As much as Ogikubo Station are positioned as a small side-project above anything else, there’s much more to it depending on who you ask. For one, it’s the band of Mike Park, who’s become something of a legend within the scene thanks to being the founder of Asian Man Records, the label that launched Alkaline Trio, Joyce Manor, The Lawrence Arms and countless others who’d go on to be seminal modern punk acts. As well as that, he’s joined by Maura Weaver of the perennially under-appreciated indie-punks Mixtapes, as well as bass work on this EP from Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano to round out the overall package. It’s a rather stacked package overall, operating on Park’s DIY ethos of making music for the love of music that carries just the right amount of weight, especially for a brief project like this one.
And make no mistake, even for an indie project, Okinawan Love Songs is about as brief as they come, comprising of two new tracks and a cover of They Might Be Giants’ Dr. Worm to somewhat bulk it out. It’s easy to tell from that alone how much passion and fun plays a role in Ogikubo Station’s creative process, especially when their last two releases have already gone largely overlooked, with the same fate looming over this one. But at the end of the day, it’s quality that’ll ultimately prevail, and with Okinawan Love Songs, the relatively low stakes of the duo ring out loud and clear. This isn’t material that’s going to change the world, nor does it want to, and in encapsulating basically everything that Ogikubo Station are about, it gets the job done.
Of course, it’s not like there’s much to really convey here overall. This is about as simplistic and snappy as indie-punk comes, coasting by on generally pleasant, mid-paced melodies that definitely feel more prehensile in the rumble of Andriano’s bass, with Weaver’s crystal-clear vocals having the same easygoing energy that incredibly easy to gravitate towards and like. It definitely stays in its lane overall, refraining from going too far from the set standard in both performance and writing, but it’s all pulled off to a strong enough degree that it’s never disagreeable. And ultimately, that feels like Ogikubo Station’s greatest strength. There’s no doubt that they could aim higher, especially when earmarking that as their greatest strength can feel like particularly faint praise, but for the meagre amount they’re offering, and for the low stakes they’re deliberately adhering to, it all gets the job done. It’s why Dr. Worm is performed in the lo-fi analogue style that is, reminiscent of the original dial-a-song sessions that They Might Be Giants ran to give their music to fans – it’s a quaint novelty, and it’s not supposed to be anything more. It’s a refreshing take on making music overall, to the point where the brevity really isn’t as much of an issue as it’s initially presented.
Of course, it’s not quite enough to elevate Okinawan Love Songs beyond a solid example of what Ogikubo Station are capable of, but it doesn’t really need to be. There’s no great stakes resting on this project, and it’s played out exactly as such, happy enough with being capped at a breezy, enjoyable time. There’s bound to be some who’ll want more from their indie-punk, but even as only a lightweight aperitif, Okinawan Love Songs does exactly what it needs to.
For fans of: Mixtapes, Masked Intruder, The Swellers
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Okinawan Love Songs’ by Ogikubo Station is released on 14th June on Asian Man Records.