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I have no idea why I didn’t become a fan of Japanese ingenue/art/lounge/dirty-voiced singer UA (a chosen name that means both “flower” and “kill” in Swahili) at some point over the last decade and a half of her career. I say with honesty that I regret it. I hate myself for it. I’m annoyed to just be discovering her just now, simply because she just released a covers album to celebrate her 15th anniversary, and it’s fucking amazing. Lord knows I respect a brilliant cover—especially when the material being covered is the kind of stuff that seem far too difficult, important, or obscure to do justice.
On Kaba, UA applies gritty, raw, funky vocals to songs of all those varieties, both Japanese and American. For the English speakers, she tackles a track that perhaps too many people know intimately, “Under the Bridge,” yet breathes new life and a unique motivation into the words originally penned from rock bottom in 90s Los Angeles. She also modernizes Radiohead’s “No Surprises,” simplifies Björk’s “Hyperballad” and shakes up Aretha Franklin’s “Day Dreaming.”
The album is available via download on iTunes, and you can also listen to samples free on Battlestar Records’ site. I’ve included a few teasers of the aforementioned songs below, though. Enjoy!
Continue reading ROCK OF ASIAN: UA’s Cover Album, Kaba
Filed under: 15th Anniversary Album, Aretha Franklin, Awesome Japanese Musicians, Awesome Weirdos, Bjork, Cover Albums, Cover Songs, Japan, Kaba, Ladies Who Rock, Lounge Singers, Love Her Aesthetic, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Singers, UA
If at all, I only watch the first few weeks of any season of American Idol, because I like watching horrible auditions and becoming overwhelmed with icky tingles. I also cry during the background packages about contestants that inevitably nab golden tickets to Hollywood–whether it’s the sweet church singer who takes care of his sick mom, or the country bumpkin with the Tennessee Twang that likes to jump off of bridges for fun:
So I just happened to be watching last week when 62 year-old Larry Platt debuted the original song, “Pants On The Ground” (a track he wrote to encourage baggy pants-wearers to pull their pants up):
Filed under: American Idol, American Idol Auditions, American Idol Season 8, Cover Songs, Golden Ticket, Hollywood, Internet Phenoms, Larry Platt, Malaysia, MC5, Pants On The Ground, Pants On The Ground Phenomenon, Simon Cowell
…add a ukulele and a munchkin. We melt. We simply melt.
Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. OH!!!!! [wombs a-rumble]
[via The Daily What]
Filed under: Adorable-ness, Amazian Jr., Awesome, Cover Songs, Cover Versions, Cute Kids, Cute Things, Instrumentasian, Jason Mraz and his idiotic "Mr. A to Z" Schtick, Jason Mraz And His Stupid Hat, Lame Songs Made Better, Little Guys Who Rock, Ukulele, Ukulele Makes It All Go Away
Why we approve of YouTube darling Lydia Jo:
- Though she’s got about a jillion videos of her singing on the Internets, she’s smart enough to set her social networking profiles to private and keep her junk to herself (Good girl!).
- When covering Mariah Carey songs, she knows to stick to the awesome 90′s stuff, not the creepy, Charmbracelet-era crapola:
- With her cute hair flip, baby cheeks, and funky earrings, she kinda vibes like a modern Claudia Kishi.
- She plays piano real nice.
- She loves family. Try to resist this performance with sis and bro. TRY TO RESIST! (Also, props for roping in siblings… no easy task):
- She is a very talented singer.
It’s kind of shameful to admit but, for many ladies, the allure of a singer/songwriter is the musical promise that someone out there can and will speak to our very soul, peer into our heart and love us like we’ve seen in films and read about in weepy novels. Someone can hold us gently with just the lyrics on their lips, and they won’t muck it up with a gassy burp, prolonged glance at a Tecate girl, or grouchy man moment.
