4.29.2005

The Forgotten Arm

Short and sweet: Aimee Mann, my veryveryvery favourite singer in the whole wide universe, has a new album coming out May 3, which you can listen to online here, and it is glorious.

Standout tracks for me so far: Little Bombs, Goodbye Caroline, She Really Wants You



AND, it's a concept album, man. That's craziness.

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4.28.2005

I don't mind, 'cause I can handle it

Dear friends,

1. I'm snarfing mac and cheese and preparing myself mentally for The Raveonettes + The Dirtbombs show tonight at Southpaw. The Monkey was kind enough to score me a ticket and I cannot wait to enjoy the great love sound and see if Miss Sharin Foo's top will expose side cleavage again. (I am a pig. I know this. Imagine how terrible I'd be if I were a man; I'd be fatter, louder, drunker and working for Vice). I haven't had the chance to fully take in the new Raveonettes joint, Pretty In Black, but I do know Mo Tucker and Ronnie Spector are supposed to have their delicate hands in it and that thrills me to no end. As for The Dirtbombs, they ALWAYS deliver, they make me happy to have legs that sometimes work and their cover of Sly & The Family Stone's Underdog is so fabulous that I can't even put it on the SC covers mix 'cause I've already put it on every mix in Christendom since Ultraglide in Black came out. I can't be a mix repeater. That's some kinda sin.

2. I'd like to take this opportunity to send a very special apology to my hairy red friend Contributor Jared. Last year he gave me a mix cassette as a present for a birthday that had taken place a year or so earlier (we are truly related in matters of timeliness). As soon as he gave it to me, he asked for it back. And I never saw it again. I have been haranguing him shrilly about this ever since. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across this tape in a plastic bag. He HAD returned it to me but probably when my head was in another zone, possibly the moving house zone.

(gets down on one knee)

I apologize Jared. Humbly and openly. Perhaps my favorite cut on your gift is Funkadelic's Cosmic Slop. Especially since when I hear it, I SO picture you doing that terrifying foot stomp, parenthetical arm swing combined with shit-eating grin big red dance. It's just so you.

3. Shaun of the Dead which is really quite excellent despite the fact that I have severe zombie phobia so there was a lot of running in and out and hiding in my fellow viewer's neck, has a scene where the two heroes are leaving the pub after last call and drunkenly rapping/singing White Lines by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. The Monkey was not familiar with this title so I immediately went and played it. This impromptu DJ-ing inspired me to play Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express followed by Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa. Then I tried to pop and lock. I suppose the question is, what's scarier, a zombie horror comedy or my dance stylings? Hmmm.

4. Future karaoke song if anyone ever invites me to karaoke ever again (yes, that is a veiled dig at certain people I know who probably will not even read this) and the karaoke joint has it: Neneh Cherry's Buffalo Stance. Just so I can go "Gigolo! Huh...sucker!" in all the spaces between.

5. According to a lot of rock scribes and Led Zeppelin, Roy Harper is as mad as a hatter. This is why I was so surprised at hearing the beautiful Forever, which is like the perfect wedding song if you're into fairies and hobbits and swords and girls that are fair. In addition to his sweet, hushed singing, which is reminiscent of Donovan at his best (a vocal chameleon, Harper's also the one delivering the fierce Have A Cigar on Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here), the guitar playing is gorgeous and crisp. Go find it and marvel at the lovely little harmonics. One of those jewels.

Love, D

songs to seek: underdog/the dirtbombs, white lines/grandmaster flash & furious 5, trans-europe express/kraftwerk, planet rock/afrika bambaataa, buffalo stance/neneh cherry, forever/roy harper

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In Lieu Of Writing Actual Sentences

My most recent Audioscrobbler stats:

Weekly Artist Chart


Week prior to Apr 24, 2005, 12:00
1. The Brian Jonestown Massacre (39 listens)
2. Bloc Party (37 listens)
3. Spoon (22 listens)
4. The Rolling Stones (21 listens)
5. French Kicks (20 listens)
6. Yo La Tengo (19 listens)
7. Pavement (17 listens)
7. Elvis Costello (17 listens)
9. Beck (16 listens)
9. Wilco (16 listens)

Weekly Track Chart


Week prior to Apr 24, 2005, 12:00
1. The White Stripes - "Blue Orchid" (6 listens)
2. Bloc Party - "This Modern Love" (5 listens)
3. The Shins - "So Says I" (4 listens)
3. Bloc Party - "Positive Tension" (4 listens)
3. Bloc Party - "Blue Light" (4 listens)
3. The Kinks - "Lola" (4 listens)
7. French Kicks - "1985" (3 listens)
7. David Bowie - "Life On Mars " (3 listens)
7. David Bowie - "Star" (3 listens)
7. New Order - "Age Of Consent" (3 listens)

Top Artists


Last generated: April 27, 2005
1. The Rolling Stones (140 listens)
2. Elvis Costello (128 listens)
3. Yo La Tengo (127 listens)
4. Spoon (124 listens)
5. British Sea Power (122 listens)
6. Beck (120 listens)
7. LCD Soundsystem (115 listens)
8. Pavement (111 listens)
9. French Kicks (106 listens)
10. The Walkmen (100 listens)

Top Tracks


Last generated: April 27, 2005
1. Frank Black - "Hang On To Your Ego" (16 listens)
1. LCD Soundsystem - "Tribulations" (16 listens)
3. Pavement - "Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era" (14 listens)
3. Iggy Pop - "Neighborhood Threat" (14 listens)
3. Modest Mouse - "The World At Large" (14 listens)
6. The Doors - "Roadhouse Blues" (13 listens)
6. The Kinks - "Lola" (13 listens)
6. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - "I'm A Ghost" (13 listens)
6. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - "The High Party" (13 listens)
6. The Sea and Cake - "All The Photos" (13 listens)
6. The Thermals - "Time To Lose" (13 listens)

More here...

4.27.2005

yes, I am a ghost

dear friends,

1. so the numbers have gone up on the first official soft communication mix exchange featuring the theme of "covers" so there's no 5 person limit anymore. I'm sorry I couldn't keep the rules in place, I'm no good at being a despot. too absentminded & obsessed with fairness. did I mention absentminded?

remember the deadline is friday, june 3. I'm planning to make a scroll with my predictions as to what's gonna be included on everyone else's mixes which I will unfurl with a flourish (because I will be tipsy) at the library bar unveiling. yes, I am a nerd.

2. someone wrote a springsteen post & it wasn't a member of the hearts
contingent. shockin'! regardless, I'm sure more will be said about bruce in future (insinuating cough). anywho, scroll below to see contributor therese's lovely toast to the bruce. in a related bit o' news, I have fallen in love with a boss number called angel eyes. can anyone offer me any information on this particular track?

3. listening to bbc radio is a bit painful now that peely's gone. nevertheless, if I'm brave enough, I can actually bring myself to grimace my way through the pretension rock & find something decent. case in point, amusement parks on fire. I don't recall what the name of the song playing was but I jotted something on my desk calendar in my spider having a heart attack scrawl & it reads thusly: amusement parks on fire - ferris wheel freed from base flying over the lights, cotton candy (smells?) (spells?)

not too sure about the last word. one or the other, I think they both work. amusement parks on fire are playing nyc on may 20 as part of something called ny2lon: bridging the transatlantic gap at bowery ballroom, along with the amusingly arch ordinary boys, whose album was not the most original or thrilling piece o' work I've ever heard but should prove interesting in a live setting. make or break, children.

4. I have to admit I like guero quite a bit despite the fact that it sounds like an aural essay entitled, "how I spent my summer vacation by methodically writing tracks that mirror songs from my past albums". my two current faves are missing (brasil!) & girl (like a beach boys song written by charles manson...wait, that's been done). perhaps breezy melodies holding hands with serial killer scenarios = the new & improved out of the scientology closet beck. hmmm. maybe the library has a copy of dianetics I can look at. just playin', I can't become a scientologist, I don't have the money.

5. anyone that knows me knows that I have this insufferable habit of playing you a song & refusing to tell you who's behind it until you've given it a good, unbiased listen. it's not fair, I know. I'm sorry. but here's a story that corroborates my theory. firstly, I'd like to thank contributor mike for writing about smoosh on his blog a while back. I provide no link because I heard their song make it through without making the connection between their particular story & the song & was charmed by the earnestness of the performance. basically a pretty, quavering voice hovering over a simple keyboard line singing indecipherable somethings about making it through. then when it was over, I found out who was behind the song & remembered mike's post. & I'm glad that was the order of things. I think that had I gone out & just heard the song knowing who they were, I would have been dismissive because...well, you'll see, if you don't already know what that's all about. haven't heard the whole album yet but it's on my springtime to do list along with 6) buy birdhouse so as to lure back that little yellow bird with the almost-lone ranger mask* & 7) finally unpack that hold-out box from last year's move, ya freak**.

love, d

* american goldfinch

** that's just what my inner voice likes to call me. a pet name of sorts.

ps the stars show is sold out tonight in my little gritty city. which stinks 'cause their song big fight off of their album set yourself on fire is so gosh darn wistful it makes me want to stand by a window on a sunday afternoon looking attractive as I stare at the rain, at least until the keyboards start coming on a little strong, then it's time to do laundry. if you're a noisecore person, listen to this number in private & have yourself a little woolite whimper.

songs to seek: angel eyes/bruce springsteen, smokescreen/amusement parks on fire, missing/beck, girl/beck, make it through/smoosh, big fight/stars

4.26.2005

Hold on tight, stay up all night...

