New Albums in my collection: April – June 2020

>> BAND-MAID: Conqueror
They may dress as maids and address their fans as “master” or “mistress”, but don’t let that fool you. These girls can put down hard rock riffs with the best of them. This is their third full-length album.

>> Vanessa Carlton: Love is an Art
All these years after “A Thousand Miles”, Vanessa Carlton’s writing and playing has matured over time with her own unique style and sound.

>> Momoiro Clover Z: 5TH DIMENSION
Japanese “Limited Edition A” 2CD version of their second album from 2013. The first disc is the album, and the second is half of a concert from 2012, featuring performances of solo songs by each of the members of the group. It also has alternate cover art and comes in a clear slipcase with the pentagon logo. Finding a limited edition version of any idol group CD is a good get for my collection, since usually they are so expensive to import and they go out of print quickly. I found this on clearance from a domestic CD shop who already had imported copies in stock which they must have been sitting on for years. Lucky hidden treasure for me!

>> Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch: Blade Runner 2049
Finally a physical copy of the soundtrack for my collection. The wall of ambient synthesizer drones sounded great in the film, and listening to it on a big stereo system is the only way to immerse yourself in the music. The soundtrack also includes the Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley songs heard in the film.

Bonjour Suzuki and Others

“Whiteout” performed by Riko Azuna

I’ve left this blog idle for far too long, so it’s time to get things going again, and what better way than with one of my new favorite songs?

“Whiteout” is the ending theme to the Boogiepop and Others anime series from 2018. It’s written by Bonjour Suzuki, who I know from her theme song for Yurikuma Arashi. Suzuki does not perform “Whiteout”, however. The singer is Riko Azuna, who I did not know about until this song. Between Suzuki’s melodies and Azuna’s voice, to me this sounds like it could have been a Kate Bush song! Azuna sings in a register very similar to Bush, and her inflections are even similar, despite being in another language.

It’s a great piece of music, and one of my newest favorite songs. And as a bonus, the music video has a long take in it… one of my favorite cinematographic techniques!

New Albums in my collection: March 2020

>> Mandy Moore: Silver Landings
An album of introspective and mostly acoustic singer-songwriter material which would sound right at home on the playlist at your favorite college town cafĂ© (…well, once they reopen someday).

>> Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts V: Together
>> Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts VI: Locusts

These are digital only. A surprise release of two new Ghosts albums, for free! Two different moods are covered in this continuation of the instrumental experiments project. Together is calm and reflective, while Locusts is a bit more ominous. They were created as opposing yet complementary reactions to the uncertain times we’re living in right now.

>> Porcupine Tree: In Absentia
The newly released box set, containing the 2017 album remaster with dynamic range compression and volume limiting removed, available on CD for the first time. Also included are two bonus discs of audio: one with the extra tracks recorded during the sessions but not included on the album, and one with demos. A fourth disc is a blu-ray with a hi-res version of the stereo remaster (with accompanying Lasse Hoile slide show of nightmare fuel from the album’s artwork), as well as the 2003 surround mix from the original DVD-A release, and a feature length documentary chronicling the creation of the album. All housed in a great oversized hardcover book of essays and photos.

>> Renaissance: Turn of the Cards
The latest in the series of Renaissance reissues is one of their landmark albums. A four disc set including the original album remastered (with bonus tracks), and two bonus discs comprising a complete live show from 1974 with a 24-piece orchestra. Also included is a DVD with a new 5.1 mix of the album.

>> Grace VanderWaal: Perfectly Imperfect
>> Grace VanderWaal: Just The Beginning

Here is an example of an artist I liked from what I had heard of them, though I had no idea who they were. Grace VanderWaal did songs for the animated films Next Gen and Wonder Park. I liked both of them, not even realizing they were by the same person. After a little digging, I discovered it was Grace VanderWaal. A singer-songwriter who plays the ukelele and has a big, distinctive voice which belies her age. This is her debut EP and album, recorded when she was twelve and thirteen years old respectively. (She is currently sixteen.) Don’t let her age fool you; this is not Kidz Bop. These are real songs which can appeal to listeners of any age, yet lyrically are relatable to her peers. I had no idea the songs I liked from those films were sung by someone so young.

Clearly

This song – an adapted cover of “I Can See Clearly Now” – was the ending credits song for the animated film Next Gen. I liked this version of the song when I heard it, and was impressed by the vocal ability of the singer, especially during the chorus which has a powerful delivery. I had no idea who Grace VanderWaal was, let alone that she was only fourteen years old when the song was recorded in 2018! I’ve since heard most of her work to date and have become a fan.

Clearly a good movie about a girl and her robot

New Albums in my collection: February 2020

>> Billie Eilish: dont smile at me
It’s not a typo; that’s how the EP title is stylized. Reissue of Billie’s 2017 debut EP. Prelude to her impressive full-length debut album a year later, it’s hard to believe these sounds came from a sixteen year old.

>> Donna Lewis: now in a minute
Found this for a couple of dollars at a thrift shop. Got it mainly for the single which brings me back to my college days in the mid 1990s, but the rest of the album is pleasant pop music from the Welsh singer/songwriter as well.

>> Pet Shop Boys: Hotspot
Their latest is the third produced by Stuart Price, who brought Pet Shop Boys a fresh contemporary sound with their previous two albums: Electric and Super. This is the deluxe 2CD edition, which includes an instrumental version of the entire album on the second disc.

>> Yes: Fly From Here – Return Trip
In 2011, Yes released Fly From Here, which was very nearly a Drama reunion. Trevor Horn produced the album, and Geoff Downes was brought back to play keyboards (essentially ousting Oliver Wakeman, Yes’s keyboard player at the time), as many of the songs used for Fly From Here were penned and recorded as demos by Horn and Downes in the early 1980s (as The Buggles) during and after their stint in Yes for 1980’s Drama. (In fact, Yes played an early version of the title track live on the Drama tour.) Fast forward to 2018. The band decides to bring Trevor Horn back to remix the album, re-record and rearrange some parts, and record all new vocal tracks for the whole album (except for two songs; one sung by Chris Squire and another by Steve Howe), replacing Benoit David’s vocals from the original Fly From Here. This revisited version of Fly From Here then really did become the successor to Drama, boasting the same lineup as that album. Vestiges of the original 2011 version remain in the form of a couple of Oliver Wakeman’s recorded keyboard parts and a songwriting credit for Benoit David.