I, for some unbeknownst reason, have always had an issue with shoegaze. It isn’t the music that poses a problem; it’s my ability to effectively and coherently describe and relate it others. Often, my intentions get lost in the transfer, as I can only muster up words such as “wooshy” and “airy” as blanket terms for what I am hearing. Thankfully, this inexplicable problem never arises when it comes to Asobi Seksu. The Brooklyn band has always straddled the fine line between heavy, M83-esque shoegaze and solid indie rock — no more so than on their newest album, Hush, a follow-up to their poppy, airy 2006 release, Citrus.
The album opens with “Layers,” a soft, sweet, whipped confection. Lead vocalist Yuki Chikudate’s harmonies float effortlessly over wintery sleigh bells and light guitars. Each layer of sound builds upon itself and weaves in and out of focus to present a spider web of noise. It’s delicate, yet sturdy; yielding, yet steadfast.
The theme of layers is recurring on Hush. Almost every track is constructed this way, with vocals piled on guitars and keyboards, and cymbal crashes heaped upon reverbs. On “Me and Mary,” Chikudate’s voice and upbeat, pounding drums build intensity until the end of the song, when the thick amalgamation of sound erupts like lava from a volcano, flowing in all directions and taking with it everything in its path until the only thing that’s left is the sound of erratic synthesizers and keyboards. “Sing Tomorrow’s Praise” features surges of sounds that crash and settle like aural waves breaking on the shore. “Mehnomae” sees the reincorporation of sleigh bells and includes an ending packed with vocal intonations and gauzy reverbs sharing aural space with steady, solid drums.
The album isn’t all blustery force, though. The band also explores the softer side of indie rock. Hush is unlike the band’s previous works in that it reveals a more innovative, mature Asobi Seksu: a band that is comfortable with themselves and the music they make; one that is capable of taking risks and executing them beautifully.
“Sunshower” evokes images of sun-drenched fields of green and blue skies on a beautiful spring day. The joy and feeling of frolic on the track is practically tangible with its sparkling vocals and upbeat drums. It almost compels you to spite the winter weather, don a pair of denim cutoffs, and go play in the flowers. “Gliss” is unlike any track the band has done before, with light vocals flowing like water over a punchy drum beat and tender guitar. “Glacially” is perhaps the album’s most commercial track — and I use that term very loosely in this case — with its soft, easy to understand lyrics and tight, succinct melodies tinged with just enough progressive rock to appeal to a broader and not necessarily shoegaze-oriented, audience. “Blind Little Rain” is perhaps the most ethereal track, with male/female voices as thin and shimmery as gossamer threads in steady exchange over shrill, ghostly harmonies before only the female vocals take over in eerie domination.
All in all, the album finds itself floating in the gray area that is between calculated indie rock and dense shoegaze. It is equal parts mapped out and haphazard, which ultimately leads to a sound that implies well-thought-out risks and willing uncertainty. It is easily the band’s best album to date.
Standout Tracks: "Blind Little Rain", "Glacially"
For Fans Of: Slowdive, Ringo Deathstarr, Mazzy Star