Monthly Archives: November 2007

To Holidailies or not to Holidailies? Eh, a brain dump is good enough …

My friend Jette started this … "initiative" in 2000 to write everyday in the month of December as a holiday gift to her readers. She got a few people to do the same, and now seven years later, Holidailies attracts hundreds of participants. It’s not the phenomenon of, say, NaNoWriMo, but both ideas pretty much came together at the same time.

I’ve participated in Holidailies before but not with this site. I could probably stretch out the backlog of reviews for an entire month, but that kind of commitment can really interfere when other things are happening. I still have a bunch of Eponymous 4 stuff I’m trying to get done, and these days, the studio trumps the web sites every time.

So instead, I’ll resort to the dreaded capsule reviews, that nether world between a one-sentence impression and a full-blown entry. Here’s what I might have written about had I participated in Holidailies this year.

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Stephin Merritt eats the Psychocandy

Of all the artists I would never imagine sounding "more Jesus and Mary Chain than the Jesus and Mary Chain", it would be the Magnetic Fields. But that’s exactly what the Fields’ headmaster Stephin Merritt promises with the band’s new album, Distortion, coming out on Jan. 15, 2008. The Nonesuch blog mentions an article in Uncut which previews the album. I like the Magnetic Fields, and for a time, I bought into the 69 Love Songs hype. Honestly, that album doesn’t have a very good shelf life, and I’m not curious enough to explore the band’s catalog. This album, however, sounds intriguing.

The Nonesuch blog has been extraordinarily chatty this fall. In September, the blog had all of two posts. The following month, the floodgates opened. Sadly, I’m not terribly interested in a lot of the stuff that’s been on Nonesuch’s recent release schedule.

But I like the fact the blog seems a lot more communicative. Before last month, it just seemed to exist for the sake of being some sort of web presence.

Favorite edition 2007: Quarter final

If there’s anything interesting hitting stores in December, I’m deferring it for the Favorite Edition list of 2008. I’ve settled on my favorite 10 albums of the year.

For me personally, 2007 is the year classical music exerted its strongest influence in a long time. When I was in college, I had a healthy diet of classical music since it was part of my curriculum. After college, classical was sidelined by indie rock and Japanese music.

In the past, my disposable income — what little there was and is — determined how I prioritized my listening habits. I could only listen to what I could buy, and I wanted to make sure those purchases mattered. Then the one-two punch of digital audio and the Internet made music extremely portable, and the barrier to access was lowered dramatically.

So I’ve made room for a lot of catalog, music I didn’t get a chance to check out at the time it was released. And classical — I could finally play catch up with all the pieces I’ve been meaning to listen to.

Of course, too much choice makes the bell curve of appeal all that more severe. In other words, things that get my attention have to be really good to emerge from all the ways I can get music. It’s almost to the point where 10 spots is actually too many.

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Tokyo Jihen: Goraku (Variety)

There are too many vectors by which to determine the success of this album. How does it compare to other Tokyo Jihen albums? How does it compare to the solo work of Shiina Ringo? Does Tokyo Jihen sound better when Shiina takes complete control of the songwriting? Or do the songwriting contributions of the band’s remaining members give a much-needed jolt to the Ringo enterprise?

Regardless of listener reaction, Goraku comes at an important time in the band’s life. The debut, Kyouiku, served as a transition for Shiina Ringo, solo artist, to become Shiina Ringo, band member. The follow-up, Otona, could be considered Tokyo Jihen’s true debut, with the quintet solidifying its sound and Shiina catering her writing specifically to her cohorts’ strengths.

Goraku, then, finds the band asserting itself as, well, a band, with creative duties spread among its members. By becoming more of a unit, Tokyo Jihen’s members are once again reinventing the whole. It’s the typical career arc of an ensemble in reverse.

But the question remains — is Goraku any good?

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On the playlist, or I really blew a lot of cash in the last few weeks

Between the Austin Record Convention, the Waterloo Records storewide sale, an eMusic quota and a fall release schedule, I’ve got a lot of stuff on my playlist right now. If anything, these playlist entries are a bit misleading because a lot of titles from previous entries are still in rotation. I mentioned the complete Bartók string quartets a while back — it’s still on the playlist.

