Swim Against the Tide is the third EP from Amber Bain, also known as The Japanese House. Her first two EPs Pools to Bathe In and Clean serve as evidence for Bain’s ability to craft tranquil electronic music, and her latest release follows a similar pattern while also incorporating more parts of acoustic and rock music to make for a more elegant and blissful sound.
The EP’s title track is both elegant and understated, seamlessly flowing from downtempo R&B to gentle folk rock throughout. The lyrics are as beautifully crafted as the music, with lines such as the chorus “Spirit grows when love goes away, And I’m still thinking of a new way to say I miss you” telling of great sadness and remorse. ‘Swim Against the Tide’ is a bittersweet opener and serves as a solid foundation for the rest of the EP. ‘Face Like Thunder’, the first single from the EP, carries on the lyrical themes from the opening track (this time focusing on the consequences of a major argument), but it is radically different musically. It combines Bain’s subtle vocals with elements of pop rock more associated with the likes of label-mates The 1975, which is no coincidence as the EP was produced by the band’s drummer George Daniel.
His influence is once again evident in ‘Good Side In’, another guitar centred number that also gives Bain great freedom to showcase her peaceful vocals and erudite lyrics. Neither of these tracks represents a major musical departure but instead demonstrates the full extent of her musical genius. The EP ends with ‘Leon’, whose lyrics are inspired by the film of the same name. It is the most ambient track on Swim Against the Tide, with the drowsy autotuned vocals stealing the show. The track is more typical of The Japanese House’s earlier work and is the perfect way to close this ethereal and delightful extended play.By James Baker