Looking ahead: December 2007-March 2008

I don’t usually start paying attention to the year in music till it reaches the second quarter. The release schedule usually needs three months before it starts churning out notable releases. It seems on this side of the Pacific Ocean, that pattern pretty much holds true.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the first quarter of 2008 is quite packed, not so much with big names but with names familiar to readers of this site. I’m not sure the Hamasaki Ayumi and Utada Hikaru fans would care about comebacks from Kicell and Oblivion Dust, but I’m thinking those are going to be my first purchases of the new year.

(DVD) Once, Dec. 18, 2007

No, it’s not a music release, but it is a music-themed movie, perhaps the best update to the movie musical genre to come along. And it’s not really a movie musical — it’s a music video movie. Yup, just a bunch of music videos strung together in an actual coherent storyline. It’s possible to extract the musical numbers from the film to get a self-contained clip, but it’s far better to see the music intertwined with the story.

Musicals pretty much trace their lineage to opera anyway, but Once doesn’t. Rather, it grafts the music video aesthetic to the musical tradition. In other words, the songs came first, the storyline later.

I love all the possibilities Once offers in terms of melding narrative and music, but I also have a nagging suspicion it really can’t be replicated.

ACO, ACO BEST ~girl’s diary~, Dec. 19, 2007

I’ve always wondered when ACO would get the career retrospective treatment, and this 2-CD set answers that question. The second CD contains her post-absoute ego work, which doesn’t do me any good since I have all her albums after absolute ego. The first CD contains her pop work, which I would have gladly bought separately since I’m not so sure I’m inclined to get the other two of her first three albums. (I already have Kittenish Love.)

P.S. When is Golden Pink Arrows ever going to release something?

The Magnetic Fields, Distortion, Jan. 15

The only Jesus and Mary Chain album I ever listened to was Automatic, and I didn’t keep it for very long because the album seemed to say all it had to say in the first three or four minutes. That was back in the late ’80s, so my memory is fuzzy. Still, I’d very much love to see how the Magnetic Fields sounds "more Jesus and Mary Chain than the Jesus and Mary Chain", as Stephin Merritt claims.

Yorico., Negau, Jan. 16, 2008

Chara, "TROPHY", Jan. 16, 2008

Yorico canceled the tour in support of her second album, second VERSE, due to exhaustion. She had taken a similar break before she debuted on a major label. She’s back now with her third major label album. I turned to Yorico when Onitsuka Chihiro went on her hiatus, so to have releases by both in the span of a few months is quite a boon.

Chara is also keeping the singles coming, definitely making up for the dry spell between her label switch.

Oblivion Dust, TBD, Jan. 23, 2008

Kicell, magic hour, Jan. 23, 2008

The Back Horn, TBD (best album), Jan. 23, 2008

Jan. 23 is a big day for the Japanese indie rock fan. Oblivion Dust releases its comeback album, and Avex Trax is making a big deal of it, reissuing all of the band’s previous albums. I find that odd since Oblivion Dust never was a huge hit. I like them anyway.

Kicell returns after a three-year drought with an album on an independent label. The duo of brothers was always a prestige signing for Speedstar, but they never really translated to commercial success on the level of Quruli or Remioromen.

The Back Horn is long due for a career retrospective, and one arrives on the same day. This band has a number of fans on this side of the Pacific Ocean, but I couldn’t quite get into them. So this release is perfect for me.

Chris Walla, Field Manual, Jan. 29, 2008

If Ben Gibbard recorded a solo album, I’m not sure I’d be half as interested as I am with Chris Walla’s solo debut. Walla is Death Cab for Cutie’s producer, and while Gibbard may get all the press for his luverly voice and poignant songwriting, it’s Walla who has an invisible hand in the band’s sound.

syrup16g, TBD, Jan. 30, 2008

It’s been a while since syrup16g released an album. Four years, in fact. I could never warm up to them, but anyone who remembers the pure-japanese-music mailing list on Yahoo!Groups from a few years back will probably rejoice at this news.

Bob Mould, District Line, Feb. 5, 2008

I really liked how Bob Mould expressed two very public parts of his life musically — the indie rock part and the gay part. Blowoff was a nice combination of indie rock guitars and dance (read: gay) club beats, something he dabbled with on Body of Song. I have yet to explore the rest of his ouvre (sans or avec Hüsker Dü), but I’m certainly paying attention to what he’s done as of late.

Tsubakiya Shijuuso, TOKYO CITY RHAPSODY, Feb. 6, 2008

Bugy Craxone, Good morning, Punk Lovers, Feb. 6, 2008

Tsubakiya Shijuuso’s second album was a textbook case of sophomore slump, not that the debut album was slam dunk. The band has some interesting ideas, and TOKYO CITY RHAPSODY is its first for a major label. Third time’s the charm?

I don’t think I managed to listen to Bugy Craxone’s previous album, but I still remember that memorable typo: "Hey God, shit down please".

Kylie Minogue, X, Feb. 12, 2008

I bought Fever from the used bins at Waterloo Records a few years back because I liked what I heard on the Evil Sharing Networks. I put the album on my iPod recently for my daily workout, and now that I’ve listened to it a few times, I’m discovering its brilliance. Body Language, though, was kind of impenetrable. And yet, I’m still looking forward to X. Yeah, I’m gay.

The B-52’s, Funplex, March 25, 2008

I didn’t come on board to the B-52’s till Cosmic Thing because radio stations in Honolulu pretty much ignored the band while Ricky Wilson was still alive. In 1998, Rhino released a B-52’s retrospective, Time Capsule, and the difference before and after Don Was got behind the board was stark. I’m wondering how the band sounds now.

Quruli, TBD (live album), February 2008

Quruli has already done the career retorspective with 2006’s Tower of Music Lover, so a live album was pretty much the next obvious thing on the checklist.

Yaida Hitomi, TBD, March 2008

The last Yaida Hitomi album I was interested in was Here today, gone tomorrow. Yaida has pretty much found a comfortable niche, and I can pretty much pick or choose when next I want to pay attention. It probably won’t sound terribly different from what’s come before.