29.9.05

Everything

the bomb
In an effort to play a little game of catch-up with all of you, I am going to just drop a pop-culture bomb right now. Tell you in brief about things I'm looking at, thinking about, listening to, reading ...
Reading
Soulseeking: Me and Mine: Ahab After the Whole ... this is a really cool Stylus magazine article. I totally feel this guy ... reading the article made me feel like my Soulseek habits are valid and that made me feel better. Or something.
Beikoku Ongaku v. 23 ... okay, I know that the newest Beikoku Ongaku (literally "American Music") came out a few months ago, but these things are hard for me to find! Anyway ... it's a good magazine, and as usual, does not feature too much American music. I think a more fitting name would be "American Style Music," but even that name doesn't sum up the magazine very well.
Listening
Blood On the Wall ... a fantastic new band. These guys combine poppier tunes with a Sonic Youth approach ... their debut, Awesomer, is a must-listen ...
Black Dice's latest, Broken Ear Record, is their most consistent and confident album, but I guess you need to be into that sort of music ... knob turning, guitar effect pedals, tape loops ...
Blackalicious just released a brand new album, The Craft, and I must say that I dig it hardcore. The lyrics are wittier than ever, and the beats are creative ... I think it would be difficult to be a creative beat-maker these days ... hip-hop seems to be digging its own grave by only featuring ... beats ... as the melody, rhytm, and time keeper.
Hmmm ... Grandaddy is definitely one of my favorite bands. They combine country and pop in a very unique way. It doesn't sound too much like either genre ... something that only Grandaddy does. But the new EP, Excerpts From the Diary of Todd Zilla, seems a little sloppy, although I do appreciate their "back to our roots" approach to making the EP (some of the songs were written 8, 10 years ago so they have that "vintage" Grandaddy feel).
Devendra Banhart has recruited a huge ensemble of bearder folkies and recorded Cripple Crow, which I actually sort of enjoy, although I still don't know what the hell "freak folk" means. Folkies used to look exactlly like the dudes from A Mighty Wind ... when did they get all freaky and bearded? Huh?

Looking At
Monsieur T makes some interesting T-Shirts ... don't know if I'd buy one, though ...
the Cotton Factory reprints plenty of goofy vintage tees, and they're all very cheap! Some of them are winners, but most of them kind of suck ... sorry.
Sinko-Trace ... this is like, so friggin' awesome! I totally want a customized pair of Vans! And they're pretty nicely priced!
Etsu Meusy is a fantastic graphic designer/illustrator ... I really want to buy a t-shirt of his or something ... way too cool!
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27.9.05

Amestory, Dios (Malos), and Uh ...

dios (malos)
A little slow on the uptake, I know ... the new Dios record is not out quite yet, but I usually get to record releases like, more than 2 weeks before the thing actually hits stores.
Dios had to change it's name because of some lawsuit (I'm starting to think that bands are inventing lawsuits to get more press ... I mean, what was the first thing that writers said about Dan Snaith's new Caribou name? That he had to change it because of a lawsuit! Every ... single ... article! AH!)
I don't think that a slight change in name gives you permission to release another self-titled record, but apparently Dios does. Their second LP, Dios (Malos) is out on the 11th. Check out EPK, a "normal" Dios song. I always imagine a California setting sun when I listen to them ... laying on the beach, the remaining surfers going back to their hammocks ... that sort of atmosphere, I feel, would work well with their musical style (although I am always a tad offset by the fat lead vocalist ... no offense!)

As for Amestory ...
I mention this Thousand Oaks, CA band because, to me, they sound similar to Dios. That relaxed guitar strumming ... chilled out drums ... whispy vocals. You get the idea. I'm under the impression that record releases can sometimes tend to be like movie releases. That is, the summer blockbusters "fit" the summer atmosphere, whereas the winter flicks tend to be more thought provoking ... perfect for a romantic cuddle night for you and your girlfriend (or boyfriend!) ...
Amestory "fits" the end-of-summer record bill very well, but I like 'em regardless ... listen to this nice song, #2.
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26.9.05

Supergrass, "St. Petersburg" Video

supergrass
Ah ... Supergrass ... the weathered darlings of British pop music. Supergrass, formed in 1993, seems to be one of the few remaining carryover bands from the Brit-pop explosion of the early 1990s, but thankfull they are indeed still alive and well, and will release a new record, Road to Rouen, one of their best, on the 27th. It's a slightly more ambitious return to their older pop stuff ... they haven't broken any apparent boundaries, but have definitely expanded their sound, possibly just because of sheer talent and experience.
They recently came out with a great video to accompany their single, St. Petersburg. The video is pretty normal ... just the group playing the song, but it is filmed in such a way that melds well with the music. The color seems muted, the lighting is very soft ... it was well done. So be sure to check it out!
Apparently, this new record was recorded in the confines of a barn in Normandy. It was also self-produced, and I think they did a very good of that. Many bands, when self-producing an album, end up sounding too ornate ... too ambitious. It always sounds to me like one of the band members was having a little too much fun working the console.

