Sunday, December 30, 2007

Jesse Dangerously - Righteous Bad Ass

I finally managed to back up my old iPod so I felt safe to reinstall iTunes on my computer. A couple of years back one of my friends bought an iPod Mini (remember those?) and didn't know to turn the syncing "feature" off. When she deleted mp3 files from her hard drive to conserve space on her antiquated computer iTunes quickly decided she didn't need those songs on her iPod anymore either. I told my teary-eyed friend (she was teary-eyed quite often) that she would need to turn syncing off to avoid this from happening in the future. Ever since that event I have a very limited trust in Apple's software. While it was a good time to back up the my old 3rd generation iPod, it was basically full and I went to our local Apple retailer to look at the latest and greatest. I came home with a shitty haircut (not from the Apple shop) and an awesome 160 GB iPod Classic. It is not without it's shortcomings, it's a bit slower and has slightly choppy video occasionally but the additional capacity more than makes up for it.

It was also time to use my first iTunes card and see what was available in the store. I was very disappointed with their selection of foreign music while not completely absent it is safe to say it would not pass "The GOOD Music" test. The Canadian version of the iTunes store is so saturated with Canadian content that I gotta assume the CRTC (Canada's FCC) has something to do with it. Canada has some of the most draconian legislation when it comes to minimum Canadian content. In fact, you may not know that Bob and Doug Mackenzie were a sarcastic jab at the CRTC's content rules. It's much easier to complain about these rules when it means you must choose between Nickelback, The Hip and Rush but at least the iTunes store has a very very thorough selection to choose from. While on the iTunes site I picked up a Hifana single, a Four Tet EP and a new album by Halifax-born, Alberta resident, Jesse Dangerously.

I first came across Dangerously while reading an article from an excellent site called Hipster, Please! The article did little more than mention him alongside a number of other Nerdcore rappers but it did say he was from Canada and so I figured I would give him a try. It's too smooth to be Nerdcore and too nerdy to be mainstream. Indie hip hop at its finest with a strong nineties influence. Undeniably Canadian in prose, Dangerously is really darn tight with good production and high replay value. So much so, that I decided to make him the first artist I have ever paid for a bunch of ones and zeros coming through my tubes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top Ten Places for the GOOD Music

“Closed from today.” That’s what the sign said at the music store in our mall. I never bought anything there so I guess I’m part of the problem but it’s still sad to see our little shitty music store go. I even recently thought about how I had been picking up the latest issues of Exclaim! Magazine for free and reading them in our local library, a nice escape that made our little town feel more like a big city. The year end seems a fitting time to write a top ten list unless your cracked in which case it’s always time to write top ten lists. Here are my top ten sources for new music. They are written in a rough chronology from oldest to newest. While keeping in mind that older sources are not always given up for the new, I can’t help noticing how the sources become digital over time. My initial sources depend on close relationships while the later rely on the faceless collective, I suppose resistance was futile.

1. Friends – High school friends did a lot to turn me on to different kinds of music. Grasshopper, the early Chris Sheppard mixes, Skinny Puppy, and the Digital Underground were always personal faves.

Chimo Bayo

2. Used Music Stores, Pawn Shops, and one Yakuza-Run Adult Movie Store – Into the Music was my personal Mecca for new music. A time just before file sharing became the norm I remember sitting along side punks and hippies at the listening stations. Every disc in the store could be listened to for as long as you wanted. People always respected the line ups and would usually make sure everyone had a decent chance to have some time with their music. I learned all about break beats at that place.

Fast forward several years to beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon in Japan. I was going for a walk in an unexplored part of my neighborhood. My favorite thing about living in Japan is that you can explore an area for months even years and think you have seen it all only to find a road you’ve never traversed and make the discovery of a lifetime. That Sunday was one of those times. I stumbled upon a small video store (which I later found out was run by Yakuza) and went in. There was a small front area which rented the standard blockbuster movies and a massive back area that rented out porno. They also sold used music CDs. Thing is they were tired of selling CDs in the store and decided to clear out their inventory as quickly as possible by slashing their prices to virtually free. This is the sort of stuff I dream about (literally). I walked out with armloads of discs, about fifty. And I didn’t spent more than a dollar a piece.

