The Japanese House: Good At Falling
review by reese gorman
The Japanese House released her debut LP “Good at Falling” Friday, March 1. This album is a self-reflective assortment of melodic verses that lyrically depicts Amber Bain’s past relationships and experiences with women.
In an Instagram post, Bain elaborates on the meaning behind the album title. Describing it as, “a reminder to me that I am good at falling in love and I can survive falling out of it. I’m good at falling.”
Signed to the label Dirty Hit, which is run by The 1975 frontman Matty Healy and manager Jamie Oborne. In an interview with Vulture, Healy describes his first encounter with Bain’s sound, “I was like, 'The fuck is this?!’ It was some weird post-apocalyptic Alison Moyet,” Healy said. “I said, 'How old is she? Is she a girl?' She was 17. She was gay. She had this line: 'I watched him kiss her and it felt so boring.' It wasn't like, 'Ooh quirky gayness,' or a woman 'taking control.' It was new.”
Bain continues that new “quirky gayness” in this LP. With queer pop on the seemingly sudden rise to prominence, Bain couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate time to take us on the emotional rollercoaster of her experiences.
The first song on the album is a chaotic fear-inducing intro, properly setting the mood for the album. “went to meet her (intro)” is a song about Bain’s friend who was “badly attacked” in Ibiza and Bain had to fly out to be with her in the hospital. “I suffer when she suffers/ Her love is like no others” these lyrics depict the true love Bain has for this woman, the strength and emotionality driving this love leads Bain to feel the pain her friend is going through.
“Maybe You’re the Reason” is a song about Bain trying to figure out a purpose to keep on, and life itself. She realizes that the woman she loves is the reason for living. “I thought about my girlfriend at the time, and how maybe loving someone is the reason you live?” Bain said. “It’s the cheesiest chorus ever, but I think it needed it.” In the first verse Bain address her past struggle with an eating disorder, “But instead I keep focusing/ On just how thin I can get” out of the struggles she’s encountering, all she can seem to focus on is making herself thinner. In the music video for her song “Lilo,” she can be seen forcefully throwing up with the camera emphasis on how defined and clearly visible her spine is.
“I think a lot of gay or queer relationships are oversexualized,” Bain said in her editor notes on Apple Music. “People assume that if you're not straight you're having sex all the time, but it's definitely a massive thing—especially in lesbian relationships—to stop having sex after a couple of years.” This quote was relating to her song “We Talk all the Time” which is about the “lack of sex” in a relationship.
“I’m a silver child, the first-class prize/ I know you’re blind, but I’m in disguise” Bain sings in her song “Wild.” She wrote the song when she was seventeen, it was written out of the anger that she used to feel, stating how she used to “get really angry and have tantrums.” The song is about her “feeling detachment from a side of herself that was really destructive.” The façade that teens put on to better represent themselves and to mask certain characteristics for social acceptance, can be mentally scarring and cause serious unrest.
Depression and mental illness are something that is not always noticed externally, very rarely actually is it noticeable when someone is struggling with these demons. “Oh you seemed so happy to everybody you knew/ These things don’t happen to anybody like you” Bain repeats in the chorus of her song “You Seemed so Happy.”
“I felt depressed but presented myself as a very light, happy human,” Bain said. “This song sounds happy and it’s a metaphor for my music, because if I go somewhere in Europe on tour, they don’t understand, they’re not listening to the lyrics, and they think my songs are really happy.”
“Follow my Girl” has the signature Japanese House mirage of a happy upbeat song but the lyrics are anything but. A song about self-defecation and how truly impactful it is on our lives. “I’m self-dividing and I have no limit/ I can’t fix it, it’s not right” Bain sings about her own personal experience with being self-defecating before switching up and making a complete 180 in the following verse, “In the distance, caught the light/ I can fix it, make it bright”
The album contains many bass heavy songs such as “somethingfartoogoodtofeel” and “f a r a w a y” these songs sound different with the latter sounding more upbeat and happier, but the bass presence is very prominent. The lyrics in both of these, has a depressing factor too it, making you want to take a step back and just reflect for a while. “f a r a w a y” has Matty Healy singing in it, “He’s [Matt Healy] singing on ‘f a r a w a y’. He's always one of my favorite people to play songs too because he gets so excited and he'll openly be like, ‘That makes me jealous.’ Bain said.
Marika Hackman is arguably one of the main influencers of this album. Her and Bain had a relationship that ended, and a handful of songs on the album is inspired not only by their breakup but also their past relationship.
Marika was featured in the “Lilo” music video, which depicts the turmoil of their breakup.
Filming this video was painful, easy, real and surreal all at once," Bain said in an interview with FADER. "I asked Marika to be in the video because I couldn’t think who better to be in it than the person the song is about. I’m extremely grateful that she said yes; I’m very lucky that my ex-girlfriend is also my best friend."
Marika also has a song titled after her, “Marika is sleeping” is an emotional ballad written while Bain and Marika were in bed together. “My girlfriend was asleep, she was really ill, and I was napping next to her,” Bain said. “I dreamt this string arrangement, got my laptop and programmed the strings. When I saved it I was like, ‘Oh, what do I call the project?’” Bain said she wanted the ballad to sound like “an old Disney soundtrack.”
Bain struggled with alcoholism early on in her career, “Everybody Hates Me” is ultimately a song about waking up feeling as if you just fucked up your life. The feeling is a prominent one that resides within a lot of people’s minds, personally to Bain this had to do with her alcohol addiction, but the song can relate to anyone with this sense of loneliness. “Up in my head/ I’m the only one around/ ‘Cause somehow/ Everybody hates me now” this opening verse sets a precedent for the remainder of the song. Illustrating a feeling of loneliness and disconnection with the world around her, even though it’s obvious it’s all in her head.
“This song is about me being really hung over for two, three years,” Bain said. “Every day waking up with that feeling of ‘everyone hates me, and I’ve ruined my life… Now it’s really sad for me to look back knowing I spent so much time hating myself because I couldn’t stop drinking. I felt alone for that entire period of time.”
Bain describes the pressure from culture to be in a relationship in her song “Worms.” Singing about society pressuring everybody into being in love and how, especially in a new relationship, love is a relatively foreign concept. “There’s so much pressure not to be alone/ Sharing your house, sharing your life” she sings in verse two, opening herself up in this manner and talking about something that is relatively not talked about in our cultural norms. Everybody wants to wear the mask of knowing what love is, but nobody wants to admit to being lost or forced to fall in love. It’s a relatively taboo statement to make, but she doesn’t shy away from addressing it, in the chorus she sings “Only a day old, how could I know what love is?” taking a shot at society for expecting everybody in a relatively new relationship to be in love so quick.
The final song on the album is Bain’s favorite, “I Saw You in a Dream” is an acoustic rendition of her 2017 single “Saw You in a Dream,” about her friend who passed away. Describing the song as “my favorite song I’ve ever written,” while also it being the one she dreads performing the most because it’s a reminder of her friend, she describes playing the song as “therapy but it’s also emotional torture.” It’s a reminiscent piece of a dream about her friend, we get a powerful illustration of their interactions and Bain’s sense of dread when she wakes up.
The art on display on this record is something so unique it can draw no true comparison. Bain has created something we have never seen before, giving us a feeling of emotional turmoil and a look into her life with every song. There isn’t a point in the album where you don’t feel a connection with the song, the creative nous she entails to make the album sound happy, but the lyrics be real and vulnerable is beyond fathomability. The Japanese House is the artistic princess the world needed.