Sunday Shuffle 3/11/12 – Cover Songs Special

So I did it again, been about a month since last I posted. Been pretty busy at work and I also took a weekend to head down to my parents’ place in Maryland. The other thing that’s been keeping me pretty busy s my attempt to begin a career in voiceover work. Will probably make a post about the voiceover thing sometime soon, but for now let’s get to business…

Cover Songs Special

So, after being away for a couple weeks, and before that a few weeks of the same, I decided to switch thing up. The other night while I had my iPod on shuffle, I heard a really awesome cover song, and it made me start thinking about all the great cover songs out there, so of which are even better than the originals. So, this week I decided to fill the post with all of my favorite cover songs, that I feel are at least as strong as the originals (though to be fair, I wasn’t completely familiar with ALL of the originals). To avoid wasting time debating which of these are better than others, I’ve decided just to post in order of band name, adding some comments for each one.

9mm Parabellum Bullet – Motorbreath (Metallica)

Very rare, almost unheard of in fact, that a cover of Metallica should sound even closely as good as the original. This might be blasphemy, but personally I think I enjoy it quite a bit more than the original Metallica track. I do happen to be a big 9mm Parabellum Bullet fan though, and aside from a few tracks, never been the biggest fan of Hetfield’s vocals.

Alkaline Trio – Wait for the Blackout (The Damned)

Just a quick comment on this one, as I have to admit, I had never heard of The Damned before I heard this track. That said, having gone back and listened to the original, I would have to say that Alkaline Trio definitely improved upon it.

BBQ Chickens – Sesame Street Theme

Second song in the linked video (first song is actually a bonus cover of Sham 69’s If the Kids Are United). This is just a crazy Japanese punk cover of the Sesame Street theme song, nuff said…

Bush – Wild Horses (The Rolling Stones)

Let me begin by explaining, I was an obsessive Bush fan back in high school, still enjoy them a bit now, but I couldn’t enough of them back then. Heard this cover and REALLY enjoyed it, but at the time had no idea it was a Rolling Stones track. Considering the fact that I am generally not at all a Rolling Stones fan, that was a bit of a surprise.

Bush – The One I Love (REM)

Now this one has some real meaning to me. I was at Woodstock (in the video above), up in like the 5th row, having one of the best experiences of my life and this cover just blew my mind. Still think it’s really well done.

Deftones – To Have and To Hold (Depeche Mode)

Deftones and Depeche Mode, how could you go wrong? Despite being a fairly big Depeche Mode fan, I had never heard the original version of this song. Having heard it now, the original is a pretty good track, but this cover is an amazing track.

Deftones – Chaffeur (Duran Duran)

Here’s another 80s band covered by the Deftones, and another deep cut from a very famous band. Had never heard the original version of this either, have now and it’s really not that great, but this Deftones version definitely is.

Dia Frampton – Heartless (Kanye West)

OK, yeah, this is a track from last year’s season of The Voice, but this track is pretty amazing. Really cool, original take on a Kanye track and Dia’s haunting vocals just elevate this track to make it that much better.

dustbox – I Remember You (Skid Row)

Really sweet Japanese pop-punk cover of the Skid Row classic. Helps that the original is such a sweet track, but believe it or not, I think the energy they put into this cover really makes the song shine.

Emilie Simon – Come As You Are (Nirvana)

This is the song that inspired me do this covers post. Everyone NEEDS to hear this one. Amazing Nirvana cover from French pop powerhouse Emilie Simon. Covering a band as classic and important to music as Nirvana is always a risk, but wisely she changes things up quite a bit to make it her own rather try to mimic the original. And wow, does it ever work.

Emilie Simon – I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges)

Here’s another out there selection of a very well known genre song by Emilie Simon. And once again, DAMN, really does some awesome work with this one as well. Picks up a bit midway if it’s too slow for you in the beginning.

Faith No More – War Pigs (Black Sabbath)

Sorry for the weird video… Yet another risky choice, covering such an iconic song from such an iconic band, but they pull it off. I’ve always been a big fan of Mike Patton’s voice and I think it’s perfectly suited to this song. This is my absolutely favorite Black Sabbath song and I think I feel comfortable saying that this is just as good as the original. The one negative though is that is very little different from the Black Sabbath version, just a straight forward cover here.

Fishbone – Date Rape (Sublime)

Before I offend anyone at all, let me start by saying I love Sublime and this is a great Sublime track. Now that said, after this version, I don’t know if I’d ever listen to the Sublime version again. The bigger, funkier band of Fishbone really brings a lot to this song, and on top of that Angelo Moore’s energy and vocal stylings just turns this into gold.

immi – Lovesong (The Cure)

WOW, just wow… My favorite Cure song got even better, what can I say? immi nails it here with a really nicely produced electropop cover of an amazing track. Can listen to this over and over and never tire of it.

Love and Hates – Manah Manah (Piero Umiliani)

Awesome high energy Japanese pop cover of everyone’s favorite Muppet Show song!

The Lowbrows – Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag (Pigbag)

Here’s another one that I was completely unaware that it was a cover. Originally a sort of ska/funk dancey fun track from 80s British post-punk band Pigbag, The Lowbrows have tweaked just the slightest and turned it into a sick house track that would feel comfortable in any club.