Something about the warm weather makes me want to listen to Bruce Springsteen. Maybe it’s because I’m from New Jersey. There’s something magic (yeah, I said MAGIC) about driving along a Jersey highway (and Lord knows, we have enough of those here) and hearing the opening strains of "Thunder Road" or "Badlands" or "Rosalita" or "Born to Run" or any number of other songs. Your heart gets a little lighter, you roll the window down a little further, and you push the accelerator a little harder. And you sing A LOT louder.

(To clarify- I’m referring to the Bruce of the 70s. Young Bruce. The liberating, confiscating Bruce who wanted to be your man. The one who found magic in the night. The one who knew everything would be all right as long as he had his guitar and his car. And Mary, of course. [Or Wendy or Rosie or Sandy …] By the time Born in the USA came out in 1984, the disappointment that started creeping in on Darkness on the Edge of Town and the River had really taken hold. The glory days have passed you by, the jobs ain’t coming back to your hometown ...)

But I haven’t always accepted Bruce Springsteen as my personal Boss. In fact, I used to slag him off to everyone who would listen. For one, I didn’t want to be a Jersey cliché. You admit to liking Bruce Springsteen and the next thing you know, people are making “Which Exit?” jokes. And those jokes have never, ever been funny. (But there’s no use denying the Jerse. It’s far too powerful.) Secondly, Springsteen is utterly devoid of irony. And, as I am a part of the Arched Eyebrow Generation, I find unbridled sincerity unsettling. So I resisted. But after awhile, I stopped groaning every time my friend Jason put on the Wild, the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle. And I started including "Rosalita" on mix tapes. (Or "Atlantic City," if I was feeling contemplative.) But, I told myself; I’m not a Fan.

So. Summer 2003. Tour dates are announced. Jason had an extra ticket to the first night at Giants Stadium; did I want it? Hesitantly, I accepted. Visions of drunk, middle-aged accountants doing the Courteney Cox dance filled my head.

And you know what? There were plenty of drunken middle-aged accountants. And there were parents with their teenaged children. And aging hippies. And hipsters. And bikers. And everyone was singing along to every song. And everyone was doing the Courteney Cox dance. And everyone was happy. I was completely unnerved. And then Bruce looked over at Little Steven. And he nodded. And the band launched into "Rosalita." And there was no use fighting it anymore. I opened my mouth and sang along.

4.22.2005

your little star struck innuendos/inadequacies & foreign bodies

dear friends,

WARNING! there are no links in this post. I have time constraints & I trust you are all far more enterprising than I when it comes to searching for music on the web.

1. finally, after some initial cricketage, the first official soft communication mix exchange is underway. YAY! the pioneering mix makers are: contributors george, bryan/mary (combining their mind science), jared & myself. we need one more brave soul with time before friday, june 3 to make a mix to the theme of my choosing (this time only, mary's got a corker of a theme for the next one) which is...COVERS! of course I picked covers! gawd! it's so obvious! that's right, these mixes will be include musicians doing versions of other people's songs, sometimes good (david bowie/cactus), sometimes bad (david bowie/see emily play), sometimes ugly (david bowie/alabama song). if you want to be the fifth, let me know.

2. silvio rodriguez' voice is clear & smooth like glass that dreams itself into honey. pure in tone, honest sounding & true. if you have no fear of music in another language, go find ojala & grab your walkman/ipod/mp3 player & go sit by the loch over in prospect park (or any swan filled lake in your vicinity). heavenly.

3. I have always wanted to write a very mundane vampire movie. you know, someone's a vampire but it's really no big deal & they're not gonna eat you (in fact, they only feed on the monstrously obese because they barely feel it, it's like a mosquito bite to them. ya know, the way vampire bats feed off of dozing sea lions off of the coast of chile & don't even bat an...oh. ignore the unintentional bad pun). anyway, the opening scene is this woman walking home somewhere on avenue c after a dinner party, she's a little buzzed from wine & she's listening to something on her walkman. she passes a deli & gets a sudden urge to purchase some cournichons. oddly enough, they have a dusty jar. she decides to buy the sunday times & some milk as well. she irritates the cashier by apologetically paying for some of it change (she thinks she may have left her wallet at the dinner party). she makes her way slowly down the street with her bags as all these fire trucks go by & people run past. we can't hear them, we only hear the music. she turns the corner & sees that the fire trucks are parked on her street. it's her building that's on fire. she sits on the curb & watches it burn.

the song playing on her walkman is t.b. sheets by van morrison. this song has nothing to do with vampires or fires but everything to do with blood & loss. go find it.

4. I went to see the secret machines at irving plaza & they had two opening acts. the first was a band called autolux, the second was the truly ponderous j. mascis in full middle finger to the crowd form & not in an enjoyable way either. I loved autolux's set so I bought their cd which I listened to the next day & found a little dull compared to their show. the cd is full of comfortable explorations of the usual shoegaze/noise suspects, touches of mbv & sonic youth, which in general, are not bad to have on while you putter about but leaves you unsatisfied if you're searching for something more in your swirl. I don't know who was responsible for watering down their live drone (their drummer was a powerhouse of subtlety, unusual for a rock genre that usually requires a steady, colorless bash so as not to take away from the guitar goings-on) but I suspect they will eventually win me back. maybe with their next one. check out angry candy in the meantime. tell me what you think.

5. the sweet harmony & sway of she told me, she told me by marcos valle is warm weather divine. pair it with silvio. the outdoors are nice.

love, d

songs to seek: david bowie/cactus, silvio rodriguez/ojala, van morrison/t.b. sheets, autolux/angry candy, marcos valle/she told me, she told me

4.20.2005

It's my chocolate attack

Dear friends,

JLM's list made me think about a few scary numbers I've been listening to on repeat lately and some that aren't scary at all...

1. Friends of mine once expressed admiration and surprise that I got this question right in Trivial Pursuit*. The question was "Name the super group that included members of Led Zeppelin and Bad Company." The answer is, of course, The Firm. The reason I know this is because of Radioactive. This song is so goofy, so 80's (you can practically feel the shoulder pads forming as you listen to it,) so phoned in lyrically and yet...it takes every fiber of my being not to start jutting my jaw forward and doing that biting my bottom lip whitey bounce whenever I hear it. I enjoy walking down the street to this song and pretending I'm in Miami Vice (Smuggler's Blues, anyone?).

WARNING: My idea to use this song in a film depicting mental torture is right on the money. Seek at your own peril. This is for advanced scholars of cheese (not Cheez) only.

PS For those of you who have no fear of 80's production sound, cabaret vocals, sax solos and totally off the wall, what is going on in these lyrics? dementia, I suggest you seek out perhaps my all time favorite childhood lip synch. It's pretty bad, people. It's Gold by Spandau Ballet. Ostensibly a tribute to James Bond (at least that's what the video made it seem like) with bongos and bellowing about love being "Like a high prison wall/but you can leave me standing so taaaaaaaaall!" Wha? EXACTLY! It's really bone-achingly embarrassing that I care for this song so consider this admission as a testament to candor, Eddie Izzard's broken vase and my strong personality all at once.

Gold/Spandau Ballet (video)



2. I remember reading a joke article in Spin Magazine a gazillion years ago entitled "How to make people leave your house when it's 4 AM and the party's over." And the last two instructions were: 9. Play a Yoko Ono album, 10. Turn record over. This colored my perception of Ono for a long time, making it possible for me to listen to the B-52's Rock Lobster with total affection yet scowl if I ever heard Ono make so much as a peep. Elvis Costello helped turn that around for me with a rinky dink yet charming cover of her song, Walking on Thin Ice. (The Costello compilation that it was on, Out of Our Idiot, was also responsible for my discovering Richard Thompson (Parenthesis in parenthesis? Is that legal? No. But more on Thompson in a future Soft Communication post, I promise...) Thanks to Elvis' cover of Thompson's lovely/sad Withered and Died). I recommend finding Walking on Thin Ice, though keep in mind that a remix of that song was some sort of club hit several years ago so you may find one with some UNCHA! UNCHA! UNCHA!'s thrown in there.

Walking on Thin Ice/Yoko Ono (video)



3. Do you ever have fantasies of yourself being really, REALLY obnoxiously, almost cruelly good at something that you know with a stone certainty you have no skill in at ALL? That's me and roller skatin'. Me on skates is like a chimp on skates but even funnier and much, much worse. There's the knock knees, the continuing roll away from where everyone else is standing (y'know. "Hey, D...Hey, where are you going? did she mean to do that? Where's she...OOH. That's gonna smart."), the full feet up in the air, land on your ass fall and lastly, the equally unbecoming attempt to stand up by first getting on your knees and knee-ing your way over to the wall like some sort of legless catholic penitent. This is not the case in my dreams however. Oh no. In my roller skating fantasies, not only can I skate, but I can roller dance with the fluid lyricism of a Xanadu muse. Naturally, I have a playlist for my imaginary roller disco and the latest title in that set is Ladyflash by The Go Team. There's an outerspace shortwave radio feel to that song. the vocals sound like they were recorded into tin cans by schoolgirls and the drums sound as if they were played in a vast, crumbling warehouse, all cymbals and crash, crash, crash. what are they saying? Something about romantic is the fantastic? me lovah boombastic? I have no idea. But they are here to rock the microphone and the swirling sampled strings command you to go round and round with funky grace.

