The Japanese House‘s new E.P boasts a beautiful collection of songs that explore relationships and heartbreak, whilst also providing catchy pop tracks and a moving ballad to end the four-track record.
The face behind The Japanese House is Amber Bain, who released her debut album in 2019. George Daniel, drummer of The 1975 and long-time collaborator of Bain’s, helped produce the album, though due to his busy schedule more help was needed. After searching for producers of some of Bain’s favourite albums, it was BJ Burton (who was behind Bon Iver’s 22 A Million) who joined the team to help turn The Japanese House’s new songs into a radio ready E.P.
We’re introduced with a lo-fi jazz piano in ‘Sharing Beds’. We can immediately hear the influence Daniel had on Bain with their previous work together, as the vocoded vocals and samples are reminiscent of some of The 1975’s recent work. There is a consistent theme behind Chewing Cotton Wool, as she described the E.P. as songs that “punctuate the stages of coming out of a relationship and entering into a new phase.”
‘Sharing Beds’ sets the tone for the following songs, as far as the meaning behind the E.P. is concerned, because she begins talking about “her”; the unnamed figure our vocalist continues to contemplate in the next track. In ‘Something Has to Change’, Bain begins to realise that she needs to get over the girl that she is referencing throughout the E.P, as she tells herself that “it’s the same girl who’s giving you hell and it’s the same face; your heart keeps breaking in the same place”.
Musically, ‘Something Has to Change’ is a more typical pop song, as the title is repeated in the chorus as a sing-along melody. The samples and synthesisers are continued in this song, with a nightclub-ready bassline. Its catchiness and hand clapped beats makes it a standout; more than entirely appropriate to be blasted through the radio.
The Japanese House are joined by Bon Iver frontman, Justin Vernon, in ‘Dionne’. Vernon co-wrote the song with Bain and his influence is clear. His trademark vocals are infused into the song and work well with Bain’s songwriting style. The influx of honest lyrics are refreshing, making this song a real tear-jerker. The lines, “I know it’s not very sexy when somebody loves you this much and knows you this well, but it’s the way it is” are particularly emotive – we can’t help but feel privy to a personal tumultuous time.
Bain ends the E.P. with ‘Chewing Cotton Wool’. It is a beautiful way to end the record, as she pays homage to the girl who is chewing cotton wool, which are the befitting final words of the last song. As Bain’s debut album described her emotional breakup with her girlfriend, ending the E.P. with this track feels like she is finishing this chapter of her life; Chewing Cotton Wool seems like it has simultaneously closed one door and opened another. Let’s hope that this is not the only release we hear from The Japanese House in 2020, and that another album is just around the corner.