Coming four years on the heels of their last release, Bloodshot Tokyo is a beautiful follow up to You & I that captures almost every feeling of longing that one can imagine comes with an unrequited love. The band’s progression from guitar driven indie rock melodies of Midnight Flowers, a 2012 release, to their present day synth pop expression of infatuation is every bit as interesting as it is enjoyable. The melodies of Bloodshot Tokyo are reserved, building of anticipation, and falling short of the release that comes with the actualization of a meaningful connection. Instead, the release is one of simply letting go of expectation and reveling in the experience of what is.
The theme of the album seems to be accepting the distance that comes with obsessing over a tomorrow that will never be and appreciating what today is. Listening to the album more than once, which I would recommend, creates a sense of connection for some listeners by granting some legitimacy to the alternate title of the intro track (“Ordinary Mind”). It’s almost a statement that you’re not alone if the sounds and expression resonate with you. This may be fueled by confirmation bias but it’s also endearing. This track is followed up by possibly my favorite track on the whole album, “Jet Black Hair.”
“Jet Black Hair” has an upbeat melody that might remind some of the Generationals. The track is lead by creeping vocals singing praise and hope for a future with the one with that jet black hair. The tone is sometimes infatuation and the thoughts of doubt that come with that. The wailing of a guitar alongside the vocals perfectly captures the longing that inspired the track. “Astronaut,” another great track in my opinion, follows up “Jet Black Hair” and portrays the feelings of distance that accompany obsession. The tones chosen for the chords played by the keys aides this portrayal by adding depth, haze, and emphasis in exactly the moments they are necessary.
The band has stated that it drew inspiration for this album from the sounds of the 60s and 70s. A single listen to the album uncovers the influences of American folk, beach influenced rock ballads, and R&B present in this modern day, synth pop revision of the era. Tired of Love is a melancholy tune that sounds like it could have been mashup of the Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel if their instrumental accompaniment was a funk driven synth pop band with a less than confident aesthetic. Sounds reminiscent of the Beach Boys can also be heard in “Pool of Rotting Water,” “Self Made Man,” and in the vocals of “Over the Rails.”
The rhythmic influences of R&B can be heard in “Tired of Love,” “Pool of Rotting Water,” and “Let Your Lover Know.” “Self Made Man” is almost reminiscent of “Most Likely You Go Your Way” by Bob Dylan. His influence and that of American folk can be heard most heavily in the guitar. Due to the band’s nature, the track sounds more reminiscent of “Most Likely You Go Your Way” reworked by Mark Ronson in 2007 but the original influence is still present.
Throughout the album, wanting vocals reminiscent of those of Otis Redding can be heard. “Simple Love,” likely the most popular track on the album, is one of the best examples of this. The vocals are soft yet deep and moving. There really isn’t much release as far as melody is consider, peaks in anticipation are abundant however. The track that allows the instrumental accompaniment the greatest release of tension built up over the course of the album is Reaction to Love. The track’s title is likely no coincidence. Again, the band did an excellent job at making their expression endearing.
In conclusion, Bloodshot Tokyo is a very enjoyable album worth at the bare minimum one listen. Personally, I would recommend listening to it a few more times, you may be surprised with how easily the album will grow on you. There’s a great range of influence present and the synth pop spin on an already experimental era in music only adds to the appeal of the sound. This has been one of my favorite albums of the past year and I hope the band’s next is released well within four years because I’m very pleased with the development of their sound.
By: David Dougherty