Monthly Archives: August 2012

Kylie Minogue – B-Sides & Rarities Part IV

Right, last batch of Kylie offcuts now, it’s been a mission but we are here finally…

09 Time bomb – Let’s kick off with her (at the moment) latest single. Hopelessly mismanaged as we are used to from Kylie HQ now, appearing suddenly and not quite delivering on its element of surprise in the UK, where it floundered at #31. It’s a pretty dumb but infectious dance-pop track that makes me excited at the prospect of future Kylie music, whatever the fuck that will end up being. A bit anonymous but I really love this in the car.

07 Good like that – Mid-00s I’m guessing now, probably in the midst of her writing-for-Atomic-Kitten phase. It’s not even as good as Feels So Good, for the record, so that gives the sort of level of apathy I’m feeling. She makes an attempt at a decent chorus but it doesn’t quite happen, nice try though.

06 Glad to be alive – What the hell? I’d like to be as easy to please as our Kylie, who is happy to be alive thanks to her BRAND NEW HAT. If people try to hold you back, just buy another hat! It’s so simple really. I suppose in the same vein is makes Better Than Today look like a quantum leap ahead lyrically, but this song does NOT make me glad to be alive.

06 Cover me with kisses – HATE that intro, rather try-hard to say the LEAST. That gets things off on the wrong foot, and I’m not really enjoying this groovy-baby-yeah schtick that makes up approximately 99% of this track. Just NOT my thing.

07 Closer – This must be a LGTI-era dance track surely? Has the familiar sounds that I quite like, all said and done. But they just seem to have forgotten to actually write a SONG. Sure, you get a few words during the middle segment but there’s not much to it and it finishes just how it started (and stayed as throughout the middle).

09 The Winner Takes It All – Did this totally pass me by? A Dannii/Kylie duet? I have no idea why this came about, and it is really quite a standard rendition of the classic, but just having those two girls singing an amazing song like this automatically makes it pretty unsinkable. The OTT melodramatic production only helps the cause.

09 Where the wild roses grow – Another odd single, somehow a lost track but I reckon quite well known. A gorgeous waltzy ballad about monsterfaced Nick Cave dashing Kylie’s pretty brains out with a rock. I think it’s a perfect duet that just could only have happened during Indie Kylie. God knows she needed the hits back then anyway. I love her deep voice on this, GAWJUS.

07 We know the meaning of love – God, doing this in one sitting was a MISSION. I guess this is RoL-era, it’s not bad, I could have settled for it slipping into the album at a push but it wouldn’t be a lot more than filler.

07 Say the word (I’ll be there) – Quite a sweet little ballad, builds up nicely in the verses but I can’t help but think the chorus is a bit wishywashy. The verses really do save it, but it all just feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

07 Rippin up the disco – Look at me! I’m a Kylie track, look at my exciting-sounding title and edgy modern dance pop sound! Luckily she’s since realised that she’s not Luciana or whatever she was trying to be, and played things a little more nicely since. If I’d just heard this on its own, back in 2007 or whenever, I’d probably have thought it was alright, even though the vox are virtually non-existent.

07 Paper Dolls – Taking it down to ballad town, it’s a little weak but the chorus is quite sweet. In the best kind of way, it reminds me of What If I’m Right by Sandi Thom, probably not what she was looking for, and in fairness it’s just what it reminds me of, I don’t think musically anyone would link the two. It’s nice enough, but not particularly memorable.

07 Ocean Blue – A rather stripped down acoustic ballad now, it’s quite nice really (I seem to be saying that a lot, or my string of 7/10s seem to do the talking). It just doesn’t have a lot of impact really, and just WEARS ME DOWN like the tides, and doesn’t change a lot over the duration (like the TIDES).

08 No better love – Not QUITE into this, but the rather giddy swirling electronic noises in the bridge really give a little OOMPH to what is essentially a rather by-numbers Kylie song about doing the naughty, complete with the usual UHHHH sexual sigh noises. Can’t someone just give this woman a baby?

08 Mighty Rivers – I gather this was an Aphrodite leftover or bonus track or whatever. It doesn’t really SOUND 2010 but it doesn’t really need to. I like the production, it’s all got a little more to it than Heartstrings or GHOGH if I’m honest with myself. All feels a bit ‘Cahill remix’ but that’s not a terrible thing. The chorus doesn’t quite have the impact that the title does, which is always a shame, but it’s alright.

