After an impressive string of albums that were built for the dancefloor and had an inescapable charm, it might seem like the time was right for Fujiya & Miyagi to stumble. They don't even break their stride a little on their fourth record, 2014's Artificial Sweeteners, and it delivers all the light-hearted, rubber-limbed fun of previous efforts, while mostly abandoning the slightly melancholy feel that bubbled under the surface sheen of previous record Ventriloquizzing. Stripped back down to a trio, Artificial Sweeteners has a punchy, streamlined sound that is layered with blipping vintage synths, warm washes of colorful sound, acrobatic basslines and steadily pulsing machine driven rhythms. While Ventriloquizzing may have been the band's most musically accomplished album, this brings them back to the way they sound best. It also has quite a few songs that bring to mind their most well-loved song, "Knickerbocker," especially the witty and ultra-catchy "Acid to My Alkaline" which shows off David Best's whispered, arch vocals and his penchant for cute rhymes and wordplay. Elsewhere the band gets pleasantly disco-fied on "Little Stabs at Happiness," rock out in understated, guitar-heavy fashion on "Daggers," drop a frisky acid house-inspired instrumental ("Tetrahydrofolic Acid"), and generally sound like they are firing on all cylinders throughout. There's a sense of peaceful joy that flows through every song, a calmness that centers the songs even when they are compelling listeners to get out on the dancefloor. It makes for a well-rounded listening experience and proves that after 15 years together as a band, Fujiya & Miyagi have a complete grasp on what they want to do. Artificial Sweeteners may not be their most instantly impressive album, 2008's Lightbulbs still has that honor, but it does sound great on first listen and continues to sink in deeper with each subsequent spin.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra