Initially, the Jim Yoshii Pile-Up's first long-player, It's Winter Here
, seems like ideal background music for a date. The album starts with a lush, swooning number, "Jetzt Mit Iodine," and follows with several sway-inducing ballads wrought with tragically romantic ruminations. The guitarists -- Paul Gonzenbach, Sikwaya Condon, and Ian Connelly -- play prettily, while Gonzenbach's effortless tenor floats dreamily over bassist Frankie Koeller's and drummer Ryan Craven's rhythm work. On "Shark Repellent," Gonzenbach's sorrowful lyrics seem all too appropriate an accompaniment to new love: "So we sat in your room and we drank all your beer and the words were right there/ I was holding them back and I made a conscious choice to just laugh at your jokes/ And the pressure was making me nauseous." But just when young lovers might be leaning in to kiss, the JYPU suddenly turns into a bitter, jealous ex. "Sometimes I think of you and I spit when I do," Gonzenbach snarls, as he and his bandmates crash through "Breakdown Championship." When the song falls to pieces and Gonzenbach blurts out, "I hate that piece of me/ It looks too much like you," it's apparent that the JYPU isn't making mood music -- it's aiming for all-out devastation.
Like other quiet-to-loud bands like Mogwai and Bedhead, the quintet's warm atmospherics and sighing vocals are only there to lure you in. Just as the simple guitar and bass arpeggios and thumping toms settle, the band turns on you, with Gonzenbach stabbing in a bitter quip like "I'd tell off your boss/ Maybe get you fired" and the triple-guitar lineup twisting the knife ever deeper. The tunes turn from sweet to sad to ferocious with a subtlety that mirrors the dysfunctional romance of the lyrics: It's passive-aggressive songwriting at its finest.
Throughout It's Winter Here (which takes its name from a Sylvia Plath poem), the JYPU keenly balances bitter, vulnerable lyrics with a warm, natural production that delineates it from similar acts. While it may not be good to make out to, It's Winter Here is an intelligent and engrossing album -- as devastating as its listener allows it to be.