Saturday, August 8, 2009

見えるよ! (I can see!)


As a bit of an お宅 (Japan fetishist), an album like Jump Up represents a sort of oasis. See, in the West, we hear so much about experimental Japanese electro, crazy Japanese pop. But to our disappointment, names never reach us, and if we have an opportunity to venture to Japan, the question becomes what to look for. Trying to find this sort of music when I first landed in Japan, I accidentally bought a very J-pop rendition of an American 40's classic, and was severely disappointed. Supercar are one of the many hidden Japanese bands that you can only find with perseverance and very handsome luck.

Their first sounds could be compared to an early Radiohead, rough and hormonal, just as unpolished as an album like The Bends. The sound is based on clear drum lines with funkily simple guitar riffs, and a humble Japanese man singing over the top (which will occasionally be replaced by a twee woman who makes for variation). This album is also pariticularily interesting it shows Supercars transition into using electronics for beats and effects, where later in there career they would become renouned for their use of such instruments. The album begins with a transient synth line, which quickly becomes accompanied by some cymbal-driven drums; it's music to start a party to. Like that build to celebration, at all points in the song you can feel the expected kick into a guitar strums and possible headbanging. Of course, it settles down, and makes for a refined song to start the album. Sunday People, the album's first single, see's both male and female voice collaborate in an up-beat yet firmly relaxed song, with a very techno deriven rythym and feel in general.

Highlights of the album would have to include Jump, which is quite frankly just plain, darn, bloody well awesome, makes me wanna jump in slow-mo, spazzing in the air. Also, Low-down will see you nodding your head and attempting to sing along in bad Japanese, and you'll be absolutely sure that you're the coolest cat in town. In general, the album is the sorta background music want for being the complete shizzpot of life. You'll want this to your soundtrack while you wander 'round China Town, looking for cheap noodles in your orange trench coat and jeans. This is like, an epiphany of cool.

PS. This album is bloody hard to find. Hence the small album artwork... ;_; If you want it, there's always hand-to-hand disk exchanges!

Favourite Song: Low-Down (Live Scene)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm a furry, kinky goddess, how are you?


One year before we all would supposedly die from every computer crash, one year before Sale of the Century became redundant, Beck made a kinkygasm of love and war with a healthy topping of cream drooled all over the top. Midnite Vultures is playful right down to it's spelling. And Beck is sexy right down to his nose, I have decided, despite his Scientology and all that schemazzle. The lyrics are random, the sounds are absurd, juxtapose this and contrast that. "Freaks flock together, making all the b-boys scream." Yes, this Beck's orgasm album where he explains how he got there, what he's doing, and what type cigarette he'll smoke post-sexually.

Sexx Laws (with two exes to be extra sure) starts the album: brass-bands, and the mental image of Beck sliding in on socks into the lounge-room, and before you know it he's hitting you like a spank machine. Little electronic beeps and squiggles, and Beck's nonsense lyrics are only possible because he's a full grown man but he's not afraid to cry. Humdrumming banjo's drill into the night with the echoing sound of drum-machines rattling. Next song. Is it strange to think that the name Nicotine and Gravy is strange? Obviously not. Bass lines, and slow ballading of what Beck'll do to you. There's an Israeli girl, a lazy, some na-na-naing and of course, nicotine and gravy. And you'll love it, hopefully.

All up and down style, this album shows Beck's colourful 'wigger' rap and ability to use a one-of-a-kind sense for writing lyrics with a unique set of samples and DJing. His singing is edgingly beautiful at times, and not brought down by the lead-heavy sound-scapes in the background. You can dance to this, or you can shag to this. Or, you can just play in your lounge room, while guests. They'll be chilled, until they listen properly and hear lines like: "I'll leave graffiti where you've never been kissed." where they'll become erotically to hump the album like a small chihuaha.

Other creamed masterpieces include Peaches & Cream, a bumpy hip-hop song with lots of screaming and folky guitar, which would make for a great sing-along; and Beautiful Way, which seems sorta ironic in it's bitter-sweet relatings of love. Quick mention of Arabian Nights which is a bonus track and sounds pretty crazy. The lyrics in this song are by far orgasmic and deserve to be framed. For instance, "Part-time hostages in pottery classes." It's absolute nonsense, but it leaves an impression, but what that is escapes me.

So there you are, Midnite Vulture, it's sexy. It's hot pink. It wants you in the pants. Startling good music with lots of different tones and emotions to delve your tongue into. May include nuts, but ripe ripe ripe for the picking.

Favourite Song: Peaches and Cream

Favourite Line: '...Hollywood nuns with the hollywood phones...'

