Tag Archives: the brixton academy

Nile Long (Former The Brixton Academy) Debuts New Single “See Your Eyes”

Nile Long, the new project featuring members of The Brixton Academy, now has a video for their first single “See Your Eyes,” which you can watch above. The track manages to both be very Brixton-Academy like – generally dancey, full of synths, singing that sound like Kermit The Frog wanted to start a new-wave band – but also be very very different than The Brixton Academy. The vocals on “See Your Eyes” are more structured, more locked in than what The Brixton Academy used to do, Nile Long trying to be a more pop-accessible version of, like, a DFA band. It’s overall good…the moments where all the voices go “oh oh ohoh” especially, and the late-song breakdown…but “See Your Eyes” does a good job reminding of what made The Brixton Academy so good, and that was the emotional looseness. In that band, the lyrics were painfully earnest and often awkward, practically stumbling over themselves trying to properly express their often lonely emotions. Nile Long sounds snapped in, the rough edges removed and turned into something bright but without the oooomph aimed at the listener’s heart. Holding Nile Long to standards brought about by The Brixton Academy is unfair…they are a new project…but both sound similar enough where I’m at least thinking about it. It is the sort of stuff that’s probably bound to do well sales wise – note the tags on the above video to get a sense of what Nile Long wants to be – but, at least here, seems to have lost something special.

Live Review: The Brixton Academy, Canopies And Drapes, The Telephones, Orland And Hotel Mexico At Shibuya Womb January 28 2012

Booze has always been prevalent when I’ve seen The Brixton Academy live, the band popping open bottles of Champagne to share with the crowd or downing shots post-set. Yet their January 28 show at Shibuya’s Womb – which, for the uninformed, is the place those deaf kids make out in the film Babel – was soaked in more alcohol than usual. Seeing every member of the group pop open a bottle of bubbly, corks comically smacking into Womb’s extravagant disco ball, or the band’s guitarist drunkenly spank away at his bongos seemed appropriate given that this was the final stop on their Bright As Diamonds tour, one last gig in front of a hometown crowd.

Yet this sea of liquor flowed because this turned out to be the final Brixton Academy show featuring the band’s current incarnation – the group announced midway through that this show would be there last, to a girl-heavy wave of shock. Although a three-person version of the group will play a show in March, post that the members will remain in music, but in what form they don’t know. With this news, though, a typically drunk Saturday show turned into one last hurrah for one of the best live groups in Japan today.

This impromptu finale boasted a pretty great undercard, too. Kyoto chillwavers Hotel Mexico opened everything up with a whirling set that came with an appropriate light show. Live…and blessed by Womb’s tip-top sound system…the group sounds bigger live, a song like “Dear Les Friends” even stronger than in recorded form. Nagoya’s Orland followed, a mess of 80’s synths tripping over one another to create deliberately nostalgic dance music (the fact half of the original Tron played out behind them drove the point home – we are Orland, and we love the 80s). The group is fine, but sharing a bill with similar-sounding Brixton Academy exposes their biggest weakness – whereas Brixton place earnest words over their New Wave hodgepodge and come off as almost embarrassingly sincere, Orland just sound like the music you sometimes hear in a Tim And Eric sketch.

The Telephones, out of place on this bill both in terms of sound and popularity, gesticulated all over the stage next, an endless barrage of aggressive rock guitar, shouting and posing. The group is undeniably energetic, as evidenced by the sort of crowd I would have loved to be in the middle of when I was 19. Yet, as a cynical 20-something, I heard a group with buckets of energy and like three song blueprints done over and over again. Canopies And Drapes came next, joined by several members of The Brixton Academy. When I saw her in Nagoya in November, her set surprised me because she (and Brixton) were able to turn three-fourths of her dreamy music into something funky. That Nagoya show was great – her set at Womb, not quite as memorable. Opening with her two weakest live numbers (the shoegazey “Stars In Bloom” and “Live In The Snow Globe,” the one instance where injecting funk into a song detracts from it, as “Snow Globe” is a lyrical wonder), things got better with the jaunty “Perfect Step,” and she has a great set closer with “Sleeping Under The Bed” which, moment of honesty, I have yet to get sick of.

