Category Archives: Music

A Smattering of Sounds

I have not added much to the music collection recently, but here is what I have purchased recently…

Sugar Ray – 14:59
I have been a closet Sugar Ray fan for some time, not a huge fan I declare, but nonetheless I appreciate their upbeat songs and sense of humour. This album starts off with a short and amusing track called “New Direction” which is basically a death metal song with Mark McGrath (he was funny in Sharknado) attempting to do metal growls but ends up coughing. The rest of the album is a mixture of pop, rock, and ballads that will make you feel like getting into a convertible car with your mates, turn up the tunes and wave your arms about as you drive along a beach road on a hot day, stopping for an ice cream with your loved one, then having a huge water fight.

Burial – Rodent
Burial is a one man band from London who makes some of the finest ambient dubstep you will ever hear. He decided a few years ago to only release singles instead of making full albums, which I think is a good idea. I hadn’t checked up on his work for a while, so I went to Bandcamp last week and found a few new releases and bought this one. Like all of his work it is atmospheric and very chill stuff. I like a lot. Best listened to in the dark with headphones.

Emapea – Zoning Out Volume 1
I did a search on Bandcamp for “dubstep” and chanced upon this release. I had never heard of Emapea (from Poland) before, but as Bandcamp made this available as a pre-release for only one dollar I thought I may as well order it. It was released two days ago and I am now listening to it. It is a mixture of hip hop and chill, mostly instrumental. Worth much more than a dollar I must say, and is now $10 as a normal release.

And that is all for now, not much, but all good stuff.

Album count 2018: 21

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

This is a 208 minute documentary about George and his life before, during, and after The Beatles.

And despite the long running time it is interesting all the way through (although I did watch this in three sessions). There is plenty of archival footage, a lot of which I have never seen before, interviews with several people including Paul, Ringo (very funny at times), Eric Clapton, his wife Olivia, Ravi Shankar, Phil Spector (before he went to prison), Jane Birkin, Patty Boyd, Eric Idle, Tom Petty, and plenty more.

A lot of the film looked at his spiritual beliefs and how it made it’s way into his music. There were various interviews with him and he seemed like a very decent chap, very down to earth, and bit of a rebel in some ways. Just the like the other Beatles he got a bit annoyed with the others towards the end and was just as tired as being a Beatle as the others, although it seems later in life he missed his fab four days.

Nothing was mentioned about his plagiarism problem with “My Sweet Lord” even though they did spend some time on the song. It seems he genuinely did not intentionally copy the original song “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons, at least not consciously, but the similarities are obvious.

So this is a very worthwhile watch for Gerorge fans, and Beatles fans.

Date watched: January 29th and 30th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2018: 8

A smörgåsbord of music purchases

In the last couple of weeks or so I have gathered seven CD albums. Here they are in no particular order:


U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind
I started collecting U2 albums last year for no reason. I am not a huge fan of U2, but some of their stuff is quite good. This, their tenth album, is quite listenable but nothing overly special.


R.E.M. – Reveal
Another band I have been filling in the discography blanks is R.E.M. This is their twelfth album, released in 2001. It sounds like R.E.M., a good thing.


Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
I bought this and the following two CDs at Hard Off (a secondhand shop place) in the 100 yen bin. I have not listened to this yet, but I am thinking it will be quite decent.


Third Eye Blind – Blue
I pretty much know nothing of this band, I was just familiar with the name, so I thought for 100 yen I might as well check it out. I have not listened to the whole album yet, but I did have a quick listen to snippets and thought it sounded quite all right.


Veruca Salt – Eight Arms to Hold You
As with Third Eye Blind I thought this would be worth checking out. I have only listened to snippets with this too, but it seems worthy.


R.E.M. – Around the Sun
I learned last Thursday that a Book Off I occasionally go to were having 50% off all CDs under 500 yen in the weekend, so I made a trip there on Sunday and bought this and the next album. I have not listened to this yet, but reviews on the internet are not too good, so I may be disappointed unfortunately. A quick listen reveals little, but it may not be that bad.


The Chemical Brothers – Surrender
I have been looking around for this album for quite some time as it is one of the last albums I need for my Chemical Brothers collection. I have heard this before and it is fabs just like all of their other albums. I just need Born in the Echoes, their latest album, to complete their album discography.

Album count 2018: 18

The Man Who Would Be Polka King

The title of this film got me hooked, especially the “polka” part because I like a little polka every so often.

This is the true story of Jan Lewan, a Polish immigrant who wanted to make it big in America, so he decided he was going to be the Kurt Cobain of polka (without the drugs and attitude).

The story though turns bad as he basically starts a ponzi scheme to fund his polka world domination plans. It is actually another very depressing story of a musician who goes off the rails a bit, but at least he doesn’t die (although he almost did in jail).

It is hard to feel sorry for him even though he seemed to be a happy and genuine guy who just wanted to realise his dreams, but he just went in too deep. It is also hard to feel sorry for some of the people, mostly retired persons, who invested a lot of their money into something that was obviously a bit dodgy right from the start. It was pure greed. When asked in interviews by the director about what happened in prison to him (he was shivved and barely survived), they just got plain nasty and wished openly that he had died.

The whole thing was shot in a kind of 1980’s style video-taped look which suited the story, and at only 69 minutes it is an easy watch. There is a comedy film based on this story on Netflix starring Jack Black, so with the background story fresh in my mind I will watch it next.

Jan is now out of prison and is back into his polka, I would say very much on the straight and narrow this time.

