The difference between nostalgia and wistfulness can be miniscule. Artist i-fls has long resided in this crack between the two, creating simple songs packed with emotional weight. Commuter towns, family restaurants after last train, spacious parks just outside of Tokyo, longing, browsing the internet for hours on end — i-fls’ song titles have always helped fill in these blanks, though the computer-created melodies skipping along offer plenty of space to paint your own ennui out over them. Few artists this decade have mined one specific theme more than i-fls, but nobody has done it as well, even if I was running out of ways to capture the feeling of staring out a window listening to their music while thinking about life back in 2013.
Not Beautiful View makes this balance clearer the most. Perhaps the description accompanying the album — “in the not glittering days” — helps here, but all it takes is time spent with something like the skippy “Car” or the 8-bit bluster of “Chiaki Breeze” to feel a lot of mixed emotions swirling around i-fls’ Garageband melodies. Specific details fill out the rest — or maybe I’m just letting the twinkling stroll of “Twilight In Hikarigaoka” be overwhelmed by memories of actually living in Nerima and getting it — and moments of real release filter through all the sighs. “The (Nobody) Theatre” just nails this whispy bounce that is downright ecstatic, even if I can see the good times turning to memories right in front of me. Or how “Yoshiko Noticed” is just…perfect, an Apple approximation of acid house run through fleeting feelings. Get it here, or listen below.