Spin #70 : Birds Of Tokyo: Brace
SUNDAY DROP - SPIN #70
2016 wasn't a great year for us here at R'nR with Rylo but one good thing that did come out of that time is the dystopian sounding album by Birds of Tokyo called 'Brace'. This band has not stayed in one spot or remained unchanged throughout their discography, and I like that they keep things exciting. No one was predicting this kind of sound after their 2013 album, 'March Fires' which sounded so very different. I remember that they were in-store signing 'Brace' at Red Eye records in Sydney, but I was on shift at the time and missed out.
Something I thought was funny when I was researching this band for our 70th Sunday Spin, were the actual types of birds that came up. We have the following: Azure-winged Magpie, Brown-eared Bulbul, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, White-cheeked Starling, Crested Ibis, Black Kite and the Falcated Duck. No wonder they ended up calling themselves just Birds of Tokyo. Imagine being called Falcated Duck as a band. I also saw that they are collaborating with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in September 2023 and would be a great experience if you are lucky enough to get tickets at the Sydney Opera House.
On this fine Sunday we have decided to use the front room again because it has been way too cold anywhere but in the front sunroom. Audio Technica turntable and Marshall Woburn II at the ready for this one.
ALBUMS OF NOTE (2016): Hardwired .... to Self Destruct - Metallica, Skeleton Tree - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Lemonade - Beyonce, Coloring Book - Chance The Rapper, A Moon Shaped Pool - Radiohead, Blonde - Frank Ocean, Blackstar - David Bowie, The End EP - Black Sabbath, Hunted - Khemmis, Magma - Gojira, Dystopia - Megadeth, Gore - Deftones, The Violent Sleep Of Reason - Meshuggah
Image : Glenn Sarangapany (Keyboard/Guitar),Adam Weston (Drums),Ian Kenny (Vocals),Anthony Jackson (Bass),Adam Spark (Guitar/keyboards)
I'm not too sure if many of you would have this one on wax but if you do, pull out the LP and place it on your turntable. It's time to #dropthestylus
For a long time, I would listen to their self-titled album on repeat as I drove around on my p-plates. It has always been a record that provides comfort and one that I regularly listen to via streaming. Sadly, I have been unable to source it on vinyl and that left an itch to scratch for our collection. When 'Brace' was released in 2016, I firstly heard the title track single and was instantly hooked by its pull and knew that I had to purchase this album. I've liked every album they have released and respect that they all have their own distinct sound but none more so than this album. Straight away with track one on Side A you get a sense that they were in a darker place musically whilst writing this one and sometimes that experimentation needs to happen for an artist/band. They knew that it wouldn't be played on mainstream radio, but they didn't care.
'HARLEQUINS' starts off with sounds that remind of the broadcast tune in the movie, '1984' or 'Soylent Green' movie before Kenny provides instructions. "Come take a seat, relax, enjoy the show. Let us entertain you till the end". I know they keep getting compared to Muse across this album but that isn't a bad thing, it just means that they have similar sounding guitars and use of synthesizers. Is it a positive song or was it written to draw you in and make you realise that there isn't anything good as you step further forward. The softer sounds which battle the heavier riffs offer such contrasting sounds that you get confused which direction is the right way to go. Then you get hit with the lead single from the album called 'BRACE', which tells you what you need to expect. Birds of Tokyo have a knack of catchy pre-chorus sections that lead into songs that are easy to sing along with. I like a lot of these lyrics, even though they are darker, they paint such a picture in my mind of the world they are trying to show us. It's a shame that I couldn't find much of a backstory on this album and why they chose the imagery on the record - figures in black standing around someone clearly suffering. "Of all important things, never forget your name. Of all important things, remember all their sins. Defy, erase, rebuild, not as servants but as kings". Worth checking out a clip from live performance in Sydney - click here. Always been a band that I've wanted to see live, and this link just makes me want to see them even more.
If there is a moment on this album that picks the mood up, it's during the third song on Side A called 'EMPIRE'. "They don't want to be there when the sky begins to roll. We won't be defeated; every empire has to fall. Let's bring it all down. Bring it all down, we'll bring it all down". I like the ending vocals of Kenny and him pleading with us as listeners to "be reckless" with him. In another life, my nickname was Reckless Rylo, not because I was, but because I wasn't. What are you thinking so far of 'Brace'? If they are a band that you haven't really heard much of before then make sure you check out each of their studio albums as I think you'll be pleasantly rewarded.
