Monday, October 7 2002

Angel without the twist, please

I was in love with LeAnn Rimes even before the recent makeover that shows off her physical maturity and taste in lingerie. Unfortunately, while I appreciate the eye candy, what I love is her talent, and her new album Twisted Angel doesn’t make much use of it. The songs aren’t wretched, exactly, they’re just blah. It’s like an hour spent listening to the previews for next week’s WB shows.

In fact, I expect to hear several of these tunes on Smallville soon. Perhaps Life goes on the next time Chloe is pining for Clark, or The safest place when Lana has to be rescued from a blizzard, Suddenly for the big graduation day. The title track can turn up when Lex goes cruising for brunettes in Metropolis in his latest sports car.

Of course, the woman he finds will turn out to be the Disposable Kryptonite Mutant of the Week, but he’s getting better at dealing with that.

Wednesday, July 9 2003

Fun with iTunes Music Store

The LXG soundtrack sounded promising enough that I decided to support the iMS exclusive release of it. There was some other stuff sitting in my shopping cart, so I bought it all, synced the iPod, and drove to work.

You wouldn’t think that LXG, Dean Martin, Liz Phair, John Philip Sousa, and Ray Brown would make a good driving mix, but it worked.

Monday, July 21 2003

Annoying habits

/dev/audio: Breathless, The Corrs

Next to my casually-held belief that Bush actually won the election — something that I’ve thought of as a dead issue for quite a while now (and hooboy, how wrong I was!) — I think my worst habit is a certain selective deafness when it comes to music.

No, not the part about listening to utter crap, although I do that, too. See the song mentioned above? It’s been playing on repeat for more than six hours today. Just the one song.

I didn’t notice. It’s a nice song, but is it that good? No, it just falls into that category of music that fills the background pleasantly without ever attracting my attention.

I have a large collection of such songs, although obviously I could get by with one or two. This repetition isn’t usually a problem, since I live alone, but I’ve heard some grumbling when it happens at the office, and it was once taken as a planned insult by my college roommate’s live-in girlfriend. She simply couldn’t believe that someone could play Debbie Gibson’s Out of the Blue album for seven hours straight without noticing, and she was sure I knew that she hated it.

The funny thing was that I hadn’t realized she was in the apartment in the first place.

Wednesday, July 23 2003

Online music done right

Just for amusement, a list of the albums and songs I’ve purchased from the iTunes Music Store since it went online.

Complete albums:

  1. A Wonderful World, Tony Bennett & k.d. lang
  2. Jazz Cello, Ray Brown
  3. The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years, Ray Charles
  4. In Blue, The Corrs
  5. Count Basie’s Finest Hour, Count Basie
  6. Getz for Lovers, Stan Getz
  7. Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio, Stan Getz
  8. Best of Al Jarreau, Al Jarreau
  9. B.B. King: Anthology, B.B. King
  10. Late at Night with Dean Martin, Dean Martin
  11. The Best of the Moody Blues, The Moody Blues
  12. Confirmation: The Best of the Verve Years, Charlie Parker
  13. Blues Etude, Oscar Peterson
  14. Tracks, Oscar Peterson
  15. We Get Requests, Oscar Peterson Trio
  16. With Respect to Nat, Oscar Peterson Trio
  17. Oscar Peterson: Stéphane Grappelli Quartet, Vol. 1, Oscar Peterson & Stéphane Grappelli
  18. Liz Phair, Liz Phair
  19. The Dynamic Duo, Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery
  20. Great American Marches I, John Philip Sousa
  21. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Trevor Jones & The London Symphony Orchestra

Individual Songs:

  1. You’ve Made Me so Very Happy, Blood, Sweat & Tears
  2. Do You Wanna Hold Me?, Bow Wow Wow
  3. Takin’ It to the Streets, The Doobie Brothers
  4. What a Fool Believes, The Doobie Brothers
  5. Radar Love, Golden Earring
  6. The Day Basketball Was Saved, Jackson 5
  7. I Think It’s Love, Jermaine Jackson
  8. Laura, Billy Joel
  9. Beth, Kiss
  10. Detroit Rock City, Kiss
  11. King of the Night Time World, Kiss
  12. Shout It Out Loud, Kiss
  13. Head to Toe, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam
  14. Insanity, Liz Phair
  15. Don’t Stand so Close to Me, The Police
  16. Every Morning, Sugar Ray
  17. Macho Man, Village People

Thursday, July 31 2003

Who thought this was a good idea?

I like Dean Martin. I picked up one of his albums on the iTunes Music Store recently, and I’m glad to see that Capitol Records is actively promoting him once again. But what eagle-eyed halfwit thought that “light gray on white” was an appropriate color scheme for body text, especially at a size as small as 9px?

I apologize in advance to anyone who follows that link. Especially anyone old enough to remember Dino.

Friday, August 22 2003

More from the iTunes Music Store

The only thing that keeps me from spending even more money than I already have at iTMS is the limited selection. Broad but not deep, that is. Some recent artists that I like aren’t listed at all, while some old favorites have just a fraction of their catalog online. And then there are the ones who were never on a major label, or who have renounced their sinful past (warning: the Flash in this site ground my browser into the dust).

Anyway, here’s what I’ve bought recently.

(Continued on Page 1543)

Tuesday, September 2 2003

iTMS takes me back

Okay, my iTunes Music Store purchases are getting a bit silly now:

(Continued on Page 1561)

Friday, September 5 2003

Keep the day job, Hilary

Just in case anyone was wondering, her debut album provides no evidence that Hilary Duff can sing, or even that she has a voice to sing with. Generically slick production combines with blandly stupid lyrics and the most obvious electronic voice modification since Cher’s last hit, resulting in an album so forgettable that you’ll wonder what you’ve just thrown into the trash.

Fortunately she’s one of the most beautiful young women I’ve ever seen, because I think she’s the least convincing pop-tart in the business. And I like pop-tart music.

Curiously, the album photos, like many recent pictures of her, play down the fresh-faced beauty and open charm that made her a Disney Princess. I suppose they’re trying to separate Hilary-the-singer from Hilary-the-actress.

Makes sense, since only one of them has a future.

Wednesday, September 10 2003

iTMS weekly reports

No, I didn’t buy another big batch of music from the iTunes Music Store yet, although I probably will soon, to stock up the iPod for my next road trip to Las Vegas. I have been keeping an eye on the store, though, and after corresponding with Brian Tiemann, I decided to investigate an oddity we’d both noticed: the week-by-week “Just Added” report ain’t no such thing.

(Continued on Page 1579)

Friday, October 17 2003

Apple Jazz

Herbie Hancock, on Apple.

Herbie Hancock, in the iTunes Music Store.

The interview is interesting reading (“I was using it [OS X] before other musicians were using it.” and “I hate OS 9 (laughter). I hate going back to that.”), but what I really like is the commentary on the “celebrity playlist.” Sheryl Crow has a bland paragraph that was probably written by her publicist, but Hancock explains in detail why each of the tracks is interesting and significant (sometimes to him, sometimes to the world). Note to Apple: Hancock’s commentary sells, Crow’s doesn’t.

[and if you’re a Windows user who hasn’t installed iTunes yet, Great Googlimoogli, what are you waiting for? It’s not as fast as it is on a Mac, but all of the features are there, including Rendezvous music sharing.]

Update: After purchasing Hancock’s picks, I’d say that I like everything except Missy Elliot’s Slide. Miles Davis’ 27-minute Bitches Brew starts off rather … “non-musical” … for my tastes, but picks up several minutes in. Elliot I just don’t get; Hancock sees something in her music that separates it from typical posturing {c,}rap, but all I hear is the surface, and it’s so grating that I can’t get past it to look for what he found. Obviously I won’t be buying her recommended playlist.

Audiobook, meet mix cd

I think this may be the most entertaining change in the iTunes Music Store: the full integration of audiobooks gives you Music To Listen To Ann Coulter By.

Thursday, January 8 2004

Altec Lansing inMotion

I’d love to supply a link to this extremely cool iPod accessory, except that the manufacturer doesn’t list it on their web site, and Apple’s online store generates nonsensical URLs that don’t share well.

Altec Lansing inMotion

Instead, imagine a white plastic brick, about the size of an O’Reilly book, that opens up into a surprisingly good mini-speaker system that doubles as a fully-functional iPod docking station. It’s quite loud for a system with only 2 watts/channel, and distortion is well-controlled at reasonable volumes. It’s compatible with older iPods and other devices through the Aux port (short cable supplied), which I’m connecting to my PowerBook for a significant sound boost.

They claim up to 24 hours of life on four AA batteries, or you can use the supplied wall-wart to run it on AC.

Thursday, January 15 2004

One question answered…

Latest Apple press release: “With Apple Loops support, future versions of Logic Pro will easily import projects from GarageBand.”

That wipes out about half a dozen common complaints about GarageBand.

Saturday, January 24 2004

GarageBand: adventures in UI design

GarageBand only allows you to have one project open at a time. This is not an obvious or necessary feature of a music program, but at first glance, it’s defensible in the context of Apple’s iLife package. For a bunch of more-or-less free tools designed for light use by non-professionals, allowing multiple documents adds the risk of clutter and confusion (not to mention memory management and engineering effort). iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD all work the same way, right?

Well, no, they don’t. iTunes and iPhoto simply don’t have the concept of multiple projects. Something is either in your library or it isn’t. iMovie and iDVD are single-project-based, but the projects generally have a much larger scope. I’m sure a lot of iMovie users wish they had an iPhoto-like clip library to store their favorite video elements in, but for the most part, few people are going to want to edit more than one movie at a time.

This is not the case for music, especially in an application that encourages experimentation. One of the very first questions I saw on the various GB forums was “how do I make my own reusable loops”. Tied with it was “how do I import MIDI tracks”.

The answer right now is “through painful workarounds.” To make your own loops, you export your performance to iTunes, find the AIFF file on disk, load it into the SoundTrack Loop Editor that’s part of Apple’s free AppleLoops SDK, manually mark it up, drag the tagged file into GB’s loop browser window, and then wait while the complete index of available loops is rebuilt. To import MIDI files, you download two third-party freeware packages and string them together to fool GB into thinking that you’re playing the music on a keyboard.

Even the simple act of cutting and pasting between songs is made difficult by the single-project design. You can do it, but only within the same session, because GB clears its private clipboard on exit. And it exits whenever you close a project. So, if your goal is “copy my cool bass track from RockDude into BluesDude,” the order of operations must be Cut, Open, Paste. Anything else will wipe the clipboard and force you to start over.

Sure, after you’ve done it a few times, you’ll adjust your behavior to match GB’s expectations, but isn’t that precisely the problem that consumer-friendly creative applications are supposed to avoid?

Tuesday, January 27 2004

getting MIDI into GarageBand

First pass at a third-party MIDI importer for GB, courtesy of Bery Rinaldo. Much nicer than the previous workaround.

