Kero Kero Bonito - Time 'n' Place
Dec 6, 2020 (updated 4d ago)
100
EDIT: Over the past few days, I wrote a collaborative review with @MattsReviews on this album, and I'm really proud of how it turned out. Review on his account, please check it out if you can. Love you all. <3

https://www.albumoftheyear.org/user/mattsreviews/album/121823-time-n-place/

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A month or so ago, I purchased a vinyl copy of Time ‘n’ Place. When it shipped, I took it out of the box, took the record out of the sleeve, and sat down in the nearest office chair.

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There are albums that are good, some that are great, and then there are some that hold a truly special place in my heart- albums that I only listen to on special occasions because I know that listening to them will evoke a special sadness, one that gives me chills and makes me smile and cry all at the same time. Only two albums have that place for me- Porter Robinson’s Worlds and Kero Kero Bonito’s Time ‘n’ Place, the latter of which I’d like to touch on in this review/essay/whatever this is.

On the face of it, this album is a playful twee-pop record, having the same qualities of instrumental euphoria and focus on the recurring, small aspects of life as Bonito Generation, their debut effort. However, the lyrics convey a much different story. The band was in a much different place while recording this album than during the creation of Bonito Generation. Sarah Bonito, the lead vocalist of KKB, had found herself unnerved by different images from her childhood in her dreams- a water park she went to as a young kid, a hallway from her elementary school. During these dreams, she was sent a picture of her childhood house in the suburbs of Hokkaido. The house was completely demolished, with nothing but an empty plot of land left. She was also faced with the death of her childhood pet bird from her early teens. Gus and Jamie also went through the loss of many beloved family members and, as Polyvinyl’s website states, “life-changing upheaval”. Suddenly, the carefree euphoria and childlike innocence of Bonito Generation didn’t apply anymore. The sweet memories of childhood had been corrupted by the fact that life moved on. You can’t be a kid forever. And that is the space of existence for Time ‘n’ Place- confusion, depression, and trying to hold onto the last bits of innocence. This is a coming-of-age album for the real world. The playful beats and somewhat innocent lyrics of BG are backed by a new layer of the human experience (and a new sound), and that’s what makes this album so much more magical and emotionally potent than their debut project.

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I opened the lyric booklet as I slid the black vinyl into my LP60, pressing start and smiling lightly as the album opened, singing along quietly with my cheap Logitech speaker system.
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“Outside” is a short noise-pop track, at just under 2 minutes, and it’s about a rain cycle, from the early morning light rain to the thunderstorm to the rainbow, reaching out of sight “to heaven”. It exhibits the same childlike qualities of much of Bonito Generation, as Sarah gazes upon and humanizes the different elements of the outside weather, and uses the counting trick we all learned in elementary school (at least in the US) to see how far away a thunderstorm is from her location. However, musically, the track shows a huge amount of musical growth, and thematically, it sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album- trying to keep your childlike attitude as you watch the troubles of life go by, striving to see the happy ending we all wish for. However, Sarah and the band take a right turn, entering much more personal and depressing material on “Time Today”.

