Articles about music

Tunes for the body, heart, mind and soul.

The Lake — Anna Coddington

The Lake by Anna CoddingtonHere’s a set of simple, affecting songs, beautifully sung and sympathetically arranged. The overall theme is Love Gone Wrong, the traditional singer-songwriter preoccupation. But Anna Coddington turns it into something that sounds great — “beauty exploding from despair”, to use one of her own lines.

I was looking forward to buying this CD, since I enjoyed Anna Coddington’s performance a few months ago. Even though it’s been quite a long time since then, I still remember quite a few of the songs. The songs worked really well live, with Anna accompanying herself on guitar; the fuller production on the album adds another dimension without ever overwhelming the basic voice and guitar structure.

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Alec Empire and Nitzer Ebb

I was listening to one of the tracks from the new Alec Empire album “The Golden Foretaste of Heaven” the other day. I was loving it but it seemed a bit familiar. The relentless pounding beat; the hypnotic, discordant basslines; the snarled vocals; the overall claustrophobic intensity of the thing. Alec Empire is a German with an English-sounding name, but his music reminds me of an English group with a German-sounding name. Nitzer Ebb were big(gish) in the ’80s but I only really got into them a bit later. I seem to own all of their albums and quite a number of singles, so I must like them. They released a career retrospective compilation (Body of Work) a couple of years ago; I thought that marked the end of the band, but apparently it just marked the beginning of their comeback.

I was amazed a year or so ago to see that “Nitzer Ebb” were due to play a gig at a local venue here in Auckland. They will most likely release a new album this year. It will be interesting to hear what it sounds like. They started out 25 years ago with noises, shouting, fist-pumping and Futurism (that’s where the Alec Empire connection comes in) but moved more and more towards traditional song structures. Apparently they have already played some of their new material live and broadcast so I can’t wait to hear it.

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Ben Kemp & Uminari / Anna Coddington

Ben Kemp looks like a rugby player, but he has the most delicate falsetto voice and a rather poetic songwriting touch. His band, Uminari, are tight and very cool in a quirky Japanese way, especially the drummer who is so cool he doesn’t need drumsticks. We saw these guys at the Classic Comedy Bar and they put on a great show. But they were supported by local singer-songwriter Anna Coddington, and I liked her set even more.

Ben Kemp is a very nice Kiwi musician who has lived in Japan for some time now. He has gotten together with a group of Japanese musicians to form his band. The music works really well live — they go for extended soundscapes built around each song, with Kemp’s voice sometimes acting as another instrument. The mood ranges from gentle and contemplative to a bit more noisy and experimental on some tracks, where they might try to evoke the sound of the sea or a storm. It’s hypnotic stuff.

Between songs he tells how the songs came to be, and also shares some stories about himself. The show was nice and intimate — at one point he brought out a couple of bottles of Japanese liquor (sake and umeshu) and passed them around the audience. You can’t much more chilled-out than that.

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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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