Saturday, 1 May 2010

A Springtime playlist, Okazaki

1 Ulrich Schnauss

I can only do Japanese homework to instrumentals so I’ve been listening to a lot of Plaid, Boards of Canada and Ulrich Schnauss. I saw him supporting Chapterhouse (who I really don’t get but he was dancing like a nutter to them) at the Live 11 Bar in Osaka a few weeks back. Each of his three albums, shortsightedly written off as MOR electronica, are masterpieces. Suddenly The Trees are Giving Way: . No, he doesn't sound like Enya.

2 Now streaming pre-release from the NYT website, The National’s new album - 'High Violet'. On a first listen, the initial tracks sound over-instrumentated, too Arcade Fire, but their albums are always deceptive growers which turn better than good. As at 1 May 2010, you could still listen to ‘Afraid of Everything’, an early stand-out from High Violet. They remind me of Furniture, the Great British unknowns of the late 80s whose corner I fought at grammar school whilst everyone else were into The Mission (etc). . If NYT’s site has since been updated, you can hear it here:

3 The best pop record single of 2009, I still think:
(Royksopp – Happy up Here). But the second track and single off Junior, The Girl and the Robot, runs it close ( ). Alas, after Tracks 1 and 2, the album crashes.

4 New Interpol album on the way. With an eye on my return to London, I hope they delay touring before the Summer. I liked ‘Our Love to Admire’, which Pitchfork ( ) panned, and it sounded especially good live. For the record, the comparisons with Joy Division are way off the mark and the Editors are cheap (English) imitators.

5 If 4. seems a little epic, and one-paced, the Julian Plenti (Paul Banks of Interpol) solo album sailed pretty much beneath the radar but contained some edgy (and patchy) stuff.

6 The most talented solo female artist out there, yet ignored by the British Music Press. Oh dear, what happened to Emilie Simon? Her latest stuff was Kate Bush karaoke.

I used to played her songs to my more mature French classes. Some loved her; others found her annoying. One of them honestly asked “does she actually say “Don’t f**k me” in that song"? (No she doesn’t.)

7. Susume Yokota. Back to the instrumentals. More kanji benkyou then. Japan’s main man for ambient. This (kodomotachi - ) is one of the highlights from Sakura but I preferred Love or Die. Someone’s paired it on Youtube with extracts from ‘Night of the Hunter’ starring Robert Mitchum, a film which also inspired music by Shack and (the late, legendary) David McComb.

[Talking of whom, I missed the Triffids reformation at the Barbican since I’m in Japan, although I’ve got mixed feelings about that particular venture, anyway.]

8 I played their album ‘23’ all through January. Not whilst doing Japanese homework. Blonde Redhead – The Dress. Sound to me like Depeche Mode in their pomp – I mean, before their decline - fronted by a scary, ‘elsewhere’, possessed Japanese who, the lyrics and interviews tell us, likes riding horses. Awesome live. Or

9 Still too good to be massive, The Clientele. . Not background music so I rarely listen to this, officially the Greatest Band in the World (according to English language polls carried out in my street this morning).

10 A classic from the last few years which sounds like a cover version of a classic (which it isn't). (Excuse the whistling, not on the original from Back Numbers).

I still wear my Luna (RIP) T-shirt. This might just be risque in Japan, where Luna is a brand of sanitary towel. I even saw a ‘pink bar’ called Luna Sherry near Shizuoka once.

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