February 27, 2006

I Had Two Gals Every Morning

Thirteen Women / Bill Haley & His Comets [1954]

(What follows is a licensed reenactment of the mental process of writing the B-side to the first rock 'n roll single to hit #1 on the charts.)

It's over. You've lost everything. The bomb has taken everything: your wife, your kids and your dog, your home and your Chevy with wings, your precious heirlooms and your cabinet of tchotchkes. If you wear glasses, they're gone too. The air is thick with smoke and radiation. But that doesn't matter because there's nothing to see. Nothing for miles and miles...

Wait! What's that?? You managed to salvage your guitar? A saxophone and drums, you say? And, look, in the distance—what is that? It's... it's thirteen women! Hooray!! There's women! There's tea and bread and 40-karate diamond rings! There's butter and sweetener! There's money and clothes! There's women! There's song! What more could you need?

Ah, yes: one man.

February 26, 2006

I'll Pull Potatoes From YOUR Ears

Rock Upon a Porch with You / TBLLT
Every Grubby Little Memory TBLLT

Little Donkey / TBLLT

After mentioning The Boy Least Likely To on Saturday, it seems reasonable to share their three B-sides today.

Yes, "Rock Upon a Porch" is the 4-star song of the bunch. But "Every Grubby Little Memory," is welcome to, even if it takes a while to build and employs what sounds like a dentist's drill toward the end. "Little Donkey" is the decorating-the-Christmas-tree song that circulated this past December. It is little.

Also: If somehow you haven't, definitely go get "Between the Lines," one of the two lovable Sambassadeur tracks that those wacky Swedes are still handing out for free after many a month.

February 24, 2006

The Other Best Party Ever

Solaris / advantage Lucy [1999]

朱い夏 / advantage Lucy [2005]

The cover of Fanfare (1999) to the left reminds me of The Best Party Ever (2005). And like The Boy Least Likely To, advantage Lucy has a deceptively juvenile sound. They are named in honor of Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts fame after all.

This Lucy, however, doesn't just flirt around a piano. On "Solaris," the female vocalist, Aiko, sings, "Let's go for the Milky Way!" as the drums pound and the trumpets blast off. The guitarist even tosses in a mock countdown. It's their least subtle track, but the boisterousness doesn't hide the fact that this veteran group can compete with the best of its younger European counterparts, like Sambassadeur and The Concretes.

"朱い夏 (Vermilion Summer)" is more like a slow ascent in a hot-air balloon. Who needs a rocketship when there's no particular destination? Who needs real words—Japanese, English, or otherwise—when we've got aL singing "La, la, la" like this?

MORE advantage Lucy here.

aL's AMG Bio.

February 23, 2006

Put On Your Party Socks

Mr. Lee / The Disketttes

One day my boss says to me, "Jeremy, I have the best life in the world!" Taking the bait, I ask, "What makes your life so good?" (Beat.) I suddenly realize that he is being sarcastic. Even though he said "I have the best life in the world," he actually meant "I have the worst life in the world."

This all being quite complicated, I decided I would just give him a cheery song to make him feel better. I chose "Mr. Lee" by the Diskettes because his name also happens to be Mr. Lee. As I handed him a burned CD with only one song on it, I was fully aware that he might not enjoy it. Mr. Lee, the boss, is a 40-year-old Korean man with a wife and a son; Mr. Lee, the song, is a sock-hop clapfest appropriate for birthday parties in which the guest of honor is under 7 years old. Fortunately, the CD did not go to waste. Mr. Lee's son happens to be well under 7 years old, and he has recently fallen in love with "Mr. Lee," transferring it to cassette in order to listen to it on a Walkman everyday at school. An elementary school in Seoul. Just where it most belongs.

A number of other songs by the Diskettes and their friends can be found here. The band is also often happily featured at Said the Gramophone.

