It took Kero Kero Bonito four years to release their debut album, but it was worth the wait: Bonito Generation adds gleaming production values to their clever electro-pop, spotlighting their cheeky, detailed arrangements and Sarah Midori Perry's guileless vocals in the process. With tracks such as "Waking Up," which combines hip-hop-influenced brassy samples with floaty new age flutes, and "Big City," which resembles a fusion of J-pop and the sophisticated sound of the Pet Shop Boys, KKB continue the evolution toward a more polished approach that began with the 2015 single "Build It Up." While Bonito Generation's shiny surfaces highlight the similarities between the trio and other hyper-pop artists such as PC Music and SOPHIE -- particularly on the kinetic "Lipslap" -- the album also celebrates what makes Kero Kero Bonito special. Perry, Gus Lobban, and Jamie Bulled are just as comfortable with the slyly meta storytelling of "Heard a Song" and "Trampoline" as they are with songs about the joys of taking and sharing selfies ("Picture This") or a conversation between Perry and her mom and dad ("Hey Parents"). These shifts feel effortless, thanks in large part to Perry's abundant charisma, whether she's telling listeners how to relax -- instead of dance -- on "Break" or relating a list of sparkly self-affirmations in English and Japanese on "Try Me." Packed with breezy, witty, should-be hits, Bonito Generation is a winning mix of subversive art and genuine heart.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares