High volume introspection

Two years ago, this very web site declared FEED as the best UK band not to come from the UK. If that award were bestowed today, it would easily go to farida’s cafe.

Where FEED evoked the Cranberries and the Smiths, farida’s cafe would probably be lumped (somewhat unfairly) with all the UK bands gunning for Radiohead.

Of course, most writers evoke the name “Radiohead” because the kids reading music mags these days wouldn’t recognize the name “the Cure”, let alone “the Sundays”.

Led by the angelic croon of Rie Sekine, farida’s cafe specializes in the kind of high volume, introspective alternative pop that steers clear of any navel-gazing preciousness. Jewel, this band is not.

Sekine, who lived in Canada before returning to Japan, flawlessly switches between Japanese and English on the band’s debut, Hear Nothing. Her powerful voice dominates such songs as “G-Song” and “Kaerimichi”.

Even though the band’s songs slower songs tend to start quietly, it doesn’t stop guitarist Andre Sakai from tearing out a loud riff midway.

“Tuesday” and “Watchman” both begin as seemingly haunting songs, then turn into a roaring epics. “Until It’s Mine” stays pretty quiet until the chorus, when the band kicks in with full force.

farida’s cafe works best when they’re rocking out, as they do on “Kaerimichi”, “G-Song” and the album’s title track. With the likes of Starsailor, South and Elbow cashing in on the whole “slow is more” aesthetic, it’s nice to see a band like farida’s cafe navigate both fast and slow tempi.

Hear Nothing, however, suffers from a somewhat indescript mix. There’s always a sense the guitars could be louder, the vocals more forward. It’s easy to imagine the band’s songs would sound far more powerful in a live setting.

Still, Hear Nothing is an incredibly strong beginning for farida’s cafe. If chasing Radiohead gets tiresome, check out this Japanese quartet instead.