February 21, 2006

Glossed in Translation

Uroko No Nai Sakana / Anatakikou

Karinto Bon Bon /Anatakikou

In case it hasn't been painfully obvious so far, I should make a belated confession: I don't speak Japanese. Or Korean. Now, living in a country where your permanent silence effectively renders you a muted beast of the field is one thing, but listening to the native music is something entirely else. See, normally I'm sort of a lyrics freak, which has made my appreciation of Korean and Japanese music a little more difficult...at times I feel a bit like Helen Keller at a Seeing and Hearing Stuff Conference (ba-dum-cha).

That's why it’s always nice to find a band like Anatakikou. What does their name mean? I have no idea. But it’s fun to say...kinda rattles around in your mouth. Ditto for the songs...in fact, I have a feeling that if I understood whatever they were singing about, I probably wouldn't like them. On the second song, karinto bonbon, I just have to sing along when the background vocals get to "ka-koo-kee-ka-koo-kee-ka-ka." I imagine this is (to a much much lesser extent) the way the "rest of the world" feels when listening to the Beatles. In fact, if I had to classify Anatakikou as something, it would probably be as a valiant but quixotic effort to recreate the Fab Four's style circa Revolver. And yes, I used the thesaurus to find quixotic.

Oh, both songs are off the 2005 compilation Gradation, which you can buy here, if you happen to speak Japanese and traffic in Yen.

The 2000-Year Problem

Check out mp3blog.ch, which is currently hosting a blistering Japanese noiserock track (the oh-so-ironically titled "Pop Group") by the band にせんねんもんだい (aka Nisennenmondai aka 2000-Year Problem).

February 20, 2006

A Regular Robert Moses (redux)

(Note: The following MP3s were forcibly removed from this site.)

Punky Bad Hip / Blankey Jet City [1993]
Akaitanbarin / Blankey Jet City [1998]
I Love Tokyo / Blankey Jet City [2000]

How many fictional cities have you created? If I had to, I'd guess zero. Even if we agreed to count both cities and any additional "lands," I think I'd still go with zero. Don't be disheartened though. You aren't that far behind...

Creating fictional cities is no small task.

Plato: 1
St. Augustine: 2
Sir Thomas More: 1
Francis Bacon: 1
Jonathan Swift: 7+
William Faulkner: 1
Italo Calvino: a bunch of invisible ones
Kenichi Asai: 1

Thing is, all those guys are dead except one: Kenichi Asai. (My "hook" or "lead" is now officially over. I hope you liked it.) Mr. Asai created an imaginary metropolis and a rock band, and he named them both Blankey Jet City. Led by him, BJC emerged in 1990 after winning a prototype Japanese Idol contest. Despite these humble origins, BJC grew strong. Steve McClure explains,

"BJC soon gained a reputation as one of Japan’s hardest-working rock bands, doing a nationwide tour every year and releasing a steady stream of singles and albums. The band inspired intense devotion among its fans, who were caught up in the mythology of Blankey Jet City, a fictional city that served as the background of many of Asai’s songs, which deconstructed various images and pop icons of Western subculture."

The brash slices of English ("Sometimes I have skills / Sometimes I have sex") suggest that the Japanese lyrics are worth understanding. But I have not a lick of Japanese, so I can't say much more about the whole cities thing. What I can say: of the glut of Pixies-inspired early-'90s punkish Japanese bands, BJC sound the best. Definitely good enough to make Plato look like a pansy for wanting to abolish music.

Two recent compilations collect all of BJC's best songs; the 1997-2000 one is especially great.

Sweater Had Faces All Over It, Famous Faces Knitted All Over It

내게로 와 (Come to Me) / Clazziquai Project

Fill This Night / Clazziquai Project

The first two bands you learn about when you arrive in Korea as a foreigner are Epik High and Clazziquai Project. Along with pop singer/ridiculous dancer/snazzy dresser Rain, whose recent world tour included stops at Madison Square Garden, these two groups are very much responsible for helping spread the Korean wave throughout Asia and beyond. Why is it a "wave" rather than a fire? Probably because it's not exciting enough to be a fire. Unless, of course, you're a married Japanese woman unhealthily obsessed with stars from Korean television dramas. Then it's a fire. In your loins.

