Almost there

When a band moves from the indies to the majors, a bigger budget usually means a better recording.

It’s not much different for Nananine. The Fukuoka City quartet’s indie EPs sported great songs that deserved stronger mixes and higher fidelity.

While Nananine’s Warner Bros. debut, 12e12, does indeed feature a more polished sound, something got lost on the way to the big leagues.

The higher fidelity reveals Kawaseki Hiroshi’s limitations as a singer. The quiet intro to “Hummingbird” shines a harsh light on Kawaseki’s raspy voice. Somehow, his singing lacks the gut-anchored honesty of his indie performances.

Even though it sounds like he’s emoting on “Oorii”, Kawaseki gets lost in the mix, the full force of his voice undercut instead of enhanced.

The bigger studio budget doesn’t dampen the rest of the band’s spirited performances, but at the same time, it doesn’t capture the power of its live performances either.

“Flange” is a decent enough alt-rock song on recording, but performed live, it sounded far more impressive.

Half way through 12e12, Nananine trots out its strongest material. “Stroke” is the band’s masterpiece to date, a solid four-on-the-floor beat anchoring the song’s attractive hooks.

“Swing Hawk” alternates between a noisy compound meter and a straight-forward backbeat. “Minnie” finishes the album on an acoustic note, intimate and rough-hewned.

Although 12e12 is a decent debut, it’s still short of capturing Nananine at its most powerful. The higher fidelity is a nice touch, but now it’s a matter of getting the band in its best element.