Popping in a disc by a band named Advantage Lucy can’t help but make one feel cool and elite. The name practically reeks of untranslatable random/cool, English put together in that unique way only the Japanese seem capable of.
But the name itself, derived from an earlier name of Lucy van Pelt (of Peanuts fame), should not lead one to believe that this is a gimmicky band with a cool, random name. Advantage Lucy delivers a rock/pop sound that is as inventive as it is solid.
Echo Park, the band’s fourth album and released under its own independent label, Solaris (not to be confused with the internet company), is the culmination of that talent, and its tracks shine with musicality.
From the opening track we are greeted with a multi-harmonic buzz, a lone guitar twang leading into a lightly distorted guitar fuzz. Advantage vocalist Aiko glides over these rhythms with melodic ease, lending an almost ephemeral quality to the song
“Anderson,” the band’s fun third-track hit, adds horns in its rock/pop tune, lending a ska flavor to the bouncy track. The song is alight with energy that drives the more uptempo songs on the album.
As intricate as the melodies and rhythms are, there’s something undeniably airy about Echo Park. A lightness pervades the songs on this album with a quality of floating, while being grounded in a solid music foundation.
If there’s a criticism to be made toward Advantage Lucy, it might be that Aiko’s vocals are sometimes difficult to understand — as occurs with Japanese vocalists from time to time. On slower ballads like “akai-natsu,” this is less apparent, with the mostly Japanese lyrics largely distinguishable. On faster tracks like the above mentioned, such as the aforementioned “Anderson,” both English and Japanese lyrics alike are shrouded in obscurity, induced by vocal pitch that cover up the words. Particularly in the higher registers, Aiko’s lyrics become generic vocal sounds. In slower numbers where she sings in a lower register, such as “tooi-hi,” this problem disappears.
Advantage Lucy is at its best when it combines a variety of sounds and effects into an otherwise straight-forward and effective style of music — one which takes influence from a world stage, yet remains a unique entity onto itself. One can hear the influence of Swedish music (in fact, there’s an unmistakably similar quality in Swedish band Husky Rescue) in its more languid, flowing ballads.
Adding to the goodness of Echo Park are great production values, achieved at Advantage Lucy’s own label, Solaris. The smartness of layering and intuitive balance of the album help make Echo Park a winner.
In the realm of independent J Pop artist, where bands are hit and miss and often tow the line between copycat and subversive, Echo Park hits the latter in both cases, and is simply a joy to listen to.