Although “Time Today” may sound like a relatively upbeat track musically, the lyrics tell a much different story, dealing with issues such as death and mental illness. The song is about going through the motions of life mindlessly (“But I don't even know where I should be trying to go, so I guess I'll follow my nose”), and wondering if that’s all you will do until you die. In the second verse, Sarah sings about using writing, music creation, and painting to cope with the struggles of life, but that her works aren’t in order because it takes too long and she’s “still moving on”. She starts to touch on death, as she wonders about the possibility of the “sun [staying] down”, and if she would notice or just “tick a list off” and go through her regrets, but that “as long as I shall wake up in the morning, I got plans”. In Time Today’s music video, Sarah is in a psychiatric ward, going through the motions of life in the building- singing over an electric keyboard, jogging with earbuds in, talking to a stuffed bird, video calling with the other members of the band, and the video almost has an anxious, manic quality to it. However, following this track is the lead single and one of the most insane tracks off of Time ‘n’ Place, “Only Acting”.
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I wonder about the print smudges in my lyric booklet. Was it a mistake, or was it a representation of the confusion that is explored so often on this record? I brush it off and continue listening.
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There are many ways to interpret the message of “Only Acting”, and none are wrong- my friend interprets the song as “how [Sarah] thought her stage persona was fake but she can't tell the difference now”, and AOTY users like Furry music (or Supertartory) interpreted the song’s contrast of sweet indie pop and harsh noise as a depiction of loss of innocence. However, I view this track as centered around depression and trying to keep up a fake version of yourself to look good for others, but having your true emotions leak through and reveal themselves anyway. An example is shown during the incredibly noisy bridge where manic screaming interrupts the vocalist trying to tell the listener how to act, eventually derailing the instruction entirely. The song ends with a fully unexpected and “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared”-esque noise ending, where Sarah’s vocals are chopped and warped, representing a total breakdown- fully forgetting everything you tried to learn about how to act and going truly insane. The music video represents that idea as well, as the video shows Sarah trying to act normal in what seems like a psychiatric ward but eventually going manic and totally breaking down, along with the rest of the band. Also, I can’t talk about this song without mentioning the AWESOME guitar solo. The song may be disturbing, but who says disturbing tracks can’t have sick guitars immediately after noise bridges?

“Flyway” is a shoegaze-y tribute of sorts to Sarah’s late pet bird, mentioned earlier in the review. It’s about watching the migration of birds during winter. It focuses on the small details and tangents of thinking about such a migration, like wondering if their feathers freeze in the snow, but it also represents themes of death and the pain of loss, as she sings in the outro about her bird and even touches on suicidal ideation- “When I pick up the courage, I hope that I can join you someday”. The track may not be as overtly depressing or “deep” as the previous two tracks, but it still has the same undertones, as does “Dump”, the track following.

“Dump” is perhaps the hardest track to read on this album. The lyrics almost could’ve fit into something like Bonito Generation, as on the surface, they’re not about anything but going to a trash dump and observing the happenings. The track sees Sarah realizing that the things at this dump were once very important to their owners, like parrot cages (again, an allusion to Sarah’s pet bird) and dial phones, and almost being upset by this realization and the fact that people can so easily throw away things that once meant so much to them, just because they “no longer need to keep” them. With each of these items goes memories made with them.

“I finally took out the upstairs bathroom garbage that was sitting there forgotten since you were here, wanting just to stay with us, just to stay living / I threw it away. Your dried out, bloody, end-of-life tissues, Your toothbrush and your trash.” - Phil Elverum on A Crow Looked At Me

“Make Believe” is one of my favorite songs off of this nearly flawless project. The song is about keeping your innocence and disconnecting from life as it inevitably moves on around you. Sarah, on this track, sings, “All my life I tried to find the time to make believe, But now as certain as the seasons I know real life will get in between”. As a remedy for not being able to “make believe”, she engages in lucid dreaming and dissociation. She talks about her lucid dreams, saying that “At night, the sunlight beats upon my skin / In here, I see everything, and until the morning comes, I feel it”. She also talks about sometimes losing her grip on reality and becoming unhinged from the world, but that she knows it’s all in her head and that it can’t hurt her. Vivid dreams and dissociation are two common symptoms of depression and intense anxiety, and this track touches on using those things to escape reality and the inevitability of life moving on rapidly.

