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Asobi Seksu - Citrus

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Artist: Asobi Seksu

Album: Citrus

Label: Friendly Fire

Review date: Jun. 18, 2006

It seems like an odd combination – the haze of late-’80s shoegaze with the frolicsome female vocals of, say, Puffy Ami Yumi. But Asobi Seksu makes it work for the most part on their second full-length, Citrus. Attention naturally centers on the band's singer, Yuki, whose sugary voice careens and soars over dense arrangements. She switches easily from English to Japanese over the course of these 11 songs, though you would have to check the lyric sheet to figure out the words in either case.

That shiver of foreignness adds interest to what is essentially a frothy pop sound, as does the occasionally mesmerizing distortion. The similarities with My Bloody Valentine are striking – opener "Everything Is On" has the circling lightness of "No More Haze," while Asobi Seksu's "Pink Cloud Tracing Paper" borrows heavily from "Loomer." Yet while Kevin Shields built clouds of melancholy from pedal-altered sounds, Asobi Seksu's songs are euphoric, like mist laced with sunshine.

The best songs come toward the middle, in a hallucinatory run from "New Years" through the long, feedback of "Red Sea." Here the band balances its pop and experimental sides carefully, slipping memorable melodies into blankets of fuzzy drone. "Thursday" is particularly good, with Yuki's vocals floating weightlessly over a blurry wash of eighth-notes and drums. In its tunefulness, its buoyancy, its dreamy hooks, the cut slips into Slowdive territory.

After "Red Sea," though, the band seems to let its pop side dominate, sounding less like MBV or Lush or Slowdive and more like the Cranberries ("Goodbye") and even Bananarama ("Nefi + Girly"). "Exotic Animal Paradise" is as insipid and banal as a pop ballad can get for its first half, and the storm of feedback over the final two minutes isn’t quite enough to save it.

By Jennifer Kelly

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