Yearly Archives: 2004

Utada Hikaru releases new remix single in January


Following the success of her remixed first single, Utada Hikaru teams up with remixer Richard “Humpty” Vission on her next single, “Exodus ’04”. Vission’s remix of Utada’s “Devil Inside” topped the Billboard Hot Dance Tracks chart in October 2004, and the new single scheduled for a January 2005 release includes a remix by the Madonna producer. No release date for Japan has been scheduled. Utada released her US debut album, Exodus, in September.

Remioromen performs at Budokan in March


Remioromen has booked a concert at Budokan Hall to coincide with the March 9 release of its second album. Tickets for the concert go on sale Feb. 12 through Disk Garage. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the concert starting at 7 p.m. The still untitled album follows a succession of monthly releases, starting in January with the single “Moratorium” and continuing with another single, “Minamikaze”, in February. Remioromen is also scheduled to perform at the end-of-year event Countdown Japan 04/05.

Still finding a Muse

Angelina’s full name is Angelina Esparza, and if you follow DJ Krush at all, her name should be familiar.

Krush introduced Angelina on the track “Aletheuo (Truthspeaking)” off his Shinsou ~Message at the Depth album.

Angelina’s scathing lyrics about post-9/11 American nationalism summed up the tone of Krush’s Shinsou succinctly. Her pouty vocals also called to mind ACO’s performance on the single “Tragicomic”.

In June 2004, Angelina — dropping her hard-to-pronounce (in Japan, anyway) Latina surname — released her debut album, Muse. Krush is nowhere to be found, although he did provide a remix for Angelina’s debut single, “Babybayboo”.

The creative literacy Angelina displayed on “Aletheuo” comes across in her own music — for the most part.

Muse is a busy album. It’s clear Angelina wants the best of both worlds — pop maturity on the level of Utada Hikaru or Yaida Hitomi, but creative daring on the level of ACO or Shiina Ringo.

She has a wide grasp, but she’s also traded off cohesion for diversity.

Muse starts off with the minimal “My Life” — just Angelina and a folk guitar. She follows that introspection with the mechanical animal sense of “Akai Melody”, a hard rock song complete with haunting synthesizers and hip-hop scratching.

“Babybayboo” combines folk guitars with dance beats. “Lyrical” sounds like half-assed Timbaland, while “my name” has a techno beat.

Just when Muse couldn’t get any more scattered, Angelina throws in some jazz-pop (“Ride”), industrial (“Know the lies”) and Georgia blues (“Pathetic”).

It’s an admirable effort, but the scattershot approach loses its impact on the album’s middle tracks. The writing from “Lyrical” to “Poison Berries” isn’t as wildly fetching as “Akai Melody”, “Babybayboo” or “Telephone booth”.

“Pathetic” does, however, put Muse back on track till the end.

Angelina’s intentions are incredibly good, and it’s encouraging to find women artists who don’t want to leap through the usual idol hoops.

But there’s a sense that Angelina’s own muse still needs to find a more direct and focused voice.

m-flo releases new single, DVD


m-flo will release a new single and DVD on March 23, 2004. The DVD contains a myriad of content, ranging from promotion clips from the group’s latest studio albums, Astromantic and Astromantic Charm School, plus live footage from the “m-flo Live 2004 ‘Astromantic'” tour.

On the other hand, the still-untitled new single features Emily going by the name Sister E and Diggy Mo’ from Soul’d Out. m-flo’s previous single included a cover of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “The Other Side of Love” and featured Yoshika on vocals.

Looking outward

Shiratori Maika sounds really comfortable in an introspective setting. And it would be human nature for her music to reflect that comfort.

That’s not to say she doesn’t sound good rocking out.

On her third album, Gemini, Shiratori sounds good.

Two-thirds of the album is safely esconed in the faster end of the metronome, and it’s not until the end of the album does she turn inward.

And when she rocks out, she stretches to some unprecedented territory.

“Kimi no Yowasa” sounds like Shiratori snuck an advance of U2’s How to Build an Atomic Bomb — the song starts off sparsely with a rumbling bass line, only to give way to chugging guitars and eventually a hint of a dance beat in the chorus.

