There have been some very strong contenders for the best debut of 2019, and it’s only just turned March. But Amber Bain has to be at the top.
Recording under the moniker The Japanese House, Bain has achieved absolute glory in her 13-track debut Good At Falling. With a little helping hand from The 1975’s drummer Daniel, producer BJ Burton and some solitude in Bon Iver’s cabin in rural Wisconsin, Good At Falling is a poignant narrative of love, loss and fragility explored through rose-tinted electronics. Not only is it a big step for Bain as a full-length release but also for a woman used to keeping her cards close to her chest. In 40 mesmeric minutes, she lays her soul bare for the first time.
A new addition to sit alongside some of Bain’s previously released singles, ‘Maybe You’re The Reason’, see-saws between hopelessness and courage (“I keep looking for something / Even though I know that there’s nothing”). An intoxicating back and forth that’s carried by heavily sampled guitars, glistening synthesisers and electronics that burst in vivid colour, it feels reflective of Bain’s struggle to live freely and let go. Falling beautifully one into the next is ‘We Talk All The Time’ which, in its lyricism, resigns itself to the stagnancy of a slowly faltering relationship; “We don’t touch anymore / But we talk all the time so it’s fine”. Bain tries to convince herself that, despite the dwindling physical intimacy, something can still be salvaged from the remains and asks us, “Can somebody tell me what I want? / ‘Cause I keep changing my mind”. Her twisted turmoil echoes painfully true and teases open her listeners’ insecurities about their own direction in life.
The record, however painful, handles psychological torment with a light-handed touch (‘You Seemed So Happy’) and gently tip-toes over the bridge separating discontent and acceptance, with wobbly samples and synthesisers that shimmer and swim in Bain’s most pop-laden production to date. ‘Follow My Girl’ (a previously released favourite amongst Bain’s loyal fans) glows in its hopelessness; “I’m self-diving and I have no limit / I can’t fix it, it’s not right / Nothing feels good, it’s not right”. There’s definitely a power that emanates from the way Bain lays bare every feeling; the somewhat controllable feels completely incontrollable but she’s fully come to terms with letting it loose under her feet. The refrain “Nothing feels good, it’s not right” is a euphoric call to arms to let the emotional chaos ensue.
Something that really caught me about Amber Bain’s openness was how she peeled the most painful layer of herself off slowly and deliberately on ‘Lilo’. Rather than proverbially ‘ripping off the band aid’, she created an intensely intimate music video with her ex-girlfriend, locked in an embrace, spinning as the world slowly burns around them. Instead of swallowing the pill dry, she let it fizzle on her tongue just long enough for the acidic tang to stick to the inside of her mouth. There is no fear in the embrace of hurt and self-reflection and the deliberate heartache that comes part-in-parcel seems integral to her journey; “It felt good, it felt transitional / A feeling I’d been waiting on”.
Good At Falling isn’t just a piece of music for Amber Bain, or for its listeners, it’s a chance to revisit and reframe pain in a way that allows healing to begin. Her debut is a giant, clusterfuck of a jigsaw puzzle that she’s laid out in front of us, piece by piece, and slowly but surely is putting back together in the right order.
Good At Falling is released on March 1st through Dirty Hit.