When the backlog accumulates, it’s tough to give everything a fair shake. It’s even tougher when nothing stands out so distinctly as to clarify where the cruft is. So I keep everything and let inertia determine what falls through the cracks. In other words, "Huh. Haven’t really listened to that in a long time, and I’m not feeling much of a compelling need to. Must not be very good."

Nothing has really reached that point either.

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Best of ACO arrives in December, Speedstar anniversary compilation now available

I got an e-mail from CD Japan announcing some interesting releases. First, Sony is releasing a best collection for ACO, titled ACO BEST ~girl’s diary~. It’s a 2-CD set pretty much split between the two eras of her career. If the track listing is any indication, those early years seem to need a bit more padding than her post-absolute ego work. The album arrives on Dec. 19. Did you know ACO has a blog?

Speedstar Records recently celebrated its 15th anniversary with a concert in which artists on its rostered pair off. Cocco and Quruli, of course, brought out Singer Songer, while The Back Horn and Tsuji Ayano teamed up. Now the label has put together a compilation featuring artists who have recorded for the label. Eh? No WINO? I can’t say I’ve been very impressed with Speedstar’s more recent signings, but this site owes a lot of its content to Speestar artists — Cocco, UA, Quruli, Kicell, the Back Horn …

Kicell releases new album in January

I always wondered what happened to Kicell. At some point, I noticed the Speedstar web site put the band in its artist archives, which is an indirect way of saying they were dropped from the label. Now comes word from that Kicell is releasing its first new album in 2 1/2 years on Jan. 23, 2008.

The album, titled magic hour, contains 12 tracks and will be released on Kakuba Rhythm, which includes Sakerock and Your Song Is Good on its roster. A preview will be available from the later half of November till the beginning of December at a special website to be determined.

Music for workouts, Nov. 11 update

When I finally took the plunge to get an iPod in April 2007 — knowing I’d need it for 12 hours of traveling time from Austin to Honolulu — I went for small and cheap. I didn’t like the Shuffle’s lack of an interface, so I went with a 2GB iPod Nano instead. 2GB is chump change in the portable music player world, but I like the space limitation. I’m often paralyzed by too much choice, so the cramped confines of 2,147,483,648 bytes forces me to focus. (No, I don’t know that figure off the top of my head — I used a calculator.)

I just loaded new music in the iPod for the daily workout, so I’ll comment on those the next time. Here’s what was on the player before.

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New albums by Yaida Hitomi, Oblivion Dust and Quruli slated for 2008 posted three articles today announcing new album releases by Yaida Hitomi, Oblivion Dust and Quruli in 2008. Yaida’s new studio album is schedule for March, while the Quruli release, which is a live album, is expected in February. Oblivion Dust starts things off with the Jan. 23 release of its newest album in six years. The band originally split up in 2001 but announced a new album was in the works at a reunion show. Titles for all three releases have not yet been determined.

November is National Xxxx Xxxx Month …

National Novel Writing Month has become so popular, it’s inspired other events of the same ilk — write or create a full work of something in 30 days. Last year, I participated in National Solo Album Month — write a 37-minute album in one month. I opted to go for a bunch of solo piano pieces.

I’m not participating in anything this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working. If November has been deemed such a productive month, I figured I’d head back into the studio and hack out a few more things. So that means fewer posts here.

That doesn’t mean the site will be at loss — I might be able to squeeze in writing and recording of the podcast’s second season. If I can get a few shows in the can, I can start thinking about a potential premiere date.

Now that the first season has aired, I was wondering what you all thought about the podcasts in general. Does the format still feel too short, or does it make sense as a whole? (I doubt I’d be changing the length, though.) How was the sound quality? Do I need to speak faster or more slowly?

More importantly, did you like what you hear? Did it get you interested in something you probably wouldn’t have explored before?

I don’t usually solicit feedback for this site, but the podcast has a bit more overhead than the usual post. So I’d like to get a sense of how much value it adds to the site. (That’s the polite way of asking, is it worth the effort?)