08 In Denial – A duet with the Pet Shop Boys now, rather a strange one, and feels like it’s taking itself a little TOO SERIOUSLY. They could have made a great pop song, but instead it’s all cool and po-faced. I mean Kylie singing all about “queens and fairies and muscle Marys” is all well and good, but what is it all FOR? This should have been an amazing pop song if they’d just decided to make music instead of a statement.

06 Lhuna – A Coldplay collab now, (don’t worry I’m nearly done). Not that I was expecting any sort of dancepop epiphany to explode here, but I thought at least it would be a good mix, and the result might at least approach the better moments for either act. But no, po-faced pop again, I don’t know who or what Lhuna is, but frankly after this DIRGE I’m not in the mind to find out. Why couldn’t they have thought outside the box like they did with the Rihanna duet?

10 I believe in you – FUCKING FINALLY, totally worth the wait too. I really think this is an incredible song and really shows what a fucking waste it was not having a Scissor Sisters-produced album instead of the pig-sty called X. From the synthy violin intro to that amazing bassline, through the spare verses and SOARING chorus, this just doesn’t let up until you are totally obliterated by its TRANSCENDENT FABULOSITY. This was my favourite song of 2004 (not really a hot contest but still), and it’s still holding up pretty fucking well. I. Believe. In. You. I. Believe. in.

So that’s THAT! What a drag all those lost tracks were… I mean I have discovered a few decent ones along the way but by and large there weren’t any HUGE AMAZING 11/10 moments aside from the one(s) I knew already. It does leave me rather relieved that it’s all over now though, which isn’t quite the desired effect.

Not to say that I haven’t enjoyed my Kylie Voyage, particularly the latter decade’s output (to varying degrees). Though I did come to the rather sad conclusion that while she’s had some amazing singles, and the occasional fantastic album, I’m feeling like little more than a casual fan at the moment. I want to like her so much, as I’m sure most of us do. But in my case I’m finding it very difficult to love her unconditionally. But HERE’S to the good times all the same.

Keepers for the iPod: Time Bomb, Magnetic Electric, I talk too much, Giving you up, The winner takes it all, Where the wild roses grow, I believe in you.

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Movie: “Total Recall” (2012)

I’m having a stressful week. Like, scream-into-a-pillow stressful. I don’t need to dwell on this after work, so I met up with my friend and we went to see a disgustingly big-budget popcorn movie. After a bit of a dry patch in the cinema schedules lately, this was just what I needed, a remake of popular 1990 Arnie sci-fi epic (you can describe anything as epic these days; as a noun, as an adjective, take your pick, Broken Britain!)

I can hear you all already: “Ugh why did they need to remake a classic?”. I considered this as I watched the trailer for a painfully lavish adaptation of “Anna Karenina” (seriously though, who did they think Total Recall’s audience was?!). Nobody bats an eyelid as yet another literary classic (i.e. it’s old and most people have heard of it) gets adapted for cinema or TV, why should it be any different? Anyway, fortunately you can all shut the hell up because Total Recall 2012 was really enjoyable. And anyway both films were loosely adapted from a Phillip K Dick story, so NER.

Total recall movie poster 2012OK let’s run through the cast first; Colin Farrell is looking rather amazing, and we were handed plenty of money shots in the opening scenes, so all good there. He was a bit of a blank slate for a character though, perhaps intentionally so as not to compete with Arnie. He played the usual “tough guy but sensitive soul battling demons” thing you expect, and he’s had plenty of practice there, so it was all decent.

Jessica ‘no-face’ Biel failed to make much impression. Very pretty but I just can never remember her in anything. She was a familiar face, but a 1D character. A bit of an iffy start for the leading couple, but there was plenty else going on, I didn’t worry too much.

The star of the show was the gorgeous and ferocious Kate Beckinsale, storming around like a T-1000 assuming the form of the cast of Desperate Housewives and all the shampoo commercials in-between its episodes. Unstoppable and always furious, she was amazing in every scene. You see her and you think “uh oh, shit’s gonna go down” (or something whiter if you’re me).

The supporting cast did a serviceable job, so well done black friend, chinese guy from Flashforward (*shudder*), and a head-fuckingly evil Dad from Malcolm in the Middle. Yes I know he must have a name, but he will always be Malcolm’s dad, just like Giovanni whats-his-name will always be Phoebe’s brother out of Friends. I don’t like seeing evil Dad from Malcolm in the Middle, it’s like seeing an evil Delia Smith or Rolf Harris or something. But evil he was.

