Three years removed from her last release (the 2020 EP Chewing Cotton Wool), and four from her most recent album (2019’s excellent Good at Falling), expectations were high for Amber Bain – otherwise known as The Japanese House – upon her eventual return to the studio. Delivering another dosage of her uniquely dreamy synth-pop style, In the End It Always Does offers another insight into Bain’s psyche as she lives in the space between stability and volatility, in cycles of renewal and dissolution.
And while the idea of a breakup album – which In the End It Always Does is to some degree – is hardly a particular innovation, Bain’s experience, both in and out of a throuple, offers a unique perspective to the conversation. ‘Friends’ delves into her insecurities behind this relationship dynamic, while ‘Sad to Breathe’ offers pure emotional sorrow through the juxtaposition of its lyrical content, masked behind energetic drum-based production. ‘Over There’ provides a sense of sombre, but no less heartfelt, acceptance in the inevitable as Bain recounts the slow deterioration of her relationship with one ex-girlfriend.
The album features a minor cacophony of members of the contemporary indie/synth-pop scene
Bain also takes time to keep herself down-to-earth and step away from the aloofness that her persona sometimes threatens to emit – best exemplified in ‘Indexical reminder of a morning well spent’. The track is, simply put, mundane. But that’s what makes it so great, as she turns the all-so-common experiences of the struggle to maintain attention (“I read three pages / but I didn’t read them”) or finding a fun piece of paraphernalia (“look at this clip I found”) into subject material, combining this with her signature style to recreate that tranquil experience once more. Positioned at the beginning of the album’s latter half, this provides a perfect opportunity to ‘reset’ the listener and provide a moment of respite.
Besides Bain herself, the album features a minor cacophony of members of the contemporary indie/synth-pop scene. The 1975 frontman Matty Healy sings uncredited backing vocals in ‘Sunshine Baby’, and while his role is constrained to the bridge onwards, this represents the best of his collaborations with Bain so far. The pair’s vocal harmonies weave in and out of each other, emitting a sense of beautiful, serene confusion as Bain comes to terms with her relationship. An apt comparison would be towards the inversion of Lorde’s – again, uncredited, but no less tremendous – appearance on Bleachers’ ‘Don’t Take The Money’ (2017). Growing her network further, In the End It Always Does also involves the likes of Charli XCX, and MUNA vocalist Katie Gavin, among others.
Bain’s sophomore album is much more musically diverse than her previous projects
Bain has also continued to work with Healy’s bandmate George Daniel, involved ever since her first EP all the way back in 2015, on matters of co-production. Joined by Chloe Kraemer (previously credited by artists such as Rex Orange County and Rina Sawayama), the production – the bread and butter of much of Bain’s output – spouts a fresh energy while remaining faithful to her roots. Most importantly though, Bain leverages this to take a clear step forward from her existing discography. While Good at Falling is a great album in and of itself, it remains too stylistically monotonous at times, an issue remedied throughout In the End It Always Does. Whether it’s the Depeche Mode-style synths of ‘Friends’, or the kaleidoscope-esque warped vocal sequence that dominates opening track ‘Spot Dog’, Bain’s sophomore album is much more musically diverse than her previous projects. Bain has also in the past allowed her voice to be muffled by her own instrumentation. No longer – by taking charge on a scale not previously seen, Bain’s vocals exude an exceedingly rich sound while delivering a refreshing cathartic tonal shift towards liveliness.
Each project released by The Japanese House has been better than the last, and In the End It Always Does is no exception to this rule. It is truly rewarding to see Bain develop further as she delivers careful refinements to her style, with audiences continuing to be mesmerised. And while I can hardly imagine that this album’s tracks will be found on repeat in department stores through the midst of this year’s heat, Amber Bain has ultimately succeeded in creating a fantastic summery record, exuding a sense of breezy melancholy appropriate for the season – but it’ll also make for great listening all year round.
Recommended listening: ‘Sunshine Baby’