Sigur Rós – Kveikur


If I had to name three bands from my youth that were most influential in shaping my music tastes into what they are today, I’d pick Radiohead, Muse and Sigur Rós. While I’ve grown out of the first two acts, the Icelandic band remain an integral part of my playlists, particularly their Ágætis Byrjun and Takk… albums. I wasn’t so keen on last year’s Valtari, which lacked purpose and direction  but Kveikur has them back at their most brilliant and arguably, their most different, best. The anthemic Ísjaki (above) is their most accessible song since Hoppípolla and features a chorus(!) that’s punctuated by a pulsating rhythm section and Jónsi’s distinct wail. Exquisite stuff, really.

So yeah, if I’m afk for the next few days or weeks it’ll be because I’m stuck looping Kveikur :3

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Penny Tai – 純屬意外

Penny is one of the few Mando/Cantopop artists whose albums I can listen to in their entirety without feeling like I’ve been ripped off by the 1 or 2 half-decent songs floating in an ocean of mediocrity; I look at my CD collection and sigh at how few of the Chinese-language CDs I actually still listen to (less than 5).

純屬意外 (Unexpected) is Penny’s first release on her own record label 妮樂佛音樂 (Ni Yue Fu) and strikes a similar tone to her 2011 album 回家路上. The ballads are still out in full force but Penny does at least try to inject a bit of unconventionality into proceedings by throwing in the odd banjo here and a string-drum-breakbeat there – the latter midway through the fabulous ethereal album opener Sing It Out. The experimentation we saw on Penny’s side project Buddha Jump only rears its head in the second half of the album with jazz notes on 沒有人愛, the big soul ballad 吻 and pop-rock Never – naturally these rank amongst my favourite tracks, too bad that there’s so few of them. Overall, Penny keeps Unexpected a fairly straightforward, commercial affair that will no doubt keep the radio stations and her sponsors happy.


Check out my fave track Sing It Out above. Also try the MV for 你怎麼可以安心的睡著.

On that note, I’d really like a second Buddha Jump album…please?

Keep it: Sing It Out, 沒有人愛, 草莓麵包
Dump it: 純屬意外, 右臉

haisuinonasa – reflection


Bought haisuinonasa’s new single on Bandcamp. Math-rock isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I’ve discovered of late, it is mine. Most of the ‘genre’ features way too many noisy, technically arrogant guitar shredders for its own good so haisuinonasa’s piano breakbeat/breakcore is a welcome change – kinda reminds me of the best bits of School Food Punishment albeit with less vocals and more crazy time signatures.

Sungha Jung – Paint it Acoustic


We all know Jung can play the heck out of a guitar, bending every pop tune he covers to his unique brand of acoustic fingerstyle, but the only way he can be can prevent himself from going down as just another Youtube star is through his own compositions. And there are plenty of those on his latest album Paint it Acoustic.

The strength and variety of his songwriting has come a long way since 2010’s Perfect Blue and you can see that in the video for album opener Felicity, where the deceptively light and breezy melody masks how much is really going on – Sungha sneaks in his usual arsenal of tricks and tapping skills and yes, it makes me want to throw all my guitars in the monsoon drain.

Rest of the album’s just as good, pick up an autographed copy on his site.

SM

Lumping one long forgotten draft with a few other recents ‘cos I’m lazy like that.

SHINee – Why So Serious? -The Misconceptions Of Me
I absolutely hated part one, lest ye forget. Part two however is quite excellent, re-establishing SHINee as SM’s sandbox for any weird new musical directions they might like to try in the future. The album is a lot more varied and adventurous than Dream Girl, if we discount that horrible choice of title track. Too bad Jonghyun was out for most of the count during the promotions but I definitely wanna see Like A Fire performed live someday – that song’s been my jam for the last 2 months now.

EXO – XOXO
Wolf leaked months ago. It sucked then, it sucks now. Moving on…

To be quite frank, I was really afraid about what this first full-length would turn into – all the noises we had been hearing indicated that the album should’ve turned up in December last year, only to be beset by delay after delay after delay. Now I can finally breathe a sigh of relief – that XOXO is here and that (some of) those gorgeous songs we heard on the initial batch of EXO teasers are out.

Remember Teaser #1 with Kai? Finally, My Lady is on a record. If I really had anything to complain about XOXO, it’s that there are too few uptempo songs included – where is Time Control, Lightsaber or Run & Gun? :<

Henry – Trap
The teaser for the ‘surprise’ debut male solo SM dropped last week was so obviously Henry I don’t know whey they bothered wasting money on the photoshop. While it is encouraging that SM have let Henry out of the dungeon (we have hope for Jino yet!) and allowed him a lot more control over the material than any of the label’s other artists, his songwriting team Noize Bank hasn’t got a very good track record – witness the Super Junior M abum. They’re only slightly better here with 1-4-3 (I Love You), My Everything and Ready 2 Love but it’s all a little too High School Musical for my taste.

