Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Clip(s) of the Week Mar. 23: A Tribute to Japan

In respect to Japan, here are a couple of clips of three different Japanese artists from different types of genres.

Boadrum 77 - The Boredoms

On July 7, 2007, Japanese noise-rockers, the Boredoms, held 77 Boadrum, performing with 77 drummers at Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn, NY. This the sort of performance that demonstrates the band's exuberance, and although their music isn't exactly accessible, it's one hell of a ride. The Boredoms would perform 88 Boadrum the next year on August 8, 2008.

Farewell - Boris (Pink 2006)

Metal cult-favorites, Boris, are one of the loudest bands on Earth, as seen and heard in this clip. Farewell was the introduction track on 2006's Pink, an album worthy of a comparison to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless in terms of layering sounds and textures. But this is Boris's version, loud with downtuned basses, pounding war-like drums, and heavy guitar riffing from the one and only, Wata.

Chapter 8- Seashore and Horizon - Cornelius (Fantasma 1998)

One of the best artists of Shibuya-kei, a Japanese pop phenomenon, Cornelius is often compared to Beck. Although this isn't really a clip, this song (which features back vocal harmonies from American indie band, Apples in Stereo) is one of the best of his catalog and the centerpiece of this classic album, Fantasma. Shibuya is one of the most popular and trendy shopping districts in Tokyo, and the artists incorporated pop from the West, and eclectic fashion.

This sounds like a Japanese anime version of the Beatles, and as playful as Cornelius and the rest of the Shibuya artists are, there is a sweet innocence and youth to the music that makes it so attractive and endearing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Clip of the Week Mar 16: Deltron 3030

Virus - Deltron 3030 (Deltron 3030 2000)

Deltron 3030 is comprised of turntablist Kid Koala, producer Dan "the Automator," Nakamura, and rapper Del the Funkee Homosapien, an underground hip hop supergroup. The concept album is set in the year 3030, a post-apocalyptic world ruled by large corporations, and Deltron Zero's fight against them.

I recently bought a reissue of the album on vinyl, and it inspired me to post this cool music video from the group. The Automator production is brilliant, Koala's work on the turn tables are top notch, and Del's lyrical imagery and flow are out of this world, demonstrated on "Virus."

The three would go on to work on the Gorillaz's first album in 2001.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My bloody St. Patty's Day

From the Irish folk-punk fusion of The Pogues' “Rum Sodomy and the Lash” to the political protest of U2's “War,” Ireland has produced a variety of great records.

While many St. Patrick's Day celebrators may be caught in the local pubs butchering “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” others may rejoice with the band from the other side of Dublin, My Bloody Valentine.

“Loveless,” released in 1991, is the best example of the shoegaze movement, where bands stood motionless during performances, staring at their feet, similar to what the many St. Patrick's Day celebrators will be doing on the latter part of their fun night.

The luscious and textured arrangements meshed with airy melodies and sonic experimentation manifested a soundscape that almost feels tangible. The boy-girl vocals of Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher only add to the sensual experience that oozes provocativeness, something that may be hard to find in a local bar.

“Only Shallow” kicks off the record with whipping guitars contrasting with Butcher's sleepy vocals. It’s a good rocker to play while pre-gaming back at the dormitory or pounding those Irish Car Bombs at a party with your buddies.

The lush “To Here Knows When” serves as a St. Patrick's Day celebrator's motto for the night, and shows off the talents of the band, meshing Butcher's vocals with layers of feedback and guitar distortion that still feels ventilated and beautiful.

At the end of the night or the morning after, self-reflect with the distorted and piercing ballad of “Sometimes.”

Shields sings, “I don't know, when I lay down on the ground, you will find the way it hurts to love,” with imagery of post-party activities and exploration of reasons that might have impacted a crazy St. Patrick's Day night.

The hangover of “Loveless” proved to be difficult for Shields, and his collaborations with other acts like Yo La Tengo were good, but never lived up to the grand expectations left by My Bloody Valentine's last work. Then again, there are few records that do.

“Loveless” is a hazy masterpiece that plays like a forgotten dream or a St. Patrick's Day celebration that was good enough to not be remembered.

- James Vu

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A record label Fiasco

After a series of delays and disputes with the Atlantic Records, on March 8 Lupe Fiasco released “Lasers,” a collection of overwrought tracks that plays on rap's worst musical trends.

Fiasco, who has been an industry rebel from the beginning, was apparently forced to compromise some of his artistic vision on “Lasers,” and it really shows on tracks like “The Show Goes On.”

