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Something Far Too Good To Feel: The Japanese House Shines at Ottobar


On Friday, Nov. 1, Amber Bain, more commonly known as “The Japanese House,” made her way from England to Ottobar as part of her world tour, accompanying the release of her 2019 debut album, “Good at Falling.” The small but sold-out venue allowed Bain to deliver a stunningly intimate and electrifying performance. 

Casually clumsy, yet totally badass, fellow British band Our Girl took the stage, warming up the audience with more-rock, less-pop tunes like self-titled “Our Girl” and “I Really Like It.” The trio, made up of female drummer Lauren Wilson, female guitarist/lead singer Soph Nathan, and male bassist Josh Tyler, radiated basement-grunge vibes, sipping IPAs in between songs and spending more time with their bangs in their faces than looking at their instruments. With beautiful harmonies and a strong feminist presence, it’s difficult to not draw similarities between Our Girl and American duo Lucius. That being said, Our Girl successfully gives us the slight edge that Lucius lacks. Their mellow energy paired with head-banging songs provide an entertaining and more raw and traditional musical performance than The Japanese House’s synth-pop storm.

The Japanese House nonchalantly walked onto the stage with a shaggy, Hanson-esque lob, oversized jeans, a plain T-shirt, and an autumnal jacket that looked expertly thrifted from a local Goodwill; the only flashy things about Bain: a bright blue electric guitar and her music. 

Bain kept the talking to a minimum, a trend that would continue throughout the show, and instead made her first live impression on the audience with her upbeat 2016 single, “Face Like Thunder.” A strong choice for an introduction, “Face Like Thunder” represents Bain’s affinity for blending depressing lyrics with a sonically sparkly, dreamy melody, and fits Bain’s mold of a subtle, almost tense build, a powerful key change, and drop at the chorus. Fans and new listeners alike could listen to this song and know exactly what to expect from the rest of Bain’s discography.

Expertly transitioning from “Face like Thunder” to “We Talk All the Time” without skipping a beat, Bain proves that she is not letting the obstacle of a live performance strip her of her electro-pop, heavily— yet tastefully—auto-tuned sound. As she worked through her set (largely composed of songs from “Good at Falling”) little needs to be said, as the vulnerability and deceptively sensitive content of the music speaks for itself. One of the only times Bain chose to add any kind of anecdote wasn’t so much as an anecdote at all but rather a warning, asking the audience, “Who’s ready to get depressed?” before leaning into one of the only obviously and explicitly somber bops, “Everybody Hates Me Now.” 

When it was time for The Japanese House to perform their most popular song, Bain chose to blend the two arrangements of it together, beginning with the acoustic, yet still synth “i saw you in a dream,” (off of “Good At Falling”) and transitioning into its upbeat, more complex twin sister, “Saw You In A Dream” (from “Saw You In A Dream” EP). The execution of the slow version into the pop-anthem version not only pleased fans who can’t pick a favorite, but also represented the frenzied feeling of confusion and denial, as well as the tumultuous nature that is the same yet different when falling both in and out of love; this theme of juxtaposition overarches all of Bain’s music. 

Closing out with her brand new single, “Something Has to Change,” The Japanese House ended the show—and the “Good At Falling” era—with an empowering message that is often missing (but not actively missed) in her other music. Optimistic and more traditionally mainstream than her previous work, Bain waved goodbye to her anxieties and moodiness, taking initiative as she came to the realization that if things are going to get better, something had to change. 

As unassuming as she appeared, Bain and The Japanese House, walked off the stage with a simple “Thank you. I love you,” and left the flannel-clad, half-hipster audience with ringing ears.

Feature Image: Courtesy of Sofia Barr ’20.

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Something Far Too Good To Feel: The Japanese House Shines at Ottobar