Nature Living – You Gotta Be (Des’Ree)

What a crazy song to choose to cover, especially when you are a Japanese emo/screamo band… But it works, really, and not only does it work, it sounds like a good Nature Living song that could fit right in with their own stuff. This comes from a CD full of covers and as such, I’ll share a couple more.

Nature Living – Material Girl (Madonna)

Yup, that’s right, Madonna. They went there. And once again, it works, and they’ve really made it their own. Kinda odd that a guy would be a material girl, but otherwise it’s a good track.

Nature Living – Canon (Johann Pachelbel)

Couldn’t find a link or video for this one, but you can check out a clip at the link above. Not really the same as the other covers on this list, but I think this is a REALLY cool version of Pachelbel’s Canon in a slightly updated way.

Streetlight Manifesto – Such Great Heights (The Postal Service)

This is a REALLY cool one. I’m sure you’ve heard electronic covers of songs normally played by a band, but how about a band covering an electronic song. The horns playing the opening electronic bit is really cool and cleverly done. I still prefer the original song, but this one is a ton of fun.

System of a Down – Metro (Berlin)

Sweet kind of dark cabaret styled cover of 80s electropop song Metro by System of a Down. Haven’t heard this in ages, but when I started thinking of stuff to put on this list, it was one of the first things that popped into my head. Alkaline Trio also does a pretty good cover of this as well.

Verus the Night – The Trooper (Iron Maiden)

No direct link here, but you can check the song out on their MySpace page linked above. Never been a huge Iron Maiden fan, so any true fans out there might think this is horrible, but this Japanese metalcore cover of The Trooper definitely works for me.

Yum!Yum!ORANGE – La Bamba (Richie Valens)

So who’d ever expect a Japanese pop ska cover of a Mexican folk song? Certainly not me, but damn, it actually works, and it’s a lot of fun!

Yum!Yum!ORANGE – Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin)

Finishing things off, one more ska cover from Yum!Yum!ORANGE, this time it’s a cover of everyone’s favorite Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Not much else to say, but it’s nice that I could end things with such an upbeat fun song.

So that’s it for this week, hope you enjoyed some of the stuff on here, and maybe found some new bands or at least songs to add to your own iPod. Leave comment and any other great cover suggestions below. Thanks!

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Sunday Shuffle 2/12/12

Had a pretty busy weekend last week, what with a Fukuikenjinkai Shinnenkai on Saturday night (pic below), and a pretty enjoyable Superbowl on Sunday, so I didn’t get a chance to post a Sunday Shuffle.

Anyway, here’s the shuffle for this week…

1. Frou Frou – Must be Dreaming (from the album Details[2002])

Here’s a group I haven’t heard in a while. I originally got this album after hearing the Frou Frou track on the Garden State soundtrack, and for a while I couldn’t get enough of it. Definitely still enjoy it, but not something I listen to on a regular basis. This track’s not the greatest, though. It’s a long one with a bit of a boring house(?) beat that just doesn’t do much for me.

2. Street Sweeper Social Club – The Oath (from their self titled debut album [2009])

Supergroup of Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and Boots Riley from The Coup. Originally got this just because of who it was and high expectations, but didn’t end up listening to it all that much. Sounds a bit like Rage but with a different vocalist (who unfortunately can’t carry a track like Zach could). Not bad, but just nothing all that special. Kinda feels like it missing emotion or something, particularly in the vocals.

3. 凛として時雨(Rin to Shite Shigure) – a 7days wonder (from the album just A moment[2009])

One of my favorite Japanese bands. That said, their stuff is really out there and I really need to be in the right mood to listen to it. This track is a pretty good one though, nice dancey beat, some cool time signature stuff, but nothing too crazy, and some nice guitar work throughout.

4. RIZE – Japonican (from the album Foreplay[2001])

These guys are a pretty cool rap/rock group from Japan, still going strong after a good 10-15 years. I discovered these guys through a friend of mine while I was in college and have been a fan since, though some part of me still feels that there is something just a little bit cheesy and lame about their stuff. This track is an interesting one; they go a bit softer in this one, putting together a pretty decent reggae track. Sounds a bit like something you’d expect from an early 311 album.

Couldn’t find a video or mp3 for this one, but you can check out a clip here at the Japanese HMV website.

5. Mos Def – Habitat (from his debut solo album Black on Both Sides[1999])

As I mentioned last time with Talib Kweli, Mos Def is one of those artists that I feel like I should REALLY enjoy, so I got all of his stuff, and there are many tracks that I do love of his, but I’ve never completely gotten into his stuff. I generally listen to it when it comes on, but it’s not something I regularly listen to. Don’t really know this song at all, and after listening to it, it’s not bad, but it just doesn’t really hold my attention.

6. Wu-Tang Clan – Second Coming (from the album Wu-Tang Forever[1997])

Now here’s a rap group I do really enjoy, and listen to quite a bit, but this album is actually the album I’ve heard least out of everything they’ve put out. Basically, when I was in high school, I wasn’t really into them and only listened to a few tracks off of 36 Chambers, then when I was in college I (re)discovered them when they had their comeback with The W and Iron Flag, so I never really knew this album. Listening to this track, it turns out it’s not even really a Wu-Tang song. It’s really a less than appealing R&B song with some unknown female singer (at least unknown to me…).

