Tag Archives: music

Treats for ears

Reviving an occasional series on ten minutes hate, here are the Top 5 Records currently bringing joy to my ears:

1. Javeon McCarthy – Lost Time (T Williams Remix)

It is rainy season here in Japan, so there are days when we can’t see much of anything through the rain. Still, these haunting lyrics of lost love, set against a beat you will find difficult to ignore the invitation to dance to, will make even the greyest of skies seem suddenly brighter:

2. Fact mix 327 – Disclosure

The series of mixes released by Fact magazine are always worth more than one listen and this from Disclosure doesn’t buck the trend. By three minutes in I already knew it wa the best mix I had heard all year and then it proceeded to get even better. Don’t miss out!

3. Cajmere & Russoul – Let’s Dance

Watch the video, practise the moves, hit the club, be the toast of the town.

Thank me later.

4. XLR8R podcast – Braiden

Another quality series of mixes, another great DJ. What’s not to like?

5. Flight Facilities – Foreign Language ft Jess (Will Saul & Tam Cooper remix)

More great lyrics, an amazing vocal and deft remix by Simple Records founder, Will Saul. Almost too perfect…

Hopefully that has you in the perfect mood for whatever shenanigans the weekend holds for you. As ever, let me know your top 5s in the comments, below and be sure to have a cracking one!

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Going missing

A grey sky, making it too easy to feel miserable. The heel fell off my boot as I walked into work, leaving me limping all day. Over-tired, I had slept too long, veering from one lucid, unsettling dream to another without any pause, so that I found it difficult to escape from the feeling of having disappointed some faceless authority, failed to measure up to what was expected of me and faced down accusatory tones, even after the alarm had intruded.

Days like today it is impossible to fight the urge to go missing for a while, even if it only is in the virtual sense. Turn off the internets, pick up a book, a notebook, a pen. Write letters, listen to music loud enough to have the neighbours cursing your name and hope that tomorrow the sun will shine again. Perhaps that is enough.

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The price of everything

A comment on my post about this week’s book signing event made from the direction of the mortal bath, when added to a Golden Week spent with delightful visitors from back home, has suddenly opened my eyes to a universal truth. Crikey, life in Tokyo is expensive at times.

I realise that I now regularly pay 4,000 yen (slightly over thirty notes) for a night of clubbing without batting a heavily mascara’d eyelash at it, when back in the East London days, a fiver would be all I would need for admittance to some of the city’s finest warehouse raves. A taxi home once the last train has been missed will cost slightly less than four grand, but is still a hefty chunk of cash and remember, no drinks have been bought yet.

Still, payday is approaching and summer fun is on the horizon. Ticket details for the forthcoming Tokyo performance by the xx were released today and I allowed myself a couple of moments of getting over-excited about the prospect of going. I love their sparse beats, plaintive lyrics and am sure that seeing them would be a highlight.

Then reality kicks me in the head. Tickets have been priced at forty-five quid (5,800 yen). I paid about the same to see The National last year, a band who have released five albums and a stack of additional songs and who were on stage for almost three hours. It felt at the time, and still does, like a good return – much as I hate to be measuring my enjoyment of music in such a way. I suppose I should be grateful that I am able to hand over actual cash in return for a ticket at all, when the xx’s London dates have completely sold out, having been released in a ballot.

And yes, I do appreciate that it costs money to run a club and to fly bands and DJs in from overseas. I don’t begrudge anyone making a living from selling their creativity, especially when the use of it results in me having a cracking night out. That said, there are times on the dance floor when wide open spaces loom all around and the thought that it would be better for the room to be full with people paying less is difficult to push away. If everyone is priced out of going clubbing and gigging, where will that leave the respective music scenes in a decade’s time? We will all be the poorer, not just the promoters, if they allow the atrophy to become irreversible.

