We are Cameron Freeman and Quinn Robinson, and we listen to a lot of music . This column is here to share only the truth about which albums and EPs are worth your time. Each week, we pick one that’s caught our eye — regardless of genre or popularity — and run through our thoughts.
Kero Kero Bonito is an indie-pop trio led by Sarah Midori Perry. They made their name as part of a synth-infused wave of internet-inspired bubblegum pop on their 2016 debut record “Bonito Generation.” Their first album consisted of snappy, synth basslines, light and fluttery vocal tambor, and almost-too-catchy hooks. Perry’s half-Japanese heritage added J-Pop influence to the group’s sound — she raps multiple verses and bridges in Japanese on their first record.
On their second and latest album “Time ‘n’ Place,” the bubblegum pop (with the Japanese lyricism toned back almost completely) serves as a foundational base, which the members twist into something more aggressive and sinister. Their second single “Only Acting” serves as the most marked example. After the first chorus, industrial drones assume the place of electric guitars in the background and white noise bursts pierce through Perry’s vocals, halting the song in its tracks. The addition of abrasive and industrial sonic influence represents a significant shift in Kero Kero Bonito’s style, aging their sound from “Bonito Generation.”
The lyrical content matches the twisted maturity that Kero Kero Bonito assumes on “Time ‘n’ Place,” with themes that also mirror the album title itself. “Make Believe” begins with “I set a watch for five o’clock / I think of trees and rivers as I’m drifting off / I pinch my wrist (just to tell where I am).” The fluidity of one’s personality, time, growing older, and escapism all are themes that feature on “Time ‘n’ Place,” perhaps representing a shift in the members’ perspectives as they mature into the lifestyle of full-time musicians.
Issues in the album arise when Kero Kero Bonito fail to abide by their own stylistic maturation. Songs like “Flyway” or “Dump” go down like a mildly sweet soda, lacking edge or the catchy hooks from “Time ‘n’ Place’s” predecessors. When they do adhere to their revitalized style, however, Kero Kero Bonito sound like they are looking towards what they believe the future of pop music will be.
Only Acting, Time Today, Swimming, Make Believe, Dear Future Self