Mrs. Green Apple – 12

3 out of 5

Label: EMI

Produced by: (kanji)

After one self-released mini-album and two followup label mini-albums, Mrs. Green Apple made it to their debut album, 12, and thus chose a good time to finally emerge as a group that sounds like a group, and not just some talented players with a handful of singles, co-opting various indie rock styles. 12 still follows the structural suit of their previous releases – kicking off with rollicking, manic openers and including a few softer moments between volleys of pop-rock – but all of the albums’ songs (probably not coincidentally totaling 12 – 1 of its thirteen tracks is an interlude) sound of a like mind, and sport a more consistently amplified and experimental approach than the somewhat scattered content on Variety and Progressive.

What hasn’t change – and which is a good thing – is how much musicality MGA packs into most songs, with stop-start percussion and instrumentation smushed together with an always-on keyboard assault that’s then sharpened into bright and shiny music, akin to Minus the Bear’s more main-stream sound, but as funneled through their slightly skronkier early albums. Even during the aforementioned “softer moments,” the group brings a lot to the table, with Motoki Omori showing ever impressive range and restraint with vocals. That bright and shininess, though, is at the expense of some aural depth: where the group’s work might sound better with a more raw sound, as on パブリック, the riffs are cleaned up too much, curtailing the impact; oppositely, a track like 藍 needs a full-fledged blown out sound to emphasize some big band horns, but it’s just lost in the general sparkle of ’12’. Thankfully, most of the time the group is leaning into what works with the production, although that doesn’t automatically equate into an end to end album of originality: 12 is consistent, yes, but MGA still falls back on rather predictable rock when they’ve spent all of their energy on singles. Taking the time to inject more of their songs with the same intensity of those highlights would tip the balance into something truly noteworthy, and not just a disc that has you skipping over B-sides.