But let’s face it. Some singer/songwriter douchbags neg on the promise, and you realize that when they were talking about your body being a wonderland, they weren’t really talking about you; they meant every groupie and her mom, plus every tabloid-friendly celebrity they could get their grubby little hands on. Ew.
Gabe Bondoc doesn’t seem like an empty promise guy, though. He actually appears to be a real sweetheart, and whispers those soft secrets with a most ticklish, velvety voice, all the while working those animated cheek dimples and angel-perfect mug. Beloved on YouTube for both silly cover songs (like “Part of Your World” from Disney’s The Little Mermaid or N*Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me”) and original compositions, Gabe is a lighthearted dreamboat.
And a gentleman:
…so much so that we wish we were in a movie right now, so we could melt in his dreamy arms.
As you may already know, I’m a big fan of the new Britney album, and I’m not sorry about it. Not one bit. In fact, I’m rocking out to “Piece of Me,” right this very minute.”
So it’s no surprise that I would have a soft spot in my icy little heart for any artist so enchanted by the crazywoman’s new songs that they would perform a cover–even a band with otherwise questionable habits, like citing My Chemical Romance as an influence.
Royal Pirates, a duo of cute Korean guys that apparently operate out of both SoCal and SeoulKo, is that kind of band–a nü-emo, sentimental-thrash sort.
But, hell, after listening to their exquisite cover of Spears’s track, “Circus,” they can make all of the crappy emo-rock-core-pop they want, and I won’t hate. All is forgiven.
There seem to be 100 reasons to love Andrew W.K., the man behind 2001′s frenetic playtime album I Get Wet. If the brilliantly-structured cheeky sonatas of his debut effort don’t hook you, then there’s a chance his doe-eyes will, or, better, his longstanding reputation for being the nicest goddamn guy ever to wield a guitar or let fresh blood drip down his face.
W.K. is damn serious about not taking the world too seriously, apparent in his dancing grin and brazen musical jaunts–and if you happen to be in on the joke, the result is an endlessly satisfying, good fuckin’ time. But let’s be clear–his is not the sadistic, condescending jokery of an angry genius (à la Rivers Cuomo whining “Pork and Beans”), but a warm, cuddly, Hakuna Matata-pluck at hedonism: Not “fuck you” ha-ha, but “FUCK YEAH!” HA HA!
W.K. recently released a series of J-pop covers only found in Japan, meant as a thank-you gift to his equally warm and cuddly fans in the country. The recordings are executed with all the razzle-dazzle of show tunes, theme songs, and pop anthems, but be ready for a surprise. Something in his vocal delivery and synth orchestration makes the songs deliciously smart and might even invoke a little classic Bowie. (I know, I know. You’re like, “What?!”–but just trust me on this one).
The 14 songs, which includes piano ballad “Kiseki,” can be streamed at his website (listed on the album Premium Collection – The Japan Covers–you’ll have to skip the first 10 songs or so) and are worth the buffering. Enjoy!
Groups that were hurt by the making of this video:
- More specifically, Koreans
- More specifically, Korean dudes
- Singing Gaysians
- Recording Studio Engineers/Techs/Producers
- Pop Stars
- Casey Kasem
- Mariah Carey (bringing more shame to this diva is hard to do)
- Those with Rhythm
- Those without Rhythm
- Korean Superpopstar Rain
- Paris Hilton’s New BFF, ONCH
- Jen and Diana
Speaking of which, stop looking at her, dagnabbit! Read this! Eyes to the left! To the left!
Half-Scottish/half-Japanese, raised in Osaka and schooled in the UK, she’s a testament to why race/culture mashing is so freaking cool. Soft-stepped breezy melodies punctuated by bright, punchy vocals, and seminal rock tracks (like, oh, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”) interpreted by a six-string ukelele (that’s right, a six-string ukelele), give the sense of a whole amalgam of influences. Are we at in island jam or a dirty pub crawl? Are we vibing Celtic or feeling super Zen? Quite frankly, we don’t care.