Not so for this new record ... very well done.
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24.9.05

My Flickr

Okay, I have been updating my Flickr account like a mad man. So ... two things.
First off, I would like any of you interested in looking at me doing stuff in Japan to go to the site.
Second off, I think it would be cool to set up a Japan "network" or something. Like, if you live in Hiroshima and I'm going to go there at some point, we could meet up. Having an excuse to leave this area (Takamatsu) more often would be a very nice thing to have.
So -- check it out, even if you don't live in Japan. And comment or something ... I'm curious to hear if you guys dig my tastes ...
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Deerhoof - The COvers

deerhoof
Why is Deerhoof like, the coolest band ever!? They released an internet-exclusive live album last year, and now have given us all another present ... The Covers. At first, I thought it was an album of Deerhoof doing covers of other bands' material, but it's the opposite. They are now cover-worthy!
Ain't they a cool and creative band? I didn't know this until a little while ago, but their new [fantastic] album, The Runners Four, was recorded in their practice room. That's why it has an unlayered feel to it ... I should have figured that out by now! So, while their new music is more melodic than before, it does not have the cleaness that Milk Man had.
Anyway, if you can bring yourself to only downloading one covers song, I suggest getting Milking by New Decade. It's the best overall cover because it sounds the most like Deerhoof, which I would think is a hard thing to be successful in.

I want more free stuff! Oh, and I want some bloody t-shirts! I saw one of the Deerhoof guys with a really cool silk-screen printed t-shirt at the concert that said Deerhoof ... why can't they make more of those!?
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22.9.05

Stills Update

the stills
Why aren't the Stills more popular!? They ain't my favorite band, but they fit the formula for the next "indie band" to hit the mainstream. Actually, they fit that formula, uh ... like, 3 years ago when they released their debut LP, Logic Will Break Your Heart. I mean, even the title sounds like just the thing that the newest O.C. soundtrack should have on it. They've got that atmospheric edge that everyone loves now since Coldplay released their new album, and their live shows are definitely lots of fun. I was very impressed by their chops if nothing else! Their guitarist is ... really good!
Well, I was checking the Fader magazine blog, and came across a post which shared lots of new Stills info with all of us, so I decided to spread the word a little more (but I also just wanted something to write about ... )
So, here's some of the news ... read on to find out more:
* Newly evolved line-up
* Early tour to play out new material
* Album nearly complete to come out in 2006


The Stills have been recording their follow up to 2003's popular Logic Will Break Your Heart and will head off on a Canadian tour in September to play the new material, complete with two new members, one less member and a singing drummer that plays guitar. Confused? See below for details.

After being in the studio for months recording the new material, the Stills have decided to take the new music on the road to test it out. The band is filled with a new energy, as the new songs have taken them in a more mature and imaginative direction. They'll also be touring with various friends of theirs (The Arts & Crafts Label and Broken Social Scene side projects: Jason Collett, Apostle Of Hustle, Most Serene Republic. They will also be doing a number of dates supporting Sloan at Canadian colleges.) for the duration of this tour. As for the line up changes, Dave Hamelin, who played drums previously in the Stills, has always been the main songwriter for the band and has stepped out from behind the drumkit to share vocal and guitar duties with Tim Fletcher. Greg Paquet (the other previous guitarist) has decided to leave the group for the time being (an amicable split, no drama). Collin Brooks (ex Sea Ray) will replace Hamelin on drums for this tour, and Liam O'Neill (who had played keyboards on tour) is now a full time member of the band.

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20.9.05

Just For Kicks

just for kicks
The Resfest film festival looks so friggin' cool, and yes, I probably should have blogged about it by now. But I didn't. Missed out ... damn.
Anyway, this one documentary, Just For Kicks, looks really intriguing to me. I guess partially because I happen to love shoes, but it still looks very well done in its own right. Like, the cast includes such greats as Grandmaster Caz, Fab 5 Freddy, Raekwon, and Haz.
So I get the feeling that it centers more on hip-hop-endorsed footwear, but all the same -- neato-o idea (yes ... I am white).
Any of you New Yorkers been to any Resfest films? Or, for that matter, people living in Chicago, Toronto, LA, or San Francisco (anywhere but Cleveland or Tokyo when I will be there in October ... )? I would interested to hear what the highlights were.

