Weird to think that, at the beginning of the year, Osaka’s precocious NOKIES! released their debut EP 7 Songs. That brief release, a seven-song (duh) collection of mostly head-snapping pop brimming with shouts and yells and youthful energy, got lost in what has been a great year for Japanese music. Yet now, as list-making season begins, I come back to 7 Songs and realize…this is a pretty good debut. That brief disc…highlighted by the still-thrilling “We Are News In The Dance Floor”…found the young band embracing a fidgety sound favored by many similar Japanese groups (The Chef Cooks Me and Sorrys! among others) that didn’t necessarily make them stick out but was delivered in a convincing way. It showed promise, and it was also plenty of fun.
Seems like NOKIES! want to move away from that sugar-coated energy…first came “Oslo,” a subdued bit of balladry that featured flashes of old NOKIES!buried among strings. It was a shift, but managed to still sound pretty good thanks to the merging of manic and serious, plus the final minute of that song was flipping great. Now comes “All Your Trees Grow,” another slower-paced number (for these guys, at least). The drums say “energy,” but the verses come out like a Sunday morning yawn. NOKIES! slip into more energetic bits…the post-chorus bit, in particular, brings to mind 7 Songs…but overall this seems like another step towards maturation.
Is that a good thing for them though? Stepping away from the still-prevalent ADD style rock in theory should get them more attention…accept now they sound like an even greater swath of J-Rock bands, ones often pumping out listless junk. NOKIES! aren’t at that point yet, but “All Your Trees Grow” isn’t the type of growing up they should engage in – it’s less getting smarter and more wearing a Hawaiin shirt on casual Friday. “Oslo” offers a better blueprint for them if they want to pursue this sound, while “All Your Trees Grow” comes off like a stab at great acceptance. And it could work…but they might grow into something boring if they pursue it too much.