Rum Hee

22 04 2009

Shugo Tokumarau is an incredibly skilled Japanese musician (he plays around a hundred instruments, from guitar to piano to musical saw) who makes pop music with a slightly odd bent. A lot of his songs approach a melody at a slightly esoteric angle, but his best make this odd approach infectious. Here’s his newest song, the title track of an EP I’m planning on buying this week, Rum Hee. The song is one of his more direct and triumphant.





Saved By Old Times

16 04 2009

Come with me everyone, back to the 80’s.





Forget The Flowers

9 04 2009

Hanami, Kyoto, 4/8/2009

I imagine you’re all sick of sakura by now, but the cherry blossom season is a major part of the year in Japan. One of the most common activities is hanami, or flower viewing. Basically you take a meal and a bit of alcohol and sit around, admiring the trees and realizing that the blossoms will soon be gone, taken by birds and the wind, pondering the transience of existence. This all makes much more sense after you’ve been drinking.

The temperature jumped up about fifteen degrees over the weekend.

The temperature jumped up about fifteen degrees over the weekend.

I’m nearly done with the KCJS program, and now I’m beginning to reflect on the program, prompted in part by a letter I received from a former Japanese teacher asking me to recount my experiences in Japan. My main dilemma is that it’s hard for me to separate the program from being in Japan; did I have fun here because or in spite of KCJS? I’m not entirely sure, but I did appreciate the many efforts KCJS made to try and get people involved and give us all something to do. Some of their attempts (such as the community invovlement project) were annoying as hell, but I came to appreciate them over time. Unfortunately, the classes outside of those for Japanese language are a mixed bag. I really enjoyed my translation course, but Japanese religion was nightmarishly boring. It was like some seperate, hellish dimension where every hour in the real world was an enternity for everyone listening for the umpteenth time about how religion was “domesticated” in the Tokugawa era. Seriously, we had like forty goddamn classes on that topic.

And now, music. The new Neko Case, Middle Cyclone, continues to be awesome. Here’s a video for “People Got a Lotta Nerve”.

Japanese game shows continue to amaze me, especially this one. Don’t they have laws against this sort of thing?

Music I’m Listening to Now: “Rosewood, Wax, Voltz + Glitter”, Red Red Meat. I actually payed for this cd on iTunesĀ  (thanks for the gift certificate, Molly and Chris). The former band Tim Rutili, of Califone fame, has a much more emphasis an distorted guitars and dirty blues, but you can definitely see the roots of Califone’s gothic Americana, especially in the ballads, such as closing track “There’s Always Tomorrow”. Here’s one of the highlights of the record, “Chain, Chain, Chain”:





De Stijl

12 02 2009

A great White Stripes video. They’re going to be playing Conan’s last New York show, so hopefully that means they’ll get touring again.

Music I’m Listening to Now: The Notwist, “Neon Golden”.





Anonanimal

23 01 2009

Three Animal Collective posts in a row can’t be bad, right? Now that I’ve given the Merriweather Post Pavillion a few run-throughs, I feel confident in saying it’s a fantastic cd that anyone who appreciate gorgeous, experimental music should purchase. Previously, when I’ve heard similar ravings for Animal Collective’s previous works, I felt a vague sense of annoyance due to my inability to enjoy them. I purchased Sung Tongs, a few albums back for the Collective, from an Albuquerque record store, and along with Frog Eyes’ The Golden River, the two became the first music purchases I regretted. With the exception of the gorgeous “Winter’s Love”, Sung Tongs loose structure and critical lack of melody (to me, at least) succeeded in driving a wedge between me and the band that has lasted through all of their subsequent releases until now. Listening to Animal Collective had the unintended side effect of allowing me to experience what people who dislike experimental bands such as Radiohead and Wilco feel when they listen to works by the bands and the widespread praise they receive: confusion and eventually umbrage towards the music and the perceived misperceptions of the critical and popular apparatuses. Failing to enjoy music by artists such as these eventually comes to feel like a crime, rather than a simple divergence of taste, and in the worst case resentment builds into a virulent hatred for both the creators and the supposedly delusional fans, another victim of an emperor they’ve failed to realize has been naked all along.