Seriously, Korean drama stars like Bae Yong Joon (pictured above and better known by his Japanese name Yon-sama) are gods. Their faces are on billboards, calendars, shirts, socks, moons... everything. In that always-trustworthy-on-contemporary-popular-Asian-culture-issues publication USA Today, Paul Wiseman writes,

Hiroshi Saito holds one of the most perilous jobs in this city of 12 million people. He's the security guard responsible for keeping hundreds of middle-age Japanese women away from a sculpture displaying the toned torso of South Korean heartthrob Bae Yong Joon.
An especially tough job because, supposedly, this sculpture comes to life if you squeeze it hard enough. And once the real Bae Yong Joon is unfrozen, there will be no stopping him: he has reportedly physically assaulted (i.e. slapped around) over 30 different managers and personal assistants already. Not to mention his genome, which was manipulated by Dr. Kwang so that he comes back stronger after each death (just like Superman's good buddy Doomsday).

The fervor over Korean music (as opposed to television and film) is a little more mellow, but Clazziquai Project is still wildly popular in and around Korea, providing guest spots and remixes on just about every big new K-Pop release. Their sound is clean and loungey, a little like Portishead lite. Boring, basically. But if you're interested in Korean culture at the moment, or drugged out enough to enjoy watered-down trip-hop, these two singles will be a grand treat. They're from Instant Pig (2004) and Color Your Soul (2005) respectively. No idea how one declines in albumtitle-making abilities so severely in the course of only one year. Zoloft, probably.

If for some reason it's genuinely good music you're looking for, check out the Valentine's day post at the always-fashionable Fluxblog.

February 19, 2006

The Dominant Theme in a Number of Places

Your Blood / Destroyer (2006)

No Cease Fires (Crimes... Baby) / Destroyer (1998)

Idea 18 / Destroyer (1996)

FINALLY. Finally: Destroyer's Rubies comes out tomorrow, featuring ten new tracks penned by Dan Bejar. All ten are good; seven are great. They've been listened to and written about already, so I'll spare you for the most part. The best description of the full album can be read at Popsheep, which also had some crazyrare Bejar demos up for grabs. They've removed "Idea 18," so here it is again. DB2 sings, "You tread water while I read the history of water." DB1 retorts, "All water is classic water."

Bejar's band, Destroyer, though both intelligent and sensational, is not to be confused with the professional wrestler who calls himself The Intelligent Sensational Destroyer (see Figures 1 & 2, which must be clicked on to be appreciated fully). That Destroyer is apparently big in Japan. He has his own bobblehead doll, wrote a book about himself, and released a Christmas album on which he sings "Jingle Bells" (half in Japanese). The Destroyer we're concerned with just has a bunch of albums. I guess there's no need for a Bejar bobblehead as his real head is already big enough.

That's probably why his songs are so good and so dense: his head is physically capable of harboring a huge number of obsessions simultaneously. The best thing about these obsessions is that while Bejar is often tagged as being ironic, he is so completely fixated on the subject matter he treats wryly that the obsessions themselves becomes genuine. The real crown jewels...

Track 1: Rubies
Obsession: meaning
Quote: Cast myself towards infinity / Trust me, I have my reasons

Track 2: Your Blood
Obsession: himself
Quote: Never had a chance / Never had to choose "Your Blood" versus Your Blues

Track 3: European Oils
Obsession: music, crimesagainstthestateofourlove
Quote: When I'm at war I insist on slaughter / And getting it on with the hangman's daughter

Track 4: Painter in Your Pocket
Obsession: words
Quote: Where did you get that line? / Where did you get that look? / Where did you get that penchant for destruction in the way you talk?

Track 5: Looter's Follies
Obsession: art, melodrama, European history
Quote: That month: another version of this miniature Rome / To set fire to / Why did we stop fucking around? / You girls like gazelles / Raise boys wearing bells / Blaze new trails in sound!