So, with some reluctance, I will be sitting this one out. Hoping instead to pick up on some smaller, less well-known, less high-priced gigs and nights out over the summer, to enjoy the immediacy of live music without completely breaking the bank. And for now, I will have to content myself with sitting in my room, writing and humming along to the xx as I do.

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You can’t, you won’t and you don’t stop, MCA come and rock the sure shot

It is difficult to credit, when you consider their later preoccupations, that the first incarnation of the Beastie Boys was a gift to tabloid headline writers, creating outrage wherever the group went, causing riots and scandalising sleepy British society.

That it was all taken seriously was amazing even to my 10-year-old eyes, who could see that the Beasties were meant to be a real-life extension of the Saturday morning cartoon shows I was glued to. With their Volkswagen-owner bothering jewellery, Ad Rock’s baby-faced clowning and the custard pie antics of the Fight for Your Right video, the moralising made it even more certain that I and many other kids far from their native Brooklyn would love them.

Of course, history records that the band had the last laugh on everyone who predicted that their brand of juvenile humour would begat nothing more than a one hit wonder. The moves from frat house soundtrack to enlightenment now look so assured that again, it is difficult to recall exactly how close to being written off they came. Teaming up with the Dust Brothers to make an album now as universally loved as it was initially ignored, organising concerts in support of the Free Tibet campaign, apologising for the worst anti-women tirades of their Licensed to Ill days in the lyrics to Sure Shot.

The Boys done good.

And that is before we even get to the music, the incredible brilliance that is the Sabotage video:

The wonder of Intergalactic: I can’t be the only one who never walks through Shinjuku station without thinking of the lads dancing in a crowd of bemused Japanese commuters, can I?

And now that high whine is silenced. I first heard of MCA’s illness when learning that touring in support of their latest album was on hold pending his recovery from another round of treatment. 47 is far too young and cancer is a bitch. But as a Buddhist, perhaps he would have celebrated the impermanence of life, knowing that it is short for all of us and the end is inevitable. What matters is to live it to the full and bring happiness to others while we are here.

On both counts, MCA delivered.

Goodbye and thanks for all the tunes.

R.I.P. MCA.

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Top 5 Records of 2011

Missed doing this last year as I was toasting myself to a crisp on a beach in Thailand, so it seems long overdue!  I know you are probably all a little weary of ‘best of’ lists, but it has been such a cracking year for music that it would be an awful shame not to share some of the love with your ears.

1. I Break Horses – Winter Beats

In a year so full of albums to fall in love with – from Slow Club to Oneohtrix – it seems cruel to have to choose one, but I Break Horses’ debut Hearts demands the accolade.  Layers and layers of perfection, so the songs blow you away on first listen but still keep enough back to reveal further delights on subsequent plays, it is a beautiful, beautiful piece of wonder.  If you don’t already own it, you MUST.  No question.  And if you don’t believe me, trust The Line of Best Fit, who made it their album of the year.

There are a couple of gems I could have picked, but I have gone for the one I discovered first, the stunning Winter Beats:

2. Octo Octa – I’m Trying

A sublime, silky, Amerie-sampling, soul-laden piece of loveliness from American producer Octo Octa, certain to get you in the mood for whatever tonight’s celebrations may bring:

3. Sully – Let You

I first discovered Sully via his mix for FACT magazine, yet it has been difficult to find out much else about him, as he seems to be that rare breed of producer that shuns publicity.  First album Carrier is another essential listen, mixing strong beats with soulful melodies to sound, in the way all good dance music does, brand new and classic at the same time.

