My Little Corner of the World

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


As the end of the first month of 2008 draws near, it's worth looking back at some of the important moments in the last twenty-something days. Surely, we just had the most remarkable January in recent years, not only because of the rollercoaster ride we've survived in the stock market last week, but also of the early abundance of good music available to us this year.

Even since I've been introduced to indie music, my annual splurge on new releases averages around twenty five, which translates to two per month. But just within the first twenty seven days of this calendar year, I've opened my wallet on five accounts, all of which appear to be strong contenders for my end-of-year list. This unexpected swarm of talent apparently has diverted my attention away from the dismal performances of my holdings.

What's more amazing is that these albums come from bands with completely different backgrounds. On one side, we have experienced veterans like the Magnetic Fields, who look as if they have left their romantic spirits behind in favour of the Jesus-and-Mary-Chain era of mesmerizing collage of noises. In the middle of the age spectrum, British Sea Power have tried their hardest to follow up on their last effort, "Open Season", a Victorian era love journey filled with the catchiest melodies one has ever heard of, by adding some Post-rock spices to their already extensive palate of musical tastes.

Music by nature, or any other art form for that matter, is a game in which old hands do not necessarily have advantage over newcomers. Times New Viking, the Columbus, Ohio trio, have demonstrated this point by cranking up the volume on their amps to produce the loudest noises I could remember listening to. Vampire Weekend, another much hyped, up-and-coming indie rock band from New York City have just released their debut full-length through XL Recordings. With a bit of shame, I have to admit that I have never heard of their name prior to seeing the glaring 8.8 score (the highest so far this year) on Pitchfork.

Inevitably, any album that garners such praise is going to draw attention from insatiable listeners like myself. After a complete listen to their album on the road, I was simply out of words because I couldn't recall any other album comparable in the way the different sound elements interact with each other. Granted, the album suffers a few immature flaws at some places, but it's the little pieces that add up to its weight. And if this is only a glimpse at the band's fountain of creativity, it would be silly to predict what they are going to be able to come up with next.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

If Eason Chan Were...


陳奕迅在去年推出了一張廣東大碟,名為《Listen to Eason Chan》。整張專輯罕有地全部由電子舞曲組成,作為歌者一次徹頭徹尾的革新。但革新不代表有進步,外國有很多失敗例子都和錯誤的風格轉型有關。雖然這張專輯得到眾多樂評人的一致好評,但我認為其遠遠及不上陳早期一些並沒有經過詳細計劃但結果令人驚訝的作品。到現時為止,我依然覺得《The Easy Ride》乃陳於後華星時代的高峰點。雖然在選曲上顯得比較雜,有很多地方帶有模仿的痕跡,但從歌曲質數而言實在是一張難得的華語唱片。有點諷刺的是當年這張大碟在推出的時候並沒有帶來太大回響,和股市中很多現象頗為相似,證明大部份人都有那麼一點後知後覺。


最近網上流行法國Indie樂隊The Teenagers的一些MV,內裡有一個黑頭髮的男生成員長得頗像Eason(見左圖),不知如果真的Eason唱起Indie Pop的境況又是如何?以陳比較硬朗實淨的聲線若要演繹這種甜美溫柔的小品似乎並不太適合,但遇上《I'm From Further North Than You》這首原來自The Wedding Present的英式搖滾就仿似天作之合,效果應該會相當不俗。七八年前聽過陳奕迅的一個演唱會,CD內有一首翻唱王菲的《情誡》,那種迷幻味直到現在回想起都依然覺得同樣震撼,我想如果Eason有機會演繹Psych-Rock作品的話應該會是頗為轟動的事。


Wednesday, January 23, 2008


"Moon Pix" is the only Cat Power album that I own. For the most obvious reason, it's a rare collaboration between chanteuse Chan Marshall and two of my all-time favourite Post-rockers Mick Turner and Jim White of the Australian trio Dirty Three. With the help of Mick's distinctive tuning that evokes desolation and emptiness, Chan's already insecure, heart-wrenching chanting sounds even more fragile and visceral.

Besides my personal inclination towards the backing musicians, the eleven tracks featured in the album stand as excellent work on their own. In contrast to Dirty Three's own compositions, each song presented here has an unhurriedness that seems to freeze time indefinitely, allowing sentimental listeners to freely indulge in Chan's retelling of stories.