Track 6: 3000 Flowers
Obsession: literature, poetry, modernism
Quote: One-hundredth of a wet black bough // I was Clytæmnestra on a good day

Track 7: A Dangerous Woman Up to a Point
Obsession: mythologizing
Quote: Hey, your friends are fucked /In-so-far as your friend's an ancient beast bronzed in tar // Have I told you lately that I love you? / Did I fail to mention there's a sword hanging above you?

Track 8: Priest's Knees
Obsession: music, Maximalism
Quote: And I was just another West Coast Maximalist / Exploring the blues, ignoring the news from the front

Track 9: Water Colours Into the Ocean
Obsession: women
Quote: Too thin, too fair, downing your third drink / Standing at arm's-length in the square

Track 10: Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever
Obsession: religion, history, the music scene
Quote: Molly begets herself / She plans a merger with The Scene // To make it legal, Wilhelm's bride goes bulemic at the feast

February 17, 2006

Spirit, Stallion of the Pink Chiffon

The Funeral / Band of Horses

I’m certainly not the first small-potatoes blogger to say it, but mark my words: Band of Horses is definitely gonna probably be sorta big. They just signed with Sub Pop, and reportedly are in talks regarding the changing of their beyond-the-vast-prairies-of-the-golden-land-of-ridiculous name (might I suggest "The B.o.-Ho"?), a name which I imagine has thus far been the greatest stumbling block to t-shirt sales.

Admittedly, they have only officially released one song...but it's a good one. A lot of Iron and Wine (who they were opening for a few months ago), minus the wineyness.* Even...dare I say it...Dashboard Confessional. No. I daren’t. Forget I said that.

*A pun. to-wit, "wine," versus "whine." A subtle charge of "whininess" imputed to Iron and Wine. see, this is why (o humble reader draughting from the fount of my genius) i get paid the big bucks.

I Want Many Dresses, I Want Much Money

Thank You / Rocket or Chiritori

Fifteen Love / Rocket or Chiritori

Vacation (Japanese Version) / Rocket or Chiritori

Anoraks are loved all the world over.

In 1997 and '98, Satoko Shibahara was 17. Better known as Rocket or Chiritori, she released a handful of singles and LPs before giving up music to focus on school. Some of what remains, especially "Vacation" and (especially especially) "Fifteen Love," is so pure it's hard to imagine Satoko is not still sitting in her bedroom, singing along every time her songs play through a new pair of headphones.

ROC's AMG Bio.

February 15, 2006

Cutie Girls Don't Love Me and Punk

MP3 Kakenukete Seishun / Ging Nang Boyz

MP3 Juu Nana Sai (...cutie girls don't love me and punk) / GNB

MP3 Inu Ningen / GNB

Ging Nang Boyz released 29 punk songs over two full-lengths in '05. The cover of one album features a nice Lichtenstein ripoff; the other a cartoon that looks inspired in equal parts by the Sgt. Pepper's LP, a page from Where's Waldo?, and Rodin's depiction of Dante's "Gates of Hell." GNB themselves sound more like the latter. Like the Sex Pistols or the Buzzcocks were reincarnated as a bunch of Japanese boyz throwing a party in your house.


...As soon as you hear the two quickshot bursts that open Door ("Juu Nana Sai" and "Inu Ningen"), you realize you're late. By the time you're inside, the place is packed and everyone's already drunk. But somehow you're not pissed. No matter how much yelling and noise, no matter how much beer's been spilled, it's not annoying. It's not annoying because the songs are as fun as they are frantic.

An hour and forty minutes later, the party's reached it's climax: the band plays "Kakenukete Seishun," an old favorite originally recorded when three of the boyz were known as Going Steady. Though happily all-over-the-place, GNB have remained solid all night, and there's yet forty more minutes left to go. But this moment is particularly memorable. It serves as proof that while Korean punk rockers might look better naked, they've still got some catching up to do to match the Japanese in the music department.

GNB's AMG Bio.

