Album Review: Fujiya & Miyagi – Transparent Things

Check out Odds n’ Ends every Saturday from 1pm-2pm! Also please like our Facebook page.

 

Fujiya & Miyagi – Transparent Things (Electronica, Funk, Krautrock) [2006]

 

The deceptively named British indie-electronica group Fujiya & Miyagi are a bit of a musical curiosity. At first listen the music of this group might sound pretty run-of-the-mill; there were plenty of bands doing similar things in the mid 2000’s. But if you lend a more careful ear, you can begin to hear and identify the multitude of opposing musical styles that Fujiya & Miyagi blend seamlessly together. Genres that are often not associated with one another all manage to squeeze their way into this album without detracting from the relaxed electronic vibes.

The true beauty of Transparent things is in its subtlety. Like I mentioned before, at first listen it might not sound like anything too special. But in fact there are many layers of nuanced influences hidden in the depths of each track. The most evident example is the bands obvious appreciation for Krautrock. Almost every song contains some element of the groovy, trance-inducing music that is Krautrock. From the simple,repetitive, hypnotizing guitar and bass lines to the droning synth accompaniment. As well as a focus on rhythm and meter instead of any kind of melody. Even the whispery vocals seem to be a tip of the hat to the vocal stylings of Damo Suzuki of the famous Krautrock band Can.

Funk plays a major role in Transparent things also. In order to give their modern Krautrock sound a much needed edge, Fujiya & Miyagi  incorporate some snappy drumming and funky bass lines to form a nice, dance-able beat. They tone it down a bit of course, to fit in with the chill tone they have set for themselves. You wouldn’t normally think that Funk would work well in the world of indietronica, but interestingly enough, this usually sharp and spirited form of music actually mixes well with the low-key electronic grooves they create. The synthesis of these musical styles helps the band achieve quite a unique sound that is still very accessible to the common listener.

As impressive as all this genre blending and musical mixology is, Transparent Things is not without its flaws. The reliance on repetition and rhythm over chorus and melody is both a blessing and a detriment. When the songwriting is solid, you get delightful tunes like “Collarbone” and “Suckerpunch” that just implant their hooks right into your brain and stay their. But on the weaker tracks, namely “Transparent Things”, you are forced to listen to the same bland riff repeated ad nauseam, making the tracks feel twice their length. Fortunately the album is paced well with instrumentals breaking up the more personified and lively tracks. I found myself enjoying Transparent Things quite a bit, but the formula does wear a little thin by the end and I’m not really sure if another full album of material like this would impress me as much. That being said, I strongly recommend Transparent Things.

Favorite Track: Collarbone

Rating: ** (great)

Album Review: John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

Check out Odds n’ Ends every Saturday from 1pm-2pm! Also please like our Facebook page.

I will be posting album reviews to the blogs page around once or twice a week depending on my schedule. I’d also love to take suggestions from you guys on what to review, so please leave me comments. I don’t limit my reviews by genre or age so anything goes. I have a generally positive rating system and it is as follows:

 

***** = Timeless Classic (An album that is personally significant to me that I can never imagine disliking at any point in my life. This is almost exclusive to albums that have been in my collection for a while, but on very rare occasions I might give it on first time listens.)

**** = Near Perfect (An album so impressive that it leaves me in a stunned silence upon completion. Almost no discernible flaws are present.)

*** = Amazing (An album that I will undoubtedly want to listen to over and over again. Flaws are minor and can be easily overlooked.)

** = Great (A thoroughly satisfying listen. There are 1-2 noticeable flaws that take away from the experience.)

* = Good (A mostly enjoyable listen. Several major flaws are evident and seriously detract from the experience.)

0 = Bad (Anything that can be considered good on the album is outweighed by the bad. As simple as that)

 

John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (Synthpop, Electropop, Art Pop) [2011]

 

Being the keyboardist for two of the biggest names in Experimental and Art Pop (Panda Bear and Ariel Pink), John Maus had some expectations to live up to for me personally. The keyboards being such an integral element to the music of both the bands previously mentioned, I had no doubt in my mind that Maus must be quite a skilled player. I just had to hope that he would retain the same amounts of creativity, wit, and innovation in his solo work that made the other artists he had worked for so admired. And while Maus in a sense does exemplify many of the same characteristics as his Art Pop peers, his execution is questionable.

