Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lee Morgan - Search for the New Land

Lee Morgan - "Search for the New Land"

Long, epic track for the "I don't like jazz" people. This isn't your dad's bebop! Or something.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

video #26: The Bees - Who Cares What the Question Is?

I like to stick to "normal" animation with these videos but this one is so fun that I can't resist posting it anyway. Lots of stop-motion, claymation, and who knows what else, but it doesn't really matter in the end. Fun song, too. Much more addictive than the "Chicken Payback" song that was a minor hit a few years ago, which I couldn't even get into despite the video and its Dance Dance Revolution theme. It's good exercise, I guess, but I can only play this now-ancient PSX Konamix version so many times (on a warped and bent plywood-mounted pad, no less) before it eventually loses its charm. There are no arcades here, but at this point in my life that's probably for the best, anyway.

Fortunately, it looks like they're the sole band with the name "The Bees" now, so no more of this "Band of Bees" crap anymore on their US releases. I generally don't get excited about this kind of stuff anymore anyway, so adding needless layers of confusion into a band's identity is only going to put me off from making the effort at all. More of a sign of my own laziness than anything else, I guess.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Kouji Wada - Butter-Fly

Kouji Wada - "Butter-Fly"

Everything I've read about Kouji Wada suggests that his career is basically built around work for a single, third-tier anime series, one that's quickly faded from popularity in the past few years, at that. If this song, which came out in 1999 or 2000 or so, actually was a big hit, then it would make sense that he'd, you know... be doing other things. But it's 2007 and he's still a slave to the same franchise. What gives?

Bloated arena J-rock of the disposable bubblegum flavor, this isn't a song that I'd ever have guessed would stick with me for more than a few listens. And still, six (seven?) years later, it's still one of my favorite songs of the decade. I know it's saccharine, over-the-top bullshit... but it kills. That massive opening riff, and that huge chorus. I know it all sounds, well... completely gay, and that in all likelihood, it's probably a good thing that I've never read any translated lyrics for it. They probably suck, but I don't understand a word of them so that's just fine. They sound great, though.

I heard this twice in the Japanese market I used to live by, which was always a pleasant surprise and a good sign that maybe "Butter-Fly" really was a hit. Not everyone gets into rotation on the Japanese mall background music station on satellite radio, after all. I also heard Tahiti 80 in there on a few occasions, confirming the many suggestions that they are, in fact, big in Japan.

I love this song because it sounds so big. What a disappointment to see it played live not with a full band -- there's incredibly potential for some great poses during the guitar solos -- but as a glorified karaoke performance. I guess it's fun to listen to people actually singing along, though. I can't tell if they really are or if they're just faking it like I do. It's much easier to do this with French songs, I've found.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

video #25: Múm - Green Grass of Tunnel

The rotoscoped (?) grandchild of Björk's "Jóga"? It's pretty, I guess.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wolf Eyes - Stabbed in the Face

Wolf Eyes - "Stabbed In The Face"

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would come to this.

If I knew this was what life after college was going to be like, I'd probably be disarming IEDs in Iraq instead.

Dear God Almighty, please save me from this waking nightmare before I split one of these spoiled, smug, entitled, newly-hired consultants' faces wide open on the counter. That is, if I don't just go ahead and do it to myself, instead.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

video #24: Zero 7 - Destiny

Is this really from 2001? I was going to complain about how Charles Schwab had cornered the market on completely pointless rotoscoping until this came along, but I guess Zero 7 beat them to the punch by a few years. Video's directed by Tommy Pallotta, who'd worked alongside Richard Linklater on Waking Life and eventually A Scanner Darkly. On those projects, at least the use of the technique was actually befitting of the subject matter at hand. Here it seems as appropriate as bullet-time camera effects in potato chip commercials. I guess that if he helped to perfect the technique, though, then he had every right to use it for whatever the hell he wanted. Zero 7 still sucks, though.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Utada Hikaru - Devil Inside

Utada Hikaru - "Devil Inside"

If I had updated this when I was supposed to, I could complain about how Rolling Stone readers in Japan get a cover with Rei Ayanami for the month of September, while we've been stuck with Maroon 5 and High School Musical for the past two issues. As it is now, we have the 50 Cent/Kanye West cover story, which is a vast improvement over the past two which they probably won't follow up unless they find another reason to put Bob Dylan or Led Zeppelin on the cover again. Meanwhile, Japanese readers are treated to some story about the new Evangelion movies and/or global warming, or something. Just another reason I wish I knew Japanese.

