Ano kumo o miteru
Kotori ga tounderu
Ureshii kedo kimi wa watashi ga kirai
Asobi Seksu was an American shoegaze/twee/dreampop band from New York. They existed from 2001 to 2013, then again for a single show in 2014. Their music is perhaps best described as "twee shoegaze" (a concept heretofore found nowhere else I've heard) and there are obvious influences derived from the Cocteau Twins, The Field Mice, Lush and Shonen Knife (at least, as far as I can tell; I haven't found anything in which the band enumerates their influences). Though at least a dozen musicians have been members of this band, its core for its entire run consisted of native Japanese vocalist/keyboardist Yuki Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna. Asobi Seksu put out four studio albums during their 12-year existence: Asobi Seksu (2002), Citrus (2006), Hush (2009) and Fluorescence (2011). Following a batch of singles and music videos drawn from Fluorescence, the band fizzled out in 2013, only to reform a year later to open for Slowdive during their American reunion tour, at Slowdive's request. Asobi Seksu supported them only on the Boston date of that tour. Here's some video footage of both bands at that show. I haven't heard any official announcement following that show that Asobi Seksu had reunited, so for the time being, at least, the band no longer exists.
In case you were wondering, "Asobi Seksu" (遊びセックス, "asobi sekkusu") means "play sex" in Japanese; I suspect it might also imply "foreplay" but, not being fluent in Japanese, I can only guess. This is a reference to the band's first/initial name, changed when they signed their first record contract. It was, up until that point in 2002, named Sportfuck, so "Asobi Seksu" is in the same vein, which is somewhat odd as most of their songs don't really make overt references to sex or anything sexual.
The music is cheery, bright and dreamy, with "wall of sound" effects present in many of the songs. They compare very favorably with Lush—and not just because both bands were fronted by a Japanese woman—although Asobi Seksu's music is quite a bit more energetic and faster than Lush's music. Nevertheless, the basic elements are present in both bands' music. The lyrics for a lot of Lush's songs were thinly-veiled references to sex whereas Asobi Seksu's lyrics are rather nonsensical, but still manage to sound absolutely right. The result is the kind of music you might like to listen to while driving, walking or working out—or going to bed. It's versatile! A good example would be, perhaps, "Perfectly Crystal" from Fluorescence. It's slick, shiny, bouncy and at the same time melancholy. It's a very strange effect, but that song makes me want to live in its chorus forever. It's so beautiful.
I made the comparison to Shonen Knife based mostly on the nonsense lyrics and the occasionally-used Japanese vocals, although most of the songs are sung in English.
The music of Asobi Seksu has been used in a number of films and television commercials. They've contributed songs to the soundtracks for the films The Ramen Girl (2008), In Between Days (2007) and Affluenza (2014), as well as composing the entire score for the film Treeless Mountain (2009) and contributed songs to the television shows "The L Word", "Skins" and "Ugly Betty" and in commercials for a product called LateRooms.
Most of the band's music was released in North America by Friendly Fire Records and Polyvinyl and in Europe and Asia by One Little Indian Records.
Ultimately, Asobi Sesku's music is a bit difficult to categorize. The genres listed above are merely my take on it, after having listened to shoegaze, dreampop and J-pop extensively. I think it would have a wide appeal to a broad audience, based solely on how good and polished it sounds. I think it could easily fly on mainstream radio (not that I want that to happen), but since I abhor listening to any sort of radio broadcast (because it's not interactive and I have no control over what is being played) I may never know if this ends up happening. Whatever it is, give it a try. It's the sort of music that'll make you feel better, regardless of what is ailing you today, tomorrow or in the not-too-distant future.
Guitarist James Hanna formed a new band called Youth Worship following the break-up of Asobi Seksu.
Asobi Seksu had quite the penchant for making music videos. Click the songs above for a link to the video.