Split End
moratorium


3.7
great


Release Date: 09/08/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: still the only good pop rock band on the planet?

Split End are nigh on perfect a lot of the time - that should be a lot of your time. They’re as feel-good as straightforward guitar pop comes, a mobile interpolation of power pop-pop rock-alt rock-pop punk stylings with a healthy dose of gazey shimmer-shimmer belying that it’s not all hooks. They hail from Nara, the underrated former capital of Japan, at this point practically the only worthwhile country in the world for the interpolation of genres in question (all detraction to which can be traced to a place of not-feel-good, or of feel-not-good-enough valances). Yes. The reasons for this international stranglehold are hardly exclusive to Split End, but they do intersect fruitfully with the band’s euphoric manner, open-hearted outpourings of energy, and general disregard for angst and toxicity. Vocalist Nanami’s clear tone and bowl-u-over delivery both entirely circumvent the fatal cringe factor uniquely endemic to the Contemporary Pop Rocker’s American naslisms; she elevates innocuous romantic cliches into exhilarating hooks time and time again over everything from speedball rockers to shoegaze-adjacent space-outs to downbeat alt rock stewings.

Sound good? Sounds perfect, I believe you’ll find - especially, especially, especially on their 2019 minalbum Deep Love, probably their finest to date. It was good. It was great. It was so fucking excellent that the only way I could describe it at the time was in track-by-track format with the largely unironic support of an extradiegetic Nickleback narration. Better times etc., sorry-not-sorry. However, it was more a showcase of Split End’s established strengths than a sudden revolution of their potential. Given how evenly their absolute-best cuts are scattered throughout their small canon, I had a hunch that Deep Love’s uniform excellence was something they had been capable of at any given point - and, by loose extension, something that was hardly to be taken for granted from future releases.

Their latest EP Moratorium confirms this in a variety of ways. First and most importantly, Split End’s finest qualities are as impressive and endearing here as they are anywhere else. Their performances are as tight and passionate as ever, their production is as good as it’s ever been, and their songwriting, though a tad more straightforward, hasn’t really improved or declined since Deep Love. Good, good. What has changed is their direction: for the first time since their 2014 debut Amamoyou, they go entirely without upbeat rockers, focusing on the cutesier midtempo end of things. This is immediately evident on the sparkly opener “Teenager”, which lays down their trademark breathlessness pleasantly enough even if its hooks are far from their hugest. It’s wide-eyed and expansive at points, but in a way that suggests greater heights without ever soaring up to reach them. The following “2banme no Hoshi” goes a little further, dropping the tempo slightly as it deploys delicate layerings over an absolutely gorgeous bridge. This makes for one of the band’s most dreamlike numbers and an early highlight; good stuff so far, certainly enough to justify turning the adrenaline down and the reverb up.

However, the slower pace and mellow atmosphere inadvertently handicap the album when it comes to recovering from lapses of momentum. Slap bang in the middle of the tracklist, “Anemone” is perhaps the greatest such lapse in their entire discography, a gawkishly twee pop rocker that hinges around a disjointed bassline and some of the flavourless guitar leads I’ve heard from any Japanese group, mediocre or otherwise. It’s a total non-starter and not a style I would be keen to hear again from them in future; on a tracklist of this length or pacing, that ain’t the kind of blip you can shrug off in a hurry.

Things pick up, even if they don’t exactly kick off. The closer “week end” is the most Deep Love-esque thing here, drawing that release’s classic alt rock melodies into a deliciously shuffle-able chorus, potentially the strongest of the lot. It’s a great note to conclude on, but the real keeper arrives just beforehand: “Yahan no Tsuki” is a stunningly smooth launch into full-on shoegaze and one of the most satisfying bliss-outs I’ve heard from anyone this year. It’s by Moratorium’s greatest and most pleasant surprise; Split End have flirted on and off with shoegaze throughout their career, including on “2banme no Hoshi”, but they’ve never committed like this before. It suits them down to a tee; once again, the chorus melody here is a little weak, but the track’s hazy guitar lines and fuzz modulations are so arrestingly beautiful that, in true shoegaze fashion, it’s easy to forget half the track was there in the first place. I think Split End can, and likely will, outdo themselves in this style, but for the time being “Yahan no Tsuki” is a gamechanger as the shoegaze song we never knew we needed from them.