Yet this Saturday night belonged to The Brixton Academy. At this point, I’ve seen them three times in the past three months, and their show barely changes each time – they open with the bongo-assisted “Neons Bright” from last year’s Bright As Diamonds before diving into the best cuts from that LP and their debut Vivid, with the long-burning “Nightclub” popping up near the end of the set. Yet despite knowing what to expect, Brixton Academy’s skill and energy turns what should have been choreography by now into a still-captivating show. “In My Arms” remains delirious, ”Youth” still demands fists pumped into the sky and “So Shy” remains a slice of triumphant sadness.

This wasn’t just another (great) Brixton Academy show, though, but a surprise finale. Once the sounds of shock faded, the remaining songs seemed more urgent, imbued with something special that words can’t really capture (uhhhh you had to be there?). They dusted off older songs I hadn’t heard at the previous two shows – they broke out songs I’ve never heard period – and gave the crowd what they wanted. Corks flew, an encore happened and then they left the stage for the last time.

So what’s The Brixton Academy’s legacy? Two albums ranging from “pretty good” to “great,” an EP and some singles, not to mention an incredible live show. Vivid, their debut, stands with any 80s-aping album of the last half of the decade, while we named “So Shy” the best song of 2010 and stick by it fully. They did pretty decently for a band their size in Japan, but The Brixton Academy always struck me as a group that could have gotten a lot of looks from the West too, given the 80’s sound and earnestness. Yet they never really did, unfortunately, but leave behind a great collection of music and, for me personally, great memories of wildin’ out at a tiny Nagoya club. They deserved those drink for sure Saturday night.

Hey, someone uploaded a video of the band playing “So Shy” at this even!

Make Believe Melodies’ Top 50 Japanese Songs Of 2011: 20-11

20. The Brixton Academy “Two Shadows United”

The Brixton Academy have always played the role of overly earnest nightclub crawlers, guys who love evenings out on the town but also aren’t good at bottling up all those icky emotions, prone to letting them shoot out like just-uncorked champagne. Whereas Kido Yoji distracts from his ennui with super-groovable music, TBA’s brand of New Wave gets painted over in raw feelings, the member’s earnestness just as vital as their keyboards. But on “Two Shadows United” something strange happens – TBA turn sexy. This scented-candle burner sees the group bypass the club-friendly 80’s dance they’ve built their reputation on in favor of a simple beat, sparse bass and wispy synths that sounds like a bedroom jam. And I’m not talking sloppy 4 A.M. post-dubstep night hooking up resulting in awkward breakfasts – this is romantic, passionate, vulnerable fucking, the sort of thing RedTube has eradicated to a generation of horny teenagers. But man does love-fueled thrusting sound alive on “Two Shadows United,” complete with sexy title! As this is The Brixton Academy, sadness still hangs in the air – as indicated by the fragile synths ushering us into the song, TBA are focusing on a memory, “I miss you” being the line that punctuates it. But that just makes “Two Shadows” even hotter – that moment of physical Eros-approved love isn’t coming back, but what a memory.

LISTEN TO A SAMPLE HERE

19. NOKIES! “We Are News In The Dance Floor”

Upstart NOKIES! closed out 2011 by releasing two ho-hum ballads that seemed more at attracting vanilla major label ears, a forced maturity of the worst kind. Strange to think back in January and February when these kids burst onto the Kansai scene behind Pixie-Stick-powered indie pop that was unrepentantly youthful, taking the most spastic bits of Los Campesinos! while surveying a very crowded Japanese field (Sorrys! and The Chef Cooks Me) and deciding “let’s just do everything better than those guys!” “We Are News In The Dance Floor” is their defining moment, a head down, full-speed-ahead fireball that is so excited it even forgets proper grammar. NOKIES! set out to make their own “You! Me! Dancing!” and nailed all the elements that make that song a young-forever classic. “News” just exudes energy, brimming with the power of a case of Red Bull compared to a lot of the other artists in Japan adding cutesy howls to their songs. Even if NOKIES! do choose to embrace boring old middle-aged music, we will always have this song to turn to as a fountain of youth.

18. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu “Pon Pon Pon”

A discussion between me (ME) and the song “Pon Pon Pon” (PPP)

ME: OK Pon, why in the world should I include you in a top songs list?

PPP: PON PON PON DASHITE

ME: Sure, but what about the fact that you sound like at least two older Perfume songs? And not just the vague idea of Perfume, like “Polyrhythm” and “Dream Fighter.” Yasutaka Nakata getting lazy, yo.

PPP: PON PON WAY WAY WAY

ME: OK OK….how about the troubling aspect of the lady who sings you? She’s a walking Harajuku mannequin who seems to just be adding “pop star” to her personal brand.

PPP: WAY WAY PON WAY WAY WAY WAY

ME: Gah, uhhhhhh, how about that eyesore of a video clip? That was designed to get lazy “whoa look how CRAZY Japan is” clicks and turn you into a viral star. Plus it’s so goofy – floating bones? Candy tanks? Fart colors?

PPP: EVERYDAYYYY PONNNNNNN

ME: Uhm, uhhhhh errrrrrrr

PPP: PON PON WAY WAY WAY! points at iTunes “most played” page, a specific song catching ME’s attention. ME blushes, throws his hands up as if to say “you win!” and turns to the audience.

ME: Look, I spent all year trying to find ways to be annoyed by “Pon Pon Pon” but here in December, I have to admit few songs have gotten as many replays as this one. For every reason you or I could think of to hate this, though, sits a single, giant counterpoint in the form of that chorus which is just perfect for what it is, wisely extended and frequent. I honestly don’t know how a living, breathing human who just isn’t a total dick about everything can’t get at least a little joy out of that chorus, which sounds like Skittles taste. So you win “Pon Pon Pon.” And you god damn deserve it.

17. Cloudy Busey “Broken By Inertia”

Osaka projects Ice Cream Shout and Cloudy Busey – the latter serving as the solo moniker of Bob Willey, who also mans the former – are blog-hyped groups not behaving like blog-hyped groups normally do. In today’s online music media world, everything dictated by speed, the breakthrough artist of last week an ancient relic by the next. Thus groups hoping to attract an online presence have to be always releasing something, whether it be new music or a remix of some other buzzed-’bout artist’s also fresh song or a cover or like a goofy iPhone app. Ice Cream Shout and Cloudy Busey don’t play by those rules – unless you caught them live (pro-tip, you should), Ice Cream Shout hasn’t released anything since last year’s gorgeous “Tattooed Tears” while Cloudy Busey’s last song was our number 17 song of the year “Broken By Inertia.” By now, Willey should be recording a goofy John Denver jam or remixing ASAP Rocky.

Yet Willey seems like the type to value craft over rush jobs, having one great song over a bunch of flimsy tunes like Cults (whooops!). “Broken By Inertia” wasn’t even technically new in 2011, as he had been working on this for upwards of three years before finally hammering it down in July. It shows – from the spaced-out (think Milky Way not Algebra class) synths blasting off all over the song to the propulsive beat to the vocals which flow just right and feature nuggets like “I don’t care if everything is stolen/just make sure it’s used,” the sort of line that could be loaded with meaning or not at all but doesn’t matter because it still grabs you. “Inertia” ends up being one of the moodiest pieces Willey has put together in awhile, but one still with eyes set on the sky rather than the pavement. Waiting pays off gang, even if you miss out on an extra Stereogum update.

16. Pop-Office “A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness”

Being earnest is one thing, but sharing a personal diary with an entire live house takes guts. Nagoya’s Pop-Office ignores any self-conscious hurdles and just snap on “A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness,” feelings left out in the open like jeans on a wash line. At one point the line “I want you to eat my soul/I want you to forget my name” comes out and it feels sincere, even aching. The backing sounds help a lot, New-Wave synths trying to shine over pummeling guitar work, but here Pop-Office’s vocals steal the show by practically puking out every dark emotion brewing inside of them. Incredible stuff, first major label to sign them gets super cool points.