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I flip the record from Side A to Side B, which felt a bit odd to me since I group “Make Believe” and “Dear Future Self” together in my head. I guess it makes a little bit of sense, since “Dear Future Self” is where I start to get emotional anyway.
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The next track, “Dear Future Self”, details Sarah writing a time capsule to her future self. She sings about her current self to her future self as the “girl you buried way back when”, referencing both the burying of a time capsule and the fluidity of personality and selfness. She goes through the normal musings that a message to your future self would (“Do cars ever fly? / Have you travelled time?”) while also exploring more human ideas. However, in this rather simple idea of a time capsule, Sarah seems to be realizing that her childhood is never to return, dreading the future that is inching up on her. She sings, “I used to be fine because you always seemed so far away / But now I feel our paths getting closer each day”. In this time capsule, she includes a passport photograph, the current news, and a railcard, contemplating why we are so “physical”. She also touches on the depression and loss that she felt in her own life and wondered if she’d feel even more strongly in the future as life inescapably charges on- “But I heard all the years’ll leave you hurt / Everyone you love disappears and nothing works / Please don't say you hate the world / I hope that I won't”. This part of the track’s lyrics almost read like a dry joke from the band’s past selves to the current- the band collectively had lost many family members and loved ones in limbo between their first and second LPs, and their “hope” that that exact thing wouldn’t happen is a depressing look-back at Sarah’s, Gus’s, and Jamie’s lives immediately before the writing process started for this album.

“Visiting Hours” is one of the more lyrically straightforward tracks, and it’s about a visit to a loved one at the hospital. The track was written after Gus’s father suffered a life-threatening accident which sent him to the ICU. The lyrics, according to an interview with Fader, were written directly from conversations between his parents, and they’re incredibly poignant, even if they don’t exactly have a meaning as hidden as some of the other tracks on this LP. It touches on everything from getting your loved one the food they want to adjusting the angle of the hospital bed to dreaming about the day that they can finally return home. It’s a sad track and yet a hopeful one, knowing that you’ve seen someone you love come face-to-face with death but knowing they’re recovering and will someday be back with you again. On the face of it, the song isn’t very complex at all- it features a simple progression, an instrumental that doesn’t change very often, and yet it’s incredibly effective. Even the lyrics are mundane- they are almost like an average conversation, as it was intended to be and created as. However, the underlying emotions are what make this song what it is, and what makes this a standout track.

“If I’d Known” is a track centered around the many-worlds interpretation. For those who didn’t know that term (I didn’t), the many-worlds interpretation asserts that all possible outcomes of any decision happen in some other world or alternate universe. This track features the only non-Sarah vocals on the album, sporting an outro rapped by Jamie, but it still is a mostly Sarah-sung track. On this song, Sarah looks back at the past and every decision and the possibilities of those decisions, each one “giving birth to a dedicated universe”. The chorus sings, “Only if I’d known long ago / that a choice will grow / into another road”, which I interpret as Sarah looking back at her past and realizing, with the power of hindsight, that there is a version of reality where every possible decision happens, and therefore, decisions don’t have as much weight as she interpreted them to have. This is shown later, as she states that “I really needn't worry very much / 'Cause I feel all worlds at once”. A common worry of life is what decisions will do to our futures, but Sarah seems to be thinking through the idea that decisions will happen no matter whether we choose them or not. I almost feel like this track’s ideas are explored on “Time Today” as well- going through life and moving on, not taking out too much time or putting too much weight on hard thoughts.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. ... Each day has enough trouble of its own.” - Matthew 6:34

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I start to mentally prepare myself. This is probably where I’m going to start crying, I tell myself. It’s cool.
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“Sometimes” is one of the most poignant tracks on here, if not the most. A lo-fi track that feels like a campfire sing-along song (and it is sung along with KKB and their friends), “Sometimes” is the most instrumentally simple and yet, maybe, the most tear-jerking cut on this album that’s already tear-jerking enough. It’s about hope and powering through in the face of depression and bad luck with life. KKB and the “Sometimes Singers” sing about “life [getting] you down” and the endless, infinitely difficult struggle of depression. They sing about loss of hope (“The raindrops keep falling, you're soaking to the bone, and you can't see for the clouds”) and the unfairness of life (“You win some, you lose some, and then you lose some more / you even played your best”). It is, however, contrasted with messages of hope (“just ‘round the corner… the happy days are coming again”), and some verses could truly be both (“'Cause somebody up there is looking out for you / And now they're makin' plans”). However, this message of hope is reality-checked at the end of the track, as the vocalists sing that “just 'round the corner, well, the real truth of it's that nobody really knows / Life sure doesn't make sense, but on your boots, you can bet / that everybody gets the blues / Sometimes”. It’s a genuinely sad ending to a song that, at the same time, represents the album itself- the depression, confusion, and unfairness of life, and the fact that, sometimes, there’s not always butterflies and rainbows as you progress through life.

