Ever expanding

Let me be upfront about some personal taste — I wasn’t too fond of Nirgilis’ single, “King/Lemon/Ice Skate for Life”.

It’s not that they’re bad songs — I just didn’t think they rose to the level for a single release, especially compared to some of the band’s previous singles.

(Notably, “Vuna”, which didn’t make the album cut. My guess is a licensing issue — it was released on the band’s own Chukuri label before Nirgilis signed to Toy’s Factory.)

“King” and “Ice Skate for Life” anchor the first half of Nirgilis’ second album, New Standard, and for that reason, it was difficult to warm up to it.

Sure, “Byosoku Highway” does a great job of opening the album, while “Eregiba” mixes folk guitar, funky drumming and synthetic textures quite nicely. And “Mayonaka no Schneider” is one fun, quirky tune.

But some bands feel the need to stash singles at the start of the album — which Nirgilis did with its debut album Tennis — and it has a tendency to backfire if the singles aren’t terribly strong.

Then something happens for the second half of New Standard — Nirgilis stretches out.

“Bourgeois Brain” is a dischordant piece with some off-key vocals by singer Iwata Acchu and producer Hoppy Kamiyama. Iwata screeches with total abandon, and it’s grating in a good way.

On “Akai Asayuke”, members of Art-School join Nirgilis in evoking the spirit of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” for the song’s conclusion. It’s a pretty dramatic moment.

For the rest of the album, Nirgilis employs its whimsical mix of programmed beats and post-punk guitar, but this time out, it’s scaled back, perhaps even introspective.

“Subako” employs an acoustic guitar and only a few synthetic flourishes, but the rhythm section provides a sturdy foundation. “Mule” moves at a leisurely pace, building up with a string orchestra toward the end.

New Standard shows Nirgilis maturing with its distinctive sound, but the writing itself doesn’t seem to possess the same kind of wild catchiness of its last album.

Once Nirgilis can build on the ideas of New Standard with the hooks of Tennis, it will yield an incredible work.