Not only does it have a bad, sped up sample of an indie rock staple, Modest Mouse's “Float On,” Fiasco raps like a T.I. impersonator. This sounds like a record label's step-by-step process of how to make a rapper sound credible while appealing to the masses.

On “Words I Never Said,” Fiasco criticizes both sides of the political spectrum, calling Glenn Beck a racist, and trumpeting not voting for Barack Obama, while taking shots at the media, “If you turn on TV all you see's a bunch of what the fucks, dude is dating so and so blabbering about such and such, and that ain't Jersey Shore homie, that's the news.”

Although Fiasco displays some of his lyrical wizardry on the song, the music itself is muddled down by heavy synthesizers and a chorus sung by Skylar Grey, who sounds like Rihanna without an accent.

The dance-poppy “I Don't Want to Care Right Now” recalls a bad Timbaland production, with another vocal guest, MDMA.

If ecstasy were a singer, it would not be MDMA, and his singing with the cheesy synthesizers during the chorus create a bad European club atmosphere.

One of the better tracks, “Till I Get There,” sounds like the Fiasco of 2006's “Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor” with ideas of staying positive and working through difficult times.

“Doctor, doctor please, the fame ain't painless enough, that's 'cause you ain't famous enough, you got a little name, but your name ain't ringing enough,” Fiasco raps about what seems to be his frustrations throughout the whole process of “Lasers.”

In 2007, “The Cool” received four Grammy nominations and a Billboard Top 40 hit in “Superstar,” one of Fiasco's best songs.

What more does an artist have to do to have more creative reins over their music? Atlantic Records should take a tip from Sean “Diddy” Combs who allowed Janelle MonĂ¡e complete control over her genius debut last year, released under Bad Boy Entertainment.

Not only was her album completely original, it was refreshing, and Fiasco who has been a breath of fresh air in mainstream rap with his clever rhymes and unique outlook, should not have to sacrifice his imagination to sell records.

- James Vu

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Clip(s) of the week Mar 9: Flying Lotus

Zodiac Shit - Flying Lotus (Cosmogramma 2010)

MmmHmm - Flying Lotus feat. Thundercat (Cosmogramma 2010)

Some interesting videos from my boy Flylo. "Cosmogramma" was probably my favorite album last year along with Janelle Monae's "The ArchAndroid." It was just a great release out of left-field that mixes a variety of musical styles like jazz and techno. The album flows and evolves, creating a soundscape you just want to bathe in.

Friday, March 4, 2011

No alarms but no surprises on new Radiohead

It should come to no surprise that “The King of Limbs,” Radiohead's eighth studio album released on Feb. 18 through their website, sounds nothing like their last record.

With 2007's “In Rainbows,” Radiohead had seemingly perfected their sound, combining brilliant song writing with their developed studio tricks, creating their strongest set of melodic songs since “OK Computer.”

Fans may get the wrong impression with rushed reviews from critics and websites racing to see who can review the new album first, but this, like most Radiohead albums demands multiple listens to sink in.

“The King of Limbs” sounds more constructed than written, electronic heavy with loops of digital sounds, drums and other instruments. These songs are really like limbs, but those of a model dressed and draped by a designer who has mastered their craft.

There is no denying that Radiohead are true savants of mood and atmosphere, and the first two drum and rhythm heavy tracks, “Bloom” and “Morning Mr Magpie,” kick off the album with momentum, and demonstrate why Phil Selway is one of the best drummers in rock.

“Feral” continues with Thom Yorke's obsession with electronic music, sounding like something off of Burial's “Untrue.”

The appropriately named single “Lotus Flower” serves as the centerpiece of the album. Not only is it the most accessible song on the record, it might be the best.

Yorke's sweet falsetto and lyrics retain human expression, and “Lotus Flower” provides some sexy and romantic lines like “slowly we unfurl as lotus flowers, 'cause all I want is the moon upon a stick, just to see what if, just to see what it is.”

The closest thing to classic Radiohead, “Codex” is another standout, an ethereal piano ballad, that seems to be about letting go and delving into the unknown.

Radiohead did exactly that in 2000 with the masterpiece “Kid A,” an album that concentrated on electronic experimentation and less on guitar driven rock.

There lies the problem in “The King of Limbs,” there just isn't enough of the unknown and wonder in the textures and details anymore. The well-oiled machine has efficiently etched out a sound that has already been perfected.

Whatever the case, it’s still an intriguing listen and a good release from the enigma that is Radiohead, arguably the best band in the world.

- James Vu