“Sakebu Sakana” calls to mind some early 80s post punk influences, most notably New Order and the Smiths.

Shiratori indulges in another U2 quote, starting “Wait a Minute” with the same chords as “Desire”, then combining a gritty guitar sound with some funky drumming. Think Lion and the Cobra-era Sinéad O’Connor.

The single releases from the album — “Kowaremono” and “Sora Kakeru Niji” — indulge in the same conventions as her previous singles. They’re not as wildly catchy as “Shelter” or “Red Clover”, but they’ve got the kind of memorable writing that seeps into the subconscious after a few listens.

After “Wait a Minute”, Gemini scales back drastically, but it doesn’t crash, despite the preponderence of slow songs that make up the last third of the album.

“Rain” seethes with a smoldering intensity, while “Kaze ni Kike” builds to a grand finale, much like the conclusion of her debut album, Hanazono.

The songs on Gemini are much stronger than those on her second album, Toogenkyoo, and she continues her collaboration with producer Yayoshi Junji.

Yayoshi, however, doesn’t have the kind of punchy finesse as previous producer Takemune Negishi, and it’s a curiosity whether Takemune could have given Gemini a stronger sound.

As it stands, Gemini is still a beefy album. Shiratori would do well to tap into more extroverted writing because it suits her nicely.

Where is the line?

A funny thing happened the more I listened to Björk’s Medulla.

I lost interest in it.

It’s a common occurrence to happen to any album, but Medulla left an astonishing impact on first listen. It didn’t take long for me to rank it on my year-end favorite list, but a few weeks ago, I took it off.

So what happened?

Medulla has been described as a “mostly” a capella album. Björk pushes the capabilities of the human voice as a musicial instrument, layering minimalist motifs, splicing up choral accompaniments, producing strange timbres.

The Icelandic singer cited Meredith Monk as an influence, and it definitely shows on such tracks as “Oll Birtan” and “Ancestors”.

The album travels a gamut of accessibility — from cryptic (“Mivikudags”) to clear (“Vokuro”), sparse (“Show Me Forgiveness”) to cluttered (“Where Is the Line?”), pop (“Who Is It”) to avant-garde (“Ancestors”).

There’s nothing she’s not willing to try, and there’s a lot here to appeal — and to challenge — everyone.

But that initial impact doesn’t last. After the creepy layers of “Where Is the Line?”, the dischordant harmonies of “Submarine” and the sweeping punctuations of “Oceania”, Medulla loses steam.

Thing is, Björk works best when her wilder impulses are tempered by — or conflict with — her pop sensibility. What made Post and Homogenic work so well are a combination of catchy hooks and bizarre abandon. Like throwing car parts, bottles and cutlery off a mountaintop.

Medulla edges close to abstract expression but doesn’t go all the way. How different would this album have been if it were “completely” a capella, instead of “mostly” a capella?

The album just isn’t weird enough. It would have been totally possible for Björk to go utterly bugfuck with her voice and still maintain that important tension with her pop self.

For reference, she should have looked to eX-Girl’s compact but wild 2000 album, Big When Far, Small When Close. The Japanese trio concentrated exclusively on their voices — slight drumming from Fuzuki aside — and produced a breathtaking work.

That’s not to say Medulla is a bad album. It would be tough to find an album more sonically beautiful.

“Triumph of the Heart” is a triumph of rhythm. “Vokuro” proves Björk needn’t limit herself to English. And “Where Is the Line?” is just plain cool.

Björk indeed succeeds in proving the mettle of the human voice. But a work this daring could have given more to discover over time.

Bonnie Pink, Shonen Knife vie for SXSW 2005


Bonnie Pink, Shonen Knife, DMBQ and the Pillows are among the 16 artists applying for showcases at the SXSW 2005 music festival in Texas, the festival’s Asian office announced. Scheduled for March 16-19, SXSW hosts a number of Asian-themed events, including the ever-popular Japan Nite. Past performers include Number Girl, Love Psychedelico, Lolita 18, FOE and Romz Record Crew. A full festival schedule will be announced in February.

