4 out of 5
Produced by: (?)
Well, they did it: Mrs. Green Apple committed themselves to pop over rock, took one album to learn how to make that stick, and then delivered an almost wholly catchy disc, stuffed with not only instantly toe-tapping tracks, but also some surprisingly dense ones.
The first thing that will be noticeable, from opener Love Me, Love You, is that the dedication to bright and shiny jingles (over punky emo) has afforded MGA room for flourish: a jazzy, big-band ‘ensemble’ backing gives the disc its name, and while we don’t revisit this exact sound again, it sets a precedent for the essence of what’s to come. Some fantastic singles – WanteD! WanteD! – mix in the group’s amped up drumming and keys with strings and electronic flourish, while tracks like アウフヘーベン and On My MIND use the layering to hide some really rich nuance, hiding behind an already catchy forefront to reward headphone listening.
The ballad They are kinda bores, because it just feels like a requisite, and I definitely could have done without the dubstepped WHOO WHOO WHOO (autotuned vocals troublingly touch the disc here and there, when lead singer Motoki Omori really shouldn’t need it, but they’re most obnoxious on this track whereas elsewhere they can be ignored amidst the mix), but a later ballad, Coffee, goes all jazzy, and is a really nice, stripped down addition to the disc, and REVERSE takes an electro-first approach that ends up working all too well.
But most importantly, while I feel like MGA has struggled to produce memorable songs beyond album bookenders (and none on their self-titled album), Ensemble is pretty much packed to the gills with ’em, and reminds me how / why sifting through youtube videos convinced me to explore their discography in the first place. The dubstep track can still be left out, though.