7. 80kidz – Weekend Warrior (from the album of the same name [2010])

Here’s a track from a group I’ve talked about on my blog before. This is another CD I put in my iPod before actually listening to, and while it’s not at all bad, it’s not something I ever really listen to. After you get past the weird radio tuning stuff at the beginning of the song, it’s a pretty sweet dance track that I would definitely enjoy if it came on in a club. Not interesting enough to listen to all the time really, but definitely danceable and fun.

8. The Cure – Wrong Number (a new track on the singles collection Galore[1997])

Here’s a band I never really listened to in their heyday, but have since gone back and really fallen in love with (at least a handful of songs anyway). I only have their greatest hits album on my iPod and this is one of the tracks on it. It’s a more recent song of theirs and as such, one that I am completely unfamiliar with. Hmm, after listening, it turns out I do know the song, though not sure how, heh. Anyway, not a great track musically, but I am a very big fan of Robert Smith’s voice, so while I was ready to turn the track off, as soon as he started singing, I kinda enjoyed it.

9. Nature Living – walk upon thorns (from the album ANONYMOUS[2010])

This is one of the first bands I discovered while I was in Japan, and they were one of my favorites. Much like a lot of those Japanese bands though (Dustbox and Fact to name a few), they sort of got less adventurous and became more and more generic as they went on, with all of their stuff sort of just all sounding the same. Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good and that I don’t like them, just that I like the stuff I heard first a lot more because it was new and unique and I just listened to the new stuff a lot less. Listening to this track, it probably would have made me a fan if this were the first thing I’d heard, but I can’t say that it’s great. Now, to give credit where credit is due, they put out an album just before this one that was all cover songs (After All) and that is one of my absolute favorite albums of theirs.

10. Matisyahu – Jersualem (from the album Youth[2006])

Last up, we’ve got a track from the world’s best (and most likely ONLY) Hasidic reggae artist. I first discovered him while researching artists that would be playing at Summer Sonic that year. (Side note: even if you can’t go to Summer Sonic, or have no intention of going in the first place, check out the final list of performers on their website and give them all a listen. I have discovered so many new bands that way, including some of my absolute favorite artists). After hearing some of his stuff online, I saw this album in the store, picked it up on a whim, and was pretty much obsessed with it that summer; which is kinda funny since I’ve never been all that big a reggae fan. I saw him live that year at Summer Sonic and had a blast. After that though, I sort of just stopped listening to him, for whatever reason. This isn’t the best song on the album, but the whole album is pretty good.

Well, that’s it for this week. All in all a pretty weak showing this time. To be honest, I’d probably have skipped all 10 of these if they came up regularly. Now, they’re all on my iPod for some reason or other, and you may like some of these a lot more than I do.

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Sunday Shuffle 1/29/12

OK, so it looks like I lied again.  Never got around to redoing the rest of last week’s list, and I suppose I could use that as the beginning of the list this week, but the songs are random anyway, so nothing changes for any of you, and it would just be all that more boring for me, so I’m back this week with 10 new, fresh tracks.

1. Chromeo – Waiting 4 U (from the album Fancy Footwork[2007])

Some more Chromeo for you this week, more of their awesome 80s styled synthy pop music. This time around, it’s a track off of my favorite album of theirs, Fancy Footwork.  Not my favorite song, but definitely a fun, chill, funky track. Really great music for cruising around in a car on a nice day.

2. Midori – Yukiko-san (from the album Aratamemashite, Hajimemashite,Midori desu.[2008])

Alright, here’s a bit of a treat.  This one is going to be very polarizing, and you are either going to love it or really hate it. Also, let me apologize for the pornographic album cover if it offends any of you. Now for a bit of information about Midori.

Midori is a crazy Japanese jazz fusion band with hardcore punk and occasional J-pop stylings. Picture a three piece jazz combo (upright bass, piano, and drums), with a cute Japanese schoolgirl as the lead singer (and occasionally guitarist), only as they begin to play, you quickly discover that said schoolgirl nay actually be possessed by the devil himself as her performance is anything but cute.  Occasionally, she overcomes the possession and produces a fairly tame pop song, but they are few and far between.

This song is actually one of my favorites of theirs, and you can kinda get an idea of all of their different sounds in this one track. The intense screams of “DESTROY” are mixed with some cool jazz piano as well as occasionally glimpses of the J-pop cuteness that I mentioned. Anyway, if the description of this hasn’t scared you away yet, definitely give it a listen, you may really like it. Unfortunately, the band has since broken up, but they have released four studio albums and one live album for your listening pleasure.

3. Styx – Pieces of Eight (title track from the album Pieces of Eight[1978])

OK, so this one’s a little random. I make no excuses whatsoever for having this on my iPod, but I will say it is my father’s “fault.” Styx happens to be his favorite band and I grew listening to this stuff, particularly on long car rides on family vacations. Didn’t mind it as a kid, but detested it as I got older (aside from Suite Madame Blue which remains to this day one of my absolute favorite songs).

