Give an inch, take a mile

The last time around, farida’s cafe decided to be direct about what it specializes in — introspective rock songs that aren’t afraid to get loud.

The band’s first album, Hear Nothing, started off with two tracks that epitomized that aesthetic, and while the Japanese quartet does a fine job with its specialty, quiet starts don’t make as much of a big impression as loud ones.

Besides, farida’s cafe sounds really good when it’s rocking out.

On its second album, mile a minute, farida’s cafe have done a flip — they start out with a big splash, then draw in as the album progresses.

It works to the band’s advantage, but it’s not the only thing which makes mile a minute a stronger album.

This new set of songs possess subtle touches which nudge them over the fine line from good to excellent — an odd meter on “Iine”, psychedelic horns on “Hanare Banare”, an accordion on “Loop”.

Rei Sekine once again delivers a fine performance in both English and Japanese, her voice every bit as powerful on the faster tracks as they are on the quieter ones.

But guitarist Andre Sakai is no slouch either. His solos on “Sanso” and “mile a minute” venture into some really dissonant territory, giving farida’s cafe songs some real bite.

Stronger songs, more flourishes, tight performances — mile a minute shows this young band has a lot of great potential.

Only one thing holds them back — a strong mix. Like its predecessor, mile a minute feels like it demands a punchier sound. The organs on the title track barely register, and the keyboard work on “Amber” gets buried.

Hopefully, farida’s cafe will reach a point where it can afford the bigger sound it deserves. For now, the group is doing a lot with what it has.