Archive: August 2008

Rufus Wainwright is writing an opera?

Things I didn’t know but now do after reading this article (New York Times, registration required or not):

  • Rufus Wainwright is writing an opera titled Prima Donna.
  • He’s writing it in French.
  • The Met would rather it be in English.
  • Nico Muhly is also writing an opera for the Met.
  • I would rather listen to a Nico Muhly opera than a Michael Torke opera.
  • If I were to go to an opera, that is.

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION releases new album in November

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION releases its next studio album, Surfer Bungaku Kamakura, on Nov. 5, about eight months after the release of its most recent album, World World World, reports Bounce.com. A new single, "Fujisawa Loser", precedes the album on Oct. 15. For this album, the band is making some sort of wordplay on the Enoura station name with the song titles. (Or at least, that’s how I’m reading it. I may be translating that incorrectly.) The band will embark on a tour to promote the album in November.

Wendy & Lisa release new album in September 2008

Every once and a while, Pause and Play has an actual tidbit of information that’s remotely useful to me. Case in point: the upcoming new album by Wendy and Lisa. Pause and Play lists Sept. 9 2008 as the release date for White Flags on Winter Chimneys.

The duo has been working as composers for film and television since the early ’90s, working on such projects as Crossing Jordan, Something to Remember, Bionic Woman and, perhaps their highest-profile gig, Heroes. When the writer’s strike truncated the 2007-2008 television season, Wendy and Lisa used the time to write and record a new album, their first in a decade.

Back in 1998, the pair self-released Girls Bros., an album about which I wouldn’t have known had I not run into a vendor at the Austin Record Convention who mentioned its release. Today, keeping up with Wendy and Lisa is as easy as finding their Myspace page. Or Facebook. Or Twitter.

It’s kind of weird, really. I bought their self-titled debut album when I was 15 years old. Back then, the label served as gatekeeper, determining how much interaction a teenager in Honolulu could get with a pair of artists who have worked with Prince. The label has long since been out of the equation, and the Internet essentially lets them get their music to me directly.

How cool is that?

By the way, the songs made available for preview? Typical hard-to-classify alt-rock. Something good really did come out of the writer’s strike.

[UPDATE, 10/26/2008 17:32] Wendy and Lisa are eying a November release, probably Nov. 11 or Nov. 18, according to one of their Tweets on Twitter. The duo are working with Topspin on the release.

Midnight Oil: Diesel and Dust (Legacy Edition)

Midnight Oil was the first band to teach me that a singer doesn’t need to sound polished, slick or appealing to be good. I could have learned that lesson from Bob Dylan, but the first Dylan performance I consciously encountered was "We Are the World". What an indictment on my generation.

The first time I heard "Beds are Burning", I thought, "Who the hell thought it was a good idea to give Peter Garrett a microphone?" Then my friends subjected me to the entire album, and eventually I gave in. The music was so urgent and awesome that I found myself championing the band.

When Sony Legacy remastered Diesel and Dust, I played it in excess all over again.

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The backlog

I know making myself accountable to write about the following albums may just lead to disappointment, given I’ve been feeling pretty apathetic about the whole blogging thing, as of late.

There’s only so much creative currency to go around, and Eponymous 4 has been taken a lot of my mind share (what a lovely and preposterous term), leaving all sorts of prose writing in a deficit.

(You bought a CD yet?)

But I feel a duty to give these albums some attention, if only to give people performing Google searches a helpful destination.