Original Title: 十七歳 (...cutie girls don't love me and punk)
Title Romanization: Juu Nana Sai
Title in English: 17 Years Old
Album: Door

Original Title: 犬人間
Title Romanization: Inu Ningen
Title in English: Dog Human
Album: Door

Original Title: 駆け抜けて性春
Title Romanization: Kakenukete Seishun
Title in Babelfish: Running coming out, characteristic spring
Original Album: 君と僕の第三次世界大戦的恋愛革命
Album Romanization: Kimi to boku no daisanji sekai taisenteki renai kakumei
Album in Babelfish: You my third great war romantic love revolution

February 14, 2006

I Said, "I Am Kris Kristofferson"

Chelsea Hotel #1 / Leonard Cohen [live in Tel Aviv, 1972-04-19]

Chelsea Hotel #1 / Leonard Cohen [live 1972 from "Golden Voice" comp]

In Korea, on Valentine's Day the boys and the men are not obliged to do anything. Valentine's Day is for girlfriends and wives to give presents to their significant others. Korean guys get to wait until "White Day" on March 14th before they have to reciprocate. Not a bad deal, but I'm still gonna share a gift today.

"Chelsea Hotel #2" is one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time. It's like a #2 value meal from McDonald's: a true classic. You get everything you want, plus a second cheeseburger. That makes "Chelsea Hotel #1" the Big Mac meal. Original and tasty, but not as plain or as perfect as the #2.

In this case, the "original" is about as tough to find as a Leonard Cohen tune can get. He never recorded it, and only a few bootleg versions are available. This one from 1972 is far and away the best. It's both an early version and a different song entirely. The melody and the lyrics are still hypnotic, but a little off like the special sauce. Cohen hasn't yet realized the desperate simplicity of "I need you / I don't need you / I need you / I don't need you." He hasn't yet discovered that he can get away with "all of that jiving around" in a love song; as long as it's a love song about how things only become eternal by leaving, he is free to use all the '60s anachronisms he pleases. Instead he sings, "Making your sweet little sounds..." He sings, "My friends of that year, they were all getting queer / And me, I was just getting even." He sings, "Racing the midnight train all naked..." He sings like he's waiting for a great song to emerge, and it's just about there.

February 12, 2006

Used Noodle Exchange Program

Gravity Thief / Noodles

Lemon Grass Foo Foo / Noodles

Japan, like the U.S., is a bit schizophrenic in its tastes: they turn out some of the most horrid pop imaginable, but also hands-down the best rock anywhere in the not-quite-living-up-to- its-name "ring of fire" (I’m looking at you, Kamchatka), and arguably in all of Euraustralafricasia. America, as usual, owns all. Don't try to out-badass a country where the sitting VP reserves the right to fucking shoot people.

Anyway, (the) Noodles are sort of Japan's answer to the Breeders. Jeremy, always the SAT instructor, very aptly summed it up as

noodles : the breeders :: the pillows : ___________

a) mom
b) POOP
c) weak post, bennett
d) the pixies

They've opted out of the whole definite article thing, though...so they're just "Noodles." Like, any noodles. Maybe these noodles...maybe those noodles...

The first song is the title track off the 95 LP, The Gravity Thief, and the second one is off their latest, 05's Ivy.


Five / Noodles

and one more... a good old weep n' sleep.

February 11, 2006

Great Lake Swimmers


Let's Trade Skins / Great Lake Swimmers

A few weeks ago, I had a dream in which a serial killer cut off the skin of one of his victims and wore it like a one-piece costume. Then he went and hung out with her friends, pretending to be her until they noticed s/he was acting really strange and cracking around the edges. "Let's Trade Skins" is not that creepy, unfortunately, but it's quiet in the way that dreams are, like you're watching a movie with the sound off. Tony Dekker, the main Swimmer, sounds like the guy from My Morning Jacket lurking in the body of the guy from Red House Painters. When he says, "Tonight there's a party," you know he's lying right to your face.