Honorable roller skate mention: Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz. To quote The Monkey: "That's hot. But kinda disco." In my book that's a recipe for excellence. Now, if anyone knows a place where I can practice my roller skating in private, let me know.

4. I would like to describe Antony's voice without using the tired "Love child of Nina Simone and Jeff Buckley" thing (though being a lazy whore, I'd add Jimmy Somerville to the Frankenstein mix). All I can say is that it's a weirdly powerful, out of control, vibrating muscle capable of making other usually good singers (i.e. Rufus Wainwright, Boy George in their duets with him) sound bloodless. I need to stress, however, that I wouldn't call his voice pretty or perfect at all. Rather, there's a glorious imperfection at play, like this man is being pushed and pulled like an accordion and this unsettling sound is coming out. It can't be helped, he's an instrument, it's what he's meant to do. Born in another time and he would've been considered a spiritual vessel. Born in ours and he's a downtown NYC cabaret artiste and Lou Reed's backup singer. Go figure.

Candy Says/Antony and The Johnsons (video)



5. Contributor Mary once mentioned her parent's Buffy Sainte-Marie records and I got a yen to hear that old folkie again. when I first sought her out years ago, at the urging of a quote from a Morrissey interview (where he claimed that her willingness to address serious subject matter in a non-preachy way in her songs was a huge influence on him lyrically), I was surprised to find not a 60's English girl singer but a 60's Native American folk singer. Yowza. Try and locate her fabulous Co'dine. Like Antony, Sainte-Marie's also in possession of a terrifying trill but delivers this particular number in a huskier lower register. A cautionary tale told with passion and restraint. You will not feel like a hippie. Trust me.

Love, D

* I know a lot about rock music but I do have weird lapses. for example, I've never heard of The James Gang. I mean, I know Joe Walsh had something to do with them but you know...there's a lot of stuff out there.

Songs to seek: Radioactive/The Firm, Gold/Spandau Ballet, Walking on Thin Ice/Yoko Ono, Ladyflash/The Go! Team, Feel Good Inc./Gorillaz, For Today I Am a Boy/Antony & The Johnsons, Co'dine/Buffy Sainte-Marie

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4.19.2005

Audioscrobbler Stats

The bands I've listened to the most in the last month are:

    1. The Rolling Stones (99 listens)
    2. Elvis Costello (95 listens)
    3. Yo La Tengo (91 listens)
    4. Spoon (85 listens)
    5. LCD Soundsystem (82 listens) 
    6. Beck (81 listens) 
    7. The Walkmen (79 listens) 
    8. Pavement (78 listens) 
    9. British Sea Power (76 listens) 
    10. French Kicks (66 listens)
    10. Secret Machines (66 listens)
    10. The Shins (66 listens)
    10. Talking Heads (66 listens) 
    14. Neil Young (65 listens)
    15. Nirvana (64 listens)


The artists I listened to most last week are:

    1. British Sea Power (35 listens)
    1. Pavement (35 listens)
    3. Nirvana (25 listens)
    4. French Kicks (23 listens)
    4. The Books (23 listens)
    6. The Specials (22listens)
    6. LCD Soundsystem (22 listens)
    8. Modest Mouse (21 listens)
    8. The Walkmen (21 listens)
    10. The Rolling Stones (20 listens)


The tracks I've listened to most in the last month are:

    1. LCD Soundsystem - "Tribulations" (14 listens) 
    2. Frank Black - "Hang On To Your Ego" (12 listens) 
    3. The Walkmen - "Revenge Wears No Wristwatch" (11 listens) 
    3. My Bloody Valentine - "When You Sleep" (11 listens)
    5. The Smashing Pumpkins - "1979" (10 listens)
    5. Ted Leo And The Pharmacists - "The High Party" (10 listens) 
    5. The Stooges - "T.V. Eye" (10 listens) 
    5. TV On The Radio - "Staring At The Sun" (10 listens) 
    5. Iggy Pop - "Neighborhood Threat" (10 listens)


The tracks I listened to most last week are:

    1. Modest Mouse - "Gravity Rides Everything" (5 listens)
    2. Modest Mouse - "The World At Large" (4 listens)
    2. Modest Mouse - "3rd Planet" (4 listens)
    2. The Sea And Cake - "All The Photos" (4 listens)
    2. My Bloody Valentine - "When You Sleep" (4 listens)
    2. Of Montreal - "Eros' Entropic Tundra" (4 listens)
    2. Pixies - "Brick Is Red" (4 listens)
    2. British Sea Power - "Remember Me" (4 listens)
    2. Pavement - "Rattled By The Rush" (4 listens)
    2. Nirvana - "About A Girl" (4 listens)


I know this because I'm on Audioscrobbler, a website that tracks what you play in your computer's music player through a downloadble plugin. Recommended for the anally list-obsessed.

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4.18.2005

Natsukashii

Natsukashii.

I mentioned Blankey Jet City to my hairdresser yesterday and the first words out of his mouth were: "Burankee Jetto Shitty? Natsukashii..."

Natsukashii means nostalgic. Anything that reminds one of the old skool.

Obsessions lead to obsessions. I know I said I would shut the fuck up about Shiina Ringo but for one thing, I can’t and for another she’s an ideal segue to many of my other music passions. A sage DJ I knew once claimed that the road to Shiina Ringo inevitably lead to Chara and Yaida Hitomi. Now I don’t think much of Yaida (Japan's answer to Avril) and all I know about Chara is that she has 2 or 3 decent songs and an indecently hot husband.

My first Shiina Ringo spinoff obsession was Blankey Jet City.

Ringo is a big fan of Kenichi Asai, lead singer of BJC, and it shows in her music. A long time ago in a Japanese class far far away I was at the grind trying to decipher lyrics to a song off Ringo’s first album, Muzai Moratorium when I stumbled across this passage:

Give me a Ricken 620 (Rickenbacker)
But I don't have the 190,000 yen
I’m going mad getting off on the smell of the Marshall
Every night just going to the top
Making one Rat the tool of my trade
But then I trip when Benji reflects in my lungs

Aside from all the wacky musician lingo (WhatinhellisaRickenbacker???), picking apart the Japanese was harsh on my brain. When I finally realized what was what, only the name "Benji"stood out.

I asked, poked, prodded and discovered that Benji was an alias for Kenichi Asai.
The story of Blankey Jet City originates in boso zuku culture. Boso zuku are Japanese gangs who do little more than disturb the peace. They pout hard, grease their hair, hoot, holler and then go home to their mommies who give them soft serve ice cream cones which they lap up lickety lickety lick. Once upon a time in Tokyo, Kenichi Asai was the leader of such a gang.

Sometime in 1990, he realized that shit was lame.

So he decided to screw that noise and start a rock band.

The first BJC song I ever heard was Salinger followed by Pepin which would later be covered by Asai’s side project AJICO. I fell in love with AJICO faster than I did BJC. There are reasons for this. For one, it was easier for me to catch the lyrics. AJICO is a lot slower than BJC and I have an affinity for chicks on vocal. Even UA's deep lethargic voice is more lucid than Asai's though they each have their charms. AJICO is haunting, psychedelic and heavy on the reverb. Think, if you will, Mazzy Star.

I was never crazy about UA as a solo artist but her collaboration with Asai was fucking brilliant. The intro to their first single, Fukamidori, had me hooked faster than a spiked girl drink. Fukamidori means "deep green" but I always think aurora borealis when I hear it. It shimmers. Can't explain better.

And as much as I don’t like the sound of Japanese men singing, even I get weak in the knees when Asai lazily takes over UA’s velvety delivery in PEPIN with his trademark rough tenor:

Kudaranai jinsei dato dareka ga iu omae no koto.
You’re the one who says don’t give up on life.

I keep meaning to get my hands on some of Asai’s other projects. What little I heard of the Sherberts made me purr and I have yet to hear what his latest creation, Jude, sounds like. I still maintain this lofty fantasy that one day Asai will lure Ringo away from the well-intentioned but lackluster clutches of her new band, Tokyo Jihen, and together they will scour Japan and sing in rough voices of sex, sashimi and rokku and rorru.

A girl can dream, right?

Songs to seek: Salinger/Blankey Jet City Hadou/AJICO Fukamidori/AJICO

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we are here to rock the microphone

1. As promised here is the Soft Communication recommended songs for March '05 wrap-up. I did one song per artist unless an entire album was recommended. For those of you who wrote about artists but didn't recommend a particular album or track, I went and found one (as noted by an *). If the one I chose is not the one you would go with, or I made a mistake, contact me and I will change it accordingly.