Albums about which I’ve been meaning to write in greater detail (many previously listed):

  • Ann-Sally, Brand-new Orleans
  • Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be
  • Hajime Chitose, Cassini
  • Jonathan Mendelsohn, SNOCAP tracks
  • KAREN, maggot in tears
  • Midnight Oil, Diesel and Dust (Legacy Edition)
  • Nico Muhly, Mothertongue
  • Shiina Ringo, Watashi to Houden
  • The Dead Betties, Nightmare Sequence
  • U2, Boy (Deluxe Edition)

Albums I might mention in a round-up:

  • ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, Imada Minu Asu ni
  • BLEACH, Kien
  • CHARA, honey
  • Huang Ruo, Chamber Concerto Cycle
  • Metalchicks, Metalchicks and St. Wonder
  • Michael Hersch, Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 / Fracta / Arraché
  • Mirah, Advisory Committee
  • Ned Rorem, Eleven Studies for Eleven Players / Piano Concerto in Six Movements
  • Sigur Rós, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

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On the playlist, or exploring missed youth

I got rid of most of my cassette tapes in 2002, when I moved into a smaller apartment for a year and a half. One cassette I kept was a compilation titled No Place to Play, which featured ’80s punk bands from Hawaiʻi. I considered digitizing that cassette so I could listen to it on the computer, but I was curious to see whether someone beat me to it.

And someone has.

Dave Carr, a guy who was heavily involved with scene, curates the Hawaii 70s-80s Punk Museum, which features artwork, photos and — most importantly — audio files from bands of that era. It’s the first time I’ve heard more from these bands than what’s on No Place to Play, which is included on the site.

Funny thing: I didn’t like most of what I heard on No Place to Play when it was first released. The sound quality is mostly terrible, and at the time, the extent of my post-punk knowledge was Midnight Oil and U2. Today, I have a better grasp of what influenced these bands and can hear snatches of the Smiths, Jesus and Mary Chain, Bauhaus and Joy Division in the music. And the bands weren’t too bad themselves.

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ART-SCHOOL releases best collection, new mini-album in October

ART-SCHOOL gets the retrospective treatment on Oct. 15, reports Bounce.com. No particulars have been announced about the compilation, including its title. I’m guessing it’ll only cover the Pony Canyon albums, but it would be cool if the EMI years were to be included. The closest EMI got to releasing a best album was the live disc Boys Don’t Cry. Also arriving the same day is a new mini-album.

Band leader Kinoshita Riki has been focusing his efforts lately on KAREN, a project with former members of downy. The band’s first album, maggot in tears, is turning out to be one of the most listenable of the year.

Wow — is Chinese Democracy going to suck that badly?

So after 14 years, Guns N’ Roses’ long-gestating album Chinese Democracy may finally appear exclusively at … Wal-Mart? That’s what Billboard is reporting.

I haven’t listened to any of the other exclusives given to Wal-Mart, but really, I’m not the target market for them. Garth Brooks? The Eagles? Please. Those aren’t incentives for me to step into a Wal-Mart. I’ve got a Target around the corner anyway.

Besides, the rockist in me wants to assume that anything which needs to be targeted directly to a Wal-Mart shopper probably sucks enough to earn my scorn. The odds Chinese Democracy would sound remotely relevant — considering how long its taken for the musical landscape to shift in 10-plus years — were low to start, but a Wal-Mart exclusive, in my aforementioned rockist mind, is a clear indication of the level of suck.

In the meantime, Velvet Revolver is still looking for a new singer.

Another case of … another case of … deja vu

Honest. I’m not seeking out recycled album cover art! I don’t know how I’ve managed to find reused photos twice in the last 24 hours. Here’s a band from the ’80s of which I’ve never heard called This Ascension with an album titled Tears in Rain:

[This Ascension: Tears in Rain]

Now here’s the cover of Oceana by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov:

[This Ascension: Tears in Rain]

The image is titled Lady in Water by photographer Toni Frissell. It seems to be a popular image to use on album covers because this site links to the Bill Evans and Jim Hall album, Under Current.

Feels like deja vu … feels like deja vu …

I noticed a new Elliott Carter album, Figments and Fragments, was released on a Norwegian label called 2L. Then I saw the album cover:

[Elliott Carter: Figments and Fragments]

Uh-oh. I’ve seen it before on another new music release:

[Steve Reich: New York Counterpoint/Eight Lines/Four Organs]

The Steve Reich album was released on Nonesuch back in 2000. The image is taken from Louis Stettner’s New York.