For her debut full-length album, Amber Bain, aka The Japanese House, teamed up with co-producers George Daniel from The 1975 and BJ Burton (Bon Iver, Banks, Low) to create an exquisite, profound, and essentially perfect record, which also happens to be the leading contender for my favorite album of 2019.
Based in London, and still in her early twenties, Amber Bain has established herself as a brilliant young singer-songwriter and through her moniker, The Japanese House, she has been releasing captivating and alluring indie / electronic pop since 2015. After signing a record deal to Dirty Hit she became close with artists like The 1975, Wolf Alice and others and has developed a unique sound of her own which is fully displayed on her debut full-length, Good At Falling.
Good At Falling opens with the cinematic track “went to meet her (intro)”. Sonically it feels like you’re falling into an unknown, mysterious planet as the synth gradually builds until you are met head-on with deep drums and Bain’s futuristic and entrancing vocals. I love the way they chose to down tune the ending of the song to lead seamlessly into the second song “Maybe You’re The Reason”. Immediately you realize the amount of detailed precision and creative effort that has been put into this album.
The second track on Good At Falling is “Maybe You’re the Reason”, one of the main singles from the album and an incredibly gorgeous track. It’s about finding a glimmer of hope and optimism in a state of despair. Honestly, this song is one that I will never tire of. It’s so beautifully composed and features so many perfectly executed dynamic production elements.
“We Talk all the Time” is the fourth single from the album and a song where Bain describes how a relationship can break down after the physical intimacy element is gone.
“Wild” is a personal favorite of mine. The way the track drops into the beat during the first chorus is such a satisfying moment. The song is about self-observation of one of your own self-destructive tendencies and sonically it just has an irresistible smooth rhythm and flow.
“You Seemed so Happy” is an excellent track and the perfect example of the dichotomy of The Japanese House’s sound and lyrics. This song is upbeat, full of bright tones and uplifting melodies, but lyrically discusses the existence of internal darkness and struggle, while projecting an outward appearance of happiness. Amber Bain described it as
I felt depressed but presented myself as a very light, happy human. This song sounds happy and it’s a metaphor for my music, because if I go somewhere in Europe on tour, they don’t understand, they’re not listening to the lyrics, and they think my songs are really happy.
“Follow My Girl” was one of the first songs that drew me into the Japanese House, and ultimately one of my favorites on Good At Falling. It was originally released in 2018 and when I first heard it I was immediately captivated by Amber’s voice and the complexity and detail that she invests into composing her music. This was the song that made me an instant Japanese House fan and will always be a special track for me.
The Japanese House has a special gift for being able to build a song from a soft subtle piece into a dynamically epic track. Similar to “went to meet her (intro)” The Japanese House once again slowly builds “somethingfartoogoodtofeel” into anthemic rolling drums accompanied with strings and haunting harmonies, which combine together to deliver a powerfully impactful song.
“Lilo” is a highlight track from Good At Falling for multiple reasons. Not only was it one of the lead singles from the album, but it also was accompanied by a music video featuring the person who Amber Bain wrote this song about, Marika Hackman, an incredible singer-songwriter in her own right and Bain’s ex-girlfriend. Upon the release of the music video for Lilo, Bain released this statement
Filming this video was painful, easy, real and surreal all at once. I asked Marika to be in the video because I couldn’t think who better to be in it than the person the song is about. I’m extremely grateful that she said yes; I’m very lucky that my ex girlfriend is also my best friend. It was a slightly mad decision, but ultimately I think we captured exactly what I wanted to, which was a true and genuine representation of the love and intimacy we share. When I watch this video myself my heart breaks, but in kind of a nice way.
“Everybody Hates Me” is a song about feeling that you’re failing at life and in a dark hole that you’re struggling to get out of. The Japanese House released this powerful live session performance of the song where you can see the band’s incredible talent on full display.
“Marika Is Sleeping” is one of the most cinematic and beautifully arranged songs on Good At Falling. It features mesmerizing vocals along with beautiful string arrangements and showcases Amber Bain’s talent as a composer. In describing this song she said
My girlfriend was asleep, she was really ill, and I was napping next to her. I dreamt this string arrangement, got my laptop and programmed the strings. When I saved it I was like, ‘Oh, what do I call the project?’ I find it really hard to name things. The production’s all done on a Mellotron with weird harps and me doing a choral voice because I wanted it to sound like an old Disney soundtrack.
You’re going to want to crank the volume up when the chorus of “Worms” hits. Bain’s vocals cut through in a distinctly bright way overtop an undeniable rhythm section.
“f a r a w a y” is a delightful track about being separated from your love and longing to be reunited. It’s a great song with beautiful tones and perfectly placed near the end of the album to help bring Good At Falling towards a close.
Good At Falling closes with a stripped-down version of The Japanese House’s first hit single, “i saw you in a dream“. Both the original and this acoustic-driven version are excellent. This stripped version is delivered at a slower tempo with fewer production elements which allows for a more raw and intimate performance of this incredible song.
Artists like Amber Bain / The Japanese House are few and far between. Not only is she a brilliant lyricist and vocalist, but her talent as a composer and producer is equally as impressive.
Good At Falling is a masterful debut album and sets the stage for unlimited potential for Amber Bain’s career. She’s a very special artist and I can’t wait to see her continue to grow and evolve as one of today’s most captivating artists.