Now on their fourth full-length, Fujiya & Miyagi’s anonymous, random, consumer-and-pop-culture reference name still tragically fits their continuing efforts to carve out a niche for their highly likeable but contradictory and frustrating music. F&M wouldn’t have made it this far if “Neu! meets Air” was all you could say about them, but even as Ventriloquizzing adds new textures and styles to their extremely warm and inviting sonic playbook—-which still heavily cribs from Krautrock and its 90s/ early 2000s indie-electronic descendents—-the source, be it Robert Wyatt, Clinic, or Alain Goraguer, is always on the tip of your ear. Still, their impressive keyboard (or software) collection is second only to their knack for lock-tight arrangements; they know grooves and how to work them, and no muted guitar plucks, organ squelches, or haunted cabaret piano fills go wasted. They’re only getting better at their strengths, and could easily dabble in outside production or serve as a producer’s in-house band (SAT time: The Art of Noise : Trevor Horn :: The Dap Kings : Mark Ronson :: Fujiya & Miyagi : somebody smart).
But when they inevitably remain a footnote, just narrowly avoiding primetime, it will be largely due to the decidedly uncharismatic vocal presence of David Best, who with each album seems to add exactly one note to his whispered vocal range. His coos are sometimes referred to as ‘sexy’—presumably by people who’ve never had sex-but some people just can’t sell an “oh, sock it to me,” and they need to be aware of this. And though he’s toned down his lyrical silliness, which occasionally threatened to take them into Fun Lovin’ Criminals territory, his inability (or reluctance) to write an emotionally inspiring song wastes even their sweetest vanilla soul moments and quarantines their appeal to the next few months of Friday night pre-partying and long road trips after you’ve listened to all your LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, and Grand National, in that order.