Amber Bain, or better known as the band The Japanese House, is ready to bare her soul in order to get listeners to feel something. From the cover art of the Chewing Cotton Wool EP to the music, it all feels very symbolic. It’s almost as if Bain is saying, “This is me. This is the pound of flesh that you are getting, whether you wanted it or not.” It’s all a very powerful artistic statement for her to get this comfortable with herself in laying everything out there for the world to evaluate and unpack.
Bain has never been a stranger to releasing her music in the form of an EP to continue to engage her audience in her evolution as an artist. The Japanese House moniker released several EPs leading up to the proper full-length debut, Good at Falling. I first heard of The Japanese House through recommendations from friends mentioning this up and coming artist that incorporated synth elements into a unique rock, pop, and indie-styled songwriting package. I wasn’t expecting the Good at Falling record to end up being my favorite LP in 2019, and finding a new artist that I felt like was transcending the expectations of what a solo artist can accomplish. Chewing Cotton Wool is a short collection of four songs that continues Bain’s evolution as an artist willing to take risks to leave haunting stamps in our memory through her music.
The EP starts with “Sharing Beds,” one of the shortest songs in Bain’s career that clocks in under two minutes. The tender piano-based opener features some vocoder effects over Bain’s lyrics of, “Something’s moving / I can’t feel her / Won’t stop going through my head / I know you’re sharing beds with her / I’m a fucking mess / Just tell me it wasn’t Jess / But I know.” This introductory track does a nice job of setting the tone for the great material that follows. “Something Has to Change” finds Bain describing a breaking point in her life when she realizes that the status quo is no longer the best course forward. She looks introspectively at herself as she evaluates her relationships in her life as she sings, “And you look back / You go around in circles / Your world feels just the same / Your heart keeps breaking in the same way.” As Bain continues to invite her audience into her headspace, we gain a greater understanding of what makes her tick, and it only makes her more relatable.
The third track, “Dionne,” features an A-lister contribution from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, with magnificent results. Bain opens the song by continuing to bare her soul as she confesses, “Wishin’ that someone would film the way I’m lookin’ at you right now / I wanna watch it back and then kill myself / And I know it’s not very sexy when somebody loves you this much and knows you this well / But it’s the way it is.” She knows that she might be setting herself up for heartbreak in this situation, but she’s still willing to take that leap for the chance of making things work out. Vernon’s guest vocals help with telling the story of how she is longing for a relationship that makes everything worthwhile. Their paired harmonies are particularly powerful and make for an ultra-enjoyable listening experience.
The album closer carries the same name as the EP and was initially released as a stand-alone single in November 2019. As this EP came together, it only made sense to name her latest collection of songs this since it encapsulated her overall state of mind during the recording. The cautious metaphors as she describes a relationship are powerful in lyrics like, “She’s the trailer for a film / She’s the curtain at the end.” The last line in particular only solidified Bain’s decision to make this be the closing song on this EP as she continues to make her audience longing for more in her discography.
With so many rich, lush musical landscapes conveyed on this EP, it’s hard not to be excited to get new music from The Japanese House in the near future. Bain’s evolution on this record showcases her improved songwriting and the willingness to show every ounce of her soul and body, right down to the ultra-revealing cover art. She has shown that her musical outlet continues to be an amazing source of art for all to enjoy. And in uncertain times such as the ones we’re living in now, we need this art to be in the forefront of our minds to block out the negativity.