See also: "Moving Pictures Silent Films," "The Man With No Skin," and "Bodies and Minds."


Imaginary Bars / Great Lake Swimmers

This song is about as joyful as GLS gets, so it goes with the photo above. Dude looks happy.

A Swift Crane Kick to the Head


MP3 Karate Feelings / Messer für Frau Müller

Messer für Frau Müller is not even a little Japanese. They’re a Russian group that makes music which is probably referred to as “pastiche glitch-cabaret” on other planets in other dimensions. Nevertheless, the guy who recommended the insane Japanese video clip you were supposed to check out yesterday enjoys listening to “Karate Feelings” while watching said video. That’s right—Gene, our friend and yours, is an international multi-tasker. About this song being spectacular he is right. But I prefer to imagine it as the soundtrack to something else.

Everyone knows that the only good thing ever to come out of Mad TV is the animated version of the Spy vs. Spy comic strips. My pitch: A color version of Spy vs. Spy with Mr. Miyagi as one spy and a plump Jewish guy with a big moustache as the other. The action would involve a great deal of dodging around corners and getting hit on the head with giant inflatable bats and/or plastic xylophones. As a bonus, at the end of every episode the two spies would reconcile, and together they would beat the director of The Next Karate Kid to a bloody pulp. During each installment, “Karate Feelings” plays exactly one time.

MP3 Casiotone Nation / Soul Coughing

I can’t remember which song is used in the real Spy vs. Spy cartoon, but I have a feeling it might be by Soul Coughing. This is not that song. But if for some reason you don't have "Casiotone Nation" already, you're missing out on an awfully impressive display of lyric and mathematic virtuosity (the latter probably inspired by School House Rocks). So here it is, in all its lemony-fresh free-radical glory.

February 9, 2006

Mourning My Sanity

MP3 Chu! Natsu Party / Morning Musume

So I know many of you have probably already seen the now-famous morning musume vs. lizard video (thanks to Gene for this one), but in case you haven't, please do...it's like a swift kick in the crotch for your equanimity. Crackier than crack. Not to mention probably the most poignant image in recent years of what modern-day Japan is really all about...strapping meat to the heads of young, teenage girls to bait the attack lizard.

What has kind of fallen by the wayside in the midst of this Freudian sushi buffet is that Morning Musume actually makes music. Terrible, terrible music. Not to milk a stereotype, but it truly sounds early 90s video game. Sonic the Hedgehog. Well, Sonic 2 to be exact. Casino Night level.

This being said...why post on them? Because, frankly, I can’t...stop...listening. I'm hoping maybe I can transfer the evil onto you, Ringu style. Also, from a sociological viewpoint, the whole thing is mind-boggling.

First, there've been like a bajillion girls in the band. And everyone pretends not to notice when they get switched out. Their label measures them in generations, like the bible. When they turn 18--and their fruits are no longer forbidden--they’re gone, Menudo-style. The specific euphemism for Morning Musume is "graduated." In fact, today's song technically isn’t even a Morning Musume song...it's from one of the numberless spinoff groups called "Hello! Project."

I refuse to play their mind games, though. Morning Musume, we know who you are. And your days are numbered, you son of a bitch.

February 8, 2006

Crash and Bizzzurn

Crash and Burn / Anokha

Take Ecstasy with Me (Magnetic Fields cover) / !!!


We all know about the didgeridoo, mostly from summer camp counselors who thought they were really "out there" because they knew how to blow into an aboriginal Australian instrument. Amber, one half of Seoul-based Anokha, plays the sucker like they wish they could in northern Wisconsin.

Nowhere is that truer than on the explosive two-minute instrumental that opens Anokha's 2005 debut, Rough. On "Crash and Burn," the didgeridoo sounds like a pulsating lightsaber. Or rather a pair of pulsating lightsabers scratching and courting each other. Meanwhile, Anokha's other half (Pam) bangs away on the drumkit like a crazy ninja. All in all, it's some awesome ultra-violence.

