March singles catch-up: Aira, DJ Shog, Madonna

March has proven both the most and least productive example of the ’08 (so far). Not to say a lot of stuff hasn’t been released, just that most of it has been hasn’t even been worth listening to. American released singles are harder for me to keep track of, never being able to tell what’s brand-new and what’s just album re-hash and foreign discs were just lackluster (see: MY LITTLE LOVER, Yuko Ando, alice nine., etc). Even so, I must admit the ratio of successful singles to duds is significantly higher than past months (February – 1:4, January – yeah right, like I’m done getting through all of those).

Mitsuki Aira has been a fascinating study in trend-spotting and I’ve been keeping my eye on her since well, August 2007, when she released her first single COLORFUL TOKYO SOUNDS No.9 because of producer Terukado Oonishi’s bid to become the next Yasutaka Nakata and cash in on the electro chip-tune that is currently making groups like Perfume and capsule some huge, unexplainably brilliant phenomenon that we can only hope isn’t a phenomenon at all, but a long-term investment in the music industry’s all too low-brow, jazzy, big band-saturated environment. COLORFUL TOKYO SOUNDS No.9 wasn’t anything to write overseas about, but with CHINA DISCOTICA, Aira is finally showing some signs of possible break-through. “CHINA DISCOTICA” tries a bit too hard (8-bit? 24-bit? #-bit overload), but “ROMANTIC ROPE” is just the type of song that can be advertised as Nakata inspired instead of Nakata rip-off. The incredible staccato speed of the chorus, the subtle base of synth enhancing rather than distracting, and the tweaked vocals work in the sort of cool distance the mysteriously aloof maintain without appearing anti-social.

I’m guessing Aira will release at least one more single before an album is in the works (and who knows when that will be – it’s been seven months since COLORFUL TOKYO SOUNDS No.9), but if you’re of the MEG/COLTEMONIKHA type, you’d be hard-pressed not to add Aira to your list.

I tried to do some quick research on DJ Shog, just to see if there was, in fact, some time in the past I’ve heard something of his and simply failed to attach the name – nothing came up except, shockingly, an Ayumi Hamasaki remix of “Depend on you” from the European vinyl. Fact is, I don’t actually remember this remix at all: Depend on you is probably one of my least favorite remix vinyls, and really, I don’t remember anything off of it and I won’t pretend like I do or that there is any significant connection between single “Feel Me (Through the Radio)” and the Hamasaki remix. There simply isn’t any relationship at all; “Feel Me” has a fantastic verse melody, a looping, nonsensical chorus, and an Inpetto Remix to change it up when things get boring, while the “Depend on you” remix is still just a filler track. The other remixes are barely worth a single spin apiece, but “Feel Me” still gets my vote for best trance single of the month (and hey, he lists both Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys as influences, that’s pretty friggin’ cool).

I’ve been playing the ass out of Madonna’s new single “4 Minutes,” not because it’s original or even remarkable (I can’t describe it any better than fourfour: “She’s so far past telling us what’s cool (back in the day, when she showed the world the Lower East Side and vouging) that she’s now telling us what we already like”), but because it’s amazing how such an ambitious song negates itself with its own ego – but does a successful Madonna/Timberlake/Timberland collab need to be ambitious or is it just a given? Wouldn’t want the song to rest on its celeb laurels but pointing out its lack of pop aesthetic and thin melody is moot – it’s all about the hook.

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