The Drums – Portamento
Although it’s been little more than a year since their debut, there’s been a lot of excitement about the release of The Drums’ second album.
Just the other day the New York Times made the entire album available by stream on their website – leaving the album very much the hot topic of conversation amongst indie lovers.
The Drums have proved incredibly popular amongst Japanese indie pop fans, with a catchy pop sound which leaves people hooked and humming in their wake. Their new album, “Portamento”, is still characterised by the lightweight, dreamy sounds of their debut, but it’s as if somebody went at each instrument with an iron file and smoothed out the audio a little bit more, with the different sounds coming closer together.
From a personal viewpoint however, this polishing of sound comes at a cost, with the contrasting sounds of jangling guitars and glittering synths, which was the backdrop for their earlier work having gotten lost in process.
Whilst their earlier work had an ethereal quality with surreal glimpses, Portamento feels a lot more realistic. Common to both albums however is a pop sound which edges further towards the melancholy with each track, somehow managing to mix a dark atmosphere reminiscent of the Factory Records bands of the 80s with optimistic woo wooing. The contrast between these two sounds is interesting yet eerie and it works well (whether intentionally or not) with the uncanny album artwork and music video for the single “Money”.
With the success of their debut album, loss of original guitarist Adam Kessler and just over a year having passed, it’s safe to say there has been a lot of pressure upon the band. However with this release they’ve managed to get over that anxiety and shown some growth and maturity. Whilst it’s something you’ll notice as soon as you put on the album it still may not be enough to please their critics.
Personally I wonder if some of us were happy with The Drums familiar to us from their debut album and whilst Portamento is a development, we still prefer The Drums of old. Nonetheless The Drums are making the music that they want to make, in the style of their influences and they deserve credit for that.
Words: Sanae Shiromoto
Translation: Sam Mokhtary