3. Radio – I’ve talked about my favorite radio stations before so I won’t go into too much detail but sufficed to say I wouldn’t know about Aiden Baker, The Books or Broken Teeth without them.

Broken Teeth

4. Trading Tapes Online – It was the dawn of the World Wide Web and I was a big fan of Skinny Puppy thanks to some high school friends. I craved all things industrial at the time and joined the “Smothered Hope” Skinny Puppy newsgroup. I asked some people on the news group if they would be willing to send me some mix tapes of their favorite music and to my surprise I got no fewer than ten tapes in the mail. Thanks to these mix tapes I learned about John Oswald and Negativland.

John Oswald

5. Art school – In art school I met a number of like-minded individuals who craved music above all else. None of us were exactly sure what it was that we wanted to hear so we all did a lot of personal research and shared out findings amongst ourselves. University taught me the fine art of Pan Sonic, Tom Waits, Tortoise and Godspeed, You Brave Emperor, saying nothing of the countless local bands that I love to this day.

Pan Sonic

6. Music Magazines – Uptown, Exclaim! and the Manitoban were a few of the free rags I could pick up at school or downtown. Between the three publications I had about all the music news I could digest between classes. While well known to me at the time I still clearly remember Kevin Matthews defending Beck’s fine Mutations album.

7. Peer to Peer – Napster got me interested, Audiogalaxy had me hooked. In my opinion Audiogalaxy had the best single song downloading system ever created. Look for a song, almost ANY song not matter how obscure and just download it. It worked flawlessly 99.99% of the time. Audiogalaxy’s song recommendation system is still the best I’ve ever seen. It introduced me to loads of cool music like BT, Röyksopp and Japan’s Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. After much legal pressure Soulseek was forced to go legit and is now known as the all but forgotten Rhapsody. A few months later, enter SoulSeek currently the best option for finding new music especially if you have a few friends on the network. And of course we cannot forget about the all mighty torrents.

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant

8. Night Clubs – I did a LOT of clubbing during my first stint in Japan and found out a lot about cool local DJs. I went with a crew of two other people and no doubt we were known for a long time as those three mushroom weirdos that never talked to anyone. People’s curiosity was piqued and after about a year became quite famous with the expat regulars. Thanks to my time a club regular I was introduced to the likes of DJ Shinkawa, Energy Dai, and Yoji Biomehanika. My second go at Japan was much more subdued due to my age and new found fear of mushrooms and a general disinterest in hard house. I spent a lot of time at more chilled out affairs like Ska clubs and turntablist events.

DJ Kentaro

8. You Tube & MySpace – You Tube is the reason this site exists. It’s no fun to write about a band without giving you a sample of how they sound. One day, I thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of all the cool Japanese bands on my iPod and send it to all my friends complete with a list of links to videos found on You Tube. Problem was that the list became so huge that I knew there was no way anyone was going to go through all of it. The solution became The GOOD Music.

Lately, I have been looking at MySpace as a source of finding new bands. Simply pick a band you like, find them on MySpace and look at their friends list. Many of the people on the list will likely be other bands that have similar styles. How else would I know about Water Water Camel, Lullatone and the Cuntfaces?


9. Podcasts – When I am really hard up for new stuff I can always count on music podcasts for inspiration. I really enjoy Live365, imagine radio for ever possible niche you can imagine. It’s helped me connect with lots of unknown indie bands from all over the world. Podcast are to blame many of my recent favorites like Tomato Star, My Little Airport, and my recent love affair with Nerdcore hip hop.

MC Frontalot

10. All other websites – Like a brave explorer, I am never scared to dig through the dark recesses of the web to come up with bold new content. Some of it is obvious like this great new juke box site called Songza. It has an easy to use interface that scours the web for any manner of streaming audio and plays it like magic. Certainly, the weirdest place I’ve gone for music recently is the adult web cam site, Live Jasmine. Bear with me for a moment and I’ll explain myself. Live Jasmine is a site that streams live video of half naked chicks from all over the world to you computer in hopes that someone will pay to see one of the chicks stick things in their butts and things of that nature. A typical web cam will have some poor Filipina lying on a bed listening to music while trying to lure some lonely, rich American into paying for a private “chat”. I would go into these rooms and if I heard a song that I was interested in I would simply ask the girl what the name of the band was. Every now and then someone would bite and I would have a gem like “Ordertaker” by Parokya Ni Edgar to share with you all. System, anyone?

