Sunday, December 27, 2009

Periodic album review

What's the poison for the last few weeks? Let's see...

The xx, "xx" (Young Turks Records, 2009)

The first album by The xx, an English indie rock band.  I was recommended the album by a friend.  It is quite impressive.  At once ethereal, at once exciting.  At once calm, at once frenetic.  It is a pensive album that appears to play into the legacy created for it by dream pop, while at the same time moving it both closer to mainstream and, paradoxically, also in a new, inspiring direction.  Worth your valuable dollars.

Florence and the Machine, "Lungs" (Island, 2009)

Another British indies album.  This is Indie pop at its best.  Florence Welch has an amazing voice, and it is well-complemented by these catchy tracks which feel unexpectedly exciting.  Putting aside the tracks that have garnered them mainstream success, I enjoy in particular their second single, "Dog Days Are Over" (T1) and "Cosmic Love" (T9).  I'm curious as to where they will go after this.  Worth your valuable dollars.


This is DAISHI DANCE's first album in two years, after doing the famous "the Ghibli set" album and a string of remixes, particularly for Nakashima Mika, whose collaboration track "Memory" is probably the cornerstone of this album (also having been featured in a prominent commercial for the Kanebo cosmetic line "KATE" this year.).  The album continues DAISHI DANCE's trademark piano-based house style, this time mixing it with more famous vocals such as COLDFEET and Kinbara Chieko, as well as instrumental collaborations with the shamisen players the Yoshida brothers.  It's a very solid album, but it doesn't seem quite to match the "punch" that their last original album, 2007's "MELODIES MELODIES," had.  Still, some of the tracks are quite standout, and it's nice to see DAISHI DANCE experimenting with how to integrate their unique sound in new ways.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Periodic album review

Gareth Gates, “What My Heart Wants to Say” (SonyBMG, 2002)

After letting this one sit on my shelf since it was released, I finally got around to listening to it this week in procrastinating bliss. Gates is the runner-up in the first round of Pop Idol, the British show that produced Will Young, as well as its more renowned American spin-off American Idol and the trend of the musical reality show. Overall, the album is well-balanced and very much intended for Gates’ voice. “Unchained Melody” and “What My Heart Wants to Say” are the stand-out tracks of the album, but listening to it in light of all the Idol winners and runner-ups that have released CDs since then, the album really shows how time has altered the franchise. The album is mainly songs that would be sung by a singer on the show, rehashes of “classic” songs with classy band accompaniments. Good, neither outstanding nor disappointing.

Aoyama Thelma 青山テルマ, “Emotions” (Universal Music LLC, 2009)

Thelma’s first album, “Diary,” was surprisingly balanced and well-crafted for someone who was in danger of being a one-hit wonder with the hit number “Soba ni iru ne,” an answer song to the earlier “Koko ni iru yo” featuring SoulJa (who has not fared as well in the music world). This second album continues to hone the R&B sound created in the first album, and without a stand-out song to draw attention from the album as a whole, the pieces appear to fit together even better than before. The only “bad” song on the album is “WANNA COME AGAIN,” inspired by m-flo’s “come again,” which is a jarring disruption from the mellow beats of the album, but which stands well on its own. Worth your valuable dollars.