimly through a blizzard, the guitars lead the journey through their strong melodies, their compositions delicate and deliberate in defiance of the oppressive weather. In this regard, Shirokuma are not quite separate from their fellow countrymen Suis La Lune; both groups employ colorful passages at the front of their sound, and it is by this that they are primarily identified. Songs such as “Flies” exemplify this trait to an extraordinary degree, the track’s defeatist chorus accompanied by an appropriately mournful melody, its desolate call provided more weight by the vocalist’s strained cries. Multiple similar bands utilizing a scream-centric approach seem to be predisposed to racing ahead at breakneck speeds in order to craft their desired intensity. Yet winter is not often such an aggressive customer; the Stockholm natives respond in kind by occupying a mid-tempo plane, allowing space for their atmosphere to develop. There is less of an outward severity to this strategy, but the potent ambiance, serene melodies, and contradictory emotional extremes merge to form a beast capable of producing even greater staying power.

Experimenting with tempo structures allows for Shirokuma to thoroughly diversify the numbers lining up their disc. The speed of individual songs is freely toyed with, which creates an additional layer of intrigue to the output presented. Throughout the duration of “Smiles,” the percussion takes the leadership position in guiding the pace of fellow instruments, kicking off by entertaining a slow rhythm as the guitars and bass interplay with each other. After embarking upon some moments of calm, the closing run of the track is promptly launched to truly cement the climax. At the furthest reaches of this range is the punishing, slothful march demonstrated in “Seven Candles,” the Swedes incorporating a titanic riff of sludge proportions. Alongside the omnipresent static bedlam and a devastating lower end managed by both drums and bass, the tune’s force aspires to magnitudes well beyond its four-minute existence. It is inside the album’s self-titled conclusion, however, where the primary surprise awaits: those fleeting acoustics from the record’s beginning return, lending their graceful nature to craft a post-rock-inspired crescendo. Three minutes pass before Shirokuma resumes their assault for the final stretch. So as Clothes I Wear… started, so as it ends: scarce seconds of reprieve shattered by winter’s iron fist. Having this level of restraint is admirable; it would have been much easier to maintain a similar formula but at a hurried pace, as per conventional wisdom. Speed of course is not necessarily a positive or negative inherently, though it is evident in this case that gradual forays convey the mood of the release, morphing it into an incredible hook for anyone who listens.

There are certainly ‘standard’ entries that are included on the listing wherein technicality is slightly supplanted to let the band’s main attributes shine. Essentially all manacles are released for the raucous “Present Day,” whose memorable refrain and youthful, anthemic lyrics bring to mind the depressing-yet-energetic Departures. The song’s foundational guitar riff rises and falls to provide a bouncing sort of rhythm—the kind that practically forces jumping and fist-pumping defiance. Once more the monstrous vocal performance, awash with unbridled hopelessness, charges forward, his high-pitched exclamations echoing the fire brewing slowly inside the audience—attempting to melt the ice. That infectious chorus rings as genuine: “Lonely kids in a ***ed up world / I give you my heart, love and soul / We are the smoke, a nail in the eye / To the pretty window of society's side.” Because of that alluring aura blanketing the production, those relatable phrases plucked straight from the heart, and a strikingly haunting-yet-beautiful delivery, I’m led to believe in everything Shirokuma display. Clothes I Wear… is a fragile entity that could shatter at any moment; it more than likely wants to per the emotional trauma expressed. It is about as brittle and full of cracks as the interior of one’s soul. The way that those cracks make themselves known to Shirokuma is through those howls in the blizzard, or some swooping melodies to light a path, or a slice of uncompromising truth. In the end of “Present Day,” the vocalist yells out into the void, “It always feel like somebody's watching me.” His lungs sound as though they may collapse and the stormy production is creeping over dangerously. It is uncomfortable, imperfect in its resonating explosion. And that’s exactly why it works.



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user ratings (22)
Chart.
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 13th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Giving a spotlight to an underground release again and explaining why it may click for me and not others.



Stream on bandcamp (it's NYP): https://shirokumaband.bandcamp.com/album/clothes-i-wear-for-the-space-im-in



Also available on Spotify.



Comments, criticism, and--you know the drill by now, folks. Y'all are welcome.

Digging: The Offering - Home

Pikazilla
July 13th 2019


2232 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I really like the band's name. Will check.

Also holy fuck, them ginormous paragraphs

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 13th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for stopping by. And I guess I like to write haha

Pikazilla
July 13th 2019


2232 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

After hearing the first two songs, I now understand where that review summary came from LOL

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 13th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's meant more as a joke since I think emo is inherently broken to an extent. The music, as I believe I made clear, is still incredible.

Pikazilla
July 13th 2019


2232 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I am on song four now and genuinely wondering: if I were to put on a random track from this album, will I be able to identify it? This isn't going to be an easy first listen, from the looks of it - not that it's bad thing.

Papa Universe
July 13th 2019


22388 Comments


POS I give for the space I'm in

Kusangii
July 13th 2019


2353 Comments


Oh shit, I better check this. Great work as always bro!

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 13th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the kind words everyone.



And Pika, that surprises me, since I find these all to be rather distinct

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
July 13th 2019


7863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Damn this is an awesome review

Digging: We Are Only Human Once - The Prettiest Boys in Town

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 14th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well thank you very much my man, that means a lot

Pikazilla
July 14th 2019


2232 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Relistening for the second time and it's starting to grow on me hard. Wow.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 14th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Once that ambiance wraps around you it's difficult to ignore.

MiloRuggles
July 14th 2019


80 Comments


Nice review, I'm sold

SteakByrnes
July 14th 2019


15481 Comments


hello mars how are you doing on this fine Sunday afternoon

Digging: Windwaker - Empire

clavier
Staff Reviewer
July 14th 2019


993 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the production on this is *rough*, album could grow on me though

Digging: Friolento - Destroy All Bad Luck

clavier
Staff Reviewer
July 14th 2019


993 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

nice review and detailed descriptions, here are some things that could be improved:

first paragraph is superfluous. the genre-exposition strategy in reviews is tricky because describing genres requires a lot of history and detailing in order to not be superficial or imprecise, but then that takes up a lot of room. the first sentence, for instance, is too much of a truism and would also describe a lot of music (a lot of music emphasizes emotion or unadulterated feeling; it'd be more useful to just go into the music itself because that will explain how exactly it portrays that emotion). i won't go into the details of your characterization of emo since that's more contentious and ultimately not relevant anyway



"both groups employ colorful passages at the front of their sound" is too vague to characterize Suis La Lune and Shirokuma specifically, because colourful by itself is not a precise description.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 14th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Appreciate the comment, clav. Will definitely keep all that in mind, especially buffing up descriptions. I will say that emo is more prone to emphasizing emotion than other genres simply because that truly is what defined it from the get-go; performers would have vulnerable voices and/or lyrics and frequently get emotional on-stage. Thus, 'emo' was initially a detrimental term--the traditional hardcore scene, more concerned with rebelling against the world and governments and the like, found it contemptible.





clavier
Staff Reviewer
July 14th 2019


993 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

certainly, perhaps vulnerability and a personal focus could be more specific ways of describing emo

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 14th 2019


9858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah I gotcha. Thanks for the response.



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