Sunday, June 21, 2009

teenage soundtracks echo in tunnels


It is not often that a soundtrack stands tall away from the film. Personally, Virgin Suicides is the most accurate description of how we (highly hormonal teenagers) feel, and Air has embody this emotion in their music. So of course, the music is dark, with the occasional bright guitar riff or mulling piano solo. Air has created a masterpiece in that it not only serves its purpose as a soundtrack, but also stands alone as a brilliant album. The mixture of electronics and synthesisers, with choirs, singing and floatacious drums, makes for an album sounding similar to the film's time period (which is the sixties) while also modernising the sound into a very instrumental driven feel.

Firstly, the first, Playground Love. The video clip for this song shows pieces of gum singing the song, stuck to dinner-plates, school-tables and shoes amongst other things. We go in and out of the Virgin Suicides world, at times seeing the fourth wall broken in a attempt to make the song even more personal. It's intimate, and it plucks heart strings like they're that of an electric guitar. And I swear, if I die tomorrow this is one of the songs I'd like played. The somber sounds are what one should cry to, love to, and live to, and it is as if they have been playing in the back of our minds for most of our lives.

Apart from that, there are some wonderful songs like Empty House, a great scene setter for suicide and dead bodies. Ironic, the next song's Dead Bodies, a rush of drums and dramatic choristers. Also, the samples used from the film aren't in anyway, random or misfitting, which is nice for a change. Everything feels unified, with a similar taste, yet happily it's not repetitive.

For once we see a soundtrack actually doing something. Rather than it staying in the shadows of the movie, instead it is a celebrated extension of it. Air has made a truthful rendition of the emotions in the film: deep, dark and highly hormonal. Listen to this if you're considering jumping out of your window onto a fence spike, impaling yourself like Cecilia did.

Favourite Song: Dirty Trip

Favourite Line: '...obviously doctor, you've never been a fourteen year-old girl...'

Friday, June 19, 2009

polar bear hugs are nice in the summer


I'm sitting in front of my computer on a sunny Saturday morning in my PJ's. No-ones woken up yet. Time to play Panda Bear. Having obsessed over every side-project, B-side, bootleg, etc. of Animal Collective's for a while, Panda has been the natural direction to go. His potato mashed smearings of sample blurred into each other, fading in and out, create a laid-back marching sound which is nice to chill to, sing along to, and dance to. The flow in this album is impeccable, easily swinging from one song to another.

Being an Animal Collective nerd, I have watched many videos of Panda Bear playing live. He generally stands in the middle of the stage, with his panda beanie on (there's a picture of it on my desktop), fiddling with a sampler, some peddles, a synth, and occasionally singing a few lines into the mike. Behind him, images and light smother the stage, and he bops around with his big headphones.

The catchy feel of Take Pills with it's ongoing bass loop, and Panda nearly whaling above the track. And then the more jiggy tune of Bros. Person Pitch's album art enticingly sets the scene for the songs to come, beachy and very animalistic. The sung loop on I'm Not mixed with an easy drum-line and panda bear's sprawled voice. Then suddenly on Good Girl we see a dramatic bongo and what sometimes sounds like sirens, all of this perfect for any indie-fag arty-party. Search For Delcious sends as back into the lazy ethereal. And to finish, the more conventional Ponytail leaves us with a short song to contemplate what the heck we just heard.

This album is so relaxed that sea-gulls will fall out of the sky and land in bean-bags if you play it outside. Like the album art, you just wanna hop in a jacouzzi with your vintage bathing suit and chat up some furry Canadian animals. Hot. I'd say five stars but the album left me a feeling of 'can't be fucked', so I'll be slumming 'round the house in my PJs for the rest of the day I guess...

Favourite Song: Take Pills

Favourite Line: "...I'm not trying to forget you. I just like to be alone. Come and give me the space I need..."

old school beauty is better than new school money


Personally, this album is a treasure chest of memories. I received this album about three years ago, along with my first Björk and Folktronica albums, from a close friend who must've introduced me to about a third of my tastes. I have strongly ingrained images of me leaping with joy, but also bawling my eyes out to this music. Soon after the album's release, the semi-infamous Melbourne tourism campaign (remember the one with the big balls of string?) came out, featuring the sounds of Sprout and The Bean, a song from her previous album The Milk Eyed Mender. So now every time I wonder the hidden lanes of Melbourne, I always remember the ringing sounds of Newsom's tart American accent, and her fingers running down her harp, delicately plucking the strings. Only a week or so ago, I was walking home from a friends at night time, and it was raining real hard, so I played this album. Rain and harp go well together.

