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.

Madonna’s “The Confessions Tour” CD+DVD

Madonna / The Confessions Tour / January 30, 2007
♫ 02. Like a Virgin / 12. Lucky Star

I’ve never been a very big Madonna fan. Sure, I’ve liked some singles, “Into the Groove,” “Die Another Day,” “Like a Prayer,” “Hung Up,” etc…but I’ve never really sat down and listened to one of her entire albums; I just wasn’t that interested. Maybe it was her blatant use of shock value and get-rich quick schemes that kept me doubting her ability as an artist, but there was never anything truly appealing to me about Madonna…until she released The Confessions Tour CD+DVD combo.

I’d seen parts of the concert on television but hadn’t really paid much attention as most of the songs performed had been off her latest Confessions on a Dancefloor album, of which I had only found “Hung Up” to be obsessive-play worthy. However, when I noticed that the Confessions tour had seen a release, I decided to give it a try. Low and behold, three tracks caught my ears immediately and before long, I was playing them around the clock. The whole album is a sort of mash-up of songs from the past and present, though mostly present as the bulk of the tracks consist of songs off the new album. However, when the old and the new blend together, it’s almost amazing and for the first time, I actually enjoyed a mash-up (yes, I admit it, I hate mash-ups, I am sick of them, stop it already).

“Like a Virgin” is the first track that painted me crazy, as there’s a entirely new mix to it that induces the old 80s synth gem with a techno-dance update that will have you up and dancing in no time. The concert footage features Madonna swinging brazenly off a mechanical horse saddle and while the sexual innuendos are not my cup of tea, you have to give the woman credit for her agility. The second track that really captured my attention was the final two tracks, the mash-up between “Lucky Star” and “Hung Up.” “Lucky Star” begins straight away and gradually builds up to the “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” sample that riddles “Hung Up” and remains constant throughout until Madonna shouts, “Do you want some more?” before crashing into the ten minute epic that is the live version of “Hung Up.” Although one half of the song is the the crowd singing along (and I think even that has been digitally tweaked), it still retains the energy and drive that made it the club success it was in 2005. Other noteworthy mash-ups include “Music Inferno,” a blend of the classic “Disco Inferno” and Madonna’s “Music,” which could be a total disaster but is actually quite pleasing to the aural senses.

OK, so maybe she’s lip-synching through most of it. And maybe I don’t even like that many songs off of Confessions on a Dancefloor in the first place. It doesn’t matter; thank you Madonna, for helping me, once again, to dance for inspiration.

Official Site
Buy The Confessions Tour