On this split album get to know one band who sounds like an old friend and another who sounds like a new mystery.
What really matters is what you like, not what you are like.
This quote from High Fidelity had a big impact on me as a late teen and through my early twenties. Unfortunately the lesson of that film, that its protagonist was a complete ass with impeccable taste, was lost on me at the time. After all, at the time I thought my taste was impeccable. And to this day, I still think it is, even if I recognize it is not for everyone.
It took some hard years of bumping up against people with brilliant taste who were brilliantly thick or blindingly arrogant to see the error in my thinking. That and meeting plenty of wonderful people who think Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is superior to Girls Can Tell, that Santana peaked with “Smooth,” and that the Chainsmokers are preferable to silence.
So, it’s been well established in my life that what you like doesn’t make you a good person. But what about what you make?
Years of interviewing musicians has left me with a similar impression: quality of art has little to do with quality of person. I’ve walked out of interviews hoping a singer’s mic would electrocute him only to be completely bowled over by his set. All I could think was,”I may not like you, but I sure do like your music.”
All this is a prelude to this Brilliant at Breakfast x The Natsuyasumi Band split from our friends at Gerpfast Kolektif. In the Brilliant at Breakfast half, there is a certain something, a bubbliness, a verve, a sense of fun that makes me feel like I’m already best friends with the band. That is to say, as communicated via waves of sound, I just wouldn’t believe it if the band was comprised of horrible, awful people.
The origin of this overwhelming friendliness is hard to pin down to a single origin. Naturally, a lot of it stems from the inherent sweetness of the vocals, but the bouncy indie pop of the rest of the band pays its due. This is most striking in the upbeat heartbreak of “Nobody Ever Died of a Broken Heart (But I Don’t Want to Be the First)”. Really, the title of the song provides an indication of how much you’re going to like the band. If you think that is a cute song title, you’re going to love them. If you don’t, you probably have some Chainsmokers to get back too.
Maybe it’s because Brilliant at Breakfast is approachable. The band isn’t highly technical, nor do the songs twist and turn. They don’t use much distortion and their keyboards are always tuned to some variant on “toy piano.” The singer doesn’t assault you with a big voice overflowing with emotion. No, she sounds like a friend sharing her thoughts.
What it really comes down to is that Brilliant at Breakfast just exude charm. Not the heaviness of being spellbinding, but charming. This is light, breezy, fun rock music, but still full of real emotions.
By contrast, The Natsuyasumi Band are far more cryptic. That’s not a dig. The greatest of all time (David Bowie) was nothing if not cryptic. I don’t feel like his music showed me the real David Bowie. I’m not sure if there was a really real David Bowie.
Like the master, The Natsuyasumi Band doesn’t stick to a recognizable style on their four tracks unless “idiosyncratic” is a new genre. The first song, “Beautiful Dreamer” is a soft lullaby punctuated by striking electronics. The feeling is like the moment in a boring lecture where you get so drowsy that your dreams start to fill your mind as your lids fall and your head bobs. Likewise, the song sounds like the edges of a nightmare bleeding in as parents sing their child to sleep.
The next two tracks bump up the rhythm and the weirdness. I hesitate to call this music dance-y as I can only imagine how fast a DJ who played these songs at a dance club would get fired. But, adding a steel pan to the mix, there is a certain bounce that will at least have you bobbing your heard.
The last song, being the sharpest left turn of all, is an almost conventional, lovely indie pop number. Now, the band describes themselves as “summer pop” and that song, “Majic Journey” almost lives up to that genre tag. The rest though, I’m struggling to think of who would call the first three songs on their set “summer music”. Maybe those who work the haunted house in a traveling summer-time carnival?
Now, I’ll be totally honest, I don’t know anyone who works in the haunted house at a traveling summer-time carnival. Nor do I even know anyone who works at a traveling carnival of any season. Unfortunately. But wouldn’t you like music that sounds like it was made for that kind of person? Despite what I said in the introduction, I’d have to say I’m willing to be friends anyone else who would like The Natuyasumi Band, even if I have no idea about the people who made it.