Listen to "あの娘の彼" ("That Girl of His")
Get the 21-song retrospective aqui. Well, lookee here: It's a fabulous collection of 1990s singles and rarities from one of our all-time favorite Shibuya-kei artists, Kojima Mayumi. I found this lovely item in Shibuya itself, almost certainly at one of the smaller indie used CD places dotting theTokyo neighborhood's outskirts. I'm currently cooling my heels with family in Corvallis, Oregon, where I'll be boxing up the "literally thousands of" (actually more like 20 or 30) Cambodian, Lao, Thai and Vietnamese CDs I found last week on Foster Road in Portland. If I find any of the covers online I'll go ahead and post while I'm here; but pretty much, if I do manage to post over the holidays, I'll be limiting myself to items like today's offering: Stuff I've already got on my computer but, for whatever reason, haven't yet shared with y'all yet.
Listen to "Ölürsem Yazıktır" Get the 2-CD album here. Perhaps because Portland is constantly overcast and drizzly, Stumptowners compensate with high-end coffee and music to cut through the gloom--you can't hold out your arms and flap them frantically like a baby chick crazily anticipating regurgitated worms without hitting someone in the face who has just walked out of a record store on their way to a coffee shop. Seriously, I have never seen so many record stores in my life. Two days ago, at one of the biggest (Everyday Music, 1931 NE Sandy Boulevard) I found a used copy of Sezen Aksu's second album, Serçe (Sparrow), which I've been searching for for years. I'd write more about it, but my friend and Portland host Rodney is throwing me a cocktail party that is set to begin in--eek!--15 minutes. Meanwhile, you can read a bit about Aksu, and get her first record, here.
Listen to "Rap: Vo chong lam bieng" Get it all here. Greetings from Beervana! Forgive my absence these last several days, but I'm on the road for the next couple of weeks, currently in Portland, Oregon, where dear friends have been shuttling me from one Southeast Asian media store to the next. I was not aware of this before, but the City of Roses has quite a significant population of people from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam--and I've been grabbing up music from each of these places to restock the shelves of the old bodega. I will not be posting too much while on the road, mainly because I lack a scanner. However, in cases where I'm able to find images of the covers online, I'll do my best to keep this humble blog active during the holidays. I found today's offering by Tuấn Anh at a wee Vietnamese media store nestled in Fubonn Shopping Center off SE 82nd Ave, in what is more or less Bridgetown's current Chinatown. I know nothing about Anh other than that he's got a Facebook page and is apparently very popular among the Vietnamese living in this area. The rap song above (one of two on this album) is a duet with Family Love member Christian Le; most of the songs on this CD are not, however, rap, despite the groovy drop-out white letters on the pink field in the bottom right-hand area of the cover. That's it for now--I've got a hot date with the biggest bookstore in the continental United States, where I'm hoping to flesh out the International Music section of my modest book collection.
Get it all here.
You find yourself among words: "people," "faces," "clothing," "teeth" and "hair." And words. And many words. The meaningless hegemony of the involuntary. The wet words touch your shoulders on each side. When words are there you care that they are there. Like them, you too want to get as far away as possible from where you were born. Words are like cushions to protect us from the knowledge of isolation. The screen here's very strange. When you look "into" it you often have the sensation that it is not a solid thing, protecting you from what's behind. Nothing, no words. We've never managed to get all the way away from them. Words blow along the ground into his mouth as he sings. Apologies to Paul Bowles.