And so it ends ...
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19.9.05

Newpiece Magazine

newpiece
There are plenty of online 'zines, so I am never too drawn to them. When you actually print a magazine, there is a certain amount of necessary work that goes into their production that you can skip in online magazines, often times making the printed material more intriguing just from a technical standpoint. Like, you need to format pages yourself (no template), you need to actually edit the stuff since people will have easier acess to your publication rather than the web one, etc.
Anyway, I was impressed with Newpiece. But I don't think you can really call it a magazine. Sure, there are "issues" (three to be exact), but they have almost no text, and aren't even set up in a traditional magazine format. The 'zine is simply a collection of new artists' work. But you download it and view it in Flash which gives each issue a cleaner and more professional look. I've only looked through issue three, so I can't say if the previous two were any good, but I liked what I saw and that's enough for me.

What's this collage book thing that is up on the site? Looks cool ... want to see what it is!
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17.9.05

stellastarr*
Stellastarr*'s debut s/t album was ... so-so, I think. Lots of potential ... a gothy vibe, crazy weird vocals, and an intensity that isn't seen to much in the swirling, atmospheric music that they make. Well, their second LP, Harmonies For the Haunted, is more focused. This time, the group knows what they're trying to do, I feel. Now, if I like it or not is another question. The vocals are certainly stronger. The guitar part is more prevelant and cutting, which I like. But I feel like their music is more of a copy of ... something. It sometimes sounds rather Cure-ish, but at other times, it sounds like their older stuff, which was kind of Flock of Seagulls inspired. Listen to their newest stuff on their website. They've certainly got chops. So that's a good point. Whatever.

I just can't get over that voice! It's Paul Banks from Interpol mixed with Ian Curtis, but with less security behind it. I'm not convinced of his conviction, even though he tries hard to do just that.
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16.9.05

Acme Novelty Library #16

acme novelty library
I will be the first to admit that a bit of the novelty of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library series has died (couldn't resist ... sorry). We all love to see our favorite artists rise from the "underground" and make some money, but once they star doing regular installments for like, the New Yorker, you feel like enough has been enough. The example that comes to mind is the recent licensing of a Steven Malkmus song for a Sears commercial. Uh ...
Anyway, I am glad that Ware has "hit it big," but I think that he has gotten a tad lazy. Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to judge, though. I haven't seen Acme Novelty Library #16 yet, so I'm hoping that maybe in the four year hiatus that Ware took to hit it big, design various book covers, and make some extra cash on the side by reprinting his old work, he didn't go too soft. Maybe this new comic will redeem the insecure artist (although I wonder how insecure he his these days ... )
Could this be a more optimistic comic?
Regardless of how good it turns out to be, I was surprised to hear that Ware is publishing the volume on his own ... Fantagraphics ain't doing it this time. Which also means that the 64 page book will not be seen in this format ever again. It will, however, be recollected into a Rusty Brown tome at some point. There will only be one run of #16 ... collectors beware!
(Hah -- I already ordered mine from Amazon.com ... cheap!)

Anyone heard anything 'bout #16? I'm excited to see it, for better or for worse ...
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12.9.05

Takano Fumiko

t. fumiko
Well, sorry I haven't been much of a poster recently. Weird internet ... in fact, this post is taking me, like, 25 minutes to write and put on the web because of this weird connection I've got going right now.
Anyway, I was reading the latest issue of Relax, and have been very happy with it so far. This one centers around illustrators and painters, all from Japan, some old, some new. I was drawn in particular to Takano Fumiko's work because of her non-traditional manga style. She has a style kind of similar to Dan Clowes', in that it is very clean, but the use of space and placement is still very prominent ... I'm not overwhelmed by her work, like I am by many of her contemporaries.
She's kind of old in the manga world, and she never did much. Actually, I don't think that she's doing any manga currently. She did a few things back in the early 80s, and has been a sort of cult manga icon ever since.

I can't even really seem to find anything by here, so if any of you know where I can look at some more of her work, I would be very pleased to hear from you! I did come across this French thing, however ...
Also, I got a bunch of stuff on Amazon.co.jp when I typed her name in using kanji ... 高野 文子.
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8.9.05

Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?

do they know it's hallowe'en?
Woah, woah, woah ... talk about super bands. Ex-Unicorn Nick Diamonds got this really cool idea: make a benefit song for UNICEF. Well here's the really cool part: he got an excellent Band of Goblins together to record the thing (hence the super band.) And the really, really cool part is that the band includes, like, the Arcade Fire, Sonic Youth, Beck, Wolf Parade, David Cross, etc. That is soooooo cool! Ah! The single will go on sale around Halloween (duh!), but before you buy the thing (which you will since it's for a very good cause), you can listen to the single at Vice Records. It's really surprisingly good. Definitely sounds like an ex-Unicorn was behind this, although the part where the whole group sings sounds very much like one of the sing-along songs that the Arcade Fire did. Wow.