Wednesday, February 4 2004

More GarageBand resource usage

I finally got around to testing my piano overload song on my other Mac, a dual 1GHz G4 tower with 768MB of RAM, booted off of a 4200 RPM external FireWire drive. The second CPU more than made up for the slower hard drive and lower memory, allowing me to add four more software pianos than I could use on the PowerBook.

Final total: nine software pianos, five software percussion instruments, a software acoustic bass, and seven sampled loops. I’ll try again when I finish rebuilding the fast internal hard drive, to see if that will let me squeeze in another piano.

Update: Nope, the faster hard drive didn’t make a difference. It looks like CPU and RAM dominate, and dual CPUs make a big difference (as they should).

Update: Past a certain point, more RAM doesn’t make a big difference, either (says the guy who just bumped his PowerBook to 2GB). It looks like 512MB is a good working minimum, and 768MB or so will handle just about anything a G4 or two can keep up with. Above that, you’re basically adding buffer cache to compensate for the speed of your hard drive.

Thursday, February 12 2004

Minor GarageBand update

It’s not on Software Update yet, and it’s not prominently linked on the support site, but GarageBand 1.0.1 was released today.

It looks like they’re just clearing up the performance warning dialog boxes (many of which were either confusing or just plain wrong).

Update: Some folks are reporting other improvements, such as performance of some keyboards. I noticed that the online Help includes some new FAQs (and a working link to the keyboard shortcuts), but nothing else yet. The error dialogs are definitely clearer, though:

new GB error dialog

Wednesday, February 18 2004

Morons with Flash

Happened to stumble across Siobhan Donaghy’s web site. It opened a new window that used Flash to pretend to be a music magazine. I cannot imagine a less useful metaphor for navigating a web site, especially since it is completely unreadable without extensive use of the supplied zoom button and jump-scroll arrows.

It is the stupidest site design I’ve ever seen. Slow to load, hard to read, hard to navigate, effectively impossible to link to or quote from, and actively hostile to large and/or high-resolution displays. It is a remarkable exercise in “polishing a turd.”

It will probably win an award, which the designer will cherish forever and leverage to justify even greater sins.

Sunday, February 22 2004

Moving songs from GarageBand to Logic

Another potentially useful hack for GB: BandToLogic.

Monday, February 23 2004

iPod mini

I found myself near an Apple Store on Friday afternoon, and saw the line forming for the new iPod mini. I’d been thinking of buying one, using the failure of the wired remote on my existing iPod (poor strain relief) as an excuse. “Hey, it’s like a $40 discount.”

Sadly, the mini doesn’t come with a wired remote, so I had to invent a new excuse. “Now I can leave the 30GB model in the car all the time, and not have to fiddle with cables when I want to go for a walk or get on the cross-trainer.”

Not as compelling a reason, but it does at least include the practical advantages of the mini. Smaller, lighter, much better controls, full compatibility with my existing iTunes library (including playlists and iTMS purchases), and compatibility with most 3G iPod accessories.

Sadly, the accessory I’d most like to use it with, the Belkin Voice Recorder, is not currently supported by the mini’s firmware. Hopefully Apple will fix that soon, since I’d love to take notes while I’m out walking. Dodging traffic seems to stimulate my creativity. :-)

New accessory I’d most like to see: a horizontal version of the clip-on holster it comes with. I’ve got one of these for my cellphone (which is about the same size…), and it’s very nice.

Oh, and by my rough count, there were 150 people waiting in line at the Valley Fair Apple Store at 6pm to buy a mini. There were eight people in line at 4:30pm, which I know because I was number nine. Fortunately I had my other iPod and a large stack of magazines to read.

Tuesday, March 2 2004

GarageBand Jam Pack update

A pleasant surprise in Software Update today, a small patch to the GarageBand Jam Pack that adds additional effect presets. It’ll be interesting to see exactly what they’ve done.

There’s also a reliability patch for iDVD, a product I haven’t had a chance to really use yet. Maybe if I get some decent footage of the TI Sirens show on my next trip to Vegas…

Tuesday, March 16 2004

GarageBand Is (Not Is)

David Was takes GB out for a spin. Being NPR, the commentary also comes with a different sort of spin, but what can you do?

Wednesday, March 17 2004

iEatBrainz: not ready for prime time

The idea is sound: identify music by acoustic fingerprints instead of relying on the clumsy CD-hashing approach used by CDDB, which not only produces a lot of collisions, but relies on the presence of the CD in a compatible drive. The poor quality of the CDDB database is a separate issue, one that MusicBrainz doesn’t obviously solve.

iEatBrainz is a beta Mac client for the MusicBrainz database, and if the results it produces are representative of the fingerprinting technology and current database, it’s not worth my time right now.

For a simple test, I fed it a 97-song playlist out of my iTunes library, consisting of tracks ripped to MP3 and AAC from my CD collection over the past few years.

(Continued on Page 1821)

Thursday, March 25 2004

Move over, Stallman!

I think we’ve just found the perfect singer to cover The Free Software Song in the manner it deserves.

I can’t really say “thank you” to Chuq Von Rospach for linking to this, but I’ll try to get even someday.

iPod mini a victim of its own success

Apparently the worldwide rollout of the iPod mini has been delayed, basically because Hitachi can’t make 4GB MicroDrives fast enough to keep up with demand.

As the pleased owner of one (silver, by the way, and I’d have gone for a nice dark gray if they’d made one), I’m not surprised. People who viewed it as a barely-cheaper iPod with much lower capacity were missing the point; it’s not cannibalizing sales of full-sized iPods, it’s capturing the demographic that wasn’t willing to buy an iPod at all, for various reasons.

And gadget freaks like me, of course. The mini is my third iPod, and I still have the second one, which now lives full-time in the car and makes long drives more pleasant. And I spend a lot of time driving, mostly by choice. When the next round of full-sized iPods comes out, there’s a good chance I’ll buy one of those, too, mostly because Apple supposedly has adopted the mini’s excellent controls to replace the unreliable non-buttons on the 3G iPods.

Note that the success of the mini also means that as soon as the demand is met, Hitachi will be able to flood the market with 4GB MicroDrives, and that’s pretty cool, too.

Wednesday, April 7 2004

iTunes Music Recommendation service

This is a new “if you like X, try Y” service set up as a student project at University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana). Does it work better than Goombah? Dunno yet; so far I haven’t been able to get it to work. I can upload my iTunes database, but it fails trying to download recommendations (probably due to being Farked, Slashdotted, BoingBoinged, Lileksed, Instapunted, or some other combination of high-profile links).

I can think of two reasons why it’s a better bet, though: first, it looks like they’re doing the work on the server side, rather than chewing up hours of CPU time on your computer, and second, Goombah hasn’t updated their client or database in months.

Ah, just got through, and discovered one disadvantage to server-side processing:

Your music database is being processed. This window will show your recommendations once they’ve been computed.
Notice: The server is a little backed up, hence the long wait. Once the server gets caught up the wait will be ALOT shorter, until then I would recommend that you don’t hit the resend button.
Your estimated wait for results is 8 hours, 44 minutes, 40 seconds. You may quit and log back in at anytime to check on the status of your recommendations.
(Continued on Page 1874)

Monday, April 12 2004

And the winners are…

4 days, 19 hours, and 45 minutes after submitting my music database to the in-development iTunes Music Recommendation service, here’s what it came back with:

(Continued on Page 1887)

Tuesday, April 20 2004

Gaming the system

Finally downloaded a new set of results from the beta iTunes Music Recommendation system. My previous run was more amusing than useful, but it had potential.

This time? Utter nonsense. Some clowns decided to corrupt the database by uploading garbage. There’s no other reasonable explanation for the results I got, in which the first 32 of 50 tracks recommended all come from albums named “Unreleased” by such famous bands as Syph Clap and the Orgasmic Meatrats, Marc Coulter, z..Marco, and Vital Cry.

If they allow this to continue, in a few months their data might be as unreliable as CDDB.

Update: things have improved, either through database maintenance or, as the creator would have it, the natural consequences of increasing the size of the database. I’m betting on the former, myself. Suddenly all the garbage went away, restoring the results to the quality of my initial run. Much faster now, too, enough to justify spending a little time tinkering with the data to see what happens.

Tuesday, May 18 2004

GarageBand 1.1

Mostly bugfixes and minor tweaks. Still need third-party freeware for many import/export tasks.

Update: It’s being reported that 1.1 silently fixed a bug that prevented use of free third-party instruments.

Thursday, June 10 2004

Music quiz

In the service of Sheila A-Stray’s Redheaded Ramblings, I once again assert my Internet Lemminghood.

1. Your favorite song with the name of a city in the title or text.

New York, New York, Sinatra. In my college days, I’d occasionally mock my fellow students by strutting across campus with my Big-Eighties Boombox mounted on my shoulder, blasting out this tune with the volume set to “stun”. These days I do much the same with Mel Tormé’s Too close for comfort when I find myself at a stop light or in a gas station with someone who feels the need to share his gangsta rap with everyone in a two-block radius.

2. A song you’ve listened to repeatedly when you were depressed at some point in your life.

At seventeen. It felt so good to not be Janis Ian. Also The other end of the telescope, ’Til Tuesday with Elvis Costello. Hmm, and Sheena Easton’s cover of In the winter, a real wrist-slasher.

3. Ever bought an entire album just for one song and wound up disliking everything but that song? Gimme that song.

Jerry Jeff Walker’s Flowers in the snow, from Navajo Rug. Actually, I already had the song on a sampler, and made the mistake of thinking it was representative of the album. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

4. A great song in a language other than English.

Coisich, a rùin, Capercaillie, from Delirium.

5. Your least favorite song on one of your favorite albums of all time.

Lover’s day, ’Til Tuesday, from Welcome Home

6. A song you like by someone you find physically unattractive or otherwise repellent.

Soldier of love, Donny Osmond. I suppose he’s a good-looking guy if you’re into that sort of thing, but I just can’t get past that whole “little bit country, little bit rock and roll” thing that scarred my youth.

7. Your favorite song that has expletives in it that’s not by Liz Phair.

The Queer Song, Two Nice Girls.

8. A song that sounds as if it’s by someone British but isn’t.

Coming up blank on this one.

9. A song you like (possibly from your past) that took you forever to finally locate a copy of.

I got it from Agnes, Tom Lehrer. I had the sheet music for nearly twenty years before he released a CD that included it.

10. A song that reminds you of spring but doesn’t mention spring at all.

Full moon full of love, k.d. lang.

11. A song that sounds to you like being happy feels.

Waterloo, ABBA, in Swedish.

12. Your favorite song from a non-soundtrack compilation album.

Hotel California, Gipsy Kings, from Rubaiyat.

13. A song that reminds you of high school.

Heh. Centerfold, J. Geils Band.

