THE GROOVE MUSIC LIFE

Monthly Archives: January 2011

Dream Morning Musume – Am I Awake?

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted already that I’m not CJ, so I’ll introduce myself nice and early. This is Kd, formerly of IroIro Aru Sa!, that old chestnut of a J-Pop blog which CJ mentions occasionally. Having recently gotten into a few lengthy discussions about J-Pop with him, I’ve been offered a guest contributor spot here at TGML and I’ve taken it with both hands. As a near complete contrast to CJ – I’m a Brit female in her early 20′s – I hope you’ll find my style and POV to be complementary but not identical. I give you… my first post. Enjoy!

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REVIEW: Maki Goto “Gloria”

MAKI GOTO
Gloria
(Avex)
Available on CD and CD/DVD editions
Rating: ★★★★☆

Patient Progress Report, TGML Institute
Subject: Maki Goto

The Avex Institute in Japan submitted their third and latest status report on the patient, Ms. Goto, for our independent perusal here at TGML, last week. This report, code-named Gloria, was the third delivered to us by Axex since the patient’s departure from Hello! Project and Up-Front Works back in late 2007.

Avex’s first status report, which was code named Sweet Black, utilized various urban-contemporary arrangements, a situation which pleased this analyst given the preceding development’s in the patient’s history: a full-length album in similar style, How to Use Sexy, delivered during the tail-end of her H!P association; her post-H!P training in Los Angeles, leaning towards urban contemporary forms; live covers of Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You” and Diana King’s “Shy Guy”.

Her second status, code named One, was a bit troubling. The previous code-named project projected a cute, bubbly, and confident Gocchin, but this one had her on the front cover of the CD looking like a hooker that had been around the block since the Bronze Age. Instead of more urban-style R&B we got somewhat typical technopop.

Now, with her third report, there is cause of confusion and cause for concern. With Gloria, the subject heavily leans toward rock/pop oriented material. As with the previous two reports, Ms. Goto appears to be in excellent voice as always, and the material the Avex Institute has given her to work with has been of a typically high standard.

However, it is the opinion of the TGML Institute that Avex’s efforts with Ms. Goto could already be leaning towards an acute case of musical multiple-personality disorder. This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination; Elvis Costello, for one major example, has based the majority of his career on skipping effortlessly between different genres depending on the musical point he wished to make from project to project, while Ms. Goto’s former associates in Morning Musume make similar regular genre jumps on a song-by-song basis. In Ms. Goto’s case however, the constant shifting around of Ms. Goto’s personality from album to album – or rather mini-albums, since the three status reports Avex has filed about her have contained no more than eight songs, and these last two reports have contained only five songs apiece – gives us the impression that Ms. Goto’s rehabilitation is in a holding pattern.

A candid discussion earlier this week with a retired colleague, Prof. Kd Potter, formerly of the Iro Iro Aru Sa Institute for Japanese Pop Studies in England, wherein I made the initial suggestion about Ms. Goto’s musical schizophrenia, led Prof. Potter to suggest that the fault may lie with Avex for experimenting with Ms. Goto’s treatments rather than stay with a consistent pattern of rehabilitation as normally expected in cases of this type. This is not an analysis the TGML Institute is prepared to dismiss, and Avex should endeavor not to dismiss same.

In short, we here at the TGML Institute still cannot completely make heads or tails of any major benefits Ms. Goto’s time at the Avex Institute after three somewhat scrimpy filings. We would highly recommend that, given her high level of output at her previous facility, that Ms. Goto be given a more thorough rehabilitation program, so that a proper full-length report can be filed and we can give a more precise analysis of any further progress the patient makes. Without such investment in Ms. Goto’s future by Avex, the patient will not fully be able to make herself a useful part of Japanese pop society otherwise.

An article I wish I’d written…

While I get the next blog post ready (hopefully by the end of tonight), here’s a little bonus reading material: an article from Alternative Press on the current financial struggles of most bands. Think before you do that illegal download or choose not to buy merch at a show, people…

Thanks to Christopher Fuentes-Woods for the link.

Good News!!

Former Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler has recovered her custom-made blue Garz bass, which had been stolen from her home last week!

More details as we get them, but that big smile on Kira’s face says it all.

ETA, 1.17.11 11:18 AM: On her Facebook page, Kira just posted the following tale on how she got her bass back:

In December of 2004 I first put my hands on my custom electric blue bass. 3/4 scale … modeled after my Rickenbacker, only with a Tele-style head. For five years it played and sounded wonderful … just the perfect bass for me.

On January 6, 2011 my home was burglarized, and among the things taken, was the bass ….

