The winter album

On the cover of their second single, “Yuki no Furu-go”, the two members of Kicell are shown bundled up in winter gear, standing in the middle of snow-covered field.

It’s an image that’s hard to erase from the mind’s eye when listening to the Tsujimura brothers’ second album, Kinmirai.

The basics to the duo’s sound remain: falsetto vocals, shimmering guitar effects, lush arrangements.

Whereas the band’s 2001 debut Yume came across as intimate — warm, even — Kinmirai feel chilly.

And that’s not a judgment call, either — there’s nothing distant, stoic or lackluster about Kinmirai. It just reminds me of snow.

There are some sonic clues to feed this seasonal perception. This time around, the Tsujimuras put their voices through more processors, doing away with the last album’s immediacy. The robotic beats on “Nagisa no Kuni” and the echo effects on “Yuki no Furu-go” also lend a cold feeling to the music.

There’s also an economy to the arrangments on Kinmirai. Although “Haru” and “Oni” get by on just a few instruments, more expansive tracks such as “Hyaku-nen Calendar” and the title track don’t contain much in the way embellishments.

By comparrison, “Kaze to Kurage” contains much of the orchestral flourishes that marked Yume — a series of strange effects weaving in and out of the song, making it lush but keeping it lean.

Despite its wintery vibe, Kinmirai is also a kinetic album. Those beats on “Nagisa no Kuni” force the Tsujimuras’ out of their usual lethargic pace, while “Ginyama,” the album’s most appealing track, uses an honest-to-goodness running bass and backbeat.

On some level, it’s this coldness that makes Kinmirai hard to warm up to at first. (Pun sort of intended.) Although no less sonically challenging as Yume, it’s not as inviting either. But after adjusting to the album’s “climate”, it’s easy to hear the beauty in it as well.

Toward the end of the album, signs of spring appear — the hints of tropical slack key guitars on “Picnic”, the cabaret feel of “Hawaiian”.

But before a listener delves in Kinmirai, it’s best to fish out the winter gear in your mind’s ear.