Asobi Seksu, Rewolf
The pedal-happy shoegaze-pop band goes acoustic with startlingly pretty results
You might think that an acoustic album would make for a challenging project with a pedal-happy shoegaze band like Asobi Seksu, but the most surprising thing about Rewolf is the strength with which their songs translate. The unplugged guitars probably aren't as important as the missing personalities: with the touring lineup left behind, core members Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna have a lot more canvas across which to paint their surrealist watercolor keyboard washes and twinkling, fingerpicked guitars which, now entirely buzz-free, recall in equal parts Joni Mitchell and Vashti Bunyan.
"New Years," no longer anchored by the drums and arguably one of the only songs here that doesn't definitively trump the original full-band version, instead just drifts off on a hazy cloud of whimsy that starts making funny impressionistic shapes by the time it gets to "Urusai Tori." Meanwhile, "Suzanne" is a by-the-numbers cover of the song from former Mazzy Star lead singer Hope Sandoval's 2001 solo debut — at least until it decides to trade in the original harmonica part for a synthesizer, after which point it might actually sound even more fragile than the original. That, like all the other meticulously translated details here, is quite a feat.