I spread the news far and wide … got A LOT of support from friends and family, and at work from the head of my department, who got the Universal Studios security folks involved as they had contacts at LAPD.

On January 16 … I received a call from the head of my department … he gave me the name and number of an LAPD officer who had my bass.

When I arrived at the station to pick the bass up, I learned that this guy had tried to sell it at Guitar Center. They had already photocopied his driver’s license but he split because things seemed off … They contacted the police … now I have my bass!

Congratulations to Kira, and thanks to everyone who helped in any small way, even if it was just tweeting or reposting the original link (especially the good folks at Alternative Tentacles Records!), and especially to BoingBoing.net, who linked to TGML in their own post on the theft.

Too Much, Too Soon, People. WAY Too Much, Too Soon…

No sooner do the 9th Generation additions get added, than we get this announcement a week later:

It has been decided that, I, Takahashi Ai, during Morning Musume’s concert tour this Autumn,
will be graduating from Morning Musume and Hello! Project.
At the time when Kamei Eri, JunJun and LinLin’s graduations were decided,
Tsunku-san told me, “It’s about time Takahashi should think about your own graduation’s timing!”
which has gotten me thinking.

I will have been in Morning Musume for 10 years comes this August,
So I thought it will be a good time! to graduate in the Autumn Morning Musume concert tour.

As there are still around 9 months left, I will do my best as leader until that time to shape up this new Morning Musume.

I will be affectionate to the newly added 9th generation members as I try to teach them various things, everyone please rest assured.

OK, seriously, I think the past few years in the life of my favorite band have spoiled me and my fellow MoMusu fans rotten. Up until the fall of last year, the membership changes have been small – one or two members added at a time, and the departures of other members happening with less frequency. And of course, between late 2008 and September of last year, we were blessed with the band’s steadiest lineup in years, one that gave us four solid albums and their related singles releases, their American performance debut, and only one major graduation in Koharu Kusumi to briefly interrupt it all.

Now, in less than six months, we get three departures, four additions, and one planned future departure.

I love Morning Musume, but wait a minute… Can we get a few singles and a new studio album out of this new 9-nin, Takitty-led lineup before September, and then leave the band’s lineup alone for a couple of years?

And while Tsunku is at it, if he wants to make another big announcement about the band so soon, it should be something alone the lines of, “I am proud to announce that Morning Musume have finally signed an American record deal…”

URGENT! Ex-Black Flag Bassist Kira Roessler’s Custom Bass Stolen!

Former Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler announced the theft of her custom-made bass guitar on her Facebook page, along with some other items, from her Studio City, CA home this morning.

The bass is a three-quarter-scale instrument custom-made by California-based luthier Mark Garza with a Rickenbacker-style body and Telecaster-style headstock with the name “Garz” on it; according to Kira there is also a small nick in the headstock. It is the only model of its kind in existence;  it has been Roessler’s main instrument for the past several years as part of the two-bass duo Dos with Minutemen/Stooges bassist Mike Watt, both at their occasional live gigs and in recording sessions for the forthcoming fourth Dos album.

Anyone with any information on Ms. Roessler’s bass should e-mail findkirasbass@thegroovemusiclife.com - we will forward any and all information to Ms. Roessler.

EDIT TO ADD, 1.7.11 11:40 AM: Kira has told us that she is awaiting an LAPD case number “which might be useful if someone spots it but doesn’t want to do more than make a call”. Soon as she gets it and passes it on, we’ll update the post with that information.

EDIT TO ADD, 1.8.11 7:44 PM: Kira has gotten her case number from the LAPD; It is 111504304 – this is the number one should use as reference if anyone finds Kira’s bass in a pawnshop, online [eBay/Craigslist et. al.], etc. Kira has also asked everyone concerned that may discover her stolen instrument: “Please be judicious … I don’t want them to stop responding.”

BEST ALBUMS OF 2010

This list took forever – for which I’m sorry.

I knew some of the sure fire candidates that were going to be on here – but had to think back to some of the others that had come out this year that I enjoyed. My rather slack blogging activity probably didn’t help matters, and this year I’m determined to review albums within days of their issue (JapanFiles’s sudden licensing split with UFW blew my usual trend of reviewing Morning Musume’s newest album before I had gotten my physical copy, and I never found a leak in time.) My marriage plus the holidays on top of that… you get the picture. And I wasn’t going to pull a stunt like I did in 2007 and do the entries in small installments either, at first, but since I’d rather move forward, this methodology will have to do this time around.

One caveat: the new albums from Morning Musume (Fantasy Juuichi) and Ayumi Hamasaki (Love Songs) that were just released this month are not going to be considered for this list for one simple reason: They’re too new. They’ll be eligible for the 2011 list as I’m sure I’ll be playing them a lot over the next twelve months. And with regard to Mike Watt’s hyphenated-man album, even though it came out in Japan in October, I’m holding off on both counting it for this list and reviewing it until the domestic release happens this spring.