Parokya Ni Edgar

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reuben - Christmas Is Awesome

Merry Christmas everyone!

Adolph Hitler - Born to Be Alive

I own a pair of kick ass Hugo Boss shades that I'm very proud to say George Clooney wore in the Coen Brothers movie, Intolerable Cruelty. I have no way of being certain that George Clooney actually wore Hugo Boss shades in that movie but that's the story I tell because who's ever going to dispute it. The other day one of my co-workers took a look at my shades and said, "You know Hugo Boss designed the military uniforms for the Nazis." A simple search on the internet proves legitimacy to this claim. From now on whenever I show off my George Clooney shades I'll be sure to let everyone know that my fashion statement would have been shared with the Schutzstaffel had they been made during Hitler's reign. While I was doing research (ie: Google search) I stumbled upon a video that was so great that it had to be shown on this fine Christmas Eve.

Now the title of today's post is slightly misleading as the song does not come from Hitler's own vocal chords, but the juxtaposition of the images and music does owe a certain credit to the Fuhrer. At first, what you are about to see will probably seem cheap and childish and to a point I will agree but beneath it I can see much more. This video exists in many variations on the web. The original is credited to Johan Söderberg of Sweden. The video below is seen as a reprise by DJ Farouk, who claims the original is much better. I disagree and even tho the video does seem to fall a little out of sync I believe the pacing and energy in this reprise is more suited to the music, which happens to be a little disco number by the Disco Kings.

Johan Söderberg has lip-synced some of the most hated and loved people in history to some of the most hated and loved songs. So, while you will probably find this video cheap and childish you will also find it catchy and that is the source of it's power. I have been to many an art gallery in my time and have yet to see a video that is a poignant as Hitler singing Born to Be Alive. Sure, war is bad, I get it, so showing me a bunch of depressing images of war victims is nothing more than predictable pablum. Show me a video of a war that makes me want to dance and now I have something to think about. The real interesting video art can't be found in galleries anymore, it is on You Tube, Newgrounds and You're the Man Now, Dog. Good luck finding it, though.

My little article is finished now, but I can't sign off without at least mentioning another Hitler video that has spawned a number of video responses and IS pretty childish (and really funny). If you have heard about Microsoft banning users from X-Box Live for having modded systems than you got to watch this.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Midori - Doping Noise Kiss/Anta wa Dare Yo

My first exposure to a big punk rock festival was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. I was with a couple of good friends and we were all pretty into it. One moment really stood out and I still remember it quite clearly, the singer of one of the bands put a condom on his head and managed to get it pulled down under his nose but still above his mouth. In between screaming, "I'm a lousy lover, I'm a lousy lay" he managed to inflate the dube (haven't used that word since grade six) little by little until it exploded. I was pretty young at the time so while slightly traumatized by the whole affair, I was old enough to know how awesome this shit really was. This display of self-deprecation was my first experience of watching Much Music. A little research has taught me that the song was "Lousy Lover" originally by the "Minimalist Jug Band" as covered by "Look People". But as Q and others no doubt have said, "All good things must come to an end". These days, watching Much or MTV are little more than watching late night infomercials - carefully marketed, being ubercertain not to take any risks and making certainly that everyone is equally entertained. The problem with everyone being equally entertained however is that no one is really that entertained at all. People with condoms on their heads is a guarantee that someone is going to change the channel. Of course, that person is clearly stupid. That is why I am so happy to know that there is still one channel out there that is going to take risks and play some cool stuff, and that channel is Japan's Space Shower TV. I can say with a fair degree of certainty that every Japanese video I have reviewed on this blog, no matter how weird, has at one time been brought to the masses via Space Shower. Today's band is no exception.

