- Just as Lost
- All the Time
- When It Comes
- Son of Younger Than Minus R
- 45 104
- Full Throttle
- Wonder Twins
- Mutual Regret
Don’t be fooled. Much like Blue Öyster Cult are not an actual cult and the Sex Pistols weren’t literally… well, uh, yeah… but anyway, my point is that Japanese Super Shift are not from Japan. They’re from Iceland. Which is also a volcanic island like Japan, but, you know, smaller, and really, really far away from Japan. So the two countries are connected, and not. Which is all probably just a coincidence.
The Super Shifters just released their new album, 47, a follow up to their 2011 six-song EP Hitotsu and the full length 2012 release Futatsu. The group was formed in 2008 by Stefnir Gunnarsson, the singer/guitarist for the quasi-garage band Lada Sport, as a solo project. Its earlier works were more traditional indie rock fare, with the addition of synths and such that gave some of the songs a bit of a new wave feel, especially on Hitotsu. But right from 47’s opening track, the incredibly catchy “Just As Lost,” it’s clear that this edition of Japanese Super Shift is different than its predecessors. Not just because it’s a bit more poppy, but more noticeably due to the heavy dose of electronic music, which provides the musical base and foundation for the entire album.
I know bands sometimes get annoyed when you compare them to other bands, but as a music fan first and foremost I find that such comparisons are sometimes a great help when I’m trying to get a sense of a band’s sound from a written review. So with that in mind, 47 is a bit like a blend of FM Belfast and GusGus – not as upbeat poppy as the former, and not quite as musically deep as the later. Which gives you a great, poppy electronic base, and more laid back, groovy vocals. The pinnacle of this sound is on the rich musical layers and almost ambient sounding vocals of “45 104,” my favorite track on the album.
47 is almost like two separate, shorter albums. The first five songs running from “Just As Lost” to “Son Of Younger Than Minus R” are somewhat more uptempo when compared to the six songs that make up the second half, starting with the deeper “45 104”. But don’t think that means the album as a whole doesn’t hold together as having a coherent “sound” – it just shows that Japanese Supershift is able to be sonically creative within the overall feel of entire project. If one song falls outside this general vibe it’s undoubtedly the intriguing “Full Throttle,” the one place on 47 where you feel like non-electronica instruments are contributing in a serious way, with it’s very guitar-like bass line, human drum beat, and raspy guitar. Mind you, all these sounds could be coming from synthesizers and drum machines, but the sound has a more man-made feel too it that gives the whole thing a slightly less polished, but even more intriguing, soung. The instrumental has enough of the electronic element to ensure that it fits into the album, but it does stand out as the most unique track on the album.
This is a solid effort from Japanese Super Shift, one that shows a broader, developing range to their sound. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out (and ears open) for their future releases.
– Vinyl Lane Jeff