Tashaki Miyaki: Castaway
DL | LP
Released on 2 July 2021
Tashaki Miyaki’s second album, Castaway, provides a real means of escape through a tide of dreamy pop ballads and Ian Corbridge is very happy to be stranded on this desert island of melodic bliss.
Tashaki Mayaki first appeared as a trio in the Los Angeles scene back in 2012, quickly forging a notable presence in the world of dreamy and hazy guitar pop amid the California sunshine. Pop melodies and harmonies competed with atmospheric and sonic textures, underpinned by guitar effects and plenty of reverb. However, a careful listen to their early more minimalist sound revealed a whole series of influences that extended well beyond their labelling, suggesting that there was much more to come as they cut their teeth in the music industry.
It wasn’t until 2017 that they finally released their debut album, The Dream, to some considerable critical acclaim. This protracted period was attributed to many typical challenges faced by an emerging act such as band changes, touring, festival appearances and more particularly the financial challenges faced by a band who did not have the direct support of a label. However, what this delay did allow was the sound of the band to evolve and mature as they continued to perform and experiment in the studio.
By 2014 the current band line up had become firmly established with Paige Stark on vocals and drums, Luke Paquin on guitar and Sandi Denton on bass and backing vocals. Whilst their version of dreamy, hazy melodic guitar pop has more than a nod in its origins to some of the greats from the doo-wop era, it is easy to draw out references to bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Lush, Mazzy Star, The Kinks and Big Star amongst so many others. But what is most important is that they appear to have created their own unique brand from this heady cocktail of influences.
By the time they approached their debut album in 2017, the band’s sound had become synonymous with atmospheric guitars, steady rhythms, haunting vocals and sweeping lush arrangements. Whilst some of the songs had been recorded some while before, the new maturity of their sound really shone through in a captivating way.
Thankfully their second album, Castaway has not been so long in the making. It may well have been given added motivation and impetus by the frustrations of an extended period of lockdown, a factor which appears to have influenced some of the core themes running through the album’s narrative. There is also a clear sense that the band have been exploring new territories in writing this album, pushing their music into different dimensions.
Opening song and title track, Castaway, immediately sets the tone for what lies ahead. From the opening bars I was immediately transported to a place that had only ever existed in my dreams and, to be honest, from this point on I rarely strayed from the glorious images that came into my mind throughout the duration of the entire album.
Paige Stark explains Castaway as a song “about the challenges of romantic love and how we are all bad at it in one way or another. The idea of a castaway in all this is that no one understands the relationship except the people in it, so you really are stuck on an island alone together there”. And with an album whose message is focused on themes of love, heartbreak, memory and time, I certainly felt the vivid illusion of being stuck on a desert island as the soothing, yet melancholy tones unfolded. Even so, there is still a hint of optimism within the grooves.
Help Me has a real 60’s vibe to it, taking me back to the kind of uplifting arrangements perfected by The Byrds and The Mamas and the Papas. However, Gone takes me straight back to an unreal level of mellow consciousness, with beautiful melancholy strings and sax and a real sense of loss from the narrative. Strings are also used to great effect in other songs, providing a more uplifting tone towards the end of Baby Don’t but offering a more heart-wrenching feel throughout the slow-burning U.
I Feel Fine is all fuzzy guitars over a metronomic beat and is in essence an ode to dissatisfaction. It’s about those moments we can all relate to when asked how we feel and we automatically say we are fine when really we are not. The video which pays homage to some favourite vampire films is the first one the band have ever appeared in.
Wasting Time is the one song on the album which has a different feel and energy. It has a more upbeat power pop vibe, albeit slightly understated with a more unnerving edge as it tackles the issue of anxiety. But then Alone takes it all back down again with another slow burner which appears to search for some form of compromise, aided by those stings again and and grungy guitar refrain as the song comes to a close.
Castaway is symptomatic of a band that has grown both lyrically and musically as it ventures into new and varied territories of sound. As a heartachingly beautiful and reflective album, it provides a real means of escape from our current confines through a tide of dreamy pop ballads.
The hypnotic, mesmerising and captivating quality of the vocals underpinned by the melodic and dreamy soundscapes really capture the overwhelming sense of longing and yearning for a brighter and happier future that so many of us crave. You really should give it a try.
You can buy the album here.
All words by Ian Corbridge. You can find more of his writing at his author profile.