Friday night shuffle XIV

I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

a-ha – Celice: Despite the fact that a-ha is best known for their 80’s classic “Take on Me” and seemed to almost disappear after the insta-acclaim of the single, the group has continued to release albums well through the 90s and 00s. In 2005, their music took an abrupt turn with the release of Analogue, an album that consists almost entirely of piano, synth, and drums. While this may seem almost nauseatingly redundant, the album took me pleasantly by surprise as an innovative turn for the band, while retaining the classic 80s sound they were best remembered for. This is the opening track of that album. It is delicious and easily one of the catchiest singles released in 2005. That is all.

Eriko Imai – Set Me Free!: An old Japanese pop track from 2001, following the wake of Eriko’s off-hand comment that many in the industry persevered through popularity rather than hard work, a comment that damaged her career (although concerning the Japanese pop industry, so true). Not the best track I’ve posted up here, but fun enough.

Every Little Thing – Face the change: Classic Japanese pop/rock from one of Japan’s longest running and best loved acts. This is one of the first Japanese pop songs I really got into, so it brings back many, many horrendous memories of trying to achieve the cute Ayumi Hamasaki haircut that went horribly awry. The lead singer, Kaori Mochida, has an almost transcendently clear timbre and great range, and a now unmistakable voice in her genre, while the guitar solo is a brilliant example of middle to late 90s Japanese pop guitar (think B’z: anything they’ve done, ever).

Inoue Marina – Beautiful Story: Taking us back to the Japanese pop present, this is a recent 2007 release. To be honest, I’ve noticed that this is almost the anti-thesis to Japanese pop music today, which is mostly concerned with organic instruments à la big band, or American influenced hip hop. This sort of electronic/dance pop is more rare and mostly found in indie girl-group Perfume or the earlier work of bless4 (although it is worth noting that 2007 is turning out to be Yasutaka Nakata’s year and if it’s any indication – Japanese pop in 2008 is going to rock).

The Birthday Massacre – Under the Stairs: Although still a relatively unknown band that enjoys a steady cult following, I still believe the Birthday Massacre are one of the most innovative groups releasing music today, with their distinctive industrial/synth rock melodies and the trademark, almost bright and contradictory vocals of Chibi. This isn’t one of their best songs, not by far, but it’s a good idea of the direction the rest of their discography heads towards.

Friday night shuffle XIII

I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

B’z – ULTRA SOUL: B’z is an incredibly popular pop rock band from Japan. The duet has regularly released music for almost two decades since 1988, managing to produce fifteen original albums. B’z is, however, a case of quantity over quality and I have never been entirely convinced that their music is relatable and deserving of the acclaim they receive. However, Tak Matsumoto and Koshi Inaba are quite capable of producing radio-friendly songs and “ULTRA SOUL” is one exception to my dismissal. With a catchy chorus accompanying an almost synth rock quality amidst a refreshingly open guitar solo, “ULTRA SOUL” was a fantastic single when it was released in the Spring of 2001, but it makes an even better summer single for any year.

MSTRKRFT – Work On You: For a while there, I was really getting into electronic-dance music, you know, when it seemed all the hipsters and college kids were switching from stale indie-rock to upbeat dance music like this song here…until I realized how freakin’ annoying electro-pop can be in large quantities. While I still think it’s an incredible genre filled with unique and incredibly talented artists like Cut Copy (and I can’t freakin’ wait for their new album), Junior Boys, and Venus Hum, I’m becoming wary of music that seems a mish-mash of bleeps and bloops and robot voices. On that note, how many more remixes of Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.” can we hear before the album drops on the 11th? For realz.

Erasure – A Little Respect (Acoustic Version): Erasure is a popular synth pop outfit that began releaing music in 1985. However, despite their consistent releases, the group still retains only a cult following, perhaps for their cult classic “A Little Respect,” a typical 80s pop number from 1988. This version is an acoustic rendition of the single, and while it’s interesting to hear a toned-down rendition of the song, I do recommend you track down the original, as the acoustics do little illustrate the quirky nature of the original.

Ashlee Simpson – Boyfriend (Garcia & Page Club Mix): Don’t judge me!!

Hans Zimmer – Drink Up Me Hearties: From everybody’s favorite movie starring pirates, this is the final song played in the very last scene of the trilogy. While I applaud Hans Zimmer’s entire discography and his ability to take over where Klaus Badelt left off on the original soundtrack, I am however, almost appalled how similar Zimmer’s latest pieces are beginning to sound (compare The Da Vinci’s Code’s “Chevaliers de Sangreal” to “One Day” off of the same Pirates soundtrack and you’ll get an idea of what I mean). However, you don’t really need to worry too much about that in this song, as it’s basically yet another take on the classic theme song that everybody is getting sick of.

