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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
I know you’ve got a forthcoming album to promote, so you’re going to have to give a gajillion interviews loaded with controversial statements, so that blogs will have something to write about, so that Twitter will get a new trending topic, so that you’ll generate more buzz, so that the wheels will get greased, so that the whole machine behind making you a pop star will get cranking, but I’m going to need you to stop talking for a while, okay?
Because every time I read another interview with you, I like you less and less. And I like you a lot. And I’d like it to stay that way. But it’s kind of impossible when you say things like you’re living in Brentwood because you can’t afford New York. Not that I’m not curious about why you’re living in Brentwood. But, as HuffPo pointed out, real estate there goes for $636 a square foot. You know what would be revolutionary and guerrilla-style? If you said something like, “I’m a mom now, and Brentwood’s safe” or “I’m rich now, where do you want me to live?” or “I like how unchallenging Brentwood is, I don’t have to be cool here” or even something hilariously bourgie like, “I picked Brentwood because I fell in love with this particular house.” You want to get heads spinning? Tell me you’re a Westside–and, uh, I don’t mean in the 2PAC sense–soccer mom. But tell me you’re living in Brentwood because you can’t afford other places, and I want to punch you, as Diana would say, in the neckmeat.
You’re an artist and a storyteller, and we love it when you embellish the truth–as the GQ profile I’m talking about points out you often do–but we don’t like it when you’re dishonest, not so much in the factual sense, but in the emotional sense. So the only Continue reading ROCK OF ASIAN: Less Talking, More Rocking, M.I.A.
Filed under: Brentwood Sucks, GQ, Ladies Who Rock, Lynn Hirschberg, M.I.A., M.I.A. GQ Interview, Maya Arulpragasam, Rocking My Face Off, Sri Lanka, STFU, Stop Talking, Tamils, Terrorism, Truffle Fries
Name: Karen Han
Occupation: Erhu (Chinese two-stringed violin) Virtuoso
Hails from: Los Angeles
Why She’s A Babe: Flawless Skin. Elegant Lines. A killer musical talent. And then some.
It was hard to take our eyes off of Han during the broadcast of the Oscars, in which her husband Paul N.J. Ottosson won two consecutive awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing on The Hurt Locker. Now, winning is damn near everything to Asians, but when someone other than ourselves does the winning, it can be another story. In fact, one of the most of telling moments in any of our lives is watching someone else–particularly our partners–win.
See video of the acceptance speech:
Continue reading BABEWATCH: Karen Han
Filed under: Anti-Agin' Asian, Awesome Wives, Beautiful Ladies, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Chinese Violin, Erhu, Gore Vidal, Great Skin, Happiness, Karen Han, Ladies Who Rock, Moral Support, Oscars 2010, Paul N.J. Ottosson, Supportive Partners, The Hurt Locker, The Oscars, Winning, Winning Isn't Everything
Look at these adorable ladies:
Aren’t they sweet? They’re Nisenenmondai (which apparently means “Year 2000 Problem,” remember that?), a veteran Japanese trio that has been playing a sick blend of lo-fi/wall-of-sound/punk/noise/distortion rock for a decade. The music is, all at once: cerebral, playful, aggressive, daunting, methodical, modern, mathematical, organic impulsive, deliberate, visceral and new. Hunh.
In short, Nissenmondai sounds (IMHO) like this:
Filed under: Adorable, Asian Ladies Rock, Awesome Japanese Bands, Denim Art, Distortion Rock, Don't Be Fooled By That Cute Facade, Hokusai, Hybrids, Japanese Bands, Ladies Who Rock, Lo-Fi Sounds, Nisennenmondai, Pleasant Cacophony, Pretty Ladies, Punk, Veterans, Year 200 Problem
We basically love everything about the Hong Kong-born, California-raised Jane Lui. There’s that sweet, naturally pretty face of hers, coupled with her skinny frame and goofy-adorable aesthetic. And there’s her very familiar immigrant story and too-cute happy energy. But above all things, we love the strong, smoky, sensual voice that emanates from somewhere within the tiny person: a power tool that comes unexpectedly from its host.