Ten years later after several shifts in artistic directions, Cat Power released her eighth full-length (also her second cover album), the aptly titled "Jukebox", yesterday. As someone who doesn't have enough years behind to have listened to the originals, much less enjoying them, I cannot comment too much on the song selections. However, thanking to an exceptionally talented group of backing staff, the re-arrangements here sound lively and refreshing, embellishing these ageless classics in completely new looks with each track stylishly laid out to accentuate Chan's surprisingly soulful, sultry voice. Regrettably, all these efforts are rather short with several shy of the three minutes mark, leaving little room for aesthetic re-interpretation and expansion. It's worth noting that Matador has released a limited version of the album in silver foil deluxe package with a bonus disc, but unless you have been a loyal follower of Ms. Marshall, this introspective yet uninteresting collection may be a little short of entertainment.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Are you a regular jogger?

With the intention of losing some calories after couch potatoing in front of my computer for hours this afternoon, I was out jogging with my ears plugged. When it comes to exercising, Franz Ferdinand-esque new wave pop rock or LCD soundsystem's Nike-commissioned "45:33" are undoubtedly the popular choices. However, I chose to start off with "A Coeur Leger Sommeil Sanglant" by the Canadian band Destroyalldreamers. I've never given much thought about the connection between jogging and Post-rock music before that exact moment, but as I was trying to reconcile the common ground between the two, they suddenly stood out as a natural pair, enhancing the experience of another to the full extent.

As I ran up the hill, the bomb blasting of "The Birth and Death of the Day" (from Explosions in the Sky's last album released in 2007) was ringing in my ears. I felt the world collapsing upon me, with the only exit at the farthest end where Sky and Earth meets. I breathed vehemently as my heart speeded up its pounding, sprinting hastily in a futile effort to beat the irreversible mass destruction at the final moment.

Often when I walk on the road, I spontaneously imagine myself smashed by a car, probably driven by some careless teenager who has never regarded driving seriously. Of course, I consciously avoid as much traffic as possible, just like what everyone else does. Is this some sort of delusional detachment from reality? I wonder what I would look like after the disastrous moment. Would I be smiling like some freaks I've watched in the movies? I have always admitted the masochistic side of me. Even though I face no immediate pressure in life, I occasionally would like to think of myself living a miserable life. After all, the possession of such feeling is what makes us human.

Next time when I go out I better listen to some other types of music, just to see what other imagery I will be able to conjure up in my psychopathic mind.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


As we've seen so many Instrumental Rock (and/or Post-rock) bands walking the unfortunate path of self-repeating their earlier work, the creative sparkles that helped to launch the whole revolution of rock music have faded into the history books, only cherished by nostalgists who still remember the time when it all happened.

Even though sonic amazements come far and between nowadays, it's not unusual to pick up some hidden gems along the way, sincere efforts made by little known small-town bands who have their own unique interpretations of rock music. In 2007, we witnessed one of the best cover albums in quite some time from the Athens, Georgia six-piece Japancakes, whose meticulously re-arranged renditions of the paramount shoegazing masterpiece—"Loveless"—has stunned some of the long time followers of the recently revived genre. The use of strings in place of vocals, if not ingenius, is a delightful deviation from conventional composition that has brought joyous listeners and fans around the world raving on their blogs, yours truly included.

Around the same time at which "Loveless" was released, Japancakes came out with their sixth original full-length, titled "Giving Machines", an eight-track compilation of instrumental bliss that vaguely resembles the style in which the sister album is written. One only has to lend his ears to the first two tracks—"Double Jointed" and "Lalita"—to appreciate the harmonious beauty composed of melodic strings, ethereal guitar lines and warm keyboard notes. "Heaven or Las Vegas", which originally appeared on Cocteau Twins' eponymous album in 1990, is arguably the best effort given by the band by staying true to the distinctive sound of the 80's despite the superficial face-lift. "The Enabler", a short spacious dreamscape followed by "Recovering Australia"—the most visual track on the album—is as close as the band gets to their drone origins, which is not entirely a bad thing considering the band's congenital ability to pen sweet, harmless soundtracks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


不知道是機緣巧合還是受到某種內在物質影響,我對由三人組成的搖滾樂隊總是特別有興趣。遠至很久以前的老牌樂隊Blonde Redhead,到前幾年的The Secret Machines(於去年減少為兩人)、Autolux(個人認為這五年來最出色的Shoegazing樂隊),再近至這兩年的Magneta Lane和The Grates,全部都是以主音結他手、低音和鼓手為基本配置的隊伍。最近我又喜歡上了名為Love of Diagrams這隊來自澳洲的三人獨立樂隊。

