Entertainment

Album Review: The Japanese House – Chewing Cotton Wool

Rhianna Greensmith

As the first release since their critically acclaimed debut album Good at Falling, The Japanese House (project of solo artist Amber Bain) wows again.

Where Good at Falling was her self-labelled break-up album, this EP masquerades as a stunning portrait of ‘coming out of a relationship and entering into a new phase’.

Significant to the creative process, the EP’s artwork is multi-faceted. A self-portrait of Amber with her arm resting across her bare chest is brandished across the cover.

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* EDIT – they took down the original, outrageously explicit Image down, so here’s a censored version. Straight line face to all of that. :/* Excited to finally release Dionne ft Justin Vernon and Sharing Beds, the remaining songs on the Chewing Cotton Wool EP. These songs for me punctuate the stages of coming out of a relationship and entering into a new phase. The artwork for this EP is a self portrait I took a few weeks ago. I hate getting my photo taken for a number of reasons, one of them being that I’ve always been self conscious about my appearance/body. So I found it interesting that when I was the photographer, I almost immediately wanted to take my clothes off and it felt very natural to do so. This image I found particularly interesting as it made me think about my own gender, which falls probably towards the middle of the spectrum… somewhere.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  This led me to think about  how queer bodies are interpreted / censored. I wondered how ‘masculine’ a body has to appear in order for a nipple to be allowed to be shown. How you feel or identify is not taken into account if your body is read as female. But most of all – regardless of my🍒 nip 🍒 – I liked this image and how comfortable I felt  within myself when taking it. 💡💡💡💡💡

A post shared by The Japanese House (@thejapanesehouse) on

On her socials, Bain reflects upon how ‘natural’ it felt to take her clothes off when it was only herself behind the camera when, ordinarily, she feels conscious about her appearance and body. Her reflection that this is very telling of bodily censorship, particularly of queer bodies, was supported when Instagram took down the post of her cover for ‘suspected nudity’.

She ‘wonders how ‘masculine’ a body has to appear in order for a nipple to be allowed to be shown’. This discussion can only add to the substance of the EP’s rich dialogue. 

Lasting for only one minute and fifty seconds, we are left craving more of their dream-pop sound

Opening with the mystic electronic-sounding number ‘Sharing Beds’, Amber sings of ‘know[ing]’ that a partner is sleeping with other people, leaving her head in a ‘f***in’ mess’. Lasting for only one minute and fifty seconds, we are left craving more of their dream-pop sound as the album fades into familiar single ‘Something Has to Change’.

Here Bain’s repetitive lyricism depicts a vicious cycle in which ‘the same girl [is] giving [her] hell’; the re-visitation of her heartbreak lyrically mirroring the jarring experience Amber describes. It’s a you-know-they-are-bad-for-you-but-you-cannot-stop-yourself-from-going-back type of situation.

The most anticipated of collaborations comes next as Justin Vernon (of indie-folk group Bon Iver) sings with Bain on perfectly-produced track ‘Dionne’.

Lyrically, the song parades as an ode to post-breakup embarrassment, the thought that ‘watching back’ her lingering affection for her ex would bring so much self-disgust that she’d want to ‘kill herself’ afterwards.

Yet we are shown that, even with time, memories of past lovers are still often brought to light

Justin echoes back words of comfort in caring discourse, advising Amber to ‘pay them no mind’, whilst the overthinkers amongst us could all learn something from the reminder that ‘your past becomes your present if it’s always on your mind’.

Yet we are shown that, even with time, memories of past lovers are still often brought to light. Title track ‘Chewing Cotton Wool’ sees Amber declaring that although her ex-girlfriend is a memory to be ‘recalled’, she is still ‘everywhere’ metaphorically.

Rhianna Greensmith

Featured image courtesy of The Japanese House via Facebook. No changes made to this image.

In-article images and videos courtesy of @thejapanesehouse via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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