14. A song that reminds you of college.

Laura, Billy Joel.

15. A song you actually like by an artist you otherwise dislike.

You oughta know, by, y’know, her.

16. A song by a band that features three or more female members.

I spent my last $10 on birth control and beer, Two Nice Girls.

17. One of the earliest songs that you can remember listening to.

My sweet Lord, George Harrison.

18. A song you’ve been mocked by friends for liking.

I want your love, Transvision Vamp. Also my complete collection of Debbie/Deborah Gibson albums.

19. A really good cover version you think no one else has heard.

Cruella deVille, The Replacements.

20. A song that has helped cheer you up (or empowered you somehow) after a breakup or otherwise difficult situation.

Tranent Muir, The Tannahill Weavers. There are days I just need to play this song REALLY REALLY LOUD.

Saturday, July 17 2004

Elton John: censorship in the US is soooo much worse now than in the Sixties

Dear Elton, with reference to your recent statement that, unlike in the Sixties where people like Pete Seeger were out there speaking truth to power, entertainers today are “frightened by the administration’s bullying tactics,” I call to your attention the documentary Smothered — The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Note that unlike current entertainers such as Michael Moore, the producers of this enlightening film actually made an honest documentary.

By the way, where do you buy your drugs, or is this the result of giving them up?

“There was a moment about a year ago when you couldn’t say a word about anything in this country for fear of your career being shot down by people saying you are un-American.”

Thursday, August 5 2004

One for the road

Under the influence of powerful pain-killers (going in for a root canal on Monday), I spent some time this morning preparing a new music mix for an upcoming trip. It consists entirely of songs from the opening and ending credits of anime series, mostly ripped directly from the DVDs with Audio Hijack Pro (with some minor touch-ups done in the free multi-platform audio editor Audacity).

It’s only 52 minutes so far, since I’m deliberately selecting the tv-edited versions that average around 90 seconds. There are a few songs I can’t include because those discs are out on loan, but otherwise it’s a fun mix. Fortunately the person who’ll be locked in the car with me for six hours likes anime. :-)

  • Agent Aika, Silent City (OP)
  • Agent Aika Special Missions Promo
  • All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku OVA, Happy Birthday To Me (OP)
  • Angelic Layer, Be My Angel (OP)
  • Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, Asu No Blue Wing (OP)
  • Dirty Pair OVA, By Yourself (OP), Summertime From Autumn (ED)
  • Dirty Pair TV, Ru-Ru-Ru-Russian Roulette (OP)
  • Excel Saga, Love (Loyalty) (OP)
  • Galaxy Angel, Galaxy Bang! Bang! (OP)
  • Green Green, Guri Guri (OP)
  • Hand Maid Mai, Hand Maid De Ne! (ED)
  • Hand Maid May, Jump—Hug Me As Tight As You Can (OP)
  • Happy Lesson, Telescope (OP), Yume no Miyako Tokyo Life (ED)
  • Happy Lesson OVA, (OP)
  • Hyper Police, That’s Hypertension!! (OP), Hey Hold Up! (ED)
  • Jubei-Chan, Forever (ED)
  • Kaleido Star, Take It, Shake It (OP)
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service, Lipstick Message (OP)
  • Magical Project S, Yume mireba yume mo yume ja nai (OP)
  • Mahoromatic Summer Special, Hiryu Musume Ha! Date Ondo (ED)
  • New Cutey Honey, Cutey Honey (OP)
  • Ninin ga Shinobuden OP & ED
  • Puni Puni Poemy, Puni Puni Densetsu Ppoi (OP)
  • Ranma 1/2 Season 1, Don’t Make Me Wild Like You (OP)
  • R.O.D OP
  • Rune Soldier, Twinkle Trick (OP)
  • Steel Angel Kurumi, KissからはじまるMiracle (OP)
  • Super GALS!, A-I-Tsu (OP)
  • Tenjou Tenge, Aishitene Motto (ED)

This is actually a secondary use for Audio Hijack Pro; I bought it primarily so I could record streaming audio from Japanese internet radio stations (such as Radio Japan, Morning Freeway, and MBS Broadband). Having a variety of native speakers discuss different subjects is very handy for language practice, especially since my primary source, anime, isn’t known for its realistic dialogue and proper grammar.

Update: Mostly successful, but I have to redo many of the audio captures, because of a little feature in Apple’s DVD Player that’s on by default: Dolby dynamic range compression. It’s hard to notice with laptop speakers, but with headphones or in the car, it’s quite annoying. Good thing I picked the short versions of the songs…

Update: Ah, that’s better. No more fluctuating volume. While I was at it, I added a few more:

  • Chobits, Let Me Be With You (OP)
  • Cosplay Complex OP
  • Galaxy Fraulein Yuna OP
  • New Cutey Honey, Circle Game (ED)
  • Those Who Hunt Elves, Angel Blue (OP)

Update: A few more.

  • Cosplay Complex, Cosplay Ondo (ED)
  • Re: Cutie Honey OP

Monday, August 23 2004

House of Blues, Pile of Shit

Back from another quick road trip to Vegas, and I regret to report that the Las Vegas House of Blues is a terrible concert venue. Ten minutes into Liz Phair’s set, we walked out, and vainly attempted to find someone in a position of authority to complain to.

We weren’t the only ones. From my position on the side of the room (where I was trying to escape the sonic assault), I’d say that at least 10% of the crowd walked out before we did, after struggling through the relentlessly terrible sound of the previous acts (Charlotte Martin, Katy Rose, and The Cardigans). There was nothing wrong with any of the performances; it was all the result of the morons in charge of the sound, whose work would have been a disgrace in a high-school gymnasium.

Charlotte Martin was accompanying herself on the piano, with no one else on stage. Her music was, in theory, softer and quieter than the other acts, which explains why she occasionally had to ask the drunks at the bar to shut up. I say “in theory” because there were at least four distinct echoes on her vocals (along with an occasional vicious feedback squeal), the piano was amped so loud that you couldn’t tell what chords she was playing with her left hand, and the many out-of-tune high notes were loud enough to draw blood. I have no idea what the lyrics to most of her songs were; she sang clearly, but never had a chance.

Someone apparently persuaded them to turn the bass down from 11 to 10.5 for Katy Rose’s set, which was actually tolerable (if not by any stretch of the imagination good) if you left your seat and hid behind a column, watching her on the monitor. I’d like to hear her in a decent club, to find out what she really sounds like.

The Cardigans did their own sound check before coming on stage, but while this ensured that the inputs were working, the clown running the board apparently thought they weren’t loud enough, so he cranked it back up to 11.

There was a long delay before Liz Phair took the stage, with much rearranging of equipment and another sound check, but nobody tested Liz’s mike, so her voice was completely buried by the bass (now set to 11.5, if not higher). I gave up after the third song. I knew the words, and I couldn’t understand a thing she said. I risked a quick trip back to my seat to retrieve my friend (who was looking longingly at his bottle of ibuprofen), and we left.

Nobody was around who had even the vaguest hint of authority. They don’t have any form of comment card, either, so we were reduced to a quickly-scrawled letter of complaint and a promise to never return. I wouldn’t go back to that pit if Jesus were playing.

And that’s without even discussing the smell and the awful, cramped seating.

Sunday, October 10 2004

Zen koan nowhere

Creative Labs has announced their new iPod Mini killerclone, the Zen Micro. It comes in ten different colors (face-plate only, and they all have a blue border), is slightly shorter and thicker, adds an extra gigabyte of storage, and includes FM radio, voice recording, and a removable rechargeable battery, all for the same price as the Mini.

Oh, yeah, and it’s hideous:

(Continued on Page 2148)

Wednesday, October 27 2004

More iPod Roadkill

Pretty much every new portable music device that comes out is evaluated for its potential as an “iPod-killer”. I’m sorry, but as long as they keep building things that look like this, they’re not the killers, they’re just a flat patch of fur on the side of the road.

Friday, October 29 2004

Infectious song of the day

This one has been following me around since junior high school Health class, and for some unknown reason it once again popped into my brain. Google seems to have no record of it, so I might be the only one in the world who remembers this little ditty:

I got those V, VD blues,
careless love, what ya got to lose?
I got high, on two-bit booze,
careless love, loser’s blues, VD blues.

(note that for full effect, one must picture a bad country-western singer, backed up by a banjo (if I recall correctly), serving as the title song for a Sex-Ed video made in the 1970s. And I can still sing it. These are the brain cells I wouldn’t mind losing as I get older.)

Tuesday, November 16 2004

Dear Katy Rose,

What in Audubon’s name is a “humming dove”?

Thursday, March 10 2005

iPod Shuffle to the rescue!

So, yesterday afternoon I went in for some quick outpatient surgery. Nothing major (or ahem life-altering), just some quick drainage work, and then I’d be able to drive myself home. I figured I’d stop at Costco on the way back and pick up some steaks to grill.

That was 1:30PM. At 2PM, the surgeon finished looking at my “right axillary abscess” and said he wanted to take me across the street to the O.R. and do the (still simple, still minor) procedure under general anaesthesia. Not having spent much time under the knife, I didn’t immediately translate this to “you ain’t driving home, son”.

After getting me into one of those silly gowns and inserting an IV, the nurse asked who was going to pick me up. I explained that everyone on my list of possibles was at least 70 miles away and stuck at work for several hours, and found myself being admitted for the night.

Then they told me it’d be at least 5:30PM before they started. Then 6:30PM. At 8:15PM, I was finally knocked out with a clever assortment of chemicals, and woke up at 8:45PM with a well-packed bandage under my right arm. I got about an hour’s sleep last night, and finally got out of there around 10:30AM this morning.

The point of this story? When I left the house to start this little adventure, I stuffed my iPod Shuffle into a jacket pocket, figuring I might need some entertainment for half an hour or so while I waited for the surgeon. It saved my sanity. Except for the relatively short time that I was otherwise occupied, I was able to stay entertained with an assortment of music and Japanese talk radio.

Being partially color-blind, I couldn’t decipher the red/orange/green LED that signals remaining battery life, but it never ran dry. It warded me from the chatter in the hospital hallways, the burbling of my roommate’s oxygen supply, the dreadful basic-cable offerings on TV, and the small stack of relentlessly defeatist newsweeklies that passed for reading material.

And since the Shuffle correctly syncs play count with iTunes, I knew which talk-radio shows to delete when I got home this morning, making room for more.

Oh, and everyone I ran into wanted one. Most of them found the price as attractive as the product.

Friday, April 8 2005

GarageBand is officially a success

M-Audio has announced this custom controller for it, with matching faux-wood paneling.

iControl

I’d love to see the market numbers that drove this decision. Macs have always been big in the creative market, but making custom hardware for an application that comes free with the OS? Hmm…

Update: I’m not exactly a fan of Nine Inch Nails, but any band that releases a track from their upcoming album in GarageBand format for their fans to play with is officially cool.