Songs:

Donovan/Atlantis
Bearsuit/Chargr
The Coup/Repo Man
50 Foot Wave/Clara Bow
Smart Went Crazy/I Liked You Better When*
Aspera/Mountains Will Give
Julie Doiron/Last Night*
Bbob Dylan/Visions of Johanna
Ben Watt and Robert Wyatt/Slipping Slowly
Arthur Russell/I Take This Time*
Louis XIV/Finding Out True Love Is Blind
Kings of Convenience/Know How
Nouvelle Vague/Wishing (If I Had A Photograph)
The Mountain Goats/No Children*
Nothing Painted Blue/Big Pink Heart
Franklin Bruno/Medium of Exchange
Slint/Good Morning Captain*
Original Cast recording, Assassins/Ballad of Czolgosz
Original Soundtrack, Hedwig & The Angry Inch/Sugar Daddy
Recoys/Blizzard of '93
Secret Machines/What Used To Be French
The Rolling Stones/Street Fighting Man
Frank Black/Hang On To Your Ego
The Raveonettes/Noisy Summer
Shiina Ringo/Stoicism
Iron & Wine/Such Great Heights
Ryoko Hirouse/Private
The Duke Spirit/Cuts Across The Land
Dresden Dolls/Good Day
Regina Spektor/Carbon Monoxide
Nellie McKay/David
Madeleine Peyroux/Between The Bars
Neko Case/Furnace Room Lullaby
The Pipettes/Simon Says
Diane Cluck/Easy To Be Around
New Order/Fine Time
The Misfits/Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?

Albums:

Loud Family/Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things
Bearsuit/Cat Spectacular!

2. I got no feedback on the mix exchange front in my last post Contributor Cheez vs Contributor George) so I'm gonna go ahead and take the road betwixt the most favorable and less traveled. I need four volunteers for (deep movie preview guide voice) The first official Soft Communication mix exchange! (Cue mix exchange fanfare). I have a particular theme in mind, so whoever agrees is gonna have to blindly accept the unknown...you've been warned (it's not really that bad). Holla back y'all.

4.14.2005

Take One Last Glimpse into the Night

I really love Duran Duran. The concert last night at Madison Square Garden, the final stop in their current American tour, was absolutely spectacular on so many levels! I went with my friend Joe, who is also a DD fanatic, and we had a great time. Simon, John, Nick, Roger, and Andy looked like they were having a fantastic time, and the wide stage allowed plenty of moving around (and even some Simon crowd-surfing!).

Highlights:

1) The playlist!
The Fab Five played classic tunes "Wild Boys," "Hungry Like the Wolf" (preceded by Simon asking in that sexily husky voice of his, "Is anybody hungry?!"), "Notorious" (I even busted out some dance moves from the Sparkle Motion sequence in Donnie Darko!), "I Don't Want Your Love," "The Reflex," "Union of the Snake," "Save a Prayer," "Tiger Tiger," "A View to a Kill," "Planet Earth," "Come Undone," "Ordinary World," and, from the newest album, "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise," "Nice," "Bedroom Toys," and "What Happens Tomorrow." They also played "Hold Back the Rain," "Careless Memories," and "The Chauffeur," three of my favorite DD tunes, the latter being probably one my top twenty alltime favorite pop songs, ever. The energetic encore included "Girls on Film," "Rio," and their cover of the Grandmaster Flash anti-cocaine anthem, "White Lines." A montage of video clips and other footage accompanied the songs on a huge screen above the stage.

2) The crowd!
Children, teens, hipsters, and adults collectively rocked during the two-hour set, gaining momentum as the show came to a close, filling the stadium with dancing, stomping, applause, and lots of sweat. You know what I found really fascinating? I'm not sure when this happened in the history of concerts, but during the slower tunes, the crowd, in addition to raising lighters and matches, lifted their cellular phones to produce a pretty goddamned beautiful array of lights around the stadium.

3) Stage dynamic!
With the exception of Roger, who remained confined to his drum set throughout the show, the boys took advantage of the extended stage and really nailed the audience interaction. Halfway through the show, Simon introduced the other four members of the band, then promptly dove into the pit, wrapped his arms around a very lucky woman, and asked her to introduce him. And let me tell you: I have never heard anyone shriek the name SIMON LEBON!!! as loud and high-pitched as this woman. Simon was quickly attacked by half a dozen excited fans, but after a few minutes, he managed to crawl his way back up to the stage.

I wonder if I will ever be fortunate to see DD perform "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)," "Shadows on Your Side," "(I'm Looking for) Cracks in the Pavement," "The Seventh Stranger," "Late Bar," or "Sound of Thunder," early tunes that the band doesn't seem to play live anymore. But a girl can dream!

In the past, the band has covered Iggy Pop's "Success," Neil Young's "Needle and the Damage Done," Lou Reed/Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale," "Perfect Day," and "Sweet Jane," Davie Bowie's "Fame," The Doors' "Crystal Ship," and Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives," all of which I would love to see live at some point, though the band rarely performs them these days.

In conclusion, I feel very fortunate to have attended this show. And with that, I am off to scribble Ms. Jenny LeBon over all of my worldly possessions.

Photos HERE.

there's this girl whose kiss is all I dream of

dear friends,

a little recommendation, a little announcing, a little advice sought...

1. by rights, carla bruni* has the sort of bio that makes me want to run away, join the foreign legion, leave her to starve in the salt flats while I disco dance in disgrace to a song off of pulse**. but that's a movie & it's not really going to happen. french/italian aristocrat. heiress. supermodel. former mick jagger consort***. & now, acclaimed singer/songwriter. who the heck does she think she is?

but despite her highly fortunate pedigree, bruni's got a lovely smoky voice & the song quelqu'un m'a dit off of the record by the same name is a damn catchy number. (& in another language! so that way if she is singing about mick or some other jet-setting codger, I don't have to know about it. bonus!) the song makes me think of my ex-cat sitting on a windowsill in the afternoon sun. eyes half closed. feline body in that porsche-like formation. completely content, purring away. the only real problem with quelqu'un m'a dit is that it's so safe & warm & snuggly that I'm sure it will be featured on some commercial for underpants or the latest "most technologically advanced" brassiere, & then it will be everywhere, like caesars' jerk it out (the ipod? shampoo?!?! what's next? personal lubricant?). but I've got my fingers crossed. perhaps bruni's so loaded that she doesn't need the advertising dough.

2. if you happen to have a car & you plan to be doing a little summer driving then you should be listening to brendan benson, who writes powdered sugar power pop confections that are perfect for cruisin' along in your automobile. he has a new album, the alternative to love, out that I haven't gotten my paws on yet but I shall soon, if I continue to be fiscally irresponsible. for now, go to his website & preview portions of the album.

two summers ago? one summer ago? I was a passenger in my friend jared's now defunct car & I was urging him to listen to a particularly good driving song by benson called emma j off of one mississippi. the tune is a sunny, latin flavored romantic number with a great velveeta cheese solo; basically the aural equivalent of a white guy with a drawn-on zorro moustache doing the fandango with a rose between his teeth just for you. jared didn't care for it. he proceeded to ridicule my new favorite song by replacing the line "summer has come & with it your face" with "summer has CUM all over your face" which he screamed loudly out the window to passersby. I did not take kindly to this so I kept pressing the repeat button over & over again on his cd player, singing along loudly each time in a terrifying dog-like pitch. right in his ear. I believe I won that particular battle. but it doesn't have to be that way. find the tune & feel the warm weather groove.

ps good to me off of lapalco is dang good too. catchy & propulsive. the white stripes do a cover of it that I'm not too crazy about (& I am no white stripes hatah, as some of you already know) because I don't buy jack white singing lyrics about his girl being so true in this almost camp angry, vein in the neck popping way. it's like extreme cover miscasting. though I suppose that if their cover makes a few people go out & get into benson (which is what I suspect mr. white was going for anyway) then it does the job.

3. I am working on a list of songs recommended in march on soft communication. I will put it up as soon as I am able. in related matters, if you are a contributor & haven't recommended yet, please do. I'd love to hear more opinions from the peanut gallery.

conversely, if you are a reader & would like to recommend something, please contact me. I am very nice 'specially when you don't have to meet me face to face.

4. in the words of moz, I need advice! I need advice! I would like to initiate a mix exchange for soft communication but I have had two opposing views on the matter. contributor george feels that if the mix exchange were to include everyone who wished to participate, it might be difficult to actually give all the cd's a listen before the next exchange came round. this is true. on the other hand, contributor cheez, the library bar mix exchange originator, feels that if it is only one person's mix, then there is FAR less incentive to meet & discuss & share. ever the mediator, I was wondering if perhaps we can limit this to only a certain amount of people, 4 or 5 say, at a time but I'm still not sure. anywho, I figure the best thing to do is to put it to you, the people & you can tell me what you think.

love, d

* the descriptions of the music on her website provide awesome displays of pr insanity. "the caress of her flaxen voice"? I'm gonna include that in my next recommendation. apropos of nothing, flaxen hair will be mentioned.

** sampler sold on late night tv. which yes, I do own. I like to dance about my abode like a crazed capuchin monkey to crappy techno-lite beats. deal with it.

*** actually, that doesn't really induce envy in me. rock god or no, mick is one wizened man. making love to him in his post mid 1970's state would be like straddling a piece of beef jerky clad in lycra. that being said, I should probably admit that I'd play a prostitute with a heart of gold in a movie directed by joel shumacher if elvis costello asked me to. so hey, to each their own!

songs to seek: quelqu'un m'a dit/carla bruni, emma j/brendan benson

albums to seek: lapalco/brendan benson

4.13.2005

My Songbird of Choice

How many posts have I written for this site? Three? Four? I don't know, but what I just can't believe is that I allowed myself to write about a single piece of music before I told everybody I know about Luke Temple. It's a goddam crime is what it is. If you can bear the sound of gushing sap, read ahead:

About two years ago, I go out on a date (oh, so it's that kind of story?) with this scenester/band manager/general girl-about-town who I had met online (oh, so it's THAT kind of story too?). Long story short, our first date was also our last and I never talked to her again, which is okay since then I met this other chick who is pretty cool. But at a couple points while we were out she mentioned this singer/songwriter, Luke Temple, who I really should check out. And she played me this one song of his - I don't remember which.

