You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2011.

Was I the only viewer who felt a little squeamish during the “midnight sale” scene in the final episode of Oreimo? I don’t think I demand political correctness in everything that I watch, but something about the way this played out just left a bad taste in my mouth.

To be fair, the dialog in this scene was probably an accurate depiction of how typical 17 year-old boys actually speak to each other. Then again, throughout Oreimo, Kyousuke shows himself to be anything but a typically judgmental teen. So his sudden violent rejection of his best friend, based on a short-lived misunderstanding, feels both out of character for him and somewhat against the very theme of the series itself. We’d already seen Ayase stubbornly reject her best friend Kirino simply based on her fondness for eroge games, only to come to her senses and realize that their friendship was too important to lose over such trivial matters. So it strikes me as odd how casually the series dismisses those lessons learned just for laughs in this scene.

I think what bothered me most in this scene was not the tone of the language, but the fact that its homophobic humor ultimately went unchecked. Kyousuke never comes to his senses to realize that the possibility of Agaki being gay, despite coming as a great surprise, might (gasp!) not implicitly be a terrible thing. The only “resolution” to the scene is the revelation that his friend is actually not at the sale to buy the “homo game” for himself, but for his sister, thus resolving any conflicts that would have otherwise destroyed their friendship. What a relief!

It just so happens that this week’s Entertainment Weekly features a cover story on “Gay Teens on TV,” which I haven’t read but presume to be a celebration of the burgeoning trend. Maybe our culture is finally open minded enough to acknowledge (and possibly even accept… er, maybe someday) the existence of gay teens? Unfortunately, the idealized tolerance presented on TV doesn’t quite reflect the attitudes of the average American, but at least it’s a start. If nothing else, I’d expect that a scene like this one would probably be met with widespread protests if it aired on television program in America. Are attitudes in Japan less tolerant of homosexuality than they are over here? A hundred and one “boys love” themed-series would suggest otherwise, but let’s not pretend that they represent the cultural norm, either.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with playing a misunderstanding like this one for laughs, but did it have to be so mean-spirited and driven by bigotry? Or am I being culture-centric in expecting Japanese writers and viewers to conform to my ideals of tolerance and sensitivity? And after 12 episodes that flirted with themes of incest and other social taboos, should I really be outraged by this, of all things?

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Might as well post this before January is over.

20. Antoine Dodson & The Gregory Brothers – Bed Intruder Song (feat. Kelly Dodson)
No other song last year made me smile as much as this one. It’s tempting to write it off as a gimmick or to focus on it solely as an “Internet phenomenon,” but every autotuned turn of phrase is inspiringly creative. How much positive energy and fun can you milk out of what could have been a complete joke (based on a potentially terrible event)? Turns out, a lot.

19. Digitalism – Blitz
Maybe I’m just desperate for some new Digitalism, but this really hits the spot. More satisfying than the latest droppings from Deadmau5, and maybe even Daft Punk’s “Derezzed.”

18. Pantha Du Prince – Stick to My Side
I never would have thought that Pantha Du Prince’s music really needed any vocals, let some from anyone in a (astoundingly overrated) band like Animal Collective. But hey, this sounds great.

17. Kelis – Acapella
A soulful disco turn from Kelis turns out this soaring track that was probably a hard sell for pop-R&B fans, but reveals Kelis as a bona fide diva. Leaves “Milkshake” in the dust and points to a boundless future, 2078 via 1978.

16. Factory Floor – 16-16-9-20-1-14-9-7
Industrial pulse meets minimal techno. Ten minutes of relentless throb. Somehow it’s not long enough. Great study music that helps me focus my mind. Probably not something most “normal” people would enjoy.

15. The Chemical Brothers – Swoon
A gorgeous return to form for Simons/Rowlands, putting their Britrock-bound past out to pasture and sounding more vital than ever. Their block-rockin’ past gives way to a new beginning that couldn’t sound any more fresh and vital.

14. Warpaint – Undertow
This dreamy, seemingly phoned-in jam might sound sound quaint at first listen. So why can’t you get it out of your head?

13. Four Tet – Sing
One of the most creative minds in music today? It’s hard to think of many other artists who sound less bound to our traditional notions of song than Kieran Hebden. Once again, he dissects and reassembles electronic music in a way that’s completely unique.

12. Azari & III – Indigo
House-influence Euro-dance of the early 90s was all over the radio when I was growing up, from Technotronic to Snap!,  C+C Music Factory and La Bouche. This was, with a lot of hindsight, a pretty cool soundtrack to growing up, but feels like music from a whole other world now. I didn’t think about this much until it suddenly reared its head once again with Hercules + Love Affair and Azari & III. Like 2009’s “Reckless (With Your Love), “Indigo” is a time capsule rich in spacious, vintage production and soulful vocals. The nostalgia this conjures up hits like a bomb.

11. Portable – This Life of Illusion
I haven’t listened to Portable (or Bodycode) in about two or three years, but even at the height Alan Abrahams fandom, I never would have guessed that he’d put out anything quite as epic sounding as “This Life of Illusion.” His use of vocals and spoken word is always hit and miss for me, but the positive message in this seems to fit his approach perfectly. Words to live by.

