Looking ahead: July 2008-August 2008

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.

I missed the bit about BLEACH and Sasagawa Miwa. I’m not so connected these days.

Once again, here’s an overview of the last few release news items, with a few more interspersed.

Joan Jeanrenaud, Strange Toys, June 24

Who knows if ICE Magazine would have listed this second album by the former Kronos Quartet cellist in its listings? I just know all my current sources have failed me good, and I thank the Lords of Kobol I’ve got The Standing Room in my RSS news reader. Jeanrenaud cited health issues for her departure from Kronos, and String magazine attributed it to exhaustion. A recent interview with the cellist reveals she actually has multiple sclerosis.

Shiina Ringo, Watashi to Hoden, July 2

Shiina Ringo, Watashi no Hatsuden (DVD), July 2

If you haven’t listened to any of Shiina Ringo’s early coupling tracks, then this release is a must-buy. A number of those B-sides are just as good as any track from her albums, and in fact, the first disc of Watashi to Hoden could have conceivably been an entire album onto itself.

As for the video compilation, Watashi no Hatsuden, it’s essentially a convenience release for casual fans not rabid enough to get every previous edition of Seiteki Healing.

Double Famous, Double Famous, July 9

Double Famous moves from Speedstar to Hatakeyama Miyuki’s current label, Rhythm Zone. I’ve never really listened to Double Famous, save for a few 30-second clips. It’s a bit too authentic for my taste, but Hatakeyama fans will no doubt want to know this album is coming out.

Hajime Chitose, Cassini, July 16

I like Hajime Chitose’s voice enough to overlook the fact she’s singing some fairly straight-forward Japanese pop now.

Nico Muhly, Mothertongue, July 22

Speaks Volumes was a collection of classical works recorded like an indie rock album. But Mothertongue is pretty much an indie rock album. Muhly layers monotone, rhythmic melodies to form fleeting harmonies, set against a hazy musical accompaniment that references Medieval music, traditional folk song and, well, Björk. (Yeah, yeah, that comparison has been made before.) It’s a compelling and strangely appealing album. Even though I’m already listening to the download, I’m getting the CD when it arrives.

Leo Imai, "Taxi", July 23

Kieru. Kieru. Kieru. Kieru … Mieru. Mieru. Mieru. Mieru.

Part of me wants to shake Leo Imai to dislodge whatever glitch in his brain makes him repeat melodic phrases over and over. And the other part of me wants to sing along.

Oh oh oh oh oh …

Onitsuka Chihiro, "Hotaru", Aug. 6

The grainy audio of the opening Flash movie on her official site pretty much indicates this single is the usual dramatic, string-laden Onitsuka ballad. I don’t know why I don’t mind Onitsuka’s consistency, where I would perhaps take Utada Hikaru to task for not shaking things up.


Is that a promise?

OBLIVION DUST, TBD (single), Aug. 27

I guess the reunion isn’t some one-off thing if a new single is in the works.


Here’s hoping Dave Fridmann’s presence behind the board will allow something that hasn’t really previously happened on a ZAZEN BOYS album before — editing.

Matt Alber, Nonchalant, August (or Fall 2008)

Along with Mirah, Matt Alber was the only other artist I hadn’t yet heard in the Gay.com Rock Out archive to grab my attention. It looks like he released a CD, Nonchalant, in 2005, but it’s since become unavailable. His Myspace page indicates Nonchalant will be reissued by Tommy Boy’s Silver Label, another LGBT-focused label, in August 2008. But head over to mattalber.com, and you can listen to the entire album. His voice has shades of Rufus Wainwright, but his music is a shade more ethereal.