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Ken Yokoyama
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774: Presidents of the United States of America
773: Keith
767: Tony Williams Lifetime Tribute
764: Kaiser Chiefs
760: Tim and Puma Mimi
759: Ice Cube
758: Vinyl Soul
757: Bajofondo
755: The Troubadours
752: Spiritualized at Summer Sonic
749: Cajun Dance Party
744: Heat and Noise
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735: Asian Dub Foundation
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732: Buzzcocks
730: Old Man River
728: The Kills
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722: Brotherís Sisterís Daughter
720: Sufjan Stevens
716: Gossip
714: The Go! Team
713: Cafť Tacvba
711: Celtic Woman
709: Jack PeŮate
706: Soulive
703: Animal Collective
703: Reverend and The Makers
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700: Dinosaur Jr
696: The Polyphonic Spree
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670: Herbie Hancock
669: Krystal Meyers
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666: Lily Allen
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658: Mystery Jets
656: Shayne Ward
654: The Beat
653: Eumir Deodato
652: Mt. Fuji Calling
650: Juno Reactor
649: Yo La Tengo
648: Hyde Park Music Festival
647: Juana Molina
646: Sierra Leoneís Refugee All Stars
645: Tool
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643: The Benevento-Russo Duo
641: TV On The Radio
639: Summer Music Festival Guide 2006
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636: Editors
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632: Ben Harper
630: Matmos
627: Arctic Monkeys
626: Erykah Badu
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620: Mogwai
618: Deerhoof
617: The Album Leaf
616: Tristan Prettyman
614-615: 10, 9, 8....
613: Madonna
612: John Tropea and Incognito
610: Boy
608: Underworld
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606: The Beautiful Girls
605: Miho Hatori
604: Doves
600: Bang Gang
598: Feist
596: Fantomas
595: Hyde Park Music Festival
593: Little Barrie
591: Juliette Lewis
589: James Chance & The Contortions
588: Carnival: Vice Bongo 1st Anniversary Party
585: Stereophonics
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578: Moe
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570: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
568: Prefuse 73
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565: Rachel Yamagata
564: The Shins
563: The Music
561-562: Metropolis music survey 2004
559: Blues Explosion
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545: The Roots
544: True People's Celebration
543: Trans Europe Fes
542: Matthew Sweet
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539: Rabble rouser
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535: Janet Kay with Omar and Thriller U
533: Critters Buggin’
532: Cyndi Lauper
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526: Organic Groove
525: Questions of the day
523: Tough Cookie
521: Conversion
520: Iggy's inner artist
519: Control freak chic
518: Down to the Wire
517: Incubus
516: Kraftwerk
515: Black Eyed Peas
514: Pretenders
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511: Suburban funk boys
509/10: Incognito
508: Celtic Xmas 2003
507: Limp Bizkit
506: Robert Randolph and the Family Band
505: Out on a limb
503: Electraglide
501: Super Furry Animals
499: Geezer's groove
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497: Syn city
496: Slacker rock rules!
495: Television
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493: Joao Gilberto
492: The Used
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490: The Lucksmiths
489: Maxi Priest & Shaggy
488: Chuck Berry
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486: The redheaded stepchild makes good
485: Positive punk mom