For a couple months, I looked for a Luke Temple CD at various music stores, but with no luck. Then I happen to see that he's opening for somebody at the Mercury Lounge, so me and my now girlfriend go and check him out. And...well, I just don't know if I've ever heard a sweeter set of songs in my entire life. I really felt like I recognized every song he played. Maybe it was because they had been playing for years on a little record player inside my soul. And NOBODY's at the show. For months it goes on like this - we go see him play at the Mercury, at the Living Room, wherever, and he's playing to ten people.

And then he moved to Seattle. And my heart cracked a little, right down the middle.

So last week he was back in town, touring on the LP he just released, and we go to see him at the Mercury. It's a full house and there are girls who spend his entire set text messaging their friends! Gragghkkg....sigh...I'm okay.

So now he's playing with a band (SIX other people), but somehow his set seemed just as intimate as when it was him all by himself, playing to ten people. It's amazing. Tina, back me up here - I'm getting all choked up.

There are two songs available for download on the site linked above. Other than that, I recommend "B Bird", "In The End", and "Old New York".

4.12.2005

When Things Should Work, And Do Work

First of all, I should say that I don't feel entirely qualified to write a review of the Evens' album because I don't know shit about Amy Farina. I know there's a Warmers track on my 20 Yrs. of Dischord comp, but I don't really remember what it is or how it goes. So, if I say that track X sounds like [insert band here], and you wanna be like, "Hey jerkface, that sound is CLASSIC Amy Farina," well, maybe you're right.

On the other hand, Ian MacKaye is somebody whose...oeuvre?...I am pretty well acquainted with, so I can tell you that lovers of Fugazi are going to have a well-cut foothold with the Evens. This is especially true if you are down with the stuff they wrote for the Instrument soundtrack, and you aren't the kind of Fugazi listener who's going to get upset if you don't hear any screaming or discernable fuzz. With the Evens, you get lots of the heavily-plucked, clean-but-twangy bass notes - the ones that sit out all by themselves in the mix, as well as the politico-punk nursery rhyme vocals (the latter especially on the first two tracks of the Evens' album).

There's another pop element in there that makes me think of the Beauty Pill, or maybe even Whip-Smart-era Liz Phair. I'm guessing this is the Amy Farina sound, since that other stuff is so Ian MacKaye. It's sort of an understated bounciness - a little bit playful, but keeping it's cool. I think this sound plays out a lot in the drums and the guitars, both of which are mostly pretty light and clean.

All in all, it's an album that sounds very unselfconscious, which is something that Ian has always been good at. It's also very accessible - something which Fugazi has not always been (Red Medicine, anybody?).

I hate to say this, since it sounds lazy and I did it with my last post as well, but I just don't think I have a list of recommended tracks on this album. They're all worth listening to - and maybe I haven't listened to it enough times to develop favorites. For now, I guess I'll draw special attention to "Sara Lee", since it has a melancholy that reminds me of "I'm So Tired" off of the Instrument soundtrack, and Ian's vocals are pretty adorable.

I give this album a firm "A".*

*Feel free to make your own sex jokes about what "a firm A" might actually mean.

4.11.2005

...things in life start through my dreams (or how I learned to stop worrying & love the dears, part two)

dear friends,

when last I left you, I was about to go see the dears at bowery but I realize I need to backtrack & talk about their album, no cities left. tellingly, after my first few deep listens, front to back, don't answer the phone I'm BUSY, I dreamt of zeppelins in the afternoon sky, then a pirate ship crossing in front of an enormous full moon. this was not a "nice" picture but ominously unsettling, like a paper cut-out where the image is not what it seems or like kara walker's slave swamp terror silhouettes. as the dream/dawn came, I looked out of an apartment situated over a massive body of water & saw mushroom clouds in the distance. I turned towards my boy & said where do we go? he grabbed my hand calmly & said "to the basement"; he was clearly prepared for such an event. we went down there & sure enough, there was an entire world under the earth. & we were fine.

from the first hushed moments of we can have it with its description of a bad dream that could very well just be the realization that relationships are limited by our ideas of what "ideal" should be to the stern acoustic admonishments of who are you, defenders of the universe? (a sharp dialogue between two nations or two lovers & is there any difference?), I was captured. even a song like the second part which at first listen seems dull, is put together for maximum brain burrowing. melodica solo, followed by sax doing the same solo, followed by two guitars harmonizing a la brian may? wha...? like a fan-kid's childishly enthusiastic idea of what every good song must & should have, there's all sorts of amusements & lovely bearded ladies. the dears take full advantage of their carnival of sounds & they all get a chance to do their own wall of death moment. martin pelland's hypnotic bass line in the shape-shifting funk jam of postcard from purgatory. george donoso III's uncannily precise, almost machine-like drumming, such as the dance beat that unexpectedly enters 1:59 into we can have it. the female harmonies courtesy of keyboardists natalia yanchak & brigitte mayes coming in like a sugar rush on never destroy us (highly appealing to my inner scamp who likes to imagine lightburn commanding "keyboard bitches, sing!" & then, they do. yes. I'm very childish & fanciful, you should know this about me right up front). & of course, there's murray lightburns' parlor trick of coming in gentle, unspooling little curlicues of feyness, then fully unleashing a strong, almost operatic higher range such as on pinned together, falling apart. not a bad trick, as far as tricks go, but he doesn't depend on that entirely to prove his point as a singer. on the romantic musings of warm & sunny days, murray highwires jauntily around a lyric about getting older & not having a partner like some sort of insane boulevardier. he swoons about his sadness with a smile in his voice, right down to the repetition of the word "stars" against the music's common-sensical progression. head in the clouds indeed. somehow I imagine a guitar rolling it's eyes.

that's not to say that there aren't slips into full-on silly. anyone that moans "I don't have a raincoat of my own" is asking for gimlet eyed stare of derision. but all in all, I found that the personal & yes, at times, seriously over-dramatic declarations of hurt & intent were beautifully rendered; the rise of strings or brass or intricately arranged vocalizations swirling around the words.

ultimately, there's more at play here than some lyrics from the school of waah interlaced with a cluttered attic's worth of instrumentational flourish. I suspect that the album's detractors' big complaint would be "all these lyrics about the sad, boo freakin' hoo? who cares?". to which I reply, I know it's over & it never really began, so bite me. I know I may have had some doubts about what it said about my maturity to still like this type o' pity party rock. BUT. I. JUST. DON'T. CARE. I love the doom/gloom wistfulness because it confirms that the reason this type of pop expression remains potent is that those feelings, no matter how callowly expressed, are genuine & if the feelings are genuine, then I'm glad someone has some balls to be that open. especially with guitars around. & DEFINITELY if the feelings expressed are almost comical in their pathos & the people behind it are aware of that. people forget that even st. morrissey is a witty bastard & that most of the crop of american aggro-angsters are emphatically NOT. therein lies the difference?

is there a concept behind no cities left? yes. underneath all the end-of-the-world talk & love lost & found, there is a message or rather, questions that reverberate. & that is: when it all goes down, will you be there with me? can you be there with me? please be there? not so unimaginable a desire...

so yes, the show at bowery ballroom. I nabbed my skeptical, but game, monkey & went down to the gig. I was pleased & surprised that, in person, murray lightburn, who resembles a sad mastiff, albeit one in a snug leather jacket, downplays the mozzerisms. or should I say, that I was surprised that I was pleased that this was so? not only can he sing a line beautifully (the stand alone repeated refrain of "it won't ever be what we want" from we can have it which shivered in the air) but he has a palpable sense of belief in what he sings. he knew whereof he sang & he meant it, man! in the best punk rock way. counting off, switching from acoustic & electric & back again, wailing on melodica, hitting the mini korg with look of single minded intensity, this was a man on fire! when he grabbed the tambourine & held it out in front of him over the crowd shouting "you are not alone" I would've considered moving to his jonestown. lightburnsville?

oh yeah, & like blondie, the dears are a BAND. donoso was an inventive little son of a gun. I loved the sound of the unexpected beat that comes in a couple of minutes into we can have it that much MORE live. it made the zombie nyc crowd move despite itself. pelland was a groove machine. he got down with himself during the moody neo-noir jam opener postcard from purgatory & I caught him smiling in glee at donoso when he started mixing things up. of the two ladies behind keyboards on stage, yanchak stood out by virtue of looking like one of those girls who sat behind me sometime in high school: cardigan clad, pale, with huge brown eyes & lank brown hair. she kept her head down, didn't smile, & played figures that made you look around for the third guitarist. later in the night, when murray & yanchak busted into their own personal musical theater duet 22: the death of all romance, she opened her mouth so wide & her eyes were so huge as she sang the insidiously catchy "I can't believe the things you say/tell me the lies" refrain, I couldn't tell if it was passion or sheer terror that was driving her to such ecstatic heights. valerie jodoin-keaton (brigitte mayes' replacement) brought it too, especially in the coda to postcards from purgatory when she added bright splashes with her flute. the guitarist (can't find the poor man's name) appeared to still be trying to find his stage legs but locked into it sometime around the queenalicious guitarmonies of the second part; him & lightburn faced each other in a classic rock stance of who's bad? it was cheesy as all get out but enjoyable, because people having fun on stage is kinda the freakin' point, eh? perhaps my favorite number was a new one (SOMEONE? ANYONE? TELL ME WHAT THIS IS CALLED? PRETTY PLEASE?) which sounds like a lost britpop classic. in it, murray sings pointedly of someone "& you'll hate everyone 'til there's no one else" & yet still manages to sound forgiving in his resignation. I left the show in a thrilled school kid state. happy to be so validated. even the monkey was won over!

