Wednesday, July 30, 2008

video #64: Utada Hikaru - Passion

Animated by Koji Morimoto, who also directed the video for Ken Ishii's "Extra."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Neulander - Sex, God + Money

Neulander - "Sex, God + Money"

At this point I'm just trying to catch up with posting twice a week, while dumping a few songs here that I'd probably end up forgetting to post after I reformat my computer this week.

Love this song. Do you like Broadcast? Lali Puna? Um... Laika? Then you'll like this. Very Too Pure-ish sound, can't believe they're really an American band.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

video #63: Linkin Park - Breaking the Habit

Directed by Kazuto Nakazawa at Studio 4°C, who also produced the anime sequence in Kill Bill, making him more responsible than anyone for the endless "anime... the next big thing?"-articles that popped up everywhere in 2003. If by the next big thing they really meant the 2 a.m. ghetto of Adult Swim, crappy webcomics, and Erin Esurance, then okay.

Got a free promo of Meteora when it came out from another writer who despised Linkin Park. Too bad for him, 'cuz I'm pretty sure it's the best album from a mainstream, modern rock band this decade (White Stripes and the Strokes aside, since no one under 16 listens to them at all). "Faint," "Numb," "Somewhere I Belong," and this... has there been a better run of singles from a single album this decade? Certainly I was a fan, but between Fort Minor, the long wait for album #3, and the underwhelming feeling I got when I heard "What I've Done," I kind of lost interest in them, though I should give the new (er, 14 months old) album a fair shake first.

Ironically, Linkin Park were the last holders of the unofficial "biggest band in America" title that didn't actually aspire to be living cartoons.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Isley Brothers - For the Love of You

The Isley Brothers - "For the Love of You"

I don't listen to nearly enough R&B or Motown to know what I'm talking about, but this is such a great song. Always makes me feel so relaxed, so good, and I can play this on repeat without getting sick of it for a long time.

I can thank a crazy customer at Borders for introducing me to this. He wanted to find and order an Isley Brothers collection that had this song on it, and while we were searching through our inventory, he started talking to me about classic R&B, house and techno music, Man Parrish, et al. just out of the blue. After countless hundreds of disappointing and depressing encounters with customers up until this, this guy was genuinely interesting, and I had no problem letting my guard down and giving him my full attention. Then, suddenly he changed the topic, going off about all the fights he'd ever been in during high school, giving me blow-by-blow accounts complete with sound effects. These were long, intensely detailed stories that went on for almost ten minutes each, and since there were no other customers on the floor, no other employees nearby to rescue me, and nothing else pressing to do, I had no choice but to sit back and listen to him recount about all the times that he hit some guy so hard in the chest that he went flying back 20 feet or more. He ultimately concluded that in his prime he could have handily defeated anyone in the state of Iowa in a fight. In the end, I just didn't know what to say to this.

Later that night I went home and Googled his name, which I remembered from the order he'd placed. He'd been arrested several years before for possession of a large amount of cocaine. Still the most memorable and strange customer encounter I ever had, next to the guy with Tourette syndrome who kept calling me a nigger and sticking his middle finger up in my face as I tried to order him some Ace of Base CDs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

video #62: U2 - Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me

We have a long way to go before these kind of products of corporate synergy disappear, but it doesn't seem quite so bad these days, at least as far as movies go. No Taco Bell tie-in meals, action figures, or horrible videos like this one this time around.

I actually had the soundtrack to this movie, which I listened to repeatedly on our family vacation to Minnesota back in 1995. (This was during the worst week of the Chicago heat wave that killed hundreds, which came as a huge surprise upon coming home after not watching or reading any news for a whole week.) It's kind of a disaster of an album that tries to be everything to everyone and impossible to take seriously as anything but a product of corporate groupthink, yet it's also an honest snapshot of music at the time and contains enough WTF-worthy choices to rightfully exist as a Batman-free collection if it were given the choice. Sunny Day Real Estate, Method Man, PJ Harvey, Massive Attack, The Flaming Lips... this CD went double-platinum?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nobuo Uematsu - Fanfare

Nobuo Uematsu - "Fanfare"

June 5, 2004: Ronald Reagan dies and I play Final Fantasy VII for the first time. A pretty good day, I must say. Bought it used before arriving back at my apartment after a friend's wedding, came home and mixed myself a Jack & Coke, tore open a bag of Twizzlers, and sat down to begin the game that would eventually take me almost 3 years to complete.

This was the first proper RPG that I'd ever play, and when that first battle began I remember being confused and sure that I was about to die right away, just like I did at age 7 when I played Super Mario Brothers for the first time, running straight into the first goomba in World 1-1. Somehow, I surived this first encounter and managed to board the train heading to the Mako reactor. Little did I know, my troubles were only just beginning!

