The word “Wasuremono,” in Japenese kanji, roughly translates to “lost things,” though alternative musician Wasuremono‘s latest album, Are You OK?, does away entirely with the idea of being lost or left behind. Out June 14, the alt-pop record is surprisingly unifying and hopeful in its enveloping synth and fun drum beats, even with the contrast of heavy lyrics that deal primarily with mental health.
Are You OK? was written and recorded by Wasuremono brainchild William Southward in his backyard shed, and each song is its original demo because Southward believes in the “magic” of the first take of a track – both surprising facts given the smooth production and polished sound of its 11 tracks.
Yet there is also a vintage tone to the music on Are You OK?, an attribute that is perhaps best attributed to the fact that each song was written around beats created from Southward’s old Linn Drum Computer, an instrument with a distinctly ’80s-pop sound. As a result, each track prominently features fun, driving percussion: the title song, which opens the record, complements light vocals with hand-clapping percussion, and “School” prevents its rich, dark sound from becoming too thick by moving the music forward with a solid structure from the drum beat.
Aside from the drum beats, Southward’s instrumentals are thick and layered with an intensity that creates deeply resonant tracks like “Don’t Play With Ghosts (For Olive)”. Yet throughout the record and especially in that song, his lighter vocals are almost jewel-toned at times, and brightly youthful licks of synthesizer in the bridge provide a levity that keeps the song afloat. It makes for an incredibly immersive experience, and the album’s layered or group vocals provide a sense of unity to top it all off.
“Self-Help,” a single from the record, is perhaps the best example of this: though its lyrics touch on mental health (“No matter what you do, we’ll try to fix ya”), the synth is bright and the melodies are easy, and a splash of tambourine provides a fun companion to clapping drums. It is a catchy pop song, but a deep feeling of hope also permeates the track.
Wasuremono’s latest is full of accessible alternative music, yet Southward has created an authentic retro vibe that sets Are You OK? apart from a swath of other poppy records released in 2019. And though the percussion is a highlight, Southward’s intricately layered synth and vocals counter the driving drum beats to create something entirely irresistible.
Are You OK? is out June 14 on The Wilderness Records, and fans can preorder or purchase the record here. In the meantime, stream and purchase the title track of Wasuremono’s Are You OK? via Bandcamp below.