by Jillian Fliedner
Amber Bain’s The Japanese House does not receive nearly enough attention, but her third EP, Swim Against the Tide, continues to establish Amber as an artist who deserves a long stay in the indie music scene and the success she rightfully deserves. However, a full length from her would be quite nice too.
Amber released the EP, consisting of four songs, on November 11th, and it has been excitedly anticipated by her recent influx of fans. The EP’s four songs show Amber’s evolution as an artist while still remaining true to her sound that was so strongly set in her previous EPs Clean and Pools to Bathe In. Her success lies in her ability to make music that is not only calm and astonishing, but also unique and her own. Amber fits into the category of artists who are able to create aesthetically pleasing music, and it is so clearly evident in her sound and lyrics. Swim Against the Tide is better rounded musically than her two previous EPs with not only a strong focus on her vocals, but also the music itself.
The title track introduces fans to music with more layers than previously used. Previously, Amber used simple backing music to complement her transcendent vocals, while in this EP there is so much more going on than basic complementation. While Amber’s vocals are interesting and masterfully layered and filtered, the music has become a stronger characteristic of her songs. “Swim Against the Tide” features a lighter tone than any of her other songs that also holds a sort of introspective melancholy, with Amber singing of the departure of love through beautiful imagery and a hopeful chorus. The song is much slower than the next track, “Face Like Thunder”, which has a substantial presence of Amber’s signature vocal layering. The chorus is strong, but the bridge, the true highlight of the track, is even stronger with Amber singing about how she can be so cruel. The sound of this song perfectly finds its place among her vocals, lowering when the lyrics call for it and rising during the chorus to match Amber’s pace.
Next on the track list is “Good Side In”, which is one of the simpler songs off the EP, but it still holds its value. The song offers the album some diversity, keeping numerous listens from boring you. Amber’s vocals have less presence in this track than the others, but this purposeful choice helps keep the vibe of the song from becoming too overwhelming. Amber has a great talent in finding the perfect balance for her songs, and “Good Side In” truly showcases this talent. “Leon,” inspired by the movie Léon: The Professional, closes the EP. Amber’s vocals truly shine in this ending track, and the song as a whole feels very moving and powerful. Amber slows herself down here, allowing for a much more somber sound. It features the smoothest vocals of the album, soaking the listener in a sort of tranquility.
With Swim Against the Tide, Amber shows her continuous development and her growing strength as a musician through a stronger musical and vocal presence. You can truly see Amber fully finding her place as an artist, and it is a beautiful thing to witness. Every song stands on its own for its own reasons while remaining different than the track before or after it. The EP is more developed than her previous works, and it is wholly evident throughout.
Listen to Swim Against the Tide here: