Hey, it’s been yet another millennium since I last posted, I’m really putting the Sporadic in Rodrovich’s Thought-Precipitator right now. I have been occupied with stuff relating to my university enrollment, still in limbo. So that’s not great for me.
Still, I’m here today to talk about positive stuff – music. I will go through the albums and tracks I really liked/strongly disliked in the past two months.
Old Stuff (meaning albums I have listened to that didn’t come out in 2019)
Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
Favorite tracks: Running Up That Hill, Hounds of Love, Mother Stands for Comfort, Cloudbusting, Jig of Life
I was debating with myself to whether or not I would include this because I don’t think I have listened to it enough times. But those four or five listens through the LP (so far) are enough for me to say with confidence that it’s a unique pop record. The backing-tracks are dreamy, Kate Bush’s vocal delivery is theatrical and attention-grabbing and the weird synth textures make the album sound like it’s from the future. It’s really unbelievable that the album was released in 1985. I certainly want to check out more of Kate’s discography in the (hopefully) near future. If you like quirky pop-centric musicians like St. Vincent, Mitski, Regina Spektor – then I strongly recommend you to give this a listen because Kate Bush inspired those cool artists and many more. Respect the greats!
Melt-Banana – Fetch
Favorite tracks: Candy Gun, The Hive, Lefty Dog, Infection Defective, Lie Lied Lies, Red Data, Red Stage, Zero
It’s really weird that such a shrill, noise-rock album could be as infectiously catchy as it is. I love the unrelenting bass and drums, the shrill digital tone of the guitars, and the way the cacophonous layering of those instruments mesh together to make melodies that got me hooked right from the first listen. Although it’s a noise rock album, the sound of the album never felt too harsh nor did the music ever feel dark and disturbed; it’s just pure electric chaos. Yasuko’s high-pitched, shouted vocal delivery complements the shrill textures like sugar in a latte (given that you like sugar). I recommend you this album even if you aren’t big into noise rock because there are some catchy pop-like motifs in the tracks… and it’s only 32 minutes long!
Chiaki Mayumura – Gisshiri Haguki [Favorite album from January]
I feel bad that Chiaki Mayumura wasn’t on my radar in 2018, but I’m glad that this is the first release I have heard from her because it’s flames, pure J-pop flames (2019 has to be the year she gets popular, I mean… c’mon!). Apparently, this 30-track double album is essentially Chiaki re-recording ‘almost’ all of her discography under a “proper” album release. Her previous albums’ sound had their own brand of DIY, lo-fi production quality to them, and while this aesthetic worked for some songs (like Dokkoi Tomorrow), an overwhelming majority of them felt underdone and demo-like where Chiaki’s voice got drowned in the muddy mix of the instruments.
So I am glad that Chiaki and her agents went forward with this project. Being a 30-track album, I don’t think I have listened to a Jpop release that sounds more “versatile” than this before. From introspective, emotive ballads (like Psychopath, Visit Someone in Hospital, Pure and Dear My Family) to a trap-flavored pop track (like MC Mayumura), with a weird monkey ad-lib section (like Did Mayumura-san Make This Really?) to something theatrical (like A 20-Year-Old Woman) and then just self-indulgent fun against simple instrumentation (like I was born in Australia and Viva☆Youth☆Turtle☆Tomato), Chiaki covers a lot of ground here. Even though she’s re-recording her previous stuff, she sounds like she was having a lot of fun on the recording booth; like she’s excited to sing these songs as if they were written the day before. Thanks to a crisper production, her energy is as cutting, funny and infectious as ever (I love her ad-libs and death growl segments in tracks like Tsukutsukuboushi and Knuckle Sense.
Her vocal delivery is nuanced and has a wide enough stylistic range to make sure whatever portion of the tracklisting you pick up the album from, you won’t get bored with the rest of them. Hell, she often effortlessly changes up styles in the middle of a song – what’s more cooler than that? I want to get into some highlights of the album by talking about individual tracks, but I would leave that for an essay of a review later on in the year. I still listen to it regularly, and it’s possibly going to be my favorite Jpop album in 2019 for a while… but wait! Mayumura-san’s got a new album over the horizon… I can’t wait.
(This is a “non-album version” of Tsukutsukuboushi…)
Oh yeah, and here is the list of my favorite tracks (didn’t want to put in the beginning since it’s so long lol): *inhales* A 20-Year-Old Woman, I Was Born In Australia. Agokezuriyuko, Tokyo Rusubandenwappu, Dokkoi Tomorrow, MC Mayumura, Crayon, Viva☆Youth☆Turtle☆Tomato, Psychopath, Did Ms. Mayumura Make This Really?, Your Weather Elder Sister, Charanporan, Real Dissonance, Tsukutsukuboushi, Coca C○la Slippers Broke, Visit Someone in Hospital, Knuckle Sense,
Meso・Pota・Mia, (no title), Pure, Songs Made By Girls Like Garbage, She Saw, Fukuoka, Dear My Family. *exhales*
Malibu Ken – Malibu Ken
Favorite tracks: Corn Maze, Tuesday, Save Our Ship, Acid King, Churro, Suicide Big Gulp
This is the first project I have listened through from Aesop Rock. Of course, I have sampled some of his songs from The Impossible Kid album, and my first impressions of him as a songwriter were positive – he can conjure up vivid images through his lyrics. His flow sometimes feel a bit monotone, but if there’s good production backing him up, then that bar gets some extra flavor… and Tobacco did exactly that with his production on this album; it sounds chiptune-inspired, with some acidity and quirkiness in the mix. I just wished the quirkiness of the beats got more space to go all “out there”. Like I said, I loved the vivid (and cynical) lyricism from Aesop Rock – especially the ones in Tuesday, Churro and Acid King. Despite the lyrical content being dark, the overall sound of the beats are relatively colorful – I still enjoy listening through it now and then.