for now, mozzer can rest easy about the steez theft. my imaginary friend murray clearly has his own path to follow. someone had to get him going, that's all. I will curiously observe that rock strewn path that his band takes & will be there when the dears return to the bowery ballroom on june 11. because hey, it spoke to me & how could it not? I was re-assured. I was not alone.

love, d

album to seek: no cities left/the dears

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the second time around

I decided to write about the phenomenon of "cover songs". First let me tell you that I'm in a band called el jezel and we do at least one cover every other show, sometimes more. I would say that I am the instigator of the cover 9 out of 10 times, and many times my fellow el jezelers have to shoot me down. So here's a list of Five Songs El Jezel Will Never Cover:

1. Morrissey- "Last of the Famous International Playboys"
We actually jammed that a few times before Dan found out it was a Morrissey song. In truth I couldn't sing it that well, but we did give the main riff a dirty vibe that the original lacked. I have since decided to do a solo ep of Morrissey covers that is languishing in pre-production.

2. Prince- "Let's Go Crazy"
I also got a chance to play this in the one-time incarnation known as Swell Jezel. Since Dan had to be out of town for our Astoria Beergarden show last Summer we recruited Don from The Equation and Bryan from Man In Gray to join us for a short set padded with covers. Now this wasn't a tounge in cheek cover dripping with irony- I can't stand those. Like when Travis did "Baby One More Time". I like Travis, hate that cover. The joy in doing "Let's Go Crazy" was just trying to pull it off. It's a tricky little pop song with a ridiculous solo so it was a hoot to try and swing it. I'd say we kinda did. But I strongly doubt the original version of El Jezel needs to do it at this point.

3. Bauhaus- "Kick in The Eye"(the funky version on Mask)
I've never even mentioned doing this to Jess and Dan cause I don't think it would get that far. It's kind of a song I wanted to cover since I first heard it in high school, but never got around to it. It's like goth meets dico funk and it would rock the party. Maybe someday...

4. Level 42- "Something About You"
I have no idea why I think this would make a great cover, but I do. The idea of it terrifies me. I wouldn't pitch this as a cover with El Jezel because I'd be scared that they'd take me up on it.

5. Any Led Zeppelin song
Though I did get El Jezel to put the main riff from "Heartbreaker" at the tail end of our "This is Love"(PJ Harvey) cover, I don't think I'd have the cajones to sing like Robert Plant. And I do mean that literally.

It's funny how different bands have different stances on doing covers. I've met people in bands that are completely against covers and bands that just can't get all members to agree on what to cover in the first place. One of my best friends was in a Top 40 cover band that was really good, yet pretty lame. I mean there's a fine line between doing a set full of obscure covers at Pianos and playing "Gin and Juice" to a bar full of frat boys in New Jersey. Or is there?

Anyways, I still dream of putting together a commando outfit of rotating musicians for the ultimate cool cover band. It's simple. We all make mixes, send it out to the others. We all pick 3-4 songs from each mix and learn the parts. Then we get together on a Friday night, drink some beer and rehearse them once. Then we meet at the gig. Who's with me? The only thing getting in my way is thinking up a name.

How about The Dust Jackets? The Heart Sleeves? The References?

4.09.2005

ENKAI JOE: Ok, I was drunk....

Some things are unescapable.

Working for a Japanese news station was my introduction to the unwritten law. No one said I had to bring the doughnuts. No one said I had to make the tea, replace the toilet paper or change the toner. It was just something I, a lowly intern, did. It got me noticed and earned me acceptance. I worked overtime when everyone else did and left early accordingly.

This group-oriented ethic is the reason why, eventually, I would find myself plastered, mic in hand, in front of the President of the company.

Such is the surrealism of enkai.

Enkai is the after hours ritual in which every employee from President to intern is expected to partake. A way for everybody to let their hair down and show their inner child. It involves heavy drinking, tiresome jokes and inevitably that scourge of the exhibitionist ego...karaoke.

Dude, you may be my boss tonight but tomorrow all I’ll see is you belting out Like a Prayer on your knees when I deliver your faxes in the morning.

Enkai exists to put your coworkers in a different light. Even if just to show everyone that we are all capable of being arseholes.

Kuge san, an eternally upbeat lady in HR, once delivered an astonishingly soulful rendition of Lauryn Hill’s Killing me Softly. The older employees preferred the oldies. For some reason, every time I find myself in the company of older Japanese men and karaoke, we eventually wind up singing Ob la di ob la da. Cyndi Lauper is popular too. Few things are more sobering (hilarious?) than watching a bunch of inebriated Japanese men bouncing to She Bop.

Yuuki san, the news manager, was hardcore. He’d get up and tackle the monster weepy ballads by X Japan. (Blecch!) Oh and he did it with tears in his eyes, dudes. Damn well gave us the soft edges of his soul for 8 and a half whiny minutes while I made out with Mikuro the camera tech.

The first song I ever humiliated myself to was Judy and Mary’s Sobakasu. An ear-abusive number about a girl with freckles lamenting the fact that no one will love her. Somehow a rabbit and a frog are involved too. Nah, dunno why. I was 17 and still raging in anime throes.

Now I am a fucking show off, I confess. I can’t help it, it’s all I got. I may be drunk, I may be white, useless and retentive as Czech toilet paper but dammit, I CAN READ THEM FUNNY L’IL SQUIGGLES!!!

No one is impressed but the ice cubes. No one’s listening either. They’re just watching the spectacle of drunken white chick bopping to Green Eyed Monster like some sugar glazed train wreck.

Eventually I moved onto cheesier business. Ai no Shirushi originally by Spitz but covered by both PuffyAmiyumi and Paul Gilbert...for some reason. I find it easier to just make up the words as I go along while my speech slurs and my vision crumbles.

If I am feeling ambitious and semi sober, I like Shiina Ringo’s cover of Momen no Handkerchief (Cotton Handkerchief). My personal ode to Spring. Now that the weather is warmer, it is in a constant loop in my brain. This twinkly piece of la la pop is a dialogue between a boyfriend moving to a large city to his girlfriend in the boonies. He writes her telling her about all the showy gifts he’s sending her and all she does in reply is wish for his return.
Of course by the last verse he’s left her and what does the skank do?

She asks him to send her a handkerchief...to dry her tears.

I do not reccomend karaoke under non-enkai conditions. The last time I did, I don’t remember leaving the club. However, I do remember waking up somewhere in Queens with this
this in my head.

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4.08.2005

All the animals together, break it down!

Dear friends,

Sometimes all you want is that dance around your apartment song. Nothing fancy or smart. Just a little Land of a Thousand Dances, Dance This Mess Around, a touch of Pump It Up or Red Alert. Energetic and fun. This type of tune is especially useful right about now. It's finally warming up over here in the Northeast and people have to move and/or Spring clean. This means brooms and ugly ensembles consisting of sweats, musty t-shirts and homemade headbands. This also means private dance break once your work is done! Aaaw, yeah! The only possible witness to the horror is your roommate or pet or nosy neighbor and I'm sure they're used to it. So give in.

The first song kicking off this particular playlist of mine is a little ditty called Chicken Payback by a British band called The Bees.

The tune has a deceptively 60's sound to it and when I say deceptive, I'm saying it's impressively Nuggets sounding complete with analog warmth, slightly fuzzed vocals and echoing break-it-down. There is an excellent little chicken scratch guitar line that wiggles down the middle of this song and I am completely incapable of not responding to it. In fact, it makes me do a full-on mashed potato. A fierce one. Finally, the cherry on top to all this excellence is that the lyrics are stupid in the best way possible. Among the highlights are the closing shouts of "Pay back the chicken!", "Pay back the monkey!" with a responding "Pay them aaaall baaack" coming from what sounds like an army of eunuchs swaying in fringe. I don't know what they're blathering about and I don't care. Pass me the broom 'cause I need a mic!

Love, D

ps I just saw the video for chicken payback on their website. contributor kirsten, maybe you can explain what's going on here?

Song to seek: Chicken Payback/The Bees

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4.07.2005

Live Blog: Open Season by British Sea Power

The oft-glam, thoroughly rock sound of British Sea Power's 2003 debut, The Decline OF British Sea Power, left me wanting more. Now I will attempt to live-blog my first listen of their sophomore effort, Open Season, released this week...

  • I've just torn off the plastic wrapping and I'm putting it in the player now. Clocks in at 46 minutes 34 seconds. Pressing Play.

