The quartet have been through a lot of changes, but this album delivers.
4 Jul 2017 - 11:21 AM  UPDATED 4 Jul 2017 - 11:21 AM

FAKY have long been trying to carve out their pop identity. When they debuted in 2013, songs like razor-sharp dance-pop tune, “Better Without You,” stood out in the Japanese pop landscape. The pulsing music and individual member’s attitudes (and fashion) seemed more in line with the high-energy bangers coming out of South Korea (which was long seen as more mature looking than cutesy fare from AKB48, at their commercial peak in around the time FAKY emerged). Comparisons to K-pop aside, FAKY seemingly had the perfect sonic palette and image to rise up in J-pop.

Yet a lot changed from that point, until this June’s Unwrapped, FAKY’s long-awaited debut album. The group went through a significant member shuffle, settling into a four-person lineup featuring Anna, Lil’ Fang, Mikako and Akina. The sound of J-pop, too, changed. The cuddly idol sounds dominant when they debuted were pushed aside in favour of something more uptempo, more confident courtesy of groups such as E-girls. FAKY tried to adjust, dabbling in DJ-Mustard-inspired trap-pop and festival-ready EDM, along with a detour into the most breathtakingly unexpected song of the decade to be put out on a major label. Yet just who FAKY are today remained out of sight.

Unwrapped does a solid job of defining the group. Across the six new songs here, FAKY reiterate that they are a group focused on more up-tempo sounds, incorporating elements of dance music (drops, shuffling beats) alongside fashionable pop toppings (vocal hiccups and sighs). Lead-off number “Keep Out” does the best job of highlighting everything FAKY is about in a shifty five-minute package, opening up with high-pitched ooohs before settling into a funky electro-groove. Yet from there it mutates into a rumbling number, complete with build up and subsequent plunge.

Throughout, Unwrapped stays moving swiftly, but with different sounds piled on top. Advance single “Candy” relies on looped horn squanks for its backbone, and it’s the one instance here where FAKY sounds out of date (not to mention a tad grating). They function much better when they tease something sparser on cuts such as “Are You OK?” and "Surrender," which start with plenty of space before upping the emotional ante come the hook.

Although it required a long wait, Unwrapped feels like a proper starting point for this version of FAKY, as it is a solid release showing what they do best; driving, EDM-glazed pop. Closer, “Someday We’ll Know” fittingly serves as a mission statement of sorts. It’s the dreamiest number here, featuring digital bell chimes and the group’s vocals at their most melancholy, but built for a big drum-powered release in the hook, one that turns doubts hinted at in the verses into something to help propel them forward in the future. Which is just how their debut should end.

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