This album, although nearly an hour long, contains only five tracks, and there is not a second of filler music. The first song, Emily, is a recollection of memories regarding her sister, an astologist. Personal thoughts like '...I dreamed you were skipping little stones across the surface of the water. Frowning at the angle where they were lost, and slipped under forever...' make this song tender and special, and you can see Newsom's wearing her heart upon her sleave. Then, the more jocular (and oddly maternal) tune Monkey and Bear begins, up-tempo and childish. We delve back into romantic poetry and meandering with Sawdust & Diamonds, which shows how exquisite her harp technique is. And just before we are wallowed by the pure beauty of the harp, Only Skin begins. An epic story-like song that, like most of the songs, features the string and harp orchestra behind her, and plays for just under seventeen minutes. It quickly changes pace and tone from one minute to the next, eventually ending in a very Hill Billy like duet, which is truly down-to-earth dirty. The last song, Cosmia, sums up the feelings and tones of this album: playful, romantic, and oh so very intimate in both lyrics, chords, vocals and instrumentation.

Ys, despite it's odd title, must be one of my all-time favourite albums which has become a soundtrack for all things tender, may that be tears, Melbourne, friends, rain, or anything else.

Favourite Song: Only Skin

Favourite Line: "...and the little white dove, made with love, made with love: made with glue, and a glove, and some pliers..."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

the tango and club do not mix


Some super duper sampling, a Daft Punk ethics system, and an overall grooviness make Justice my favourite electronic duo of all time right now. As soon as you first play the album, it instantly feels like something important is happening, history's in the making let's say. It's loopy beats with slow progression all the way to dancey heaven create the sound track of clubbers, gangsters and nerds alike. So which one of these are you?

For the popaholic, D.A.N.C.E. is the obvious option, although for me I have heard that song so many times through viral formats, radio and all that. Actually, there's a moment in the music video for Stress (depicting some French gangsters causing pure havoc) where they're in a stolen car. And they turn on the radio, and D.A.N.C.E. comes on. And one of the gangsters just kicks the shit out of the radio (he's secretly me in disguise), so obviously Justice are just as sick of it. Stress is much more alternative, veering towards metal in it's build, and as it's name suggests is very... stressful. A caution to not listen to this song in urban spaces, or aeroplanes either, would be recommended.

But away from the singles, we find a uniquely strong album that works as a whole better than many of the more highly regarded electro groups. The build from one song to another flows seemlessly, and everything fits like a jigsaw. Let There Be Light is a wonderful party opener, and guests like Uffie really help keep the momentum of this album at its very highest. The music-videos for this album are some of the most original I've ever seen, from gangsters to nerds and slow-mo families dancing, all the way to T-shirt graphics and brand advertising leaves a very strong taste which can only leave you quenched for more. And did I mention they're French?

Favourite Song: Phantom II

Favourite Line: "...out on the streets all the taxis are showin' me love, 'cause I'm shinin' like a princess, in the middle of thugs..."

come to bed because you're making me sleepy


The slow guitar line echos along, and the voices sigh in tune. The drums bash in the background, and it all sounds like a My Bloody Valentine B-side, and you've started swaying around as if you just got punched in the head. The voice warbles and contorts, and the cymbals smash every beat or so, helping it all climax. Then the real vocals start. Come for me. Comfort me. Cover me, all interchangeable of course. You just crossed the moat into the Microcastle, a fine assortment of old-school rock, psychedelic, folktronica (yes, that is a marvellous wonderful word), shoegaze and many many other lovely little genres.

The sounds are cheeky and yet some how wise-sounding. It is to their merit that we finally see a fusion album of genres that actually do belong together, rather than the average novelty of fusion which generally doesn't work, musically or in any other sense. Songs like Microcastle, the eponymously named song, and the following Calvary Scars take a clear bow towards the New Wierd America subgenre (which features entities like Bon Iver, Animal Collective, Joanna Newsom and Grizzly Bear are a part of), while Nothing Ever Happened and Never Stops link back to a more traditional rock'n'roll.

And then there's the sweet, lullaby-like sounds of Agoraphobia. I have a friend with agoraphobia, and he just recently finished his run of being homeless. How ironic. I should show him this song, it's so warm, fuzzy and lovely. I want to give it a big cuddle. The sort of music you see as the couple rides on a Vesper through the inner-city streets of Paris on a perfect summer's day...

Anyway. Microcastle is a succesful attempt of introducing a variety of sub-genres to each other, without letting them kill each other. See that skull in his eye? That's your head after spontaneous combustion from this album's pure awesomeness. Perfect, really.

