On Sale of Broken Dreams, Homecomings master the art of turning sparks into bonfires. Curl up next to this album.
Album: Sale of Broken Dreams
Label: Felicity/Second Royal Records
Which musician is the more virtuosic, the one who can play the absolute most notes, or the one who plays the absolute best notes?
In some ways, the debate is like that between a minimal aesthetic and a maximalist aesthetic. Just in the last year we had one highly acclaimed album that tried to strip as much as possible save for its creator’s voice, Frank Ocean’s Blond(e), and another that was overly proud that it included about 3,264 saxophones in a single track, Bon Iver’s 22, a Million. Both didn’t work for me because both albums felt like they prized an aesthetic concept over aesthetic quality. The same can be said for albums that highlight the virtuosity of the players.Virtuosity impresses. Virtuosity wows. You want to take virtuosos out with you, but virtuosos need to show off to be of any use. This approach spurs admiration rather than connection.
Music stripped down doesn’t necessarily fare better. Limited sonic palettes can do something very profound: allow small changes to create tectonic shifts in the sound, the feel, the emotion of a song. And that’s why Blond(e) didn’t work for me, no big moments- instead it was all foreplay, and then some more foreplay, and then time for sleep
So then, lots of notes, very few notes, it means nothing if they’re not the right notes.Which is where we get to Homecomings, a band that shows a rare kind of skill: virtuosity in interplay. Homecomings know the art of little things that make a huge difference. Like most skilled songwriters, their verses lifts you six inches off the ground, then their choruses set you soaring. But they’ve always got one last trick so that you hit escape velocity. The double chorus in “Alphabet Floating in Bed.” The appearance of double time hi-hats. An ascending octave guitar riff. That beautiful shift on the last phrase of the chorus in “Perfect Sounds Forever.”
It’s fitting that they know how to do this, after all, they’ve played together for three albums. Not that most bands get so in sync after three albums. The group has been together since 2012, having formed at University in Kyoto. Coming from the city most associated with the superlative grandeur, pomp, and elegance that Japanese culture has to display, the cover of Sale of Broken Dreams never fails to amuse. As you can see above we have a very American suburban street rendered in a childlike color palette with a station wagon front and center.
Perhaps it is the centrality of that suburban image that causes Homecomings to remind me of Arcade Fire. Both sound like a lot of indie rock bands before them without recalling any specific band (except, of course, when Homecomings is intentionally calling one out, the Cure-homage intro to “Blindfold Ride,” the nod to Pavement in the title “Perfect Sounds Forever.”) Whereas Arcade Fire deals with the catharsis of a presumably traumatic youth, Homecomings hit you with the sledgehammer of a gentle summer breeze wafting in from your youth.These songs climb inside the skin of my 17 year old self, playing not the rubbish I was actually listening to, but what should have been soundtracking those moments of excruciating intensity, that missed kiss, that lonely drive home, that unsaid sentence that causes paths to diverge eternally.
Homecomings conjure up a nostalgic feeling, but Homecomings do not play nostalgic music. No one is going to accuse the band of show-off instrumentation. The band is entirely innocent of pushing the envelope sonically. But their interaction, their crafting of big moments lead to an album that packs an emotional punch.