The most disappointing thing on this album is surely the keyboard playing, as surprising as that may seem. Maus is in no sense a bad player, he has a great handle on his instrument. The problem lies in the boring, derivative melodies that tend not to venture outside of what has been already done and perfected by Synthpop artists in the 80’s. Aside from a few moments of effects-laden vocals, the album was totally lacking of any fresh concepts. Now all of this could be fine if the songwriting was solid, but the album is filled with duds. Maus throws out many clunky and forgettable tracks that lack the pop sensibility that his other bands have successfully achieved. That isn’t to say that this album is totally void of expert songwriting. When Maus does manage to stumble upon a catchy hook or melody, the results are stupefying. Songs like “Quantum Leap” and “New Moon” would have been instant classics if released in the 80’s, rivaling the likes of Depeche Mode and The Human League. After hearing songs like those it leaves me craving more, and shows the potential Maus has as a solo artist.

While his songwriting is ultimately lack luster, much of the humor and wit observable in Ariel Pink is present in Maus’ lyrics. Songs like “Cop Killer”, though taking a dark atmosphere, are actually quite funny in a surreal kind of way. The lyrics “Cop Killer…Let’s kill those cops tonight.” are undeniably simplistic and amateurish, yet the seriousness in which Maus delivers them makes you just want to laugh out loud. The album is very obviously dripping in irony and surreal humor.

The production on this album is, again, similar to that on many of Ariel Pink’s releases. Maus strives for that vintage, lo-fi production quality that echoes the sounds of many 60’s recordings. Unfortunately at many points in the album this style does more to hurt than it does to help. While it gives the drum machine some unique flavor, it certainly does not do anything to assist the bass or synths which are left sounding weak and poorly mixed. The vocals as well tend to suffer as Maus has a significantly deeper and louder singing voice than Pink. This causes some audible crackle as the mic strains to pick up those lower frequencies. The production leaves this album feeling more like a set of demo tracks than a fully realized and developed record.

I would recommend this album to fans of Ariel Pink, Depeche Mode, The Human League, and Devo.

Favorite Track: New Moon

Rating: 0 (Bad)

HEY LISTEN!!!!

Are you tired of listening to music and trying to decide if you like it or not?  It’s a rhetorical question, we know you are.  Don’t ask us how we know, we just do because we’re magical like that.  In an effort to bring you a more enjoyable music listening experience and to open your eyes to some new music, we the DJs and DJettes of WMWC will be embarking on an epic journey to review music for you so you don’t have to!  Keep an eye out here on the blog and in the side column under music reviews for some awesome folk reviewing some awesome tracks.

My Radio

Back in May I caught up with My Radio, a band from my hometown Roanoke, VA, and interviewed them before their show.  If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will soon.  Their single, “Yeah, Yeah,  Yeah” was featured in

the independent film The Joneses staring Demi Moore and David Duchovny.  It was also featured during Fox’s Sports Halftime, MTV calls them a “needle in the haystack” and they are working on getting a new CD out.  If you want to give ’em a listen, you can find them on MySpace, iTunesYouTube and if you’re feelin ’em go ahead and fan them on Facebook.  Either way, you should check My Radio out.

Here’s the My Radio Interview.

liv.

Hoarsebox Stops By for Devil Goat Day

After Iceland’s volcanic eruption and the closing of airports all around Europe, Hoarsebox managed to catch the first flight to the US just in time to play UMW’s Devil Goat Day.  The weather was beautiful, the performance was amazing and it was the perfect break before the stress of exam week settled in.  If you haven’t checked out their music yet, you really should. I downloaded their album, Cuckooland, after the concert and it is certainly worth a listen.  You can find them on iTunes and AmieStreet.com.

Check out the link for the interview with the band.

Hoarsebox Interview

Have a great summer ya’ll! And check back often, we’ll be posting more interviews with various artists throughout the summer, My Radio is up next.

Liv.