See what we mean:
And get more Clara Belle here.
It was so hard, at a totally prepubescent age in the 80s, to not want to be Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. She came from the wrong side of the tracks, but boy was she hot. She didn’t wear pants. She moved like a gazelle. She had those sincere brown eyes and ridiculously feminine collarbone. She was smooth, she was silky, she was cool, she was sexy. No, she was sex.
Writing this, I’m not actually convinced I was allowed to watch Flashdance with my parents’ knowledge. I think I snuck screenings at my BFF Ashlynn Ritter’s house, while eating popcorn out of those awesome woven wooden snack bowls that only white people seemed to have. My parents didn’t want me watching Jennifer Beals for all of the above reasons. What if I tried to emulate her? Can you imagine a little, fleshy, Vietnamese-Missouran child, decked in nothing but an off-collar sweatshirt, lycra panties, and leg warmers, attempting back bends around the kitchen chair? I think my mom would have shit twice and died.
My mother did not shit twice, nor die, and neither did my admiration for Jennifer Beals. Every single time I hear “Maniac” or “What A Feeling,” I imagine myself pounding out her moves, but in a new, modern fashion, colored by my 2008 brand of sensuality. My lycra panties. My leg kicks. My back bends. All updated for the new millenium.
But it looks like J-pop singer Mura Namie already beat me to it:
Singer-songwriter-cover queen Cat Power, née Chan Marshall, has been touring India and Bangladesh this month on behalf of charity: water, a non-profit that provides clean water to impoverished areas around the world. Marshall’s new cover album, Jukebox, also drops January 22nd, around which time she will be kicking off her musical world tour.
I’ve seen Cat Power twice in concert. The first time was before she famously got on the wagon, at the Troubadour. At that show, she was glued to a bottle of Jose Cuervo, got wasted, started and stopped one song at the piano 7 times while muttering to herself, disappeared and began to sing using her wireless mic from some other part of the club where she couldn’t be seen, came back and did a bizarrely perky lip-sync of a Swoosh song, disappeared again, came back and wandered through the crowd dead-eyed, got down on her knees in the middle of the crowd, sang some more, and then disappeared for the third time, ending the show early. Her backup band just rolled their eyes the entire show and looked depressed. Everyone shuffled out of the club shell-shocked. I thought she would be dead in six months.
But then she got sober and released The Greatest, which was actually not the greatest record, but I believe in second chances. So I saw her again in concert this past September. She was still awkward, kicking around the stage in her white jazz shoes, shrugging her shoulders, getting the crowd to like her by being so teeny and cute as indie chicks are wont to do, and sneaking off now and then to the wings to steal a smoke. She seemed, however, upbeat, and there were no real off-putting antics. That said, I was bored out of my gourd. The music, despite her magical, smoky voice, sounded very adult-contemporary, flat, monotonous, and forgettable.
Cat Power isn’t making it out to L.A. to tour Jukebox. But when she does eventually come west, I won’t get suckered in a third time; I’ll spend my money buying a toilet for someone in Bangalore instead.
Click here to find out more about charity: water.
This past summer, Jen and I went to the Hollywood Bowl to witness Cheap Trick covering The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album from start to finish, an incredibly ambitious feat that confused and kinda embarrassed us. I mean, doing “your take” on an iconic record is just kind of stupid, and not something we encourage. Think of Fall Out Boy covering London Calling, or The Plain White T’s doing Highway 61 Revisited. Good god.
But Japancakes’ rendition of My Bloody Valentine’s epic record Loveless takes our breath away. Stripped of it’s ethereal vocal layerings, the songs suddenly become just simple and gorgeous, as if in their primal stage. We applaud the undertaking–it’s not just good, it’s great. Japancakes clearly don’t just love the album, they get it. And if a band is so lucky as to understand the deep, inner essence of one of the most brilliant bands of our generasian, more power to them.