Articles about music

Tunes for the body, heart, mind and soul.

Five great Japanese pop bands

When I lived in Japan (and even before then) I discovered lots of great Japanese music. (And also lots of bad music, but never mind about that.) Here are five of my favourite pop bands. None are particularly new, but maybe I’m just a “classic J-pop” kind of guy. I don’t know if all of these these could even be considered J-Pop — I don’t think all Japanese pop bands are necessarily J-Pop — but maybe J-Pop is more a state of mind than a sound anyway.

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Linda Linda Linda

Linda Linda Linda

Linda Linda Linda is a great movie about the Redemptive Power of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This may sound like a contradiction — surely most films about RPRR are pap. But Linda Linda Linda is a wonderful combination of arthouse weirdness, raw energy, social commentary and Japanese schoolgirls. With ingredients like that, it’s no wonder the result is so much fun.

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Out of the Moon — Goldenhorse

Out of the Moon by GoldenhorseGoldenhorse are the best pop band in the universe right now, and their two albums are a microcosm of all that’s good in music. Their jaunty melodies with dark undertones and the sometimes-sweet, sometimes twisted lyrics form an irresistible combination. Listen to Goldenhorse now and make yourself into a better person. Continue reading

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Kate Bush — new single and album

Kate Bush Aerial album cover

I am listening to the new Kate Bush single, King of the Mountain. This is very exciting because her last album came out in 1993 — clearly bands like Nine Inch Nails are mere amateurs as far as releasing long-awaited albums is concerned. So Aerial will be her next album, released later this year, and the first since The Red Shoes 12 years ago. As if to make up for the long wait, Aerial will be a double CD.

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No! — They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Gients No! album coverMy 2-month-old son loves this album, and so do his thirtysomething parents. That’s all you really need to know!

As a long-time They Might Be Giants fan, I was excited a couple of years ago when I saw this album in a shop; I was disappointed when I saw that it was a “children’s” album so I didn’t buy it. Well, now that I have a child of my own I thought it was time; and if little Jay is going to listen to childish songs, I’d prefer he listen to TMBG rather than endless repetitions of “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round”. So I bought a copy of “No!” for us.

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With Teeth — Nine Inch Nails (after)

A few days ago I talked about the new Nine Inch Nails album, With Teeth. Even though I had the CD, at that time I maintained my objectivity by carefully avoiding listening to it before reviewing it.

With Teeth album cover

Since then I have listened to With Teeth several times (and The Hand That Feeds several thousand times in my head). I now feel able to report in more detail. Continue reading

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With Teeth — Nine Inch Nails (before)

With Teeth is Nine Inch Nails’ new long-anticipated five-years-in-the-making album. I loved The Fragile, their previous long-anticipated five-years-in-the-making album, and I had heard that this new one is quite different. Unfortunately, it is.

With Teeth album cover

Initial reports were that this album goes straight for the jugular. “The is the album they should have released five years ago,” they said. It was meant to be the album that would get a wide audience after the long meandering The Fragile. Pop music fan that I am, I was looking forward to a set of punchy tracks like those on the Broken EP from last decade.

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More great BBC online music shows

Here’s some more of my favourite online radio, following on from my earlier list of great BBC online music shows.

There are several customised online radio stations out there now. These purport to divine your unique taste in music and give you what you really want to hear. Some of these are definitely worthwhile too, but there’s no substitute for a good human selector. These BBC shows have some of the best.

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Great BBC online music shows

I learned to love BBC radio when I lived in the UK last century; the shows covered every kind of music, and every week I would discover some new (or old) musical treasure. Now that I’m back on the other side of the world, I still listen in most days, thanks to their Radio On Demand — you can listen to any show up to seven days after it goes to air. Here I’ve put together notes and links to the shows that I listen to regularly.

Normally you’re supposed to use the built-in player on the BBC website to listen, but with a bit of poking around, you can get the RSTP URLs and listen using RealPlayer. This is much more convenient, since you can easily rewind, fast forward, and bookmark shows partway through. I have done the requisite poking around, and included the RSTP URLs in the notes below.

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Thunder, Lightning, Strike — The Go! Team

Half bouncy and exciting, half pleasant and inconsequential. Like so much in life.

Thunder Lightning Strike album cover

This album isn’t as good as I was expecting. About half the tracks sound like instrumental fillers from indie pop albums; they’re all worth a listen, but they don’t really hold the attention. Other tracks are better: there are a few energetic, lo-fi hip hop pieces with a bit of rapping. They sound old-skool in a good way to me, though why you’d trust the opinion of somebody who can’t even spell “school” is anybody’s guess.

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