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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Cmq2VSkpQ0 . 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). http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/magazine/25national-t.html?pagewanted=5 . If NYT’s site has since been updated, you can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ktu_yr4v5k
3 The best pop record single of 2009, I still think: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmfQfkzL0-k
(Royksopp – Happy up Here). But the second track and single off Junior, The Girl and the Robot, runs it close (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfckrfOYAy4&feature=related ). Alas, after Tracks 1 and 2, the album crashes.
4 New Interpol album on the way. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VakqM_mJMqY With an eye on my return to London, I hope they delay touring before the Summer. I liked ‘Our Love to Admire’, which Pitchfork ( http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/10413-our-love-to-admire/ ) 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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gt40__1OlqU&a=Rwk24M38PR0&playnext_from=ML
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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf5olM0v9-w 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.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3koM_0VdVI
7. Susume Yokota. Back to the instrumentals. More kanji benkyou then. Japan’s main man for ambient. This (kodomotachi - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GemQVvqxBE&feature=PlayList&p=02A959BEDF48A847&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=3 ) 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 http://www.safeconcerts.com/events/the-triffids-barbican-2010.asp 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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC4whWGWOXA&feature=related Or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sVBM1nXBa8
9 Still too good to be massive, The Clientele. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRssVlZwPFk . 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). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6HWbtV5J1w (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.