Archive: March 2009

Boy did I stick my hand in the crazy again

Back in 2006, I bought a 160 GB external hard drive and decided to rip my music collection into MP3. To optimize space, I decided to rip everything at a constant bitrate of 192kbps. I wanted to leave enough room on the drive for future releases.

Hard drive space is now entering into the terabytes, and yesterday’s 192kbps is today’s 320kbps. My friend chip had the foresight to rip his collection to a lossless format, then encode into a lossy format. I’m starting to feel the 192kbps rips wanting.

So I decided to do the tediously crazy — I’m re-ripping my CD collection. According to the software database I use to track my collection, I have 1,054 CD, spread among 1,700 discs. I’m not sure how accurate that disc number is, because I include other formats in the database.

And I’m following chip’s lead, first ripping to FLAC, then encoding to MP3. I’m even going for the "insane" settings on the LAME encoder in Winamp. Compound the process with tagging from Musicbrainz, and … it’s going to take a while.

At least now I have the space to do it … I finally bought a 1TB external drive.

Now I just have to resist the urge to get a USB turntable.

Favorite edition 2009: Quarter first

As usual, the first quarter of the year isn’t very active in terms of releases, and while I was hoping the anomalous activity of 2008 would repeat itself, it was not to be.

I really ought to wait till April to publish this list, but about the only thing I want to check out next Tuesday is the new Pansy Division album, more for curiosity than any real desire to write about it.

So I may as well compile the preliminary favorite list for the first quarter. The pickings are slim, and so is the list, arranged by rank but not numbered as such.

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Listen: Electric Light Orchestra – Twilight

Of all the bands in all the world, would you ever imagine reading about Electric Light Orchestra on this site? Probably not, and most likely never again.

ELO earned a spot on the map of my family thanks to that cinematical gem called Xanadu. My brother bought the soundtrack, and it got some extensive spins on the local turntable. (We were all kids back then — cut us some slack.)

"Hold on Tight" was one of the first singles to come in the wake of Xanadu, and so too "Twilight". I think I heard it once on the radio in Hawaiʻi, and it was enough to make me love it.

Nearly three decades later, the song strikes me as having a close affinity to New Wave. I can easily see someone doing an indie rock version of this song.

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BO-PEEP/Special Thanks/FLiP/detroit7/Anchorsong, Creekside Lounge, March 20, 2009

At last year’s Japan Nite, I unwittingly created a test to see how much I would like a band. It’s called the Smoke Break Test. The premise is simple — would I rather go outside to smoke a cigarette than watch the rest of a band’s set?

Of the five bands I caught at the Japan Preview show at Creekside Lounge, two did not pass the test. I arrived late to the show because I wanted to catch Department of Eagles at Waterloo Records. The only new band I missed was HONEY SAC — I had already seen Peelander-Z, Natccu and Rinka Maki.

BO-PEEP started just as I arrived. The trio pretty much played garage rock, nothing terribly earth-shattering for anyone familiar with the roster of Benten Records. Actually, past alumni such as Tsu*Shi*Ma*Mi*Re and Kokeshi Doll were more interesting. One song at the end of the set dissolved into nothing more than a four-on-the-floor beat by the drummer. I surprised myself by lasting that long before I took my smoke break. Test result: No pass.

Unlike the impeccable schedule of a SXSW showcase, the Japan Preview got each band off and on the stage in a matter of minutes. The lag time between sets was pretty brisk.

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Department of Eagles, Waterloo Records, March 19, 2009

Daniel Rossen must have had a rough Wednesday night. His band Department of Eagles had a 10 p.m. showcase at Central Presbyterian Church, and during the Waterloo in-store performance the next day, Rossen stopped at a few points.

First, his microphone went out during "Phantom Other", and a few measures into "No One Does It Like You", he had to recollect himself, then start again.

But his repartee with guitarist Fred Nicolaus — and with the audience — made those glitches feel intimate. Of course, the set itself stripped away most of the technical wizardry on the band’s second album, In Ear Park. The pared arrangements still suited the songs incredibly well.

Nicolaus copped to standing around looking cool for most of the performance, which he did for a number of songs. Despite whatever kind of night Rossen had, his voice came through crystal clear.

