Japanese indie band Lamp released their 10th album, “Dusk to Dawn,” on Oct. 10, a long-awaited project for old and new fans. In the album, Lamp takes listeners on a nostalgic journey through the seasons, painting immersive, storybook-like scenes that transcend time and memory.
Active for over two decades, Lamp has established itself within both Japanese and Western indie music spheres with an extensive discography. Trio Taiyo Someya, Yusuke Nagai and Kaori Sakakibara formed the band in their college years and released its debut album “Soyokaze Apartment Room 201” in 2003.
Lamp incorporates elements of bossa nova, jazz and soul into their work, citing their love for music and media from the 1960s and 1970s as a starting point for the band. The result is a unique and soothing sound that takes on a new form with each project — from the summer-soaked reflections of their album “For Lovers” in 2004 to the warm yearning of “Yume” in 2014.
For better or for worse, “Dusk to Dawn” stands out from Lamp’s past albums, both in its sheer length and the variety of atmospheres it evokes. Perhaps due to the maturity they’ve gained while growing and making music together over the years, Lamp is particularly ambitious in “Dusk to Dawn,” compiling an impressive tracklist of 20 songs — making it their heftiest album yet. As the title of the album suggests, “Dusk to Dawn” uses its long runtime to visualize the passage of time, paying homage to the little memories that one can’t help but hold onto in a changing world.
Sakakibara softly greets listeners in the first song “Dusk,” a short and slow-paced number that gently sets the scene for the album. Rather than a more energetic introduction, Lamp chooses to begin their album by lulling listeners into a peaceful state, opening the doors to a hazy dimension that only materializes once the sun has gone down.
Following soon after is “The Last Dance,” which is driven by a creative harmony of different instruments — a Lamp trademark. This time, Nagai joins Sakakibara for a sweet duet, and the two sing over a backdrop of hopeful horns and synth. The song surprisingly amps up after the second chorus, ending in a crescendo which makes for a seamless transition into the next song, “As Time Goes By.”
The first half of the album maintains a fairly pleasant and solid pace, where Lamp seems mainly focused on taking listeners on a walk through interconnected scenes of everyday nostalgia. Despite the warmth of these opening songs, however, a subtle sense of melancholy seems to permeate them, amplified by the whispery softness that Sakakibara and Nagai’s vocals often embrace. “Misty Town” immerses listeners within a dreamy fog of harp chords and pitter-pattering keys, making you wander through a rainy town that feels both comforting and forlorn. “Late Night Train” winds the album down even further, taking on the languidity of a sleepy train ride home after a long day.
Lamp makes sure to break away from such mellowness every once in a while with sunnier, upbeat tracks like “August Calendar” and “Weekend.” Mixing different emotions together throughout its songs, “Dusk to Dawn” achieves a sweet balance of highs and lows in energy.
It is in the middle chunk of “Dusk to Dawn” that Lamp’s choice to compile a large catalog of songs feels a bit taxing. Though each track contributes to the album’s overarching relaxing soundscape, it is admittedly difficult to distinguish them individually. “Dusk to Dawn” falls victim to its songs blending together a bit too well, and as a result, many of Lamp’s notable musical choices are lost as the album continues its course. These middle tracks are not subpar by any means — and may have thrived in a shorter collection — but they are unfortunately easy to overlook when surrounded by several other songs that are sonically similar.
This is not to say that there is a complete lack of special moments in the latter half of the album. The beginning of “Bedroom Afternoon” is a nice surprise, reminiscent of the guitar picking in one of Lamp’s most beloved songs, “Yume Utsutsu,” from their 2008 album “Lamp Genso.” “A Winter’s Day” is a hidden gem of the album, immediately transporting listeners to a quiet and lonely December afternoon with just the opening notes.
The album ends with “Dawn,” a serene send-off by Lamp and possibly the most bittersweet track of them all. With only two lines of lyrics, the song allows listeners to fly through a musical backdrop that reflects on all that has transpired. The day is over, Lamp seems to wistfully tell their listeners. Or maybe it is only just beginning.
“Dusk to Dawn” is certainly far from being a disappointment. When a band has a sound as sweet and self-grounded as Lamp’s, any new project of theirs likely won’t be anything less than solid. Although “Dusk to Dawn” seems to lack the same alluring magic that Lamp’s past albums have, there is no denying its charm and ability to showcase all that the group has learned and experimented with over the years.