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481: Ron Sexmith
480: Folk Implosion
479: The Brand New Heavies
478: The Blood Brothers
477: Eminem
476: The Kills
475: Jackson Browne
474: N.E.R.D.
473: Shred a tabloid, make music
472: Garage Redux
471: Bringing the jams east
470: Asian Dub Foundation
469: Badly Drawn Boy
468: Massive Attack
467: Teenage Fanclub
466: The All Wave Grrls
465: J. Mascis + the Fog
464: Catching up with Sonic Youth
463: Deep Forest
462: Magic Rockout
461: Jurassic 5
460: Snuff
459: Queens of the Stone Age
457/8: On the phone: The Jeevas
456: K-Ci & JoJo and The Roots
455: Sleater-Kinney
454: Beast Feast
453: Contrasts in young UK rock
452: Tahiti 80
451: Pink
450: The Artist (no longer) formerly known as..
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447: Jamiroquai
446: On the phone: Taxiride
445: Bad Religion
444: Jennifer Love Hewitt
443: Camp in Asagiri Jam
442: The Cinematic Orchestra
441: On the phone: Moby
440: True People's Celebration
439: Roots Revival
438: The politics of sampling
437: Summer Sonic sampler
436: The Jazz Mandolin Project
435: Indie icons
434: Cato Salsa Experience
433: Get's Bossa Nova 2002
432: Janet Kay with Omar
431: Kottonmouth Kings
430: Bowes & Morley
429: Christina Milian
428: Elvis Costello
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426: Diana Krall
425: Jay-Z
424: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
423: The Brian Setzer Orchestra
422: Weezer
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420: Lenny Kravitz
419: Speech
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416: Chuck Berry & James Brown
415: Ozomatli
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412: Incubus
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410: David Byrne
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408: Roger Walters
407: Ozzy Osbourne
406: Lisa Loeb
405: Aerosmith
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403: Sloan
402: Jamiriquoi
401: Park Tower Blues Festival
400: Mercury Rev
399: Bjork
398: The Isley Brothers
397: Janet Jackson
396: Ian Brown
395: Tortoise Orchestra
394: Regurgitator
393: Art Garfunkel
392: Belle and Sebastian
391: Super Furry Animals
390: Ben Folds
389: Elton John
388: Dido
387: Papa Roach
386: Beast Feast 2001
385: Summersonic
384: David Sylvian
383: Maxi Priest & Big Mountain
382: Fuji Rock Festival 01
381: Roxy Music
380: Bo Diddley
379: John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
378: Paul Weller
377: Coolio
376: Backyard Babies
375: Marcus Miller
374: Black Crowes
373: Megadeath
372: Dionne Warwick
371: Arrested Development
370: Mouse on Mars
369: Duran Duran
368: Linkin Park
367: Maceo Parker
366: Japan Blues Carnival 2001
365: Ben Harper
364: Cheap Trick
363: Stephen Malkmus
362: Mogwai
361: Weezer
360: Marilyn Manson
359: Green Day
358: AC/DC
357: Richard Thompson
356: Bob Dylan
355: J. Mascis
354: Leigh Stephen Kenny
352/3: Limp Bizkit
351: Boyz II Men
350: Reef
349: Park Tower Blues Festival
348: Roni Size
347: Compay Segundo
346: Incognito
345: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes
344: Bad Religion
343: Japan Soul Festival 2000
342: Rocktober 2000
341: Richard Ashcroft
340: Motorhead
339: Festival Halou
338: Ricky Martin
337: Taj Mahal
336: Asian Dub Foundation
335: Lou Reed
334: Earth, Wind & Fire
333: Sting
332: No Doubt
331: Camel
330: Fuji Rock: Smash Talks
329: Summer Sonic
328: Mt. Fuju Aid 2000
327: Salif Keita
326: Buena Vista Social Club
325: Bill Frisell
324: Maxi Priest
323: Lenine
322: Rage Against the Machine
321: Tommy Flanagan Trio
320: Smashing Pumpkins
319: Pet Shop Boys
318: Japan Blues Carnival
317: Gipsy Kings
316: Steely Dan
315: Pshish
314: Big Night Out
313: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
312: Harry Connick Jr.
311: Sonny Rollins
310: Speech
309: Santana

