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CATCHING UP 8.0: BANKS, OPERATION: MINDCRIME, BLONDE REDHEAD, LA SERA, DALSHABET, UTADA HIKARU, SONG JI EUN

by Michael McCarthy

Time sure flies, doesn’t it? These days, mine is taken up by doing interviews for Love is Pop and working on my novel Book of Shadows 2. Yeah, I know, the first book hasn’t even been published yet, but if I can’t find an agent to get me a publishing deal soon then I’m just going to self-publish it. I might even give it away for free, which I’m about to do with my novel Reckoning Daze very soon. That one is about an anorexic, self-loathing actress, a real downhill racer story. If you like books about people hellbent on self-destruction, you’ll like this one. It’s also about overcoming a particularly bad family history and wanting to find love more than anything, so it does have its positive elements, too. You may also find it of interest that I was an anorexic living in Los Angeles at the time when I wrote it and I was also dating an aspiring actress who was as self-destructive as I was, so it’s definitely inspired by real life. In any case, I’ll be sure to let you know once it’s up on your various e-book retailers so you can download it, if you’d like.

Now, let’s talk about some music releases, shall we?

The first album I have to praise is Banks’ The Altar. What a mesmerizing record, which would make a good soundtrack for Reckoning Daze, being that many of Banks favorite tales to spin here are those about self-hate, but all the while she wants love. The production is immaculate with a mix of drum machine beats, electronic details, live instruments, etc. If you were a fan of ‘90’s electronica, you should really like this. It sounds totally 2015, but you can tell it’s at least partially inspired by ‘90’s electronica. My favorite tracks on The Altar are “Gemini Feed,” “Fuck With Myself,” “Trainwreck” and “This Is Not About Us.” Every song on the album is fantastic though.

La Sera’s Queens EP has been getting a lot of airplay in my music room/office as well. There’s nothing especially fancy about it, as it’s straight-forward indie pop songs that you’re either going to love or hate. If you liked the Jenny and Johnny album that Jenny Lewis put out several years ago now then you’ll love this. If you’ve ever wondered what Belle and Sebastian might sound like with higher tempos then you’d also love it. These are jubilant songs that over-flow with fun right before your very ears.

Blonde Redhead recently put out a great 4LP/2CD collection of their early recordings on the label Numero Group and what a fine collection it is. I’ve been a fan of theirs for some time now, really liking their last couple of albums, but I hadn’t heard much of this stuff, if anything. It’s interesting to hear where they come from. This release actually combines their first two albums, one of which was self-titled, the other called La Mia Via Violenta, but it also includes a slew of bonus tracks including live performances, demos, etc. If you like indie rock, or if you’re already a Blonde Redhead fan, you should check this one out for sure.

Operation: Mindcrime’s new album Resurrection is right up there with the best of singer/songwriter Geoff Tate’s previous band, Queensryche. To be honest, I strongly disliked the first album Tate put out after splitting with Queensryche, which was released as Geoff Tate’s Queensryche if memory serves me correctly. That was before they went to court and it was decided that Tate would go on under the Operation: Mindcrime moniker and the other guys from Queensryche would continue as Queensryche. Mindcrime’s first album, The Key, was very, very good, but the new one, Resurrection is even better. If you like Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime and Empire albums then this will blow you away. This is prog metal done right. It’s not about showing off five minute bass solos or writing 17 minute songs just for the sake of doing so. No, these songs are written to be kick ass metal songs first and foremost. That they’re progressive just means that they’re slightly to the left of mainstream metal (whatever that is). If you’ve never been a Queensryche fan this isn’t going to do much for you, but if you came of age listening to Mindcrime and Empire this will fucking rock your socks off.

K-Pop girl group Dalshabet’s new mini-album FRI. SAT. SUN is one of my favorite K-Pop releases right now. It’s songs are sexy and fresh with an air of sophistication that you don’t get from a lot of K-Pop. The girls are getting older, so apparently it’s time for them to do some more mature music and that’s just fine with me. When they sing “Baby open your heart” on opener “Ya Heart” you’ll swoon. “HARD 2 LOVE” is a deliciously upbeat number that’ll have you dancing in your seat. All five songs are keepers though. Definitely worth buying this one from iTunes.

Song Ji Eun’s Bobby Doll is her second mini-album and the only thing wrong with it is the fact that it’s a mini and not a full-length album because it definitely leaves you wanting more after you finish listening to its five stellar tunes, which knock it out of the park in a way that the Red Sox tragically failed to do last night. I never paid much attention to Song’s music prior to this release but she’s definitely among my K-Pop favorites now. “I Wanna Fall In Love,” the first track, is all it should take for you to get addicted. The day I discovered this mini-album, I must have played it 7 times. Don’t be surprised if you listen to it even more.

Meanwhile in Japan, Utada Hikaru makes a triumphant return with her new album Fantôme. Each of its 11 eclectic songs is a delight. She starts things off with an upbeat number, of which there are many, but there are also plenty of those longing ballads that she’s famous for. If you’ve never heard of her, you’ll definitely want to check this out. It’s not cheesy J-Pop either. Not even close. It’s very artsy stuff. There are even some hip-hop elements and one song even has a great guest appearance by Japanese rapper KOHH. An instant classic right up there with her albums from before she took her long hiatus.

Unfortunately, Utada’s new album isn’t on Spotify and none of her new videos have been made available in the States.  Which is pretty stupid because she has a strong international following, one of contemporary Japanese pop music’s biggest stars.  The Japanese music industry is weird anyway.  They don’t put their videos on Youtube, just shortened commercials for the full length videos so they can charge fans ridiculous prices for singles so they can get the bonus DVDs with the videos on them.  There might be a Japanese Youtube where they put the whole videos on, I don’t know, but I doubt it.  Anyway, here’s one of Utada’s albums that is on Spotify…

 

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Written by

Paris365

An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.

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