Undefined Collective

Album Review


Spending An Eternity In A Japanese Convenience Store


Brian Pope

January 23, 2019

Math rock, Midwest emo
Spending Eternity in a Japanese Convenient Store - forests
Since its inception in the late 1980s from the bowels of the post-hardcore scene, the genre of math rock has indebted itself to a single dichotomy. Bands are tasked with striking a balance between crafting complex rhythms and busy riffs and the ability to still sculpt a song that is palatable and doesn’t come off as hapless or pretentious. With the evolution from its noisier and purposefully unsettling roots to a more indie-rock inspired pleasant sound, the genre finds itself at a crossroads where songwriting carries the map. Enter Singapore-based emo band Forests, who seem painstakingly aware of both the saturated market and diluted sound of the math and indie rock amalgamation. With their new album Spending Eternity in a Japanese Convenience Store, the group imbues a thoughtful approach by marrying the concepts of sporadic noodling and founded song structures with a double-edged grace.
While a lot of downtrodden themes are approached here, the bulk of the instrumentation has that jaunty sound much of this field of music utilizes, with bright guitars and leaping bass lines. In some spots, the contrast is quite enjoyable, like on the danceable “This Town Needs Fun,” a title which cheekily pays homage to fellow math rockers This Town Needs Guns. It has this pop-punk derived chord progression and some bustling guitar triplets that jump right off the page. They almost detract the listener from the lyrics, which painfully describe a girl making the singer want to die. “You Must Be Fun at Parties” could indeed be a fun track to put on at a get-together, working in a really nice groove on the midsection between some muted guitar notes and head-bobbing drum rhythm. It also has this hilarious line on the back end where bassist/lead singer Darrel exclaims “You’re the worst!” followed by a crowd of cheers. Heartily written as well is the song “I Miss Your Dog (More Than I Miss You),” where the singer recalls loving “the mountain” before being “pushed over the edge,” and mocking the antagonist with a dejected “blah blah blah.” The sense of self-aware humor that the band applies to this album complements the saddened lyrical themes and the vibrant backing rather nicely.

With their new album Spending Eternity in a Japanese Convenience Store, the group imbues a thoughtful approach by marrying the concepts of sporadic noodling and founded song structures with a double-edged grace.

While some of the cognizant winks here provide a bit of comedic relief, some of the album’s least engaging moments dwell in the lyrical content. The lyricism of emo music has historically been purposefully straight-forward, but some of the verses and refrains here just come off as trite, which creates an emotional disconnect that kneecaps the album’s relatability. “Kawaii Hawaii” features eye-rollers like “I can’t get you out of my head” and the cumbersome chorus “You’re the best I ever had/In my stupid life.” The band also works in what comes off as a clumsier edition of the lyric from No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” on the chorus of the closing track here, which appears to crave the intention of being a sing-along hook but with its clunky timing and long-winded vocalization is anything but in execution. In many cases with Spending Eternity, the writing plays second, and at worst, third fiddle to the instrumentation.
With that being said, much of this album’s allure is predicated upon the instrumental prowess of the band’s guitarist. Math rock is an area of music that inherently lends itself to technical ability, but the scuttling lead guitar melodies mocked up across the album are adroit even by the genre’s standards. The midsection of “Cirrus Clouds” showcases a blisteringly fast guitar riff that meshes excellently with the impassioned shouts of the vocals. The song also closes with the greatest drum pattern on the entire album backing some really fantastic sprawling guitar leads that never come off too haphazard. The rest of the band can’t go uncredited either, because instrumentally when they hit a stride they really cook up something special. The opening lines of “Perfect Worst Team, Ya Know?” feature a gorgeous bass line that opens into an infectious groove between the lead guitar and drum rhythm, and the interplay of the bass and guitar on “Goldust” is one of the cleanest instrumental amalgams the album presents. Unfortunately, the spots of genius here are at times sullied by the aforementioned kinks in the songwriting process, like the ungainly chorus of that same song that clashes tackily with the preoccupied backing.
In summation, Spending Eternity, while an entirely formidable record of its own accord, is more a display of future potential than a present success. One can certainly relish in some of the punchy grooves and snarky lines, but in the task of balancing sturdy songwriting with heady rhythms, the band’s delivery is merely transitional. Kudos are in order for a band that has clearly proven to possess a considerable amount of talent, but Forests have their next obstacle cut out for them. Until then, we’ll be watching.

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