Fujiya & Miyagi
Deaf Dumb & Blind

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The British electro-poppin’ quartet Fujiya & Miyagi has recently made a name for itself with its atmospheric synth-beats and lighter pop elements. The band’s 2006 sophomore release, Transparent Things, was well-received and placed the band on the indie radar, allowing its members to license several of their catchier cuts for advertisements. After creating a reputation for being Aphex Twin’s lighter, less abrasive cousin, the band successfully toured the United States and recorded their third full-length album. Adding a new drummer to the threesome’s lineup, the band had every opportunity to progress and reach newer, more innovative styles of electropop. But rather than take a leap forward for the sake of the art, the band’s newest release simply sounds like a lackluster rehashing of its previous record.

Lightbulb, Fujiya & Miyagi’s latest release, opens with “Knickerbocker,” a drum-and-bass-guitar-directed track complete with a playful lyrical repetition of the words “knickerbocker” and “strawberry.” This reiteration sounds vaguely comparable to the redundant repetition of the band’s name heard on “Ankle Injuries,” a similarly playful track from 2006’s Transparent Things. Unfortunately, this vapid song sets the pattern for the rest of the album. Fujiya & Miyagi frontman David Best — known by his stage name Miyagi — prefers to rely on blatant repetition of vocals throughout the disc.

Best spans the four-minute-long course of the aptly titled “Pussyfooting” exclaiming — over and over and over again — how he’s over “pussyfooting with you.” Rather than highlighting the band’s bubbly guitar, bass and synth arrangements, these boring and unimaginative lyrics take away from the music’s quiet beauty. Best continues to lament ad nausea “No more pussyfooting around / No more pussyfooting around / With you.” While this style worked well on the previous album, it may be time for Mr. Miyagi to find a new lyrical style that doesn’t detract from the band’s awe-inspiring lushness.

In spite of these shortcomings, Lightbulbs remains an album brimming with cutesy beats and plenty of synth-driven experimentation. It includes bass-heavy songs about numb limbs (“Sore Thumb”), quirky programmed beats to the tune of snapping fingers (“Pickpocket”), quicker-paced cuts loaded with illuminating guitar riffs (“Hundreds & Thousands”) and sharper guitar strings to the tune of jovial drumming (“Dishwasher”). In the end, it’s the music at hand that matters and Lightbulbs is certainly chock-full of unique, though repetitive, tracks.

Lightbulbs was the ideal opportunity for Fujiya & Miyagi to take a creative step forward. But because its members decided not to take that initiative, the band’s latest release is somewhat stale. This is not as bad as it sounds, considering that Transparent Things was a successful stab at achieving blissful pop perfection. Rather than build upon its previous achievements, Lightbulbs simply sounds like a regurgitation of a previously used formula — with only somewhat mesmerizing results. Perhaps this simply proves the band’s consistency, but it also suggests an unwillingness to delve further into new musical horizons.

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