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.

This entry was posted in American Music, 音楽 (Japanese music), Music, Music of the World and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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