It's that time again: Holiday lights have filled the windows; radio stations are besotted with Christmas ditties; Fox News commentators have dusted off their War on Christmas toilet paper cozies; and dorky listmakers everywhere are starting to put together our Best Ofs for the year. But, can we be honest? What I offer are really not the best albums of 2012. For one thing, how could anyone in good conscience ever confer such a status on anything when there is no qualitative system we can all agree upon to measure "bestness"? When, in fact, "best" can--as we've seen happen this year--include sonic driftwood by the likes of
Bruce Springsteen and Frank Ocean? It should be pretty ding-dong clear that the word means wildly different things to different people--anything from "I'm sympatico with this dude's politics" to "I guess the D'Angelo album is going to be delayed another year." So ... awrighty, then. Here, in order of their release dates, aremy personal favorite albums of the last more-or-less 12 months:
Birdstriking Birdstriking January, China Purchase a copy of the CD ($15.60 US) or individual songs at 75 cents each, here. I first came upon this album half a year ago while doing research for this mix; I somehow forgot I even had it until maybe two months ago. Since then, it's been the most re-listened-to album on my iPhone. This obnoxious review in Timeout Shanghai to the contrary, what separates Birdstriking from other Beijing two-chord wonders is their unflagging level of energy: they might be the Metz of mainland China. I don't care who invented this general sound--Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground, a group of Neanderthals in prehistoric El Castillo--what ultimately matters is who is currently kicking the most ass with it. That would be these kids.
Listen to "Monkey Snake"
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Noisecat Sunday Sunset Airlines February, Korea Buy a digital copy for $7 here. One of the nicest things about doing a music blog is that people begin to come out of the woodwork, offering to turn you on to music from their own part(s) of the world that for, whatever reason, you've given short shrift to. Noisecat, who I "discovered" thanks to a guy currently based in Seoul going by the name of "Male Cousin" who put this mix of South Korean pop (as opposed to K-Pop) together for us last month, is a bit like one of those American bands from the 1990s who wishes they were British and it was the 60s (e.g., the Dandy Warhols or Brian Jones Massacre). They remind this listener a bit of 22Cats and Guitar Vader--my nerdy, hipster-hat-y, "look how much I know about shit" way of saying that I've quickly grown very, very fond of them. As, come to think of it, so might you.
Listen to "Running"
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Mati Zundel Amazonica Gravitante March, Argentina Procure an MP3 version of this album for $8.99 here. Anyone remember the Nortec Collective? Well, a similar movement is afoot in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where musicians like Zundel and others associated with Zizek (aka ZZK) Records are blending electronica with local forms, such as cumbia. A fitting thing to be happening in a city about which the great Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama once said "the epic and lyrical meet."
Listen to "Bronca"
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The Yellow Dogs Upper Class Complexity May, USA/Iran Get the 4-song EP for $4 here. My first experience of this four-piece was a live performance at the Brooklyn Bowl that I witnessed with my friend Carol in October that completely blew both of us away. After that, we became obsessed with the group: we downloaded all of their available music and watched No One Knows about Persian Cats, a film about the underground music scene in Tehran that the Yellow Dogs appeared in. I even begged my editor at Open City to let me write about them. A self-described dance-punk unit (we hear a bit of Gang of Four and Siouxie and the Banshees, yeah?), the Dogs are currently living in Brooklyn and working on a full-length collection of new songs that they hope to have ready some time next year. Listen to "This City"
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Sharliza Jelita Strange Things June, UK/Singapore Seize your own digital copy ($12.88) or autographed CD ($16.10) here. This album is to pop music what Falai's Elementi is to dessert offerings: decadent, fruity and a bit self-consciously exotic. (That's Carmen Miranda in the lower right quadrant, btw.) This record--Jelita's first after having moved from Singapore to apparently still-swinging London--lays down one sugar-filled gnosh after another--from the one-two (fruit) punch of openers "No Go Pogo" and "Is That Your Underwear on the Floor?" to the heartbreakingly gorgeous "Breaks My Heart in Two" and curtain-closing title song. But what I love most about Strange Things is how it can feel simultaneously pop-pitch-perfect and amateurishly awkward ("I Want More Sun"? "Credit Crunch"?), as though, hey look!, one of your best friends made a record and you're sort of obligated to listen to it, but actually, whoa, wait: It totally doesn't suck. Listen to "Breaks My Heart in Two"