by Dan Grunebaum

Tough Cookie

Fighting her former record label has been only part of the battle, Amel Larrieux says on a quick promotion junket to Tokyo for her new album Bravebird.

Beautiful, talented, opinionated: New York songbird Amel Larrieux seems to have it all. But sitting across the table from me in an Aoyama café, she insists she’s only human: “I’m insecure like any other human being.”

It’s hard to tell exactly where her insecurities lie, though. While, for lack of a better label, her “neo-soul” peers sing about cheating boyfriends, Larrieux is defending, on the title track, victims of female circumcision. It’s all part of a confident and conscious message that brings to mind an Erykah Badu without the back-to-Africa trappings.

“I think it’s natural to write about things that are making a social commentary,” Larrieux states, noting that this sometimes caused friction with her former label, Epic/Sony. “Some record people in the past may have felt I was being too wordy. They wanted me to write simple songs.”

But Larrieux was not about to trade in her views for the sake of what the record execs thought would move CDs off the shelves. She wasn’t brought up that way. “I was raised by a very strong woman who was very decisive and made her own decisions…strongly, loudly and clearly,” Larrieux says.

Brought up in an artist’s building in bohemian Greenwich Village, Larrieux explains she is the daughter of a professor of performing arts who has written four books on how African-American dance has influenced European dance forms. “She writes about subjects that are not comfortable for people, like race. Probably that has influenced me in terms of my writing.”

The title song, “Bravebird,” ultimately took five years to find a proper release. Larrieux played it for the people at Epic, but says they drew a blank. The song was not included on her 2000 Epic debut, Infinite Possibilities, so Larrieux released it as a white label and circulated it to DJs at New York clubs. The reaction eventually gave her the confidence to include it as the title track for Bravebird on Bliss Life, the label she set up with her husband after parting ways with Epic after Infinite Possibilities failed to live up to its, er, possibilities.

“The response [to “Bravebird”] from outside the label was pretty big. We’ve always felt that if we believed in a song, and if people that we respect around us like the song, then we’ll stick with it,” she says, the “we” referring to her and her musical partner and husband Laru Larrieux, with whom she lives in Brooklyn with their two daughters, Sanji-Rei (5) and Sky (9).

Larrieux also battles other pressures. “I still fight stereotypes about what I’m supposed to sound like or look like,” she says. “But definitely in the beginning it became clear to me that there was something that was expected of me because I was female and black. I made it clear right away what I was going to do and what I wasn’t.”

Initially trained to be a ballerina, Larrieux found her path to music not through the ’hood, but through the rarified classical world. She attended the elite Tanglewood school and was being groomed for a life in opera, but had other things in mind. Now 30, Larrieux first found success almost a decade ago with the acid jazz/trip-hop duo Groove Theory, when the pair’s song “Tell Me” reached the Top 5 on the R&B charts in 1995.

The success led to all sorts of offers. In addition to music, Larrieux ventured into acting and modeling, and was featured as a style maven in Harper’s Bazaar and a slew of other titles, as well as appearing in an ad for luxury brand Coach’s 60th anniversary, a job that also brought her to Japan.

Getting back to Larrieux’s insecurities, she says she had to get over them the way anyone else does. Thrust into the limelight with the sudden success of Groove Theory, she faced a steep learning curve. “It had to come naturally otherwise I would have looked like an idiot,” she says. “I wasn’t doing choreography or anything and I didn’t have dancers. It was all on me to make it happen, so I started learning how to talk to the audience. That was when I realized that I liked being the kind of performer that gave more of myself than I realized I had. It was almost like my brain went into this mode of going on an energy and vibe that I hadn’t consciously chosen.”

But it turns out there’s more to it than that. Sexually abused as a child, Larrieux fled home at 16. This experience fuels songs like “Giving Something Up,” which touches on the pain of women whose families are destroyed by abuse and infidelity, and also perhaps accounts for the gossamer delicacy of her voice.

And then there are more present reminders like 9/11, which the Larrieuxs watched unfold from their Brooklyn rooftop. “Every night I would wake up thinking someone was going to drop a bomb,” she recalls. “Then after a while, talking with Laru who has a better grasp on life and death than I—I’ve been a person who was fearful of death—I realized one has to live each moment. It gave me more gratefulness for every single moment.”

Amel Larrieux plays Shibuya Duo on May 10-11. See concert listings for details.

Credit: Bliss

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