Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The Japanese American band Kero Kero Benito recently released their second album Time ‘n’ Place.
This work marks a dramatic change in the tone of their music. This stylistic shift is indicative of a broader shift in the cultural approach of Kero Kero Benito. Unlike previous releases, Time ‘n’ Place features exclusively English lyrics while also incorporating more western styles of composition. “Dear Future Self” particularly illustrates this idea, featuring a doo-wop intro and chord changes.
The album exhibits a delectable assortment of guitar and analog synth tones rarely, if ever, found on earlier KKB tracks. Songs like “Make Believe” and “Swimming” utilize these aspects supremely. The former provides a wide range of instrumental layers from light acoustic and electric guitar strums to glitzy synthesizer arpeggios and chords.
Tracks like the aforementioned “Swimming” and “Dear Future Self” further elaborate on the group’s significant stylistic alteration. Opposed to their typical over-exaggerated synth pop pacing and subject matter, Kero Kero Bonito develops these two tracks as mid-tempo reflections on the nature of life. This includes a variety of heartfelt lyrics exploring anxieties surrounding growing up and accepting adult roles.
In the group’s process of making their artistic jump, however, they lose the high-level production of their earlier work. The drums are a consistent blot on the whole album. On “If I’d Known,” they sound particularly wishy-washy and are generally unable to provide a concrete base for the listener’s ears to grab on to. This lack of a solid mix also causes the vocals to sound flat as a whole and prevents them from standing out as on earlier records.
Time ’n’ Place is still a solid listen for anyone in need of their fix of bubbly dream-pop but doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of the album.