Since discovering Lui’s greatness, we’ ve combed through her official site, stalked her on MySpace and Facebook, followed her on Twitter, and subscribed to her YouTube channel–uh, call us superfans (or creeps). What we really can’t seem to get enough of, though, is this collaboration with YouTube star SingingDork888, a cover of The Turtles’ classic “Happy Together” that gives us all kind of sweetheart tingles:
It makes us sigh, like black-and-white pictures of our parents when they were skinny, young, and smiling.
SoCal residents, catch some live Jane Lui action with DISGRASIAN favorites Kina Grannis and David Choi this month (May 14th at 6pm) at the UC Riverside campus Bell Tower. We’re gonna try and be cool in the back, but it’ll be hard.
Occupation: Model, singer for LA band West Indian Girl
Why She’s A Babe: We’ll admit, we didn’t know much about Q (apparently she goes by the letter to avoid lengthy conversations about her actual name) until her engagement to Trent Reznor was announced today. But there’s no denying of this lady’s hotness–cuz she rocks in her own right, refuses to tone her wild style down, and–like her whole family (in her own words)–was “corseted by God” wtih a teeny-tiny, s-s-sexy and womanly waist.
Okay, we’re officially jealous. Not of her upcoming nuptials, but definitely of her corset.
Paris-based Maggie Kim is absolutely stunning to look at, but don’t let that distract you from her many illustrious musical gifts. Kim’s voice drips with desire–a smoky, alluring blend of PJ Harvey, Chrissie Hynde, and something all her own–she adds a knowing, bluesy, quirky, New York-y tenor to lyrics like, “Baby please, come back to me” and “Why don’t you know… I could be yours?” All of this, of course, made the more interesting by an eclectic mix of punk riffs, gentle pop beats, r&b bass lines.
Kim’s newest, an album sweetly entitled, “Love Like Everyone” (which features the production genius of Chris Fudurich and Brent Arnold, as well as an instrumental cameo by Mike Watt) is due for a May release, and she’s in the States to spread the word. If you’re in SF, NYC, or LA for her mini-tour dates this month, and you don’t show your face, you’re a gigantic asshole and we promise you’ll regret it.
Find out more at her official site.
Lord knows I’m weak for a beautiful girl with a dark, textured, dreamy, lilting set of chords. And so I am in love with Bat for Lashes (real name: Natasha Khan), a Pashtun-English songbird whose tracks have been tickling ears publicly since 2006.
Khan has consistently offered songs that unfold like meandering mural paintings or ephemeral dreams, from the debut single, “The Wizard,” to an ethereal, gypsy cover of The Cure classic “A Forest.” There’s something very Cocteau Twins-meets-Cat Power about it all that’s totally satisfying, familiar, and modern.
Her new album, Two Sons, which features collaborations with Scott Walker and Yeasayer, is due for release next month and available for pre-order on Amazon. In the meantime, listen to the LP’s first single, “Daniel,” on MySpace.
Alright, alright. If you’ve been following I Am Spoonbender for years, don’t hate. I’m slow. I just realized that one of my favorite chicks, Robynn Iwata (guitar-plucker from the now-defunct Vancouver band, cub), has been rocking keys, vox, and freaky-rad bangs for IAS since ’97.
It’s everything that’s good about Electro-prog-indie-synth-fuzz-werk–disjointed, spacey, futuristic, danceable, visceral tunes that infiltrate your dreams. What have I been doing without it for the last decade? Just crying, motionless, here on Earth, I suppose.
I have TWICE been the victim of metal-induced Asian road rage. Picture this: two months ago, I’m driving to my parents’ house in Orange County, windows down, sunroof open, Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” a-blasting, me happily a-nodding along and a-drumming on my steering wheel. I pull up to a stop light. The music is kind of mortifyingly loud, but no one is around to force the feeling, until a young 20-something couple in a suped-up (read: lowered, old, and grubby) Nissan roll up on my right. The girl (passenger), perhaps pre-road hummer, is leaning into the lap of the guy (driver)–but as they pull to the line, they both stop to look at me.
