He Went To Jared: Asobi Seksu - Citrus

Today brings another edition of He Went To Jared, the epic, undeniable and transcendent column wherein my dear friend Jared recommends music I've never heard and we get something that's like a dialogue going about it. Since this conversation happens primarily via email and the occasional phone conversation, it's not entirely captured here. Still, this guy, Jared, one of my dearest friends, knows his shit, and so for this episode, he has recommended Asobi Seksu's Citrus. This album, which originally released in 2006 features a brilliant mixed of guitar rock, powerful drums and a droning lush walls of sound. From New York, they are the nearly quintessential dream pop band, though they have more pop-drive and energy than a band like Beach House. That is an element of their sound that functions well because all the calmness so strongly contrasts their faster stuff that it all feels more full and powerful.

Singer Yuki Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna create an immense amount of sound for a duo, and they layer each track masterfully. Songs like "New Years" and "Strings" even take on a dreamy aspect, but build elegantly and sometimes forcefully to a massive rocking crescendo and then die back into a calm scene. And there are tracks like the elegant and sprawling "Red Sea" and lift out from a hush and ride a rumbling drum through Chikudate's sweet, sugary vocals. The key with Asobi Seksu is that a good sound system will trump anything. Even with my decent-level system, I know I'm missing some of the intricacy in the composition, so this is not an ear-bud band. In such a small speaker, this would almost certainly come off as pure rock pop, rather than the sprawling sonic voyage that it really is. A song like "Goodbye" for instance, is very directly pop-driven, but there's some extra, tiny tones, that fall back and must be heard closely to be truly appreciated. It's a dreamers album. And you have to dream of listening closely. But, I've gone on and on. This was only supposed to be an introduction for Jared's piece. So, here he is. Oh, and there's a stream of the album at the bottom. Dig it.

JARED: I'm a big fan of guitar squall, feedback, noise, and above all a decent melody. I really enjoy when shoegaze bands aren't afraid to lean hard into pop songs while still not being afraid to really noise it up. Citrus is a great example of that. I've seen these guys twice - once was at the Hi-Dive for 7 bucks and it was great. The next time was at the Independent here in SF for maybe 25 bucks - they got big after that Pitchfork review (among others - Cirtus is a pretty acclaimed album and easily put them on the map). Their following albums never quite caught the magic of Citrus again, but you're not going to be LISTENING TO THOSE.

The lead singer has to be perhaps a bit over four feet tall. Tiny Japanese girl but man, they have a HUGE sound. You'll hear things like what could be a  60s pop song in songs like "Goodbye", huge swathes of guitar in songs like "Red Sea", what could be a radio hit in things like "Nefi + Girly", more frantic and perhaps 80s-ish songs like the closer "Mizu Asobi" - actually, at this rate, let's do a small track by track:

1. Everything Is On - A very appropriate opener - a small slice of ambient, burbling a bit before the album really starts.

2. Strawberries - the first single, remixed by a few folks including popular shoegaze/ambient artist Ulrich Schnauss. It sets the theme for the album, really - swirly pop songs. They balance some precise melodies on the album without being afraid to give them a bit of a noisier edge (I'm a fan of the dirty, distorted bass guitar in this one, for instance).

3. New Years - More upbeat and snazzy. I do enjoy the fact that they do a bit of a traditional buildup later in the song before lurching into a straight-up fuzzed out blast of noise before dropping right back into their more pop-leaning sound. When they did this live, they really tore it up.

4. Thursday - Really, this album comes front-loaded with some great songs (not that the rest isn't really good, too). I love how this song builds. Just an insistent kick-drum, bass, and a spacey guitar drone in the background mixed with more precise plucking. Very pretty, and in theme with the album, the songs seem to exist in a pretty large sonic spread.

5 Strings - There are no string sections in this song because the band members are a bunch of liars. I really like the woozy slide guitar. It's more of the album's formula on here - melodies, whistful and pretty and poppy, with a dose of distortion, which is how I like my women (I'm not sure what that means).

6. Pink Cloud Tracing Paper - I really love the sound they have at the start here - it's maybe the most My Bloody Valentine leaning stuff (plus that mean distorted bass guitar again, too). It then sort of veers into a traditional song. One of the guys sings on this one and he sounds like the frontman to Yo La Tengo in a way, which is to say that it's not like his voice goes to the rafters, but it gets it done. Also a fan of the guitar during the chorus. These songs are pretty, but make no mistake - they're really fucking loud live.

7. Red Sea - Great buildup, one of my favorites on here. Honestly, though, part of the reason this album is so good is because it's just solid, top to bottom. I admire this song because it sort of swerves into a huge, spacey section (PERHAPS IT'S LIKE BEING IN A "SEA" OF FEEDBACK!!! GREAT JOB NAMING YOUR SONG, LOLLLOL)

8. Goodbye - I already commented on it so LAY OFF.

9. Lions and Tigers - This is my favorite intro to any song on here, I think. To the point - pretty, brief build-up, knockout distorted riff after before the girl starts singing.

10. Nefi + Girly - I already said A Thing about it.

11. Exotic Animal Paradise - Slower, probably the closest thing to a ballad on here. This is indicative of the way the band would lean towards later albums.

12. Mizu Asobi - A good closer. Upbeat, also heavy on the synths that makes me think of the 80's.

That's it! Pairs well with sunshine, a bit of a coffee buzz, and overall good moods.

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