The Sleepy Strange, Japancakes' sophomore album (and last record in Darla Records' reissue campaign) found the band honing in on the sound that makes them oh-so special. For the first time, the pedal steel takes a lead role in the band, propelling the band's overall sound into a dreamy space wonderland. The album title is 100% correct; it is "the" record, the record is very "sleepy," and it is, in its way, quite "strange." It's strange in the sense that the music is practically 'new age,' definitely 'ambient,' rather 'country,' yet it cannot be truly called those things. I can only think of one artist to compare this record to, and that is the painfully obscure Transparent Music, the debut album by pedal steel maestro, BJ Cole. To make it stranger, the songs on that record sound like Japancakes outtakes, yet those songs are all classical compositions!
See how appropriate this album title is?
Ultimately, The Sleepy Strange is where Japancakes became the band we know and love today. The album's sole flaw--and it's more a personal taste thing than a true flaw--is that the songs, while gorgeous, seem to ramble on a bit too long. Then again, that's not a criticism of the actual music, so maybe I shouldn't have brought it up. "The Waiting" is eight minutes of pure heavenly bliss, a gentle, relaxing ride up the stairway to an aural paradise. So is the next song, "Disconnect the Cable." Same thing for the next song, "This Year's Beat." What of the next song, "Vanishing Point?" I'm sure you can see where I'm going here.
The Sleepy Strange is a lovely little record from a highly talented band. It's a record any band should be proud to release, and saving it from the dustbin of obscurity was a wise decision.
Listen To: "Vanishing Point"
Labels: Darla Records, Japancakes, Reviews J