Music

The Biggest Guide to Tokyo Record Stores on the Internet

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This all started because my boyfriend gave me his old MiniDisc player.

We were watching Techmoan on YouTube, some video about an obsolete tape format, and I mentioned how I wished he would do an episode on MiniDiscs, because they always interested me. Then, my boyfriend told me that he actually had a MiniDisc player (that he never used) and would give to me. It was a wonderful gift from my wonderful little man, but unfortunately he didn’t have any discs for it.

I went to my regular record store haunts scoping the back shelves for used MiniDiscs, but to no avail. After that, I decided to branch out and search some lesser known shops. Still turning up empty-handed, I reached out even further, doing research online to dig up as many record stores as possible, figuring that at least one would have used MiniDiscs somewhere.

It was at this point I realized that I had probably been to at least half of the record stores in and around Tokyo so I figured what would be the harm in hunting down the other half.

So if you find this useful and want to thank someone, thank my boyfriend. It’s all his fault.

And in case you’re wondering, no, I never did find a damn MiniDisc. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: Ghost In The Shell Megatech Body Co. Ltd (Playstation Game Soundtrack)

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For all its acclaim as an anime action epic, the original Ghost In The Shell film is actually a pretty quiet affair, peppered with only a scant few minutes of solid action. The majority of the film is a drama, that alternates between police procedural and meditative discussions on technology and what it means to be alive in a world where humanity and machine seem to be one in the same. The whole thing climaxes not with a giant battle, but with a conversation between a robot and a cyborg, discussing if life has a point without mortality.

Accompanying all of this is a legendary score by Kenji Kawai, which combines modern technology and traditional Japanese instrumentation with an end result that resembles something that Philip Glass or Dead Can Dance might compose. Just like the film itself, the score to Ghost In The Shell is haunting and beautiful, a work of art that is nearly unrivaled.

Got all that? Good. Because the Ghost In The Shell game that appeared on the PS1 is a third-person shooter where you take control of a tank and blow shit up real good. And the soundtrack is non-stop pulse-pounding techno, all of which has the subtlety and nuance of a jackhammer. Continue reading

Boom Boom Satellites Push Eject

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It’s August 31st, 1999, just hours before my 20th birthday and I’m in St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, waiting for Moby to take the stage. Play, his soon-to-be-defining album, had just been released earlier that year, and buzz was starting to build around him.

But before Moby would perform a set that would end up blowing my mind, another group would appear on stage, some weird Japanese act called Boom Boom Satellites, delivering a blistering set of uninterrupted insanity composed of electronic beats, frenetic drumming and a pair of hyper-intense frontmen who obviously knew how to shred on guitar. Continue reading

An S.O.S. from a Portishead fan

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Hey, did you hear there’s a new Portishead track out? It’s for that new flick High Rise and is a cover of Abba’s classic “S.O.S.” I bet you want to hear that, right? I bet you’re curious as to what a Portishead cover of an Abba song is like, considering it’s one of the strangest, most unlikely cover choices since Sonic Youth gave the world their take on The Carpenters. I bet you can’t wait to give it a listen on YouTube or even shell out the 99 cents to $1.29 on your favorite digital music storefront to buy it. Maybe you might even go to a physical location and hand a real person actual money in exchange for a physical good with the song on it either digitally or analog.

Well, too bad. You can’t. Continue reading

Vinyl Review: Fright Night Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Night Fever Music Edition)

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Someone out there decided that there weren’t enough labels going after the (apparently surprisingly lucrative) vinyl horror soundtrack collector market, because adding to the already crowded field that features labels like Death Waltz, Mondo (who bought Death Waltz), Waxworks, Silva Screen, One Way Static, Invada and probably a few more labels that I’m forgetting at the moment comes Night Fever Music with their debut release, the soundtrack to the cult-classic 80s horror comedy Fright Night. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: 8-Bit Music Power

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So this is a weird thing. Continue reading

Vinyl/CD Review: Game Theory – Lolita Nation

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One of my favorite movies is As Good As It Gets, the 1997 romantic comedy/drama with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. It’s a great movie for a lot of reasons, and every time I watch it I notice something else fantastic about it. But one part that always stuck with me is the scene where Jack’s character, having thoroughly pissed off Helen Hunt on yet another occasion, is ordered by Hunt to pay her a compliment to keep her from walking out on him. Flustered and desperate, Jack launches into a somewhat rambling story about how, after she told him off a few nights prior, he finally listened his doctor’s orders and began taking some anti-depressants to help curtail his more unpleasant behaviors. His rationale, he explained, is that she made him want to be a better man. Hunt’s character is visibly taken aback, and declares it to be the best compliment she ever received.