Recently though, I revisited some of their music, and discovered that I actually liked quite a bit of it. Pieces of Eight is one of three albums of theirs that I would actually put on to listen to (the other two are Grand Illusion and my favorite album of theirs ever since I was a kid, Equinox). As this song is a Dennis DeYoung ballad (much like Suite Madame Blue), it’s a pretty good one.

(Also, bit of a sidenote, for any of you who like Styx and Dennis DeYoung and are looking for new music with similar stylings, check out the band ‘3’ and particularly their album The End is Begun. They are a bit heavier occasionally, but it’s really fun stuff.)

4. YMCK – Family Racing (title track of the album Family Racing[2006])

Wow, what a mix this week! Here’s another band out of left field, and another interesting twist on jazz music. Were you to take any track off of this album and perform it with regular instruments, it would sound a lot like any other jazz band, but YMCK’s instruments are anything but “regular”.

All of the instruments in a YMCK song are approximated through the use of sound banks in the old Nintendo Entertainment System, and through the use of a Mac and a midi keyboard can be played live. In addition, they make use of the microphone in the Japanese NES controller to add vocal effects as well.

I was introduced to these guys by my sister’s boyfriend and immediately sought out more. I was living in Japan at the time and was lucky enough to see them live. Being an all electronic band, I was worried that they would just be performing to preprogrammed, “canned” music, but as I mentioned before, through the use of an NES (or more exactly a Japanese Famicom), a Mac with special software, and a midi keyboard, they play it live just like you would a normal keyboard. And the old school, throwback 8-bit videos that they craft for each song makes things even more fun.

Unfortunately, the track that came up on shuffle this time is just the musical intro to the album, but I stated in the beginning that no track will be skipped or substituted, so here it is. Hopefully, if you dig it at all, it will encourage you to check out more!

5. Chiodos – Lindsay Quit Lollygagging (from the rerelease of the album All’s Well That Ends Well[2006])

Great song! This is one of my absolute favorite artists, my favorite of their albums, and one of my favorite songs off of the album as well. This song is the song that inspired me to pick up piano/keyboard again after more than 10 years. Have played this song live several times both with a guitar and with a keyboard and always had a blast. Craig Owens’ voice shines in this song, the piano is simple yet beautiful, and the lyrics are really touching. Again, great song! The concept of unrequited love that is so powerful that even if you can’t have the girl, you are happy just for her to be happy (all the while of course hoping that someday she may be yours), is a concept that I know well and this song expresses it perfectly.

6. Enter Shikari – Pack of Thieves (from the album A Flash Flood of Color[2012])

Ooh, a brand new one! Enter Shikari is another one of my go to bands. They’ve got a really cool combination of metally screamo stuff with some cool electronic production, whether it be drum and bass, dubstep, house, whatever… And this album is by far their strongest yet. Their guitar work has gotten more technical, they’re experimenting more with the electronic stuff, and they even have some beautiful melodic work this time around. And to top it off, the message in their songs (political, environmental, etc) on this album is pretty cool.

This song isn’t one of my favorites on the album, but it’s still a pretty strong one. Definitely one of their more mellow tracks, it shows off a little bit of their new more melodic stuff while also giving you a bit of a taste of their electronic stuff (with a pretty sweet dubsteppy breakdown towards the end). Also, comes with a nice positive message to stand up and effect change. “Don’t be fooled into thinking that a small group of friends cannot change the world!”

7. Gorillaz – 12D3 (from their debut self titled album Gorillaz[2001])

Here’s an artist that I always feel like I should enjoy a lot more than I do. For those who don’t know, Gorillaz is a conceptual project put together by Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur, and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett, best known for his Tank Girl comics. The concept is basically a cartoon band (with very well developed back story and continuing narrative) that plays all kinds of different music, including bits of rock, pop, hip-hop, electronic, and more (often recruiting really cool guest artists from each genre).

Now, I love the story, love the characters, and love most of the singles, so every once in a while, I put on an album and expect to be blown away, but aside from the popular singles, I never quite connect with it as much as I think I will. That said, I do enjoy it all, and it is not at all bad stuff; it just doesn’t wow me as much as I expect.

Unfortunately, the song that came up randomly this week is one of those tracks that just doesn’t do it for me. Very repetitive acoustic guitar dominates, with bits of percussion and synth work, and the occasionally singing of the song name (and a little more at the end). Can’t really call it a song, and I’m not sure I’d listen to it if it came up on shuffle normally, but it wouldn’t be bad as background music playing while I’m doing something else.

OK, on second review, it seems like this track is an additional track only on a limited pressing of this album, and it was actually a B-side to the single Tomorrow Comes Today and also appeared on the G-Sides album, so it may not be fair to judge it as a proper song.

8. Bloc Party – Plans (from their debut album Silent Alarm[2005])

Not too much to say here, except that I generally really love Bloc Party, and this is still my absolute favorite album of theirs. I first discovered this CD (and this band for that matter) on a listening station at a record store in Japan and immediately bought it. Have to say I prefer the “rock”ier band on this album to the more electronic, dancier newer stuff, but it’s all really good.