Favourite Song: Agoraphobia

Favourite Line: "...but this futile coffin will not let us gain entry into the immortal soul of the redneck..."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

broken noses from broken moses


Addicted Romantic is certainly not my favourite album, not from my favourite genre, not with my favourite style. In fact, I can sort of pin down a popularistic by seeing this genre, post-punk or pop-punk or whatever you want to call it, frequenting their iPod. Infact bands like Fall Out Boy, Blink 182 and Panic! At The Disco give me the absolute shits. But I must give credit to Faker for bringing integritty to a genre which has basically been made to make money. Faker's lyrics are honest and intimate, poetic without being too soppy, and have genuine meaning rather than clichéd situations attatched for the teenage sympathy vote. The vocals are both rough and strangely exquisite, unlike many post-punk singers who all seem to follow the sounds of Green Day and other pop rock classics.

Apart from the relatively optimistic single Hurricane which I'm sure I had heard many times on the radio prior to hearing the complete album, other songs seem to hold a darker tone, both sarcastic and angsty. The laid-back party tale of Kids on Overload, with it's repetitive catchy rythm slowing down to the chorus and once again up to the high-point of the song, proves just how well Faker has achieved to interpret popular punk into an Arctic Monkeys feel bash-the-drums ballad. The wonderfully frank chorus of Fucking the Exhibits, it's urgent, rapid nature, and it's guitar strums deserves a mention.

The other thing about this album is it's great album art which really seems to suit. Faker have made their way into punk, kicked their arms around and left with a bloodied face. But they have certainly won the fight, creating an album which is both stylized and grungy at the same time.

Favourite Song: Teenage Werewolf

Favourite Line: "...and I'll be fucking the exhibits, because they're in front of me..."

sown-up butterfly wings make for a nice dress


Their album art makes me feel horny. They sound orgasmic in my new headphones. They are Black Dice. Having only recently acquired two of their CD's, but constantly having noticed them as an artist that kept popping up in the bios of all my favourites, this album has not disappointed in the slightest. Their beats, although abstract and at times slightly manic, are wonderful to zone-out on, create to, and even dance to. Their drum lines are fresh and interesting to listen to, grindingly contrasted with the blurred samplings of stringed instruments and synths (I think!?) creating what is sometimes serene and at other times plain scary.

Creature Comforts is an example of the very peak of electronic music today. No longer referring back to straight rhythms and recurring bass lines. Genres like house, club and electro have been contorted extensively, experimented with and mutilated. Creating music which basses itself upon the philosophy of traditional electronic music, giving performers the space to create like it would never have been possible under the constricts of any genre. It seems that bands are more often than not beggining to be slotted under the odd-fitting label of 'alternative'. As every day goes past, I continue to wonder what is alternative music...

I had a thought the other day that music at it's best is when you stop listening to the music, and start listening. This is one example. Listen to the fifteen minute soundscape of Skeleton, it's swaying beats being flung past your ears. Stop, and just take it all in, let your head rock and your arms flap. That is music.

Favourite Song: Treetops

the carnivale just got a delivery of tribal masks


Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm insane. But did Mos Def just leap through my head, take every beloved chunk of hip hop and work it into The Ecstatic (which I am clearly ecstatic about)? In my first squizz of this album, my instantaneous thoughts were 'I can't understand a word this guy says.' And then a very cool sample of some politician made a speech about wanting change. Actually, I think Mos was speaking some different language, heh. The guitar line comes in, and the amazing chaotic nature of this album marches down through my ear canals. The many layers of sound ring through my house, and my head is inclined to nod.

This album is exactly how I like my hip-hop served: contemporary, without any 'hardcore beats' or 'motherfucking bitches and hoes', or at least when Mos does it there's a xyliophone in the background. Having never really listened to Mos Def (well, except when he cameos a few times in Kanye West's music, hilariously in the song Drunk and Hot Girls), I'm surprised I haven't noticed him before. His sampling is sublime, and he has a distinct flavour to his style that can't really be compared to much else. For instance, the chorus for the song Priority is both funky and appropriate for the time. Another song to mention is The Embassy, in particular its introduction, which sent shivers up my spine.

Many of those who are not fans of rap claim that these men are not smart. Mos Def, and other popular rappers like Eminem, Jay Z and Kanye West, are the closest society has to a fresh poetry movement of the last thirty years; these are some of the smartest men who walk the earth. And amongst all this, Mos Def is a Muslim man and it is wonderful to see two conflicting cultures mingle, the result is shown in this album.

Favourite Song: Roses

Favourite Line: "...I'm down with the cool like Mussilini in Italy..."

Oh, and I was so close to forgetting to tell you about my other favourite song. Worker's Comp. has to be one of my favourite hip hop songs ever. The idea of mixing love and economy is ice-age awesome.