15. Cherryboy Function “Pulse Of Change”

Moment of honesty – I initially forgot this song existed when compiling this little list. Cherryboy Function’s Suggested Function #2 EP came out all the way back in January/February, a slot often doomed to suffer a few drops in list rankings thanks to how the human brain works. So “Pulse Of Change” missed out on the first cut of this list. Until one night when I decided to review all of 2011 the only way I know how – by revisiting every single post I had written that calendar year. And right near the start of my digital voyage, “Pulse Of Change.” “Oh hey, yeah that song, better give it another spin!”

And boy did my face red, because this whirling dance number is so well structured and such a blast to be spun around by that this spot on the list seems like a birthright for “Pulse Of Change” – not a showstopper, but rather carefully constructed cartoon craziness loaded up with bright twinkles and feet-shuffling touches. There are at least three keyboard lines on this thing I want to point to and be like, “that’s the one, the best one!” but couldn’t bring myself to choose just one dose of technicolor fun. Cherryboy lets “Pulse Of Change” run for more than seven minutes but never does it feel like a trudge, his shifts thought out well enough that “Change” never lags. As if turned into a joke about my dumbness by the gods, I heard “Pulse” playing at an indie-club event recently and saw just how fun it can sound surrounded by other people. This thing isn’t leaving my iPod anytime soon.

14. Heavenstamp “Morning Glow”

My day job forces me to wake up way earlier than I am used to, an iPhone alarm setting I’m sure a lot of people would kill for but one that still finds a way to catch me off guard even four months in. Though I routinely let the “Snooze” button win out – sometimes resulting in the panicked moment of “ohhhhhh I have five minutes to get out the door” – I almost always lock up my apartment at 6:50 and zombie shuffle my way to the train station. That time of day isn’t early enough to see empty streets but still dimly lit enough where it feels like I’m living in my own Synecdoche, New York. I even see the same characters now, smell the same smells and hear the same noises. It isn’t what I want necessarily, but it’s what I have and thank you for that.

“Morning Glow” came out well before my new daily routine, back when 7:30 still seemed like a safe bet. Then, the song sounded like A-work J-Rock, Heavenstamp crafting this catchy, dancey and sorta downtrodden pop number that just felt more alive and warm than a lot of the mainstream rock cluttering up the Japanese airwaves today. In that context, I still loved “Morning Glow” in ways I sometimes couldn’t explain, the whole track just doing everything good music should, being nice to listen to and bound for frequent replays while also concealing some feeling.

Now, though, I’ve got why I dig “Morning Glow.” As hinted at by the title and the accompanying video, this song deals with the early-morning hours, Heavenstamp creating a song that sounds like a J-Rock single drinking decaf to ease into the day. The guitars and drums give the song the titular “glow,” a faint one that won’t make you strain your eyes but a beautiful one nonetheless. It’s the singing by Sally#Cinnamon (seriously), though, that makes this special. She goes from eyes-cast-down longing…for what, who cares…to being upbeat to practically shouting come the chorus, her voice always warbling slightly. This sounds like that groggy walk to the station, barely awake but surprised by the nice touch of the elements brushing against exposed skin. All those old faces seem like friends, reminding you it isn’t all a dream. Suddenly everything looks a bit brighter – yeah, waking up at this hour sucked, but that’s our life. And isn’t that fucking miraculous to say?

13. Michiyo Honda “Game Boyz (Don’t You Want A Real Girlfriend?”)

The actual music on Michiyo Honda’s “Game Boyz (Don’t You Want A Real Girlfriend”) speaks for itself – all-neon-like synths, the sort of beat that slays at the club, Honda giving her flirtiest vocal performance of the year. That alone would lock it up as maybe the fifth or fourth best track she released all year. Yet this finishes the year as the mile-away finest entry in her “single a month” project because of the story going on in the song, or at least what I’m hearing. The coos in the song could easily be mistaken for average bedding talk until she gets to the part set off in parentheses – “don’t you want a real girlfriend?” Then we remember the title and it clicks – this song is about a socially maladjusted man who plays video games so well the virtual characters in his titles wonder why he doesn’t crave something more real? This would be a good laugh if 2011 Japan wasn’t loaded with dudes choosing to love Hatsune Miku or pretending to have babies with the members of AKB48 instead of getting their di….errrrr fix the country’s population problem. Honda, playing the role of pixlated babe, moans about how well this dude “plays” her, and it does seem like she wants to get with him. Yet this character still tells her Otaku interest “you don’t know how to let it out,” and then asks that persistent question once again. Societal crisis rarely sounds so fun to listen in on.

