This entry is part 17 of 18 in the series:
Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better
First off, I really miss writing this series. Even if no one reads it, it brings me so much joy to info dump every single thought I have about whatever album I’m playing to death that week. It kind of allows me to move through my intense obsession, and, one day, it’ll be so interesting to read back on my 19 year old self’s thoughts on Ball Park Music’s self titled record, and so on.
This year, I’ve stumbled into the arms of quite a few really stellar albums. Regretfully, I’ve not had the time to sit down and dissect all of them online for the pleasure of me, myself, and the infamous ‘I’. My most sincere apologies and regrets extend to those one or two friends who might also adore the albums at hand.
Top of the list is ‘The Record’ by boygenius, but I reference it and its conceptual make-up in conversation every single day, so I felt it could wait for a proper write-up. Pulling in second is Preacher’s Daughter by Ethel Cain, and while I haven’t written a review I have written at such length about it, I’m not sure a review is necessary. This record, In The End It Always Does, is a perfect return to the series.
It’s new, released Friday before last, it’s short, just 12 songs and 45 minutes, and it’s DENSE. It’s referential, it’s sentimental, and it might be the most polished release I’ve heard this year. Every song is fantastic, experimental, nostalgic and refreshing. I’ve had it on repeat since it came out, with no end in sight.
So, without further rumination, it’s time to chuck the album on and listen along while I empty my brain in list form.
I love a long piano intro. Or love a scene-setter at the beginning of an album. I love how this slowly adjusts your sonic palette so that you go from silence to the spacial energy of this record. It’s such a well-mixed sound montage, I wanna kiss it. As a song on its own, I’m not sure how it holds up outside of the broader context of the record. You’d have to ask someone who hasn’t listened to the album back-to-back 15 million times in the last week.
As soon as I wrote the piano introduction to this, I knew it would start the album. My ex and I loved the film One Hundred and One Dalmatians and it’s a direct ode to a song called ‘A Beautiful Spring Day’ by George Bruns from the  film’s soundtrack. I was using the song as an experiment: What do I want to be in my record? Do I want pianos and strings? Do I want synths? Do I want guitar-y bits? And this covers all bases on the album. I was really using the song as a palette to throw everything at in the beginning and see where I landed.The Japanese House via Apple Music
This is such a fun, yearning pop song. It’s one of my favourites for sure. I’ve played it to absolute death. It reminds me a lot of So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings by Caroline Polachek. It’s fantastic ‘driving home after a long day at work’ music. I’ve tested it. This is one of the more upbeat songs on their entire discography, and this song could easily be a MUNA song. Which makes me realise, MUNA is really just The Japanese House but for parties.
I’ll often write half a song when I’m in one place and then, when I try and finish it, I’ll be in a completely different place. So it ends up taking on a whole new meaning. For the first half of this, I was in the throes of romance and thought it was fun to write a song about sexting. It ended up being about someone being far away from you. Obviously, at the beginning I was far away from this person a lot—I was always touring. And then suddenly I was close to them all the time because it was lockdown, yet felt so far away from them. I feel like I’m really embracing a more poppy side of myself—often I hold myself back on that front. Originally I was trying to write a chorus around this weird time signature, and in the end I gave up and was like, ‘I’m just going to write a really fun, simple pop chorus.’ It was a good lesson—the most simple songs are often my favourites.via Apple Music
Sad to Breathe
I heard this when it came out a few months ago, and it was my least favourite of the singles for this album. But it is more similar to songs from her 2019 album, Good at Falling, and I like that album a lot. I looked through the Genius annotations, and it actually is an old song about the Ex that they wrote Good at Falling about. I love the energetic pickup mid song, it’s unexpected and fun. The friendly-space-abduction sounds are deeply delicious. I’ll listen to the complete song just for the flow of the following lyrics.
I can't tell if the things I have, I just don't want
Or the things I want, I just don't get
Back in lockdown, I listened to The Japanese House’s 2020 EP, Chewing Cotton Wool, quite a bit. On said EP, there’s a song called Dionne, which features Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. I was beyond pleased with this collaboration, given that I love Bon Iver and Vernon’s work just as much. I was extra pleased to find that he worked on the intrumental for this song. It’s all my favourite ambient sadpop artists at once!