Midori is a screamo-punk-pop-noh-jazz fusion band. All that might seem impossible for one band to do, but Midori manages to consistently fit all those genres into each of their songs. Mariko Goto is the bands vocalist and often plays guitar. At times her voices can be sweet and other times it sound like Meowth from Pokemon. Not enough vocalists sound like Pokemon characters. Yoshitaka Kozeni's drumming posture at times nods to traditional taiko drumming. Finally Hajime's piano playing provides a dramatic backdrop to all the songs. It's unpredictable, it's annoying and stupid, and most importantly it's amazing fun. How many other bands can claim to be screamo-punk-pop-noh-jazz fusion? I dare say none.

What I find particularly interesting about these guys is how popular they have actually become. Largely due to their fair shake on Space Shower. Last year Space Shower even gave them a live special. My friend Moorieman summed it up best when he said "Noise is beautiful again". The lyrics and music are so desperate, honest, strange and exciting that in the end it really is truly beautiful. Midori's second album entitled, well, "Second" is without a doubt my favorite album of 2007. Today's videos are from that album.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

TEZ - Sexyback

I like Justin Timberlake. I always have and probably always will. When I first heard Sexyback I knew I had to do an entry about the song on this blog. I have on two occasions started writing a Sexyback post only to give up because despite how much I may like him, I know blogging about Timberlake is fucking lame. However, the gods smiled upon me today when I came across this video. A slightly sarcastic beatboxed reinterpretation of that fine, but quickly annoying song by TEZ of France's CocoRosie. Say what you will but Bambury would have played it.

That's my post, there's nothing more to say. I just had to get this out of my system (and off my chest) and I can get back to business.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Manu Chao - Clandestino/Mr. Bobby/Rainin' in Paradize

People on a few occasions now have asked me where I find my music. Today's artist I found on the famous YTMND site about a year ago. YTMND, for the uninitiated, is a site that juxtaposes an image (either still or a looped animation) with a looped sound sample. I forget the specifics of the particular YTMND I was "watching" that day but it had a clip from the song "Mr. Bobby" looped in the background. I thought it was pretty chilled much like a lot of the Japanese dub I was listening to at the time. A little research revealed it was by a French artist named Manu Chao. Chao is a world famous musician but you probably have never heard of him unless you listen to the French 91.1 FM CKXL in Winnipeg. It's another one of those stations I painfully sit through in order to find something new and interesting. I know there is a split infinitive in the last sentence but that's the way I roll.

Posers drink Perrier instead of San Pellegrino; posers listen to Bob Marley instead of Manu Chao. Ok, that may be taking things too far but trust me if you've ever drank Perrier and thought it tasted like fermented horse urine, seriously give the San P a try, I can't stress this enough. Consider uncapping a big bottle of the stuff late one Sunday morning and put some Manu Chao on in the background and you can't have a bad day, it's impossible.

If you've heard Mr. Bobby than to a large extent you've heard Bongo Bong, Je ne t'aime plus, and Homens. They all use the same essential musical backdrop and two of the aforementioned songs became singles. Chao does this a LOT in his music and lyrics throughout many albums. It's funny that a guy can get famous for regularly lifting the same samples of himself and use them over and over again in new songs.

While spending most of his years in France, Chao is originally from Spain. His musical style includes dub, reggae, and many French and Latin sub genres. He also sings in a number of different languages including Spanish, French, English and Arabic. Chao's inclusive nature speaks to his overall Punk attitude. Listen to even his sweetest of songs and it's still not hard to imagine him pulling out a gun and shooting you in the face. No wonder the Zapatistas love this guy so much. Today is a rare triple shot of Manu Chao tunes. I know that's more than I usually include but even getting it down to three was pretty hard. The clips range from oldest to newest, the last being the new single from the 2007 album, La Radiolina.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Zazen Boys - I Don't Wanna Be With You

