Big on hooks, not on precociousness

In the singles-driven Japanese music market, albums are usually after-thoughts, a way to collect tracks from an artist’s last few singles onto one disc.

New World, Do As Infinity’s second album released earlier this year, was such a disc. Of the album’s 12 tracks, only three songs hadn’t been previously released.

Then bandleader Nagao Dai decided to forego video and photo shoots to concentrate on writing for the band. As a result, Do As Infinity managed to released its third album within months of its second.

This time, not only is there more new material, but the songs are better, and the album feels more cohesive.

Do As Infinity strikes a delicate balance between pop, jazz and hard rock, often combining one or more of these elements in unusual but appealing ways.

Deep Forest, however, sticks pretty much to delivering hook-filled pop. Some of the experiments that went into New World and Break of Dawn have been toned down and focused.

The three singles DAI released in consecutive months this past summer (“Tooku Made”, “Week!”, “Fukai Mori”) form the blueprint for the rest of the album — big on melody, but not too heavy with the slickness.

“Tadaima” has a gorgeous sing-along chorus that’s almost child-like. “Koiotome” indulges a bit in the usual anime-theme guitar effects without sacrificing any of its beefiness during the bridge and chorus.

“Get Yourself” and “Tsubasa no Keikaku” start off with sweet, chiming motifs, only to transform into a pair of rockers complete with larger-than-life guitar solos.

Do As Infinity does allow itself a bit of breathing room for some daring material.

“Koozookaikaku” opens with sitars, then breaks into a “Sing, Sing, Sing” drum beat complete with jazzy horns and growly guitars. “Bookenshatachi” hums along with a drum ‘n’ bass beat and some distorted guitars before hitting a jazzy chorus.

Those experiments aside, Deep Forest feels like a proper follow-up to the aesthetic Do As Infinity established with Break of Dawn. The band never strays from delivering the hooks, nor does it let it’s more creative endeavors get out of hand.