Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wild Beasts On Tour - In D.C. At 9:30 Club On July 16 - Play Loop The Loop Here!

Following my review of Smother yesterday I bring you news that Wild Beasts are touring the U.S. this summer and fall and they are due to play D.C.'s famous 9:30 Club on Saturday, July 16, 2011.

I'm going to try to go to the show to see if the U.K. band can add to the magic that's on their new record; these songs seem designed for live performances and I've got a hunch that Wild Beasts are dynamic in a live setting.

Until then, follow the band on Domino Records, or on their own website, or on their Facebook page.

More importantly, if you haven't grabbed Smother yet, play "Loop The Loop" here. That should convince you that the album is one of the musical highlights of 2011.

Wild Beasts - Loop The Loop by DominoRecordCo

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Review Of Smother From Wild Beasts

I am so late to the party on Wild Beasts but I finally got Smother, out now on Domino Records, and it's a delight.

I'm sometimes prone to that sort of lazy description that reeks of 1980s music journalism but here goes: Smother sounds like China Crisis covering Side 1 of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love (1985) album.

If that sounds less like a bad idea than one that might make you go: "Hmm", I'd say to keep reading and then seek out this record.

I mean, there's an organic sound here that recalls The Blue Nile, China Crisis, and Kate Bush. And, yet, the record sounds utterly modern and fresh and human despite any number of electronic sounds permeating the mix.

I keep recalling Elbow here but where that group seemed to be taking Britpop and stripping it down to the basic elements, Wild Beasts seem to be making a less jittery pass at those first Talking Heads albums.

This is art rock but an art rock of the everyday -- hence that Elbow go-to on my part -- and one free of too much overt pretension.

Listen to "Invisible" and ask yourself how can singer Hayden Thorpe sound like 3 different vocalists over the course of the track.

And then listen to the range of sounds the other 3 members of the band produce.

It's a beautiful song and it seems to hit at the mood that Radiohead once captured before they disappeared largely up their own arses.

"Loop The Loop" features a plucked guitar line and what could be a drum or a keyboard loop as Thorpe asks: "Don't you think that people are the strangest things?"

"Plaything" recalls an artier era. With drums -- or a drum machine? -- somehow bringing to mind a less sinister "Atrocity Exhibition" by Joy Division, the song pushes in unusual ways. There's something sad and disturbing here but this sort of mature art rock is something I've missed in the last few decades; in the early 1980s' post-rock boom, there were a lot of bands taking risks like this.

If "Albatross" is the lighthearted, almost peppy, single from Smother, then a track like "Burning" is the darker cousin. Bringing to mind the unheralded Long Fin Killie, the guitar or mandolin rattles like a rusty harp as the vocals begin, Thorpe's voice very much forward in the mix.

Album closer "End Come Too Soon" opens with what sounds like Vini Reilly of Durutti Column plucking out a guitar figure, a piano entering somewhere behind that. As the other instruments enter the mix, the song ambles along with a sort of easy catchiness that I found really charming. It's odd, but the longest song on the record is, perhaps, the most melodic and lyrical. The slight jitteriness of earlier tracks is gone as "End Come Too Soon" unfurls like something off of side 2 of The Unforgettable Fire.

As Thorpe's amazing voice takes flight on the coda to "End Come Too Soon", I found myself trying to pinpoint all the pieces I was hearing but it didn't matter really; the song intoxicates with a swirl of familiar pieces put together in a new, unfamiliar but warm, way. The song, like most of Smother, is rich music of the sort not made very often in today's musical world.

It seems that some reviews of Wild Beasts seize upon the the sense of sexual ambiguity in the lyrics, or maybe Thorpe's androgynous vocal style. That's lazy. It's also dangerously reductive just like it was in 1983 when journalists wanted The Smiths to be a "Gay" group.

No, good music is good music. What makes the music of Wild Beasts so great is that it is human music, with real emotion and moments of beauty and subtlety not found in the work of many other contemporary acts.

Follow the band on Domino Records, or on their own website, or on their Facebook page.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Duel At Hokkaido Seafood Buffet in Falls Church

My friend Mike, who is not really fat, said he wanted to go back to Hokkaido Seafood Buffet in Falls Church, Virginia tonight. So I didn't eat much today.

I knew what was gonna go down.

Hokkaio Seafood Buffet has Chinese and Japanese food and all that usual buffet-type stuff for about $20.00 per person (plus extra for a soda) but I tend to only visit the sushi table with a single-minded intensity when I go to this place; why look at General Tso's chicken when there's eel to be had?

Mike hits the crab legs like a guy who's never had them before.

I took a camera this time so that I could chronicle the mayhem.

This all went down in about 2 hours.

I may not eat again until Monday morning.

My first plate: eel, tuna, some kind of roe, shrimp, and so on...

Not so much Mike's first plate as Mike's first course...

The mess after Mike's first course...

My 2nd plate. More eel, fake crab, red snapper sashimi, tuna sashimi, and salmon sashimi...

Mike found the raw oysters!

Mike had more crab legs too...
And something resembling a very rare steak...

And he had some Mongolian BBQ (here called teppanyaki but the same idea as other buffets)...

My 3rd plate. More eel and shrimp and tuna and so on..

Mike at work...

I'm done. My final plate. Eel pieces numbers 22, 23, 24, and 25!

Mike finishes off the evening with some watermelon and ice cream...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Captain America Trailer 2

Can you tell that I'm excited about Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)?

I didn't know there was going to be a second full length trailer until last night and I've probably watched it a dozen times since then.