I bought a $20 iTunes card for the first time last night. I announced to the clerks at the 7-Eleven, "This is going to be the first time I am going to purchase some MP3s legitimately, I must be getting old". This was welcomed by some laughter by a guy who must have been around 19. I'm sure he's never bothered to pay either. Truth is, there is a lot of music I can't even find by illegitimate means and I am curious if spending the cash will yield any better results. I uninstalled iTunes a year ago because as much as I like my iPod, I sure don't like Apple's software very much. After I back my iPod's data up on my external hard drive (presumably later tonight if I don't get too lazy) I'll reinstall that cumbersome beast back onto my computer and try it out. The problem is, while iTunes is billed as the world's largest music store, I don't have access to music outside of North America. The record companies keep iTunes separated by countries and so if I want music from Japan (surprise surprise) I need a Japanese iTunes card. I don't think I have to explain why this is stupid from a consumer's perspective. Record companies want me to buy music as opposed to steal it, but offer me no legitimate means by which to acquire the stuff I want. I know my musical tastes are a little fringe but I don't see why making music they already have available to everyone could really hurt their bottom line. I will certainly try this whole buying music online thing out before I rush to judgment and will give you my perspective in my next entry.

When David Byrne is cruising down the streets of LA in his all-too-sensible sports car while sipping on some Gin and San P, what is he blasting on his stereo? Probably today's entry. "I Don't Wanna Be with You" by the Zazen Boys continues where the relatively unpopular third album, "III" leaves off. This song is the first single for the upcoming album so while it does set the tone for the new album, previous efforts would show it doesn't necessarily mean the band hasn't got any more surprises up their collective sleeves. Audience reactions range from "It's all down hill from here on out. :(" and "Fuck you, Mukai." to "Zazen Boys has only ever taken steps in the right direction. This song is hilariously awesome." I, for one lean towards the latter sentiment.

I was never a fan of Mukai Shutoku's first and extremely popular band, Number Girl. It always played off as pretentious and a bit too academic for my liking. Honestly, I would likely have a different opinion if I had been in Japan when they were still together. Mukai must also feel a little like I do and the best way he can deal with it is by putting together a band that (recently) is so over the top pretentious that it's become kinda cool. This is by no means a silly band, they are as earnest as ever but seem aware of how it may be perceived by a younger, more cynical audience. The video is so over the top with it's seriousness that it becomes critical of itself and the result is pretty funny and pretty awesome too. I am looking forward to seeing what else Zazen will come up with on their upcoming album release, a release that I likely will never find on the North American iTunes site.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Los Mono - Promesas / Ahli Fiqir - 2x5

I'm a sucker for music I can't understand. I attribute this to my youth listening to Brave New Waves, a program the played on CBC from midnight till 4 am. CBC in their infinite wisdom decided a program that had been playing for over twenty years was no longer worth keeping on the air and axed the show in March. That's one less reason to want to be Canadian I have to admit. I'm going to have to buy an Olde English 800 (in a brown bag natually) and pour it on the steps of the rotting corpse that is CBC. Nightstream, BNWs replacement seldom really pushes the boundaries to the same extremes and so I have turned to Power 97 for my midnight trek home from work. Monday is The Ongoing History of New Music with Allen Cross, Tuesday is Punkorama with Kristan (a little disconcerting in a blizzard, but worth it to say I heard The Locust on P97), Wednesday is The Magical World Of Rock with Danko Jones, and Thursday I'm fucked. As much as I appreciate 97s late night lineup, none of this still holds a candle to what I once knew.

So yeah, I'm a sucker for music I can't understand and after a multi-month long hiatus I present two decent efforts from two countries whose languages I do not understand. One has monkeys, the other quacking ducks. I have taken this whole hipster attitude to it's inevitable conclusion, I only listen to music that no one else wants to hear. Sorry.

The first one is Promesas by the Chilean supergroup Los Mono. I call them a supergroup because that's what it says next to the video on the You Tube site. However I think it's kinda super if not only cute. It's b-boy, that's for sure and it's got a guy dancing in a hall with a morphing robo-monkey head and I'll be damned if that's not a little super. If you hurry you can still make your own version of the video and win a prize (not sure what that prize is) but hurry because the drawing is January 1st.

The next video is 2x5 by Ahli Fiqir (which means "Thinking Men"), I am so impressed that I didn't even have to double check the spelling on that one. One of my goals in life is to find a group from every country (in particular Asia, where everyone is accused of being tone deaf) that I think is pretty cool. Ahli Fiqir is from Singapore and it fits the bill quite well. Hell, the chorus is "quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack" and I think that is a duck call and not something that Singaporean ganstas say.