In February 2000, I took a trip back home to Honolulu that would permanently shift the focus of this website. I came back from that trip with CDs from the brilliant green, Utada Hikaru, L’Arc~en~Ciel and Shiina Ringo. The following month, I picked up more CDs by NUMBER GIRL, Dr.StrangeLove and FEED at various SXSW showcases.
My fascination with the Japanese music scene began in earnest.
That summer, I would order regularly from online shops overseas, and I would eventually embark on relearning a language I went through the motions of studying back in high school and college.
That period of discovery was pretty fertile, and most of my favorite albums stem from the early part of the decade. I’m a lot more skeptical of newer artists these days, so that adventurousness has significantly waned.
But its coverage of music from Japan that makes this site somewhat distinct. I’m hoping newcomers still find it somewhat useful.
I visit the Nonesuch web site from time to time to see what’s listed in its upcoming release section. The label now lists upcoming albums by Bill Frisell and Emmylou Harris.
History, Mystery by Frisell hits stores on May 13. According to Frisell’s official site, the album features an octet of strings, horns and rhythm section and includes new compositions as well as arrangements of his favorite pieces by other songwriters. The track listing on the Nonesuch site shows it’s a two-disc set.
All I Intended to Be by Harris arrives June 10. Nonesuch has no information at this point, but in an interview with Billboard many months back, Harris said, "You’ll get both Emmylou the interpreter and Emmylou the songwriter." The McGarrigle sisters and Seldom Scene singer John Starling both make appearances on the album.
Chara releases a new album, tentatively titled Honey, on June 25, so says Bounce.com. The new album arrives a year and 4 months after her previous album, Union. Honey contains 12 songs with production from Kameda Seiji, Shimada Masanori, and Noda Youjirou from RADWIMPS. The pre-release singles "TROPHY" and "Cherry Cherry" are expected to be included on the album, as well as new tracks "Hoku no Koto wo Shitte" and the News Zero theme song, "call me". A limited edition first pressing includes a DVD with video clips.
ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION quickly follows up the release of World World World with a mini-album, titled Mada Minu Ashita ni, on June 11. According to Bounce.com, Mada Minu Ashita does not have an overall concept the way World World World does. The six-track mini-album has been described as containing fast rockers and medium-tempo ballads. The band embarks on a tour to promote both albums at the end of April.
Although Ben Gibbard gets a lot of attention for being the main songwriter for and distinctive voice of Death Cab for Cutie, it’s Chris Walla who mans the recording booth, crafting the moody sound for which the band is renowned.
So when news hit that Walla was recording a solo album, I was intrigued far more than if Gibbard were to record one. Walla is the wizard behind the curtain — just what would he sound like when he steps out?
One question is certainly answered on Field Manual — Gibbard isn’t losing his day job as front man anytime soon. Walla’s raspy voice is actually quite appealing and a sharp contrast from Gibbard’s pixie croon, but Gibbard’s voice has more presence.
Not surprisingly, Walla’s album sounds a lot like Death Cab, given the overlap in producers, but in terms of songwriting, Field Manual is split between fast, hard-driving rockers and slower, atmospheric numbers. On such tracks as "The Score", "Geometry & C" and "Archer v. Light", Walla is a lot more willing to rock out than Death Cab normally would.
A side project featuring members of ART-SCHOOL and downy releases a debut album in May, so says Bounce.com. ART-SCHOOL Guitarists Kinoshita Riki and Todaka Masafumi join downy bassist Nakamata Kazuhiro and drummer Akiyama Takahiko in backing lead singer Achiko (on button down) to form KAREN. The band’s first album, MAGGOT IN TEARS, hits stores May 2 and contains nine songs. A special edition sold only at Tower Records includes a DVD with a video.
KAREN began in 2005 and has since performed live periodically. Judging by the songs on the band’s Myspace page, Kinoshita’s strong melodic sense seems very much present. Achiko’s mature voice has a slight rasp, which is complemented nicely by Kinoshita’s own nasal timbre.