So, here goes nothing…

10. ERODE AND DISAPPEARScythian Lamb (self-released 12” EP/CD package; visit www.erodeanddisappear.com) This duo is actually 2/3 of the Philadelphia trio Northern Liberties, singer/percussionist Justin Duerr and bassist Kevin Riley, and the band/project’s name comes from NL’s first full length album of the same name. With NL’s drummer (and Justin’s brother) Mark having to semi-curtail his participation in the group in the wake of becoming a father, Justin and Kevin chose to occupy the idle time by continuing to make music solidly in the NL tradition, this time with Justin taking over the drum kit as well as singing. A long time in coming since the project started, Scythian Lamb makes for a more than adequate continuation/tideover of the NL sound until the trio’s next release (set for later this year).

9. GIRLS GENERATIONHoot (SM Entertainment) – The unstoppable Korean nonet seems best taken in EP-length doses (Their second album Oh! and its companion “deluxe reissue” RunDevilRun seem to be very slow growers as far as listener appeal, despite many stellar tracks), and in the 007-vibed title track the group has its strongest song since “Genie”. How soon will SM fully target the US with these ladies, now that they’re making inways into Japan?

8. DEVOSomething for Everyone (Warner Bros.) – A fine comeback from the influential quintet. Sadly, Warners dropped the ball after their initial support for the group’s comeback, failing to release the uncharacteristic ballad “No Place Like Home” as a follow-up single as well as failing to continue their remastered back catalog program (Oh! No It’s Devo and Shout still await the deluxe treatment afforded the band’s first four albums).

7. RICK ROSS Teflon Don (Maybach Music/Def Jam) – Although materialistic rap in general may be fading (witness the relative sales and critical failure of Lloyd Banks’ “comeback” album after making such a strong impression saleswise with his first post-Interscope single “Beamer Benz and Bentley”), Ross has a strong, booming voice and an unlimited supply of clever punchlines going for him, and when he has stellar production behind him (see: first single “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”, “Maybach Music III” with its live orchestral[!] backing), the songs work. When of his guest vocalists can hold their own next to the big man (see: Cee-Lo Brown on “Tears of Joy”, Jay-Z and John Legend on “Free Mason”, Drake on “Astin Martin Music”, Kanye West – who also produced – on “Live Fast Die Young”), it’s icing on the cake. When the production isn’t all there or the guest features are just lame (Gucci Mane’s terrible vocals bring down “MC Hammer” drastically), it weakens the album – but fortunately those moments are rare.

6. BUONO!We Are Buono! (Pony Canyon) – Still unstoppable even after three albums. Does one even have to be reminded why? Now if only Miyabi, Airi and Momoko would actually pick up instruments…

5. SCANDALTemptation Box (Epic/Sony) – And speaking of unstoppable, the Osaka Four’s second full-length outing finds our heroines progressing nicely without losing the edge that brought them to the dance in the first place. (The companion cover versions EP R-Girls Rock!, issued a few months later, also helps ground the young ladies by reminding them of how they got to the dance in the first place.)

4. KODA KUMI8th AL Universe (Rhythm Zone/Avex) – Kuu-chin goes organic for the first half of the album, then goes back to her more urban/electronic side for the second half, and it all works.

3. AYUMI HAMASAKIRock n Roll Circus (Avex) – While not as entirely rock-influenced as the album title suggests, Ayu reached high, made up for the somewhat weak Next Level, and handed in one of her strongest albums in years (and kept going strong, what with the late-December release of yet another studio album, Love Songs).

2. NICKI MINAJPink Friday (Young Money/Universal); KANYE WESTMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Rockafella/Def Jam) – Two artists, one a rookie and one a veteran, both with something to prove, and both succeeding both artistically and at the cash register. And both did it with high levels of creativity and without resorting to gangsteresque/materialistic bullshit. The fact that these albums outsold G-Unit flunkie Lloyd Banks’ would-be “comeback” album several times over – apiece – says, along with Nicki’s labelmate Drake and mentor Lil’ Wayne – more good things about the direction of hip-hop rap than had been said at least a year or so before.

1. MORNING MUSUME10 My Me (Zetima) – MoMusu at their most experimental, closing out their “emo” period with finality and looking forward to the future – and this would be just part one of their current story. The December 2010 release of the equally strong (and less experimental) Fantasy Juuichi and the addition of the 9th Generation members are merely the beginning of another chapter. They’ll keep going and going and going, and music will be better for it.