“Swimming”, the penultimate track and potentially my favorite song on this album, contrasts childhood and adulthood as well as any song could, using the metaphor of swimming. With an incredibly sweet, yet melancholic melody and beat, Sarah sings first about going swimming in the ocean as a child and then as an adult. As a child, she reminisces about swimming for the first time, going to the beach with her mother. “Mama led me by the hand, 'til the grit stuck with the damp / And the foam fizzed adrift when we both strode in”. She sings about stepping into the water, feeling the detritus lifting and starting to swim, with a sense of euphoric happiness and freedom. However, when she goes back as an adult after many years, it feels different for her. She sings about entering “under the shadow of a cliff”, which I interpret as an analogy of having life and its struggles hanging over you as you go back to what was carefree in the past, with “memories floating in the wind”. (One of my even wilder theories about this track is that this imagery ties back to “If I’d Known” and the many-worlds interpretation, and the alternate universe where Sarah decided to cave and commit suicide by jumping. The “shadow of a cliff” may have been Sarah “feeling all worlds at once”, but I’m not sure). As Sarah starts to swim, she feels the same things physically, but different things emotionally. This time, as the detritus lifts, she feels melancholic and nostalgic instead of untroubled and joyful, but she goes swimming again nonetheless, tears falling down her face. The metaphor of “swimming” is used to depict the cycle of life. As a child, without a care in the world, life often seems freeing and happy, but as the difficulties start to pile up, and life starts to get more difficult, the same actions that were enjoyable as a child can feel depressing and gloomy. Swimming is a perfect analogy for this phenomenon, and this track is a powerful depiction of that analogy.

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I’ve started crying.
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The closer to this wonderful album is “Rest Stop”, the most experimental and weirdest song on the album. The instrumental is minimal, highlighting Sarah’s singing about a somewhat abandoned rest stop. The lights are on, and the tables are clean, despite there being nobody in sight, and Sarah gets out of her automobile and slides into a booth before she starts to feel sleepy, and realizes that she’ll be at the rest stop for a bit. She sings, “When I go / I'll get right back on the road”, before the track explodes into a wall of noise. After the noise section is complete, the album loses almost all of its instrumentation, except for a little bit of harsh noise left over, as Sarah sings distantly about Armageddon and the end of the world. It almost feels like a dream or a vision, potentially the one she has after falling asleep at the rest stop. “Let everybody come together, The world at peace as one / We could live a dream forever, It's really up to us”. “We'll make it there if we work hard enough / Keep on keep on, and give it everything you've got /'Cos only then, we'll reach the end, the land where we belong”. Eventually, the song loses all of everything but Sarah’s voice, as the album closes abruptly. “So when we walk among the clouds, hold your neighbor close. As the trumpets echo round / You don't wanna be a-”

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I softly say “holy crap” to myself before taking a few deep breaths, wiping a tear, and leaving the room.
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So guys, we did it, we reached a quarter of a thousand followers, 250 followers and still growing. The fact that we've reached this number in such a short amount of time is just phenomenal, I'm- I'm just amazed. Thank you all so much for supporting this account and helping it grow. I- I love you guys... You guys are just awesome. (Take that @Dombot I did it at the correct time this time!)

Thanks for reading this far, if you did! I started writing this review in late October but wrote the majority of it this weekend, and I really enjoyed writing it. Unfortunately, the emotion I feel in from this album cannot translate well through a review, but trust me. This album is one of the most powerful I know. ILY all, and again, thanks for 250! <3
48 Comments
Dec 6, 2020
HOOOOOLYYY CRAP
Dec 6, 2020
@MattsReviews yeah, this ones a doozy for sure LOL
Dec 7, 2020
Mans really pulled a verse from the book of Matthew in a Kero Kero Bonito review, donate button where
Dec 7, 2020
but jokes aside, amazing review, please hold this massive W
Dec 7, 2020
i listened to it finally. your review perfectly encapsulates the album.
Dec 7, 2020
@eliiscool5 The Book of Matthew.... really..
Dec 7, 2020
geez, i really gotta listen to this, but i didn't like bonito generation, like, at all...

