Perfect (Joyful Noise)
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Feb. 19, 2016
Beginning a fifth decade, Half Japanese no longer seem like abject outsiders. The unpolished avant-rock they pioneered has redrawn the boundaries of convention to a point where their music fits squarely within an established rubric. Perfect acknowledges this predicament with full-bodied arrangements and a sharpening of local principal Jad Fair's worldview. Nasal delivery and residual skronk aside, the album's themes of abiding love and perseverance skirt the realm of universality. "Listen to Your Heart" and "That's Called Love" artfully mix willful naivete and backhanded profundity. There's a distinct rhythm to Fair's sermonizing, but the metrics share more commonalities with the word jazz of Ken Nordine than couplet-driven pop. Anti-epic closer "That's Right" is a seize-the-day polemic that recasts motivational platitudes in contrarian garb. Heard against a backdrop of stutter-stepped spaciness, words that would be insufferable in management training or a romantic comedy suddenly become hopeful.