SXSW 2005 artists tenatively scheduled include:


Bonnie Pink

Clara Bell


Electric Eel Shock

The Emeralds

Gito Gito Hustler

Guitar Wolf

The Hot Shots



Petty Booka

The Pillows

Shonen Knife

Suns Owl

Titan Go King’s

How co-dependency sounds

When it comes to co-dependency, nothing beats the relationship Duran Duran has with its fans.

Duranies who have stuck with the band throughout its myriad line-up changes possess an unbridled optimism that Duran Duran can recapture its early fame. It happened once before a decade ago with The Wedding Album.

The band itself rewards these fans by playing all the same hits on its tours, dusting off a rare song for the extreme old timers. Even its recent single releases are shored up by past work.

“Save a Prayer”, a song from 1982, shows up twice on The Singles, 1986-1995, a boxed set covering the band’s latter-day repertoire.

This co-dependent relationship comes to its crux with the release of Astronaut, the first album to feature the band’s original line-up in 21 years.

Guitarist Warren Cuccurullo is gone, and all three unrelated Taylors — Andy, John and Roger — are back. To reward the lapsed fans waiting (somewhat breathlessly) for this reunion, Duran Duran has filled the album with a set of songs steeped in the bright colors of its past.

Some things about the band’s sound are incredibly familiar.

With Roger Taylor’s disco drumming serving as foundation, John Taylor can once again indulge his love for Chic.

Andy Taylor, perhaps the sharpest musician of the bunch, resumes his role as overlooked member, punctuating with a guitar riff here and there but not really driving much else.

Nick Rhodes, of course, dominates with his keyboard work, and he’s all about razor sharp, square lead timbres now. None of that ambient bullshit from way back when. (Who the fuck is Alex Sadkin?)

Simon Le Bon hasn’t written a cryptic, new Romantic lyric in years, and thankfully, he doesn’t make a misplaced attempt to recapture that youth. Thing is, he’s too old to make something as awful as “Bedroom Toys” sound convincing.

The production work, provided by Don Gilmore, Dallas Austin and Nile Rodgers, is just as heavy-handed as before, but updated to sound like a modern day release echoing the past.

Astronaut is certainly the cleanest album Duran Duran has ever recorded. It’s also the most lifeless.

Duran Duran has recreated a facsimilie of its optimistic sound, but it forgot to include any actual optimism. Hell, even Liberty has more raw energy coursing through it than Astronaut.

For so long, Duran Duran has had to fight for its chops that an “us vs. them” mentality infused brashness into such works as Big Thing, Medazzaland, even the multi-million-selling The Wedding Album.

None of that bravado was preserved for this reunion. Yes, the original line-up does possess a special chemistry, and some tracks on Astronaut remind listeners of it.

“Nice” is an aptly-titled confection, while “Finest Hour”, “Chains” and “What Happens Tomorrow” have the tunefulness of which Duran Duran is master.

But the rest of the album sounds like how a co-dependent relationship would feel — an effort to make the band feel good by making its fans feel good.

I’m not convinced. The Duran Duran I grew up listening to were torchbearers of progress, a band restless enough to challenge itself and explore new things.

Astronaut is not progress. It can’t even pass itself off as tribute.

When the original line-up can produce a work that makes Duranies think for themselves, I’ll buy into the reunion for real.

Curse of the best new artist

The 47th Annual Grammy nominations have been announced, and I am a bad person for wishing this, but …

I hope to diety Maroon5 wins the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Kanye West is way too talented to be cursed with that award, and if any band deserves the Best New Artist curse, it’s Maroon5. Hell, I wouldn’t even wish it on Joss Stone either.

Los Lonely Boys would also deserve some Best New Artist obsolesence because, as OmarG points out, these guys are boring as fuck.

L’Arc~en~Ciel releases new single in January


L’Arc~en~Ciel will release a new single, “Killing Me”, on Jan. 19, 2005. The band’s first release since “Jiyuu e no Shootai” in June, the new single finds L’Arc~en~Ciel scaling up the speed of its sound. The coupling song is a recording of “Jiyuu e no Shootai” billed under Punk~en~Ciel, in which the band members switch parts.