Bill Nighy… I was a little unsure about why he even turned up to be honest, given the extent of his role. Not least with an American accent … but there are reasons for my confusion.

Kate Beckinsale Total Recall 2012

Kate will END YOU

OK I might be a bit sketchy on the other movie’s plot but 2012’s edition loosely follows the same idea. I won’t spoil anything, but the film is based on post-apocalyptic Earth, with most of the world uninhabitable after chemical war, and only two regions are still populated: The United Federation of Britain (hooray!) and in place of the barren dusty wasteland of Mars, they have… Australia, tee hee. Well it’s called the Colony in this, and its humble population (not one of them with an Aussie accent curiously enough) are kept under the thumb by those evil Brits (most of which are American anyway, including the president).

The Colonists commute to work every day (from Australia to London…) on a GIANT LIFT THAT GOES THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE EARTH. Just let that sink in. Whatever, for its enormous implausibility on several points, it does introduce a nice gravity flip plot device, for shits & giggles.

They have a lift that does WHAT?!

The film looked amazing though. Seriously amazing. The London scenes particularly had a really weird sense that it WAS London, if you look past the staggeringly improbable architecture. I can’t quite articulate what I mean there, but it just really worked well. Aside from a seizure-iffic section at the start with SO much strobe lighting, the whole film looked great. It did get plenty of mileage out of that lens flare effect that was all over the latest Star Trek movie. Still, all good.

Some nice little nods to the old movie too, with a particularly busty lady in there for the veteran nerds. The scene in border control too, with that large lady too … well I won’t say any more, but it was a good reference and I felt all the smugger for having spotted it.

It wasn’t exactly a groundbreaking piece of cinema, but I’ve seen a hell of a lot worse action movies in my time, and I would recommend it to you, dear reader, if you like a good popcorn movie as much as I do.

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Album: Ayumi Hamasaki – “My Story” (2004)

Right, a little delayed but I’m back on the J-Pop finally. So I continue with oriental heavyweight Ayumi Hamasaki’s sixth full-length album “My Story”. I think this was the first album she released after my descent into Ayumi fandom, so it holds a special place in my heart. Fortunately it’s also pretty great, possibly my favourite of her albums.

It was the start of a second era in her career, not hitting the towering heights of record sales she had previously, but maintaining her popularity with a million-selling album and more No.1 singles to add to her enormous consecutive tally (25 in a row at the moment, 38 in total). In a slight deviation from her usual habit of releasing dance remix and acoustic remix albums, she released “My Story ~ Classical”, a collection of 11 “My Story” orchestral covers. I have this album but need to give it another spin I think.

07 Catcher in the light – A semi-intro piece now, less than 3 minutes but more fully-formed than her usual intros. An electric guitar strums the opening beats, feeling like the revving of an engine before a green light (unusually poetic of me, isn’t it?). After the initial crash of instruments, the verses are quite subdued. A pleasant listen anyway, and a nice smooth opener for the album.

08 About you – Straight into the rockier pop music Ayumi had been experimenting with in recent albums, this hits a nice mix of melodic pop without getting too rackety. I love that rapid-fire chorus though, I can’t imagine being able to sing that fast. Perhaps it doesn’t quite hit the heights required of a single (this wasn’t one), but that chorus is worth the effort.

08 Game – While not formally a single, it was the B-side for “Inspire” and got a video, so where do you draw the line? Either way this weight much more heavily into the rockier sound, with distorted vocal effects over most of the verses. The chorus has a great melody and desperation about it, makes me a little sad that I haven’t got a clue what it’s all about. The song does boil down to that chorus and the brief and insubstantial verses, but it’s got a good sound to it. I’ve never been a massive fan of her rockier tracks, but this is a good one at least. That outro chorus is pretty good too.

07 My name’s Women – Hmm… clunky title aside, the video left no space for misunderstanding that this was about female empowerment. Not sure quite how female clubs with male pole dancers is quite addressing gender imbalances rather than just swapping them around, but let’s just go with it. A bit more of a boombastic pop track now, even if the beats are pretty heavy-handed. I like it for what it is, but I doubt I’d ever call it a favourite off this album. Functional and listenable.

