b/w “New Years”
I first heard about Asobi Seksu (Japanese for “playful sex”) in 2004 thanks to that great source of Asian pop culture info, Giant Robot. Reading about how the band was influenced by the shoegaze sound and that frontwoman Yuki Chikudate alternated between English and Japanese singing made me interested in hearing them, and when I picked up their first album soon after at Record Collector in Iowa City I wasn’t disappointed. Flash forward to 2006 and Asobi’s second album Citrus. Citrus did exactly what a sophomore record should do; namely, it built upon what made its predecessor so great while also showing signs of growth via new styles and directions.
One of the standout tracks on Citrus was “Thursday”, which was selected as the first single. Like a lot of shoegaze, the lyrics are all but indecipherable (to these ears, at least) and also like a lot of shoegaze, it doesn’t matter. It’s more about the tone and the texture anyway, and as Yuki’s voice ascends on the airy chorus, the feeling of longing and unrequited emotion is almost palpable. Her ethereal voice floats above the pristine aural landscape created both by her keyboard layers and compatriot James Hanna’s swaths of guitar bliss.
In the fall of 2006, my band Beati Paoli were lucky enough to play on the same bill as Asobi Seksu at the Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines. Like many Des Moines shows, attendance was poor but Asobi still put on a great show. Yuki had these fake cats placed on the equipment (presumably the same ones on the cover of Citrus), and towards the end of the set she told a story about cats that was kind of weird and awkward. I’m guessing it was nerves. The music itself was very loud and very good, as shoegaze should be. Afterwards, one of us asked the band if they wanted to stay at our house that night, which they did. It’s not as if Asobi Seksu is The Beatles or something, but it was still kind of strange to have this band that’s fairly well-known and respected in certain circles sleeping on our floor. The band were nice but definitely kept to themselves that night, which is fine. It’s not like they knew us or anything, so I didn’t expect us to become best friends. I got the impression they were pretty shy people, something I can definitely relate to. Right before they left the next day, Yuki ran back into the house and, in an endearingly awkward manner, handed Ryan a copy of Citrus as thanks for letting them crash at our place.
Since then, Asobi Seksu have lost two members and is now a duo comprised of just Yuki and James. They released their third record Hush in February of this year, and while it has a lot to recommend it, Citrus is still my favorite and “Thursday” remains one of their very best and beautifully melancholic moments.