What does this all amount to? Well, Moratorium is a solid addition to a solid discography but it hardly feels like an overall watershed. Stylistic footing adjustments notwithstanding, it suffers a little from dialling down the stakes and exhilaration in favour of mellower material, but it lands the marks that count and opens promising doors to more expansive territory. Split End have always packed just the right balance of comfort and excitement that I’ve envisioned them as a commute/travel band, but Moratorium’s bliss-out tracks are equally appropriate for moodlit bedroom spaces. So that’s quaint: there are now more reasons to listen to Split End. More than enough for me, more than enough for you. Get goin’.



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user ratings (16)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2021


42902 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/1zmGodO0NUGCMsn1jLy62I?si=xxqDjBH-RB62saZI04YWhQ&dl_branch=1

gr9 band gr3.7 ep

Digging: Lali Puna - Scary World Theory

Lasssie
September 10th 2021


1262 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

my only complaint is that the album cover looks like a youtube video compilation for LOFI CHILL RAINY NIGHT RELAX STUDY DONT BE HORNY MOOD MUSIC

i actually liked this a lot tho

SlothcoreSam
September 10th 2021


3628 Comments


Split Enz > Split end

Digging: Anthrax (UK) - Serfs Out

dimsim3478
September 10th 2021


8984 Comments


ya this is some dang good pop rock

i might suggest adding Regal Lily to the recommendations; the mix of light poppy stuff with heavy shimmery bits in Split End's songs is def comparable

Gyromania
September 10th 2021


33286 Comments


Wtf is that summary

Aberf
September 10th 2021


3910 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

cum

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2021


42902 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

summary is based fax / this ep follows the noble and similarly based split end tradition that every release must have worse artwork than the one before it / oh yeah good shout on Regal Lily, never got into them as much but they defs have a lotta overlap - will add

FadedSun
September 10th 2021


2845 Comments


" a commute/travel band"

What does this even mean? Are there bands that go out of their way to tailor their sound to make you feel like you're commuting to work, or traveling haha. Or are you trying to say this is one of those bands that would end up on a Spotify "road trip" playlist.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2021


42902 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

lol obviously commute isn't a genre in the way that dance or lounge etc are genres, but no-one will convince me that the best way to experience most of this band's music is staring at a moving land/cityscape through the window of a vehicle you are not driving

all music is situational to some degree, even if the only way you define that is by situations where you wouldn't listen to it

FadedSun
September 10th 2021


2845 Comments


Imma check them out. You rec'd "Eureka" there, so this has to be worth my time.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2021


42902 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

oh yeah haha, tbh that was mainly bc of Kokudou Slope but there isn't anything on this that recalls that track too directly so probs start with Deep Love instead

g40st
September 11th 2021


584 Comments


Listen to Conditions if you want pop rock done right.

g40st
September 11th 2021


584 Comments


Pale Waves is also awesome pop rock despite this site's gatekeepers trying to deny it.

Pikazilla
September 11th 2021


19788 Comments


so is this as good as deep love

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2021


42902 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

absolutely not, but it's still worth hearing. guide to the sweet Split End trip is deep love > amamoyou > sea side single = yoru (opener is their best song) = this = lost sea single. 'sall good etc

will check both groups mentioned, but their related artists are not promising

Pikazilla
September 11th 2021


19788 Comments


sigh

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2021


42902 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

on the bright side, all those releases combined are still under 2 hrs. love and love

Sinternet
September 11th 2021


24519 Comments


pale waves are one of the shittest bands in the uk don't listen to him johnny

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2021


42902 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

ok ghost you had one chance and you fucked it

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
September 11th 2021


9578 Comments


j-pop rock? mmmmh maybe i'll peep

"for the first time since their 2014 debut Amamoyou, they go entirely without upbeat rockers"
shit maybe i wont

Digging: Angele - Nonante-Cinq



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