Title track featuring fellow maknaes Taemin & Kyuhyun is the pick of the mini-album, harking back to the golden days of Kpop before everyone started worshipping dubstep. I Would is probably the song that feels most out of place on the album – it’s entirely in English, featuring lyrics by Andrew Choi and piano by Yiruma which seems like a good idea on paper but in practice, ends up a hackneyed ballad that Celine Dion might be embarrassed to sing. At times like this it would be better not to understand English, methinks…

Regardless, I got Trap on iTunes just to support my boy Henry. I don’t wanna see him locked away again after this >.<

….+ bonus.

Andrew Choi – Love Was Enough
Kpop Star 2 second runner-up and occasional SM songwriter (TVXQ, SHINee, EXO). I guess Choi couldn’t wait for SM to offer him a deal so he went ahead and released his own EP. It’s a very polished record as you’d expect from someone of his age (33) and experience yet, there is very little here that moves me. It’s inoffensive background muzak at best and I really do wonder if anyone will stick their neck out and offer Choi a deal based on the songs here – certainly he doesn’t have that special something that made Akdong Musician a national phenomenon.

Old Favourites

Where expectations and disappointment levels (usually) perfectly correlate.

Shiina Ringo – Irohanihoheto
Oh boy, what can I say about this one? She’s regressing to Muzai Moratorium days here, the song sounds like Tokyo Jihen doing a cover of Kabukichou no Joou….not a good thing. Playing it way too safe, even if it was intended for a drama (Kamo, Kyoto e Iku). Someone needs to play Shiina her Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana album to remind herself how good she can be.

Mr.Children – REM
Soooo I finally gathered up the courage to listen to their new song. 10 years hearing sappy ballad after sappy ballad killed my interest in Misuchiru but my optimism is slightly renewed by REM, their rockiest song in a long, long time.

Ling Tosite Sigure – i’mperfect

I think I’ve been listening to them for way too long. There’s nothing inherently wrong with i’mperfect – in fact, it’s a pretty kick-ass, intense album if you’re a newcomer brought in by their recent major label success (or maybe you watched PSYCHO-PASS). Unfortunately they’re not bringing anything new to the table here and it’s more of the same ‘ordered chaos’ that we’re used to hearing from Ling Tosite Sigure. I swear TK’s saving the good stuff for his solo career, damnit!

Spitz – Sarasara/Boku wa Kitto Tabi ni Deru
Honestly, I don’t think Kusano’s even trying any more. Maybe the record label’s forcing him to? He looked tired as hell when I saw Spitz on tour 2 summers ago – he’d been hospitalized for a ‘stress disorder’ that year and I think it’s not only sapped away his physical energy, but his creative juices too.

Yakushimaru Etsuko – Radio Onsen Eutopia
Yakushimaru’s solo career has made one thing clear to me – the main reason I love(d) Soutaiseiriron is not because of her vocals, but because of Manabe Shuichi’s & Nagai Seiichi’s songs. Yakushimaru’s own work however, alternates between being terribly bland or sickeningly twee – I wasn’t even halfway through Eutopia before I had to press the stop button because the songs were giving me an almighty headache. I am starting to feel very nervous about Soutaiseiriron’s first album without Manabe (due in July)…

Kuchiroro – Japanese Couple
I have given up trying to box Kuchiroro into any specific genre since they have this tendency to find new ways to fuck up my brain with every new album (remember that 14-minute long opus used in Samsung’s Space Balloon project?). In some ways, Japanese Couple is a lot more straightforward by Kuchiroro standards – thematically anyway. It’s about love, except they’re up to their usual tricks and trying to be Hot Chip, The Ronettes and Ozawa Kenji though thankfully, not all at once. Corny in parts but not a bad album overall.

Love Psychedelico – In This Beautiful World

Delico are always going to be an acquired taste and you’ll either really love or really hate their brand of’60s British rock/Janis Joplin influenced sound – I remember playing friends some of their music 10 years ago and them being put off by Kumi’s strange accent and her liberal use of Engrish. Luckily I love them (and this album) to bits. I’m only sad that they take so long to make new music – 3 years in between each of their last 3 studio releases :(

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Maybe soon I’ll get around to writing about all those new records made by the bands of my teenage years? Texas, Suede, Daft Punk, Primal Scream, The Strokes, British Sea Power, The National, The Flaming Lips, Phoenix, Alkaline Trio………damn. Why aren’t there 48 hours in a day?