Asobi Seksu – Hush (Polyvinyl)

Three years after slaying everyone with their excellent sophomore album, Citrus, Asobi Seksu are back with a new rhythm section, a new label (Polyvinyl), and a new album, Hush. However, the same band that once captured my heart with powerful songs like “Sooner,” “Strawberries,” and “Walk On The Moon” (which could have been their “Maps”) now sounds lost and uninspired. Asobi Seksu just isn’t the same band anymore, since they’ve replaced a great rhythm section with a less impressive duo who aren’t even named in the press materials – leading one to believe that the band is just a vehicle for singer Yuki Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna.  If that’s how they want to operate it’s fine by me, but they’re suffering without compelling rhythmic foundations for the singer and guitarist to work over. After four listens I’m still waiting for something to stand out – a melody, a lyric, a chorus, a guitar tone – but all I hear is pleasant background noise that doesn’t live up to the band’s track record. The first major disappointment of 2009.