Japan playlist

Here’s a Spotify playlist I made while I was in Japan, of Japanese artists and music that matched my mood at the time. (All the Japanese bands are marked with a J).

  1. Drop- Cornelius (J)
    First up Cornelius, from Tokyo. Keigo Oyamada was really big in the late 90s/early 2000s, but seemed to drop under the radar a bit in recent years. Wikipedia has now told me that he has a new album out this year, so I need to give that a listen.
  2. 1979- Smashing Pumpkins
    I have no shame. I was a big Smashing Pumpkins fan as a teenager, Zero shirt and inadvised bleached fringe and all. I stuck some 90s mix on the hotel tv’s youtube app, and this came up, and I remembered just how fun the video is. (James Iha also has roots in Japan).
  3. (circle)- Boredoms (J)
    ALL THE DRUMMERS YOU COULD WANT.
  4. Soon- My Bloody Valentine
    I don’t think you could do a Japan playlist without any My Bloody Valentine. I never made it to the Tokyo Hyatt bar from the film (it’s an expensive place). However I did get to stay at the Kyoto Hyatt after winning a voucher, and the included breakfast was the best and most comprehensive I’ve ever seen. Please note that I certainly did not smuggle any bags of extra cakes or fruit back to the room for lunch. Didn’t happen.
  5. Farewell- Boris (J)
    A playlist of Japanese music wouldn’t be complete without Boris. Here they are at their most relaxing.
  6. Knife Party- Deftones
    I’ve been on a Deftones kick lately after having not listened to them for years. White Pony still holds up great 17 years later. One of the few Nu Metal bands with any brains.
  7. Oto- Sakamoto & Fennesz (J)
    A collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christian Fennesz, mixing Sakamoto’s piano music, and Fennesz’s ambient sounds. One of the strangest little details about regularly going to work in rural Austria, is that I often go to Fennesz’s home region, Burgenland. It’s the smallest region of Austria (and used to be in Hungary) and they don’t have many famous people aside from Liszt. So they’re unusually proud of Fennesz and you find his records for sale in unexpected places like the Austrian equivalent of WH Smith’s.
  8. Apple- Cibo Mato (J)
    Still going strong with or without the membership of Sean Lennon.
  9. Panda- Dungen
    Not from Japan at all, from Sweden and in Swedish, but their early 70s kind of sound seemed to fit my mood well crossing Japan by train. Also named after a panda of course.
  10. Sometimes- My Bloody Valentine
  11. Last Target On The Last Day- Melt Banana (J)
    Every time I have ever seen Melt Banana live I have come home completely covered in other people’s sweat, but with no regrets.
  12. Astronaut- Beach House
    Every time I have seen Beach House live has been a sleepy mid-afternoon time on the second or third day of a festival either in warm weather or indoors relaxing on the floor. I think that sums them up in the same way “other people’s sweat” does for Melt Banana. I listened to this album a lot running along the shore of the Seto Inland Sea by rickety banana yellow local trains much like that in Spirited Away.
  13. Aware- Sakamoto & Fennesz
  14. Ghost Ship In A Storm- Jim O’Rourke
    Jim O’Rourke despite being associated with Chicago, now lives in Tokyo. For some reason I always associate his songs with Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes. I guess it’s a similar view of life in their writing.

Forgotten late 90s Indie Pop

leopard

A little while ago, there was a thing on Twitter where people used the #indieamnesty tag to tell funny or embarrassing stories about their involvement with the whole Landfill Indie and Nu Rave thing in the mid 2000s (there’s also a surprisingly intelligent and self-perceptive interview with Johnny Borrell (!!) here). As the Guardian article I’ve linked to said, “Indie amnesty brings together thousands of relatively banal anecdotes about unglamorous people doing slightly idiotic things into something quite majestic” and most of the people were writing about being foolish and easily impressed in their teenage years.

