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Photo by: Masahiro Saito

Although I have a weird infatuation with everything that comes out of an analog compressor, I still felt intimidated upon listening to the first track of the latest album by Tokyo trio Walkings. Of course, I had only listened to early songs like “You and I” and “Nivea” that introduced the band’s signature jazzy, blues-infused style, so I may have misunderstood this band all this time. However, what I really want to say is you don’t need to gear up your sound just because lo-fi is “in”. In fact, part of this album does have a much homier vibe which I embrace.

A bit of background on this band: Walkings, formed in 2012, is a three-piece band that consists of Fu Takada (vocal/guitar), Hayato Yoshida (bass) and Takashi Takanashi (drums). They have released two LPs: “Ana” (“hole”) in 2016 and “Tomodachi” (“friend”) this past May. Even before they had released their first full-length album, Walkings had already made it to the “Rookie A Go-Go” stage of Fuji Rock Festival, long seen as an important debut opportunity for young indie bands. In between songwriting, they toured extensively, traveling to the US last year to play SXSW and complete a US tour with Japan Nite, where I saw them live.

See the band play NIVEA at Zenjidai Rock:

On “Tomodachi”, the laid-back sensation starts picking up from the second song “Bicycle” and on “Ima Carpet”, the funky guitar lines provide the satisfying quench of an ice cold orange soda while sitting on a seaside bench under the mild May sun. “You and I” is a quintessential Walkings track written a few years ago that somehow did not feature on the first album. The beginning wind-chime-echo-like sound with a succession of subtle string strokes feels soothing, and the melody mixes blues and chanson, producing a great musical chemistry. In my opinion, the only flaw is with the vocal delivery. Maybe eliminating the awkward stretch would have helped the vocals flow with the instrumental more smoothly.

The next few songs rely more heavily on the fuzzy effects. “A lot of Toiletries” could be great when performed live with the impressive guitar solo at the end of the piece. The interlude “Yoshinnthemyway” is rather playful but the transition to the following melancholic “I Won’t Cry” is slightly jarring. It might have sounded more natural if “Yoshinnthemyway” preceded the hip-hop charged, stylish “One Hundred Million Yen the I Love You” but who knows. Maybe that’s exactly how Walkings want it to be: a sharp contradiction.

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“I’m Ocean” is the kind of ballad that you would hear at a jazz bar when the customers start to leave and call it a night. It’s emotional yet weirdly calming. This song has also been released as a 7-inch single on the same day of the album release. “Saraba Ending” is not bad musically but as the coda of the album it just seems superfluous. It could have concluded at “I’m Ocean”.

Overall, there was quite a lot of genre-hopping on the album. A few failed it. A few made it. While experimenting should always be encouraged in the music scene, a hodgepodge of a little bit of everything may not be the best idea because the bands with distinctive tunes are more likely to be remembered. Again, perhaps I just don’t completely understand the band. Or perhaps they are still at an exploring stage. Either way, it’s a shame that Walkings hasn’t been able to consistently develop the sound that the band is the best at.

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Tracklist:

1 MICRO HOUSE
マイクロハウス
2 JITENSHA
自転車
3 IMA CARPET
居間カーペット
4 You and I
あなたとわたし
5 THE WORLD

6 IPPAI SENMEN GU
いっぱい洗面具
7 YoshiiInTheMyWay
よしいんざまいうぇい
8 I WON’T CRY

9 ICHIZEROZEROOKU YEN The I LOVE YOU
100億円のI LOVE YOU
10 I’M OCEAN

11 SARABA ENDING
さらばエンディング

Photo source is band Instagram if not specified separately.


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