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New Elen Never Sleeps: Flowers For Hesse

There comes a painful moment where you realize you are only getting older, and all the things that you love lost to time are not necessarily going to carry over to future listeners. For me, that has mostly centered around this period in Japanese indie music — let’s say 2011 to like 2013, maybe 2014 — that produced a community that appeared ready to morph into something even greater. CUZ ME PAIN, Hotel Mexico, Moscow Club — it wasn’t centered in any one place, but found a sweet spot between Shibuya after dark and SoundCloud. But it has faded away, like all moments do, and feels destined to slip away. It was great when it was happening, and I love to revisit…but you can’t expect others outside of it to come to it the same way.

Elen Never Sleeps belonged to this community, and created dreamy indie-pop wit an intimate breath-on-neck quality to it. Just listen to the Silver EP, clouded by melancholy and uncertainty (“I tried to find a job” being a particularly stinging line). That project went into hibernation, but in one of those welcome surprises has returned in 2018 with Flowers For Hesse, a full-length album that easily could have slid in to that golden period. A lot like Moscow Club’s triumphant Outfit Of The Day, it tickles all that longing for this music community in a listener like me. And like that album, it isn’t a pure nostalgia trip, but testament to what made the project so good in the first place.

Elen Never Sleeps lets the emotion come through pretty clearly across this album, with the title track setting the stage with plenty of space for melancholy vocals delivered unabashedly…when he wants to sell the emotion, those words get stretched out. Songs across Hesse unfold at mid-tempo, with plenty of space for the words to shoot high, all while maintaining an air of closeness (see the head-down-walk of “Anna from Heaven,” or the more aggressive posture of “A Faded Beauty,” which goes from a stomp to vulnerability quickly). “Haunted Darling” picks up the pace for the most throwback sound here, while Elen Never Sleeps flexes some new tricks that show this isn’t simple dipping into the past, such as the slow-stroll pace of “Violet Jazz” and highlight “Paradise Lost,” featuring pleasant flute-style notes and good use of sampled voices. At one point on the album, Elen Never Sleeps sings “nothing ever lasts forever,” and he’s right. But Hesse reminds that it doesn’t have to just go away, either. Get it here, or listen below.

New Elen Never Sleeps: Rum EP

The vocals found on Elen Never Sleeps’ songs are always an interesting confrontation – they are not traditionally “good” but the relatively ragged delivery are charming in their own way. They are pushed further than ever before on new EP Rum which finds Elen Never Sleep crafting his most vocally daring collection yet. It opens with the previously released title track, a shuffling little number that has a beach-side vibe to it but conceals some intimate lines (“too hot inside you” whoa). Yet it is also an outlier here, because vocally it is one of the most relaxed tunes here. It is on the following track, the driving “Skyline,” where the singing starts ramping up. Come the chorus, the words are being shouted a touch louder and the vocals are coming out in a higher register than before. Not pretty…but also bluntly earnest, Elen Never Sleeps really driving home the emotion at the core of this track. Similar jumps up in delivery happen on the peaceful “Saudade” and reach their apex on “Emerald,” where dude sounds like Bjork in his shouting. Again, though, it is some real emotional blood-letting, and makes the album all the stronger. Get it here or listen below.

New Elen Never Sleeps: “Rum”

I wouldn’t describe the music Elen Never Sleeps makes as being “dramatic,” at least in the sonic sense. That said, his songs often contain emotional push-pull, evidenced all over this year’s fantastic Silver EP. That collection of songs sounds dreamy and ennui-rich, Elen Never Sleeps always facing some sort of emotional obstacle even when his music is at its prettiest. New song “Rum,” then, is a little bit of a surprise – this sounds like the project calling timeout on a rainy day and just relaxing for an afternoon. It’s nothing but some simple strumming, a light beat and what sounds like dolphins bleating in the back every once in awhile. It’s a low-key number, but relaxing. Elen Never Sleeps also doesn’t push his voice hear, and he sounds surprisingly smooth here. Listen below.

Get Elen Never Sleeps’ New EP Silver Now

Tokyo’s Elen Never Sleep has been previewing tracks from his forthcoming Silver EP for a while now, and today the seven-song release can be yours, either for free download or as a limited-edition cassette. Besides getting to hear good cuts like “Silver” and (especially) “Shine On Me,” the EP also comes with a Taquwami remix. A nice Sunday present, I dare say.

In other news, American act Wild Nothing is coming to Japan this Spring, and if someone isn’t working to get Elen Never Sleeps as the opening act, I don’t know what to believe.

Elen Never Sleeps Previews New EP: “Shine On Me” And “Silver”

One of the tougher parts of putting together a year-end feature – like our “favorite songs of 2012 lists” – is cutting it down. This means some really great stuff gets left outside…and last year, one of the toughest omissions to make was Tokyo murmur-pop dude Elen Never Sleeps, whose “My Aquamarine/Spinning Wheel” single featured two great songs and marked a jump forward artistically for Elen. It’s looking like ENS won’t be facing a similar dilemma in 2013, as he’s just released two tracks in advance of his new Silver EP, and both find the solo artist making further artistic strides. “Shine On Me” initially resembles last year’s “My Aquamarine,” but features a livelier beat that is the closest ENS has ever come to being dancey. The real development, though, is greater attention paid to sonic details – the most catching element of “Shine” is the almost-meowed noises that make up the chorus, but equally as strong are the strings that rise up throughout the song.

The title track from the EP, meanwhile, is more reflective, but features ENS adopting a slightly deeper voice for most of the song. It’s the less daring of the two tracks, but refines the Elen Never Sleeps sound further. Listen below.