Split End
Deep Love


4.5
superb

Review

by JohnnyoftheWell CONTRIBUTOR (107 Reviews)
October 12th, 2019 | 23 replies


Release Date: 10/02/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I'm through with standin' in line to clubs I'll never get in…

Tell me what you want

Uh, okay. So there’s this obscure girl band from Nara called Split End. You'd called them power pop or pop punk, but they play in such an energetic, inspired way that it’s probably best to think of them as a rock group with a knack for all the best qualities of pop melodics? Their vocalist Nanami belts tracks out at the top of her lungs but somehow pulls it off in this incredibly pure, melodious, enlivening way, like the harder she goes for it the more cleanly the song comes across. Does that make sense? Anyway, their first minialbum Amamoyou was fantastic (see my review for it), and now they’ve dropped a third release called Deep Love and it seems like it's their finest yet. Their debut was cute and fresh and catchy, but Deep Love is all of those things only it sounds bolder, all fired up with this super focused energy that quite rightly reflects a more experienced band. So, um, in answer to your question, I guess I want to understand how to make music as head-over-heels engaging as Split End’s so that even if my hypothetical future efforts to replicate their fantasticness were doomed to failure, I’d at least be following in the footsteps of giants. Or something.

Yeah, so what you need?


Hmm, well since you ask, a blow-by-blow guide on what makes Deep Love so awesome would be ideal…and if it could come with a few pointers that would point the layperson towards embarking on a similar effort, that’d be a dream!

Been there, done that:

Deep Love, Or: A Beginner’s Guide on How To Craft A Perfect Power Pop Minialbum in Six Simple Steps


I. Fake news dream pop

If you find yourself in the position, privileged or otherwise, of having Established Stylistic Expectations of your sound, your first task at the start of any new work should be to screw with them.

Given that Split End’s M.O. has always been to stick within the safe, straightforward and successful parameters of the traditional rock sound, the Deep Love title track is something a bait-and-switch. Kicking off with shimmering arpeggios that would sound more at home on Japanese dream pop contemporaries Spool or For Tracy Hyde’s recent fare than on their own past work, Deep Love ventures into shoegaze territory for just long enough that when the band abruptly slam on the distortion and launch into straight-up glory, the feeling for a first-time listener is nothing short of an adrenalised whiplash. The track goes on to hit huge, euphoric peaks all while constantly adjusting its footing to avoid an early burnout, and its remarkable how delicately the group keeps their listeners on their toes all while delivering familiar thrills with thunderous force.

Testimonials:

"I hate pop punk, but "Deep Love" barely registers as pop punk, and is actually good, so it's probably one of the best, if not the best, pop punk song I've ever heard."
- Sputnikmusic.com user ArsMoriendi

II. Split End? More like fEnder bEnder

Once you’ve successfully snagged an audience’s attention in the early stages of play, your next task should be to double their engagement while slightly overwhelming them.

Following hot on the heels of the explosive title track, the aptly named Bokutachi no Sensou (Our War) is a rock powerhouse crammed with breakneck guitar licks, clamorously driving rhythms and vocal lines that will runaway with all the air in your lungs if you so much as try to match their delivery. Parts of it are off-kilter and abrupt enough to deliver a similar kind of visceral impact to what you’d expect from heavier genres, but the song slips nimbly back into line before these can derail its tearaway momentum. The level of energy sustained throughout this track is intense and riveting, especially impressive given how busily guitarist Ionazun switches up her game, punctuating the verses with off-cuff riffs and licks that land with electric flair. This track shows the band at their most intense and serves as an excellent refinement of the rockier stylings they had begun to play with on their previous outing, Yoru. It certainly raises the stakes on Deep Love and pairs with title track to make for a distinctly assertive opening combo.

III. Find that comfy patch on the sofa and sit in it and watch a good movie

Okay, so you’ve got things off to a flying start: nice! Don’t get carried away there, kiddo - bring things down to earth and stick to what you’re best at.

