February 19, 2009

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Asobi Seksu, Hush
Polyvinyl Records, Jan. 25

Lots of nu-gaze 98-pound weaklings were pigpiling in the trenches to help put Asobi Seksu into the big-label end-zone after the band’s sophomore LP Citrus. Louder than this third LP by the New York boy/girl pair, Citrus was a wonder of sun-washed shimmer in a My Bloody Valentine-less world, perhaps not so much a “nu-gaze” jaunt as an advancement of garage-born shoegaze itself. By contrast, Hush is more subdued and psychologically cautious, ultimately reflective, or so they claim, of their burned-out state after the excruciating months of touring and personnel changes in the name of Citrus, this no more evident than from the beginning of this new set, the jingle-bell-punctuated “Layers” painting a gliding watercolor of snow in the orchid grove, singer Yuki Chikudate obviously pining for something, a show of emotion foreign to this album’s predecessor — more dream-pop-inflected, let’s say. But they go back to bright shoegaze business in “Familiar Light,” Chikudate’s shyly upbeat soprano and James Hanna’s sparkling-water guitar having themselves a pillow-fight wherein the drums and bass weren’t really necessary. Sans the goofy college-rock mix levels, “Sing Tomorrow’s Praise” would be prime radio bait; “In the Sky” raises the bar for gentle dream-pop. AEric W. Saeger