The Apple Music recommendation algorithm really wants me to listen to Luby Sparks. Almost without fail, whenever one of the Japanese dreampop/shoegaze albums that have been in heavy rotation for me lately wraps, it segues into a track from the Tokyo outfit’s 2018 self-titled debut. And it’s a bit of a curious choice since of all the acts in this current wave of discovery, who can be a bit genre-on-the-nose-in-a-good-way, they’re decidedly less ‘gaze purist.
They have cred by association though, with their first album being co-produced by Max Bloom of late ‘gaze-revivalists Yuck. Certainly the guitars are either thick and grindy or lush and chorusy, but aren’t quite structural enough to build a wall; they’re sufficiently dialed back in the mix to leave space for the vocals and hooks. As such, the five-piece definitely lean towards the “pop” side of dreampop, with vocalist Emily Obaidey singing in English as well as Japanese for extra international accessibility.
Obaidey left the band after the debut and was replaced by one Erika Murphy, who herself is also half-British, half-Japanese – quite a feat of casting. It’s her voice you hear on “Somewhere”, a non-album single released in 2019. It’s a a big, jangly and shimmery number that certainly didn’t need a Cocteau Twins-esque makeover, but gets one anyways for the b-side, with a remix from none other than Robin Guthrie who leaves his unmistakable fingerprints by slowing things down, turning up the reverb and layering more guitars overtop.