Friday night shuffle XII

I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

Hilary Duff – With Love (Richard Vission’s Big Room Edit): With a single release comes plenty of club remixes and as such, there have been plenty of remixes of Duff’s latest “With Love” hitting the airwaves. Richard Vission is a pretty big name in the remixsphere and probably up there with H/\L, Laugh & Peace, Above & Beyond, and Tommie Sunshine in terms of my favorite DJs and quality remixes. This is the shorter edit version and very upbeat, although it lacks the punch that the original song achieves, as well as the uniqueness of other remixes (I’m thinking DJ Laszlo’s version, which I highly recommend).

ABBA – The Day Before You Came: Ahh ABBA. How I listened to you a many, many time growing up. My mother was a huge ABBA/Saturday Night Fever fan, and unfortunately, instead of becoming completely disenchanted and annoyed with the disco-pop group, I ended up, like, really liking them. Go figure. This is one of their slower songs with a funkier groove then the frivolous boppity-bop the group is known for (I’m going to pretend I didn’t just use the word boppity-bop).

Hellogoodbye – Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn: This is from The Parachute EP. Definetly not one of my favorite Helloogoodbye tracks.

Cph Jet – Just Can’t Get Enough: A cover of Depeche Mode’s classicaly 80’s synth pop number. It’s strongly electronic, but that’s about one of the only differences between the original; you’ll probably recognize the song right away after hearing the first four notes. The lyrics, however, are, for the most part, spoken instead of sung, by a female vocalist in a computerized sort of way which takes it about four steps too far into electronic for me. I’ll stick with the original.

Bon Jovi – Wanted Dead or Alive: I can’t even listen to this song without thinking of Bon Jovi’s sketch on Saturday Night Live featuring the DeMarco Brothers with Chris Parnell and Chris Kattan. God, I wish that was up on YouTube. Yes, I know that tells you nothing about this song, but honestly, pretty much everyone is familiar with this song on some level or other.

Friday night shuffle XI

I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

Bob Dylan – Most of the Time: This is one of my favorite Dylan songs of all time (though it doesn’t sound anything like my other favorite Dylan songs). It’s sad and melancholic and all those other sorrowful words that sum up break-ups. The words are almost painful to hear as Dylan sputters them out almost aggresively, suggesting the very irony of his own words. Regardless of the relatively ‘recentness’ in contrast to his complete discography, it was the first album to do relatively well on charts after a series of born-again Christian gospel records that comprised the 80s. But it’s Dylan, so you know…you won’t regret downloading it.

Piotr Rubik – Please Don’t Go: Yeah, sorry, this shuffle is getting depressing with another break-up song, but you know. Whatevs. Rubik is a successful Polish pop singer with almost flawless English. This song has another mopey feel to it, complete with violins and angst-ridden lyrics (“Please don’t go! Please don’t go!”).

Bon Jovi – Let It Rock: From the band’s highest-selling album, enjoy the opening track of Slippery When Wet, “Let It Rock.” It pretty much sounds like classic early Bon Jovi, you know, a rock-organ intro and predominantly electric guitar riffs. I’ve never really been a huge Bon Jovi fan, but this album is alright.

Placebo – Daddy Cool: Placebo is known for doing plenty of official cover songs, notably “Running Up That Hill,” the almost transcedently awesome cover of Kate Bush’s 80s synth track which made a huge hit in 2006 after being featured in an episode of The OC. Honestly, I can’t choose which song is better, they’re both so musically opposite, yet complement the lyrics both ways. “Daddy Cool” is a rock rendition of an old disco number by group Boney M., one of the many disco groups I was subjected to as a child, having a mother whose favorite performing group used to be ABBA. I was shocked that Placebo would pick such a (semi) obscure disco song to re-do and I was pleasanty surprised to find it used a few of the original vocals, simply placing more rhythm guitars and wasn’t all too bad (more accessible than the original, anyway).

SMAP – $10: SMAP is one of Japan’s all-time most popular boy bands. Of course, the word “boy band” means something different to the Japanese; sure it’s a group made up of boys who sing pop songs and dance, and are made up of the “cute” one, the “quiet” one, etc…but aside from their lack of vocal skills, the group is quite talented in other ways. The boys have been around for almost two decades, making their debut in 1991, and have since gone on to host an exceptionally popular show, SMAPxSMAP that features guest celebrities (both Japanese and American) whom they cook for. They also perform songs, compete in competitions and have short comedy sketches. Each member has gone on to pursue relatively successful solo projects, either in music or TV/movies. This song is a notable early single released in 1994 that was recently resurrected as a duet with Japanese pop queen Ayumi Hamasaki on a recent episode (it was quite comical hearing Hamasaki warble “I want you lady” in English, probably unaware of what she was actually saying).