Again, it is tough to choose a favourite, so here is the one that first caught my ears’ attention, with its sparse beats and tough bassline, Let You:

4. I Draw Slow – Goldmine

Slight change of pace for this one, a song I discovered via a friend and have rarely gone a day without playing since, a true mark of quality.  I Draw Slow meld American bluegrass and traditional Irish melodies to provide the perfect accompaniment to this haunting tale of a bad girl falling for a good guy:

5. The National – England

No-one following me on Twitter or reading ten minutes hate this year could have missed how much I fell for The National, even more so once they were able to play their long-delayed Tokyo gig.  I know that latest album High Violet was released in 2010, but hey – my site, my rules.  So I choose this stunner, the words to which never fail to put a tingle up my spine:

So, that’s my 5!  I am sure to have missed many other gems, so please let me know yours in the comments.  It has been such a crazy year for news, politics and life that concentrating on music seems at times dreadfully self-indulgent.  However, I like to think the opposite is true and that we need great music more than ever right now.  Whatever comes, I wish a very happy Year of the Dragon to everyone who has read the site this year.  Thank you!

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What a difference a day off makes…

Yesterday:

Today:

And may I recommend Load Your Eyes from the excellent I Break Horses:

Time to kick back, recharge the batteries and get ready for the fray.  Rage levels will no doubt be back to normal very soon.

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We should play Tokyo more often

It’s rare for us all to be in good moods at the same time.  We should play Tokyo more often…

Our songs don’t mean much in English either, so don’t worry.

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‘The waters are rising’ – The National in Tokyo, 09/11/11

This shouldn’t necessarily be an earthquake story.  It should be a music review, of a band and how they played, the songs they sang in whichever order, and how happy they made everyone that heard them.

But it is set in Japan in 2011, so of course there’s an earthquake.

The National were meant to play in Tokyo for the first time on 17 March this year.  I wasn’t even supposed to be going, having been unable to get the night off work (here we finish late and gigs start early).  I was trying to be stoic about the disappointment of missing something that I had been keen to see since spying the advert in December.  There would be other chances, I reasoned, they weren’t really my favourite band, there was only one of their songs that I adored.

Then the plates conspired, the waters rushed in and everything changed, for some of us more than others.  People left Japan, perhaps never to return, handing over tickets to those who stayed for a gig we weren’t sure would ever take place.  Biding my time, I bought a couple of albums worth of songs and discovered much more to love.  So much so that I chafed like a kid forced to wait for Christmas when the new date was finally announced.  November?  But that’s miiiiiiiiiiiles away!

Until suddenly it isn’t.  You are packed into a venue so intimate the band could be playing just for you, so close to your neighbours it is like a Yamanote line train.  The band walk onstage to Dylan’s ‘The Man in Me’ and it as well as the Big Lebowski – your second favourite Coen brothers film – give you a big grin.  So much anticipation.  So long to wait.  Could anything live up to the hype?

Well, of course.

Listening to them on record does display traces of humour, but you might be unprepared for how funny The National are.  They are tough on themselves – Matt Berninger accuses himself of messing up two songs, Aaron Dessner promises that the next time they play in Tokyo they will have better jokes – but they are playful, at ease with each other and yes, funny guys.  Still, they are not here for the stand-up, unlike the angels of ‘England’ never needing to be desperate to entertain.

There is a gentle start from the gorgeous ‘Runaway’, before the ‘kind of like a pop song’ ‘Anyone’s Ghost’ and then it is back to third album Alligator for ‘Secret Meeting’.  Perhaps it is the louder moments from latest ‘High Violet’ that get the crowd jumping, either ‘Ghost’ or ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, but there is beauty in the quieter moments too.  And almost a tear during ‘Abel’, for the friends that should have been here to see this but are now so far away.

The band mention it too, speaking simply of the horrible events that kept them away and their feelings about them.  Also mentioning that now they have been – and almost managed to get to grips with the Metro – they will be back.  It gets loud cheers from the crowd, as of course it would, but they are genuine ones.  Remembering how Japan felt as people left or postponed visits and how happy we are to see visitors…

Especially ones who bring songs like ‘Terrible Love’ for us to leap around to, hands in the air and yelling the words, the atmosphere perhaps so infectious that Berninger heads into the crowd to sing it from the back, mike lead borne aloft courtesy of some heroics from the roadies as he goes, surrounded by an array of smartphones and dazed expressions.  Did he really do that?