CHAI – Punk [Favorite Album from February]
Favorite tracks: Choose Go!, Great Job, I’m Me, Wintime, This is Chai, Fashionista, Family Member, Curly Adventure and Future
CHAI, the famous four-member band, who turned a lot of heads back with their brand of neo-kawaii music in 2017. This time, they aimed for more noise with more of “punk” aesthetic – although I would say that “neo kawaii” is pretty darn punk in my eyes. Compared to Pink, I think the arrangements in this album are more textured and controlled, which means that it’s less crazy and unhinged than Pink but the shelf-life of this album on my playlist is longer and I think I will be revisiting this album even more into this year – there’s always something new that hooks me into the album again and again. Listening to this album instantly let me know that CHAI has definitely evolved their sound to something that feels impassioned and heartfelt while still having that absurd neo-kawaii-punk flavor to it at the same time.
I really like the anthemic feel to the tracks, they seem more emotionally potent and at the same time, weirdly moe – case(s) in point being tracks like I’m Me, Wintime, Family Member, Feel the Beat and Future. And there are tracks like Choose Go!, This is Chai, Great Job, and Curly Adventure – that have their own flavors of catchy melodies and basslines. There’s really not a single dull moment on this album. So yeah, I like this album a bit more than Pink and I would recommend this over their debut record if you want to get into CHAI’s music for the first time… or just jump in anywhere, it doesn’t really matter – both albums are great.
James Blake – Assume Form
Favorite tracks: Assume Form, Into the Red, Barefoot in the Park, Can’t Believe the Way We Flow, Are You in Love?, Where’s the Catch, I’ll Come Too, Power On, Don’t Miss It
Never heard anything from James Blake and I am glad this is my introduction to this music because this album is pretty. I really like James’ vocals – they sound so tender and sensual; which complements his icy, dream-like production throughout most of the tracklisting, especially in his softer, ballad-like tracks like Assume Form, Barefoot in the Park (feat. Rosalia – ah, I should listen to one of her albums already!), Can’t Believe the Way We Flow. And also Into the Red, Are You in Love?, I’ll Come Too, Don’t Miss It and Power On which have (retrospectively) emotional lyricism. But I wasn’t the biggest fan of the RnB-inspired tracks like Mile High and Tell Them – which sound smooth and aren’t necessarily bad songs but they don’t comfortably fit into the tender, velvet-like aesthetic of the LP. Where’s the Catch? (feat. Andre 3000) didn’t fit the album’s aesthetic, either – but Andre’s verse won me over. I would say the only underwhelming track for me is the closing track which kind of loops over a bit too many times. That aside, it’s a wonderful album.
LOONA – [XX]
Favorite tracks: XX, Butterfly, Satellite, Curiosity, Colors, Stylish, Yeolgi, favOrite, Hi High
LOONA’s official debut EP [++] back last summer left me a bit disappointed with the “incomplete” feel the tracklist had. Sure, the EP featured a great crop of catchy tracks but the versatility that its members’ solo works had prior to that release was lacking. So I am glad that Blockberry Creative decided to try to complete that semicircle of an EP with this full-length (or repackaged) release.
I like the newer (first) half of this repackaged EP here, the production is more textured and the producers put more work into their sampling and composition – the melodies are catchier than ever. Overall, these new batch of songs has a more mature and dreamier aspect to them, despite them having a strong bubbly EDM backbone. Even the vocals sound better in the first half, they harmonizations sound great. I really don’t think there’s an underwhelming track in the first half. The second half of the album is just the older [++] EP with tracks in reverse order. There are some great catchy tunes with some fun production, standout tracks include Hi High, Stylish and Yeolgi. Perfect Love is kind of standard (not necessarily bad though), and I think it’s the only underwhelming track in the whole album. It’s great to see LOONA’s long 18-month journey into debut getting paid off through their currently rocketing popularity through a “complete” release like this – [XX] completes the image that LOONA’s debut EP was missing. And I have noticed that music nerds who aren’t normally into Kpop liking LOONA’s music recently, so that’s cool.