Date watched: January 26th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 6

Cobain: Montage of Heck

I had been wanting to see this for a while, but was not able to find it on DVD or elsewhere, so when I found it on Netflix in the “just added” category I immediately watched it (just after finishing Death Race 2000).

It is a well made documentary of Kurt’s life from birth to his death in 1994 (only a few weeks before Ayrton Senna’s death…bad year). There is a lot of archival footage which mostly came directly from his family, along with audio recorded by Kurt before his Nirvana days. There are also interviews with his mother, father, sister, ex-girlfriend, Krist Novoselic, and Courtney Love of course (this documentary was her idea). Dave Grohl was interviewed for the documentary, but for various reasons he was left out.

Kurt was obviously talented early on, but also quite troubled due to his personality and family troubles. Things only got worse when Nirvana got big, and he met Courtney.

There were many shots of pages from his diaries and notebook scribbles (done through some nifty animations) that showed just how disturbed he was, it was hard to read at times.

Buzz Osboune, a close friend of Kurt’s, and the founding member of The Melvins criticised this film, saying it was “90% bullshit”. However, Krist came out saying Buzz talks like that sometimes, so who knows what to believe. There were some animated scenes depicting what Kurt had wrote about in his diary that did seem just a bit too far fetched, and from what I have read about Kurt it seems to be nothing more than his dark humour.

As the film nears the end it gets quite depressing, especially in the home videos taken by Courtney showing an obviously drugged-up Kurt. The scene where they give baby Frances Bean her first haircut is a downer.

So it is a fascinating, sometimes hard to believe, and ultimately sad look at the life of Kurt Cobain. After you finish watching this, put In Utero on the turntable to cheer yourself up.

Date watched: January 25th
Score: 8.5/10
Film count 2018: 5

Music Stats 2017

Thanks to the excellent LastFM I am able to report on my listening habits for last year, so here they are:

Total number of scrobbles: 16,367 (new record)
Number of artists: 1,935
Albums: 1,431
Number of tracks: 15,221 (puts me in the 99th percentile on LastFM)
Top artist: Madlib, 311 tracks
Top track: Banned in D.C. by Bad Brains, 6 listens
Top month: August. 2,130 tracks
Busiest day of the week: Wednesday, 3,388 tracks
Busiest day: August 18th, 221 tracks
New artists: 53% of total
New albums: 56% of total
Longest streak: 77 days (listened to at least one song every day)
The only time of day I did not listen to music: between 5 and 6am

Click on the banner below to check out my LastFM profile…

Eleven Holiday Discs

Over the holiday period I was busy hunting around for music in both Tokyo and here in Nagano. Here is what I bought:


Manic Street Preachers – From Despair to Where EP
The Manics are one of my all-time fave bands, so I try to buy everything they have released when I come across something. The title song is from their second album, and I have the rest on a compilation of rarities and B-sides, but it is good to have the original disc too.


Rancid – Rancid
This Rancid’s second eponymously titled album, released in 2000, with their first being released in 1993. I have not listened to it yet, but Rancid’s sound does not change much.


Public Enemy – Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age
Public Enemy albums are hard to find used, so when I saw this in Book Off in Akihabara (an electronics and entertainment part of Tokyo) I immediately grabbed it before someone else saw it. You really can’t go wrong with Public Enemy.


Passion Pit – Manners
Also in Book Off I found this and thought it would be worth a try as I had heard they are good (actually it is basically only one guy). And indeed it is very good stuff. A nice find.


Voodoo Glow Skulls – Steady As She Goes
VGS are a ska-punk band that I have slowly been collecting albums from. Their sound, like Rancid, does not change much from album to album, which is fine as they make good sounds. Not listened to this yet.


Punk-O-Rama, Volume 4
My days of hunting for Punk-O-Rama CDs has now come to an end with this, the last one I needed to complete the collection of ten releases. In a way I am sad it is over as seeking them out was fun, kind of like going on an Easter Egg hunt, looking for them is more fun than actually consuming them. This one has the usual punky bands like Pennywise, Rancid, and Bad Religion, but for some reason Tom Waits’ “Big in Japan” is on it. No complaints though, I like Tom Waits a great deal…


Tom Waits – Real Gone
I like Tom Waits a great deal, so whenever I see his stuff I pounce on it and clutch onto it like a child holding a precious teddy bear. An added bonus is that the Book Off I got this at here in Nagano had half-price off all CDs that were 500 yen or under, so I got this for 250 yen…double bonus! Good stuff it is too.


R.E.M. – Up
R.E.M. are another band I am slowly collecting albums from. I have heard this album before, and it is decent.


Primal Scream – XTRMNTR
I found this yesterday in Book Off, and with 50% off I thought it would be more than worth buying. I have had a quick listen to a couple of songs, and it sounds good enough.



U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and October
Well, it looks like I am collecting U2 albums now, as today I bought both of these albums at Mandai (20% off today). I listened to Boy a couple of days ago and enjoyed listening to their early stuff again. So choosing October was easy. I dilly-dallied a bit before buying HTDAAB, but after looking it up online I found that it had favourable reviews, and twenty percent off certainly helped (both were dirt cheap anyway). So I am looking forward to listening to both.

Album count 2018: 11

Note: I actually bought 13 CDs but doubled-up on R.E.M.’s Out of Time album, and Broken Social Scenes’s Forgiveness Rock Record. I checked my spreadsheet on Google Drive to see if I already had the R.E.M. album while I was in the store, and thanks to not adding it I thought I did not have it. And I was convinced I did not have the Broken Social Scene album, so I did not bother to look it up, which if I did I would have seen it listed. Poop.

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