But what do I care? I’m not embarassed of “Puppets,” for chrissake, it rocks! Who would laugh at this near-perfect opus? Plus, I’m not in high school, these guys are total nerds, and my V6 could out-dick their four cylinders any day. If we were moving, that is.
The light stays red. The girl points at me. They join together in laughter directed at me. I look straight ahead and begin to fume, becoming adamant at this point–I’m not going to acknowledge their ridicule or turn my goddamn tunes down! They’re kids! Kids, I tell you! Nerds! Mediocre-looking nerds!
The song ends and the gentle opening riffs of “One” cue up. I fast-forward on my iPod until the noodling begins. I turn the volume dial clockwise.
Their laughter erupts. I hate these motherfuckers! What in god’s name do they have on their iPod, I wonder rudely (albeit silently)–Oasis? Late-adopter Death Cab? Fall Out Boy? Weezer? What the fuck?
The light turns green. I slam on the gas, flying off the start far more aggressively than I am accustomed to. The guy gets a kick out of this and slams his foot down, too. Soon, we’re flying through a residential neighborhood, with houses whizzing by, angry grandmas going into conniptions on the side walk. I’m blowing through stop signs and not reading speed limit signs–hells bells, I’m defending my honor, here! And the honor of James Hetfield! Grubby Nissan guy starts to tail me.
This goes on for awhile. Suddenly, I get a call on the BlackBerry from Dad. I’m about to pull over to answer it when I realize I’m thirty seconds away from their house. I slink over to turn into their gated community. The couple collapses into even more laughter, growl their little engine, spit out the window, and race off.
All I’m thinking is: Metallica? Really?
Two weeks later, I’m cruising in East LA, griping about the 90-degree winter heat to the tune of Slayer’s “South of Heaven.” A dude in a royal blue lowered Integra (I’ll have you all know that the low Integra is my car alma mater) comes up on my left, flips me off, and barrels down the street.
All I’m thinking is: Slayer? Really?
I don’t know what it is about me, loud music, imported cars, and angry millenials, but they don’t seem to fucking mix. So it is with deep pride and joy that I declare my love for Boris, a fucked-up Japanese metal band that has been around 4-eva and is still doing awesome shit.
I mean, even if you didn‘t like the way they sounded, you’d have to give them big ups for having one dude that looks like Bowie and a tiny chick that makes a lot of noise. But I like the way they sound–loud, in my car, with my windows down.
Take that, muthafuckaz!
The unthinkable is happening, folks: it’s raining in Southern California. Which means that anything outside of the house is a mess of tumult and wet chaos, from work-hooky to car wreck rubbernecking to mudslides to spoiled outdoor lunches! Most Angelenos know better–when it rains, we simply stay indoors all day, all cozy in cashmere blankets and designer pajamas, gazing out of the window while acquainting our ears with the unfamiliar sound of wet drops on our sundecks.
It’s also a good time to pull out our sleepiest, sappiest, drippiest, droopiest of favorite records–the only miserable champs willing to limp through such an unordinary day alongside us. For me that usually means Bessie Smith on vinyl, or Mark Kozelek on plastic. But today, it’s all about Rachel Yamagata, whose presence and throaty voice are both so pretty, so very pretty. And whose newest sad song, “Elephant” just seems so right as I’m indulging myself for one very rare rainy day.
Filed under: Beautiful Ladies, Bessie Smith, Ladies Who Rock, Mark Kozelek, Race Mixing is Cool, Rachel Yamagata, Rain, There'll Be Sad Songs to Make You Cry--Love Songs Often Do, Weather In Los Angeles?
35? Ya mean, 17? That is just ridiculous. Look at her, so cute as a frickin’ button. Skin as smooth as a fresh nectarine. Body as perky as a pre-pubescent ballet student. She’s voiced half of the world’s most adorable cartoon rock star duo, for cryin’ out loud! She’s fantastic.
Many birthday wishes go out across the Pacific to our lady in Japan, including this one: may you look 35 4eva. Dayum.