GET ON iTUNES

12. Spangle Call Lilli Line “For Rio”

In which Spangle Call Lilli Line’s long-running series of “Rio” songs reaches an appropriate peak. Every prior take on what sticks out as one of the group’s strongest cuts existed at relatively slow speeds, turning the track into either a isolated wish or a dreamy stroll around the block depending on what else happens around it. “For Rio” shoots right out the gate – all metallic guitar strums burst forward by the authoritative drumming. The lyrics, same as ever, appear, but whereas on previous versions they hung around like lonely friends, now they feel urgent, in a great need to get somewhere. The stakes seem higher this time around, everything a bit more breathless. More than anything, this is the catchiest version of the already-hard-to-shake “Rio” song, exhilarating while playing and when it suddenly stops on a dime, first instinct is to jump for “repeat.”

GET ON iTUNES

11. Sakanaction “Bach No Senritsu Wo Yoru Ni Kiita Sei Desu”

This song ended up being the band’s best selling single of the year, landed them on Music Station and hell I heard it on TV a lot. THIS. Like a lot of DocumentaLy, “Bach” hides a lot of clever details under the obvious pop brilliance Sakanaction discovered when they found just the right way for them to merge dance music with J-Rock. I hope I don’t need to tell you about how darn catchy this is – the choir-like shouting of the title and deceptively slinky chorus should do the job – so instead I’ll dwell on the strange bits. Like how this features two instances where everything else cuts out so we can hear piano keys. How random synth splatters drip across the song before the first big shout-along. How midway through the entire thing almost breaks down because of a burst of static. How this is a song about Bach. Or how Sakanaction drew inspiration from styles ranging from Japanese rock, 90’s dance, disco and classical to name a few to craft one of the pop jams of the year.

Let’s also take a second to acknowledge the music video, the best in Japan and probably the best one I watched anywhere in 2011. Neaux already showered it with love, but here is another gentle poke in the ribs that this clip rules, thanks in part to a lot of puppets.

Live Review: The Brixton Academy, Canopies And Drapes And Faron Square At Nagoya Tight Rope, Saturday, November 12

After a few months of forcing one of my friends to travel all the way out to Osaka to do various activities…which, all tended to end in playing Angry Birds…I decided to save him (some) train fare and visit Nagoya for one Saturday night. Having avoided Aichi’s biggest city for a while now, my night out in Nagoya reminded me of what a strange place it was. Osaka…and Kyoto and Nara and Tokyo and anywhere in the world really…isn’t a shining example of human transcendence, but Nagoya seemed particularly dodgy, at least on this November night. We witnessed a man urinating almost proudly along a busy street, his back turned but with no pause as groups of people strolled by. We might have seen a drug deal. Whereas the street stalkers in Osaka play it cool and ask if you’d like a “massage,” the ones in Nagoya practically sprinted up to us to inquire if “you want some sex?” We played a lot of Angry Birds.

Thankfully, this trip centered around a show by three of Tokyo’s most interesting acts at the moment – The Brixton Academy, Canopies And Drapes, and CUZ ME PAIN’s Faron Square. The trio of artists played at Nagoya’s Tight Rope, a place that seemed to fit in well with the general air of Nagoya strangeness. Tight Rope rested on the third floor of a building, sandwiched between a soul bar and a hip-hop club. This placement led to a lot of people peeking into Tight Rope, hearing Toro Y Moi instead of Rick Ross and immediately darting upstairs. Yet once inside, Tight Rope proved a nice venue – a bit narrow, but great sound and a generally good vibe.

