The Jakarta Post
'Blossom Diary... Is Dead' by Blossom Diary (Anoa Records/File)
Having broken up more than 10 years ago (in 2005 to be exact), the members of Jakarta-based indie pop act Blossom Diary aim to celebrate their legacy with the release of ...Is Dead, an album filled with literally everything they have released.
It is an anthology of sorts and the compilation manages to encompass all of the band’s recorded songs since its formation in 1999.
The band’s sound takes plenty from the popular Britpop sound of the Late-1980s and mid-1990s. Jangly-chiming guitars interspersed with trebly lead lines and dramatic-yet-playful melodic expositions blanketed under fauxBritish wailing about lost loves and melancholia.
The songs range from the theatrically sorrowful to celebratory. If the band members had stayed together, the band’s sound would have made them a rightful fit to the current crop of 1980s-worshipping bands, not only the overall floating quality of the instruments, but the band’s penchant for friendly pop hooks.
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The record opens with “About the Poor Boy”, which remains one of the band’s strongest tracks. Taken from its debut, the song is also one of Blossom Diary’s most aggressive. Keeping a forward momentum throughout, the drums and bass hold a constant beat while a simple-yetmemorable guitar line plans a fluid minor line, bridging toward instantaneously hooky vocals. “Poor Boy” puts forth the band’s greatest strength, namely the balance between their slightly borrowed aesthetic and its melodic appeal.
Similarly, “The Four of Us” and “Cool Friend”, echoes with the same European indie flourish — somewhere between the wistful crunch of Ride and the brimming hopefulness of The La’s. Although neither contains vocal lines as immediate as “Poor Boy”, they showcase a roundness that proves how already self-aware Blossom Diary was in regards to the kinds of music the members wanted to make.
“Something Like Your Smile” is another memorable track. Although it opens with a fey quality in its verse (which often leans into a sense of sleepiness that doesn’t exactly excite), the song quickly shifts gears as its rhythm section enters, pulling the finger-picked acoustics and vocals together.
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Similarly, the other tracks from the band’s self-titled debut album (released in 2003 through Marmalade Records) all blend well together — without many standing out in either a positive or negative way. The garage-y looseness of “Perfect Dream There” comes furthest from the band’s typical sound.
If anything holds these songs back, it is the fauxBritish accent that comes in different-yet-equally-uncomfortable permutations. Considering the band’s passion for obvious Britpop, it is somewhat understandable, but one can’t help but to think how much more fluid these songs would have sounded with less-affected vocals.
The recordings are another issue, with a lack of balance in most of the songs — most obvious in the compilation singles, but also the debut album tracks. The dreamy guitar parts were rarely recorded so and mostly sound sharp, as does the slapped-reverb that should lend the vocals a sense of room instead of the cavernous echoing it does.
The lack of a strong mix (and in some cases, recording takes) throughout takes away from what could have been a far stronger resume for the band. In some cases, a lackadaisical kind of recording works well in enhancing an aura, but not in Blossom Diary’s case, as the band’s actual songwriting is a bigger factor than any particular aesthetic.
Still, ...Is Dead shows Blossom Diary as a band that knew what it liked and what it wanted to be. While a second album would have been interesting and likely even better, this compilation is a good enough reminder of Indonesia’s longlost indie pop era.