It was funny, but the whole thing made me feel weirdly old, because that wasn’t my era for being an impressionable teen. It’s strange when you realise that people you mentally categorised as peers actually grew up in a different era to you, or that people you think of as dramatically younger are also adults. My oldest nephew was born in 1996, and is now a university student with a driving licence, which is just wrong really. It shouldn’t be allowed. Time shouldn’t have moved that fast. Adults are not born in the 90s. The correct time to be born is clearly the early 80s, or the late 70s at a push. I will persist in this delusion for as long as allowed.

I think the prime age for wholeheartedly signing yourself over to whatever musical movement that easily presents itself is 13-14. You start to be aware of different genres of music, want to associate yourself with a tribe of people, have some pocket money to spend, and might even be allowed to go gigs if you have lax parents. The people writing those anecdotes had been that age in the 2000s. I was a teenager in the mid to late 90s. When the Rakes did 22 Grand Job, I actually did have a 22k dull office job (although not in the City, in an office park just outside Reading for full glamour!). Sadly my income hasn’t gone anywhere since then.

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Should a word have two meanings?

 

  1. Academy Fight SongMission of Burma
  2. You’re My Only HomeMagnetic Fields

  3. Love is Not LoveCate le Bon
    My three top new albums this year have all been by female solo artists, two of whom are Welsh, Cate le Bon’s Crab Day, Gwenno’s Y Dydd Olaf (the Last Day) and Artangels by Grimes. Crab Day is well worth checking out, combining influences from spooky 70s folk, Fleetwood Mac and Devo.
  4. Come on Let’s GoBroadcast
  5. Man on the MoonR.E.M.
  6. Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth? Minutemen
    The Minutemen have always come across as genuinely good people who genuinely loved playing together and actually lived according to their ethics and treated other people well. The We Jam Econo documentary is now free on Youtube.

  7. The Red Telephone Love
  8. Interstate 5Wedding Present

  9. Dawns Y Blaned DirionGwenno (Dance of the Kindly Planet)
  10. Golau ArallGwenno (Other Light)
    A Welsh-language electronica album based on a dystopian Welsh book.The lyrics and translations are available on the website.
  11. New SeedsBoards of Canada
  12. Come to DustBoards of Canada
    The finest soundtrack to post nuclear apocalypse there is.
  13. MetroBerlin
    I was reading an article on Stereogum from the Weird 90s series (well worth reading), where the writer was recalling a strange period of the late 90s where swing-revival stuff like the Cherry Popping Daddies was preferable to this song.
  14. Invisible SunPolice
    I don’t like the Police at all. So when I was listening to a radio show playing a retrospective of George Martin’s work and this came on, I was pleasantly surprised. A good story I read once about the Police was that at some point in the 80s at a Rolling Stones concert someone announced to Keith Richards that the police were here to see him. So he frantically got rid of all his drugs, and then in walked Sting.
  15. Who Be Lovin Me Santigold feat ILoveMakonnen
    The song could really do with more of Santigold herself, but I think the fact that ILoveMakonnen really can’t sing definitely adds something to the woozy sound.

“Solar on the Rise- summer, summer, summer” (Winter 2015 playlist)

thun_14-tm
I haven’t felt very festive lately. More winter solstice, fallow time of the year kind of feeling.



Krokodill- Jóhann Jóhannson

First of all, a piece of music by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannson. The one time I went to Reykjavik was in mid winter, when the sun limped above the horizon almost at midday, and then hung there feebly until about 3pm when it set again. I didn’t really see any of the fabled treeless landscape, because it was covered with snow and darkness, and satisfied myself with a Björk exhibition in the basement of one of the supermarkets in the town centre. Although it was incredible to go swimming in the hot water of the Blue Lagoon while it was snowing, I’d like to go to Reykjavik again when there’s actually some daylight. Maybe this summer.