Although the high octane frenetics of the first two tracks might have you believing otherwise, Split End have generally been at their best as a midtempo band; Orange no Kurashi is pretty much the band’s template song, although it has more than enough energy (along with a few delicious guitar licks) to keep it above the middle-of-the-road zone. The track balances the easy-going, accessible undertone that runs through all the band’s work against their upbeat, earnest overtones. It play out with a leisurely sense of engagement, trading off moments of brilliance with cruising verses full of anticipation and proving, if nothing else, that the band are perfectly adept at pulling an engaging track together from the basic fundaments of their sound.

IV: Drop one for the Bridget Jones kids

Now that you’ve fleshed out that midtempo sweet spot, you should waste no time in going to town on it and using it for what it’s best as: a springboard for a reflective, danceable, red-wine-from-the-bottle mooch.

As suggested by the title image, Wedding Dress is a schmalzy ballad that takes the warmth of Orange no Kurashi’s comfort zone and reconfigures it as an emotional motherload with a strong lead guitar performance and peak sadgirl lyrics. I actually found this one quite affecting before looking over the lyrics, and when I did the quantity of imagery associated with tears, dirt, blood and good ol’ body heat did not disappoint. It helps that it also features the most quotable of the album’s singalong lines (for fellow incompetent Japanophones, anyway) in the second verse’s lonesome holler of “君の幸せは僕の幸せ*った” (your happiness was my happiness). Dammit Nanami, you’d think by that token that this song would have a little more cheer in it…

V. The Best Song Ever

Cool, you’re four-for-four and have all your bases roughly covered. The question now: can you keep up your hot streak? The answer: blow everything you’ve done so far out the water with a knockout track!

Disclaimer: the best song ever is in fact the opener from Split End’s Yoru minialbum. That song is frustratingly perfect and puts the rest of power pop/pop punk in general to shame. However, Deep Love’s fifth track Seimeiryoku sits in a comparable realm of perfection and comfortably earns the coveted rank of Second Best Song Ever Released By Any Artist (Not Limited To Split End [In Case You Were Wondering]).

While the label of ‘highlight album’ is generally reserved as a backhanded gesture towards albums that kind of suck anything from 25% to 50% of the time but make up for it with a few stunners, it’s also an unspoken rule that every classic needs a few towering standouts. With only six tracks to play with, there is space on Deep Love for a grand total of one towering standout, and this comes in the form of the larger than life Seimeiryoku. Despite clocking it in as the second shortest track here, this one blends elements of all the other track’s best qualities into a dynamic, catchy and instantly infectious package that shifts gears at the drop of a hat and follows a momentous overarching trajectory. The explosive force of the opener integrates perfectly with the slower pathos of Wedding Dress, with the space between the two bridged by an anthemic, marching chorus, while we also get a reprise of Bokutachi no Sensou’s rock bluster in the sparky coda. As such, the track comes to a close with the immensely satisfying impression of having touched base on, revalidated and ultimately raised the bar on the numerous sources of appeal that run through the rest of the album. Swoon.

VI. Acceptance speech

Right, you’ve done everything you set out to do. Time to round up: wind things down, don’t drop the ball, and try to make your fans feel good about themselves.

With four stellar tracks and a career highlight in the bag, Split End have very little to prove at this point in the minialbum. As such, when you come to this point in your minialbum, you would be encouraged to take a leaf out of their book and wrap things up safely but cosily with an album version of a previously released well-liked single. In its original release, Fake Wonderland didn’t feel particularly remarkable as a standalone track, but here at the end of the album its triumphant brand of slightly mellow power pop feels like a suitable victory lap in its placement here. In a tasteful reverse of the title track, the song feels the band burning off the last of their energy with a soaring guitar solo and an obligatory key change for the final chorus, rather than building themselves up and bursting through the floodgates. It’s a nice note to end on and preserves just enough of the album’s overall magic that any final thoughts will likely segue conveniently into the territory of repeat listening.