07 Wonderland – First little interlude now, and everyone loves clowns and circuses right? Right?? Well it starts innocuous enough, gentle fairground melodies that reminds me of the amazing “Castle of Illusion” on the Sega Megadrive (love that). But no, rumbles of thunder and creepy cackles intrude on this fun, and we are back in typically terrifying circus territory. Great.

07 Liar – A bell tolls in the background, but a song titled quite seriously has quite a light bouncy melody despite the crashing guitars kicking in again. Indeed, when she starts singing, a calm descends. She sounds a little hurt (my perception totally skewed by the song title of course), and the guitars pop in for a few thrashes, but all-in-all this is a pretty gentle midtempo track. Familiar and pleasant but not particularly memorable.

06 Hope or pain – Doesn’t seem like much of a choice does it? I’m not sure what I end up feeling as a result of this rather protracted mid-tempo song. The production on the ponderous choruses is a bit of a drag really, and while the verses are quite nice, the chorus just doesn’t really have much impact on me. There’s nothing I can particularly criticise, but it just doesn’t do a lot for me.

06 Happy ending – While I snigger at the title (immature I know), I sit back for another slightly syruppy midtempo. You might be forgiven for wondering why I think this is such a good album, and I admit at this point I’m a little unsure, but the positives certainly outweight the … neutrals. As with her albums, there is always filler, though I don’t know why she has to have such a long album every time. This is a bit of filler, and while there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not making an impact on me.

08 Moments – The somewhat surprising choice of a lead single here, it’s another midtempo but has a bit more substance to it than the preceding few tracks. It has more of a beat behind it for starters, and a gentle but quite cute chorus to it. That “la la la” refrain is quite catchy in the end, and the track builds impressively by the end, in a way the other slow tracks never managed. Not a bad choice really!

06 Walking proud – Now this really IS a bloated sentimental track, with a artistically-made but saccharine video to go with the impressive selection on the accompanying DVD. It starts off nicely, I like those understanded piano-led intros. The chorus is just a bit of a non-event though, very sweet but just not doing a lot. More pleasant filler really, but that’s better than awful filler I guess.

08 Carols – A more decisive step into ballad territory now, though a bit strangely titled, I only really think of carols as a Christmas thing, but this came out in September. The occasional sleigh bell confuses me further. After that subdued intro, the chorus has a stronger melody than some on this album, and it’s a pretty strong track. I’ve heard stronger ballads from Ayumi, but this isn’t bad. Yet another confusing single choice though, particularly after Moments had already been released.

07 Kaleidoscope – Another interlude, a nice icy-sounding throwback to some moments from “Rainbow”, but doesn’t really do much. Builds to quite a nice little climax though.

10 Inspire – Now we are talking. The big pop single from this campaign, and what a single! Some sort of middle-Eastern influence in there somewhere, but some really weapons-grade pop production at work. The beat carries most of the verses, but the chorus is really where this song shines. Punchy and memorable, this was one of the first ‘new’ Ayumi singles that really got me stoked up, and it’s still pretty awesome 8 years on. If you only listen to one track from this album, make it this one.

10 Honey – And straight onto another great pop song, one of my late bloomers, though I always had love for this one. Her voice is as cute as she can make it without throwing up, but it totally works for this light fluffy bit of pop music. Production is rapid but really warm and fuzzy, and melts easily into a really gorgeous chorus. It’s just a bit of a dizzy love song I think, and has all the positivity of an anime theme tune. Love it!

08 Replace – Home strait now, but there’s still 15 minutes to go… why are Japanese songs (and albums) so long!? Anyway, a nice follow-on from Honey, that same sort of upbeat light-hearted tone to it, even if it doesn’t quite have the same giddy tempo. A strange galloping beat to it, I like that. The song doesn’t quite measure up after Honey, but there’s plenty right with it.

06 Winding road – Uh oh, back to inspirational mid-tempos now. As I’ve said several times in this review, there’s little to be negative about, it all fits nicely into the general sound of this album, partly why this album is such a nice listen. This one does build well, but the chorus isn’t much of a payoff for a 5-minute song.

07 Humming 7/4 – I guess the 7/4 is a reference to the weirdly uneven beat to this in places? A pretty standard rock-pop song to round things off. That chorus probably works better on tour, has lots of energy to it, though just sitting here listening to it, there’s not much to it! There are plenty of good bits here, but it gets a little lost among the sea of guitars that has happily been kept at bay for most of the album. Not my tastes particularly but a nice send-off for the album.