玩著和Magneta Lane頗為相似的復古流行Post Punk,Love of Diagrams出道不久就受到了美國樂迷的注意,更被著名廠牌Matador迅速收歸旗下,於去年推出了北美首張大碟【Mosaic】。老實說,這張唱片的水準只算普通,是我去年感到失望的其中一份子。或許是所有事情都來得太快,樂隊根本還沒有足夠的時間和靈感去打造一張精彩扎實的作品。碟內雖然不乏精彩的零碎片段,但總體來說未能讓聽眾留下什麼深刻印象,在現時這個資訊氾濫的年代要突圍而出很不容易。

反之,樂隊到目前為止推出過的兩張EP都有一定質數,歌曲旋律搶耳動聽,在編曲上亦點到即止恰到好處,證明Love of Diagrams不是沒有好作品,只是還未能寫出一張完整連貫的正式大碟,在這個競爭激烈的樂壇找到自己的一席位。

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Confessions of a Music Lover 2007 Part 3

  • Bishop Allen - 【The Broken String】

    去年來自紐約的Indie樂隊Bishop Allen以驚人的創作力和耐力完成了令人目瞪口呆的「12 EP Project」- 在十二個月內發行了十二張以每個月份命名的EP。而最可怕的是這十二張EP並不是濫竽充數的次貨,恰好相反每首作品都是格外甜美窩心的小品,最適合小情人們坐在一起欣賞。

    在零七年樂隊發行了他們第二張大碟【The Broken String】,進一步擴大他們的聽眾層面。對如筆者般已經全數擁有他們十二張EP的人來說,這張專輯其實算得上是雞肋,皆因全碟十二首歌曲裡面竟有十首已經在之前各張EP裡邊收錄過。不過對於初次接觸他們的新聽眾來說,【The Broken String】仍然有一定的收藏價值,實乃不可多得的一張Indie Pop作品。

  • The Besnard Lakes - 【The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse】

    迷幻型的音樂永遠是最直接的興奮劑,可惜就算每年推出市面的唱片浩如煙海,要找一張上等的迷幻搖滾唱片仍然是很不容易。幸好,二零零七年我們有【The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse】,只有真正聽過這張專輯才會了解什麼是迷幻的感覺。

  • Miracle Fortress - 【Five Roses】

    這兩三年加拿大已經發展成為全球獨立音樂圈中一股不能忽視的新勢力,才華橫溢的樂隊和音樂人一浪接一浪,讓我們追得喘不過氣來。而其中以法語人口為主的Montreal更被視為音樂聖地,為世界各地樂迷們源源不絕地提供優秀的唱片作品。在零七年芸芸眾多出產自Montreal的作品裡邊最得我歡心的則首選【Five Roses】這張Debut。和很多其他同鄉一樣,Miracle Fortress這支由Graham Van Pelt領軍的樂團十分擅長譜寫富有加國特色的浪漫旋律,音色和氣氛都溫暖窩心得沒話說,再次向世人證明睡房音樂的可愛。

  • Boris with Michio Kurihara - 【Rainbows】

    除了Ghost、Mono和World's End Girlfriend之外,其實我已經很久沒有接觸日本音樂,縱使我深深知道他們的水平是如此的高。亦因為Ghost的關係,我發現了這張由Ghost結他手栗原道夫(Michio Kurihara)和日本實驗金屬班霸樂團Boris合作發行的專輯【Rainbow】。雖然這只是一張one-off的side project,但其可聽性卻是強得讓人驚訝,尤其是那兼具折衷和實驗的專輯方向更是令我十分欣賞。聽完這張專輯之後再找回很多Boris從前的作品來聽,但感覺卻來得遠遠沒有初聽【Rainbow】時的震撼。

  • LCD Soundsystem - 【Sound Of Silver】

    LCD Soundsystem這張新專輯是很多人的心頭愛,相信我亦不需多作介紹。雖然我不是電子舞曲的狂熱崇拜者,但【Sound Of Silver】如此完美地揉合了電氣搖滾和舞曲這兩種亦剛亦柔的音樂風格,又怎能不讓每位樂迷聽得愛不釋手?

  • Dean & Britta - 【Back Number】

    雖然Luna已經無可挽回地解散了,但只要一日Dean & Britta這對夫妻檔還需要零用錢,樂迷們還會有聽到好音樂的耳福。不知Damon & Naomi這一對的下一張專輯又要我們等到何時呢?

