Archive: February 2008

Didn’t I just pay for that?

Deutsche Grammophon launched its music download service in 2007, and I bought two titles to see how the user experience compared to other such services. I ended up really liking both albums — Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana and Emerson String Quartet’s American Originals — so I bought them on CD.

Then I realized I fell for the classic trick of the music industry — make consumers buy titles multiple times between different formats.

It reminded me of the late ’80s, when I moved from vinyl to cassette tape, then finally to CD. At first I thought I would dub my vinyl albums to blank cassette, so that I may listen to them on my Walkman. (Remember those?) But I ended up buying pre-recorded cassettes because the sound quality was better than what my aging boombox could capture. Then I got a CD player, and the dubbing option became moot.

With each format change, the question remains the same — what makes the leap to the new format and what doesn’t? It applies as much to new purchases as to catalog.

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Looking ahead: March 2008-May 2008

Since the demise of ICE Magazine, I’ve not yet found a new release resource that really fills the void. I visit Pause & Play regularly, and while the site lists release dates months in advanced, there are a lot of holes in its coverage. I had to find out the hard way — i.e. by visiting the music shop — that Molotov and Atercipelados had new releases. The accuracy of their information can also be spotty. The new Madonna album was listed as Licorice, even though Madonna’s publicist chided the radio announcer who mistakenly assumed that was the title.

So I’ve tried AllMusic and New Music Tipsheet. Both are very thorough, but neither has the longer view as Pause & Play.

Even after exploring all those options, it was disheartening to find the very packed first quarter of 2008 would give way to a slimmer second quarter. Personally, I didn’t find much in the next three months that would really draw me into the store on release day.

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Furukawa Miki releases second album in April

Former Supercar bassist Furukawa Miki releases her second album, Bondage Heart, on April 23, so says Bounce.com. It’s been a year and 9 months since the release of her solo debut album, Mirrors. Furukawa expands her collaboration with artist/director Ukawa Naohiro on this album, which has been described as mixing psychedelic rock, punk and pop. In other words, a lot like Supercar.

A limited edition first pressing includes a DVD with video clips for the tracks "Candy Girl", "Blur Blue Wave" and "La La La".

SXSW 2008 music festival schedule posted

This morning, SXSW notified me I was able to purchase a wristband for the 2008 music festival. The festival schedule has also been posted, and the first thing I did was figure out if there were any conflicts.

On Wednesday, I’m spending the entire night at St. David’s Cathedral for the Steve Reich showcase. If I can’t attend the interview with Thurston Moore, I’m not going to miss this performance.

On Friday, Maggie Mae’s hosts Wing at 8 p.m. That’s early enough for me to catch a good part of Japan Nite at Elysium, if there isn’t already a line to get in. I might stick around for detroit7, but I’m not terribly interested in seeing Petty Booka or ketchup mania.

Although not billed as a part of Japan Nite, Elysium’s Saturday schedule hosts more Japanese bands, including the one I really want to see, toddle. Tabuchi Hisako is no stranger to Austin, having performed with NUMBER GIRL at SXSW in 1999 and 2000. I’m definitely leaving after toddle in order to catch the 1 a.m. showcase of hey willpower at Lamberts.

And Thursday? Well, that’s the night I usually can’t find anything terribly compelling to attend. The NACO showcase at Flamingo Cantina is the most promising event. I’m going to have to wing it or perhaps do the unthinkable and stay in that night. I don’t usually do anything on Sunday, but if I’m squeezed out of Wing on Friday, it looks like she’s doing another show at Emo’s on Sunday.

With the exception of hey willpower, most of the shows I want to attend happen early enough in the evening that I might get home before the clusterfuck of 2 a.m. traffic. I’m so not young anymore.

Favorite edition 1993

In 1993, the classic rock station in Honolulu changed to an alternative rock format. A station that in the past could barely accommodate Duran Duran now had promos touting them on their playlist. Literally overnight, history was swept aside. Now it seemed as if Honolulu was always so cool to have a radio station that played Björk and R.E.M. Right — and I didn’t spend my senior year of high school cursing KTUH for not being able to broadcast more than three miles from campus.

The classic youthful response was to grumble, and grumble, I did. My siblings and friends looked at me weird when I played albums by bands with strange names. Those bands became standard fare, so I had to look elsewhere to elicit the same reaction.

So it was serendipitous timing that the Internet came into my life that year as well. Back then, only science majors were granted Internet access. Exceptions were made for certain courses not part of the science departments, and my way in was through a political science class.

Usenet allowed me to delve deeper into the downtown New York scene, and while the next couple of lists only show trace evidence of such, I went through a mean Celtic period from 1993-1996.

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Listen: 中森明菜 (Nakamori Akina) – URAGIRI

Like Nagai Mariko’s WASHING, I picked up Nakamori Akina’s CRUISE as a way to explore what Japanese pop had to offer outside of anime soundtracks. The album was released in 1989, a tumultuous time in Nakamori’s life. She attempted to commit suicide when she split with her actor boyfriend, and her pop career never really recovered from that incident.