The highlight of the in-store was the final song, a new one in which Rossen overdubbed his vocals live into loops. It was cool to witness an ethereal chorus of Rossens emerge out of nowhere.

I would have loved to see Grizzly Bear’s showcase, but I’m glad I caught Department of Eagles.

Natccu, Cheapo Discs, March 18, 2009

The problem with being a fan of Shiina Ringo, Cocco and even BONNIE PINK is knowing how close a Japanese female solo artist gets to those benchmarks — or how far.

Natccu played to a very sparse audience at a Cheapo Discs in-store performance, but her band was loud enough to make me regret forgetting my ear plugs. Her music jumped from garage rock to post-punk, and a few technical difficulties didn’t throw her off.

But throughout her set, I couldn’t escape the notion Natccu still has a way to go. The songs, while good, didn’t inspire me to drop $5 on a CD, and her quivering, burnished voice seemed at odds with the music, when it should have suitable.

I’m sure she’ll find fans this side of the Pacific Ocean, and I’m hoping in a few years, I can check back with Natccu and find she’s become the musician she may still yet to be.

SXSW 2009: I have no copies, but I have a plan …

This year will be the first time in a long time I am not attending SXSW. (I didn’t in 1998, but back then, I didn’t know what the hell it was.)

That doesn’t mean I won’t be participating in the madness. The way the festival takes over this town, it’s tough to avoid. So this year marks the first time I’ll be siphoning off the free shows all over town. I’ve even made a schedule:

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2009: I’m catching Natchuu at a Cheapo’s Discs in-store at 12:50 p.m. on my lunch break. Yeah, I still need to head into the office. The spending cash for my Japan trip in November — the reason I’m skipping SXSW — won’t earn itself.

  • Thursday, March 19, 2009: I will take a half-day from work. At 2 p.m., I’m catching Department of Eagles at a Waterloo in-store performance. Then I’m heading to the Creekside Lounge to catch the rest of Japan Preview. If I feel really adventurous, I might check out the free show of Hawaiian artists at Whole Foods in downtown that evening. Most likely, I’ll head home early because, yeah, I have to go to the office the next day.

  • Friday, March 20, 2009: It’s the two-hour series finale of Battlestar Galactica. I want to know how this frakking show ends. It’s a good thing the Japan Nite showcases this year don’t really interst me.

  • Saturday, March 21, 2009: At noon, Gentleman Reg performs at Home Slice Pizza. I’ve never been to Home Slice yet, and I’ve been curious about Gentleman Reg since reading about him in Out magazine. The albums he has up on eMusic, however, haven’t quite sold me to get them. Then at 8 p.m., Explosions in the Sky takes to Auditorium Shores. Never did the Auditorium Shores thing before, so I have no idea how I’m going to navigate parking.

Even though I didn’t sink $100+ on a wristband, I fully expect to be buying up a lot of alcohol and merchandise. In short, I’ll be doing my part to sink cash back into the Austin economy. Probably not as much cash as I would attending four of the five nights of the festival, but I’m not going to be miserly this week either.

Maybe this year will wean me from my wristband dependency? Doubt it.

Quruli release new single in April, records new album in New York

Quruli releases a new single titled "Yukai na Peanuts" on April 29, reports Bounce.com. The three-track release includes "Marugao" and "Kamome wa Kamome" as coupling tracks. In the meantime, the duo is recording its next album in New York. According to Bounce, the sound of the new album incorporates roots rock, jazz, blues and electronica. It’s been nearly two years since the band recorded its previous full-length album, Tanz Walzer, in Vienna.

Shiina Ringo releases new single in May

Shiina Ringo is scheduled to release a new single under her own name on May 27, reports Bounce.com. The single, titled "Ariamaru Tomi", serves as the opening theme for the TBS drama, Smile, which stars Matsumoto Jun and Aragaki Yui. Bounce describes the single as her first solo release in 5 1/2 years. Technically, that’s correct, since 2007’s "Konoyo Kagiri" was billed with her brother Junpei and conductor Saito Neko. Shiina recently released the live DVD Ringo EXPO 08 to cap a series of releases commemorating the 10th anniversary of her debut.