Thursday, June 9 2005

And this Kills Shuffles how, exactly?

Gizmodo links to a review of the new Sony NW-E507 that they think is an honest-to-gosh iPod Shuffle killer. Features: “easy, one-handed controls”, “estimated 50 hour battery life”, and “integrated FM tuner” (still waiting for an explanation of why you want radio on a device that can hold anything you ever want to listen to). For only $50 more than a Shuffle, what a deal!

Choice quotes from the actual review:

The mirror-like Champaign gold fascia looks plain, but there is an OLED display hiding behind it.

The bundled ear buds that come in the box sound muted and muffled, while the cable is also a bit too short.

Sony claims 50 hours continuous playback, although that’s when playing ATRAC3 at 105kbps.

At the base of the NW-E507 is a plastic cover that hides the mini-USB port.

I found the clip to be less than confidence inspiring – twice I tried to attach it to my belt, and twice the player fell off while I was walking.

Software wise, you get SonicStage version 3.0, which is a definite improvement over previous versions, but still nowhere near as good as MusicMatch or iTunes.

So, it might have significantly better battery life, although the difference between 12 hours and 50 hours doesn’t impress me, since both units have to be plugged into a computer to charge or update, and the difference between charging it overnight and charging it every few days isn’t that significant in ordinary use. With the Sony, though, you have to carry around a mini-USB to USB cable; the Shuffle just plugs into any standard USB port.

The bundled accessories sound pretty weak, too; bad earbuds, bad belt clip, lame software. Sure, the Shuffle’s quick-detach neck strap screams “snatch-and-grab”, but at least it never just falls off. And I defy anyone to read the detailed description of the “easy, one-handed controls” without giggling. Press, press and hold, twist back and forth, and pull out one click or two, with buttons on front, back, top, and sides.

Conspicuously missing from the review is any mention of using it as a standard USB flash drive. The Sony site hints that you can store data on it, but doesn’t say how.

And, of course, the software is Windows-only.

Tuesday, June 21 2005

向いて歩こう

Don’t ask me why…

向いて歩こう
がこぼれないように
思い出す 
一人ぼっちの

向いて歩こう
にじんだをかぞえて
思い出す 
一人ぼっちの

  幸せは 
  幸せは 

向いて歩こう
がこぼれないように
泣きながら 歩く
一人ぼっちの

思い出す 
一人ぼっちの

  悲しみは のかげに
  悲しみは のかげに

向いて歩こう
がこぼれないように
泣きながら 歩く
一人ぼっちの
一人ぼっちの

…but if you must know. [update: changed the link to a site with better romanization and translation]

(Continued on Page 2336)

Thursday, March 2 2006

Idol worship in Japan

I always knew that American music agencies were rank amateurs at creating pop idols compared to the Japanese (c.f. Tiffany vs Hello! Project), but I hadn’t realized how much the fanbase contributes to this.

Case in point: last month, some paparazzi pictures were published of 18-year-old Kago Ai, an extremely popular idol singer, and they may have ended her career.

Now, if you’re used to Hollywood scandals and the all-too-common meltdown of former child stars, you’re probably thinking in terms of cocaine, public sex, car wrecks, shoplifting, armed robbery, drunken partying, and incredibly poor taste in boyfriends.

(Continued on Page 2488)

Wednesday, April 19 2006

Okay, now my brain hurts

It would be polite understatement to say that most of my friends do not understand my affection for such things as anime and Morning Musume. Yea, though I walk through the hallway in the shadow of Chacarron, I shall fear no evil, for kawaii art with me; Mini Strawberry Pie and fan-service comedies, they comfort me.

That said, I think this goes too far. Click on the streaming audio of track number 3.

(Continued on Page 2524)

Friday, May 19 2006

Must… Stop… Can’t… Stop…

Lots of people upload videos to Youtube. Lots of people upload music videos to Youtube. Lots of people upload music videos from the 80s to Youtube. This guy cataloged a whole bunch of them. And for every one he’s got listed, there’s a half-dozen more linked to them. Days could pass before I escape this trap.

Monday, July 31 2006

Reasons to learn Japanese #12: 後藤真希

Remember when Britney Spears was a really cute teenage girl? And then a few weeks later she was the sex kitten, a position from which she ruled the world until she was old enough to make her own career decisions and revealed that she’s about as bright and sophisticated as Tom Cruise is sane? I actually saw this magazine cover three times at stores without recognizing her.

It makes me (mostly) appreciate the Japanese idol system, where both the industry and the fans will cheerfully ostracize a star for even slightly tarnishing her image.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I expect Maki’s sex-kitten phase to last much longer than Britney’s, with no trailer-trash serial weddings to disrupt the fun.

Here’s her latest video. J like.

Maki Goto's "Glass Pumps"

Wednesday, November 1 2006

iTunes in Japanese, you say?

But Brian, isn’t it always?

iTunes in Japanese

Oh, you meant the online store. Apparently it’s sending people all over the world today, and not just those who took the 7.0.2 update. I’d guess that their region-guessing heuristic goes by netblocks, and the database got corrupted somehow.

[I was tempted to title this entry 「また会う日まで」, in response to Brian’s Mr. Roboto quote, but it doesn’t really work, even though it’s the refrain in one of the songs pictured]

Saturday, November 4 2006

I admire their review system

Pete linked to this Aya Matsuura fansite in my comments. It’s nicely laid out, and seems to cover her career quite comprehensively. My favorite part is the DVD review section, which includes a 評価グラフ that rates each release by:

  • あやや度 - how much Aya?
  • ウキウキ度 - how cheerful is it?
  • ニヤニヤ度 - are there lots of smiles?
  • 泣ける度 - how sad is it?
  • 芸術度 - how artistic is it?

Being a purely subjective scale, many of them go beyond 100%. This one’s Ayaya-do is off the charts. I can’t imagine why…

(Continued on Page 2626)

Tuesday, March 20 2007

Sunday, April 8 2007

66%の誘惑

Tonight’s amusing Japanese phrase is “66% no yuuwaku”, brought to my attention rather indirectly by my friend Dave’s recent wedding in Las Vegas. Translated literally, it comes out as “two-thirds of temptation”, which isn’t quite what the original songwriter had in mind.

One of the things Dave was working on before the wedding was assembling a collection of music for the reception, and my extensive Eighties collection filled in some gaps. I also had a few items from earlier decades that fit in as well. Along the way, though, I discovered that at least thirty CDs that I’ve owned for many years weren’t in my MP3 collection at all. This song comes from one of them, although it’s not the song that we actually used in the mix.

Once I had the album safely ripped, I found myself nostalgic for my college days, when I’d spend my nights delivering pizza with a well-worn cassette tape of it playing continuously. There have always been a few lines in one song (not this one) that I couldn’t make out clearly, so I went a-googling for lyrics. And after a little while, I found this:

(Continued on Page 2718)

Saturday, April 14 2007

Buttons are jealous, kittens are terrified…

…dogs are howling in pain from the sound of her voice.

Kusumi Koharu

Kusumi Koharu can’t sing. Here’s proof. There’s plenty more where that came from, but it should be watched with the sound off, because while she’s a really, really cute teenage girl who can bounce around cheerfully with the other girls in Morning Musume, she’s painful to listen to.

It’s not that all of the other girls in the Hello!Project empire were chosen for their vocal talent; the majority will never “graduate” to a solo career, and you’ll only hear them solo individual lines in a group performance (sorry, Tsuji, but with Kago’s permanent departure from the organization, your career is screwed). It’s just that Koharu stands out for pushing the cute/voiceless trend to a new extreme.

Although from the audition video, at least one of the two Chinese girls who were just added to the group might actually be a worse singer…

[oh, and the ED from her anime is sung by another H!P group, °C-ute, some of whose members will eventually become teenagers…]

Wednesday, May 16 2007

Sometimes I miss the Eighties…

My latest Amazon order included the Duran Duran Greatest Hits DVD, which includes uncensored versions of several of their classic videos, including the not-safe-for-work Girls On Film. The menu system is a mess, which makes it all the more satisfying to rip the individual titles with Handbrake.

As one of the four different copies of Girls On Film ends, the camera pans up from the topless mud-wrestling scene to reveal this:

(Continued on Page 2736)

Thursday, May 31 2007

Not a good day to shop at the iTunes store…

Whether I try to upgrade some of my music to the new iTunes Plus format, or buy something new, I just get this:

iTunes Store glitch

It can wait.

[update: I can’t buy anything at all; my account is now thoroughly confused in their database.]

[update: okay, it took a week, but they figured out which Dean Martin album shouldn’t have been trying to upgrade to iTunes Plus, and with that out of the way, I could determine that the season pass for The Dresden Files (not as good as the books, but not bad) was also broken]

Friday, August 31 2007

Hey, wait, she’s actually good

Kei Yasuda, former member of Morning Musume:

[Update: Her talents are not suited to certain other genres. Oof.]

[Update: replaced the defunct youtube link]

Thursday, September 20 2007

The only girl group destroyed by Ultraman

At first glance, it sounds like a recipe for failure: take one of your idol singers whose career has been languishing since her partner was kicked out for being a bad girl, team her up with a bikini model and a professional eater, dress them all up in Gal styles, and have them do para-para moves as they sing their dance tunes.

Okay, maybe it was a recipe for failure, because in the middle of the hype leading up to their first single, lead singer Nozomi Tsuji abruptly dropped out. Why? She’d been knocked up by Ultraman (more precisely, the latest actor to take on the role).

The powers that be quickly replaced her with one of their best-known idol’s little sister, who’s certainly appealing, but lacks the desperately hungry fanbase that Tsuji provided. Result: the one-hit wonder Gyaruru.

Mildly amusing, but the real draw for me is that bikini idol Ami Tokito is a curvy meganekko…

(Continued on Page 2791)

Thursday, November 1 2007

Forgive me, David, for I must sin…

As we were discussing preparations for our upcoming trip to Japan, friend Dave remarked, “of course, you’ll have to teach me a few things to say in Japanese”. He is a long-time anime fan, so he’s got some basics, but just in case, I’ve prepared a refresher course. Evil laugh.

[downsampled quite a bit and converted to mono, to compensate slightly for the fact that it’s copyrighted music. Artist: Minimoni]

Monday, December 3 2007

Kyoto Muzak

(all vacation entries)

There are some nice restaurants in the Kintetsu mall near Kyoto Station. While perusing the menu outside of one of them, the muzak system turned up a familiar-sounding tune. I just couldn’t place it. Dave didn’t recognize it at all, and then it hit the refrain, and was revealed to be this.

The next time we went by that place, they’d cranked the silliness higher, with a muzak version of this.

There’s a perfectly good reason why the Japanese cowboy is para-para dancing. If you were hanging out with these Shibuya gals, wouldn’t you?

