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Review: The Japanese House "In the End It Always Does"

English indie pop musician Amber Bain, known professionally under the moniker The Japanese House, released her second studio album, In the End It Always Does, on June 30, 2023. The album comes after a four-year hiatus following the release of her 2019 freshman album, Good at Falling. Featuring collaborations from notable artists such as MUNA, Charli XCX, and Matty Healy of The 1975, In the End It Always Does continues The Japanese House's musical partnership with George Daniel of The 1975, alongside engineer and producer Chloe Kramer. Co-producing every song on the album, Daniel's distinctive production and vibrant instrumentation alongside Bain's skillful, melancholic songwriting creates a fresh, complex take on indie pop in In the End It Always Does. With a runtime of 45 minutes, the album features 12 total tracks:

  • "Spot Dog"

  • "Touching Yourself"

  • "Sad to Breathe"

  • "Over There"

  • "Morning Pages" ft. MUNA

  • "Boyhood"

  • "Indexical reminder of a morning well spent"

  • "Friends"

  • "Sunshine Baby"

  • "Baby goes again"

  • "You always get what you want"

  • "One for sorrow, two for Joni Jones"

The album's opening track, "Spot Dog," functions more as a bizarre introduction than a fully fleshed song, a slew of discordant and seemingly random instruments moving into Bain's airy vocals over soft acoustic guitars. It's a somewhat baffling choice and leaves questions regarding what it adds to the album as a whole.

Vibrant instrumentation and upbeat production move the album into danceable indie pop with "Touching Yourself" and "Sad to Breathe." It's a sound that feels juxtaposed against Bain's often melancholic lyricism. The quick tempo, punchy drums, and sunny, trilling acoustics of "Sad to Breathe" lend an effervescent feel that stands in sharp contrast to Bain's refrain: "I'm trying / to change myself, but it's tiring / and I go to bed and I'm crying / 'Cause it's sad to breathe the air when you're not there."

"I'm trying / to change myself, but it's tiring / and I go to bed and I'm crying / 'Cause it's sad to breathe the air when you're not there."

On "Touching Yourself," sorrowful undertones are similarly hidden not only by deceptively bright instrumentation but also by initially lighthearted, sexually explicit lyrics giving way to Bain's admission of, "Know I shouldn't need it but I want affection / Know I shouldn't want it but I need attention / Know I shouldn't say it but I had to mention / it makes me want to die," on the song's bridge. This contrast of an upbeat sound with sorrowful lyrics appears throughout the album, such as in the lead single "Boyhood," which finds Bain mourning an inability to change.

The album's wistful, often morose lyricism is complemented by hazy instrumentation that creates a dreamlike atmosphere on tracks such as the breezy "Over There." Vocal harmonies float wanderingly over softly strummed strings, all while piano chords drift in and out of the background. On “Indexical Reminder of a Morning Well Spent”, layers of echoing vocals reiterate, “I watch it round and round and round.” It’s as if we are listening to someone’s thoughts as they echo around and around again.

Introspection is at the core of In the End It Always Does. Lyrically, the album often finds Bain at a place of reflection, incapable and unwilling to let go–of the past, of relationships, even of herself. On standout track, “Morning Pages”, featuring indie pop band MUNA, thrumming guitars create a layer of tension under the surface of the song’s haunted refrain, “You always come back to her.” It’s a motif that carries throughout the album as Bain observes her present, hopes for a changed self and future, and returns to dwelling on the past... again and again.

"You always come back to her

Following the more upbeat, lighthearted “Friends”, the LP moves into “Sunshine Baby”, featuring Matty Healy of The 1975. The album’s title makes its only appearance here as Bain reflects on a relationship she knows is ending, carrying on the album’s introspection on heartbreak as Bain sings, “Putting off the end / cause in the end, it always does.” Gorgeous harmonies and vibrant instrumentations aided by Daniel’s buoyant production make the track a highlight.

The album begins to drag a bit towards the end, with an added weight of filler songs that have the same feel. Both “Baby goes again” and “You always get what you want” feature more of a softer, drifting arrangement rather than earlier tracks’ lively sound. Traveling acoustic guitars and swooning strings fade in and out of the background. Lyrically, both tracks continue the album’s brooding reflection on heartbreak as Bain finds herself, still, unable to let go, lamenting, “I keep circling/ can’t stop a circle.” On “One for Sorrow, Two for Joni Jones," the project closes with a more stripped-back sound than anything else on the tracklist: gentle vocals over soft, melodic piano and swelling strings in the background.

Overall, In the End It Always Does offers an interesting, enjoyable album with enough standout moments to make up for the occasional repetitive element. The album’s lush instrumentation and vibrant production add a new dimension to Bain’s introspective, hazy songwriting. The tunes come together to create an enticing spin on the indie pop genre that blends energy with melancholy seamlessly. In the End It Always Does creates a dreamlike atmosphere that will have you dancing, even in its sorrow.

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