Friday, October 24, 2014

VIDEO: "Mexico" -- Emily Mure

And in what is hopefully the last of my video odyssey for a while, here's Emily Mure's enchanting cover of Cake's "Mexico":

Emily Mure -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blog Alert: Chicago Acoustic Underground

Due to some real life stuff, I haven't had a chance to write a review in a while. While you're waiting, check out Chicago Acoustic Underground. They offer a vast array of some of Chicago's finest singer-songwriters. This week, they're featuring Mendeleyev.

Chicago Acoustic Underground -- Official

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

VIDEO: Common Shiner -- Social Mediasochist

I'm back from the dead! And just in time to give you Common Shiner's latest Halloween-appropriate teen slasher romantic comedy video.

I fell in love with Common Shiner's first album a about a year ago. At the time, I said they were easy on the ears but way too smart to sell out. "Social Mediasochist" is on that debut album. The video proves the band's ethos -- gentle, self-aware, and damn funny. If you like what you hear, check out their work below.

Common Shiner -- Bandcamp, Facebook, Free EP on Noisetrade

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

M. Lockwood Porter -- 27

I've been playing the living fuck out of M. Lockwood Porter's 27. He shared a private Soundcloud playlist with "the media" last week and, based on the play counts, I can tell I'm not the only one.

Let me explain to you how powerful this album is: the first song inspired me to break up with the person I was seeing. I could tell she wasn't going to stick around, so after listening to "I Know You're Gonna Leave Me" and crying hysterically, I worked up the courage (for like a week) and did the deed.

27 has a fuzzier, rock'n'roll feel than Porter's debut album Judah's Gone. While Judah's Gone was certainly a more lonesome album, 27 crashes its way through breakups, lust, contentment, cynicism, and nostalgia. Apparently Porter's got a year on me, so maybe I'll feel a little bit darker than I currently do. I've got some great music (probably one of the best albums of the year) to accompany me in the meantime.

M. Lockwood Porter -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

JAPAN 2014: Gui Gui Sui Sui

As it turned out, the oft-lauded Gui Gui Sui Sui had a concert in Tokyo during my last night in Japan. It's amazing to think that a Yank and a Brit could travel halfway around the planet just to see each other, but such is the power of the Internet. The concert was in a little expat bar called Gamuso, which looks like this:

When I told my Tokyoite friends that the bar was in a neighborhood called Asagaya, they just laughed at me. Apparently it's a neighborhood of old people. And then this punk bar.

I have to say that, overall, you might as well skip Tokyo unless Gui Gui Sui Sui is playing. The city itself is rubbish, and that's not me being a snobby New Yorker. It's me being a snobby New Yorker who got stranded because I couldn't navigate Tokyo's five different transit systems, all of which stop running at separate times (addendum: all of which stop running), and then had to figure out how to get back to my hostel when it was 90 degrees at 1 AM and literally every single person I spoke to was extremely hostile.

There must be people who visit America and hate New York City but love everything else. That's how I feel about Japan.

With that being said, Gui Gui Sui Sui (aka Dann) is a perfect gentleman. He came to his show all dressed up:

And he even shared his toys:

Another attendee taking a stab at Gui Gui Sui Sui's skateboard bo diddley
Dann's gotta be well over 6 feet tall, and he's totally ripped. The sight of the guy jumping from the stage, wailing on his guitar, rolling on the floor while shredding, etc. etc. would have been unsettling on it's own, but the skull mask and cape added a bit of danger to the whole thing. ("Guiguisuisui" means "hungry ghost.")

A Guiguisuisui show is definitely an experience -- if you've listened to his music you know it's raw. Seeing it in person is primal. This must be what music was like in the Neolithic Age: sacred, confusing, and a little bit scary, reverberating around a tiny dark space. Maybe one day Dann will wash up on our shores. But if you're reading this from Southeast Asia, take a peek at Guiguisuisui's tour schedule. It's absolutely worth putting up with Kafka-esque transit systems the journey.

Guiguisuisui -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Killing Off Characters -- Pigs

We interrupt our mini tour of Japan for catching up on grading, lesson planning, and an electronica trio called Killing Off Characters.

When James sent his music my way, he noted that he wasn't sure if it fit on the blog.

I'm not really sure either but I like the perky melody on "Pigs" so here -- have a listen.

Killing Off Characters -- Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp

Japan 2014: Good Time Charlie's Saloon

As I may have mentioned a ways back, I lived in Japan for a few months. So when I came back this summer, I wanted to spend some time off the beaten track. And so I headed to Kyushu.

Kyushu is the island just south of Honshu (the main island with a J shape.) If you want to get to Okinawa, you have to take a plane from Kyushu. Although Kyushu has a rich culture in its own right, it is truly the boonies -- complete with hicks and bumpkins. In Kumamoto, once the most powerful city in Kyushu and the site of the final rebellion against Western incursion in the 1800s, two different people pointed at me and said "oh, look! A gaijin!" In the words of Eminem, "you all act like you've never seen a white person before."

Kumamoto has plenty of things to see in its own right, I guess. But between the 100-degree weather and the hostility, I wasn't really having much of it. Wikitravel, however, told me of an annual country music festival at the foot of Mt. Aso, an active volcano.

The night before, I had wandered Kumamoto's main drag, desperately searching for water, food that didn't have soy sauce in it, and maybe a little live music. As I walked in a dehydrated haze, I saw a sign for "Good Time Charlie's Saloon." This seemed like an odd coincidence -- maybe Kumamoto really is the south and more than one person loves country music in Japan?

I came back later that night.

Pictured: accidental racism
Charlie's a country music enthusiast who organizes the afore-mentioned music festival. He speaks English (and Japanese) with a perfect twang. He and his band perform sets for anyone who's there seven nights a week. The bar serves Coors, Coors Light, custom-made Jack Daniels with his picture on it, and astonishingly expensive Coca Cola. 

Charlie got his start in country when a friend of his on the US base introduced him to the music. He soon began touring US bases in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. He's been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry for spreading the love of country music, and was awarded a Presidential Medal of Honor by Bill Clinton for the same. The bar is plastered with souvenirs from Charlies tours of the American South and headshots of famous stars (like the Dixie Chicks and Brad Paisley) who have visited the saloon or played in the festival.


While the place obviously appeals to foreigners, Charlie's got a big group of Japanese regulars. Charlie likes to say he's spreading world peace through country music, and I can't think of a better example of that than an elderly Japanese couple teaching me how to Texas line dance.

If, for some reason, you end up in Kumamoto, Charlie's is a necessary stop.  It'll feel a little bit like home.

Charlie Nagatani's Good Time Saloon and Country Gold Festival -- Country Gold Festival, Official Country Gold site, Lonely Planet