Monday, December 10 2007

State of the Musume

One of the songs on my workout mix is Morning Musume’s I Wish. I hate Tsunku’s background vocals, but otherwise it’s a fun song, and a cute video (albeit a bit confusing to anyone who hasn’t seen their weekly television show…). The lyrics made it a popular concert-closer, especially for “graduation” concerts.

Last night, though, I suddenly realized that not only has the group turned over completely since this video was made, only two of them are still actively producing new singles and videos.

In order of appearance:


  1. Ai Kago: career suicide. Her smoking scandal benched her for a year, and just as they started the publicity campaign to bring her back into the family, she got caught returning from a hot springs resort with a notorious womanizer. Latest twist: her mom is now promising to pose nude for a photobook.
  2. Maki Gotou: abruptly retired at the peak of her solo career, allegedly due to burnout.
  3. Natsumi Abe: successful solo artist.
  4. Mari Yaguchi: kicked out of the group, still in the family. Popular television host and actress.
  5. Hitomi Yoshizawa: Retired for family reasons, then resumed a light performance schedule when Tsuji’s sudden ilness turned out to be…
  6. Nozomi Tsuji: retired, married, new mother.
  7. Rika Ishikawa: leader of spinoff group Biyuuden.
  8. Yuuko Nakazawa: actress and occasional solo artist.
  9. Kei Yasuda: recently resurfaced as an actress, still in the family.
  10. Kaori Iida: solo career on hiatus due to pregnancy and subsequent marriage.

Kago’s the only one who really burned her bridges with Hello!Project. Most of the rest still show up occasionally in a concert, a one-shot group, or a few episodes of Uta Doki.

Thursday, December 13 2007

Dear fansub “typesetters”,

The purpose of subtitles is communication. This is particularly true of song lyrics, where “karaoke animation” is intended to help people sing the words at the correct time. This means using crisp, high-contrast fonts, and visually indicating the current word in a way that makes it possible to read the entire line.

This does not mean setting them in a hot pink cheesy fat-face font and then exploding each word as it’s sung, leaving behind only a low-contrast pink-on-pink version that’s basically invisible. It also does not mean spinning words that are repeated more than once. It doesn’t matter if the song is called “peach-colored unrequited love” and the entire set of the video is pink. In fact, that just makes it worse.

You are not an artist. You are a tagger, and your work should be scrubbed from the video with the same vigor that a business owner scrubs bad graffiti from the side of her store.

Momoiro mojibake

[and I’ve ordered the DVD so I can watch a high-quality version of the video that doesn’t include your “contribution”. I’m doing this despite your efforts, not because of them; don’t pat yourself on the back and think you accomplished something for the artist]

Youtube version without fansub here. Street-legal Aya here.

Thursday, January 24 2008

That shouldn’t have worked…

I bought two albums this week. The first was the soundtrack to Valve’s Orange Box. The second was Melon Kinenbi’s greatest hits, FRUITY KILLER TUNE. Just now, iTunes switched from one to the other, and it took me a good minute to notice.

Okay, at the time I was busy writing a carefully-phrased comment about panty-flashing monster schoolgirls and plot coupons, but still.

Monday, January 28 2008

Aya, with Melons

There are several enjoyable performances on the Hello Pro Party 2005 DVD. This is probably the best:

Wednesday, February 6 2008

The Perfect iTunes Plugin…

…would be the deRapper, which automatically identifies and deletes gratuitous rap sequences inserted into otherwise pleasant songs. You’d probably have to upgrade to deRapper Pro to add the ability to filter out rap background “vocals” that intrude on the actual song.

[this post brought to you by Melon Kinenbi’s Akuma de Fake, Onegai Miwaku no Target (Melon Pudding Mix), and Kousui (Hard Flavor Mix), the latest such vandalisms to pass my ears]

Tuesday, February 26 2008

渚のデカメロン

[Update: No, I can’t figure it all out. The onomatopoeia is common in Japanese web pages, but not in anything I’ve got, and I basically gave up on the “mean-spirited trick” line. I got the gist of the “sinful whisper” verse, at least. Also, is there a word for a 1.5-entendre? Kurumu’s not exactly being subtle, here. No wonder they call it a “character song”: prehensile breasts, mesmerizing gaze, aggressive affection; yup, that’s our succubust!]

Feel free to sing along…

あなたが好きと ときめくフルーツが
ビキニから はちきれそう
ぷるん ぷるん ぽろん
 
あなたのハート ひとり占めしたくて
気づかないフルで チラリと きわどいポーズ
なのに…
 
こっちを見ないシャイネスボーイ
決めました 強引にいっちゃう!
 
やっふ やふふーっ
SUN SUN SUN パラソルの下で 髪の
星のリボンをほどいて 刺激的な 秘密あげる
NON NON NON はずかしいけれど いいの
あなたをトリコにしちゃう ちゃんと 瞳を見て
恋してる 私 渚のデカメロン
 
とくべつ甘い 真夏のスイーツは
いかがでしょ 抱きついたの
ぷにん ぷにん むぎゅん
 
あわてた顔が なんだか憎らしい
もうすこしワルイ いじわる 仕掛けちゃうから
だって…
 
恋人ライン 越せずに
好きなのに くちびるが遠いよ
 
やっふ やふふーっ
SUN SUN SUN わざとケンカして 逃げる
波打ち際で もつれて 濡れた素肌 つかまえてね
NON NON NON ふるえているけど 平気
あなたの自由にしてと そっと 吐息でいう
耳元で 罪な おしゃべりデカメロン
 
やっふ やふふーっ
SUN SUN SUN パラソルの下で 髪の
星のリボンをほどいて 刺激的な 秘密あげる
NON NON NON はずかしいけれど いいの
あなたをトリコにしちゃう ちゃんと 瞳を見て
恋してる 私 渚のデカメロン

Tuesday, March 11 2008

Okay, maybe the Japanese are the sane ones…

After all, these people were mainstream American entertainers.

(Continued on Page 2938)

Saturday, March 15 2008

Needs more punk

The phrase “voted best punk band by Shoujo Beat” pretty much sums up this song by Ketchup Mania. I think it’s a bad sign when you can listen to punk rock and visualize the anime series that it would make a good opening-credits song for.

[Update: animated music video for another Ketchup Mania song.]

Saturday, March 22 2008

Dear Ai Suma,

You’re a fresh, pretty young girl, and I’m sure you have a bright career ahead of you in the idol business.

Ai Suma, Hello!Project Kansai

Seriously, if you weren’t still on the dangerous side of sixteen, you’d already be breaking my heart.

Ai Suma, Hello!Project Kansai

However, there’s something very important that you need to know about your career: you work for Hello!Project, and where other talent agencies are content with using up fresh, pretty young girls as if they were tissue paper, H!P takes a more comprehensive approach to destroying souls. Just ask fellow member Risa Niigaki:

(Continued on Page 2951)

Wednesday, April 9 2008

Konno’s Proudest Moment

Asami Konno joined Morning Musume as a baby-faced 14-year-old, and after five years, put her career on hold to go to college. She later decided that she could balance the two, performing occasionally while giving priority to her studies, but in the interim, she had the chance to do something that must have been the envy of all her friends:

(Continued on Page 2969)

Monday, April 28 2008

女盛り

[Update: Ah, almost none of them (besides the obvious) are loanwords; the drawn-out vowels and -ra ending are apparently Edokko slang]

[Update: I feel a little better, after getting email back from my Japanese teacher that read, “I don’t know what they’re saying, either.”]

Lyrics to the b-side from the latest single release by Melon Kinenbi. I didn’t have much trouble with the Japanese part, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out half of the loanwords they’ve worked in.

顔がダメ 会話がダメ
タイプじゃない ピンと来ない
合コンもこの頃マンネリ

私には時間がない
回り道してられない
違ったら次を探さなきゃ

賞味期限って何よ!
私はまだ旬よ!
大人の女

パスよ パス チェンジ あり得ない
坊や帰って寝んねしな
ハスッパ ゲロンパ バレテーラ それが何?
パスよ パス チェンジ 聞こえたの?
よい子じゃ物足りない
ペロっと ガンターれ オンナザカリ

あれもダメ これもダメって
わがままは女の権利
花の命は短いのよ

流した涙の数は
未来の幸せの数
怯まないで前に進みましょ

白馬の王子様
そんなの戯言だわ
クールな女

パスよ パス チェンジ 繰り返す
こんなはずじゃないでしょ
サラッと スリット しけテーラ 現実は
パスよ パス チェンジ ごめんなさい
妥協は許されない
チュチュッと バローレ オンナザカリ

賞味期限って何よ!
私はまだ旬よ!
大人の女

パスよ パス チェンジ あり得ない
坊や帰って寝んねしな
ハスッパ ゲロンパ バレテーラ それが何?
パスよ パス チェンジ 聞こえたの?
よい子じゃ物足りない
ペロっと ガンターれ オンナザカリ
ペロっと ガンターれ オンナザカリ

Sunday, June 22 2008

Dear Maki Goto,

You’ve left Hello!Project behind. You’ve got a new manager, a contract with a real record label, and tens of thousands of fans had idolgasms just seeing cellphone camera pictures of your recent training trip to LA. You’re positioned to take over the world.

Could you at least pick up a decent dress on the way to the show?

(Continued on Page 3016)

Friday, June 27 2008

“Please don’t pull off my school uniform”

[Update: added amusing machine translation of the lyrics, along with commentary]

Okay, so a link to a link to a link to a Youtube video got me started on this, and now I have six videos of the song セーラー服を脱がさないで.

Apparently, it all started back in 1985, when someone formed the idol group おニャン子クラブ (literally “kitten club”). The title of their debut single was “Please don’t strip off my sailor suit” (school uniform, that is), and their first album included songs like “Teacher, stop that!” and “Oh, no! Molester”. They lasted long enough to grow to over 50 members, and inspire future generations, including Morning Musume.

Videos and lyrics below the fold.

(Continued on Page 3030)

Wednesday, July 2 2008

Diablo III preview

Hell has a new overlord, and the torments of the damned tear at our ears.

Oh, wait, that’s just Koharu Kusumi’s new single. My bad. I always get her and Satan confused. It’s something about the eyes.

Friday, July 11 2008

The love that dare not speak its name

John McCain comes out:

“Dare I say Abba?” he replied. “Everybody says, ‘Ugh. Abba.’ Why is that? Abba was the largest-selling record act ever. Nobody likes them, but they sold more records than anybody in the history of the world, including the Beatles. But everybody hates them. You’re a no-class guy if you like Abba. Why does everybody go see Mamma Mia!? Hypocrisy! Rank hypocrisy! I’m not embarrassed to say I like Abba.”

