HARPS “Always Sitting” (Vagueness Records)

I ran Harps through my last.fm app, and hilariously (as is sometimes the case), the band Harps that it recognizes is not the same band as you’re playing. Why is this hilarious? Harps, the one I’m listening to is a somewhat twee, somewhat shoegazey, definitely home-recorded indie pop band from Japan, owing a bunch to The Vaselines and The Pastels, both of whom they cover on Always Sitting, their darling of a cassette for Spanish label Vagueness Records. What does last.fm say I’m listening to? Greeks, man, Greeks. And not just any Greeks – ones who are “hard rock driven” and feature “ear-catching guitar riffs,” and who marry “notes of an ancient time” with the “sounds of today.” Fist raised, know what I mean? That’s not what I’ve got here though.

No, Harps, the Japanese trio, recorded this whole tape at their house in Sasazuka. It sounds like it, in a good way – four-track production values can be really endearing when the songs warrant them, and the trio really know their strengths and limitations as a band in this setting. They rock a little bit, but not too hard, and they sound like a band instead of a recording project, or a single dude laying down a couple parts. Plus, I’m a sucker for bands who sound mopey but not mopey mopey, like playing up their mopey-ness and hunching over their sparkly Gretsch hollow-bodies, eyes closed, feeling the tape reels turning as they record their tentative lead parts.

Indie pop never felt so huggable. Adding to the huggableness are the aforementioned covers, The Pastels’ “Something Going On” and The Vaselines’ “Molly’s Lips.” (I thought that was a Nirvana song! … Too soon?) The former is cloaked in fidelity issues, as if the band is struggling to make it sound like a song, but the latter is a beautiful recreation, female-fronted as God intended, and truly faithful to the original in tone and execution. Guess what – it fits right into Harps’ oeuvre! Who would’ve thought. (Er, I would’ve, actually, after reading this, and hearing the rest of the album.)

Always Sitting is a fresh, welcome surprise, a short jaunt through your indie nostalgia that you should absolutely, positively take. Just don’t dock me “writer points” for relying on last.fm for my info. If anybody found out I fact-check everything through it and Wikipedia, I’d lose my precious, precious credibility!

--Ryan Masteller