Who: Vocals & Guitar こばやしあゆみ, Guitar ショウジスミカ, Bass 安倍美奈子, Drums あらん
What: Shoegaze, Indie Rock, Dream Pop
Where: Saitama, Japan
Why: As the Japanese shoegaze awakening has continued towards the end of its second decade, I’ve found myself lining up artists against their nebulous western equivalents. So and so is kind of like the My Bloody Valentine of Japan, and so and so is kind of like the Ride, etc. The one notable absence that hadn’t really struck me until just a day or two ago, after finally getting to listen to Spool’s S/T debut album, was Verve. That combination of britpop and and shoegaze which redirected Verve’s underground leaning into mass pop hysteria, was utterly absent in this new-ish shoegaze underground. Sure you had the indie sensation Kinoko Teikoku, but they never really managed to blend the two as much as they made two completely separate kinds of music. There is an absence of something alternative and legit enough for blog cred, but also something that was playable at a social gathering without offending your nan.
Spool are still a bit more A Storm in Heaven than Urban Hymns, but the pop (especially britpop and indie pop) influences are still strong. With the early gothic undertones of “Be My Valentine”, the jangley irony-pop of “Shotgun”, or the dreamy indie balladry of “Sway, Fadeaway (Angel Version)” it’s easy to see a lane for a band like this to be playing on KEXP in a few years. There’s a genuine sonic effort to not just doll out heavy MBV worship and insular focus, while also not succumbing to the pure pop aspirations of bands like Kinoko Teikoku.
A tough balance for hard to define rewards. Sure Verve managed to make a song big enough to live their lives on, but how many other bands played between alternative and pop to the unfortunate reality of never quite finding an audience? It’s not an easy lane, and the sounds of shoegaze are especially hard to crush into a conventional package without killing it. Like a wine bottle sized paper bag and guinea pig.