PREMIERE: Onsen - Plans

Kelly Kirwan

Onsen is a term for natural hot springs that abound on Japan's precarious and tectonically-active archipelago. It's also the stage name for Drew Straus, who's recently been crafting a blend of alternative, ambient pop for his debut album, Earthquake Weather. These nods to nature’s wonders—and extremes—are a reflection of the personal upheaval Straus underwent on his journey to solo musicianship.

The album was gradually constructed over the course of two years, as Straus diverged from a career in international policy and set out for the West Coast. Shacking up in Los Angeles with a new view on sex, a life of artistry, and, essentially, all the subtle caveats of existence, Straus channeled his creative evolution into a mix of electronics and live instrumentals, making work that was emotionally poignant and undeniably smooth (despite the frequent references to shaky ground).

His new single is smartly titled "Plans"—which, as Straus and most of us have come to realize, never quite work out the way they’re originally intended. "Plans" has elements of The Shins with more rooted vocals, and percussion that rolls between peaks and valleys of intensity. Straus opens with “As the wind shifts the pages / And coils at my feet / So the house that you’ve built slowly recedes,” hinting at the poetic lyrics and warm harmonies to come. Despite the images of rolling tides and the earth parting from volcanic shifts, through which Onsen pays homage to his namesake, his melodies shift from smooth and easy to reverb-packed interludes. It’s periods of calm followed by moments of mild frenzy—and weirdly, they make you feel at peace. "Plans" is the eye of the storm, but that doesn't mean you can't see what's going on around you.