  • Track 1: It Ended On An Oily Stage
    Opens with a slight feedback swell. drums hit, then some indy pop guitars four bars or so and vocals. Nice poppy sound, but not too poppy. I think I hear a piano doing eighth notes in the background. No, maybe it's a twangy guitar. Is that a shaker or a tamborine? Breathy vocals like first album. Down to a single angular guitar at the bridge and then it builds back up. Solos, nice solid drum fills, guitar wail crescendos up over everything. Here comes the second track. I like it so far.

  • Track 2: Be Gone
    Upbeat with an acoustic guitar added to the mix. For some reason, this is reminding me of the theme song from The Breakfast Club-- song's title has slipped my mind for the moment. Oh, yeah, "Don't You (Forget About Me)," right? there's something I like about the sound of this record. It's got a pretty sound, but it's not that annoying type of pretty. That song seemed short...

  • Track 3: How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?
    Starts with vocals and something that sounds like birds lightly chirpring, but I think it's just fingers on the guitar strings. This one starts to rock a little more on the chorus (or bridge?). Big guitar/drum hits. I like. Goes to the floor tom now. I'm bopping my head. I think I like this one best so far.

  • Track 4: Like A Honeycomb
    Starts with another swell. This song's more laid back. Dreamy sounding. Now it's picking up, hard snare hits on the downbeats. Everything stops, then back to that laid back sound. They like that swelling sound in the background. I like it, too. It adds a good base to their sound. It swells, it swirls, it is good.

  • Track 5: Please Stand Up
    Starts with drums, then big guitar sound with some synth backup. Piano and vocals come in. I'm tapping my foot. In the choruses, the drums do a really simple, but efective thing. Piano note rings out at the end.

  • Track 6: North Hanging Rock
    okay, those are definitely birds chirping along to that acoustic guitar now. Nice light opening, but why the birds? And footsteps on crunching leaves and grass. I guess we're out for a hike now. ride cymbal and organ. It's building nicely. Kick drum pushes it along nicely now. Another guitar and piano. I'm starting to lightly bop my head. More swelling guitar. And there's the snare drum, that means the intro is over, folks-- in case you did not know. Still building though. Tempo might be picking up some here. Then it all drops out. Just vocals and it's over. Nice, except the birds.

  • Track 7: To Get To Sleep
    Cool start, almost sounds like a fifties rock beat at first. Now it picks up. Big downbeats. Nice fill. I like the guitar sound. Was that acoustic guitar there before? I don't rememeber. Solo= swelling guitar feedback.

  • Track 8: Victorian Ice
    Effect at befinning is kind of cool. I think I'm noticing why their sound works. There seems to be a big space between the bass and treble and the vocals fill it in just the right way. Wow, how insightful of me. That synthesizer is toeing the line of cheesedom, but it's not crossing it, so it sounds cool. Again, with the old-fashioned rock beat. It works well.

  • Track 9: Oh Larsen B
    This one is gonna be a rocker, I think. I like that guitar riff that comes in after a few bars. I thought that verse was going to explode into a chorus, but it tricked me. I still like it. The bass line is solid and simple. Another chorus lighter than you'd expect. One of these times, it's going to explode, damnit. Maybe not, we'll see. Sounds like he's saying "Oh Vaseline, won't you fuck me," but I'm guessing it's "Oh Larsen B, [something or other]." Okay, maybe this solo section is going to build to the explosion I'm expecting. Let's see... It's a nice solo. by the way... building, building... building... building... those tricky bastards. Well, I still liked it.

  • Track 10: The Land Beyond
    For some reason, I just thought of Mott The Hoople and think British Sea Power should cover "All The Young Dudes." But this song doesn't really sound like MTH. Are MTH British? I can't remember. I imagine BSP looking like the cover of All The Young Dudes. I've seen pictures of them, but can't really remember what they look like. This song is okay, but I could see myself skipping it if it came up on shuffle.

  • Track 11: True Adventures
    Strings and thunder? let's beat on the drums and piano. Fine with me. Hey this song is almost eight minutes long, so this could go on a while. Still fine with me. I like this type of noisy beat-on-stuff intro. And the rhythm section settles in with the piano not far behind. The strings are sticking around for the long haul. Vocals are a little less breathy, or maybe there's slightly less reverb. Swelling guitar. This song is just asking for a raised cigarette lighter and swaying back and forth. Oh wait, sounds like the intro again. Noisy. Keep it coming, damnit. Settling in again. Nicely done. Some extra feedback this time around, and rhythm secion is slightly heavier-- just slightly. Hey, was that a seagull that just flew over? British Sea Power, eh? I haven't really been paying close attention to the lyrics-- kind of hard to do while typing. Noisy and intro-like again. Now there are horns. For some reason, I'm thinking of Gilbert & Sullivan. Music drops out and a seagull flies over head. I guess we're back at port?


  • Album is over, so I'm done with live-blogging.

    On first listen, I'd say the main difference from the first album is the lack of a straight up rocker like "Apologies To Insect Life." Maybe I've just missed it due to the distraction of typing, but there doesn't seem to be that same wide dynamic that stretched from a lighter glam sound to the edge of punk. Decline Of... was the type of album that, the first time you heard it, you probably knew right away if you were going to like it a lot. But Open Season seems more like the type that you come to appreciate over time. It reminds me of The Walkmen's Bows + Arrows or Secret Machines' Now Here Is Nowhere-- not as immediately knock-you-on-your-ass to fans of the first album as it probably is readily accessible to those who've never heard them before. At the same time, like those two albums, after listening to it enough, the tragectory from first to second album will probably begin to make more sense and I'll eventually think it's a natural enough evolution.

    In the end, as uncertain as the last paragraph may seem, I enjoyed the album quite a bit and, on first listen, I recommend it. Perhaps I'll check in later with a more advanced opinion after I've had a chance to let it sink in.

    4.05.2005

    way out where the west commences

    Part two and final of my li'l holding-forth on musicers who are also good worders. Ladies and gentlemen: look south, please, New Zealand-ward, to Mr. Graeme Downes of the Verlaines. Yet another over-educated chap with a Ph.D (in musicology, no less), the Big Fat Nerd in me goes moony swoony when he name checks Dostoevsky, the library at Alexandria, Lord Byron, and Paul Verlaine. I think sometimes bands refrain from printing their lyrics in their CD sleeves, or even from enunciating clearly, because they are afraid they will be revealed as insipid. You rarely miss a word of Graeme's, though, because those vocals are mixed crystal-clear and most of the records I've seen come with handy lyric sheets. The best part is, you could (if you wanted) read said lyric sheets and appreciate the Verlaines almost without pressing play; but of course you should press play and get swept up in the Kiwi-style post-punk-rock-orchestral-pop.

    Graeme is a dramatist, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. He writes soaring anthems and he writes aching folktales of betrayal and loss and he writes gentle lullabies complete with twinkling harp and cooing clarinet. Above it all, he tells stories, the kind that stand just this side of purple (we get the word 'salvation' now and again, and the occasional reference to trains or dreams or graves, all of which, as you know, can represent terror).

    My favorite Verlaines songs? Let's tip our hats to "Don't Send Me Away" from 1986's Hallelujah All the Way Home: "...the dirty midnight drunk walk/Fucking know-it-all pub talk/Slum chums in the doldrums, on a good day they feel nothing." This is sung calmly, reverently, over Renaissance-style harpsichord sighs and soft percussion; I imagine a medieval court attendant strumming a lute, a lady lounging by a fountain, Graeme standing by with a dagger 'neath his cloak.

    1989's Some Disenchanted Evening features the rockinest tale of doom I ever done heard, it's called "We're All Gonna Die" - "They've got blood in their eyes/And they're drunk as lords/And we're all gonna die, by the end of the night."

    Way out Where was released in 1996 and is a muscular, guitar-y album; each song on it is a winner, if you ask me, but I am probably most fond of the last lines of the first track, "Mission of Love," which implores us to "Hail! Hail! Hail! Hail each dauntless pursuit of the pointless!"

    Amen!

    I couldn't find any free mp3s online, but a dedicated fan maintains an excellent Verlaines site here, complete with biographical notes, discography, and lyrics.

    Graeme is doing solo work now; Epitonic has a page.

    The Verlaines were on the legendary NZ label Flying Nun, the same people who brought us the Chills, the Clean, and the 3Ds.

    In the interest of science...

    MusicLab is a study being done by the Sociology department at Columbia to try and determine how people form their taste in music. It looks like it could be fun. (Read the Boing Boing post I got it from here.)

    Last night all the horrible... (or how I learned to stop worrying & love the dears, part one)

    The Smiths have a song called Panic, which features one of the most quoted lines in Smithdom, the simple and direct "Hang the DJ!." My argument has always been that something in the line that follows is much more important and that is, "(The music they constantly play...) it says nothing to me about my life". What could be truer than that? I can say I still cling to those lines when someone's trying to sell me on something that for whatever reason, isn't flipping the reptile switch. There's no words to love, no voice to care about, no musicianship to champion and failing all these things, NO PERSONALITY THERE TO INTRIGUE.

    Horribly personal confession number #12. I am a lousy music fan. I have a complex yet completely nonsensical inner method of rating musical acts. The most important requirements are a) the sound is great to ME, b) the personalities behind the music are interesting to ME and c) does it say something to ME about my life? Basically, it's all about ME and I only need 2 of the 3. Does that make me an untrustworthy source? Perhaps. But really when it comes down to it, if I listened to everything based on sounds alone, I wouldn't be able to hold down a job. It's bad enough as it is. I need some qualifiers.

