The Slush Pile, or failure to get things done, part the first

At first, GTD actually helped to organize all the listening I had spread out over various services and formats. I even managed to write a few reviews as a result of the process.

But then I started slacking. The Weekly Reviews stopped, and my Next Action Items languished in limbo. I also let myself get thoroughly distracted by learning .NET/C#, as well as other various professional self-training activities. (I have declared 2010 my Year of Professional Development.)

Soon, my list of reviews on which to catch up grew. Right now it’s up to 66 items. I had hoped using GTD would cut down on the number of round-up entries I write, but really, some albums I encounter really don’t need full-length reviews.

So here’s to trimming down that list some more.

BLEACH, bleachstone

On this final BLEACH album, the Okinawa hardcore trio goes back to its succinct roots, sounding about as tuneful as they did on their self-titled album and packing in a lot of music in half an hour. I don’t remember much about the previous album, Kien, and Migi mo Hidari mo Shihaisuru wa Kyoo mo Niku wo Kui Yodare wo Tarasu suffered from sprawl. bleachstone sounds every bit as unhinged as, well, every other album, but as the group calls it quits on a satisfying decade, they leave with their chops undiminished.

bloodthirsty butchers, NO ALBUM Mudai

bloodthirsty butchers has been hit or miss since NUMBER GIRL’s Tabuchi Hisako joined the ranks, but NO ALBUM Mudai finds them at one of their better moments. The album is probably one of the cleanest-sounding works they’ve yet produced. Yoshimura Hideki still vocalizes somewhere between a scream and Sprechstimme, but backed with sweet harmonies by the rest of the band, he sounds melodic. The songs once again have so much going on, their long lengths feel proportionate.

NO ALBUM Mudai may come across as a bit too polished, but it has a richness reminiscent of Kouya ni OKERU bloodthirsty butchers.

Furukawa Miki, Very

The first few tracks on this album are incredibly strong. A combination of syncopation and silence on "Kingyo" produces a disorienting effect where the downbeat gets obfuscated. The half-step bass line on "Remember" almost hints at Jefferson Airplane’s "White Rabbit".

The momentum mellows half way through the album, then starts to peter out toward the end. The production on Very is actually less lush than on Mirrors, but compared to Bondage Heart, the songs are much more memorable.

Hyakkei, Okurimono

To paraphrase Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, the arm of Bill Frisell stretches far. Many times when I would listen to Okurimono, I would forget I was listening to a Japanese trio instead of a solo jazz guitarist. Takamoto Shuuhei is probably a lot more melodic than Frisell, but Tanaka Ken’s prescient drumming mirrors Frisell’s own telepathic relationship with Joey Baron. The trio’s tight playing could easily place them in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, not somewhere in the middle of Tokyo.

KAREN, sunday girl in silence

Like its predecessor, sunday girl in silence takes a few listens before it reveals its charms, but unlike MAGGOT IN TEARS, it doesn’t have the same staying power. Kinoshita Riki once again indulges his inner-Sting, and singer Atsuko sounds great as ever. But it’s that lack of staying power that unfortunately relegates sunday girl in silence to sophomore slump, if only slightly.


LEO Imai was a lot less concerned about hooks on his indie debut. CITY FOLK is a fascinating mix of hip-hop, ’80s pop and indie rock, but the melodicism of LASER RAIN or even Fix Neon hadn’t yet emerged. He seems to have made a devil’s bargain in that regard, because CITY FOLK has no self-consciousness. Imai experiments to his heart’s content, creating some often surprising results."Bye Bye" starts off with a tender melody but gets interrupted by a mouthy interjection of the song’s title. Seemingly dissonant chords drive the opening of "This Is What I Want", while some bona fide ’80s hard rock guitars punctuate "Kappa no Uta". It’s a confident debut that could have been incredible with stronger hooks, which Imai would unveil on later works.


I haven’t been a very strong advocate of STRAIGHTENER for the last few albums, but I have to admit there’s something different about CREATURES. The songwriting is tighter, and the near-seamless flow of the album shows a subtle but not overbearing ambition. Horie Atsushi remains an appealing front man, and the addition of two former members of ART-SCHOOL is starting to pay off. The performances on CREATURES have a lot more range. The funk riff of "DONKEY BOOGIE DODO" could have sounded forced but doesn’t, and the delicate piano intro of "Toneless Twilight" could have ended up more emo than it is. "Starless Coaster" may be the only wrong note in the program, but for the most part, this album is good enough to satisfy skeptics.

SuiseiNoboAz, SuiseiNoboAz

Who needs ZAZEN BOYS 5? Mukai Shuutoku injects so much of himself into the production of SuiseiNoboAz’s self-titled album, it’s tough to tell the bands apart. The boxy drum sound, the echo-y vocals, the fuzzy guitars — one can hear such sounds and think "Matsuri Studio!" It doesn’t help that SuiseiNoboAz shares with ZAZEN BOYS a similar agility with rhythm and an unhinged front man. At the same time, who else but Mukai could have made sense of the band’s frantic sound? Probably Dave Fridmann.


Well, that was a short-lived return to pop. I love listening to UA sing, but her more experimental tendencies can get too cerebral. She sounded astounding mixing that experimentation with real melodies on Golden green, but no such wonders await on ATTA. UA just goes anywhere and everywhere on this album, and she’s a brave artist for doing so. But after a while, that lack of center gets fatiguing.


The departure of Aoki Yutaka can be felt on SA-KA-NA ELECTRIC DEVICE. While the songwriting shows no sign of slouching (I’m looking at you, ANDROID ~like a house mannequin~), the performances don’t have quite the dynamism as Aoki’s last appearance on Halan’naca Darkside. Synthesizers creep further into the band’s sound, which managed to refer to the ’80s without ripping it off wholesale. It’s not an unappealing development, but it does chip away at VOLA’s more distinct aspects. SA-KA-NA ELECTRIC DEVICE is still a pretty good album, but the shift in dynamics may put off some listeners.