Monthly Archives: June 2010

Benjamin Britten: War Requiem / Sinfonia da Requiem / Ballad of Heroes (London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Richard Hickox)

War Requiem by Benjamin Britten has always been a work I wanted to hear when I first read about it in a textbook during high school. Back then, CDs were replacing vinyl as the listening medium of choice, and War Requiem was too lengthy to fit on one disc.

For a student on a limited income, a double-disc set was beyond my budget. Eventually, I would forget about it.

Alex Ross devotes a chapter of his book The Rest Is Noise to Britten, which got me thinking about War Requiem again. Armed with 12 eMusic download credits, I finally got to listen to the piece 20 years after learning about it.

So how is it?

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Rufus Wainwright: All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu

This album is one Rufus Wainwright needed to record — and not because of all the upheaval in his life at the moment.

Between launching an opera and dealing with the illness of his mother Kate McGarrigle, Wainwright was probably not in the position to craft an album with a grand production.

All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu is Rufus Wainwright unplugged — just him and piano. Even without the demands on his time and attention, the downsizing of his sound is a much-needed reaction to the trajectory of his previous work.

If his albums continued to swell, one of them would eventually burst.

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Cocco releases new album in August

Cocco’s first new album in three years comes out on Aug. 11, and it’s titled Emerald, reports This album is the first Cocco has produced herself, with Takamune Negishi, Curly Giraffe and RYUKUDISCO contributing. A limited edition first pressing includes a DVD with videos for "Nirai Kanai", "Dugong no Mieru Oka" and "Kinuzure". Cocco also recently published a novel titled after her single "Polomerria". Here’s the track list for Emerald:

  1. Mimura Elegy
  2. Nirai Kanai
  3. Chou no Mau
  4. Spring around
  5. Hari no Hana
  6. 4×4
  7. Nobara
  8. Juusanya
  9. Light up
  10. Crocus
  11. Stardust
  12. Atarashii Uta
  14. Kinuzure ~Shima Kotoba

Jónsi: Go

Hold on … is that a backbeat thumping behind Sigur Rós singer Jónsi? And not just a backbeat, but a dance beat?

That was my first reaction when I heard "Go Do", the opening track of Jónsi’s solo album Go. Sigur Rós’ previous studio album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, featured some uncharacteristically up-tempo moments but not enough to stretch an entire album.

Jónsi goes further than Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust ever did, piling on thick beats, whimsical orchestration (courtesy of Nico Muhly) and stuttering samples in a beautiful mess of music, buoyed by his distinctive falsetto.

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Hüsker Dü: New Day Rising

If you’re a newcomer to the works of Hüsker Dü — as I am — don’t start with Zen Arcade.

That was my mistake. The critical scuttlebutt says this sprawling double album is essential listening in the Hüsker Dü oeuvre, but given the way it was recorded — in 85 hours with mostly first takes — it’s a hot mess and not necessarily a good first impression.

Said scuttlebutt also indicates New Day Rising is the band’s best album, and if I started there first, I would have become a fan sooner.

Zen Arcade tried to be many things at one time, something New Day Rising avoids by concentrating on being fast and hard. The band’s sound changes little from track to track, Bob Mould’s thin guitar slicing through the strangled bottom end of bassist Greg Norton and drummer Grant Hart.

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The Slush Pile, or failing to get things done, part the third

Part one focused on Japanese artists, part two on classical music, and now part three covers Western popular music.

I should just clear my entire backlog, because I’m not sure when I’m going to muster the energy to profess my love for Santigold, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Shiina Ringo’s MoRA boxed set (which I never got around to purchasing, dammit), or the Replacements.

And yet, I keep that back log around because somewhere in all my sloth is an optimist who wants to get things done.

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Looking ahead, June 2010-August 2010

As I mentioned before, I’ve been posting release news to the Facebook page, but if you’re allergic to anything Facebook, here’s a round-up, plus a few items I scrounged up from various other sites.

Do As Infinity, "Infinity Ni", June 16

Still kind of waiting for this reunion to pay off …

Sasagawa Miwa, miwaTale, June 23

UA, KABA, June 23

iLL, Turn A, June 23

I found out about Sasagawa Miwa’s next EP, miwaTale, from a CD Japan e-mail, so folks outside of Japan don’t need to worry about limited availability. If it pop ups on the Evil Sharing Networks, I may check it out, but looking back, Jijitsu and Mayoi Naku are all I really need from her. And the "Tomenaide" single.

UA explores covers once again with KABA. Her previous cover album, cure jazz focused on standards. This time, she’s covering Japanese artists and a few western artists, including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fiona Apple, Björk and Radiohead.

I never really warmed up to iLL, and a collaboration album with the likes of Mukai Shuutoku, ACO, Base Ball Bear and RYUKUDISCO probably won’t make me start. Still curious, though, but not about the POLYSICS track. Never about POLYSICS.

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Facebook page as link log

As evil as Facebook may seem to a growing number of users, the site’s interface offers some nice conveniences for lazy content providers such as myself. In the case of the Facebook page, it’s become a link log.

I’ve pretty much moved new release postings there, and every so often, I’ll post a link to something I find interesting. If you haven’t already checked it out, I encourage you to do so.

Some news I posted there that I haven’t gotten around to cross-posting here:

  • New albums by Hajime Chitose, Fujifabric, Sasagawa Miwa and UA.
  • A new collection by Art of Noise

  • Studies about program notes and music

  • Even a YouTube link or two (something I never like posting here.)

State of gay

I usually never remember to write a gay-themed entry for Gay Pride Month till the very last day of June. So I’m writing this entry in May.

In 2008, I found myself paying attention to a lot of gay-identified artist — Matt Alber, Sam Sparro, The Dead Betties, hey willpower. I hoped 2009 would be just as fruitful, but I couldn’t really muster much passion for what I did find. I won’t make any assumptions for 2010, but releases by Rufus Wainwright and Jónsi do make me hopeful.

A few of the titles mentioned here are catalog. As a summer campaign for re-runs on NBC once stated, "It’s new to me."

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