So that’s another one down, and approaching the limits of my experiences of Ayumi’s albums, with only really the next album (miss)understood that I know a lot about. “My Story” stands up well as a fun and undemanding listen, thought it has only really struck me now that while the album is consistently decent, there aren’t really the killer moments that other albums had.

Maybe it’s telling that there were an unusually small crop of three singles from this (four if you include Game’s appearance on Inspire). While a lot of songs are good, few really grabbed me in the way a single should. Still, Honey and About You were highlights for me, so maybe she just wanted to cut her losses with this album. At the time it was a much less successful album than its predecessors, and they weren’t to know that this was the start of a continuing decline in her album sales, so maybe they thought they could just put this album to bed and come back fighting with the next album.

Anyway, I still hold this album in high regard. It might not be amazing, or hit the heights of some other albums, but it’s consistently good, and that’s a tall order with most albums.

Keepers for the iPod: About you, Game, Moments, Carols, Kaleidoscope, Inspire, Honey, Replace

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Album: Le Kid – “Oh Alright!” (2012)

le Kid Oh Alright MelodifestivalenAm I capable of listening to recent pop music that’s not in some way Eurovision-related? Well that still remains to be proven as I delve into Swedish pop band Le Kid’s debut album. A bit of a long time coming, with a debut single surfacing in Sweden in 2010, but it appeared to be well worth the wait.

The Eurovision connection? Well Le Kid sent “Oh my god!” to Melodifestivalen in 2011. It was one of the better songs of the contest I think, but sadly it came 5th in its semi-final. Still, we’re here now, aren’t we?

09 We are the drums – Opening shots fired now, making no mistake of their mission statement – they are in it to win it, and all imitators pale in comparison. A nice sentiment to start with, and they certainly put a good case forward with that killer chorus. They aren’t the sort of band to suit too much of an edge, so this track finds it level at ‘sassy and confident’. Got plenty of punch for an opening track, really great start.

08 Mercy Mercy – Playground fun to start with, before smoothly transitioning to a slick pop song reminiscent of Girls Aloud’s “Can’t speak French” with that beat. Back on sassy anyway, and another bouncy killer of a chorus. This is just so easy to listen to, and it’s clear why this was picked as the first single. I can’t help but think of Alphabeat for a lot of their songs, slightly strange since there are two female leads, I just can’t really distinguish between them. Either way, it’s all good.

08 America – Post-Melodifestivalen single now, and more laid back than the first two songs. Another smooth pleasant electro-lite backing track, with a cute glittery chorus. The hook on the chorus is clear, though it doesn’t have quite the effect that the earlier songs have done. Still, very listenable, though the first chance for a song to wash over me a little bit.

08 Oh my God! – The Melodifestivalen entry, and another vaguely Girls-Aloud esque feeling pop song. That’s of course no issue for me, it sounds great, and that chorus is totally infectious. I’ve severely overplayed this one, but it’s still totally cute. I think overexposure knocked a mark off, but it’s still better than several of the Melodifestivalen qualifiers that year.

08 Bigger than Jesus – What a big claim for that title! A bit of a dancier electro sound to this one, something I’ve been enjoying a lot from Scandinavian pop outfits recently. While Le Kid will probably never have quite the cutting edge that artists like Robyn have, they have an adorable niche of their own. Love the production on this one, and I get the idea that there’s a different vocalist on lead here … I just can’t quite tell the difference. The title was a bit of a red herring that doesn’t really tie into anything else, but it’s a pleasantly upbeat track with a really lovely middle-eight to boot.

07 Kiss me – Jaunty cowboy saloon pop music now, reminds me a bit of Dragonette actually (I really need to learn some more bands to compare things to). A cheeky bit of fun, and somehow even more bouncy and upbeat than Oh My God. A bit cloying maybe, but it’s not exactly a difficult listen. Fun but a little too light, even for me.

08 We should go home together – Another early single, and a proper 80s throwback track, sounds like it should be on a Saturday morning cartoon or something. Perhaps that’s why I love this album so much, it has the right sort of influences to hit whatever demographic I’ve ended up in. The chorus is a bit basic, but it’s still pretty strong. There’s a nice sort of power behind the tempo, like some cheesy movie theme tune. There do seem to be a lot of tracks on this album trying to convince someone to go out with the singer, doesn’t there?