I’m not sure I’d buy the album on the spot, but I’d certainly check it out if it hits the Evil Sharing Networks.
Now that I’m working out more, I made a startling discovery about Kylie Minogue’s 2002 album, Fever — it’s really quite good.
At the very least, it’s good for a leisurely jog on the treadmill. But with my earphones (not earbuds!) on and the machine set to approximately 4 mph, it’s tough not to be seduced by the four-on-the-floor beats, the immediate hooks and Kylie ‘s nondescript come-hither voice.
Rockist though I may be 90 percent of the time, sometimes I just can’t help but be teh Gay. (Not that it’s any prerequisite to enjoy such pop perfection.)
For her follow-up Body Language, Kylie attempted to mature, releasing an album with a heavy underground dance influence and lacking anything resembling a single. When it failed to match the sales of Fever, she was written off. Then the cancer. Then the comeback.
Kylie ‘s tenth album, X (is it pronounced "ecks" or "ten"?), puts the singer back squarely in the prefab hit-making mode of Fever, teaming her up with a lot of the same songwriters from before.
Utada Hikaru releases a single for "Prisoner of Love", a track off her new album HEART STATION, on May 21, so says Bounce.com. An alternate take of the song — the "Quiet Version" — is used in the Fuji TV drama Last Friends, and it will be the coupling track to the single. The release also includes a DVD with a video clip of the song, and a making-of feature about the video.
A while back, Bounce.com also reported Onitsuka Chihiro has a new song, "Hotaru", featured as the theme for the movie Last Game Saigo no Soukeisen. A single release is expected in August, although no details are yet available.
In the span of six tracks, MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS manage to cover a lot of ground on their self-titled debut mini-album.
The duo has been described as "psych-rock", but that label is too limited. In fact, it’s easy to compare each track on the album to a particular band: NUMBER GIRL, mono, unkie, condor44.
It’s the NUMBER GIRL influence that seems most prevalent, especially with producer Dave Fridmann behind the board on the last two tracks ("IF A SURFER" and "Bears"). The thundering drums of SAPPUKEI kick off "IF A SURFER", while a tidal wave of distortion inundates "Bears". The second track, "Highlight", even recalls the syncopated rhythms and thick chords of NUMBER GIRL’s "I don’t know".
Guardian blogger Tristan Jakob-Hoff reinforces a perception about film music I’ve heard for years — film music is not equal to classical music. When I was an intern for CRI, the label received a proposal from a guy who worked in film. It wasn’t his first time to send in a proposal. My supervisor shrugged and explained to me why the CRI committee would never take him seriously. Because the creative direction of film music is dictated by the needs of the director, it doesn’t really qualify as thoroughly composed work.
That’s probably not a convincing argument for some folks, but I’ve never really warmed up to soundtrack work because some scores really need the visual aspect to grasp. At least it seems that way to me.
A number of commenters on that post point out that under Jakob-Hoff’s definition, ballet and opera would be excluded from classical music. What comes first, though? The music or the choreography? As for opera, a libretto without music is pretty much a play. But in the case of film and TV, the score seldom ever comes first. All the President’s Men doesn’t even have much of a score to speak of.
So yes, I tend to side with Jakob-Hoff in this argument, but I don’t totally buy it either. Some scores stand on their own, and in the case of Interview with the Vampire, the score is better than the movie.
Shawnté Salabert from Hacktone Records saw my post about the LOVE PSYCHEDELICO compilation being released by the label, titled This is LOVE PSYCHEDELICO. She gave me a few more details about the release.
First, KUMI and Sato Naoki remastered the tracks with Joe Gastwirt, who has worked with Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys — appropriate credentials given the band’s classic rock sound. The deluxe packaging includes full lyrics of all the songs with handwritten transliterations by Naoki, plus a LOVE PSYCHEDELICO window sticker.
Salabert also mentions the duo will be in the US during the spring or summer to promote the album. A tour, perhaps? I’m hoping for a return visit to Austin.