The rest of Rough is a mixed bag. The other instrumentals are worth a listen, but most of the songs are weighed down by lyrics that read like they were lifted from poems locked away in a sixth-grader's journal ("Burn out desire, smite it with fire," "I'm choking on the pieces of my broken heart," and the like). This short viddy of Anokha performing "Crash and Burn" proves they've got the frantic energy to do better.

The !!! cover of "Take Ecstasy with Me" shares two extremely important qualities with "Crash and Burn." First, it begins with a similar lightsaber-ish sound, though synthed. Second, it rules. That's the other thing.

February 7, 2006

They're Not All Bitches. The Witches.

눈물 (Noonmool) / Witches

Probably not the most sophisticated song you'll hear all day, but a cool little number by a k-pop group called Witches who, to the best of my knowledge, broke up after their one-and-only 2002 release. 눈물 translates to "a tear," as in, "a tear fell up out ma eye,"(Kelly 2005) but there's no cryin' going on here. Only some raucous hand-jivin'.

The single they released off the album has a cutesy little flash video which doubles as a searing critique of the seemingly unassailable taboos surrounding interspecies love. After all, who says I can't make love to a dolphin named Flappy? Certainly not Flappy. Cause Flappy can't talk. Yet.

February 6, 2006

Best of the Best

Nothing new today. But in case 20 songs was too much to handle, I've hand-picked the best of the best from the Lunar New Year Extravaganza. These three should make Eric Roberts proud.

Best of LNYE, Pt. 1: Las Cruces Jail / Two Gallants [American]

Best of LNYE, Pt. 2: Ha Ha Ha Song / Jaurim [Korean]

Best of LNYE, Pt. 3: Bijt Mijn Tong Af / Spinvis [Dutch]

February 5, 2006

Put On Your Party Shoes

A Certain Romance (original version) / Arctic Monkeys


Bigger Boys & Stolen Sweethearts / Arctic Monkeys

Yeah, yeah, the Arctic Buttmonkeys are the last band in the world that needs another write-up. But I'm a bit knackered (Brit. slang, worn; tired; tuckered out), and these two tracks off the "unreleased" Beneath the Boardwalk EP have been fondling me in all the right places today. "A Certain Romance" is available on the huge-selling Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, but this version's far better. It's not that different, just enough. It's got more energy, unmistakably, and if the Arctic Monkey's have anything at all going for them, it's energy.

It could be that the drum intro sounds like it's being beaten on steel rather than skin. Or could be that this mix is sped up and 10 seconds shorter. But it's not. It's just that the second syllable of "Reeboks" gets more love. In this early incarnation of the song, the way young Mr. Turner sings the first five lines makes me wish I'd grown up across the Atlantic.
Well oh they might wear classic Reeboks
Or knackered Converse
Or tracky bottoms tucked in socks
But all of that's what the point is not
The point's that there ain't no romance around there
Okay, so the lyrics barely reach Oasis-levels of depth. Still, if there's anything I've learned while teaching SAT Writing classes, it's that combining concrete and abstract language is an extremely effective technique. The sticky syllables and smells of "classic Reeboks," "knackered Converse," and "tracky bottoms tucked in socks" make the word "romance" infinitely less gag-worthy. In fact, they make the missing romance sound almost as good as the sneakers.

Speaking of sneaks, the way Turner pronounces "knackered," it sounds almost like "Nike." And "Nike Converse" isn't an oxymoron anymore since the former purchased the latter (history, kicks, cred, and all) for $305 million in 2003. Intentional or not, all this makes the opening lines a subtler, funnier jab at the keeping-it-real scene than might be expected.

"Bigger Boys & Stolen Sweethearts" is off the same internet-only EP. It doesn't pack quite the same punch, but we do get a Smiths reference, a few more nice Britishisms, and one great line: "But she's not nice / She's pretty fucking far from nice."

February 4, 2006

Droppin' Bombs

Korean Pride / H.O.T.