Tuesday, August 12 2008

Don’t try this at home, kids

Leave it to trained professionals…

…or, in this case, the idol group Idoling!!!, manufactured by Fuji TV for a weekly variety show. I think the wrestling matches were a fan request…

Warning: they do not lip-sync their songs on the show (live vs studio). You may have already figured this out if you watched the embedded clip…

Friday, September 12 2008

iTunes J-Pop

When I upgraded to iTunes 8.0 and turned on the new Genius feature, I discovered that the US iTunes Store has acquired a rather large catalog of J-Pop, including a significant subset of the various Hello!Project groups’ albums and singles. The iTunes Genius analyzed my collection and gleefully pointed out all of the songs that would be perfect for me.

All of which I already owned. In many cases, it was pointing to the exact same song, from the exact same album. Why? Because the purchased albums have metadata that’s written with kanji and kana, and the iTunes versions are all romanized. Er, mostly romanized. Okay, inconsistently romanized. Album and song titles are usually romanized, artist names are all over the map: kana-ized, Hepburn-romanized, Kunrei-romanized, last-name-first, first-name-first, capitalization and white-space optional; fortunately they seem to stick with the same version for multiple albums.

This makes searching entertaining, but this is a big deal, because all of this stuff is at standard iTunes pricing, which is a helluva lot cheaper than import CDs, and just over half the price of the same tracks in the Japanese iTunes Store.

The Japanese store is the source of the peculiar partial romanization, by the way, and in fact when you view it from the US, all of the navigation is translated as well. I remember that when the store first launched, everything was in Japanese, including song titles, so I’m wondering if they’re geographically localizing not just the menus, but also the song metadata. The search system seems to handle pretty much anything you throw at it, so I wonder if Apple was seeing so many American purchases from the Japanese store through gift cards that they went out of their way to accommodate them, first through romanizing the interface, then through importing popular content.

There are some indexing oddities. If you search for “nakazawa yuuko” in the US store, you’ll get her most recent EP and a stub link that should lead to her audiobooks, but that only works if you’re on the Japanese store. I’m guessing that the stores all talk to each other internally, sharing indexes and content, with flags to indicate what content is importable. Given the price difference, new releases are unlikely to show up for a while.

Wednesday, November 19 2008

Chipshake

In the land of Your Mileage May Vary, I found this music video so cute that I went to Amazon to look for the CD/DVD single, and was saddened to find that it was a very limited limited edition.

But I have to say, I wouldn’t drink her milkshake. She has excellent taste in potato chips, but that’s just not how you’re supposed to eat them.

[this is the OP song from Kannagi, by the way]

Wednesday, January 14 2009

The Deserted Seaside

[note: the song is depressing, but this is not an indication of my life or mood, simply the fact that I liked the song enough to prep it for my reading class. I have a DVD with an excellent live performance, but this one has escaped collection on the various video sites. I suppose there’s a torrent out there of the Folk Songs 3 concert, but it’s probably unseeded, and I wouldn’t link to it anyway. Here is the only performance youtube has, which is probably closer to the original arrangement than the one I like.]

[I’ll add pop-up furigana for the kanji later.]

誰もいない海

作詞:山口洋子 作曲:内藤法美

今はもう秋 誰もいない海
知らん顔して 人がゆきすぎても
私は忘れない
海に約束したから
つらくても つらくても
死にはしないと

It’s already autumn, at the deserted seaside.
Although he walks past like I’m not there,
I will not forget,
because I made a promise to the sea,
“Even if it’s heart-breaking, even if it’s heart-breaking,
I will not die.”

今はもう秋 誰もいない海
たった一つの 夢が破れても
私は忘れない
砂に約束したから
淋しくても 淋しくても
死にはしないと

It’s already autumn, at the deserted seaside.
Although my only dream is torn apart,
I will not forget,
because I made a promise to the sand,
“Even if I’m lonely, even if I’m lonely,
I will not die.”

今はもう秋 誰もいない海
いとしい面影 帰らなくても
私は忘れない
空に約束したから
ひとりでも ひとりでも
死にはしないと

It’s already autumn, at the deserted seaside.
Although that beloved face will not return,
I will not forget,
because I made a promise to the sky,
“Even if I’m alone, even if I’m alone,
I will not die.”

ひとりでも ひとりでも
死にはしないと

“Even if I’m alone, even if I’m alone,
I will not die.”

Wednesday, January 21 2009

Don’t Throw Me Away

[Another depressing song, this time performed by Yuuko Nakazawa on her debut album. It wasn’t released as a single, so there’s no complete performance on video, but a trimmed version can be found here. The translation is mostly literal, and I’ve tried to preserve the original line breaks rather than rewrite it as smooth English.]

捨てないでよ

“Don’t throw me away”

作詞:つんく 作曲:つんく 編曲:川口 真

(lyrics and music by Tsunku, arrangement by Makoto Kawaguchi)

知らないふり いつもしてる
あなたの他の女性

I’m always pretending I don’t know
about your other women.

ダメな女 苦しいのに
あなたをまた許してる

I’m a hopeless woman. Even though it’s painful,
I’m forgiving you again.

今日は帰るの 明日は来るの
ねぇ ひとこと 「ごめん」と
言わせてみたいけど

Are you going home tonight? Will you come back tomorrow?
Oh, one single thing, “I’m sorry”,
I wish I could make you say it, but…

でも 待ってるばかり
でも 泣いてるの見せない
でも 待ってるばかり
でも 愚痴なんて言わない

Instead, I’m just waiting.
Instead, I won’t show you that I’m crying.
Instead, I’m just waiting.
Instead, I won’t even grumble.

いつかはあなた 好きな女性できても
捨てないでよ

Even if someday you fall in love with someone else,
don’t throw me away.

知らないふり いつもしてる
香水の残り香

I’m always pretending I don’t know,
even with the lingering scent of their perfume.

いい女よ 全てそうよ
あなたの邪魔はしない

I’m a good woman, I won’t intrude on everything you do.

明日は来ない 電話もかけない
ねぇ ひとこと「好きだ」と
言わせてみたいだけ

You won’t come over tomorrow, and you won’t call.
Oh, one single thing, “I love you”,
is all I try to make you say.

でも 待ってるばかり
でも 淋しいと言わない
でも 待ってるばかり
でも 待ってると淋しい

Instead, I’m just waiting.
Instead, I won’t say I’m lonely.
Instead, I’m just waiting.
Instead, when I’m waiting, I’m lonely.

いつかはあなた 好きな女性できても
捨てないでよ

Even if someday you fall in love with someone else,
don’t throw me away.

でも 待ってるばかり
でも 泣いてるの見せない
でも 待ってるばかり
でも 愚痴なんて言わない

Instead, I’m just waiting.
Instead, I won’t show you that I’m crying.
Instead, I’m just waiting.
Instead, I won’t even grumble.

いつかはあなた 好きな女性できても
捨てないでよ
捨てないでよ

Even if someday you fall in love with someone else,
don’t throw me away.
Don’t throw me away.

Wednesday, January 28 2009

Dilemma’s Horns

The most difficult part of trying to get a few decent screen captures from the Aya The Witch DVD is summoning the willpower to stop staring at her.

(Continued on Page 3237)

Friday, January 30 2009

Blame the duck

[Update: Corrected translation. According to my professor, I was right the first time about the girls, but wrong about the grammatical inversion in the first verse. It’s “wine, women, and song”, not “wine, women, then song”…]

[Update: Now with romanized karaoke lyrics and translation!]

[Update: New! Improved! Now with extra Blue Man! This clip claims the group is Tokiwazu, so perhaps the other name only refers to their work with the full orchestra.]

He started it with Oo-Edo no Hikeshi (大江戸の火消し = “Firemen of Edo”). This led me to track down their versions of two other classics (1, 2), as well as the people responsible (題名のない音楽会 = “Orchestra Without A Name”), and the occasion (350th anniversary of the Great Fire of Meireki).

But there’s more. I found a higher-resolution video, and transcribed lyrics. My reading class will be amusing next week…

大江戸火消し

たちゃ琵琶湖に行った 弁財天詣で
夜詰め当番済まして 湯治兼ねて
たまには上美女揃えて 重ねて
木遣りの声にも磨きを あてて帰ろうか

大江戸の火消し 空もはればれ
大江戸の火消し

琵琶湖じゃ小屋で 芝居をやっていた
ちょいと覗いて行こうか 急ぎの旅でなし
江戸からの旅役者が はるばる来ていた
はだか火使って火が出て 俺たちの出番

火事場にゃ火消し 空には火の粉
火事場にゃ火消し

And for the kana-challenged who want to sing along:

Oo-Edo no Hikeshi

Ore-tacha Biwako ni itta, Benzaiten moude sa
Yozume no touban sumashite, touji mo kanete
Tama ni wa jou-sama soroete, sakazuki kasanete
Kiyari no koe ni mo migaki o, atete kaerou ka

Oo-Edo no hikeshi, sora mo harebare
Oo-Edo no hikeshi

Biwako ja hotori no koya de, shibai o yatte ita
Choito nozoite ikou ka, isogi no tabi de nashi
Edo kara no tabi-yakusha ga, harubaru kite ita
Hadaka-bi-zukatte hi ga dete, Ore tachi no debaru sa

Kajiba nya hikeshi, sora ni wa hinoko da
Kajiba nya hikeshi

Oh, what the hell, let’s try for English (loose where necessary to fit the tune):

Fire Brigade of Edo

We went up to Lake Biwa, a pilgrimage to Benzaiten,
after standing watch all night long. At the hot springs there,
we arranged for hot young women, and plenty of hot sake,
and practiced our hard-labor chant. Now shall we head straight for home?

Fire-brigade of Edo, the sky begins to brighten.
Fire-brigade of Edo.

In a hut on Biwa’s shore, they were putting on a play.
Let’s stop in and take a little peek, we’re not in a hurry.
Troupe of Edo actors, had come up all the way from town.
Open flame turned into fire, our turn now to do our duty.

Fire-brigade on the scene, the sparks are in the sky.
Fire-brigade on the scene.

Friday, February 6 2009

Love & Ramen

Now that I know what the title means, it’s time to take a stab at translating the lyrics. There’s at least one line I have little faith in, and four that simply can’t be translated in a way that preserves the line breaks from the original. And, of course, there’s the subtitle.

From That Sky ~替え玉は硬メンで~

From that sky – “Hey ramen vendor, put some more noodles in this!”

歌詞:つんく
作曲:つんく
編曲:鈴木俊介

買い物行ったら定休日
しょんぼりしてたら
電話がかかってきて
デートが大決定

When I went shopping the store was closed.
I was feeling down-hearted, when
I got a phone call.
Dating is a big decision.

スカートボタンがとまらない
がっくりきてたら
電話がかかってきて
バイキングの誘い
あらま どうしましょう

The skirt button that won’t stay put
was breaking my heart, when
I got a phone call,
inviting me out for smorgasbord.
Oh, no, what shall I do?

