A song comes on. It’s instantly recognizable. It sounds familiar — where is it from, again? That rhythmic guitar with a dozen little licks played on top of it. The minimal percussion, the laid-back vibe of the whole track. Where is it from, again?
A California bedroom, probably. More specifically, one in Echo Park, as is the case for Martin Roark, better known by his stage name, Tomemitsu. The bedroom artist’s new EP, I’ll Be Alright, is, for better or worse, an example of the blossoming genre of bedroom music.
To talk about I’ll Be Alright is to talk about the bedroom music scene, rooted in DIY, lo-fi production and aesthetics. The specific subset of the scene Tomemitsu occupies, not quite bubbly but not quite lazy either, possesses none of the grit or charm that lo-fi music so often does. Far be it from any critic to write off an entire genre, but there is an explosion of music that feels low effort and formulaic, and I’ll Be Alright is, fundamentally, a symptom of that culture.
The title track, “I’ll Be Alright,” is almost the most egregious offender, mimicking bedroom indie almost to the point of parody. The guitar is so light — it’s like a fairy is dancing and twirling across the strings. The sound is loose, open and has no bite to it.
Tomemitsu’s voice is toothless as well, lying back and acting as though singing were a chore. Even when the music leaps up, the singer does not. For “I’ll Be Alright,” the vocal melody changes minimally throughout the song’s short runtime.
“Strange Vibes,” however, might be more insulting than “I’ll Be Alright,” if only because the two songs are so painfully similar. The percussion is quicker, but the airy vocals, bright guitars and listless, carefree atmosphere are all the same. Both of these songs commit the crime of repeating the same basic ideas, rather than expanding on each other.
The EP’s next song, “Secrets,” is equally misleading. At first, it comes off as a potential change in step. A ghostly choir starts the song, and the guitar is harsher, a ’70s rock strum. But then another guitar twangs across the high notes, and the music comes right back to where it began. “Secrets” can be somewhat eerie, but it is also dreary and repetitive. The synth is nice, adding an ’80s flair to the song, but falls short of distinguishing the track as anything special. All three of these songs end the same way — a strong, prideful, triumphant strum that fades out into the next song.
Bookending this bland triplet are instrumental tracks “Up, Up, Up” and “Boa Noite.” The former is short and dreamy, a beginning to a journey larger than the one I’ll Be Alright has to offer. The latter is an ambient track that fades and bounces around for a measly two minutes before giving up and slipping into nothingness. An ambient track like this deserves more time to grow and build upon itself than Tomemitsu allows. For such a spaced-out track, “Boa Noite” is too brief for its own good, just like the project as a whole. I’ll Be Alright is clearly a placeholder EP while the artist behind it works on larger and hopefully more invested projects.
Tomemitsu’s problem on I’ll Be Alright isn’t really the sound itself. The music is laid-back, chill, pure vibes. It’s looking up at the sun in a park at two in the afternoon. It’s made for making life a little more cinematic. But in serving that purpose, it becomes background music: good for visuals, but not solid music in its own right.
If the sound isn’t really the problem, then the issue Tomemitsu has on his EP is the bland imitation of an already rapidly proliferating genre of music. I’ll Be Alright adds nothing to a genre that desperately wants and needs to expand. The DIY ethic is a perfect domain for experimentation and for inventing new sounds and subgenres, and I’ll Be Alright fails to contribute. Anything that can be found on this album can just as easily be found elsewhere.