In case you were wondering...Yes. Koreans rap. Take H.O.T., for example, the lyrical typhoon responsible for today's selection. I really have no idea what the song is about, but from the invocation I can sort of guess...something about N***ers who just don't care about S***. And yes. The N word is just as inappropriate in Korean.

F.Y.I., H.O.T. stands for "High-five Of Teenagers." The picture is a 100% legit promo shot of their lead shinyguy, Hee Jun. You can’t make this S*** up, N***er.

February 2, 2006

Waatchaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar

Waatchaaar / Jinen

Just a quick heads-up today. Jinen is a new shoegazey Japanese band that's got me really excited. They're supposed to release their debut sometime later this year; meanwhile, they've made three solid demos available here. (That's right, more ryhme action for yaaaaaaaa.) All three, though imperfectly mixed, are worth checking out.

February 1, 2006

Cariboooo

Yeti / Caribou

With the disproportionate amount of really good indie rock that's come out of Canada in recent years, it's a little bit disappointing that they really, as a nation (and, mind you, I am speaking in the broadest terms possible, being quite cued into the Canadian collective unconscious), have willfully disregarded nearly every other genre.

Sure, lots of bands pushing that proverbial envelope like to claim Canadian allegiance (Of Montreal? Of Georgia. Boards of Canada? Bored of Scotland [boo-ya]. Canadian Club? Damn fine whiskey. Not an actual band, though. Maybe it should be.) That is why I was so happy to hear about a guy calling himself Manitoba who actually makes palatable, Canadian, electronica. Of course, he had to change his name because of some sort of trademark infringement. So now he’s called Caribou. Probably another legal challenge there, but Frank Black seems like a cool enough guy.

It's really good stuff...sort of like a chillaxed Amon Tobin. "Yeti," off 2005's The Milk of Human Kindness, makes me think of Christmas. Maybe it's the sleigh-bells jingling away in the background. Or the fact that, as a boy, a big, hairy, naked creature calling himself my Uncle used to stumble drunkenly into my room every Christmas eve to deliver my "present." Probably the sleigh-bells.

LNYE, Pt. 3: My Favorite Album of 2005



The first installment of the Lunar New Year Extravaganza dealt with music from the Boring Three (the U.S., Canada, and Britain). The second segment focused on a Korean band. (See links below.) The third and final post in celebration of the new moon-year is on a man from the Netherlands.

Spinvis writes songs. When I first heard them, I figured a wizard had transformed the Icelandic noisefashioning foursome known as Múm into a 41-year-old Dutch songwriter and his troupe.
But that's stupid. The only real similarity between Spinvis and Múm is an ability to make non-acoustic music sound effortlessly organic. Spinvis writes songs that are tuneful, though crafted to feature bits of glockenspiel, strings, winds, bleeps, and blips. Spinvis also released my favorite album of 2005 and has me believing that music is better when you don't understand the words.

That album, Dagen van Gras, Dagen van Stro (Days of Grass, Days of Straw), is the perfect soundtrack for mildly-threatening outdoor activities. "Ik Wil Alleen Maar Zwemmen" is the childhood walk that unexpectedly turns to a gallop. "Bijt Mijn Tong Af" is the hang-gliding session that opens with a quiet Kim Deal "ah-ooo" and a Grandaddy bassline, and closes with you hanging from a tree. And "Kom in the Cockpit" is an upbeat flying machine sexscapade. There's also the slightly mournful backfloat ("Aan de Oevers van de Tijd"); the cellphone war around the campfire ("Het Voordeel van Video"); the storm impending on a night of outdoor ballet ("Flamingo"); the sailboat ride just off the shore ("Dagen van Gras, Dagen van Stro"); and the 11-minute stuttered-word journey through the forest of unwritten Dutch fairy tales ("Lotus Europa"). Purchase all that and more here or at the iTunes music store. (Rhymezone!)

"Smalfilm," released in 2002, is the single from Spinvis's self-titled debut. (Double rhyme!!)

For even more Spinvis-ing, go here.