I also have to say that this song is not one of my favorites on this album, but this album is one of the rare CDs that I really enjoy every song on, so this is still a really good song.

Could only find an acoustic version of this track on Youtube.  It’s the first time I’ve heard it, and I think I may like it even more than the original.

9. Talib Kweli – Going Hard (from the album The Beautiful Struggle[2004])

Talib Kweli is one of those hip-hop artists that I like to say I enjoy, but that I don’t really know too well.  (Mos Def is like that too, as is the stuff they do together under the name Black Star). There are a few songs of his that I absolutely love, and I really enjoy his style, so I put all of his music on my iPod expecting to really get into it. The truth is though, I don’t ever end up listening to it all that much and therefore don’t know much more than that handful of songs that I love.

This song is one of those that I really don’t know. After giving it a listen, I don’t think I can say it’ll become one of my favorite tracks, but it definitely displays what I enjoy most about Talib Kweli; it’s got a nice musical beat, but more importantly the words mean something. Kweli is really good at telling a story or getting an important point across in an entertaining piece of music.

10. Yum!Yum!ORANGE – fantasy (from the album ORANGE FES 33[2008])

What a horrible way to end this week’s shuffle… Yum!Yum!ORANGE started off as a great girl-fronted Japanese poppy ska band (think Save Ferris, but Japanese), who put out a couple sweet albums, before becoming much more pop heavy and overall completely forgettable. Don’t get me wrong, they were always pretty poppy, but they were definitely a ska band and I’m not sure you can say that anymore. Unfortunately, that seems to be the trend with Japanese ska bands with girl singers; they put out one or two really solid poppy ska albums and then get lost in J-pop land as they become more famous (possibly to make their music more commercially marketable).

Anyway, this track comes from their most recent original album (they released a ‘best of’ album after this), but it’s not even a song. For some reason they decided that every other track on the album should be this weird little 8 note melody played in a different ‘instrument’ every time. This is one of those tracks, played this time on what sounds like a child’s xylophone…

Yum!Yum!ORANGE – fantasy

Anyway, so as not to end on a down note, here’s one of their early ska tracks: Hoshi no Kakera

And just for demonstration’s sake, here’s one of their newer songs that is completely a pop song (with the brass section taking a back seat) BLECCH!:

Oooh, but potentially good news. They just released a new single (DAN!DAN!DAN!) after more than 3 years, and it sounds like they may be headed back towards the ska side of things. Not a great song, but shows potential.

So that’s it for another week of Sunday Shuffle.  Overall, not a bad group of songs, especially in the first half.  Couple of wasted short tracks that I would normally skip past if I were shuffling through normally. Would probably have skipped the Gorillaz track and maybe the Talib Kweli track as well, but the good songs in this list were great enough to make up for the not so great stuff. And it’s nice to have discovered some new Yum!Yum!ORANGE stuff with actual potential again.

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Sunday Shuffle – 1/22/12 (Part 1)

No movie this week, went to check out Relatively Speaking on Broadway instead. Three one act plays written by Woody Allen, Ethan Coen, and Elaine May, dealing with family relationships and the topics of love, death, and mental health. Great cast, REALLY hilarious, and definitely worth checking out if you’ve got time in the next week before it closes.

It being Sunday today, it’s time once again for the Sunday shuffle. 10 randomly selected songs from my iPod for your listening pleasure. Wonder what will come out this time…

1. Rise Against – Boy’s No Good (from the EP This is Noise[2007])

So up first we’ve got a quick little punk song from Rise Against. This being an EP and not an album, I haven’t listened to it much and don’t really know this song. After doing a little bit of research, I’ve discovered this is a cover of The Boy’s No Good from NJ hardcore/punk band Lifetime from their 1997 album Jersey’s Best Dancers. Having now listened to the original and the cover, I have to say I enjoy the Rise Against version more, though it’s not really all that great a song in general.

While I’m talking about Rise Against, I need to give credit to Pete Sheppard for introducing me to this band. He was constantly trying to get me into them, and I kept resisting. After hearing the album The Sufferer & the Witness (still my favorite Rise Against album) though, I was hooked and have since gone back and discovered their older stuff, becoming a definite fan. The last two albums, while very interesting lyrically and thematically, have been a bit of a disappointment though.

2. WISE – Wanna Know Ya (from the album Children of the Sun[2007])

So we’ve finally got our first hip-hop track in the Sunday Shuffle, from Seiji Kameyama, better known as WISE. Better known as one of the members of Japanese super group Teriyaki Boyz (featuring members of M-Flo and Rip Slyme in addtion to WISE).  Formed by producer extraordinaire, Nigo (of Bathing Ape fame), the Teriyaki Boyz took the world by storm working with artists like Pharrell, Kanye West, Ad-rock, Cut Chemist, and many more.

Aside from his work in Teriyaki Boyz, WISE has a decent solo career as well.  This track is from his first solo release. WISE’s solo efforts are generally made up of smooth, jazzy, R&B styled hip-hop often featuring female guest vocals. While certainly not the best rapper in the world, I’ve always been a pretty big fan of WISE. Unlike many Japanese rappers, his flows tend to have a real nice rhythm to them and he manages to come closest to something you might here from an English language artist.

