Archive: July 2008

On the playlist, or from where did all this listening come?

A few weeks back, it seemed I hit a dry spell with finding new listening. So indulged in a little catch-up with catalog releases and a lot of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn.

Now I’ve got a playlist crossing the full work-week threshold, which pretty much means I really ought to start clearing some stuff up.

I’m hoping a relatively bare August will allow that to happen.

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Does this mean I can get Cakewalk SONAR from Best Buy now?

The only thing I really get from Best Buy are Bleach DVDs. (The anime, not the band.) I’ll buy a hard drive or a stick of RAM if the need arises and I don’t want to haul all the way across town for the better selection — and prices — at Fry’s. But for music gear? Doesn’t even register.

Nor do I suspect it will, even as Best Buy expands into selling music equipment. According to the Billboard article, Best Buy isn’t just putting stuff on shelves — stores will set aside actual space so customers can try the gear out.

Huh.

I imagine Best Buy would be a nice place to get some starter gear, as it is to get starter software or basic hardware. But Guitar Center and Sweetwater do a more comprehensive job, and beginners would probably do well just to start there. Best Buy doesn’t strike me as the kind of place that would help customers graduate to more specialized gear.

R.E.M.: Accelerate

In producing their most punchy album in about, oh, 20 years, R.E.M. has also provided Exhibit A in the Loudness War.

As glad as I am the band finally kicked a decade’s worth of dreary writing — I didn’t even make it through the first two tracks of 2004’s Around the SunAccelerate is really, really FUCKING LOUD.

I guess someone on producer Jacknife Lee’s engineering team thought, "Oh, look, a compressor/limiter plug-in. Let’s just crank this motherfucker up to 11, shall we?" (Yes, I know that’s not how compressors work, but surely you get the reference.)

Nuance? Maybe on the softer tracks, but Accelerate is mostly devoid of any dynamic range. And it’s a welcome change, really.

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TOKIO releases Shiina Ringo-written single in September

Bounce.com reports TOKIO will release on Sept. 3 a new single with a track written by Shiina Ringo, titled "Amagasa/Akireru Kurai Bokura wa Negaou". "Amagasa" can be heard on the TV drama Yasuko to Kenji. The limited edition first pressings come in two versions containing only the double A-side tracks, but each version includes a video clip for one of the tracks. The normal edition contains extra coupling tracks, including "Kachuu no Otoko", which was written by Shiina and arranged by Tokyo Jihen. "Akireru Kurai Bokura wa Negaou" was written by Hiro Izumu.

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION: World World World

If I were to apply James Ulmer’s concept of The Hot List to my music collection, NUMBER GIRL, Shiina Ringo and UA would occupy my A-list. Quruli has been hovering around the B+ list for the last two albums, while THE BACK HORN could probably be considered a C-list band.

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, for the most part, has been a B-list band for me.

Kita Kensuke’s voice certainly puts him the same class of singers as SPITZ’s Kusano Masamune and Remioromen’s Fujimaki Ryouta. But the band’s highly-polished post-emo music tends to blur after a while. It’s melodic as hell and very appealing in measured doses. But historically, I’ve perceived AKFG’s sound as little more than watered-down eastern youth.

Then the band recorded World World World.

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Madonna: Hard Candy

I read vaguely somewhere that reaction to news of Madonna working with Pharrell Williams went along the lines of "OH NOES! MADONNA HIP-HOP ALBUMZ! DO NOT WANT!"

This from a woman who has sung Andrew Lloyd Webber, got Björk to write the title track of Bedtime Stories and jumped on an electronica bandwagon that ultimately went nowhere (Ray of Light not withstanding)? Should working with Pharrell or Timbaland or Justin Timberlake be that much of a stretch?

Honestly, I’m surprised such a collaboration hasn’t happened sooner.

More pixels and ink seem to be expended over the fact Hard Candy is the last album Madonna will record for Warner Bros., as she embarks on a new-fangled 360 deal with LiveNation. Never mind the music — this album can already be seen as a significant marker in both the career of Madonna and the history of the major label business.

It’s easy to assume both parties would feel like phoning it in since the album notes the end of a relationship. Can’t speak for the efforts of Warner Bros., but Madonna certainly didn’t slouch on this one. If anything, Hard Candy is her most listenable album since Ray of Light.

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Janet Jackson: Discipline

I wanted to stand by Janet Jackson during Nipplegate in 2004 — really, I did. I had intended to march down to the music shop on the day Damita Jo was released to show my support for Miss Jackson, to stand against the histronics of a conservative agenda run amok.

But I hedged my bets.

I jumped on the Evil Sharing Networks to see if I could afford to spend the cash to show such support, and after listening to the album, I couldn’t bring myself to subsidize it. In the same manner that I wouldn’t buy a Dixie Chicks album just because they pissed off some conservative blowhards, taste overrode political action.

Janet’s 2006 follow-up, 20 Y.O., garnered the same response. But the problem stems much further back — as far back as 1997 and The Velvet Rope. The production team that struck platinum with Control, Rhythm Nation 1814 and (to a lesser extent creatively) janet. started to show signs of wear. By 2001’s All for You, the well was tapped dry.

Ruts are comfortable, and for most of the new millennium, Janet has been very comfortable. After some very high-profile label changes, she finally did what she should have done a decade back — work with new people.

Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam have done much to foster Janet as a talent in her own right, but at some point, kids need to move out of their parents’ house. Discipline is the much-delayed sound of Janet exerting independence once again.

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I wrote a novel. No, really.

One of the many things distracting me these days was a lot of QuarkXpress work for a friend’s birthday gift.

Way, way back at the turn of the century — i.e. early 2000 — I bought a computer and hadn’t completely retired the old one. My friend had none. So we decided to have a writing night, where we each hammered away at a computer, writing whatever came to mind. She finished a story, and I didn’t. I might have backed up her story on a floppy disk, but essentially, we both forgot about it.

A few weeks back, I experimented with laying out a book with scores created by a music notation software called Sibelius. I wanted to get that book printed up, so I went Lulu.com to see how hard it was. Answer: not at all. In a few days, I had my book.

Intrigued, I wanted to see what else I could get printed. My friend had a birthday coming up. (This past weekend, in fact.) I found her story on my hard drive.

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Here’s what’s distracting me

Just so you don’t think I’m just hanging out on the beach and letting this site get musty, here’s the music video I’ve been working on. (Plus an explanation on how it was made.)

var s1 = new SWFObject(“http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=38566685,t=1,mt=video”,”playlist”,”425″,”360″,”7″); s1.addParam(‘quality’, ‘high’); s1.addParam(‘allowFullScreen’, ‘true’); s1.write(‘ep4_enigmatics_player’);

The entry of things about which I’d write if distraction weren’t so prevalent

I’m making a music video. And in making that video, I ended up making another one in the interim. So, yes, I’m a bit pre-occupied, which is no great surprise.

However much I would like to write entries about the following topics individually, I think I’m just going to a brain dump and hope I can elucidate at a later time.

Reviews I still intend to write:

  • ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, World World World
  • Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be
  • Huang Ruo, Chamber Concerto Cycle (International Contemporary Ensemble)
  • Janet Jackson, Discipline
  • Madonna, Hard Candy
  • Metalchicks, either St. Wonder or the self-titled album (haven’t decided which)
  • Midnight Oil, Diesel and Dust (Legacy Edition)
  • Nico Muhly, Mothertongue
  • R.E.M., Accelerate
  • The Dead Betties, Nightmare Sequence (still working on This Is My Brain on Drugs)

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