All too soon we reach the end, an acoustic ‘Vanderlyle Cry Baby Geeks’, which everyone joins in with, as instructed – ‘if you know the words or even if you don’t’.

It is a lovely moment, still I can’t be the only one getting chills from all these voices from Japan and elsewhere singing the line ‘the waters are rising’.  Those dark waters and their after-effects brought so much pain still to be healed that an eight-month delay to hearing a band doesn’t seem like such a big deal.  Even so, I am glad they finally made it and hope it won’t be that long until the next time.

Photos by Kate Borland

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Autumn leaves, autumn sounds

Leaves:

Sounds:

I love this time of year.

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Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust

Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust.

- The Clash

The Clash? Just a band.

- Scroobius Pip

Last week’s announcement of new dates by what is usually described as (take a deep breath) ‘seminalManchesterindiedancecrossoverband’ The Stone Roses caused a predictable backlash in certain quarters.  You can always rely on the Daily Mash to tell it like it is

While I will happily confess to quite liking some of The Roses’ songs, and can even listen to a couple off the almost universally loathed ‘Second Coming’, it is difficult to find much to argue with in this, from the Guardian’s Sam Wolfson:

The Stone Roses… are Primal Scream in need of editing; a band with a couple of nice songs that go on too long. Their real legacy is this huge show on an island that wasn’t an island that everyone who was there says sounded awful. They are a live band most famous for being shit live.

And let’s face it, if you wanted to hear a terrible, off-key rendition of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ being played over a crappy sound system, you could wander into most karaoke bars at a certain hour of the night.  There seems to be little need to fork out £55 plus booking fee to see the now haggard originals, unless you are incredibly keen to pretend that it is the early nineties again.  Even John Squire, quoted in popbitch, seems unsure:

“I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses” – John Squire, 2009

“We’ve rehearsed, we’ve written songs and in some ways it seems like 15 years ago. It’s quite strange” – John Squire, 2011

Perhaps this mythology-building seems particularly hard to countenance for anyone with a passing acquaintance with dance music’s early years, because the way the rock legends were built up into untouchables was something that house – like punk before it – promised was going to be done away with.  The amount of samples and varying influences being thrown in to the mix meant that it was possible to appreciate the past, while never losing the joy of the new.  I believe this blend is at the heart of the love of music, yet if one exists without the other you end up mired in your own glory days or recklessly running from one new trend to another.  Balance is key.

Music moves pretty fast at times, and few other than the professionally fanatical have the chance to keep up.  In the mad scramble, bands and tunes that might have become loved are often lost, so that there is no shame in revisiting past sounds which may have been overlooked.  To avoid doing so could mean missing out on discovering a new favourite, a real tragedy.

But the relentless backwards gaze becomes damaging at the point at which the adulation for the past chokes the airways of the new.  If everyone paying through the nose to watch Mani and co amble through the classics could also be persuaded to chuck in a fiver to watch some unsigned bands, perhaps we wouldn’t be doomed to a chart full of nostalgia-peddlers and end-of-the-pier talent show winners.  Maybe.

It is also hard to get away from a feeling that The Roses had their moment in the sun.  They had all the attention that a band could wish for and – if we are honest – fucked it right up.  Choking under the pressure to perform was largely what they did best (worst?)  Now, older and wiser, they are seeking to seal the legacy and earn one last great payday,  but such an attempt to rewrite their history must be doomed to failure.  At the first sign of arguments or no-shows the music press will be clicking Ctrl+C on the old headlines again.  Perhaps their cause would be better advanced by packing the headlining slots full of up and coming bands who can only dream of such exposure.

But always remember.  The Stone Roses?  Just a band.

Photo borrowed from here, which also contains an article demolishing some of the other nineties indie myths. Worth a read!

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