Listen Here

3. The Cherry Coke$ – Oblivious (from the album Rouse Up[2005])

This one’s a fun one, celtic punk from Japan. Yes, you heard right, celtic punk from Japan. And done well to boot.  These guys could easily share the stage with bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, and in fact they have! This isn’t one of my go to tracks, but it is very representative of their style and well worth a listen! (In fact, I’ve listened to it three times now in writing this…)

The Cherry Coke$ – Oblivious

So, I just finished this post (all 10 songs), and accidentally left the page before it got posted on the site and lost all of the work but these 3 songs. I will redo it at some point in the next day or two, but here’s this for now…

To be (re)continued…

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Sunday Shuffle – 1/15/12

So here it, the all new regular post I’ve been talking about, the Sunday Shuffle. Once a week, on Sunday, I will put my iPod on shuffle and talk about the first ten songs to come up, regardless of what they are or how I feel about them. I may end up doing themed shuffles based on playlists at some point, but for right now, this will be a shuffle of everything.

Over the years, I’ve had plenty of people turn to me for recommendations on good music to listen to. I thought this would be a fun way for people to see what I’m into and hopefully find some new stuff that they’re into too! That being said, I have every song I own on my iPod and this really will be a completely random selection, so the songs that come up may not necessarily be recommendations from me. But of course, you may also not have the same tastes as I do, and may end up loving a song that I really have no care for.

So without further ado, here goes:

1.  Immi – Alice (from the album Spiral [2010])

What a great place to start.  This song defines the randomness of the Sunday shuffle. Despite owning it, I definitely don’t recognize it, and may never have heard it before. I’m a pretty big fan of immi’s and her unique blend of Japanese pop music with some pretty interesting electronic dance music. This song is sort of just middle of the road and probably wouldn’t have convinced me to seek out more, but it’s not a bad song either. For a real treat, check out immi’s cover of The Cure’s Lovesong.


2. Uplift Spice – Justice (from the album Memento [2010])

Sticking with the Japan trend, this time we move to the world of rock.  Uplift Spice is a pretty sweet Japanese hard rock band with some nice guitar work. My absolute favorite part of this band though is the female singer’s really unique, kind of theatrical vocal style. For those who know Shiina Ringo, it sounds a lot like her doing heavier rock style music.  Really cool stuff. I got a bunch of their stuff all at once and haven’t really listened to it all yet, but this happens to be a song that I’ve heard several times before and really like.  It may even be the song I first heard that got me interested in them.

3. Brandtson – Fighting Gravity (from the album Fallen Star Collection [1999])

The first American song on the shuffle this week, a song from the Deep Elm emo era. This is a band that I never really got into, but my sister used to listen to them quite a bit and I fell in love with two of the songs on this album (Breaking Ground and Things Look Brighter). Aside from those two songs, I’ve actually never listened through the entire album, and therefore don’t really know this song.  Listening to it now though, it’s pretty good.  Not my favorite, but I would definitely leave it on if it came up on shuffle. Kinda long though (for what it is)…

While I’m talking about this, I think I need to take a second to thank my sister for all of the music I’ve discovered through her.  Particularly in the second half of the 90s (but still continuing to this day), a lot of the indie rock, old school emo, and other lesser known music that I listen to has come from her.  Throughout the years, bands like Dashboard Confessional, Thursday, Death Cab for Cutie, The Faint, and a whole lot more were discovered through my sister. Who knows, if it weren’t for her, I may still be stuck listening to Nu-metal…

4. SBTRKT – Ready Set Loop (from his self titled debut album [2011])

Off again to another country, the next song comes from anonymous, London DJ SBTRKT. This guy is definitely one to keep an eye on.  Really cool, off-kilter, dancy music. This track is a bit of a quick one and definitely not the best on the album, but if it gets you to listen to some of his music it’s worth it. My favorite track on the album is definitely Wildfire, featuring Little Dragon. It’s a sweet dubsteppy track, with some really beautiful haunting lyrics.

5. Maximum the Hormone – Shimi (from the album Buiikikaesu [2007])

This next song comes from one of my absolute favorite Japanese bands ever, Maximum the Hormone, a crazy metal, punk, rock band that knows how to have a good time. This track returns me to those nu-metal roots I spoke about earlier, but without being lame. Maximum the Hormone just oozes cool. Like some of the other tracks, not my favorite song of theirs (it’s a little too chuggy and slow in parts), but it’s still a lot of fun and the very Japanese, melodic bits sung by their female drummer, Nao, break up the monotony pretty nicely.

6. Uplift Spice – Zero-In (from the album Paradigm Shift [2011])

So, 10 songs out of almost 7000, and we end up with two songs from the same band.  This time around, we’ve got a track from Uplift Spice’s newest album. This track is a bit more straight forward rock, with a bit of a breakdown in the middle.  Not bad, but nothing all that special. Still like her voice though…

7. Mew – Circuitry of the Wolf (from the album …and the Glass Handed Kites [2005])

Another country!  This time we’ve got Mew from Denmark, a really cool atmospheric rock band.  This comes from their second album, and it’s unfortunately just the musical intro to the album, so while still very beautiful, it’s a little bit boring. The album as a whole though is amazing.  I have to say I still enjoy all of the songs from the first album more as individual songs, but this album as a single piece of music works REALLY well. Also, if you have the chance to see these guys live, DO IT. Their music fills any arena and makes for a really cool experience.  It’s hard to believe such a big sound comes out of so few people. Plus the videos they display in the back are pretty cool as well.