Abschied- Nico (Farewell)
Nico had a really traumatic background, and always seems like a deeply unpleasant person as a result (as do most of the Factory-affiliated people). The more you find about so many musicians from the 60s and 70s, the more awful they all seem to be. I suppose they were allowed to get away with it at the time. I don’t understand why people call the Marble Index or Desertshore “unlistenable”. Sure, you wouldn’t play them at a wedding or something, but they nail a particular, unique, atmosphere and mood. Lyrics here.

Master Song- Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen always makes me think of Budapest, for the simple reason that when I was working there I was listening to him a lot. I often listened to this song sitting on the tram line that travels up and down the banks of the Danube, often with the carriage to myself at off-peak times. Budapest is a surprisingly empty city. It was built on a grand scale, for more people than currently live there, and a lot of the inhabitants leave at the weekends to stay at their cabin in the countryside. I miss Hungary, but I could never live there while it’s in the grip of the current far-right government.

So Real- Jeff Buckley
I suspect there are a fair few people I know who think that liking Jeff Buckley is deeply uncool, and probably shouldn’t be admitted to in public. Too sincere, or not macho enough or something, but not cheesy enough that you can like his music ironically. What does their opinion matter. Being too cool for school is an insecure business.

In Nightmare Room- Merchandise
Despite how they sound, Merchandise are a current band from Florida, not an 80s band from the UK. When this album came out, they gave away the MP3 version for free. At the time I was housesitting for my friend Kate, and I had no money and nowhere much to go. I cooked a lot of vegetable curries, read all her books I hadn’t already read, and listened to this album on repeat pretty much constantly. (When I saw them live though, I was disappointed that they didn’t have the drum machine on this song)

Закрой за мной дверь, я ухожу- Кино (Close the door behind me, I’m leaving- Kino)
An actual 80s band, this time from behind the Iron Curtain. Viktor Tsoi‘s story is pretty fascinating, slogging away at being an underground musician in the USSR for years, getting expelled from art school and having some of his songs officially banned on grounds of political dissidence for his troubles, becoming a big star (albeit one with no money) under Glasnost, and then dying in a car accident the year after the Berlin Wall came down, keeping a permanent grip on Russian culture (and also getting denounced last year by a paranoid right-wing Russian politician as a tool of the CIA). Translation of the lyrics here.

A Line in Wet Grass- Flesh World
Flesh World do what they say on the tin. Twin Peaks, Kenneth Anger and David Hockney inspired post-punk. I saw them twice within the space of a few days this year, and it was well worth it.

I see,so I see so- Broadcast & the Focus Group
It made total sense for Broadcast and the Focus Group to do an album together. Broadcast and all the Ghost Box records bands have such a similar eerie 70s public information film aesthetic. My friend Vicky was assigned to create artwork based on this album as part of her illustration degree- you can see her work here.

REALiTi- Grimes
I prefer this demo version to the version that’s on the album. I managed to get a ticket to the Grimes show in the Spring. Exciting!

Goodbye N17, Hello SE13

I’ve been really busy the last month. I moved from one end of London to the other, finished one job and did another short-term one, all in the space of a few weeks. When I’ve been at a computer in my spare time I’ve mostly been doing admin for DIY Space for London.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Tottenham. I moved there in 2013 because a cheap room came up, and ended up living there for two more years just out of convenience. My auntie and cousins used to live there in the 80s and 90s, but they’re long gone to Hertfordshire now. There was never much in the area that I was particularly attached to, the transport links aren’t great, and I felt like I was constantly on transport to get somewhere, worrying about being late.

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Sleater-Kinney

Cover of Sleater-Kinney's the Hot Rock album

A few weeks ago I went to see Sleater-Kinney, one of my favourite bands, at the Roundhouse. They had been on hiatus since 2006, with the members working on other projects like Portlandia in the meantime, so I was pleased and surprised when they announced a new album and tour. The last time they had played in the UK was when I was doing my finals, so I’d had to give it a miss. I’d seen them before at Reading Festival, but I never really count short afternoon festival sets at massive outdoor festivals like Reading as really seeing a band properly, because you’re basically watching them on a tv screen standing at the other end of a field (one of the many reasons I don’t go to them any more). I don’t think I have ever been to such a big gig as the Roundhouse one where I just constantly ran into so many people I know and like, it was almost too much, there was someone new to say hello to every time I turned around . The band themselves were superb, and played for an hour and half. I don’t think you could ask for more, really. Read more

Your suspicions I’m confirming, as you find them all quite true

1) Continental Shelf– Viet Cong
One off the radio at work. I’m not that fussed about the whole album, but I really like this single.

