Back in February, I wondered what happened to Music with a Twist, the major label effort to sign gay and lesbian artists. The label’s site had shut down, its Myspace pages remained unattended and its first signing, Kirsten Pierce, was dumped before her album could be released.
The release of Kathy Griffin’s comedy album, For Your Consideration, pretty much relaunches the label, who now list The Gossip and Griffin as its only acts.
What happened? I’d be reading between the lines and guessing, but if the press release for Griffin’s album is any indication, Music with a Twist is now being run as an independent label using a major label-owned distributor. The release calls the label "Music with a Twist/RED", indicating a relationship with Sony Music’s Relativity Entertainment Distribution. What’s the difference?
When it was first launched, Music with a Twist was touted as "the first major music label dedicated to identifying and developing lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans gendered (LGBT) artists." (PDF link.) Essentially, Sony was putting its own resources into the label. But then Sony went through restructuring, and Music with a Twist silently failed to materialize.
Man, it’s tough work keeping track of upcoming releases. I was far more diligent back in 2002, when I would scour HMV and CD Japan for release dates, when I read just about every single item in ICE magazine for interesting tips.
Now it’s a game of cross referencing and chance. With more artists using alternate means of distributions — bypassing labels and traditional distributors all together — lists with even a great track record won’t necessarily intersect with things in which I’m interested.
If I were scouring web sites the way I used to in 2002, I probably would have been hip to the following recently-released items.
First, Sasagawa Miwa, who left Avex Trax after the release of her fourth album Mayoi Naku, has released a 7-track mini album on independent label April Records titled miwaBLUE. It’s available from the label’s web site, but it’s pretty obvious international sales aren’t supported. A listing at Amazon is already sold out, and I see no signs of it at HMV. It was released June 6, 2008.
Also released on the same day is a new album by BLEACH, Kien. At least this one has distribution. Even YesAsia carries it. I’m probably going to order it when I get the Hajime Chitose album. Now there’s a contrast. Of course, I could just wait for Australian Cattle God to release it stateside and save a few bucks. Hell, the label is based in Austin! But I’ve gotten all their other albums from Highwave, so I may as well be consistent.
I’m spending more on gas than on Japanese import CDs anyway.
I’ve been doing the very bare minimum in trying to get enigmatics released — my marketing plan is essentially bugging my family and co-workers — and it was still enough to keep me distracted from writing much here. I warned as much a while back, but even I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work that goes into getting a release launched. And I don’t even have distribution.
As a result, my playlist is once again crossing the threshold of a full work week in length. It’s time to prune the list, which means some of the entries I had vaguely planned are just not meant to be.
Billboard reports … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead has started its own label, Richter Scale Records, and is recording a new album scheduled for a January 2009 release.
Conrad Keely says the move back to an independent label allows … Trail of Dead "to seek the creative freedom envisioned by the founding fathers of our great nation, immune from the tyranny of the corporate ogre." These guys are so quotable.
The band left Interscope after the release of 2006’s So Divided, and while they’re no longer beholden to Universal Music Group’s bottom line, they aren’t entirely shut out of the conglomerate’s resources. Richter Scale is being formed in association with Justice Records, which is distributed by Universal.
ZAZEN BOYS releases its fourth album, aptly titled ZAZEN BOYS 4, on Sept. 17, reports Bounce.com. Details about the album have yet to be announced, although the band did record with NUMBER GIRL producer Dave Fridmann. It’s been 2 years and 8 months since the release of ZAZEN BOYS’ previous album, ZAZEN BOYS III.
[UPDATE, 07/29/2008] The track listing of the new album has now been posted. The new album has nine tracks:
Hajime Chitose’s upcoming single, "Hotaruboshi", includes a cover of the Irish song, "Siúil A Rún", says Bounce.com. The single also includes a second coupling track, "Yasashii Uta".
"Siúil A Rún" was recorded to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland. "Yasashii Uta" serves as the theme for J-WAVE’s Nijuusai no Uta.
I’m very curious to hear Hajime’s version of "Siúil A Rún", a song recorded by Clannad in the ’70s on the album Dúlamán. Hajime’s covers tend to suffer musically, despite her usual excellent singing. (Whoever thought it was a good idea to turn the Sugarcubes’ "Birthday" into a folk song?) Clannad’s version is mostly in English, but the chorus is in Irish. Will Hajime tackle the Irish chorus? I guess we’ll find out.
And just to sate your curiosity, here’s Clannad’s version of "Siúil A Rún". It will self-destruct in two weeks.
As reported previously, Onitsuka Chihiro contributes a new song, "Hotaru", to the film Last Game Saigo no Soukeisen. Bounce.com now reports the song will be released as a single on Aug. 6. A live DVD, NINE DIRTS AND SNOW WHITE FLICKERS, comes out on the same day.
"Hotaru" was produced by Sakamoto Masayuki, who has previously worked with Hirahara Ayaka on the hit single "Jupiter". The single also includes the coupling track HIDE AND SCREAM.
The live DVD was recorded during an April 26 performance in front of limited audience of 2,000 people, and it marks her first such release in 4 years and 8 months. Onitsuka is scheduled to perform at a number of summer festivals this year.
Ex-Supercar member Nakamura Koji is releasing his third album as iLL on Aug. 6, Bounce.com reports. Yes, iLL had released its second album back in March, and yes, it’s only been fifth months between releases. The title of the new album is ROCK ALBUM, and the track listing of the album is already available on iLL’s official site. The Bounce article hints the album is something of a return to previous sound for Nakako, and it comments on how iLL drastically changes with each release.
I haven’t yet listened to Dead Wonderland, and I’m probably going to hold off till ROCK ALBUM comes out.
I saw this item on Oops Music, but I haven’t seen it anywhere else. Rittor Music is publishing a score book of the upcoming Shiina Ringo rarities collection, Watashi to Hoden, on July 30. The book includes photos and a discography, plus artwork by Kimura Toyouji. Rittor is also publishing a piano score book with every song from "Koufukuron" to "la salle de bain". (I think I’m reading that correctly.)
I attempted to puzzle out "Toki ga Bousou Suru" on my own, but I’d love to see what a published arrangement might yield. Band scores aren’t entirely accurate, but the Shiina Ringo books I’ve got seem to reflect the songs all right.
I never have picked up any Tokyo Jihen score books, though. Curious.