Review: NOKIES! 7 Songs EP

If NOKIES! can learn only one lesson from their debut release, I really hope that it’s they are a group that should release solely EPs. The type of energetic, soft-to-loud rock the Osaka group favors works well in the relatively short confines of an extended play, but could easily turn to exhausting fake enthusiasm if extended by even just ten minutes. Think of it like this – everyone likes little kids because they have this innocence and excitement that eventually gets sapped out of everyone. But sometimes toddlers can be too god damn full of life, driving otherwise rational older folks to insanity. NOKIES! kinda work in a similar way.

Along with Sorrys! and Your Gold, My Pink, NOKIES! are another high-fructose syrup-ized Japanese indie-pop band seemingly drawing inspiration from England’s Los Campesinos! What that specifically entails should be obvious to anyone whose even grazed past a Campesinos’ track, but for the rest it mostly means a lot of energetic guitar strumming, a lot of sudden twists and yelping. It’s an exciting sound – not like an exciting development in music, but a legitimate thrill – when done right, but when done wrong (or for too long) quickly turns grating.

This leads to both one of the reasons some Japanese takes on this style of guitar-pop go wrong – along with all the stuff above, Los Campesinos! can count clever lyrics amongst their strong points. Even when the band turned bleak on Romance Is Boring they could still sneak in some clever lines. Even if the actual sounds the band conjured up started to annoy, they often could salvage the sugar-addled mess with a good line or two. Yet groups like NOKIES! don’t benefit from that since, though they sing in English, they aren’t pulling out witty stuff as much as the sort of stuff you’d slap across a flyer for a nightclub. Look, I don’t want to diminish their English skills…they sound fine!…but they also aren’t busting out any really deep observations or funny moments. NOKIES! gotta rely solely on their sound which…brings us back to this, the 7 Songs EP, about as perfect a format as the band will probably get. Considering they mostly have one gear (“WOOOOO”), this stuff could get lame fast, but on an EP? Just the right amount of time to show off how they are one of the better bands doing this stuff today.

Towering above everything else on 7 Songs is the joyous rush of “We Are News In The Dance Floor,” one of the finest examples of this sort of shouty indie-pop in Japan today. Despite being the NOKIES’! most obvious swiping of Los Campesinos! – this one owes “You! Me! Dancing!” a huge drink – “We Are News” stands as the band’s most energetic moment, a collection of jittery guitars and vocals all peaking at the group-hollered chorus. If “You! Me! Dancing!” served as a snapshot of a nervous youth’s night out turned triumph, “We Are News” plays like a Sportscenter “Best Of Triumph” countdown. It’s young joy boiled down to its giddiest stuff, NOKIES! obvious hit in the waiting if anyone would give them a glance.

The rest of the EP never approaches the dizzying Red-Bull-Vodka whirlwind of “We Are News” but features plenty of similar of pop rushes that are plenty enjoyable. “Take My Hand” teases with get-down funk, but propels away from that idea come the shouty chorus. “Who Cares” drapes some Magnetic Fields-worthy strings over everything, while the piano-driven finale “Our Way Home” closes 7 Songs on an especially high note. The only really misstep here ends up being the plodding “Andy,” which doesn’t actually fail because NOKIES! slow down a bit. They actually pull off sappier fare with the slumping “You Show Me The Way,” which overcomes a subdued pace by sounding genuinely downtrodden. “Andy” just sorta lacks anything of interest.

As this style of whoop-heavy indie-rock continues to grow in popularity in Japan, 7 Songs stands as one of the better releases in this micro-genre, alongside the last Your Gold, My Pink mini-album as well done takes on the style. NOKIES! debut EP also clocks in about perfectly – enough to love, not too long that you want to abandon it by a highway rest station.

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