想像してたのと
なんか違う21世紀
空飛ぶ車よりほら
やっぱKISSでしょうね

The 21st Century is somehow different than I’d imagined.
Hey! If we can’t have flying cars,
at least there’s kissing, right?

From That Sky 羽ばたけ
自由な発想で

From that sky, flap your wings
with the idea of freedom!

From That Sky 彼方へ
勝利の女神さ
私が女神さ

From that sky, to beyond,
the goddess of victory!
I’m the goddess!

サウナに行ったら風邪引いた
ゾクッとしてたら
あいつが来てくれた
やばい!スッピンだわ
眉毛 描かなくちゃ

When I went to the sauna, I caught a cold.
When I had the chills,
he came to see me.
Awful! I wasn’t wearing makeup.
My eyebrows weren’t drawn!

想像してたより
のんびり21世紀
並んででも食べたいのよ
有名ラーメン

The 21st Century is more easy-going than I’d imagined.
Famous ramen that I want to eat, even though there’s a line.

From That Sky 轟け
未来の恋人へ

From that sky, roar [like thunder]
toward a future lover!

From That Sky 恋する
勝利の女神さ
私が女神さ

From that sky, the goddess of romantic victory!
I’m the goddess!

From That Sky 羽ばたけ
自由な発想で

From that sky, flap your wings
with the idea of freedom!

From That Sky 彼方へ
勝利の女神さ

From that sky, to beyond,
the goddess of victory!

From That Sky 轟け
未来の恋人へ

From that sky, roar [like thunder]
toward a future lover.

From That Sky 恋する
勝利の女神さ

From that sky, the goddess of romantic victory!

From That Sky 轟け
未来の恋人へ

From that sky, roar [like thunder]
toward a future lover!

From That Sky 恋する
勝利の女神さ
私が女神さ

From that sky, the goddess of romantic victory!
I’m the goddess!

Thursday, February 12 2009

Smoke = Surprise

After we finished translating the story about the goblin’s invisibility cloak, we didn’t have much time left in class this week, so I quickly handed out the lyrics and vocabulary sheet for “Oo-Edo no Hikeshi”, the kabuki-orchestra cover of “Smoke on the Water”.

We worked through it quite seriously, with the teacher interjecting cultural notes and correcting translations, and then I played the video. It had exactly the effect I had anticipated, with almost everyone catching on quickly.

One surprising exception was the fiftyish American woman who made it all the way through the song without even a vague hint of recognition. None, nada, zilch, zippo. I can understand not being a Deep Purple fan, or avoiding classic rock in general, but how on Earth did she manage to never hear one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock? The song has a frickin’ monument!

Laundry!

[Yes, I’m chasing Aya this week. In my defense, she’s A) talented, B) gorgeous, C) funny as hell, and D) an adult (well, now…).]

In addition to her CDs, concerts, commercials, and action-packed ass-kicking delinquent-detective yo-yo movie, she has a regular gig on late-night radio. In one of her shows, she played a song that she wrote herself, that hasn’t appeared anywhere else. Since I generally buy licensed products rather than download, I didn’t hear about it until it made Henkka’s list of underrated H!P songs.

He had no idea what it was about, he just thought it was quirky and cool and way too much fun. I agreed, and gave him a quick rough translation of one of the verses. This, of course, made the song even cooler.

His embedded Flash player didn’t work well on my machine, so if you can’t hear the song clearly, here’s a download site that has it (with the usual warning about popups and flash ads).

Danger: it’s an earbug.

My translation is necessarily very rough, because there’s almost no grammar, and a whole bunch of mimetic expressions to suggest the sights and sounds of… a washing machine: pashi-pashi, suton, tsurun, buku-buku-buku.

[note to Henkka: this transcript is slightly different from the one I put in your comments; I just caught another line that Mattthecat misheard while transcribing the lyrics (“suichuu” (underwater) should be “sui, kyuu” (the water, suddenly))]

お洗濯

Laundry

パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
こんな気持ちになれるから
やはり 大好き お洗濯

“Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape.
“Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation.
“Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape.
“Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation.
Because of how this can make me feel,
Of course, I love laundry!

白 黒 色 分けきっちりと
ポッケにゴミはナイナイナ~イ
しみぬき、漂白 しっかりと
準備OK!
GO、GO、GO、GO!
GO、GO、GO、GO!

Whites, darks, colors, carefully separated;
Trash in pockets, none-none-none;
Spot remover and bleach, firmly applied;
Preparations OK!
Go, go, go, go!
Go, go, go, go!

パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
こんな気持ちになれるから
やはり 大好き お洗濯

“Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape.
“Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation.
“Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape.
“Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation.
Because of how this can make me feel,
Of course, I love laundry!

まずは水 急ぶくぶくぶく
左右 右左 踊ります
ぎゅ ぎゅ ぎゅ ぎゅっと しぼられて
お日さま 今日も ヨロシクね ヨロシクね

Now, in the water, suddenly bubbles-bubbles-bubbles,
left-right, right-left, dancing.
Firm-firm-firm-firmly wrung out, then
Mr. Sun, today again, take care of me, okay? Take care of me, okay?

パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
こんな気持ちになれるから
やはり 大好き お洗濯

“Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape.
“Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation.
“Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape.
“Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation.
Because of how this can make me feel,
Of course, I love laundry!

こんな気持ちになれるから
やはり 大好き お洗濯

Because of how this can make me feel,
Of course, I love laundry!

Saturday, February 14 2009

Dear Hello!Project Costume Designers,

I’m reading Kanna’s mind here, and she’s thinking, “I’ll kill them later, but y’know, I think I can actually work this outfit.”

(Continued on Page 3265)

I can’t help it…

Every time I think about Aya Matsuura’s new single “Chocolate Soul”, which attempts to fuse her newer adult-contemporary style with a less-manic version of her early goofiness, I hear a completely different song.

First, here’s Aya:

The problem is, the word for soul is “damashii”, making the song “chokoreeto damashii” チョコレート魂, and you know what that means…

(Continued on Page 3266)

Monday, February 23 2009

Melons in a nutshell

I think the first thirty seconds of this clip perfectly defines the roles of the four members of Melon Kinenbi. I can just see them raiding the wardrobe dungeon together to come up with these outfits: Smoky, Quirky, Psycho, and Bambi.

[…and when you add this clip, it’s clear that Boss Saitou is the true Master Of Slut-Fu.]

Sunday, March 8 2009

Master of Slut-Fu

[Update: I really ought to finish watching all of the DVDs I already own, namely トランプ. I knew I’d seen her hair like that before… (this concert also includes an energetic and lightly-clad performance by Mai Satoda and Ayaka)]

Original, extremely girly version of the song here. Even in this one, Boss Siatou’s curves makes her stand out like, well, the only grownup in a room full of 15-year-olds.

I’ve seen her do the song in concert in the original style, but I hadn’t known about this:

Or this:

(Continued on Page 3282)

Sunday, March 15 2009

A glint of silver

The oddly-named band Bump of Chicken has had a number of hits in Japan, with their songs being used in commercials, games, anime, and, of course, my reading class. Not all of it is to my taste, but I liked the latest one enough to pick up the album last time I was in Kinokuniya.

The designer was an asshole. The front, back, and spine are snow white, with lightly embossed text. Until you get it out of the shrink-wrap, it’s almost impossible to tell that there is text on the cover, much less figure out what it says.

But the fun doesn’t end there. A while back, I complained about the moron who decided to print the liner notes for Aya Matsuura’s latest album in 6-point gothic kanji, including one illegible song that had white text on a light-gray, color-halftoned background. The halftoning made sure that you couldn’t even scan it and blow it up to a reasonable size; the text just disappeared into the dots.

The person responsible for the liner notes in Present from you avoided the halftone trap by printing the lyrics on a nice, clean white background. In 6-point metallic silver ink. Unless you’re under carefully-diffused lighting, you can’t even get an entire line of text to show up clearly at the same time, and the eyestrain from reading 6-point reflective type is insane.

The only good news is that metallic silver is a spot ink, not a process color, so if my scanner can cope with the reflections, I can blow it up to a decent size and hack the contrast into something legible.

Wednesday, April 29 2009

Dear Younha,

I understand that your musical career has had a great deal of success in Japan as well as your native Korea (as it should; you’re quite talented), but you seem to have picked up a few things from the Japanese that are best avoided.

(Continued on Page 3335)

Friday, May 29 2009

Dear Melon Kinenbi,

Street cred fail.

(Continued on Page 3352)

Wednesday, July 1 2009

Summer Princess

Mikako Takahashi is one of many voice actresses (Kasumi Tani from Hand Maid May, Rushuna from Grenadier, etc) who also sings. I’m rather fond of her ED song from HMM (Honto no Kimochi, “My True Feelings”), so when I noticed that she released two albums last year, I added them to my list for a future purchase from Amazon Japan.

I finally got around to buying them, and while my initial impression of the songs is mixed, I can find nothing to dislike about the pictures…

Especially the red dress and the bikini…

(Continued on Page 3372)

Tuesday, July 28 2009

Dear Hello!Project,

Korea is kicking your ass.

(Continued on Page 3383)

Dear Ai Takahashi,

You are not of Latin heritage, and neither is the song Cosmos. Not attempting to mimic Momoe was a good choice, at least, since she’s a bit out of your league, and you did deliver the best vocal performance on the album.

Keep an eye on Linlin, though; with better material and some practice, Junior Panda could eat you.

Thursday, September 17 2009

Fear My Genius!

I just clicked on the new iTunes “Genius Mixes” button for the first time, and this is what came up:

(Continued on Page 3416)

Sunday, December 13 2009

Thought for the day…

I’m quite fond of the work of South Korean singer Younha. My interest started when someone brought one of her songs in for our Japanese reading class, but I eventually went on to pick up her Korean albums as well (which were much cheaper than their Japanese equivalents). This morning, I was listening to some tracks from Peace Love & Ice Cream, and found myself thinking:

“I can’t wait until she releases these in Japanese, so I can understand the lyrics.”

(amusingly, the title track is a cover of a song recorded in English by Dutch artist Sandy Dane; I think they even used the same backing track (Sandy Dane, Younha), although the lyrics are apparently quite different)

Sunday, December 20 2009

Boy meets girl

Or, more precisely, boy band meets girl band. They had me at Sooyoung stretching in tight sweats…

Friday, February 19 2010

Melon’s Not Dead, or will they?

After being kicked out of Hello!Project in The Grownup Purge, idol group Melon Kinenbi’s career initially didn’t look much different. The label had been grudgingly giving them occasional promotion and a single once or twice a year, and they had a monthly concert gig with guest performers, and that continued. In fact, things improved slightly, with the release of five indie singles collaborating with other bands, leading up to their just-released album and DVD, Melon’s Not Dead (even available on the US iTunes store), and an upcoming 10th-anniversary tour.

