my letter – 僕のミュージックマシーン

Put my letter in your garden and you’ll discover a grower.

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Artist: my letter
Album:  僕のミュージックマシーン
Website: https://myletterkyoto.tumblr.com/

Sometimes a band brings up the time machine test.

Rock and roll began its infamous reign over pop music in the 1950s. At the time it was viewed as deviant music played by deviants for deviants. Only at that time, deviancy was largely defined as being a teenager. It was a contradictory time, at least in America where rock and roll was born. Despite being degenerate music, record labels and tv stations had no reservations about cashing in on it.

It is hard to imagine an analogue to modern times. If 50s audiences considered rock and roll extreme, what would they think of tech death, grindcore, black metal? Musically, that is as harsh as it gets. Those early rock and roll cuts were mostly just easy on the ears chord progressions and a bizarrely fetishistic emphasis on the word ‘rock’. Now, it’s hard to imagine anything so easy to swallow was edgy.
So, the time machine test, what would a 1950s audience think of a band like my letter?  There’s nothing overtly rebellious in my letter’s attitude. They seem like nice, polite indie kids with a knack for writing pocket-sized anthems. That is to say, what would that audience think of these nice kids playing music that is far more worrisome, wild, and sophisticated than anything the early rockers did?

The point is that once upon a time rock music was considered deviant because of its novelty, not anything inherent in the music. However, since that time, rock music has been addicted to novelty. In 2017, novelty isn’t considered deviant at all. To the contrary,  a lack of novelty is a mortal sin. But what is novelty? Phrased negatively, it is an obsession with newness regardless of quality. Phrased positively, some bands take brave risks to broaden the musical horizons of everyone. Those on the frontiers today offer a preview of what will be mainstream in a few years.

So then, is there space on your shelf for a band that ‘merely’ writes great songs? As purveyors of all thing quality, the answer should be affirmative, at least as it concerns my letter

So what does my letter sound like? They operate in the sphere of indie rock that doesn’t feel exclusive to any of the last three decades. But that doesn’t quite cover it. Their sound embraces a contradiction between high energy and restraint. The band lays out their sonic world in the first song, “ニュータウン・パラダイス”: twin guitar leads, energetic drumming, prominent bass, keyboards, restrained boy-girl vocals. That’s what my letter have on offer. They don’t deviate from that world, but they don’t need to because they fully inhabit it. By keeping within given bounds they manage to sound big within their intentionally limited world.

Even in limitation, my letter do find a good deal of latitude within their sound. The nimble arpeggios over a half time beat of “僕のミュージックマシーン” call to mind the mathier end of second wave emo. Of course, my letter keep it gentle, they are not a band for vocal theatrics. Still, they deliver a pensive, restrained epic that speaks to the emotion of drifting from youth to adult.

Later on, the band is unexpectedly thrilling when they get their dander up on “なにかしたい”. The band employ their ample gifts of restraint causing the track to imperceptibly work itself into a frenzy. What starts as a pleasant ride through the country sneakily becomes a roller coaster.

Even with some variation, the downside of a limited sonic world, of course, is the all-these-songs-sound-the-same syndrome. That may cause the less faithful to give up on the album prematurely. Rest assured, that given the right love and care, these songs will wander their way into your ear and heart. This is subtle stuff with solid songs. Give my letter some time and you’ll discover a grower.

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