Hiding your flaws is never quite as beneficial as confronting them with a bit of confidence and grace.
They say what you can’t fix, you feature instead. On a physical level, the human body comes chock full of evolutionary flaws. Its mental and emotional faculties let a person down just as much as any other bodily ailment. Unlike a bad knee or back, factors such as anxiety and depression present challenges with less certain solutions. These feelings, complicated by relationships, fame and loss, form the backbone of the Japanese House’s debut.
Good at Falling leans into its descent, not so much a plunge as it is a downward float. Amber Bain’s voice hums with a metallic tone perfect for the record’s chilled qualities. Gilded with autotune, her voice is layered upon itself, an effect that draws you into her synth rock instrumentals. In her lower register, her drawn-out syllables convey the heaviness of the album; the descent from euphoria never slows, though the album’s production tries its hardest to keep emotions afloat.
In terms of sound, Good at Falling arrives at an area you might expect in 2019. It lies between popular rock acts such as her collaborators The 1975 and Maroon 5 and the indie-pop of Purity Ring. The guitars, keyboards and percussion, all traditional pop pieces, are fitted together into an accessible sound that still retains a somber aura. The 1975, whose Matt Healy contributes vocals to “f a r a w a y,” do loom over the project, but Bain’s unique methods and singing voice allow her to take this sound in a cloudier and more ambient direction. At times Bain takes it towards Tear for Fears (“somethingfartogoodtofeel”) at others she dips into Glass Animals (the guitar solo on “Marika is Sleeping”).
The intro “went to meet her” begins with a chord shift that signals a shift in the atmosphere, one confirmed by Bain’s opening line. “Something’s wrong” cuts through like a laser and warns of impending troubles. About midway through, Bain reduces the harsh tuning on her voice, seemingly a sign that she’s gained her footing in this new perspective. It’s still ominous, but Bain sinks into it rather than struggle.
Her descent provides the setting for Good at Falling, where Bain dissects the sadness and anxiety plaguing her. The rush of “You Seemed So Happy” belies the track’s feelings of isolation without entirely hiding them. As in Bain’s own life, her art adopts a pleasant facade so as not to worry others, or even herself. “I’m self-dividing and I have no limit” she remarks with a passing concern on “Follow My Girl,” attempting to reconcile the help of others with her own view of how to exist. It’s a struggle everyone deals with and unfortunately questions often lead to frustratingly unclear answers.
“Everybody Hates Me”, though described by Bain as a hangover anthem, sounds dramatically intoxicated, exaggerating the word “me” into at least five-plus musical notes. It demonstrates the ease of wallowing in self-destructive behavior. With the world against you, it becomes easier to see yourself as wronged instead of being wrong.
But Bain finds her footing by accepting things as they are. The aforementioned “f a r a w a y” and “Maybe You’re the Reason” allow her to observe things outside of her orbit and control, such as with, “My dreams were unappealing/So I searched for people in the landscape.” As she recognizes that the stars and our own feelings never align as we expect them to, Bain learns to live with life’s uncertainties. The acoustic “Saw You in a Dream” sums it up with “It isn’t the same but it is enough.” Because hiding your flaws is never quite as beneficial as confronting them with a bit of confidence and grace.