    I have been known to stop caring about a band if I see them out in public acting like great big tits. Or talking un-ironically about all the models they're banging in various magazine interviews. Conversely, I will grudgingly accept a band/musician if I think their story is winning enough. I'm serious. If I hear somebody or other was cleaning toilets at gas stations to support their one-legged father, all while struggling to record a demo, then no matter how lame it is, I'll have this very forgiving attitude of ah, well, they seem nice. Will I listen to it devotedly? No. but I'll be interested to hear what it sounds like and then be tolerant of its mediocrity in a way that I wouldn't extend to better bands with a happier background story involving ski vacations and ponies. Shallow? Petty? Sentimental? It's true and I won't hide my prejudices. I can't separate the stories from the musos, which is why lately I have been trying not to remember too much about musicians I like. To be fairer, I suppose.

    I was not a carefree adolescent. I was a short, bespectacled immigrant. I was not blonde or popular and I dressed funny* to boot. I was a poor kid in a school full of children that lived in houses affectionately nicknamed "home sweet MOMA". I felt a complete disconnect from my surroundings in a way that led me to buy import music magazines every month and dream of moving to England, the only! Place! Where! Music! Mattered! (As evidenced by my then-recent discovery of The Cure, Joy Division/New Order, etc...) THEN I found The Smiths. When I first heard Morrissey, singing about his arrogance, loneliness and spectacular lack of sexual nerve with his trademark florid, operatic self-absorption, I said that's me, mom! I too, am an emotional wallflower and wreck! That says everything to me about my life! I am totally arrogant yet completely insecure too! Yipee!

    Time passes, people grow up. Some of us graduate from listening to the solipsistic angst music of our formative years to the more acceptable global angst ditties of today. NEVERTHELESS, people don't change all that much. When I heard last year that there was some weirdo Canuck named Murray (Murray, feh chrissakes!) Lightburn who has been leading a band with a revolving lineup around the Montreal scene for the past 10 years and oh, he's got a serious Steven P. Morrissey obsession and eh, sounds a bit like him, NATURALLY, I was won over without having heard a note. Already, I was best pals with this Murray. In a "meet ya for a drink, then go watch Withnail & I for, like, the 5 billionth time, argue about The Severed Alliance over pints or tea cups, depending on the time" musician fantasy sorta way. I looked at his picture, a scowling, older guy in a group of attractive youngsters. My buddy Murray. I haven't heard his band yet but I'm sure they must be great, I chirped to my co-worker. she looked disinterested.

    Let me backtrack, my "drink buddy" fantasy only goes so far. For example, take Pavement, I LOVE me some Pavement. The fact that I can recall most of those Malkmusian lyrics is a testament to their powerful hold on me considering my memory has been the first thing to go. Now, would I ever have drinks with Stephen Malkmus? Of course not. That man is the epitome of ski break. I'd get this feeling that he would be trying to place me, maybe I cleaned his parent's house? Worked in the university lunchroom? In a hair net? Something like that. Does this stop me from listening to Pavement? No, because "here we go, she's on a hidden tableau, just a 2 for 1, and the 2 for 1 is right" is enough for me. Same goes for Morrissey even, I still love him, but drinks are out of the question. I eat meat. Lots of it. 'Nuff said.

    Anywho, back to the topic at hand, eventually I heard my new friend Murray's band, The Dears' new single. I found Lost in the Plot on one of those NME samplers I'm guilty of buying because it's like my CRACK, see, and I immediately loved-ded-ded it. I laughed at the slavish Moz-ness, not just the peculiarly prissy turns of phrase but the unusual emphasis in a lyric, the way a word like "anymore" couldn't just end but has to be drawn out in a rococo moan of "anymoooooaawoaoaore, aaaw-oore, aaaw-ore, aaaaoooore, ooooore..." as the song inches to a close... Fantastic! I remember telling Jared about it and him saying sneeringly** that he wasn't down with that shit. But really, why be a hatah? What's wrong with sounding like the most reassuring voice of my youth? To me, this is lullaby city. But I realize that my sentimental attachments are another man's derivative, so what can you do?

    You go see them live.

    To be continued...


    * Still true, actually

    ** Jared claims he "did not sneer", to which I say, yes, he did.

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    4.03.2005

    Among Mad People

    Dear Cocco,

    I love you and all but you are mad as a cat.

    Not that it hasn’t been a pleasure being a voyeur on the blood hungry, sun-drenched shores of your mind. It’s just that no one can really blame that guy in Countdown for running away. You’re such a drama queen, really.

    You’re like Roald Dahl with his deception. What sounds like a cheesy love song is a macabre lament. Like German fairy tales that warn children they’ll be boiled in oil, dismembered, set on fire or crushed if they fail to obey the rules. Kids get reeled in easy. I find you most charming when you sing for them not to them. My Dear Pig is a good example. I can comfortably forget that you are raving in your world with a voice like rain.

    I do love your voice. It does not grate. Its soft as suede where you love, piercing where you are afraid and always maintains its poise. Kumoji no Hate Thank you also for the translations. It more than whets curiosity and it’s not something everyone does.

    This guy has said better things about you than I ever could. We have similar histories in our fanaticism so I trust his opinions completely.

    On occasion you put out the B side that sounds faintly alt rock. I chalked that up to your producers. I love their work, I do. But Dr. Strangelove has a tendency to make songs for Verizon commercials. They arranged some beautiful numbers for Maika Shiratori but she only ended up sounding like a less enraged version of you.

    I am very much looking forward to your collaboration with Quruli, Singer Songer. Quruli!!!! Rapture! But the merging of two good things don’t necessarily guarantee great. You’ve been quiet for so long. Get off that beach in Okinawa and give us more of what you have? I miss you. That cover of Yutaka Ozaki’s Dance Hall was nice but it wasn’t you.

    Oh, and Singer Songer?

    For the love of god, please don’t suck.

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    4.01.2005

    Gonna Keep On Running

    I recently had i-sex with Travis. He supposedly gave me a thousand songs (!!!), but some things did not process (see Tom Waits, DFA Comp. & some other things too). That's okay, my ipod has 4gigs of staying power and a nifty battery charger. While running at the gym, I decided that my normal "workout mix-o" was lame and I needed a change. Scrolling through all of the new material that Trav gave me, I decided on the Exploding Hearts remembering that I liked their song "Sleeping Aides and Razorblades," but never got the album. The first song, "Modern Kicks," lit a little fire under my ass and I ran a little faster – feeling no pain because I was concentrating on the jangly guitar hooks, clever little lyrics and the catchy chorus. The next song, "Modern Pretender" was just as good and I didn't stop running. NEW SONGS TO RUN TO!!!! I think that some people might initially find their sound too poppy, but the more I listened to the album, the more I realized that it was just fucking fun rock-n-roll. You know the kind I'm talking about. The kind that makes you want to dance around in your underwear and sing along when no one is in your apartment. Intrigued, I went snooping on the fantastic internet and found out a few things, namely that the band is no more since three members of the band died in a car accident a year after Guitar Romantic was released. For some reason this Pitchfork interview with them the month before they died gets cut off at the end, but it's interesting to see the band's insistence that they are NOT pop-punk and their energy and love for music. Of course, it is also depressing that such vitality was erased a month later. Their sound definitely has a Buzzcock, faux-British accent vibe with some very poppy elements (listen to the intro and end of "Sleeping Aides and Razorblades"), but I wouldn't call them pop-punk. I think I like them too much to call them that. They just have some very good tunes that are fun to listen to and shake your butt. I can't believe that I discovered them and now there is no more music to look forward too! It really is sad because the album was receiving some great reviews and they were looking at some label action before the whole car accident thing happened, another excuse why subways aren't so bad. If you want to check them out, their site has some mp3 snippets. Songs to seek are the ones mentioned above and "Rumours in Town."

    The Anarchist, The Solopsist

    Back in college, I borrowed the Wicked Farleys' Sentinal and Enterprise from my friend Pete. I loved and cherished that CD and tried so hard to hide it away so that he would forget about it and never ask for it back. Of course he did ask for it back, but then it didn't matter anymore because somebody got a CD burner and I got a copy of my very own.

    Eventually I kind of wound down on it, as tends to happen with any CD that you listen to day after day. But last October when I received my little white magic box of potentially-illegal music spendor and was scrounging though all my piles of old CDRs, I found that burned copy and re-realized what a totally bitchin' album it is. I don't think it's even possible for me to put suggested tracks at the end of this post because the whole freakin' thing is just great.

    To give you a point of reference, the Farleys make me think of what might happen if Faraquet started playing a bunch of Blonde Redhead covers. What I mean is, there's a lot of rough and tumble math sound in there, but underneath it lies some delicate and vulnerable melodies. Not that the Farleys are a bunch of miserable butterflies, but you know. Plus the album is liberally sprinkled with little electronic bleebles and bloobles.

    Now that I've recovered this great album, I find out that they have a whole bunch of other EPs and split 7"s. I've never heard any of this stuff, but I can't imagine that it's not really awesome. The thing that scares me is that they're don't seem to be playing any shows, and their tour page says something about "holding your breath for the reunion", so I don't know whether they're over or what. I hope not.