07 Seventeen – Perhaps this one is trying a little too hard, the Betty Boo reference is a bit cringey. But the song is alright, and it has a few striking moments, like “I can be cute, I can be dumb, And I’m not even illegally young” delivered with giddy determination. There are plenty of little sections that mesh together pretty well, but that chugging beat for the choruses just misses something for me.

07 Telephone – More yearning for potential boyfriends huh? Well the flirting continues, and she’s hangin’ on the telephone. Not exactly reinventing the wheel, but it sounds pretty good if a little dated. In fact it reminds me a little of the sound of Rachel Stevens’ underperforming album “Come and get it”, which is no bad thing, but remember that was 2005! No complaints, but not much to rave about for me.

09 Escape – Now this is a lot more like it, a quiet electro background, back to the 80s. But the vocals are so sweet this time, and instead of the flirtatious nature of many other tracks, now our plucky heroines need to get out of a failing relationship. But no hard feelings, people drift apart. That chorus is just so easy to listen to, reminds me a little of some Erasure, or something. OK so this band is too fun and frothy to get too emotional about things, but there’s a rare flash of tenderness on this track that really puts it above a lot of the album.

09 Mr Brightside – Oh you all know this one, don’t you. A slightly unexpected cover of an already wonderful Killers song. I fully expect Killers fans to not accept this as a valid effort, but it’s a great song to start with, and all they do is a respectful electropop rendition of it. The singers have such gorgeously listenable voices anyway, there’s nothing I can object to. Perhaps it feels a bit neutered in comparison to the original, but it’s not like I can’t listen to that if I want.

Well that’s that, and another chapter in my merry journey into addictive Swedish pop music. No pretence in this one, just a group of musicians making music to make people happy. This album seems to have been received well, which is great news. I am aware that I gave all the tracks 7-9 marks, but it’s just a reflection of the album’s consistent quality and total listenability. I only rarely get albums where I want to put it straight back on afterwards, and happily this is one of them.

Keepers for the iPod: We are the drums, Mercy Mercy, America, Oh my god!, Bigger than Jesus, We should go home together, Escape, Mr Brightside

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Album: Utada – “Exodus” (2004)

This has been on my to-do list for a long while, the debut English album of J-Pop colossus Hikaru Utada. Utada had astounding levels of success in Japan since her debut album in 1999. Three of her albums are in the all-time Japanese top 10, including the biggest-selling album with her debut “First Love” and the biggest opening week ever with follow-up “Distance”.

I haven’t really listened to her earlier stuff, it’s a bit too R’n’B influenced for my tastes but I’m sure I’ll get around to it. I really started to love her after hearing some of her bigger hits, and 2006 album “Ultra Blue”. However in 2004 she released her first international English-language album “Exodus”. I loved some songs off it, but overall it was a bit of an oddball and I never quite gave it enough attention at the time. I’ve had a big turnaround in the last few weeks though, and it’s revealed itself to be a pretty smart offbeat little pop record.

09 Opening – I have her amazing 2006 concert on DVD so this just reminds me of the mesmerising intro to that. A light, airy and mysterious introduction that really sets up the mood and sound of the album.

09 Devil Inside – A moody electronic intro, the whole album has this unique tone to it, I was surprised to hear it was Timbaland behind a lot of the album, and even Danja (whose work I really know from that Britney’s great “Blackout” album). This is a dark electronic with a subtle but strong beat under the surface. This ended up being the biggest hit in the US, but it doesn’t sacrifice its Japanese side, there are plenty of Asian influences in the mix. So many memorable little riffs!

08 Exodus ’04 – That strange atmosphere is still in the production, giving a bit of an anxious tone to the song. About leaving her family – I’m presuming here that it’s about Utada’s attempts to break America, or at least expand her horizons outside Japan. It’s got a lovely piano riff that you might not even notice, but is a great bed for the song. The lyrics are quite touching too, communicates the feeling of worry about leaving your roots I think.

07 The workout – There are moments in this album that remind me of Bjork. Not held back by typical pop song structures, there are heaps of interesting beeps and bloops and beats throughout this album, and particularly in this song. A bit of a slutty offbeat track that doesn’t really fit to a genre. I love her lyrics too, just work so effectively to let my imagination fill in the blanks in the story. Not my favourite song but it works so well as part of the album’s sound.

