New York songbird Amel Larrieux's voice is so sweet, her
visage so enticing, that it blows one's mind to realize that,
on the title track, the former Groove Theory frontwoman is
singing about the horrors of female circumcision, spotlighting
one Somali victim who fled her country for the US. But this
is the sort of message with a conscience that permeates Larrieux's
sophomore release, once one gets beyond the sugar-coated nu
soul wrapping. The flowing "Congo," for instance,
recalls New Orleans' Congo Square, where slaves once gathered
to share music, while the understated "Giving Something
Up" touches on the pain of women whose families fall
apart from abuse or infidelity. But all is not so serious:
the lead-off ballad "For Real" is a tribute to the
human heart, and "All I Got" is an inspirational
anthem. With Bravebird in the bag, the word is Larrieux is
now setting her sights on the silver screen.
Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker
The Merseyside sextet bring their brand of
unconventional and lighthearted songwriting to new levels
of surrealness on this mini-album. Penned as a bridge between
their second and third albums, Nightfreak and the Sons of
Becker consists of
11 raw tracks that could easily be a soundtrack for a '70s
Their formula of repetition and rhyme that characterized previous
offerings continues on edgy garage-influenced tracks such
as "Auntie's Operation" and "Migraine."
There are, however, moments of upbeat pop on songs like "Sorrow
or the Song," but they're quickly offset by moody and
out-of-place choruses. The opening track, "Precious Eyes,"
sounds more like a Nick Cave/Pavement collaboration as James
Skelly's haunting vocals blend awkwardly into a quirky melody.
This experimentation and mix of rock genres has arguably exorcised
their commercial demons, but its inconsistencies make it hard
to absorb. Considering their track record, though, this is
probably deliberate. John Wood
Churning metal power chords, funk-punk grooves,
and a histrionic singer/rapper-Faith No More were there and
did that more than a decade ago. The novelty may have worn
off, but the blend had a potency that not only influenced
later rap-metal acts like Linkin Park (who the Lostprophets
have supported) but also left a rich vein of music to mine.
The Lostprophets know what they like and don't mess too much
with the formula, updating it only lightly with ambient techno
effects on "Last Train Home"
and hints of grunge on "We Still Kill the Old Way,"
but mostly sounding as if it's still 1991. If you like your
hard rock delivered in a slick and slightly poppy package,
then this young, distinctly American-sounding band from Wales
might be worth exploring. Mention must also be made of the
inclusion of the track "We are Godzilla, You are Japan"
on the Japanese edition of the album.
Tatsuya Oe burst on the scene in the late
'90s as Captain Funk, providing Japan's response to UK dance
icon Fatboy Slim with beats that wouldn't take no for an answer.
He has since reinvented himself as a future-pop creator, and
now offers a selection of new songs that highlight his studio
wizardry. "Tessera" sets the tone with a frenetic
workout in electric piano, while "The Grid" is a
sometimes-grating fusillade of software-generated noise. But
just when you thought that Director's Cut was going to be
strictly for laptop shoegazers, OE offers up the sweetly kitsch
pop song "Time Has Told Me (Revisited)." Besides
the overuse of vocoder effects that limits the appeal of the
vocals, this album is an imaginative exercise in digital music
technology by one of Japan's brightest producers. OE gets
the honor of opening for Kraftwerk in Osaka this week, and
celebrates the release of Director's Cut at Aoyama Cay on
The Last Dance
On New Year's Eve of last year, Shinjuku
club Liquid Room went out with a bang, culminating a decade
as a focal point for dance music in Japan. The Last Dance,
by Japanese duo Rays (who record rock music under another
band name, which is kept secret), is an instrumental tribute
to the club, a suitably emotive melodic progressive house
track that captures the joy and also sadness of the closing
of Liquid Room. Also included are remixes by some of the fixtures
at the club over the years, including a tweaky, minimal techno
outing by Takkyu Ishino, a tightly constructed, brittle, Detroit-based
remix by Fumiya Tanaka, a glistening house version by Emma,
and an ambient remix by Moodman. Mostly of interest to longtime
patrons of Liquid Room, these tracks are likely to be on heavy
rotation at Tokyo's dance clubs this spring.