There’s nothing more cathartic than a good break-up album, and for quite some time, pop music has devoted a particularly sizable space to this sub-genre. For her full-length studio debut, Good at Falling, singer-songwriter Amber Bain, who performs under her alias The Japanese House, tackles the break-up album from an artistic, imaginative, and achingly personal perspective. Much of Good at Falling is rich in atmosphere and mood with the arrangements casting a lavish grandeur and exotic scope. The album’s lyrical content is a blend of confessional songwriting set against glossy and haunting production reminiscent of 80’s synth-pop, folk, and electronica with echoes of ambient music as well. For the duration of the album, Bain dissects the complexities of a relationship, examining the various ways in which we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and the repercussions of doing so.
On tracks such as “Maybe You’re The Reason” and “We Talk All The Time,” Bain lays out the details of her anxieties and fears amid production that’s dream-like and elegant with vocal performances that are forceful, commanding, and full of raw immediacy. Musically, the album juxtaposes its more bombastic moments alongside understated bits with sophistication and ease. Thematically, each song builds off of the preceding, creating a cohesive flow and establishing a singular listening experience. In terms of production, there’s weightlessness as sounds and styles blur together, achieving dynamic results. Selections that represent the wide-spanning range of the album are tracks “Wild” and “Follow My Girl,” with the former dipping into trip-hop and electronica and the latter channeling 80’s pop for a stylish effect.
While there’s a great deal of sonic imagination and flair, Good at Falling’s strongest moments come when it’s completely unguarded lyrically and musically. Stand-out track “Lilo” is sparse yet stirring in its transparency and is achingly performed. Tracks “Everyone Hates Me” and “You Seemed So Happy” navigate into more experimental territory but still achieve rich emotional and musical results. What’s notably striking about the songs is how immersive they feel, each inhabiting a space of their own for listeners to absorb.
Good at Falling utilizes the pop template to create a personal, artful, and promising body of work. Musically and thematically. it serves as a cathartic, soulful, and diverse listening experience – a showcase for songwriter Amber Bain’s emotive and open-hearted songwriting. Establishing a unique voice on one’s debut can be a tricky feat, especially in a well-worn tradition like the break-up album. But with her full-length, The Japanese House achieves results that are stunning, sincere, and transportive. Turns out Bain is good at a lot more than falling.
Songs to Spin: “Lilo,” “Everybody Hates Me,” “Maybe You’re the Reason,” “You Seemed So Happy,” “Marika is Sleeping”