This time I’m gonna put up a video with this track and the following track so you get a bit more than just the intro. Also, gonna use a live version, so you can get some idea of their live show. The second track, Chinaberry Tree, starts around the 2:30 mark.

8. Joey Eppard – Been to the Future (from the album Been to the Future [2002])

Back to America, we’ve got a track from Joey Eppard’s solo album.  Eppard is lead singer/guitarist of really cool prog rock band ‘3’ and brother of Coheed and Cambria drummer Josh Eppard. This guy is a brilliant guitarist with a really beautiful voice reminiscent of old Styx or something along those lines. This song is actually an acoustic version of a song off the ‘3’ album The End is Begun. Definitely give this one a listen, and more importantly, if you like prog rock at all, check out ‘3’, particularly Wake Pig and their best album The End is Begun.

9. Chromeo – Destination Overdrive (from their debut album She’s in Control [2004])

And now a trip back in time, or at least that’s how it feels. Chromeo puts out wonderful 80s style synthy electropop.  Think Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. Their second album, Fancy Footwork, is by far the best, and as such, I don’t really know this song too well. That said, it’s still a fun song, and one that I would definitely listen to on a random shuffle.

10. Plus-Tech Squeeze Box – CM#&'($_?>! (from the album Cartooom! [2004])

Last, we find ourselves back in Japan with crazy picopop band, Plus-Tech Squeeze Box. These guys generally play synth-heavy pop music, but this track is a bit of an odd one. Starting as a relaxing lounge track, it ‘changes channels’ to a jazzy bass line, and then once again to a bit of dancey pop riff, all within the span of a minute or so… Not really a song, so much as an ad for Plus-Tech Squeeze box.  Hm, thinking about it, CM means commercial in Japanese, so I guess maybe that’s exactly what it is.

Sorry, no sign of this one online, so here’s a random mix of Plus-Tech Squeeze Box stuff.

So, all in all, not a bad mix of stuff for my first Sunday Shuffle. Not the best songs, but a nice array of things. Should definitely give you an idea of what’s in store in the upcoming weeks. Dance, pop, rock, metal, whatever you might like. No hip-hop this time, but there definitely will be. Hope you enjoy at least one of these songs and keep coming back for more!

Posted in American Music, 音楽 (Japanese music), Music, Music of the World | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m really back this time, I promise…

So last week once again came and went without a post.  I really intended on writing, really I did.  But after a flooded bathroom and a nasty cold, I just wasn’t in the right mood to start things up.

Anyway, enough with the excuses, here’s my first review of the relaunched blog.  It probably won’t be as detailed or in-depth as it would have been, given the time since I saw the movie, but here goes.

Based on the first book in Stieg Larsson’s internationally acclaimed Millenium trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the newest thriller from director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network). The story is a bleak tale, set in Sweden, that follows two main characters; one, a man, Mikael Blomkvist, who after publishing a piece trashing a powerful businessman, finds himself convicted of libel. After stepping down from his job, he is approached by the head of a wealthy family with the job of solving a long unsolved murder case, under the guise of being hired to write a family history. The other story thread follows Lizbeth Salander, an emotionless, damaged woman, who for various reasons has grown up a ward of the state, as she deals with her own struggles and eventually finds herself tied up in solving the murder case as well.

Chances are, you are already familiar with the story, with the hugely popular books and a very successful Swedish film adaptation already available, so I will avoid too much discussion of the story, and instead focus more heavily on Fincher’s adaptation.

Before I get into the movie itself however, I need to stop and say, “What the hell was with that opening credit sequence?” The movie begins with what can only be described as a twisted James Bond movie opening drenched in black ink (that happens to also be flammable.) And all of this is set to a crazy, electronic cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song.  Huh? I don’t see the tie in…  Kind of over the top and disjointed from the fairly (stylistically) understated movie that follows.  That said, it’s visually stunning and makes for a pretty cool music video (but really, we could have done without it…)

Now, the movie itself.  Short review, I really liked it.  Fincher is definitely still at it, mixing some of his more recent mature storytelling with his older, darker, twisty work of the past.  Beyond that, the only way I can honestly review this movie is by comparing it to the already existing, well made Swedish film.  Was this version necessary? Probably not.  But does that mean it’s worthless and shouldn’t have been made? Definitely not. I was very happy with the Swedish version and would have remained happy had that been the only available version, however this movie is a completely different experience overall.  The Swedish movie was a very direct narrative that told the story simply and successfully.  This movie, as a Fincher project, oozes style (though nothing over the top) from beginning to end.