2) Kingdom of Heaven (Is Within You) – The 13th Floor Elevators
From the True Detective soundtrack. The seedy side of the late 60s. It really fitted the show well.

3) Be Quiet and Drive– Deftones
The only nu-metal band I ever had any time for. They would probably baulk at being described as nu-metal though. No-one wants to be associated with Fred Durst.

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Wake and walk and talk and take

More like wake and talk and work and talk and work lately. I’ve been working teaching on a residential course in an ex nunnery near St Albans this week. I’ve worked for the company for a few years on and off, teaching the odd course here and there. Most of their work is residential, so I just do it occasionally. They hire out beautiful historical buildings and teenagers from abroad come for 2 week holidays. You take them out on field trips, give them lessons about cultural topics, and to improve their practical use of English, and do a creative project with them. This time we have been doing film-making. Last week they did a detective story, this week horror stories. No, you can’t see them, because of child protection rules at the job.

The hours are long and you live in work and see no-one but your students and co-workers for 2 weeks, but the work is satisfying and well-paid, and meals and laundry and cleaning are taken care of, so all you have to do is concentrate on the work. The food at this place has been surprisingly good too. I couldn’t do it long term though, you’d feel like you’d been institutionalised. I return to London on Saturday and start a new Summer teaching job on Monday. It will be good to be earning proper money for a while.

1. Circumambient- Grimes
<3 Claire Boucher.

2. Anyone Can Have a Good Time- Owls
Owls! Owls! They’re playing in London in September! Also Kingston in a pub, I’m not sure why. I’ve always wondered why this song isn’t on the album though, it’s great.

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Rocks are slow life

I’ve been enjoying hermitting recently. I’ve gone out and done the odd thing and for work, but I’ve been happy to stay in the last few weeks and work on various projects, and apply for more work, and declutter junk. Sometimes these phases are nice.

1) Tears on Fresh Fruit- Sparklehorse
Poor old Mark Linkous.

2) Tired of Sex- Weezer
I loved the first two Weezer albums so much as a teenager. I was pretty disappointed when the third album came out, and I never bothered with the others after that. I live in a delusional bubble where Weezer only have two albums. Don’t spoil it for me. Listening to them now, I also realise what a total and utter creep Rivers Cuomo is. I mean “I want a girl who laughs for no-one else”?. Seriously? My friend Tukru sent me this message recently about hearing Across the Sea on the radio at work. “I was all YUSSS and EWWWW” at the same time. Pretty much sums it up.

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The more you use it, the more it works.

Februrary has been a deeply weird and confusing month, for various reasons. I had to go to hospital with gastritis and a kidney infection. I didn’t have to stay in or anything, but I had to take loads of different medications and was pretty ill for about a week and a half. I had to also follow the most boring diet possible until my stomach healed up (like, literally nothing was allowed). I was basically eating the diet of a fussy toddler. I never want to see another quorn nugget as long as I live. My stomach is fine now, and I’m reintroducing various foods and drinks, but it’s weird to have to try to remind myself to eat proper meals again. I also lost weight. Society wants to tell you that you should always be happy about that for whatever reason, because women aren’t supposed to take up space in the world or something, but actually my weight was fine before (they definitely don’t want you thinking that). Now my clothes are a bit sad and loose looking. Hopefully now I’m back on proper food that will be sorted out quickly.  


Anyway, here’s one of my monthly playlists, with some comments about each song.


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