When I decided to move to New York City last fall, it was to explore a metropolis supposedly brimming with opportunities for a young writer. It's why many artists move to the Big Apple: to push their limits and ascertain what their "calling" was meant to be.
The sliver of hope that I'd soon be living like Carrie Bradshaw was the only reason I voluntarily dove into the pandemonium that is the L train, Rainbow bagels, finance bros, and $16 whiskey gingers. "Now tell me something, is there a point to this?" Amber Bain sings on "Maybe You're The Reason" – the lead single off The Japanese House's captivating debut Good at Falling – I don't know Amber, I don't know.
The beauty of Amber Bain – who gets her name from her childhood summer home – is that she understands the complexity of human experiences and thinks they're worth singing about anyway. Bain told Genius that "Maybe You're The Reason" is "about being depressed and realizing there's no meaning in anything." For Bain, this realization isn't all bad. As she barrels into the track's explosive chorus, with guitars, synths, and ghoulish auto-tuned vocals all cascading into each other, a voice whispers in her ear: "Maybe you're the reason." Bain said that as she wrote this song, "I thought about my girlfriend at the time, and how maybe loving someone is the reason you live?" Bain understands that trivial stresses burden our subconscious, but sometimes the meaning behind it all isn't as elaborate as we think it is. Sure, I'm broke, riddled with anxiety, and a homeless guy pissed on my foot on my commute home from work yesterday – but isn't it also possible that those harrowing experiences made that 2 AM bacon, egg, and cheese taste even better?
"Can somebody tell me what I want?" Bain pleads on "Talk All The Time," "Cause I keep changing my mind." Each track shifts and glides as fluidly as the range of emotions you might feel on any given day. In "somethingfartoogdootofeel," Bain quietly broods over melancholic guitars, "All of it was real, it was something far too good to feel." Then the song opens up to breathe, with drums and strings unshackling the track and propelling it into something greater. "We let our heads cave in, subject to a greater thing." In turn, the upbeat Indie-rock production of "You Seemed So Happy" is catchy and optimistic, but peel back a layer and the darkness reveals itself: "You seemed so happy to everybody you knew," Bain sings of her friend who committed suicide. "It's a metaphor for my music," Bain said to Genius, "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."
As each track grows into something unexpected, you realize that you're at the mercy of Bain's vast emotional spectrum. Many formulaic pop releases of late have established their intention from the first note of a song, but with Good At Falling, you never know where you'll end up. "Wild" may leave you feeling introspective, while "Worms" may make you want to quit your dog walking job and finally get to work on that novel ("Invest yourself in something worth investing in").
The point is, Good At Falling is not a quick fix. It's not something that can be captured in words like "upbeat" or "melancholy." It's as multifaceted as the human subconscious. The project reassures us that feeling all these things is essential to being human. We sometimes forget that we are more profoundly varied than we often allow ourselves to recognize. In one moment, I'm frustrated by the subway dancers, who flip and clap in my face while I'm trying to read my book. Then I change trains. The dancers are gone, I get a seat (for once) on the M, and I watch the sun set over New York's skyscrapers. Sure, I'm sweaty and exhausted and smell like pee, but Good At Falling reminds us that maybe the meaning behind it all is just to look at that damn sunset. "It isn't the same, but it is enough," Bain sings on "I Saw You In a Dream." Agreed.
Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area, Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.
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