  • Calla - 【Strength In Numbers】

    【Strength In Numbers】是一張被大部份人遺忘的好專輯,甚至很多人已經忘記了它的存在。或者Calla的名氣自從2001年發行了石破天驚的經典【Scavengers】之後就江河日下,但他們在我心目中依然是一支擁有強烈個人風格的搖滾樂隊。新專輯在風格上比以往作品「陽光」得多,初聽時覺得有點不習慣,但後來發覺其實在骨子裡這張作品仍然蓋上了Calla的印記。

  • The Good, The Bad & The Queen - 【S/T】

    零六年Graham Coxon大搖大擺地發行了極受好評的專輯【Love Travels At Illegal Speeds】(這亦是我去年的前二十大之一),他的前度另一半Damon Albarn亦毫不輸蝕,去年集合Paul Simonon、Simon Tong和Tony Allen這幾個老前輩組了一隊夢幻組合,發行了【The Good, The Bad & The Queen】這一張概念專輯。單從音樂上來說,這張作品無疑將Brit-Pop音樂帶回到過去的最高水準,只是不知道這股殘餘力量還可以維持多久?

  • Low - 【Drums And Guns】

    Sadcore教祖Low每一次推出新作品都是那麼的讓人期望,去年的【Drums And Guns】亦不例外。在這張專輯裡邊Low加重了人聲的重要性,在很多地方用上了二重甚至是多重的和音,不知是否為了反映美國普遍民眾對伊拉克戰爭的厭惡。但無論背後的用意是何,Low又一次滿足了樂迷們的期望,繼續在他們十多年來的豐富音樂歷程上寫上新的一頁。

  • The Polyphonic Spree - 【The Fragile Army】

    和【Drums And Guns】一樣,【The Fragile Army】亦是一張反戰專輯,只是在形式上有些不同。如果Low是代表了無聲抗議,那麼The Polyphonic Spree就如同那些在七.一上街的維園民眾,以激烈和熾熱的情緒影響著身邊的每一個人,讓追隨他們的信徒們都勇敢地站出來為自己的價值觀奮戰。

    不知不覺已經寫了這麼多張專輯,希望今年My Bloody Valentine真的會信守承諾推出新作,不要像Portishead那樣只聞樓梯響,讓大家等到頸都長。當然還有希望可以聽到更多令人耳目一新的新樂隊和作品。Bring it on,2008﹗

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Confessions of a Music Lover 2007 Part 2

  • The National - 【Boxer】

    我以前幾乎不聽The National的作品,就算是大獲好評的前作【Alligator】我也只聽了幾次就沒有再聽下去。但從今年的【Boxer】可以看到樂隊在寫歌技巧和情感利用上的明顯進步,主音Matt Berninger那極具個人魅力的磁性嗓音更是讓人心碎。全碟十二首作品都滲透著無盡的憂鬱,實在是都市人今年必聽的佳作。

  • Japancakes - 【Loveless】


  • Radiohead - 【In Rainbows】


  • The Shins - 【Wincing The Night Away】

    看來在年頭推出唱片實在沒有任何好處,這張在去年一月大獲好評的專輯竟然在各大年尾榜單找不到任何位置,實在是一個不小的遺憾。The Shins在這張專輯裡面充份發揮了他們華麗的編曲技巧和譜出優美動聽的旋律,於我看來是一張近乎無懈可擊的Indie Pop作品,唯一及不上The Decemberists的地方可能就只有歌詞的部份吧。

  • Dinosaur Jr. - 【Beyond】

    老氣橫秋的一代班霸Dinosaur Jr.重出江湖,我們這班極度渴望結他音樂的樂迷又怎能不引頸以待。幸好樂隊並沒有讓我們失望,J. Mascis那一手狠辣的結他還是那麼澎湃,在現場觀看他們演出的時候如果不帶耳塞的話相信耳膜被震破的機會是百分之百。

  • The Fiery Furnaces - 【Widow City】

    在經過略為令人失望的兩張專輯之後,我心愛的The Fiery Furnaces和心中女神Eleanor Friedberger終於又回到【Blueberry Boat】時期以Song-based為主的歌曲風格。再加上Matt滿腦子的搞怪意念,這張集合了動聽旋律和實驗編曲的作品就此誕生,亦讓我對樂隊再次充滿了熱切冀望。

    Part 2就說到這裡為止,下一篇文章將介紹其餘剩下的作品。