In an age where information is rarely more than a google away, Tashaki Miyaki are one of the last true enigmas. Information on band-members, or even how many there are, is hazy at best. All we know for sure is that they hail from Los Angeles, and they play a guitar-led brand of cinematic dream pop. Formed around 2011, Tashaki Miyaki have released one EP and a string of singles. Now, six years on, full-length debut ‘The Dream’ has finally emerged from the mist.
The first thing to note is that about 40% of ‘The Dream’ is material we’ve heard before. The album includes versions of singles ‘Cool Runnings’, ‘Get it Right’ and their original 2011 kick-off ‘Something is Better Than Nothing’. But that’s not to say the album is just a half-hearted clustering of EPs and singles. Far from it. Though there are no substantial changes, the previous releases have been rerecorded and tweaked, bringing the sound in line with the new tracks. The previous releases were teaser trailers. This is the final form.
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Even the song order feels closely crafted. Bookended by ‘L.A.P.D’, a soaring overture of surging guitars and Max Steiner strings, the songs within flow like beats in a bittersweet Hollywood classic. It’s as if the band took American Graffiti, distilled it down to its emotional building blocks, and gift-wrapped it for our pleasure.
New tracks ‘City’ and ‘Girls on T.V’ reign supreme. Like most of the album, they show off the band’s stripped back, dreamy-eyed style. Driven by a steady drumbeat, lifted off the ground by that golden string section, but with a psychopathic distorted guitar kept on a tight leash. It’s like Roman Holiday, with Tommy Udo waiting in the wings.
We’re introduced to the sweet siren harmonies of the drummer and the bassist (whose names are as illusive as the Maltese Falcon). Their honey-soaked vocals are the album’s heroines, charting the course from opening to credits. Reflective and hazy, it’s music for getting day-drunk and watching the sun go down.
Much of the album keeps this same style. Pushed along by those enduring drums whilst the warmth of the rest lulls you into a blissful trance. The lyrics, unsurprisingly, are cinematic in nature. Stripped back as their style, dwelling on summertime romance. Yet Father John Misty-style self-knowing observations slip through the mask. Lyrical gems like ‘I wish I were in the movies where no one is ever alone’ show that their obsession with the silver screen isn’t just an LA by-product. It’s not movies, but our relationship with movies (and the dreams they make us dream) that Tashaki Miyaki are so interested in.
From the brazen preludes to the emotional climax, ‘The Dream’ feels like a polished project. The summation of six years’ work, now perfected in a director’s cut. Ostensibly upbeat but with a tender melancholic subtext and a desperate unspoken longing. An elusive, unhinged soundtrack to a romance that’s never been filmed.