On the night of December 9th, the ballroom at Burlington’s Higher Ground hosted The Japanese House for the penultimate stop on her North American tour. The Japanese House is the musical project of Amber Bain, who was touring this winter in support of her most recent album, In The End It Always Does.
Sitting center stage and wielding a tambourine, opener Quinnie captivated the crowd with her piercing vocals. Joined onstage by collaborators Jake Weinberg and Hudson Pollock, Quinnie’s stage presence was serene yet commanding.
Bain, dressed in all white, emerged onstage along with her band. The lighting, slowly changing colors and filtering through the haze in the room, created a dreamlike effect – fitting for The Japanese House’s signature dream-pop sound. The band opened with “Sad to Breathe,” followed by “Touching Yourself” and “Something Has to Change.”
The crowd sang Bain’s lyrics back to her throughout the set, and one fan in particular leaned over the front barricade, unfailingly singing along to every word of the show.
The Japanese House’s discography is characterized by a unifying sound – an alternative, tranquil, strobing pop effect. The setlist was remarkably well-paced, alternating between groovy synth-forward songs like “Something Has to Change” and more pensive ones like “Over There.” In addition to playing the majority of In the End It Always Does, Bain also performed several songs off of 2019’s Good At Falling, including “Worms,” “Maybe You’re the Reason,” and “You Seemed So Happy.” While relatively compact at 17 songs total, the set felt comprehensive, spanning Bain’s discography not only in time but in emotion and experience.
Bain spoke infrequently but impactfully throughout the show, largely letting the music speak for itself and thus keeping the flow of the set intact. She did, however, make a few quips to the crowd, including before launching into fan-favorite “Boyhood.” “This one’s for all my gays,” Bain proclaimed to massive cheers.
The layered harmonies that appear on The Japanese House’s studio releases were masterfully recreated by Bain and her band members onstage. Instrumentation, including several elegant horn interludes, created a soundscape over which Bain’s vocals soared, rather than being a distraction.
For much of the show, Bain stayed on guitar; for the first song of her encore, though, she sat down at the keys to play one of her most captivating and melancholy songs, “One for sorrow, two for Joni Jones,” which she dedicated to her dog. To finish the show, Bain performed “Sunshine Baby,” leaving the audience singing and dancing along. Before leaving the stage, Bain thanked the sold-out crowd, promising to return to Burlington soon.