Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009

Asobi Seksu Turns the Volume Down, Way Down

By Evan Rytlewski
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I hate when this happens: A band improves by leaps and bounds between albums, with the implied promise of even better things to come—and then doesn't deliver. The latest offenders are Asobi Seksu, the beauty-seeking New York shoegaze band that thrilled reliably with their dynamic 2006 album Citrus. That they teased their new album, Hush, with their best single yet, "Me and Mary," a bloodrush of a song that condensed shoegaze's usual 28-mile walkathon into a three-minute sprint, only further raised expectations.

"Me and Mary" is on Hush, but tellingly it's buried toward the end of the album like a bastard stepchild. Asobi Seksu is no longer interested in its kind of turbulence; instead, they've taken a turn toward the soft, banishing the dissonant keyboards and roaring guitars that lent a sense of danger to Citrus.

In a respect, by tearing down their old wall-of-sound, Hush is more focused than anything else the band's recorded, a showcase for Yuki Chikudate's celestial voice and sanguine songwriting. The record has no shortage of charm, but it still feels like Asobi Seksu are selling themselves short. They were one of the few genuinely exhilarating neo-shoegaze bands, but where they once aimed for the heavens, they're now content targeting coffee shops.
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