The album itself is incredibly understated, Nakamori singing so low she barely registers on some tracks. Back in 1991, I really couldn’t get into the very subdued sound, but in 2008, I find that restraint appealing. I remember the salesperson at Shirokiya in Ala Moana telling me at the time she didn’t really like the album. I’ve come around to it.

"URAGIRI" is the opening track, and it sounds like it could be an opening theme to some television drama. Or even an anime.

[File expried.]

The Slush Pile, or shaving off a few hours in a day-long playlist

I usually have anywhere from 30 to 48 hours of music on my "audition" playlist at any time. I call it my "audition" playlist because, well, I’m auditioning albums on which I’m going to comment. When I go on a writing binge and get that list below 30 hours, I feel a sense of accomplishment.

Before my last "playlist refill", I had managed to get it down to 22 hours. It’s back up to 34 right now. Once I’m done with this entry, I hope to have it back under 30.

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SXSW hosts showcase featuring works by Steve Reich, Elliott Carter, more

Check out this press release by music publisher Boosey & Hawkes. If I manage to snag a wristband to SXSW this year, I know I’m heading to St. David’s Episopal Church on Wednesday night. Hell, I’ll probably show up an hour early.

Because that night, Boosey & Hawkes presents a showcase titled Reich, Rags & Road Movies: Music by Steve Reich & Friends, which features the music of Reich, John Adams, Elliott Carter, Elena Kats-Chernin and Michael Torke performed by the So Percussion Ensemble (as I suspected), guitarist C.E. Whalen, the SOLI chamber ensemble and Austin-based pianist Michelle Schumann.

Among the works on the program are Adams’ Road Movies, Carter’s Gra and Kats-Chernin’s Russian Rag I and II. The works by Reich include Electric Counterpoint, New York Counterpoint, Clapping Music (!), Drumming, Nagoya Marimbas and Music for a Piece of Wood.

Man, I hope I’m one of the lucky 4,000 in the lottery on Monday. If not, I’m going to bite the $180 bullet for the next set.

Sony titles show up on Amazon MP3 downloads

Back in mid-January, Billboard reported Sony BMG would make its catalog available for Amazon’s MP3 store, giving an approximate time table of "late this month" (i.e. January.) Well, it’s the end of February, and I didn’t see a follow-up news item anywhere. So I checked for myself. Sure enough, Sony BMG kept their word.

Among the majors, Sony has always struck me as one of the least adventurous in terms of A&R. One of the first Sony bands I searched on Amazon? Sade. The next? Hiroshima. When I try to think of artists similar to, say, Morrissey, Bill Frisell or Jane’s Addiction on Sony, I draw a blank. If I’m looking for classical repertoire before 1900, I can trust Sony Classical. After 1900, I’ll go to Nonesuch or an independent label.

The Kate Bush selection is a bit more complete, thankfully.

Before the merger, BMG was more adventurous than Sony, at one time distributing Beggars Banquet titles and signing the likes of Cowboy Junkies and Hoodoo Gurus. A few more Clannad titles are available, although their earliest and latest albums have been cast aside for three greatest hits collections. At least now I can crossgrade some Eurythmics and Annie Lennox albums from vinyl to digital.

More significant for Broadway fans are titles from RCA Victor, now called Masterworks Broadway. My particular yen is for Stephen Sondheim shows, such as Company and A Little Night Music. No Pacific Overtures or (bizarrely enough) Into the Woods, but Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd and Assassins are accounted for.

With all four majors providing content to Amazon, there’s now a significant alternative to the iTunes Store. I don’t shop at iTunes enough to see how comparable the offerings are, but I bet there are fewer holes in the iTunes catalog because DRM allowed labels to be a bit more, ahem, generous. But Amazon’s digital inventory is no slouch, and I can’t really see much incentive for me to launch iTunes.

Official Utada Hikaru site reveals ‘Heart Station’ album track list

Bounce.com reports the official web site for Utada Hikaru has published the track listing of her forthcoming album, Heart Station.

Considering most of the singles released in the past year have been double A-sides, it’s not surprising only half of the album is entirely new. "Flavor of Life", in fact, is represented by two versions. Still, Heart Station continues the more ethereal sound Utada fashioned on Ultra Blue, and while I don’t expect to be blown away, I’ve already liked what I’ve heard so far.

The track listing:

  1. Fight The Blues
  2. HEART STATION
  3. Beautiful World
  4. Flavor Of Life -Ballad Version-
  5. Stay Gold
  6. Kiss & Cry
  7. Gentle Beast Interlude
  8. Celebrate
  9. Prisoner Of Love
  10. テイク 5 (Take 5)
  11. ぼくはくま (Boku wa Kuma)
  12. 虹色バス (Nijiiro Bus)
  13. Flavor Of Life [Bonus track]