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Melhem Zein 2012 June, Lebanon Preview and grab it (gratis) here. Is it a failure of imagination or just brutally candid honesty that leads one to title their album after the year it was released? Maybe it's an avant garde or, like, jazz thing? Whatever. If the year 2012 was this album, we'd have all had us one of the greatest years of our entire freaking lives. Oh, and guess how I discovered this album. No, seriously. Give up? On Amtrak. That's right. I had my computer open and was listening to something--God knows what--when suddenly, freakily, someone's entire iTunes library was being shared with me. I didn't even know such a thing was possible (I'm not exactly young or tech-savvy). I remember incredulously scrolling through this person's vaults and randomly clicking on something from this album and, then, as the hard-driving music began pounding its way through my brain, my hands shaking with excitement, I quickly scribbled guy's name in my notebook. Within a few days I'd found my own copy at Alfra (25-23 Steinway Street), a few blocks from where I live. Listen to "Taj Rassi" * * * MC HotDog Ghetto Superstar June, Taiwan Want it? Go here and scroll all the way down. MC HotDog, known for laying down some of the most vulgar lyrics over spliced-and-diced super-cheesy pop (from Glen Frey to Teresa Teng), released this year what your humble Bodega proprietor believes to be the second-best album of his career (first best would be this one). I picked up my copy at my favorite Manhattan go-to mom-n-pop, P-Tunes & Video, featured in the header image of this blog. How can you not love an album that includes a song titled "Party Like Hotdog"? Listen to "Party Like Hotdog" * * * Abou el Leef Super Leefa July, Egypt You'll find it for nuthin' here. Currently the fastest moving disc in the Bodega (click link above), owing to a shout-out from the fabulous Doug Schulkind at WFMU. I'm glad, because this really is the kind of record I want everyone to hear and know about, it's really just that good. Plus, how else can I bring it up "casually" in conversation? ("Yeah, it's like Abou el Leef says in 'Hatofrag Aleena' ...") Also-also? "Super Leefa." Now, that's a catch phrase just waiting to be super-memed into the collective conscience. Listen to "Khaleek fe Elnoor" * * * Pussy Riot Kill the Sexist! July, Russia Your copy is waiting right here. The runaway success of PSY's "Gangnam Style" has apparently made Seoul a newly popular destination for American vacationers; can't say the same for for Moscow after Pussy Riot members were imprisoned and their videos banded in Russia. But these gals so quickly and thoroughly became an international cause célèbre, there's already a doc detailing their story premiering at Sundance next month. The music, which I actually do happen to like, is almost beside the point. Listen to "Ubej Seksista (Kill the Sexist)" * * *
My Little Airport Lonely Friday October, Hong Kong Pick up yours for $14.49 at YesAsia. Another P-Tunes & Video find, this is the seventh album by my all-time favorite band from Hong Kong. When Nicole and 阿P started a decade ago, they sang almost exclusively in English; 10 years later, only three of the 17 songs on this album are in English, including the uber-charming "How Can You Fall in Love with a Guy Who Doesn't Know Gainsbourg?" If I were one half of a twee pop due (阿G, maybe?), my song would be "How Can You Fall in Love with a Guy Who Doesn't Know My Little Airport?" Listen to "How Can You Fall in Love with a Guy Who Doesn't Know Gainsbourg?"
Listen to track 5 Get it all here. Even before discovering the real significance of these guys via Tim Abdellah's thrilling
Moroccan Tape Stash, I knew there was something special about this band on first listen. They just didn't sound quite like any other north African music I'd ever picked up--they were funkier, maybe even somehow more "knowing." I'm almost certain I found this in the Nile Deli on Steinway Street, but exactly when, I'm no longer sure. I do have a vague recollection of my thought process, which was something like: "Are those supposed to be guitar picks? This album must totally rock. ..." Forgive me for the lack of song titles, but here is what looks like a track list on the CD itself:
Rabbits, Pussycats, and Dreamy Romance
"The jam session was like a strange, new world to me! The savage, rhythmic beat of the drums had us all in a dreamy hypnotic trance! But the beating of my he...