Album Reviews

The Japanese House – In The End It Always Does

(Dirty Hit) UK release date: 30 June 2023

Exploring love and its many foibles in bittersweet, often heartbreaking detail, sinking into Amber Bain’s world feels like comforting succour

The Japanese House - In The End It Always Does When Amber Bain first appeared as The Japanese House with her debut single in 2015, there was much speculation over who she was. There weren’t many photographs of her in existence (it turned out she just didn’t like having her photo taken), she had a slightly androgynous voice, and the fact that she’d been signed to The 1975‘s label Dirty Hit led many to speculate that this was a secret Matty Healy side-project.

Which makes it all the more surprising that Bain’s songwriting is so intensely personal. Her first album, Good At Falling, was inspired by her relationship with fellow songwriter Marika Hackman, and In The End It Always Does follows a move to Margate for a new relationship, which became polyamorous, and then eventually broke dowm.

So, Bain’s second album is a break-up album but with a difference. Whereas most albums which detail the breakdown of a relationship go through all the emotions – bitterness, jealousy, anger – Bain recognises that once all that has disappeared, there just remains sadness and an indescribable, unfillable void. That’s what this album so beautifully details.

It begins with a bit of a curveball, in Spot Dog, with an almost jaunty piano line, and Bain’s processed, glitchy vocals sounding like they’re being played backwards. Touching Yourself, which follows, is more indicative of the album as a whole – a catchy, hooky pop song about sexting (“I wanna touch you but you’re too far away”) that nods towards Haim, but with a edge of melancholy to it.

Sad To Breathe perfectly describes the feeling of walking round an empty house after your ex has moved out – “it’s sad to breathe the air when you’re not there” – over a lovely, twinkling piano melody. Over There, co-written with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, is about the mundanity of the awkward period after the break-up, with beautifully observed little details like “she came by to get some things she left behind, she keeps her shoes on” which hit like an emotional sledgehammer.

It’s not all moping around though – Friends is about the initial rush of being in a ‘throuple’, and featuring a brief appearance by Charli XCX, it’s probably the most ‘poppy’ song on the album, and is where producer Chloe Kraemer gets most creative, throwing in auto-tune, cut-up samples, and ending on a funky Nile Rodgers-style guitar riff, creating a glorious mish-mash of styles. Sunshine Baby (with guest vocals from Healy) mines similar pop gold-dust, while Boyhood manages to sound like an upbeat version of Kate Bush‘s This Woman’s Work reworked as a smooth synth-pop anthem.

At other times, the resemblance to prime-era Joni Mitchell is startling – whether it be the opening chords of the excellently titled Indexical Reminder Of A Morning Well Spent, or Bain’s affecting vocal on the closing One For Sorrow, Two For Joni Jones (which reflects on how a dog’s love will always be better than a human’s love).

It’s an album that explores love and its many foibles in bittersweet, often heartbreaking detail, and if the overall tone is glum (the title refers to how all relationships are destined to end), then sinking into Amber Bain’s world for 45 minutes feels like comforting succour. A beautiful album from a talent very much on the rise.

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The Japanese House – In The End It Always Does