Category Archives: Album of the Week

The Feelies – The Good Earth (1986)

During my freshman year of college I had a reputation as being the dorm’s computer guy. Not that I’m particularly savvy in that area but I was at least on the same level as a technically inclined 13 year-old. Once word spread that I knew how to “get the internet working” I was suddenly installing printers and doing virus scans for everyone on the floor. Not that I minded too much – it was a good way to meet cute girls and get free beer. At one point I spent three hours troubleshooting for some hunting bro whose computer was one of the most messed up I’ve ever seen – the thing was just completely slammed with viruses, to the point where it was effectively useless. Before I finished up some people knocked on the door to drink a few beers and play cards and the dude kicked me out, saying I should come back tomorrow. I did it because I’m a sucker, but it did hurt a bit…after all who likes beer and cards more than yours truly?
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Akiko Yano – Gohan Ga Dekita Yo (1980)

6268577I’ve always loved this album cover. Maybe it’s not “lifting an inflatable dolphin” great, but it’s great nevertheless. More than that, I think it represents what her music is all about. I first heard of Akiko Yano through her involvement in YMO; as you may know she was married to Ryuichi Sakamoto for a long time, so she was always in that orbit. I don’t think she appeared on any of the albums but she was part of their live show for a few years. If you’ve ever seen one of those performances then surely you will have noticed her; while the other members were mostly stoic and businesslike (must be the Kraftwerk thing), Yano was always bopping along and having a great time. You ever hear that phrase, “dance like no one’s watching?” Well, that’s her.
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Susumu Hirasawa – The Man Climbing the Hologram (2015)

hologWhen I reviewed In a Model Room I had planned for it to be just the first of many articles about key P-Model/Susumu Hirasawa albums. But there are just so many good ones – to start on that path would be like writing a novel. Granted it’s a novel very much worth writing, but as you can see, I get sidetracked easily. So I’m just going to skip to the end. The thing is that Hirasawa is at a strange spot at this point in his career. I’ve had this sense ever since his excellent 2006 album Byakkoya that there is just nothing left for him to prove anymore. It was yet another realization of a sound he’d been chasing since the mid-80’s, something that was epic and incredibly melodic; the full skillset of the Zolo Technopop Goofball porting over to the symphonic world in pretty much the best possible way.
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Katamari Fortissimo Damacy (2004)

The last time I was really into video games was during the XBox/PS2/Gamecube era,150753-Katamari_Damacy_(USA)-1 maybe stretching into the first couple years of the Wii.  After that I didn’t really have the time – today’s blockbuster games are just so dense and involved, they’re not really for the “pick it up every few weeks” gamer like myself.  There was another problem I noticed back then, which was that game development felt so stale – everything was a FPS or a sequel.  There was just no money to be made in something original.  I get that, of course – the movie industry operates the same way these days.  But occasionally something gets through the cracks.  I remember hearing about Katamari Damacy back when it was released; all I really remembered was that it was from Japan and it was weird.  So weird in fact that Namco priced the game at $19.99 just to encourage people to try it.

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Denki Groove – Ilbon2000 (2000)

R-114495-1255484646.jpegOften you know if a live album’s going to be a banger in the first minute.  Presumably you already know all the songs, so all the critical questions get answered right away: Is the band going to stick to the record, or will they mix things up?  What’s the sound quality like?  How amped is the crowd?  What’s the energy level?  I’m thinking of Underworld’s Everything, Everything; as soon as that brand-new synth line on “Juanita” kicks in you know you’re in for something great.  Or Ween’s Live in Chicago, when the band immediately launches into a double-speed “Take Me Away” which blows the studio version out of the water.  “The Man-Machine” on Kraftwerk’s Minimum-Maximum with those deep bass sounds that weren’t possible in ’78.  Any King Crimson live album that kicks off with “Larks 2”.  And so on.
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Britney Spears – Blackout (2007)

Britney_Spears_-_Blackout“If Britney Sparks survived 2007, you can survive today” – an actual coffee mug I’ve seen someone sip brandy out of.  I can think of two times in my life where I’ve felt genuine concern for a celebrity.  One was Charlie Sheen during his winning streak, which wound up briefly making him the most famous person on the planet, often in the context of “is this guy gonna survive another year?”.  The other was Ms. Spears.  Never been much of a fan of her music and quite frankly I was a bit irritated by her celebrity, which I felt she didn’t really earn.  In fact she was kind of the poster child for “everything wrong with the music industry” for about five years.  I never quite knew what her deal was.  Her personality and backstory was totally downplayed, other than the fact that she was just a “down home Southern girl with dreams of becoming a star”.  Had I not been 12 at the time it was released, I might have recognized “…Baby One More Time” as one of pop culture’s most uncomfortable moments, though even that was eclipsed by that one VMA performance which caused everyone’s Dad to completely perv out.  WHAT DO YA THINK THE GIANT SNAKE REPRESENTS, GUYS?  She was such a fever dream for the business that it almost seemed strange to consider that there was a real person behind it all.  That is, until her personal life became a tabloid fixture, with candid, somewhat unsavory shots of her cropping up all over the place, along with monthly stints in rehab for God knows what.  It was really a vicious cycle; like 90% of her bizarre, “OUT OF CONTROL!!” behavior was probably directly attributable to the fact that she was being followed by paparazzi everywhere she went.  Then again she did lose custody of her kids to Kevin Federline, so maybe she really did crack.

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They Might Be Giants – Flood (1990)

On YouTube someone uploaded a 6-minute video which is just the same Sesame Street music video playing five times in a row.  If you have a toddler you know why this is.  Kids have this tendency to want to watch or listen to the same thing over and over again, basically for as long as you’ll let them.  If you don’t have kids this probably sounds awful, but the truth is you begin to develop some sort of Stockholm Syndrome after a while.  You notice little idiosyncrasies in the video – the hidden edits, the actor who half-asses a scene, or the one character a quarter-step out of time.  The song starts playing in your head at all hours of the night.  It’s a small price to pay to get your kid to sit still for 15 minutes.  If I have to know who Pentatonix is, then so be it.  Who am I to get in the way of something my 2 year-old likes?  Haven’t we all had those moments where we wanted to listen to the same song on repeat for a half hour?

Flood_album_cover

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