eh, fuck it, you've convinced me. congrats on 250 buddy!! :D
Dec 7, 2020
Amazing review and 250 followers!
Dec 7, 2020
Love this review! Congratulations on 250 followers! :)
Dec 7, 2020
@eliiscool5 thank you man, of course if i was gonna quote a bible verse it was gonna be matthew LMAO
Dec 7, 2020
@MattsReviews yup... i did it semi-consciously
Dec 7, 2020
@ParthanyJobtano i’m glad you got around to listening to it!! it’s such a good album
Dec 7, 2020
@Dombot this is a much different album, so i’d suggest a listen! if you hate it, sorry
Dec 7, 2020
@Riskr thank you!!
Dec 7, 2020
@Basic_Garci let me know if you like it!
Dec 7, 2020
@Cry thank you so much man!!
Dec 7, 2020
if i hate it i will never forgive you >:(
Dec 7, 2020
@Dombot on the flip side, if you hate it i will never forgive you >:(
Dec 7, 2020
good post
Dec 7, 2020
@HIVE thank you HIVE! (100 gecs made music)
Dec 7, 2020
:)
Dec 7, 2020
Holy crap. This is an amazing review, I'm so happy for you! This album is fantastic and I see every point you made, and I learned some new stuff! Great job!
Dec 7, 2020
@redbded yooo tysm!! i'm glad you got something out of this long mf review LOL
Dec 7, 2020
@dombot listen to it more than once. It’s a grower of an album. (I like it now)
Dec 8, 2020
Geez my daddy you really kilt this🥶

All hail lord Sarah of the flamingoes who we simp on purely for her lyrical ability. Time n place underrated,, album of the decade candidate
Dec 8, 2020
@TomBejoy absolute facts
Dec 30, 2020
Lmao this makes me want the time n place vinyl but still amazing review
Dec 30, 2020
@redbded i actually got mine a month or 2 ago LOL
Jan 13, 2021
BEST REVIEW OF ALL TIME
Jan 13, 2021
@MattsReviews literally every review you’ve ever written would like a word with you

but seriously thank you so much, that makes me genuinely super happy <333
Feb 2, 2021
I come back to this review a lot to admire the greatness
Feb 2, 2021
@MattsReviews i literally read your reviews whenever i need inspiration to write my own. i swear dude you're such a good writer, that means a lot <3
Feb 2, 2021
this comment section is amazing I love it
Feb 2, 2021
@LuckLoose yeah LMAOOO
Feb 2, 2021
dude i do the same thing for my own writing. you're one of my inspirations into making greater reviews! thank you for the kind words, means a lot to me as well <3
Feb 2, 2021
@MattsReviews YOUR REVIEWS ARE LIKE INFINITELY BETTER THAN MINE THOUGH????? ERLKJBGALKETJBHKLETJNLKAJTELKNJKL
Mar 5, 2021
oh god i have to finish reading this later
Mar 7, 2021
@zayexifo lmk if you like it!
Mar 7, 2021
absolute bombshell of a review, awesome job dude
Mar 7, 2021
@halbery thank you so frickin much aaaaa <333
Mar 8, 2021
@SMTCubes ay man im just telling the truth :)
Mar 8, 2021
@halbery idek what to say, but tysmmmmm <33333
Mar 8, 2021
yw!
Mar 14, 2021
@eliiscool5 if you wanted to donate after i quoted matthew in time 'n' place you're going to be out of your life savings when my lift yr skinny fists review comes out
Mar 14, 2021
AYY LET'S GOOOOOOO
Mar 23, 2021
wow you did a reeeeeally great job of breaking down this album
Mar 23, 2021
@zayexifo thank you so much!! that was my goal,, glad to know i did alright C:
4d ago
we bacc
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