Haru Nemuri – Lovetheism (colored : red) – VINYL LP


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After the release of her powerhouse 2018 debut Haru to Shura, Haru Nemuri quickly became a pretty important artist for a lot of people. Bursting onto the international stage from out of nowhere, her noisey synth-raps played out as a reconfiguration of J-pop that held unexpected value for many who would otherwise have written off that scene. Haru’s sound is adamantly Japanese while bulldozing many of the tropes that frequently turn people off from the country’s brighter music, with infectious energy and palpable emotional sincerity that give it a good deal of staying power. Backed up by a series of roof-raising shows across Europe, Haru to Shura’s honeymoon period was extensive and glorious, so much so that Haru’s self-descriptions as an indestructible force of loud, maximalist love seemed right on the money. But, as always, there’s a flip side: whenever an artist seems to ride on sunshine, the calibre of expectations for their next move tend to get a little skiffy. Haru’s ever-expanding public platform has been so overwhelmingly positive that I felt a little guilty about harbouring misgivings over whether she could keep up her golden streak. This wasn’t helped by how satisfying Haru to Shura felt across as a standalone package; that record’s sound didn’t seem to require further unpacking, and yet Haru has clearly been so content performing it ever since that it would be unreasonable to expect much of a departure. All things considered, there were a good deal of reasons for excitement at the prospect of a follow-up, many of which also served as ample basis for cocked eyebrows.

And that brings us to her brand new minialbum, LOVETHEISM. Haru is back, still genki as hell, still independent, and still wonderfully indifferent to how a young artist is expected to address the world in this weary era of viral fireworks and jaded politicisation. She’s a little keener to drop into English, a little heavier on the guitars, but otherwise the same voice as we’ve come to love (and, before you ask, yes that includes the screams). The result is familiar yet earnest, not quite on the same plane of superenergy as Haru to Shura, but perhaps a little more self-assured and with a couple of Exciting Surprises to back things up. Surprise #1 is that the two singles “Fanfare” and “Riot” work a good deal better in sequence than in isolation. As someone who wasn’t exactly overjoyed about either in their original release, this is a huge relief. “Fanfare” benefits the most here, sounding a lot stronger as an ice-breaking opener than as a standalone hype package. A lot of Haru Nemuri’s schtick has been driven by a feeling of life-or-death stakes while chasing life and love to the full; something about this one feels a little twee, a little tame, or overly predictable in its execution. This isn’t helped by how reminiscent its verses are Seiko Oomori’s 2018 powerhouse single “Shinigami”, an epitome of compelling stakes in contemporary J-pop with a cutting lyrical edge and a panoramic scope both beyond the reach of “Fanfare.” Everything about the track telegraphs anthemic signals without packing quite as much knockout value as would have been opportune.

Fortunately – and here’s Surprise #2 – this album also has a respectable arsenal of riffs (!), which are deployed liberally in aid of turning up the intensity from time to time. “Ai Yori Tashika na Mono Nante Nai”, “Pink Unicorn” and “Umi ni Natte” back Haru’s trademark noisey synth-pop up with overdriven guitar samples to add an extra kick and a sense of grit that the singles, both particularly synth-friendly, lacked on their own. “Umi ni Natte” gets my pick for its churning groove, a slight throwback to the likes of the momentous Haru to Shura title track, while “Ai Yori…” is the album’s most intense moment, carrying its titular thesis (Nothing Is More Trustworthy Than Love) with evident passion and a healthy measure of adrenaline. On the other hand, “Pink Unicorn” goes the way of scuzzy garage-ready indie that could have come straight out of early-mid ‘00s Britain. However, just when you’re get sick of its neverending one-bar megamotif, Haru drops 30 impromptu seconds of instrumental ambience to give her amps time to recharge (or whatever) before yell-cueing herself back in for a final chorus. It’s bizarre and a little incoherent, but as far as gratuitous left-turns go, I dig it.

Surprise #3 is technically no surprise at all, since it’s been available in demo form for months, but the title track “Lovetheism” is awesome. This one wastes no time in distilling Haru’s sound into a short and sweet beat-driven recap of her hip-hop fundaments. The chorus mantra is a firm keeper and the I’m firmly on board with the way every single section of the song feels like part of a wider development. Its tone is more in line with her darker, older tracks such as “Tokyo (Ewig Wiederkehren)” or the widely overlooked opener of her Atom Heart Mother EP, “Kuuki Ningyou.” On the other hand, if “Lovetheism” is a welcome reprise of an anxious sound associated with her past work, “Ringo no Uta” feels like the most half-baked version of her apparent 2020 sound. It’s perhaps the most saccharine Haru Nemuri track to date, but plays out as a trailing afterthought rather than a particularly memorable closing statement. Of all the tracks here, this is the only one I’d consider a straightforward dud.

All things considered, LOVETHEISM is a pretty enjoyable follow-up to Haru to Shura. It explores a few new tricks and consolidates her foundations thoroughly enough that it can easily be forgiven for not raising the bar on that album’s intimidating overall standard. Don’t get me wrong, Haru still sounds like she wants to punch far above her weight – power to her! The catch is that there’s less of a feeling of an uphill struggle here, and more of a sense of fine-tuning songwriting and production attributes. To this end, it’s a success: Haru comes out of this minialbum with a fuller mix, a more versatile range of arrangements and more smoothly integrated rock instrumentation than on her debut, so fingers crossed whatever she comes up with next will use this as a new foundation for reaching new heights. Onwards and upwards!


Additional information
Weight 280 g





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