Rei Ayanami, of course, is still voiced by Megumi Hayashibara, whose work as a pop icon in Japan is -- at least to my sometimes-armchair otaku point of view -- rivaled only by Utada Hikaru. Megumi's musical output, which I've already fawned over, seems to have peaked in the 90s, while Utada's has reigned over the charts for almost the last ten years now. And though Japanese pop music is notorious as an industry that controls and sometimes consumes its artists, Utada's career has been free from trends and makeovers, at least compared to her American contemporaries from the same time period. Even after ten years, her music still sounds fresh and vibrant, her success continues despite her longevity, and her charisma remains undeniable -- if there's a more likable pop star in the world, please tell me. Though sadly, there doesn't seem to be any way for her to break into the English-speaking market, despite the fact that she is, in fact, an American-born citizen whose first language is English.

The possibility of her success in America and beyond wasn't lost on everyone; in 2004, she released an album of all-English songs on Island Records. Exodus received a bit of attention from the involvement of Timbaland on a pair of tracks, but was hardly promoted at all and, as a major label debut, completely tanked in the US. Her devoted American fans never got the chance to see her up close, either. As far as I can tell, her only promotional appearance for the album was at some club in New York, a VIPs-only affair attended by various NYC fashion fucks and greasy scenesters like Vincent Gallo. The lead single for the album, "Easy Breezy," was fun but a horrible way to try to introduce her to a new audience. "Devil Inside," on the other hand, hit #1 on the dance charts -- an honor of ambiguous distinction that doesn't really seem to lead to anything for artists, unless they're already making hits on the pop charts -- but failed to gain any airplay at all on radio.

This wasn't all that surprising, but at the very least, I was hoping that it would get some good word-of-mouth on the internet. After all, it was a huge, risky song that broke pop conventions, and in the wake of Richard X and "Toxic," it only made sense that bloggers would at least notice it. Maybe they were too busy flipping their shit over Annie (and eventually Robyn) to notice? "Devil Inside" was my favorite song of 2004, despite being shut out of the fluxpop party where it should have been celebrated.

This would have nothing to do with Evangelion, if not for the welcome fact that Utada's next single is featured in the new Evangelion movie. I haven't heard "Beautiful World" but her take on "Fly Me To the Moon" can be heard in the film's trailer. No word if or when this will ever be out in America. I've just assumed that we won't get this, or any of the upcoming movies, for another few years. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe not.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

video #23: Madvillain - All Caps

Madvillainy was my favorite album of 2004. I played it nonstop during that summer, which was largely spent coming home late at night from work to my empty apartment, indulging in some Jack & Coke, playing Final Fantasy VII until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer or going out for a walk with some cigarettes and my Minidisc player. And almost always sleeping in until 11:00 the next morning. In hindsight, I should have been doing something more productive with myself, but I don't really regret it, either. It was probably the last time that I genuinely enjoyed being alone and didn't feel a sense of guilt in wasting my time doing such things.

MF Doom was well-known to a lot of hip-hop fans, as far back as the early 90s when he was part of KMD. But it wasn't until Madvillain, his collaboration with producer/sometimes MC Madlib, that anyone else took notice. I don't know how they managed to break out of the underground and into the indie pop-consciousness, or if it's really worth discussing anyway, but it happened and we're all better off for it. Now for a follow-up, assuming that this doesn't ruin his career like everyone is saying it could.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Aphex Twin - On

Aphex Twin - "On"

"On" is my favorite Aphex Twin single. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to be anyone else's. But I'm also the only person that prefers the first volume of Selected Ambient Works over the second, so go figure.

Windows Media Player informs me that the first track, which I assumed was just "On," is actually "On [D-Scrape Mix]." The back of the cardboard + plastic clamshell-style CD case simply lists the track as "On." But I suppose this is only one of dozens of mysteries surrounding Aphex Twin/AFX/Polygon Window/Caustic Window/The Tuss/a dozen other aliases that I could rattle off with the help of but won't.

This is one of those songs that makes anything you're doing/watching/thinking about better. Its melancholic pianos, drenched in acid-tinged 303 bass blasts... no wait, I know can't describe this. Just download it and hear for yourself. It was released in 1993, but really, did anyone get around to hearing this before 1997? Be honest. You weren't going to warehouse parties in London. You were listening to Blind Melon and Counting Crows. But so was I.