Anyway, emerging victorious from this fight, I twirled my sword in the air as the camera panned around me before cutting to the menu screen. This is a time-consuming and unavoidable part of the game that many players find quite annoying, though even from the very first time I sat through it, it had an afterglow to it that I found most pleasant. Who doesn't like collecting items and watching their bank account grow? Anyway, the music in this short break... endlessly repetitive, and I knew from that moment that I'd be hearing it at least a thousand times more before the game was finished. But it was so hypnotic, so comforting... had I been waiting more than seven years to hear this? It was like a bridge to the past, knowing that so many of my friends as far back as high school had played and loved these games. I never shared in any of that fondness with them firsthand, but in this timeless musical loop, we joined hands and raised our eyes towards the sun once more, separated by a thousand miles but together again in this one moment...

So many people just adore "Tifa's Theme," "Aerith's Theme," or whatever their favorite character's theme is. I watched a few thousand (?) people go apeshit when "One-Winged Angel" was performed twice by an orchestra and choir at the Chicago premiere of the Play! Symphony. It's probably laughable that this is my favorite piece of music from this game, but it is.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

video #61: Scissor Sisters - Mary

Officially produced (but not directed?) by Don Bluth. Apparently it's a commissioned homage of sorts to his work in Xanadu, which I haven't seen.

I know there won't be any comments on this entry so if you want some, just read these instead.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Joy Electric - Sugar Rush

Joy Electric 5-18-07
Originally uploaded by jdharvey1
Joy Electric - "Sugar Rush"

Getting into electronic music at the same time that my friends were getting deep into Christian rock gave us little common ground. Once in a while, a Christian dance group would show up on one of the compliations that came with their magazines -- names like Antidote, Cloud2Ground, and The Echoing Green come to mind -- though not even a CCM/7Ball stamp of approval was enough to keep them from skipping to the next ska-punk/southern rock band on the discs. Were they put off by these groups' lack of personality? Lack of guitars? Whatever it was, they certainly weren't alone. My journey to the dance tent at Cornerstone 98 brought me to an almost empty room with a few people sitting against the wall and a handful of kids exchanging glowstick-twiddling tricks in the middle of the room.

Only one artist seemed to stand out from this scene in a way that any of the X-tain rocker kids would ever notice. Ronnie Martin, AKA Joy Electric, was signed to Tooth & Nail (and later BEC) for most of the 90s. This got him into most of the big festivals and ensured that his records were available in most Christian stores. Listeners remained completely indifferent as generic ska-punk groups and tepid folk rock bands outsold his efforts 10-1. The first album I heard from Joy Electric was the presciently-titled album Robot Rock, which in all my teenage wisdom I thought was full of all sorts of interesting sounds and ideas but was clearly a confused affair by an artist in need of some direction. Of course, this was years before the electro revival, and I was really hoping to find more stuff that sounded like The Chemical Brothers. This just wouldn't do at all.

I probably found it all just a little... too gay. Not in a homophobic sense at all, but it sounded too pop, too retro and not badass enough in the kind of strict break/big beat + funk + samples arrangement that I was finding so amazing at the time. "Sugar Rush" was the first track on the album, and what an audaciously cheesy way to begin. Maybe it was just my residual memories of the sanitzed grunge-era world in Empire Records and the final scene where Renée Zellweger steps out of her shell and gets on stage to fulfill her rock and roll dreams by singing the a song called "Sugarhigh." In a movie so high on themes of alienation and youthful idealism, seemed like she'd be singing about heroin or self-cutting instead. I don't know, it's been so long since I've first seen it. But I had the same problem with this song. Everything I was finding so progressive and futuristic and sexy about electronic music was reduced to a whitewashed song for kids where cupcakes and candy bars and simple chorus-verse-chorus pop too the place of MDMA and long instrumental passages. What was he thinking?

Martin's follow-up, CHRISTIANsongs, seemed even worse, like a silly compromise to appease kids who listened to shit like The Insyderz. I read further interviews where he stated his intent to stick to pure analog instruments for the album, which seemed like a silly limitation for someone who seemed like Christian electronica's best hope. I wouldn't come to appreciate this aesthetic until the MTV AMP era had ended and I'd listened to groups like Add N to (X) and Adult. The man was really ahead of his time and it's a wonder he stuck with his work long enough to build up a small but devoted following around the world, probably more with synthpop fanatics than with Christian listeners.

"Monosynth" is probably the better song on Robot Rock but I'm posting "Sugar Rush" simply because it offended me so much at the time, and now I can't get enough of it. One of the happiest songs ever recorded?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

video #60: Architecture in Helsinki - Like a Call

I know it's not a "twist" ending but it's still intended to shock us on some level, and when I can see it coming halfway through the video, well, that's not a good thing at all.

Not anywhere on the level as "Do The Whirlwind," but else what is? Probably best viewed here instead, if you can find it. Site always crashes my computer at home, browse at your own risk.