The Japanese House has once again pulled off investing just as much sentimentality into a song as a movie score. “Dionne,” which arrived with the Aug. 12 release of the one-woman pop act’s new EP Chewing Cotton Wool, is a demonstration of The Japanese House’s ability to create the equivalent of a cinematic experience for your ears with a beautiful blend of synths and observant lyrics that transport you to another dimension.
The Japanese House — the music pseudonym for 25-year-old English artist Amber Bain — enlisted the help of Justin Vernon, the frontman of Bon Iver for this new song. You’ve probably heard of the indie band’s most prolific hit, 2007’s “Skinny Love,” but the group also shares Amber’s knack for creating the arthouse parallel of pop. With these shared sensibilities, The Japanese House and Justin create a dream pop melody that can’t help but make you feel like the main character in a movie.
While “Dionne” may sound like dream pop, its lyrics are hardly a gentle daydream. Rather, they explore the more embarrassing and sometimes even haunting emotions of being attached to someone. “Wishing that someone would film the way I’m looking at you right now / I wanna watch it back and then kill myself,” The Japanese House sings, and at another part croons, “I’ve been thinking about my storyline / And how your past becomes your present if it’s always on your mind / We play Dionne Warwick “Walk On By” / And Freddy put his heads between his legs and cried.”
The last lines are a reference to legendary singer Dionne Warwick — who inspired the name of this track — and her 1964 hit, “Walk On By,” which touches on this bittersweet theme that “Dionne” is built on. “Just let me grieve / In private ’cause each time I see you / I break down and cry,” Dionne sang all those years ago. Eventually, “Dionne” gives way to a glitchy chorus joined by Justin, a technical production choice that also seemingly reflects a deeper symbolism of how memories become warped as they’re put on loop (thus setting a new narrative for your present, like The Japanese House’s aforementioned lyric).
“Dionne” is one of the two songs that dropped with the release of The Japanese House’s new four-track EP. She released her debut EP, Pools to Bathe In, under an anonymous identity in 2015 (which — fun fact — she recorded in Bon Iver’s cabin). The Japanese House is most known for the 2017 hit “Saw You In A Dream,” and the 2019 track “Maybe You’re The Reason.”