In support of the current Brooklyn invasion, Asobi Seksu return to the fold with this, their third album, and the follow up to 2007’s acclaimed Citrus. Led by female vocalist Yuki Chikudate, the band have found things hard since that release, with guitarist and sometime vocalist James Hanna admitting that “Hush was written while we felt destroyed”. Coming from a place of struggle can work, but Hush feels like a step backwards.
Where Citrus was a wonderful marriage of atmosphere and pop tunes, that marriage seems to be taking a break here, even if that’s not to say there isn’t some decent material. The album starts off pretty well with Layers, Chikudate’s voice almost resembling that of a choirboy, backed with Christmas bells. It’s a pretty tune with a rich texture full of, as the title would suggest, layered vocals – a pleasant way to start the album, but it doesn’t kick you where it hurts, and nothing that follows does either.
Familiar Light is a livelier waltzing track, and with its strong pop hook stands out as a highlight of the album. There are signs that the band are still experimenting with their sound, and even toy with epic rock territory on Sing Tomorrow’s Praise. It’s ambitious, but they pull it off pretty well. Aside from the occasional twiddly interlude there is little trace of their shoegaze roots, and if they embrace this sound it could move them towards bigger success.
While it’s obviously in the nature of bands with a leaning towards ambience, too many of the songs do just pass by. Taken alone, they’re unmemorable, and while the likes of Gliss and Mehnomae are fine, they don’t leave an impression, leaving the album ultimately devoid of personality.
There are signs of life in the perky Sunshowers and the indie pop single Me & Mary, but both sound dated and don’t play to where Asobi Seksu’s strengths lie.
The band still have the knack with a melody, and there’s always room for a winning formula melding atmospherics with a good tune, but somehow the addictive charm of the highlights of Citrus such as Thursday and New Years just aren’t present on Hush, and you’re left feeling underwhelmed.