So which one is better? That is obviously a matter of taste, but since you are here and reading this, you’d probably like a more concrete answer.  From my opinion, the answer is without a doubt, the Fincher version.  To begin with, I am a huge fan of Fincher’s visual style.  As bleak and horrible as the story may become, the cinematography in this is beautiful. The shots of the Swedish countryside, particularly those in the snow, are absolutely stunning. Also, the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who previously worked together on The Social Network), sets the mood perfectly.  It’s hard to even call it music at many points throughout the film, but it really plays with your nerves and puts you in this odd, tense emotional state that really works with the story.

And speaking of the story, most importantly, I think Fincher’s version is a much better representation of the book. In the Swedish film, it is very much the story of Mikael Blomkvist throughout, and eventually we get Lisbeth Salander as a co-star, well developed for sure, but definitely a second string character.  In the Fincher film, from the very beginning, both of these characters are given equal importance and their stories alternate back and forth until finally coming together into one story line towards the end.  I really enjoyed this decision and it really helps to flesh out the characters and their individual worlds. It’s not completely perfect however, as it does come along with my one real complaint about this movie; the editing.  Because we are constantly switching back and forth between the two characters, it really requires some creative editing to make these transitions smoothly.  Most of the time this works very well, but when things start switching back and forth more rapidly, it makes for some very abrupt cuts that do feel a little jarring every once in a while.

Finally, the cast. For the majority of the cast, I’ll make a blanket statement.  I really enjoyed everyone cast in this film and the casting of this movie and the Swedish movie on a whole are fairly equal.  In fact, a large majority of the actors cast in this film almost feel as if they were cast to echo the other film. The one true exception to this is Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. I had originally seen the Swedish movie before reading the book and immediately fell in love with Noomi Rapace’s performance of Lisbeth Salander. However, after reading the book, and now having Fincher’s version, I was BLOWN AWAY by Rooney Mara.  She IS the character. Noomi Rapace’s version was an aggressive, feminist, strong female character that was headstrong and went through life with a real determination to never be taken advantage of.  It’s a great character, but she’s missing the lack of emotion and disconnect from the world that the character has in the book. Heck, in the book, they even refer to her as (possibly?) having Asperger syndrome. Rooney Mara gives us all of this. Devoid of emotion and going through life on pure instinct and defense mechanism, it truly means something when she develops a real friendship with Mikael Blomkvist. It adds real weight to a lot of the events that happen to her and the decisions that she makes throughout the film.

So, in the end, while this suffers from some editing problems, and an odd change to the epilogue of the story (not bad necessarily, just unneeded), it was a great film.  At over 2 and a half hours long, it is nearly as long as the Swedish version, and yet it never felt slow and seemed to be over much more quickly. I do own the Swedish version and will continue to return to both versions, however, for me, this is now the definitive film version of Stieg Larsson’s book. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, definitely check this one out (especially if you aren’t a fan of subtitles…).  For those of you who have seen the Swedish version, and even if you loved it, I would recommend watching this just to see another interpretation of the source material.  If you don’t like it, you can always go back to the Swedish film, but as it did with me, it just may prove to be your preferred version.

Now I only need to hope that Fincher finishes the trilogy (particularly because it was the second and third movies that really suffered in the Swedish versions, due to small budget and other constraints).

Finally, for those who’ve seen both:

Posted in American Movies, Books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m back!!

ただいま、I’m back….well, I will be soon.  Decided my New Year’s resolution this year would be for me to start this thing back up again.  Was really into it for a while and then just sort of stopped doing it, don’t really know why, other than that I just got lazy.

A lot has happened since the last time I posted.  Most importantly, I finally found a job!!  As of last September, I have been working as a dormitory supervisor at 慶應義塾ニューヨーク学院 (Keio Academy of NY), a Japanese boarding high school in Purchase, NY.  It’s been really great being able to keep my connection to Japan while being able to start up a life in New York.  I’m still kinda figuring the area out, but I’m loving it so far.

So what will the reincarnated World Through the Eyes of a Purple Moose be about?  Pretty much what it’s been, with a few additions or changes.  It may take a while to ramp back up to full speed, and I may not write as often as I did originally, but I will make sure to at least keep some kind of regular schedule.  To start off with, my first regular post will be the all new Sunday Shuffle.  Last week, while I was listening to my iPod on shuffle, a few really nice surprises came up, and I thought it might be interesting to share some of them.  So, starting this coming Sunday and continuing weekly, I will put my iPod on shuffle, and talk about the first 10 songs to come up; good, bad, or 普通, I’ll write a bit about each one, and it may even end up bringing up interesting stories and memories.

The other thing that I hope to start up as soon as I can are my regular reviews; music, movies, Broadway shows (I’m in NY!!), and more.  I recently discovered that my local movie theater does $7 shows (all shows) all day on Tuesday, and Tuesdays happen to be my day off, so I’ve been doing weekly movies on Tuesdays.  Tonight I went and saw David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and will hopefully get that review up before the end of this week.

Other than that, the rest of the blog posts will be about any cool events or happenings in my life, and maybe even the occasional rant or opinion piece.  As always, I appreciate the time you spend reading my stuff, and would love any comments or critiques, and will make it a point to respond to all of them.

Hope you’ll all come back!  よろしく!

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