Monthly Archives: August 2009

Antony and the Johnsons: The Crying Light

Some artists can get away with recording the same album over and over again. Antony Hegerty’s distinctive voice almost requires the most minimal of accompaniment.

So it’s no surprise The Crying Light contains more of the same sparse orchestral arrangements employed on previous albums. A full band pops up once, but for the most part, it’s Hegerty, a piano and a few other instruments to punctuate the open spaces.

That makes it all too easy to compare The Crying Light with the critically-lauded I Am a Bird Now, and personally, it’s not looking good for the former.

Hegerty can write a poignant piece of music like anyone’s business, but the kind of focus that served I Am a Bird Now so well is missing here. The album is just a bit too dour.

It does have its moments. The title track is a wonderful showcase for Hegerty’s unsettling vibrato. "Epilepsy Is Dancing" is an evocative title, but the song itself is sweetly lilting. "Aeon" eschews the piano for guitars, with Hegerty digging deep into his inner gospel singer.

The rest of the album revels a bit too much in transparency, pushing less to be less, not more. Hegerty has a compelling voice, but the compelling music that usually goes along with it isn’t quite there on The Crying Light.

… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead: The Century of Self

When … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead made its more prog rock influences known on 2005’s Worlds Apart, listeners familiar with the band’s output were left wondering, “Hah?”

This foray into seemingly unfamiliar territory made sense, given the tight construction of the band’s previous albums, but it was hard not to miss the bombast of Source Code & Tags and Madonna. Thankfully, The Century of Self brings everything together.

The loud crush of guitars propel such tracks as "Isis Unveiled", "Far Pavillions" and "Halcyon Days", but they veer into tangents that don’t feel needless.

All the album’s tracks blend seamlessly, returning to the solid architecture that anchored the band’s early work. Festival Thyme, the four-track EP that previewed the album, didn’t capture the depth and breadth the album. The EP’s tracks — including "The Bells of Creation" and "Inland Sea" — make more sense in the context of the album.

Pianist Clay Morris adds a new dimension to … Trail of Dead’s sound, providing a velvet glove to the iron fist that is the guitar work of Conrad Keely and Jason Reese. The band, on the whole, sound more fiery than ever, the album recorded live to tape (or hard drive?) than meticulously multitracked.

The Century of Self brings … Trail of Dead back closer to its roots while taking the best bits of the recent past. The band has always experimented with its sound, but this time, they sound complete.

Cocco EP gets physical CD release in September

Cocco’s new four-song EP, Cocco-san no Daidokoro, gets a physical CD release on Sept. 6, reports The EP is currently available through online retailers and coincides with the publication of her latest book by the same name. Cocco also performed an acoustic set at Tower Records in Shibuya on Aug. 15 to promote the release of the book and EP. (Her hair is really short now.)

Onitsuka Chihiro releases new album in October

Onitsuka Chihiro releases her fifth album, DOROTHY, on Oct. 28, reports It’s been two years since the release of her previous album, LAS VEGAS, and in the past year, Onitsuka has released a number of singles, all of which will appear on the 11-track album. Onitsuka worked with producers Tokunaga Hideki and Sakamoto Masayuki, whose credits include Hirahara Ayaka’s "Jupiter". A video compilation, HARD RED FANTASIA, is also in the works.

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New site design launches

I don’t know if freshening up the figurative paint is going to spur me to write much more, but at least I got some practice with using CSS frameworks.

All that to say, I’ve given a new look. I’m using the Blueprint CSS framework as a basis for the design. The last time I went with a fixed width layout was 2003. Fluid designs, when done right, can accommodate more content, which is why I switched to them back then.

Well, all my sites are starting to look a bit dated, and now that I using more frameworks in my development — CodeIgniter for the server side, jQuery for the client side — I figured I may as well extend that usage to the design.

I think this design is the first time I’ve used a white background on anything since the late ’90s. White backgrounds, while professional as all get out, hurt my eyes. I’ve always opted for light-on-dark. Still do, but with this design I get a bit of both.

There are a few victims in this relaunch. Namely, the widgets — the and widgets were becoming eyesore to me. The only widget that remains is my Bandcamp widget for Eponymous 4.

I’m keeping the previous design for the archive because it works better with that content. I still have to update the favicon.ico to reflect the new colors.

The design has also been applied to the neglected sister sites, and