Friday night shuffle X

I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

hide – POSE (MIXED LEMONed Jelly mix ver.9): “POSE” is one of the more popular hide solo works, even featured in X Japan concerts as his rather promiscuous solo spot (not everybody got one, and some people who didn’t deserve one got one, ie Heath, Yoshiki, everybody else besides hide). “POSE” was remixed a lot, probably due to the catchy upbeat industrial vibe of the original which opens up with a ping-pong game before the guitars and industrial beats come in while hide waxes eloquent on the state of human nature. This remix is found on the posthumous In Motion single release. It sounds very much like the original, making it a rather superfluous track on an altogether superfluous single release.

Hikaru Utada – Boku wa Kuma (Instrumental): As the end of 2006 drew near, singer/songwriter Hikaru Utada released “Boku wa Kuma,” a rather hypnotic nursery rhyme meant for children. I find this particularly strange, as her core-audience is cetainly not children, although the song was featured in Minna no Uta, a children’s music program, where it became quite popular. Although the song itself is quite fascinating (“I am a bear! a bear! a bear! a bear! who is not chocolate!“), this instrumental version came up on shuffle, so enjoy it sans vocals.

hitomi – My Planet (Tatsumaki Remix): Probably one of the greatest trance compilations ever released was song+nation 2 trance. Fresh off the heels of song+nation, a Japanese pop star tribute to the victims of 9/11, came the remixed edition. Spanning two discs, the album is probably the best and my favorite dictionary definition of trance. Each song ranges from seven to twelve minutes apiece, gradually building up, gathering instruments, getting synthtastic before the chorus comes in and the song reaches a trance plateau before gradually beginning its descent. Amazingly enough, while I find each and every song on the original “song+nation” drab, expendable pop music, I love pretty much every single track on this album; that is how amazing and unique each remix manages to be. hitomi’s “My Planet” remix is no exception. If you’re ever wondering what real trance sounds like, wonder no further.

Ringside – Cold On Me: Ringside is a pop rock band from California that mixes contemporary electronic sounds in their work that injects an almost Depeche Mode-like quality in their work. “Cold On Me” is a good example of this, a plaintive song about a failing relationship. Surprisingly, the key changes are similar to late 60s/early 70s pop music, which comes in strongly through the vocals. Not a song I play very often, but a decent track on the 2005 self-titled album.

The Cure – Just Like Heaven: If you haven’t heard this song before, then yeah. I pretty much have nothing to say about that.

Friday night shuffle IX

I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

Junior Boys – In The Morning: The past few weeks, I’ve had the delight of driving my sister’s car to school which is nice because she has taken the liberty of installing a CD player that actually functions (so that obnoxious flag hanging on the rearview mirror: I have nothing to do with that). In September, Junior Boys released a new album that received nice reviews from the popular media and while I am not apt to agree with all of the stellar ratings, I am quite content playing this song over and over and over again, as I find it keeps me quite happy. My sister, however, does not agree, and as a result, I have had to make three new mix CDs with this song on it as the others have suffered “mysterious” disappearances and I refuse to submit to the idealogy that her car’s CD player only responds positively to reggaeton. In fact, we had a conversation, the CD player and I, and it consisted of us singing the wrong words to this song in carefree unison and plotting ways to destroy all of the reggaeton CDs in the dashboard with a wild conflagration. We’ve become very close.

The Decemberists – Summersong: The Decemberists are cool because um. Well. I suppose because they have written many great novels and set them to melody. So when you ignore the fact that they are pretentiouslly erudite and haven’t learned the proper term of “moderation” when it comes to acoustic guitars, I suppose this is a fantastic song.

George Harrison – Got My Mind Set on You: This song does a really good job of erasing all the credibility Harrison built in the 1960s. When I listened to Revolvor the first time, I thought to myself, wow, he was not kidding around with that sitar. This song made me think wow, he was just really not fucking kidding around now, was he?

Natsumi Abe – the stress: I am not sure why this is in my player. This is like a new discovery that is not welcome. This isn’t like discovering an obscure Depeche Mode remix, this is like discovering you had a moment of really flawed judgment. Abe was a former member of kid super group Morning Musume, and as one of the most popular graduated members, has gone on to put out many photobooks and singles, all complete crap.