Xiu Xiu – Girl with Basket of Fruit
Favorite tracks: Girl with Basket of Fruit, Ice Cream Truck, Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy, Mary Turner Mary Turner, Scisssssssors
I recently got introduced to Xiu Xiu’s music through one of their album teaser tracks popping up on my Youtube feed – Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy – which immediately infected my playlist for a good couple of weeks, the different instrumental phrases and the theatrical delivery is great. I haven’t listened to any of their albums except this one and Forget – which cripples my contextual commentary.
On first listen, Xiu Xiu’s music sounds like something an art-hippie cooks up in a few hours, but it didn’t take me long to see that there’s some substantial work done with the layering of the samples, and there’s some lyricism to those perverted rants. But between Forget and Girl with Basket of Fruit, this album slants more towards noise, and the LP lets you know that right from the titular opening track. There’s something ritualistic and primal to the sound instead of the harsh electronic sound I imagined when I saw the noise genre tag. I am more of a fan of such ear-grabbing sampled tracks like Ice Cream Truck, Mary Turner Mary Turner and Scisssssssors than the droney ballad ones like in Amargi ve Moo and Normal Love. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been patient enough with this album, but I haven’t gone head over heels for this project. Call me a surface-level fan, it doesn’t matter to me. But there are some seriously amazing and unsettling tracks on this album, as well as some underwhelming ones. I am open to giving it a few more listens later on in the year, though…
The new Seiko Oomori releases:
-The official release the Zettai Kanojo is March 13 but I’m talking about the Youtube MV versions here)
Zettai Kanojo feat. Sayumi Michishige
Yeah, this is a disaster. The MV is cute, the girls’ costumes are super pretty. Then the cuteness is amped up to cloying levels (yeah, even for me) with those high-pitched hats that just rattles against the girls’ overly squeaky autotune… nope. Just feeling a “nope” on the song, but a “yes it’s so cute!” with the video – c’mon they are dancing with small bunnies against a fluffy backdrop with fruits flying all over them!
Hell yes! Unfiltered Seiko is the best Seiko (yeah, even better than the watches). Made me a fan of her music all over again. The editing in the video is cool. The song has all the hallmarks of her own brand of emotion-erupting pop-punk music – her energy is arresting here.
(G)I-DLE – Senorita
This is currently my favorite Kpop title track of the year so far, Senorita is yet another unconventional track from this group, following up from Hann. Soyeon wrote this one too, which is always great to see as most Kpop tracks aren’t written by the idols themselves. I love the pre-chorus – it’s infectious, and the unorthodox song structure increased its replay value for me. The vocals are sassy and they have their own room in the song since the production doesn’t feel overdone, I really like the brass section in the chorus. I am not the biggest fan of Kpop integrating Spanish musical motifs into their songs, but this is an exception. The set designs in the MV are bright and the color-coordination (or is it the color grading in post-production?) is great – the reds pop and give off this spicy aesthetic. Yup, it’s spicy.
Cherry Bullet – Q&A
This is a new group, and they play to their strengths well. The video game concept is cute, the choreography is cute. Basically, it’s your standard cute Kpop song with nothing going wrong and no out-of-place rap detours in the track. It’s a nice de-stressing track, and it reminded me of why I started listening to Kpop – it’s the cute girls. I know, how shallow of me.
ITZY – Dalla Dalla
This surprised me with the industrial-lite, glitch-lite production on it, I wish the synths could have been louder and harsher so the track would go into noise pop territory. But it’s a decent track nevertheless. The thing I loved about the music videos are the cool glitchy visual effects going on in the background, and the choreography is really eye-catching. I think ITZY is a promising group, I have yet to check out their single album though. I feel that ITZY’s gonna replace/surpass Blackpink in terms of popularity if they do comebacks regularly and put out music videos as well produced as this.
CLC – No
No. Just no. How is this a song? There’s nothing going on in this track. I loved Black Dress, though – and No follows up from a similar concept that. So I’m going to link that below instead.
Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall
I am excited to hear new Vampire Weekend music after all these years. I used to have their albums on repeat back in 9th grade when I wasn’t into listening to too many albums. So when “I don’t wanna live like this. But I don’t wanna die” popped up on this track – it’s a line lifted from Finger Back, one of their songs from their last album 5 years ago – I got anime flashbacks to those days.
I loved the lush instrumentation here, the guitars at the beginning were beautiful – I can smell spring when I listen to this track. Can’t wait for their new album to drop.
Denzel Curry’s cover of Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade
It’s electric. Denzel Curry hinted his metal game in Taboo but this is something else, he even inserts of one his own verses from Sirens into his performance. I think I like this over the original. Listen to it to feel the anger and heat from Zel for yourself.
Weezer – High as a Kite
This is probably one of the most cathartic tracks Weezer has put out so far. Yet, this reminds of the old Weezer that I loved, like the Blue Album Weezer. I liked the music video too, that Mr. Rogers set is nice and adds to the cathartic aspect of the song. I am yet to listen to the Black Album, but I haven’t heard much praise about that so… uh… fingers crossed…
I think that’s about all for now. I didn’t listen to a lot of individual tracks in the last two months, so the list is kind of short this time.
Thanks for reading
(… feels like it’s been forever since I last typed that)