I want Halloween to come sooner than it ever has before. I've not looked forward to it this much ever ... not even when the draw of candy was there.
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7.9.05

Feel Good Inc. Japan-Only EP

feel good inc.
The Japan-only Feel Good Inc. Gorillaz EP has been out for a while, but I was prompted to write about it since I just bought it, and the Japan-only Dare came out today, although I have not yet listened to that.
I just wanted to say that the EP is great, though. I love "Feel Good Inc." -- a great hit single. But I also enjoy "Spitting Out the Demons" for it's old-skool Gorillaz appeal. It sounds a little bit like something from the Laika Come Home reggae-remix album or else just pure Blur. "Bill Murray" is an excellent repeated groove ... nothing too great, but fun. I really like "Murdoc Is God" ... Damon Albarn's (or should I say 2D's?) vocals are superb on this song ... high with that on-purpose shakiness that makes them so unique and cool. The EP also comes with the "Feel Good Inc." video. Way cool.

I'm really curious to listen to the Dare EP. It looks really neat because it's totally in Japanese ... like, it has "Dare" written in Japanese and was definitely made for a Japan-only audience.
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5.9.05

Are You Ready For More?

are you ready for more?
The Go! Team's Australian tour EP, Are You Ready For More?, has been out for a while, but I just got around to listening to it (and do you know how hard it is to find the bloody thing!?)
My verdict: it rocks. The first track is the single version of "Bottle Rocket," which is a damn good song, but I mean, I already heard it. I love love love "The Ice Storm" ... beautiful swirling, jingley samples layered over one another in that perfect Go! Team sort of way. "We Listen Every Day" is super cool, too ... sounds a little like something that the Shangri-Las would have done, er, I mean, it sounds like the Go! Team doing something in that style. Slower than most of their other songs, but still really exciting and energetic because of the shouted vocals.
"We Just Won't Be Defeated" is also great. It has this childrens' song sort of vibe ... sounds to me like the singer should be singing about pink bows and pretty dolls or something. Major chord progressions on a old piano and a cute synthesizer line make it sound like such ...
"Did You Feel It Too" is also a slow piece. The group uses their signature strings and harmonica sound in this tune ... very cool as well. I'm genuinely surprised by "Hold Yr Terror Close"'s incredibly lo-fi qualities. The Go! Team are known for having a pretty loosely produced sound, but this song isn't even really like the group's normal lo-fi thing. A happy childrens' song is what I think of, again.
Did you ever see Ghost World? Remember that song that Enid listens to when she's remembering her childhood? That's what this sounds like. It makes me want to be a little teary eyed and hug my favorite stuffed animal or dig up my "blankey."

I love the Go! Team more than ever with this release. They showed a side of them I would have never seen coming.
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3.9.05

Odditorium


Portland, OR is such a cool city. The city is more compact than other large cities, which makes it all the mroe fun to explore ... you don't have to drive everywhere like you do in LA or something.
So I cannot help but like the Dandy Warhols, okay? I don't care what you all think. I actually enjoyed Welcome to the Monkey House, even though it got pretty horrible reviews. They do the whole druggy psychedelic pop sound well ... Courtney Taylor's voice blends into their incredibly chill style very well, and they have only gotten better with time. (It took me so long to figure out that Courtney was not the girl in the band ... ).
Anyway, the Dandys have a new album out on the 13th called Odditorium or Warlords of Mars. You can hear the whole thing here (just click on the "click to hear sampler" or the cover art). I like the accompanying movies.
But one question ... how the hell is this thing a sampler? It's like ... all the songs and they're all full length ...

Speaking of full length ... don't these songs look terribly long? What's up with that?
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2.9.05

Rockin' On

rockin' on
Luckily, there is a pretty good bookstore in Kanonji. I've been buying the latest installments of Brutus, Relax, and, yes, Doraemon in English and Japanese (for those of you who don't know Doraemon, he is a cat, with no ears, from the 22nd century who has a 4D pocket full of tricks and goofy inventions ... I read it because it's easy and helps expand my vocabulary).
But today, I looked a little deeper into the magazine collection and discovered Rockin' On, a magazine which I only hope to be able to fully comprehend some day.
For only 600 yen, you get an issue absolutely bursting at the seams with rock news and updates (which are, for the most part, American and British) and a great sampler CD! This one features the Rakes, (new) Gang of Four, Her Space Holiday, and Junior Senior (by the way, the new Junior Senior LP is being released in Japan first ... hah!), among others. Franz Ferdinand made the cover story ...
I dig it hard.

Anyone else ever heard of this thing? Where's it from? Who publishes this? I didn't think that the Japanese media had it in 'em to put this sort of thing out in normal bookstores!
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