Saturday, August 01, 2009

Osaka Popstar & the American Legends of Punk

I've had Osaka Popstar & the American Legends of Punk (w/Bonus DVD) for a looong time, and realized I've never talked about how pimpin' this album is in it's music, art, and brand model (yes, I said art and brand model). (Official site is here.)

I hate summaries, but I feel OK if I call it a Japanese anime-vibed punk take on OST themes and roots songs (like "Man of Constant Sorrow", popularized by Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?). Seriously.

And the band is comprised some of the (if not the) top punk purveyors -- John Cafiero & Jerry Only (The Misfits), Dez Cadena (Black Flag), Ivan Julian (Richard Hell & The VOIDOIDS; The Outsets), and freaking Marky Ramone (Um, The Ramones).

Their takes on Sailor Moon and Astro Boy are stellar (I so hope this latter track makes it into the upcoming CG animated film version), the Richard Hell covers ("Blank Generation" and "Love Comes in Spurts", the former being one of my favorites on the album) are tops, the aforementioned "Man of Constant Sorrow" (with contributing vocals from indie icon Daniel Johnston), and Johnston-written "Wicked World" is just ... so apropos.

And it's not just the band and the songs that are an amazing compilation -- its the art and packaging. Contributors include John Pound (Topps bubble-gum cards, Wacky Packs (a special sticker is included with the album), and creator of the Garbage Pail Kids), Dalek (aka at least one-time local-to-me James Marshall (Space Monkeys designer), Butch Lukic (Batman/ Justice League), and Nick Reid Tragnark (who's allegedly partnered with Cafiero to make a "Shaolin Monkeys" animated series, spawned by the album's song, and featuring a wicked slickly stylized look akin to a mashup between Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, or other Genndy Tartakovsky works). Every page of the liner notes is illustrated or photo composited in a playful, cohesive way. As a matter a fact, other than the forgivable divergence of the "Insects" liners, the disc is a great example of brand cohesion.

The album also comes with a DVD that includes animated videos for "Wicked World" (an "evil Kawaii"-esque 2D affair) and "Insects" a photo composited animation, a la early MTV days, and while the bugs are creepy, the flight-suited puppy band avatars are hilarious (as are their reactions to the bugs; every time).

All in all, a great album that scratches all the right spots for me musically, pop culturally, and in a brand-smart, business innovative way.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Play! A Video Game Symphony (Live)

I got to go to PLAY! A Video Game Symphony when the touring show hit North Carolina this month, and it was a phenomenal experience.

If you're not familiar with PLAY!, it's a live symphony performance of music from and inspired by video games -- from Mario to Halo -- with top-notch guest conductors ... conducting.

Our evening's guest conductor was composer, conductor, and symphonist Andy Brick (The Sims II, Arc the Lad, etc.), who aside from being a talented conductor, was personable, engaging, and entertaining (not a given in conductors, unfortunately).

Performances ran the gamut, with images from the games projected over the symphony as they performed, and to me the most technically and artistically sound pieces were the Castlevania, Kingdom Hearts, Halo, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

We were treated to two new performances in NC -- SIM City 4 and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. The former was "OK" (solid, but not differentiated enough for my tastes), but the latter, while rousing in its own right, was even more enjoyable for me because it's one of the titles powered by my company's tech (of course, same goes for Oblivion).

My bias toward WAR and Oblivion speaks slightly to the subjective nature of this performance in general -- it's really going to depend on your emotional attachment to different games, and how those tunes resonate with you in their new form.

WAR was also enjoyable because WAR composer Brad Derrick made a guest appearance.

Also on the guest appearance front, guitarist Carlos Alomar performed on Silent Hill and the Chrono Suite. Alomar might not be a name familiar to you, but his work should be, since he's written and performed with the likes of David Bowie, John Lennon, Iggy Pop, Nine Inch Nails, Duran Duran, and more.

The venue -- the outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, NC -- is fantastic; despite being rained on through the last 4 performances (I was not going to leave, and, besides, I felt the rain added a certain additional gravitas to the Halo suite in particular).

As far as family-friendly (which the event is advertised to be) it's mostly there. There's some fairly disturbing imagery in the Castlevania Suite, and they basically show the entire launch trailer for Warhammer Online, which is bit intense for wee ones. For the most part, they did a great job with the content, and even Silent Hill kept from showcasing its more disturbing moments.

I picked up the CD / DVD combo after the performance, and framkly, am disappointed.

It's an OK CD, but did not (obviously) contain the two new performances from the evening, but it is also so dated that it does not even include the Mario suite, which I very much wanted in my digital library.

The DVD is a disappointment, and feels incomplete and unprofessional, though liner notes caveat this being the result of a challenge with the historic Prague recording location (which, to me, speaks to an opportunity to do it again, "right").

But overall, certainly a worthwhile experience (barring the OK leave-behind reminder), and one that I recommend to lovers of video game and / or symphonic music.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Best of Leadbelly

This is some seriously good, ridiculously soulful jazz / blues / roots from Huddie William Ledbetter.

I had been intending to snag it anyway, but when Amazon released the 26-track MP3 compilation for $5, it was a lock.

Too many good songs to name a favorite, and besides, my favorites aren't your favorites.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'm on a Boat (featuring T-Pain)

I've probably listened to Adam Samberg's "I'm on a Boat" (featuring T-Pain) seventeen times this week.

This from the Lonely Island (Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone) debut album "INCREDIBAD", which may cause you to bust a gut. Repeatedly.

While this is the "clean" version (I have kids with negligent parents who let them visit my site), it's still not for the virgin-eared. The uncensored album version is available here.