I bring this up because the first time I listened to Game Theory’s Lolita Nation, it blew my mind in such a way that I began to seek out more music, expand my tastes and read as much as criticism as possible.  It’s so good that it made me want to be a better writer so I would do a better job of describing what at the time I felt to be its impossible-to-define brilliance.

I don’t know if I’m there yet, but now’s the time to try, as the album is finally back in print thanks to the remarkable efforts of Omnivore Recordings, who have brought the album back to store shelves in both a deluxe 2CD package and a beautiful colored 2LP release as well. Continue reading

Japanese Record Store Tributes To David Bowie

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David Bowie passed away a month ago, but I still haven’t fully processed the news. It’s still hard to believe that he’s no longer with us. He was such a presence in the pop world. And his music meant more to me than anyone else’s.

And his death wasn’t just a shock and tragedy in the Western world. David Bowie was huge internationally, especially in Japan. Even before his death, it was hard to miss Bowie’s section in most record stores here, and even less well-regarded albums like Never Let Me Down or his output with Tin Machine seemed to be held in at least some esteem here. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a rare Bowie LP go for an insane amount of money at any of the multitude of record stores here in Tokyo.

In Japan, record stores have a bit more personality than their Western counterparts. Even in major chains, it’s not uncommon to see handwritten recommendation notes by the staff, and custom tailor-made displays dedicated to more obscure artists and genres. With Bowie’s passing, many of these same stores have taken to commemorating his legacy with similarly DIY, custom-made displays. In the days and weeks in the wake of Bowie’s death, I visited several Tower Records and other stores to see how they were handling the Starman’s passing. I was pretty impressed.

And now I know how to spell David Bowie in katakana – デヴィッド・ボウイ。

Continue reading

YMO 101: Etc.

This is part three of my guide to Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Part 1: The Studio Albums
Part 2: The Live Albums
Part 4: The Solo Records

This is where things get tricky.

Writing about YMO’s studio albums was an easy endeavor. There aren’t that many of them and most are worth owning. Simple. Writing about the live albums was a bit more of a chore, but there’s still so much good to be found there that it was easy to decide what to recommend for everyone and what should only be sought out by the hardcore fans and collectors.

The compilations/remix albums and EPs portion of YMO’s back catalog is a bit more difficult. Mostly because it’s so massive, but also because it’s wildly uneven. Like any great band that’s a proven cash cow for a label, YMO’s music has been repackaged, remarketed, remixed (badly) and re-released about a thousand times over. Some of this stuff is great, and undoubtedly worth seeking out.

Sadly, much of it is not. And that’s why this chapter of my guide will probably be the most negative. A lot of these releases were put out as cash grabs, and they sound like it. Still, there is some great stuff to be found in here, so I hope you this is a help to someone.

And if you want the TL;DR version, buy UCYMO and the album below.

×∞Multiplies (1980)

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Thirteen David Bowie Songs I Want To Write About

Had planned to write a lot this week about a lot of different things. But David Bowie died and that’s all I can think about so that’s all I’m going to write about.

A few people have asked me what my favorite David Bowie songs are. That is not this list. I couldn’t make that list if you put a gun to my head. There are too many. Instead, these are the songs I think about the most when I think about Bowie, and the ones that trigger specific memories or feelings.

No artist has ever effected me as much as David Bowie has. I suspect it will be a while before I’m able to move on from this one.

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There are countless David Bowie songs for nearly every mood or activity imaginable. He has love songs ideal for slow dancing; sexy songs for getting your groove on; bitter tracks for post break-up self-loathing; political tunes for when you feel like nothing is right with the world; and upbeat dance numbers for when you just feel like dancing and having fun.

This is the only David Bowie song for kicking someone’s head in. That’s probably not why it was written, but that’s how it makes me feel.  Continue reading

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