For a Birds album, this next track gets you widening your power stance as you air-riff along to, 'GODS'. It was probably around here that we were all not feeling the best this weekend and didn't get to enjoy much more as a family. Our daughter (Q) was teething this week, in the lead up to her second birthday this month and unwell. Then our son (K) had to be picked up from school on Thursday after running a high temperature and of course, Daddy Rylo gets sick smackbang on the weekend. Feeling averagely better just in time for work on Monday! I remember sitting with our son on the lounge and he randomly says, "Daddy, you have to turn the tap on to get the water from the moon". I don't know where or why he mentioned that but for that moment he thought we got our water from the moon. Last song on Side A is the collaboration with Hayley Mary from The Jezabels called, 'DISCOLOURED'. Instantly has that asian style of musicianship to kick this one off and draw us in before becoming a slower deut. I like the instruments that lead us out on this one. The stylus slowly moves to the middle of the dead wax as our kids are sleeping and I will be heading back to napsville soon - not well.
LP has been flipped and the stylus has been placed ready to go for Side B first track, 'PILOT'. One thing that stood out to me on this track was the instrumentation just before the chorus which was very Kubrick-esque. "Watching it all come apart. So we can begin, to be new again.Taking a blade to the heart. So we can begin, to be new again". A couple of songs to end Side A and start Side B, that really slow down the pace. I feel that this album is best listened along to on LP and as a whole, instead of selecting this song to listen to in isolation. It moves into the Rammstein sounding tune of, 'CROWN'. I mean that musically, until the vocals come through and feel as though this track is to start picking up the mood again. I like these lyrics, "Drunk on velvet chemicals, suppressants. I'm rarely sober or awake I dream, I wake up, dream again. It's hard to tell, What is real and what is fake".
Probably my favourite track on Side B and because it sounds the most like their older stuff is, 'ABOVE/BELOW'. I really like the drumming energy by Weston as the bridge of this song starts and how they stop all instruments to promote vocals too. Definitely one that would sound great live with everyone singing along. "When fear drags you down and under. Oh and the dark, holds you deep enough. Give me your hand if you dare. Give me your hand and I'll be diligent with it, you might slip and you will lose yourself. Maybe we took it too far, every word, every scar
So above, so below, So below, So above, so below". I am upset because we didn't get to do anything this weekend as a family due to the winds and sickness. Shame because the sunshine is great but unable to do anything in these crazy winds. My aim with Night Kat Kiz is to make a kite for our kids and take it out flying in the coming weekends - hopefully a normal amount of wind and not galeforce would be nice.
I don't know why but when I first heard the start of next song, 'CATASTROPHE', I got a bit of Kurt Cobain nostalgia. Not for the rest of the song but just that initial bit. Let me know if you can hear it too. This one would have our son headbanging along or drumming to the hard hits by Weston. Getting an itch to listen to different bands after hearing this track because I'm hearing so many era's of inspiration. Name a couple of bands that you think of when you hear this one - whether its vocally or just the musicianship of Jackson, Weston, Sarangapany and Spark. Last song on this album is called, 'MERCY ARMS' and feels like a big song left for the album closer. I believe they curated the tracklisting to have a certain lull in the middle after initial false hope and then being lead to this moment. A fork in the road kind of moment. I couldn't find it for this spin but a couple of years ago I watched a very talented contemporary dancer use this track and it worked so well. The uplift and building within the pre-chorus and chorus matching the moves perfectly. I haven't listened to their newest album, 'Human Design' as much as I'd like but has a completely different sound from the very first track. The stylus has now moved along to it's cradle and that lets us know that 'Brace' has come to an end.
Thanks for taking the time to read our 70th Sunday Drop this weekend and hopefully you have found something on this album that you liked. If you also find copies of their other albums for good prices or hear of a repress underway, please let me know. We have been watching Peaky Blinders recently on Netflix and powering through it because we are cancelling our subscription in order to save some money. If you are a fan of the show, you'll be pleased to know that they are making a movie in place of a series 7 to give the show a bigger budget ending. I've been inspired by Thomas Shelby (actor Cillian Murphy) lately and found solace in his words below. See you next week for our 71st Sunday Drop, which will be ..... oh I guess you'll have to wait for the MWSP and hopefully I have recovered by then!
“In the bleak mid-winter. Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone. Snow had fallen, Snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter, Long ago...” – Thomas Shelby
Until our next Spin, be Kind to people who enjoy albums about dystopian worlds and be Kind to your Wax!
SPEED PLAYED AT
MARCH FIRES (2013)
HUMAN DESIGN (2020)
SELF-TITLED ALBUM (2010)
GODS OR HARLEQUINS
RATING OUT OF 5
WHAT'S INSIDE THE RECORD SLEEVE
2 x BLACK LP, LYRIC SHEET AND PHOTO OF FIGURES IN BLACK STARING AT A MIRROR
"Let me dance for you, Like you want me to. Let me sell you lies, Complicate the truth. You are all mine..." ~ Harlequins - Side A
LP / SIDE
DISCOLOURED (FT. HAYLEY MARY)
Birds Of Tokyo performing live on stage