She doesn't stay 'round anymore
But she stops by from time to time
She keeps her coat on
There's not a lot to go on
She used to dote on me
Now she's loving someone differently
This song is so relaxing. I like the pitter-patter rain-like production. It’s the most recognisably Japanese House sounding song on the record. I find it amusing that MUNA wrote and vocalized the second verse since I thought of them earlier!! On first listen, it’s almost impossible to distinguish between their voices. I like that it feels like a full story, without saying very much lyrically.
You're still on her time, wherever you are
You don't wanna go in, so you sit in the car
And you wait for a feeling, it never quite hits
And you wait for the moment she reaches your lips
She never quite hits
There’s this book called The Artist’s Way where you write every morning. It’s meant to be a way of opening your brain and you’re supposed to throw away [what you’ve written] and not read it afterwards. I only ever did it once and it became the lyrics to this song. I sent Katie [Gavin of MUNA] the song and she wrote a verse on it. I fell in love with what she wrote—she’s great at completely understanding what a song is about. We’ve been friends with MUNA for so long and I really like the way our voices sound together. I think we’re drawn to this style of song, where the theme is sad and gay. I think it’s perfect.via Apple Music
This is likely going to end up being in my Spotify Wrapped. It feels so current for my 22-year-old self. I was 18 the last time The Japanese House released an album, and this feels like it’s a natural progression from that point. As Taylor Swift said, “How can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22”. Since Good at Falling came out, I have grown and changed, but it has made it hard to find comfort and familiarity. It also is a great song for a bit of a boogie. I’ve had it stuck in my head for weeks.. It was the first single I heard from this album, and I heard it exactly when I needed to.
The decision behind choosing this track as my return to the scene was that I was thinking a lot about being gay and gender-obsessed. And I was thinking a lot about how I don’t really feel like a woman or a girl, and so it’s strange ‘cause I grew up as a girl and I didn’t have a boyhood. I was sort of thinking about that and how different I might be if I’ve had some sort of boyhood or I’ve had some different things happen to me in my life.The Japanese House told BBC’s Radio 1
Indexical reminder of a morning well spent
I love a song with a long title. Especially on a record that members of The 1975 worked on so closely. The car sound at the start is cool. Really what stands out about this song to me is the instrumental work. It’s less electronic than most of her discography. The strings and guitar before the pickup are gorgeous and summery in the same way Sunshine Baby is. I also adore the fragmented approach to lyrical storytelling here. It reminds me of why I love Phoebe Bridgers‘ lyrics. Ethel Cain would do a brilliant cover of this. I also adore her tactical use of auto-tuning to create such a lovely, dreamy energy.
In lockdown, my then girlfriend and I were reading outside and having a really lovely morning. We were eating croissants or jam on toast and I accidentally got something on one of her books—a little fingerprint of jam or something. I was like, ‘I’m so sorry.’ She said, ‘It’s OK, it’s an indexical reminder of a morning well spent.’ She just made that up! And I wrote it down immediately. The song is about giving into love and solitude and repetitive life. It’s a little map of things that were going on over the period of lockdown.via Apple Music
I'll twist my head around
I'll turn myself around
Talk to a friend I found
She throws me 'round and 'round and 'round
Somebody said, "She's right around the corner"
I think you're getting warmer
Just take another step towards her
I didn’t listen to this album in order to be transparent. I started with this song, and I’m glad I did. It’s another really uncharacteristically upbeat song. The sounds in the production are so fun, the flow of the lyrics are addictive. It’s all round, just cool.
I had a much slower version of this originally. George and I were both pretty depressed at this point and I think we sped it up just to make a dance tune to cheer us up. I think we were a bit sick of listening to all these sad songs. George is an amazing sound designer when it comes to writing drum parts and creating rhythms. And I’m good at making basslines. We were collaborating in this new way, and it was really fun to explore that. Later, we ended up adding these Paul Simon-y guitars and making slightly less electronic. I don’t even know what genre this is, but it’s fun to have a sexy song about threesomes.via Apple Music
This might just be the song of the year for me. Every lyric is perfect, the string and synth are perfect. The vocals are breezy and energetic. It’s delightfully nostalgic and dreamy, as all great Japanese House songs are. The summery road-trip energy is addictive. Not only did they sample the best 1975 song, Somebody Else, but it also features back up vocals from problematic frontman Matty Healy himself. I’ve loved it since it came out as a single, and thought I might like it less n the broader context of the album, but it’s still my favourite.