Sandy Lam – Yi Ge Ren: By popular demand, I come bearing the Mandarin (Cantonese?) version of New Order’s “Bizzare Love Triangle” which adds about five extra cups of sugar to the recipe, but is as equally delicious. I once began an article that said something like “In 1994, or I guess 1986, Bernard Sumner & co. wrote my biography and titled it “Bizzare Love Triangle.” I was only seven years old but after I first heard this song on the radio, I spent a whole Saturday afternoon waiting with a recordable tape and my finger on the record button. I then proceeded to play this song endlessly to the chagrin of family members. For one brief year, my child mind moved on to overplaying hide until New Order saved me once again after they brought 80s music back for a brief hiccup in the life of Chicago radio (94.7 The Zone, I miss you).” I hope to finish writing that article this month and end it with the sentiment that yes, I still have this tape, and yes, “Bizzare Love Triangle ‘94″ is nestled in among “Rhythm is a Dancer” and “Another Night” and how once, my friend and I blasted the song driving down the freeway like it was our jam because it fucking was and it was the greatest song I had ever heard since Fancy’s “Colder Than Ice.” Actually, I’ll leave that last part out maybe.

Friday night shuffle VIII

I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up: the somewhat dance/electronic special.

Assemblage 23 – You Haven’t Earned It: I’m not quite sure how to introduce Assemblage 23, except to say that they are a fairly fantastic group that produce a lot of industrial dance songs. Besides the broodingly moody “Cocoon,” this is probably my favorite of their tracks off of their latest album, 2004’s Storm.

Imperative Reaction – Giving In To The Change: While I described Assemblage 23 as industrial dance, this group probably delivers a better definition of that label. While this particular song may reflect a somewhat softer side to the band’s usual use of artificial instruments, it doesn’t detract at all from the catchy beat and somewhat pissed off attitude that sets the group aside from commercial eurodance. Love the interlude.

Pet Shop Boys – Minimal: When I bought the Pet Shop Boys’ latest album Fundamental I was more than a little disappointed. While Nightlife was a complete, though welcome, change of affect, Fundamental attempts to rehash a similar sentiment with mixed results. Gone are the days of “Domino Dancing,” come are the days of melancholy woe is me. While the album has become a rather dusty addition to my CD collection, there are still two absolutely gorgeous songs on the album which seem to imitate 1980s Pet Shop Boys better than I thought possible. “Minimal” is a surreal, synth trip through violins, catchy hooks, an impossibly good arrangement, and helpful hints for future Spelling Bees. Aside from the joy of unraveling the puzzle-box lyrics, the last section of the song provides a peek into a New Order bass section that I may possibly have listened to 5,000 times and still find as magical as the first time I heard it.

Pet Shop Boys – Integral: The last track on Fundamental and the only other brilliant song on the album. While “Minimal” took elements from the past to create a modern sound (think Madonna’s “Hung Up”), “Integral” is completely “Opportunities (Let’s make lots of money)”-influenced. The quirky lyrics remind us once again what made Pet Shop Boys so popular in the first place, except refurbished with a catchier dance break and stronger use of build-ups. There is nothing else I can say about these two absolutely great tracks that you cannot glean from listening to them with your dance pants on. Results may vary.

Cut Copy – Zap Zap: One of the greatest consternations I have about people asking me to reccommend them music is that often I am given certain parameters I am not allowed to walk outside of. The two most common (and possibly worst) barriers I have come across are a) “nothing not in English, please, I like the familiar, I don’t like to step out of my Western comfort box!” and b) “nothing instrumental, I can’t react to a song unless I know what it’s about!” Well, now that we’ve eliminated about 3/4 of the world’s music, sure, let me see what I can do. Asshole. Cut Copy, though they do contain vocals, make sure to keep it short, simple, and sparse. “Zap Zap” is one of the songs off Bright Like Neon Love, the 2004 LP that I couldn’t help falling in love with over and over again. I am even biased, yet secure, enough to say if you have good taste, you will like this song. That doesn’t mean you have bad taste if you don’t like this song. Actually, that’s exactly what it means.

Friday night shuffle VII

Wherein I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

Keane – Somewhere Only We Know: I first heard this song off an online radio broadcast that Joaquin Phoenix did two years ago, picking his favorite songs. It was pretty much love at first listen. Unfortunately for me and my dial-up connection, it was the only song of which I was able to hear snippets during the broadcast. I call this fate. Since then, the use of the song in promotions for The Lake House has pretty much desensitized its simplistic beauty. I call this bullshit.

Angela Aki – KISS FROM A ROSE: Possibly the best cover song I’ve heard from English to Japanese. It combines the beauty of the original with Aki’s rich alto vocals and purely emotional piano playing. Good stuff.