Postscript

Split End’s latest effort is an unmitigated triumph. They’ve stepped up stepped their game fantastically from their (still excellent) past work, distilling all the qualities that made them great to begin with into a flurry of energy and excitement. In particular, Nanami’s vocals are a cut above on this record; she throws out razor sharp hooks left right and centre, rather than using them sparingly as on past albums. Critically, her songwriting discipline hasn’t slipped an inch, the only difference being that at no point on this minialbum does she sing anything that isn’t grade-A vocal inspiration. Guitarist Ionazun is also on top form, delivering a very active performance and laying down a formidable range of solos and riffs that are tightly integrated into the songwriting; together with Nanami she lays down a melodic gauntlet that few groups could compete with. Every track here trades off its various sections with snappy dynamics and seamless cohesion; none of these structures feel remotely stale and there is a sense at any given moment that something is changing, developing or building into something else equally exciting. It’s a shame that Split End still draws on such a small audience; in a year where Chatmonchy have barely been disbanded for a year and we’re still pretending it’s relevant to listen to Jimmy Eat World, I have no illusions about where the real power pop party is at.

Deep Love is awesome. Go and listen to it.



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user ratings (16)
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2019


18997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

EP(/minialbum/whatever) of the year. Review is dumb shit but was super fun to write.



This is on Spotify, but check the t/t here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_60TbFv8y4

Digging: Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

Pikazilla
October 12th 2019


6971 Comments


This was a v cool review format! Great read!

I will be sure to check this soon despite not being big on pop punk.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 13th 2019


18997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cheers Pika, this is so worth a jam - it's technically pop punk but hits a good range of thrills beyond the genre + its tropes

Lucman
October 13th 2019


3603 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is so good! Thanks a ton for the heads up, Johnny, I love it.

Saros
October 13th 2019


334 Comments


That rating tho. Guess that means I should look into this. I'm convinced.

Also noticed you're at 99 reviews now, gonna do anything special for that 100th?

dmathias52
October 13th 2019


1087 Comments


Great review man! Love it when people get creative and do it well, this was such a fun read. And the music sounds right up my alley, which is a bonus

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 13th 2019


18997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cheers guys! Down to you to get this graduated from obscure treasure to 2019 sleeper hit ;]

@Saros hmm, I'd defo like to but not sure how yet. I could review one of my favourite albums that currently doesn't have one (REOL, Bleach03 or advantage Lucy most likely) or maybe get sentimental and go for a long-time favourite. We'll see...

NOTINTHEFACE
October 14th 2019


1908 Comments


This is really really good. Review is cringe in the best way. Good job.

Calc
Contributing Reviewer
October 15th 2019


16385 Comments


where can you even listen to this thing?

NOTINTHEFACE
October 15th 2019


1908 Comments


I listened on Spotify.

Calc
Contributing Reviewer
October 15th 2019


16385 Comments


lol oh yeah that exists. I'll do it right now

Saros
October 15th 2019


334 Comments


Oh yeah, that front page spotlight. Hopefully you get your wish there Johnny.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 15th 2019


18997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Just hope it gets more people checking this ;]

GreyShadow
October 16th 2019


3564 Comments


almost halfway through and I kinda love it

Pikazilla
October 16th 2019


6971 Comments


Checked the single, it was so pretty!

GreyShadow
October 16th 2019


3564 Comments


the main pro: it keeps getting better
the main con: i have one song left :/

Pikazilla
October 16th 2019


6971 Comments


I really hope this is on spotify now.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 16th 2019


18997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's out there for you ;]

Also "As suggested by the title image, Wedding Dress is a schmalzy ballad that takes the warmth of Orange no Kurashi’s comfort zone and reconfigures it as an emotional motherhood with a strong lead guitar performance and peak sadgirl lyrics"

this is maybe my fave typo that I've ever made on Sput (fix'd oops.)

Pikazilla
October 16th 2019


6971 Comments


emomumcore

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
October 16th 2019


18997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

My mum's least favourite genre and the reason I got into music



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