I wanna be a part of it, I wanna sing along
The feeling when the windscreen wipers line up with the song
Perform my stupid rituals, everything is cyclical
Hold on to this feeling 'cause you won't feel it for long
You won't feel it for long
Baby Goes Again
This seems like a simple, sweet love song. It is my least favourite song on the album, but it is by no means an unenjoyable song. It’s just fairly stripped back compared to most of the other tracks.
From your house to my house
It takes no time at all
It takes no time at all
I keep circling, can't stop a circle
But I keep coming back around
At least I keep coming back around
This is inspired by Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Honey Hi’ or ‘Tusk’. I think it’s about the feeling like you’re always on the cusp of fixing everything. Then I’d often feel like I’d just go and fuck everything up, or one of us would. Just when you’re starting to feel great again, someone’s done something stupid.via Apple Music
You always get what you want
This is one of my favourites. I’m glad that the production is so clean, because the lyrics are beyond perfect. It’s a perfect second-last track.
And you've left now, but it's better that I know you're gone
And I breathe out, dizzy from the last hour of holding on
And does he do right by you? And does he work so hard?
I know you'll miss me but you'll call mе back
You always get what you want
I wrote this song when I was 17 or 18. It’s the oldest song on the record, and I really liked it. It was about when my girlfriend left me for a boy, and I was bitter. I was just like, you always get everything you want. Now, that person is one of my best friends because we were so young when we were together. But she makes a joke that I’ve cursed her and that, ever since I wrote that, things keep going wrong for her. The original version of the song was so embarrassing, but I really like the bass of it. We did all the production for it in one day.via Apple Music
One for sorrow, two for Joni Jones
The first time I heard this song, I thought I was losing my mind by imagining the voice of Joni Mitchell. After checking the Genius lyrics, I was dead on. The lyrics and vocal delivery intentionally mimic the great Joni Mitchell. I’ve taken this as a personal gift because my love for Ms Mitchell runs deep and knows no bounds. The flute is gorgeous; the lyrics are incredible. I love how clean this record gets toward the ends, because it feels like a circular process of healing and acceptance, taking the cover art into consideration.
This is my favorite song, and I wrote it as a piece ages ago when I was playing the piano and Chloe would record me playing the piano loads with my dog on my lap. We sat on the music for ages then Katie from MUNA came down to the studio and put the rambling lyrics over music in a Joni Mitchell kind of way.
I’m trying to encapsulate that feeling, a sort of ode to that feeling when Emma Thompson stands there and cries when she’s holding the CD in Love Actually. The lyrics are about the confirmation that my relationship was dead, and it’s the only song I’ve ever cried during the vocal take which has never happened before.Via THE LINE of BEST FIT
Sometimеs I think without you life would lose its bones
Really day to day I'd still just being walking in the park with my little Joni Jones
Trailing off on a call
Hurting you just happens, it's never my intention at all
- Sunshine Baby
- Touching Yourself
- One for sorrow, two for Joni Jones
- You always get what you want
- Over There
- Morning Pages
- Sad to Breathe
- Spot Dog
- Indexical reminder of a morning well spent
- Baby Goes Again
Series Index: Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Drinking with My Smoking Friends by Allday
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – Intro
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – Manic by Halsey
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – Self Titled Ball Park Music
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – Sunlight by Spacey Jane
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – Folklore by Taylor Swift
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – NECTAR by Joji
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Fix Yourself, Not The World by The Wombats
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Self Titled Wet Leg
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Butterfly Blue by Mallrat
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: angel in realtime. by Gang of Youths
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Weirder & Weirder by Ball Park Music
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Hold On Baby by King Princess
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Flood by Stella Donnelly
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: In the End It Always Does by The Japanese House
- Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: Positive Spin by Gretta Ray