09 Easy breezy – After those serious tracks, something a little lighter. Perhaps a lot lighter than expected, and I remember a few eyebrows were raised at some of the lyrics “You’re easy breezy and I’m Japanesey”. I didn’t really think to much about this song, but it’s so catchy once it gets you. Bouncy and cute, even if it’s about post-breakup feelings. A bit of a strange one to pick for the first single, but still very good.

07 Tippy Toe – This must be a Timbaland track, right? Feeling a bit more like “The workout” in tone, it was never one of my favourites, but still has its place. That squelchy production under a lot of it was memorable. She’s not afraid to sing about sexier topics, even if this sounds like she’s keeping some secrets. I love how this album so far has kept a strong identity in the sound of the songs without it sounding samey.

09 Hotel Lobby – This is one that feels a lot more Japanese than the rest so far. Very robotic and plinky-plonky, I love that whole intro, especially when that beepy electronic riff gets established. The song seems to be about (I’m probably wrong) a high-class business hookers, just trying to pay the bills. It’s got a lightness to the tone but really it’s pretty sad, the woman in question just making herself a bit numb to get through it all, and perhaps even disappearing to society (or worse). Some really gorgeous moments, like the “catch me ‘cos I think I’m falling” bit. Really great stuff.

09 Animato – Very Bjorkish feel to some of it, a really strange effect at the start. Not as beat-driven as the other songs, but quite industrial-soundng. There is still room for some effective choir effects, and an easy-to-miss military drum beat. This really is just gorgeous, I don’t know where to start. The melody is so interesting to listen to, just jumps around unexpectedly. Love this.

06 Crossover interlude – Echoing the opening intro, a brief moment to re-group, but returning to that “I don’t wanna cross over” mission statement. Doesn’t quite have the atmosphere of that awesome opening track though.

10 Kremlin Dusk – Definitely one of the highlights of the concert DVD I have, and I believe had something to do with The Mars Volta on production duties (though Wiki isn’t being much help). This song just builds the layers up and up until it has a pretty full-on spectacle on its hands. That harpsichord on the bridge really sets off the strange feel to the song, and the various introductions of production effects and noises just flow seamlessly. A few clunky lyrics (“Edgar Allen Poe”?!), and the longest track on the album but certainly doesn’t get stale or outstay its welcome. Eventually the drum tempo just cranks up and it’s a pretty big track. Spectacular!

08 You make me want to be a man – What an odd single choice again (though I don’t have a better alternative). That weird distorted alien noise that makes up the bulk of the choruses might get annoying for some people, but I like it. That beat is amazing too, it’s heavy but not intrusive. The verses are a little difficult but the chorus more than makes up for it. A bit of a struggle for the regular J-Pop fan, but really grew on me after a long while…

07 Wonder bout – God I love that squeaky riff, just so catchy. This feels very Western, I’m sure this must be one of the American-produced tracks. Wouldn’t feel out of place with one of the early 00’s RnB females of choice singing it, like Aaliyah maybe. The melody doesn’t quite suit the production somehow, but definitely has its moments. It’s a fun listen, even if it’s not my usual style. But that squeaky riff really is irresistible.

07 Let me give you my love – That must be a Timbaland track right? That gorgeously deep electro-bassline is brilliant. Going for the sexier subject matter now, and she wants a bit of inter-racial action, make no mistake. Does she really sing “but your body’s so Jar Jar Binks”?! Surely not. A bit of a breathless track, like she’s just reacting to the death she sings about at the start, and might not really be thinking straight. I don’t know, maybe that’s just how I hear it. Love that “Hot hot hot” bit too! Not a standout track but certainly listenable enough.

06 About me – We even get a ballad to round things off then, and no tricks are played here. A pretty straightforward acoustic ballad to start, and doesn’t really get much more demanding. OK a beat kicks in, but it’s a bit of a cooldown from the chaos of the rest of the album, nothing to get fretful about. A bit boring, all said and done, but pleasant enough.

Well overall that was a massive success for me, I only feel bad that I never felt this way years ago when I first heard it. Maybe my tastes have changes, or maybe it’s simply an album that needs a bit more time to blossom. I seem to remember her follow-up English album “This is the one” wasn’t great, but it’s certainly inspired me to listen to Utada more. A really good listen! A rare occurrence, but I’m keeping this whole album on my iPod!

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