Their last tour, and last album as a group. When the tour ends, they’re disbanding, and the team of Smoky, Quirky, Psycho, and Bambi will be no more.

My copy of the album arrived yesterday. I was already fond of Don’t Say Goodbye and Seishun On The Road, but some of the others don’t work for me, largely because the groups they collaborated with have very different styles. Review to follow.

Monday, February 22 2010

iTunes I18N

Interested in Girls’ Generation, but don’t want to order CDs from YesAsia? You can buy their latest album from the US iTunes Store, but only if you know to search for “소녀시대”.

Interested in the extremely talented South Korean singer Younha, popular in both Korea and Japan? Don’t bother looking, she’s not there, not as Younha, ユンナ, or 윤하. On the bright side, if you search for “윤하”, you’ll find 윤손하, who is also a pretty, pretty good singer, although her Wikipedia page suggests that she’s a bit of a bridge-burner.

Monday, May 3 2010

Dear Ai Kago,

[Update: Okay, now that my ears have recovered from the assault, I can say that 17才よさようなら doesn’t suck. I barely reached it the first time I listened to the album, because everything else is so awful. This one has better voice processing, better use of your range, a less amibitious vocal style, and, yes, you know how to deliver lines in Japanese far better than in English. The worst part about the song is actually the part where you’re not singing, so go ahead, do more like this one.]

The title of your new album is “Ai Kago Meets Jazz”. In line with my policy of supporting the segments of your career that do not involve truly dreadful photo shoots, I included it in my latest order from Amazon Japan. Thirty seconds into track 1, I began regretting this decision, as I realized that they never said anything about singing jazz.

I knew your voice was thin (but occasionally pleasant), I knew your English was weak (in an often-amusing way), but I admire the way you’ve managed to build more publicity and success after being kicked out of Hello!Project than most of the other girls will ever get while they’re members. So I bought it, and, well, it sucks.

I mean, really sucks. Halfway through, I found myself hoping for a duet with William Hung, so my ears would stop bleeding. And I liked your previous single “No Hesitation”, and even the b-side “Children of the Night”, despite its painful Engrish interlude. It wasn’t that you were singing in your own language, just that you were working within your limits. Jazz, particularly in a language you’re not comfortable with? Forget it; you simply don’t have the skill and confidence to deliver the lines.

[okay, there are some non-painful moments, when you stick to your lower register and don’t try to jazz it up, but they don’t last long; honestly, if you’d just done it as a standards album, sung straight and pitched for your voice, it might have worked]

Wednesday, June 2 2010

My new favorite Melon Kinenbi song…

I’d never heard this one before, but it showed up on URA MELON (now available on the US iTunes store; they really are getting better about releasing stuff internationally). No video, but someone has uploaded it to Youtube as the soundtrack to a really awful low-res still photo. The title is Fuwafuwafuu, or “Fluffy…”.

For a band that Hello!Project had no real interest in promoting, they certainly let them record a wide range of material. And they gave them the single goofiest video in the history of the agency…

(Continued on Page 3570)

Thursday, September 2 2010

Dear Masae Ootani,

As the strongest vocalist in the sadly-defunct Melon Kinenbi, I think you could have done without the crap autotune effects on your debut solo single, 「killing my caddy」. And maybe made it sound a bit less like something cut from the soundtrack of Project Gotham Racing.

And maybe released it through something other than a Japan-only, cellphone-only streaming site. Look into selling on iTunes; any distribution mechanism that requires more effort than “Google for a torrent or a Hotfiles link” will never put money in your pocket. You have ten years worth of loyal fans who will click a simple “buy now” button, and you didn’t give them one.

It’s catchy, at least, even if it doesn’t sound much like you.

Sunday, September 12 2010

Modern Romance

Best music video I’ve seen in quite a while. Oddly enough, it isn’t even in Japanese… or Korean…

Wednesday, October 6 2010

Coolest video set ever

“Hey, can I borrow your battleship for a few hours? And a really big fog machine?”. Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi, performing the closing song of the film Otoko-tachi no Yamato.

Friday, October 29 2010

Dear Aya Matsuura,

When you have a new album release that’s less than a month away, and Amazon doesn’t have the cover picture yet, and the official promotional video for one of the songs is one step up from an animated GIF, it’s time to find a new record company.

Dear Hyoyeon,

Camouflage fail. On the bright side, they’re not giving you goofy hair as much in the new Hoot video. Perhaps this is your way of hiding from the stylists when they get vicious?

The Hyoyeon Polka

Monday, February 7 2011

I am intrigued by her ideas…

…and wish to subscribe to her newsletter.

Ootani Masae: buy my singles or else!

In addition to releasing indie singles as “Himawari”, Masae Ootani has been getting some decent theatre roles recently. This one looks like it makes good use of her distinctive style. Honestly, except for the sword, it’s like she just walked out of her apartment. Maybe she leaves it at home; Tokyo cops are so sensitive about that sort of thing.

Thursday, April 21 2011

A great disturbance in the Force…

…as if thousands of J-Pop idols suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly looking for new careers.

That is, it appears that Girls’ Generation is once again making the local talent look like badly-dressed backup dancers. Hasn’t Japan suffered enough recently?

Tuesday, July 12 2011

Bubble (K)Pop

Catchy and eye-catching. Who cares what she’s singing about?

Tuesday, July 26 2011

Today’s song…

Running through my head today, for entirely non-political reasons:

He said the Captain lied when the Captain cried,
“There’s none of us here can save her.
Let her go down, swim for your lives.
Swim for your children, swim for your wives,
but let her go down.”

No, really, not related to current political kerfluffles at all. Over the weekend I pulled up Steeleye Span’s Portfolio to share their version of New York Girls, with Peter Sellers on ukelele and whimsy, and then remembered some other songs I was fond of.

Sunday, August 28 2011

Dear 4minute,

Korean girls should never rap in Japanese.

Okay, neither should Japanese girls (or, well, anyone, in any language), but somehow it’s particularly bad when the gratuitous rap break in the middle of a bouncy pop song is delivered phonetically.

Also, why such harsh autotune in a video that’s full of cuddly cuteness?

And is it just me, or does Hyuna look like a tiger cub in a room full of kittens, particularly in the dance scenes?

And why, since it sounds like very-nearly-17 SoHyun is the only one who actually speaks Japanese, does she get so few lines?

Sorry, girls, but the awful rap and autotune will keep me from buying your albums, because I don’t know if I’ll be able to listen to them without pain; I’ll stick to watching the video with my hand over the mute button (not a euphemism). Hyuna’s solo effort Bubble Pop, on the other hand, is pure eye/ear candy.

Sunday, September 11 2011

Did someone order catgirls?

Turn down the volume, unless you reallyreallyreally like autotune, and try not to have a seizure from the frantic edits. Your reward will be 4 minutes of playful Korean catgirls.

Monday, February 27 2012

Perpetuum Jazzile does Africa

[Update: official web site and Youtube channel]

Thursday, June 21 2012

Dear Girls Generation Costume Designers,

You’ve been in Japan too long, and apparently you’ve even been hanging out in the Hello!Project Wardrobe Dungeon. Please go back to Korea for a while to escape the evil influences that led you to strap feather dusters to Hyoyeon’s hips. And speaking of shape-distortion, did you really put Sooyoung in jodhpurs and fun-fur shoulder pads? And, and, … look, just flee while you still can.

Monday, July 2 2012

Dear Amazon,

I’m a bit puzzled at the moment. Usually CD releases in Japan are even more overpriced when they’re imports.

New Younha album on Amazon Japan: 1,013 yen (~$12.75), labeled as “import from US”, release date July 10.

New Younha album on Amazon US: $21.11, labeled as “import”, release date July 10, free shipping.

New Younha album on Yesasia.com: $14.99, import, release date July 6, free international shipping.

Oh, wait:

iTunes US: $10.99, release date July 3.

“never mind, I’m good”

Tuesday, September 11 2012

“the song probably makes more sense if you don’t understand Japanese”


Jeffrey Friedl, author of Mastering Regular Expressions, found his book in an odd place:

Friday, October 26 2012

Challenge Accepted

more below…

(Continued on Page 4102)

Wednesday, December 12 2012

K-pop girls teasing…

heLOVEnus continues to taunt fans with pictures; there’s a new album, you just can’t have it yet!

Still one more day...

The more usual form of k-pop tease (aka “cute girls doing cute things”) can be found here.

And then there’s the unfortunate phonetic problem with the group’s name…

Saturday, December 15 2012

Fear the cute ones, heLOVEnus edition

Sending a bit of a mixed message here, girls?

Lime gets the point across

Wednesday, December 26 2012

Instant Retro

Apparently, Girls Generation was set to release this video over four years ago, and ran into trouble getting the rights for the song. When they finally got that cleared up, they made it a surprise gift for the fans and a teaser for their next album. The styling at the end is pretty awful, but fortunately the previous few minutes of unadulterated cuteness softens the blow.

Also, Sooyoung/Seohyun pillow fight; not nearly as exciting as it sounds, but still good clean fun.

Thursday, May 2 2013

Secret Yoohoo

You’re welcome. Or I’m sorry, depending on what effect cute Korean girls and earbugs have on you.

Do you want tea?

More k-pop cuteness, from HelloVenus; must be something in the air:

Sunday, September 15 2013

Unrelated video fun

Two videos that brightened my week…

Friday, December 6 2013

Younha - Subsonic


Younha - Subsonic EP

After several months of teasing, a new EP from Younha. The only real disappointment is that track 3 “features” a rapper, which is invariably the same as pouring used motor oil onto a fine steak, but the music business continues with the odd belief that rap is the perfect accompaniment to any genre. Truth is, most rap doesn’t even go well with other rap, much less the sort of pop that’s focused around someone with a good voice and the training to use it.

Stylistically, her performances suffer a bit from her time belting out showstoppers on the I Am a Singer TV series, as well as a few rather busy arrangements, but only the ruined-by-rap track is a waste of time. Pre-release track Home is pretty good:

(oh, and thanks to her label for making the album available online in multiple countries on release day)

Friday, December 20 2013

Ruined by rap

The album version of this song from Younha’s new album has a rapper in it. I cannot for the life of me understand why.

I’ll be ripping the audio from this acoustic version, thanksverymuch.

Thursday, February 6 2014

You can take the girl out of Hello!Project…

…but you can’t take the H!P out of the girl. Former ℃-ute member Erika Umeda has a solo album coming out.

Erika Umeda solo album

It’s, um, not going on my wishlist. Not because her new wranglers are obviously short on feathers, rhinestones, flair, and clashing fabrics, or because her grin appears to have been borrowed from the Joker; no, I just think it’s going to be a terrible album. Now, if she’d released a bikini DVD like fellow former member Kanna Arihara, I’d consider it; their music does nothing for me, but as they’ve grown up, the girls of ℃-ute have become quite attractive women.