Faron Square started, playing what was according to their Twitter account their first band show in a year. The rust sometimes showed, as they experienced a few false starts, but overall the four-piece sounded OK. Faron Square stand out on the CUZ ME PAIN roster quite a bit, and their Tight Rope set reinforced that idea – though they still boast the slightly ghostly glow defining the rest of the roster’s music, Faron Square are the most “pop” act on that bedroom-centric label. The group’s song are less concerned about making you look over your shoulder and more about getting you to dance, at least a little. The keyboard-focused tracks even approach something like bizarro-world yacht rock (this is a compliment, I swear), the music sounding smooth but taking on a stranger bent than “What A Fool Believes.” Considering the individual members of the band make more CUZ ME PAIN-ish tracks on their own, Faron Square serve as a nice splash of variety for the still-young label. Live, the groups vocals sounded a bit too high-pitched, the masking they get on record not present, thrown naked in front of everyone. Faron Square ultimately seem like the type of group better heard at home, though downtime between performances could have been a factor.

Canopies And Drapes played a short set next, running through the entirety of her lovely debut EP. Violet, Lilly, Rose, Daisy was the product of just one person, but for the Tight Rope show CaD’s Chick called upon members of The Brixton Academy to help her bring what are self-contained dreams to life live. This full-band approach resulted in all four songs taking new shapes, the characters from one’s dreams materializing in real life but as, like, dogs or something. Set opener “Stars In Bloom” became an eyes-on-the-floor shoegaze number, while “Perfect Step” was blessed with an extra snap in its back, turning into a legit leg shuffler. One of the EP’s biggest highlights, “Living In The Snowglobe,” suffered from these live additions, that track shining as an example of Canopies And Drapes lyrical smarts, blotted out a bit live. The other EP highlight “Sleeping Under The Bed,” though, killed it. The twinkling frostiness of the recorded version was swapped out in favor of…gasp!…funkiness. It was stupidly danceable, blessed with an energy that made it one of the night’s biggest highlights.

Headliners The Brixton Academy provided plenty of highlights as well. I had been told TBA sounded even better live than they did on record, and the show at Tight Rope confirmed that. Prior to this Nagoya trip, TBA’s appeal could be boiled down to two major points:

1. Their songs exude emotional sincerity.
2. They are fun to dance to.

Live, point one fades into the deep background because point two consumes everything else. To put it crudely, the crowd at Tight Rope went batshit for everything the band played. Even something like “Two Shadows United,” which unfolds at a pace better reserved for bedroom dancing, had people nearly moshing. A plentiful amount of alcohol consumed by their 3 A.M. start helped…and TBA helped by popping open a bottle of champagne, passing it into the audience so we could all suckle on it…but really the music made it all come naturally out. The songs from Vivid predictably killed it oh so hard – the delirious “In My Arms,” and ending everything with an encore of “So Shy” you can imagine how that one went (great) – but more surprising were how good tunes from this year’s Bright As Diamonds sounded. “Neons Bright” and “One Time, One Night” carried extra oomph at this setting, TBA executing them perfectly and working everyone into a tizzy. Best of all was “Youth,” a song that on the album comes off as a good number that wants to be bigger than it actually is. Live though, it sounded capital-H Huge, the guitars blasting out like engine turbines and becoming all consuming. It was a might fine performance.

Yet said live show also revealed another truth – Bright As Diamonds would be one of Japan’s best EPs in 2011 if it weren’t one of the year’s more just-above-average albums. TBA played the first five tracks from Diamonds live, ignoring the slog of a second half. It is a front-loaded LP and even the band seems to know it, avoiding the aimless instrumental numbers and less-thrilling late tracks and instead focusing on the really good opening run. Live the band remains a must-see, but Diamonds is merely OK and was easily bested by Dorian’s Studio Vacation in this year’s race for “best imitation of the 80s by people who probably didn’t live in them very long.”

And so the night ended, crowd inebriated to a giddy level, some choosing to continue pounding shots, others slouching over on Tight Rope’s benches, still others probably wandering upstairs to scream “I THINK I’M BIG MEECH.” My friend and I, an hour away from first train, sat content on the stage, happy with how the night turned out. We closed the night out the only way we knew how – by chucking exploding poultry at green pigs.