DJ Tiesto – He’s a Pirate (Pete n’ Red’s Jolly Roger Radio Edit): In 2006, DJ Tiesto released a maxi-single full of trance/techno remixes of the song “He’s a Pirate” from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. This song is my favorite off the remix CD. It’s short, sweet, simple, and the original is still clearly audible.

Jessica Simpson – You Spin Me Round (Like A Record): A cover of the 80s original. I hate Simpsons’ voice (raspy, breathy, fugly), but I will admit her songwriters did well putting this song together. It’s a lot more upbeat and dream-like with an obese dose of synths. However, they took out one of the coolest parts of the song (you can’t just erase the bridge, dammit). You’ll see what I mean when you hear it.

Avril Lavigne – Slipped Away: This is the last track of the album Under My Skin. It begins with soft piano and than segues into a delightful rockish, ballad vibe. It’s a very sad song with elements of anger. Sorry, I’m too tired today to be witty tonight. You’ll have to take out the adjectives and mad lib this one.

Friday night shuffle VI

Wherein I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

Lee Jung Hyun – Q: Lee Jung Hyun is a phenomenally huge East Asian singer. Mostly dabbling in techno, she first amassed popularity in Korea with “Bakkwah” and “Wa” which were both showcased in mixes for Dance Dance Revolution. After releasing six full length albums, she finally took it upon herself to conquer Japan, where she released Japanese versions of already popular Korean songs. She failed to gain the attention she was accustomed to, but continues releasing new material in both languages with plans for a new album coming this summer. This song is insanely catchy and does a good job of pigeon-holing her typical style of fast paced techno laced with her alarmingly high-pitched vocals.

Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana: I’m not really sure why I have this song in my iRiver, but it’s only one of two Michael Jackson songs I have in here. All hail the King of Pop pre-Jesus Juice era. I think this is a song he did with Slash from Guns N’ Roses?

Nelly Furtado – Do It: Off of Furtado’s latest CD, Loose, comes this poppy, 80s synth funk debacle of loveliness; easily one of my favorite songs off the entire CD. Many are quick to point out her “selling out” by collaborating so ribaldly with Timbaland and changing her homey, wholesome style in favor of heavy hip hop beats and brain dead lyrics about promiscuous girls, but I’m sorry, the new CD is one of the best American pop albums I’ve heard since Love Angel Music Baby. The slower songs are all worth skipping over, leaving about eight actual foot stomping numbers, but it’s worth it anyway. Eight out of fifteen on an American pop album? That’s a bulls-eye if I ever saw one.

Sex Pistols – No Feelings: It’s the Sex Pistols. You either like them or hate them…must I continue?

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine in Pepperland: If there’s anything I love more than the original “Yellow Submarine,” it’s this orchestral version by George Martin. Huzzah!

Friday night shuffle V

Wherein I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

30 Seconds to Mars – The Kill: My friend suggested I listen to this song because she recently discovered 30 Seconds from her brother. I knew Jared Leto had a band from recent articles I’ve read about his upcoming film with Lindsay Lohan about the assassination of John Lennon where he plays Mark Chapman, but I never actually ventured to listen to his music due to lack of interest. After hearing this song, my lack of interest continued; to me, this is paint-by-numbers rock. ‘Nough said.

Alice DeeJay – Better Off Alone: This is an old club track I first heard on a Top 40 radio station a while back. It’s upbeat, catchy, fun, and an overall nice summer song.

Ayumi Hamasaki – Connected (Talla 2XLC Radio Edit): Talla 2XLC has made quite a famous name for himself remixing tracks from famous singers. Although he is mostly regarded as dabbling heavily into the techno scene, most of his remixes give off a distinctive trance vibe. Utilizing the genre’s two most famous components (synth and length), his remixes offer down to the letter club tracks fit for nothing less than dancing. “Connected” was already a trance song which Ayumi co-wrote with the insanely famous trance DJ Ferry Corsten, so Talla 2XLC’s doesn’t detract too greatly from the original. Still a great version of the song, though.

John Lennon – Stand By Me: This song needs no introduction. Enjoy.

Klaus Badelt – Will and Elizabeth: The original Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack was a journey epic in proportion that fit the script and action to an almost absurd tee. At once discernible, it translates beyond the film itself to exist solely on its own as a beautiful musical score. The second soundtrack was composed by Hans Zimmer, and because I haven’t heard it (nor seen the movie yet), it scares me. Not because Zimmer can’t compose (au contraire, I think he’s number two on my orchestral composer list behind Nobuo Uematsu), but because Badelt’s music just felt so right and I would have liked to see more of his work. Until I hear what Zimmer has to offer the pirates, I’ll just enjoy this rough and tumble fight-scene musical illustration.