10. Oval – Ah!
Markus Popp’s reemergence a mostly-silent decade was enough of a pleasant surprise. But for Oval to come back with a viable single upon his return? The playful flickerings of melody play off the drumming perfectly. Not what we’d ever expect from the man who once brought us “Do While.”

9. Venom & Damage – Deeper
Love this track. Love this silly video. Some of the funkiest breaks of 2010 right here.

8. Blur – Fools Day
Fans would have gobbled up any new songs from these long-hiatus’ed Britpop heroes, but Blur’s return was especially remarkable in that they offered up one of the best songs of their career, and in the most casual, “no hands” fashion possible. Damon’s simple but descriptive lyrics fit the band as they settle into middle age, and make it sound like it’s nothing to be scared of at all. Graham’s guitarwork on this is excellent. Wonderful licks all over the outro, which often pull me back to the beginning for another quick listen.

7. Lone – Pineapple Crush / Angel Brain
Classic rave revivalism at its finest. Even better than the real thing?

6. Crystal Castles – Celestica
More gothic electro from the hipster duo you love to hate. These two are practically bringing the soundtrack of our dreams to life and all we do is skewer them for being trashy art students.

5. Bernard Sumner, Hot Chip, and Hot City – Didn’t Know What Love Was
This collaboration was apparently commissioned by Converse as part of some kind of Internet marketing project, and is probably the best argument I’ve seen/heard for shameless “branding” tactics between commerce and art. Then again, I’ve been on a massive New Order/Electronic trip for the past few months, and just love hearing Bernard working on something that sounds as new and exciting as this, so I’m more than willing to overlook whatever circumstances made this song possible. Also, unexpectedly redeems Hot Chip for me, who I’d give up on after the over the top, wacky antics of Made In the Dark.

4. Darkstar – Gold
Not really dubstep, but dubbed-out synthpop. Sparse and cold in a way that’s perfect for winter, and which I haven’t heard done this well since the first Junior Boys album. Just hits home for me.

3. Gorillaz – Stylo
Another half-decade, another ridiculous bounty of adventurous pop from Gorillaz. Does for Mos Def what “Feel Good Inc.” did for De La Soul. Bobby Womack bursting in at the halfway point sent chills down my spine the first time I heard it and still does.

2. Bag Raiders – Way Back Home
Expertly crafted dance pop from down under, the devil is in the details on this track. As if “Shooting Stars” wasn’t proof enough, these guys know their way around a chorus. I’ve probably played this song more than any other this year.

1. Underworld – Always Loved a Film
Underworld at their best since the mid 90s. This song is a massive anthem that positively soars. Maybe it’s energy was too sincere to catch on? I can’t think of any other reasons why this seemed to fly under everyone’s radar the way it did. At least it finally got them on TV. I played this so much in the car this year that I think I started to wear a laser groove in the CD.

If you’re reading this blog, maybe you stumbled in here from Anime Nano or a link from some other anime blog. If you’re on the hunt for more topical anime blog entries, then maybe this entry isn’t for you. But, on the other hand, I hope it still could be. I like writing about anime and manga. But those aren’t my only interests, and aren’t the only subjects I want to write about in this blog. I also like music, feel compelled to post about it from time to time, and feel really compelled to post something when a tragedy like this happens. So bear with me for a minute.

Broadcast have been one of my favorite bands over the past decade. So often compared to both 60s innovators White Noise and 90s heroes Stereolab, they slowly worked their way out from under the shadow of both of those bands to become one of the most creative bands of our young century. Over the course of four albums and a respectable number of other releases and collaborations, they excavated a glorious future-vision of 60s lounge and electronic music, and put a spin on old sounds that was all their own. Later albums, particularly Haha Sound and Tender Buttons, found them moving beyond simple pastiche and into bold, experimental territory, which was often anything but “pleasant” listening but still maintained their music’s pop foundation.

Earlier this morning, Broadcast vocalist Trish Keenan passed away from complications with pneumonia. Many reports state that she had been battling H1N1. Whatever her fate, it’s a tragic loss for music. Radiohead aside, perhaps no other band today has continuously evolved and challenged themselves in so many big ways as Broadcast. Despite their growing fondness for recording instrumental tracks, Keenan’s cool but never quite “detached” vocals — which always carried a particularly comforting quality for me — were an irreplaceable part of their sound. Nearly any album would be a suitable starting point for a would-be fan, but perhaps Haha Sound best encapsulates the “Broadcast sound,” a document showing both where they’d been and the bold direction they were heading towards.

There haven’t been many Broadcast AMVs. In fact, the Org only lists one, that being Jnzk’s excellent “Trauma,” which is probably one of the top ten AMVs I’ve ever seen. It’s thoughtful and appropriately-dreamy, just creepy enough to channel the vibes of the series but also sweet and comforting in a way few AMVs of this vein ever are.

It’s also been less than five months since Satoshi Kon passed away. If you enjoy his work (particularly Paranoia Agent) and enjoy AMVs, then this video is a must-see. Other AMVs will directly pay tribute to Kon, but Trauma celebrates his vision as I like to think he would have approved of.

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