Self-Promotion Plus: My Review Of The New Brixton Academy For Tokyo Indie

I reviewed The Brixton Academy’s Bright As Diamonds over at Tokyo Indie, and you can read that here. The gist…good album, but not as good as Vivid (which is a very tall order!). Some incredible songs though, like “Two Shadows United” and “One Time, One Night.”

You should also check out The Japan Times’ article about Kyary Pamyu Pamyu today. “Ponponpon” STILL throws me for a loop.

The Brixton Academy Have A New Album, Bright As Diamonds Out Soon, Listen To Samples Now

Perpetually melancholia new-wave outfit The Brixton Academy have a new album out on September 28, called Bright As Diamonds. This follows last year’s achingly gorgeous Vivid and end-of-year EP L.O.T. The song titles hint that TBA are still being TBA…”Neons Bright,” “Youth,” “Real Romance” etc etc…which also means plenty of emotional sharing via a vaguely Muppety voice.

Amazon Japan has samples of every song for your listening pleasure now, so go spend a few minutes previewing TBA’s forthcoming. Even better…start saving up cash to buy a copy!

(Ominous note: I’ve actually listened to this album but am staying mum because…well, time will reveal that. But one detail…”Two Shadows United” is some sexy, sexy music.)

Review: The Brixton Academy’s L.O.T. EP

The late-2010 L.O.T. EP find The Brixton Academy frequenting the same nightclubs they did on Vivid, but this time they mean business. Back on that album, the group ordered a drink and then posted up in the back alone, thinking about having a good time rather than actually having a good time. Fast forward a few months forward and now TBA strut into the club, take up shop in the center of the room and straight-up entertain people with all that awkwardness. Before they probably wore ill-fitting striped button-ups. Now they’ve got suits on.

Which is all analogy to say – same Brixton Academy, just a little more accessible. They’re still borrowing sounds and moves from 80s new wave, and the singing still sounds kinda goofy but charming, still focused on longing and nights out and wanting to be a suaver dude. L.O.T. isn’t a massive departure, but this trio of barely-there songs sound intent on showcasing the band’s songwriting skills. TBA carry themselves like legitimate hit makers over these 11 minutes, eschewing the fits of overwhelming emotion found all over Vivid.

Those passionate whims, though, are what made Vivid one of 2010’s best albums. Sonically, any of L.O.T.’s three tracks could slide into the Vivid tracklisting and disrupt nothing. Yet nothing on this EP comes close to matching the earnestness of the songs on that full-length, let alone nearing the moments of intense release like on “Lovely Lies, Little Signs” or “In My Arms.” Lead track “Catch It!” explores the same themes as Vivid’s best track “So Shy” – romantic yearning mixed with a want for self improvement, the lines here about “if I was self-assured/no more running away” echoing the same sentiments of the wish for “I need more courage.” “So Shy” gave itself over completely to these feelings though, sounding like a constant build-up that ended in intriguing vagueness. “Catch It!” is a pop song, verses and chorus clearly defined with a set finish.

And hey, don’t get me wrong…it’s a hell of a catchy song. If TBA hope to nab any international press, the sparkly synths and multi-tracked vocals making up the chorus of “Catch It!” seem there best chance. “Friday Knight” isn’t as immediately wowing, but rather a highlight clip of the band’s songwriting skills using their very specific style. It’s a track patching disparate segments together via a simple, commanding beat that tops it all off with a synth solo. It’s an amazingly well put-together song and it’s not just resume padding – it sounds great. What’s lacking on “Friday Knight” and “Catch It!,” however, is the emotional urgency that made Vivid this blog’s number three album of 2010. Closer “Shameful Man” comes closest to replicating that rush, a flurry of Reese’s Pieces synths leading to a breathless sprint of a song. The vocals stand out on “Shameful Man,” forced out of their comfort zone by the hurried pace of the track, making self-loathing lines sting much more painfully.

The only crime L.O.T. committed was coming out the same year The Brixton Academy dropped Vivid, because these three songs are great slices of 80s-inspired pop. They might even be small steps forward for the band, a group tightening up a bit in a quest for more listeners. It’s a solid stopgap of a release and nice to see TBA getting a little more professional. But if you fell in love with awkward wallflowers, L.O.T. feels a little different.