Everybody still here after that?

Everybody still here after all that?

Despite my best efforts, my attitude towards Animal Collective was slowly coming to resemble this prefixed negative outlook. However, I believe one of my few good qualities is never to permanently write anything off, though my optimism and goodwill may dim substantially. It was with nearly a sense of duty, then, that I listened to the newest Animal Collective cd, which had been receiving rave reviews in online publications such as Pitchfork and blogs across the internets. My introduction to the cd was one of its finest tracks, and the album’s eventual single, “My Girls”, a hypnotically beautiful ode to blissful domesticity. The song, while at the same time being one of the best among a uniformly stellar tracklist, also provides an excellent preview of what’s to come. Close to six minutes, “My Girls” lacks a traditional chorus or even much of a sense of movement, relying instead on a looping melody and eventually a mantra-like vocal. This degree of repetition would mercilessly expose the flaws in weaker songwriting, but it is here where the Collective accomplishes their greatest success. Merriweather‘s melodies are astonishingly beautiful, at once complex and immediately apparent. The repetition prevalent throughout the disc never dulls their impact, and despite most of the most looping-based tracks running past five minutes, they never tired. Merriweather‘s songs succeed at obtaining the true qualities of the mantras their design mimics: a simple pattern, at once elemental and enormously powerful.

This is why I love the internet.

This is why I love the internet.

That’s not to say, however, that Merriweather is totally devoid of traditional song structure. “Summertime Clothes”, another highlight in an album full of musical apexes, features an astonishingly catchy chorus, a tidal wave of pulsing sound fueling a lyric expresing the simle desire to “Walk around with you”. “Bluish”‘s verse stretches, but its chorus is immediately striking, simultaneously more muted and more pounding than the portions before it. Merriweather has been described as the Collective’s “pop” cd, and while its hard to imagine any song from it ever making it onto a major radio station, the strength and beauty of its melodies are undeniable. The album ends with “Brother Sport”, a gorgeous, bouyantly hopeful song that embraces the repetition and trance aspects of the album fully to produce a gorgeous climax of joyously shouting voice and and an unstoppable melody. In the end, the Animal Collective has produced a cd undeniable to even former cynics such as myself, a joyous celebration of simple pleasures and musical beauty. The band are currently embarking on a world tour that will take them, among other places, to Albuquerque, New Mexico and Boulder, Colorado, both in June. I haven’t seen them live, but I’ve been impressed with the videos I’ve seen and the reviews I’ve read, so I’d highly recommend it. (Cancel that- seems like they’ve sold out in at least Albuquerque, and tickets are going for over $250.) (Cancel that again- apparently there are still tickets, and there only eighteen dollars a pop in Albuquerque. See them if you can!) If you like music, and don’t mind something a little different, pick up Merriweather Post Pavillion.

Brother Sport

p.s. The title of this post is a song name from Andrew Bird’s new album Noble Beast, which is also pretty great, if a bit of a slow burner. It’s streaming over on his Myspace page. If you haven’t heard his music before, I’d recommend “Fitz and the Dizzyspells”; a lot of his music can be a little idiosyncratic, so the song is a nice introduction to some of his dynamics.





Wrong Time Capsule

21 01 2009

I lied. This is the catchiest song from Merriweather Post Pavillion.





Electioneering

20 01 2009

While all of you are likely watching the inauguration, I’ll be asleep. Hopefully it’s not too historic. Video above is a song from the new Animal Collective cd. Animal Collective have been hit and miss (and far more misses than hits) for me in the past, but I’m liking their new cd Merriweather Post Pavillion, quite a bit so far. Video is the catchiest cut on the record, “My Girls”.

Addendum: I can’t believe this slipped my mind, but I experienced my first earthquake last week. I woke up to some light rumbling that ceased after a few seconds, which made me believe it was just construction at first. Kyoto, as I understand it, is relatively safe; its more places like Tokyo that are worried about the next big one.

(Original video has been pulled, so here’s a substitute. Don’t be afraid of the interpretive dance descriptor- it’s really more of a light show. Though it probably would have been hilarious if someone had just taped themselves dancing to the song.)