The rock music -- Tool? -- doesn't seem to fit but I liked it otherwise. My faith in this film is riding high and I think it's the sort of thing that will remain faithful to the Captain America I grew up with; it doesn't look like they've tried to make the character too dark and mysterious -- wouldn't fit Cap anyway -- so that's a good thing.

When the Red Skull, presumably, asks Captain America: "What makes you so special?" and Cap answers: "Nothing. I'm just a kid from Brooklyn." I felt like that was a moment that would have made Jack Kirby proud.

And the film seems to be treading a fine line between being flag-waving and jingoistic and being realistic; fighting Nazis in World War 2 is the sort of story that would require a bit of flag-waving, wouldn't it?

We are about 4 weeks away from the opening of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and I've yet to see anything to make me nervous about this film.

Could it end up being as good as Iron Man (2008)?

This Cap fan is hoping so.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Download New Razika Song HERE!!!

God, I love this band!

Razika are due to release their full length debut album, Program 91, on 16 August 2011 on the Smalltown Supersound label.

For now, here's yet another stunning bit of pop magic from Razika, somehow magically combining the best bits of The Specials and The Cardigans.

I don't know how they do it but the young ladies of Razika manage to take familiar elements and create something that feels fresh and new and wholly original.

And the fact that these songs are so catchy despite being sung in Norwegian is yet another plus!

This is "Eg Vetsje" and you can download it here.

Follow Razika on these sites:

Razika's Facebook page

Razika's MySpace page

Razika on the Smalltown Supersound label site

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

About That Hong Kong Job Search

Okay, so about that Hong Kong job search...

I went over to Hong Kong for two reasons. One of them was the job search and the other one was a personal thing. For now.

Call me lazy, but I didn't line up too many interviews in advance; there just didn't see to be that many ads on JobsDB.com prior to the trip that fit my qualifications.

So in the first week of the trip I met with a recruiter from the Connected Group.

This recruiter was very helpful, as he had been via e-mail prior to the trip.

I learned a bit about the Hong Kong job market and what would most likely be my best sources for employment there.

Interestingly, based on this recruiter's earlier recommendation, I had been putting down my target salary as $30,000.00 HKD per month -- Hong Kong salaries are listed monthly. That was my hunch as to what I would need to live quite comfortably in Hong Kong, and save up and pay off some bills back home.

In an earlier conversation, this recruiter told me that he had placed editors in jobs with salaries between $25,000 and $35,000 HKD per month so I was right in the middle of that range.

For some reason during our face-to-face meeting, he told me to up my desired salary to $35,000 to $40,000 HKD per month even while telling me that associate editors at one of the big newspapers only made $38,000 HKD.

I didn't change my target.

Next, based upon a chain of names and e-mails I can't even remember now, I had lined up an informal interview with an editor at a big newspaper in Hong Kong. This editor was very kind to meet with me and we got coffee in Causeway Bay.

I should add that our meeting was originally scheduled for the first week I was in Hong Kong, but my contact had some health issues so we had to reschedule for the next week.

During our hour-long chat, he seemed more concerned about my lack of newspaper experience than anything else. Obviously, I knew that I had that gap but I also knew that I did have 15 years of editing experience which might allow me to fit in somewhere at a newspaper/media company in the 21st century.

A few days later, I hiked out to Tai Po and interviewed with another editor at the same publication, this time one not on the newspaper side of things.

That interview went well for a casual one. Clearly, there would be no position available until at least September but there was some discussion of remote editing gigs at this paper. I remain curious about those positions and would like to learn more about them.

In neither of my interviews did the move from America to Hong Kong seem to be much of a burden; the company was well used to sponsoring visas for new employees.

Frankly, my lack of newspaper editing came up as a hindrance more than anything else.

And that's it.

I didn't go to any networking events, like those pricey cocktail meet-and-greets at the American Chamber of Commerce, and I didn't apply for anything else while I was there in Hong Kong.

I am strangely optimistic about my chances in Hong Kong and simultaneously more dejected.

I guess I'm still working out what I think it would take to make the move to Hong Kong.

And I'm still wondering if I should just quit my job, take my vacation buyout pay, and move to Hong Kong and start my job search in earnest.

I'm almost more convinced than before that I don't want just any job in Hong Kong. I feel like even if I did make the move over there, I'd be even more selective in what I applied for than ever before.

And I've lowered my accepted salary even if I'd still put that $30,000 HKD down on any new applications I might send out; $25,000 HKD is do-able for me but why not shoot for a bit more?

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's A Long Way From Wan Chai To Tai Po

I went all the way out to Tai Po for a job interview -- more on that later -- and I've got to say: it's a long way out there!

I was running late after lunch and shopping so I did the touristy thing and got a taxi. At least that way, I was not sweating quite as much upon my arrival.

I have to say that if I worked out there, I'd either have to live near the office and be bored -- it's just housing complexes and offices -- or I'd have to live on Hong Kong Island, or something, and ride the commuter bus every morning and night.

There's no way I could do the train-MTR-walking commute every day. It would be as hellish in its own way as my Maryland Beltway commute is now. Maybe worse?

Thai fried rice with shrimp paste for lunch. It came, inexplicably, with a scrambled egg and Canadian bacon. Okay...

The vista from my job interview in the New Territories...

I made it back on the KCR train and headed for the first real MTR stop...

Friday night rush hour on the subway car into Hong Kong...

Joey Yung is still up on the billboard in Causeway Bay...

I went back to Ippei-An for a third time, this time determined to have the kushiyaki. I had a Japanese onion with paper-thin shavings of bonito on top...

Kushiyaki. From the left: scallops (taste killed by mushrooms seared into them); chicken with Japanese mayonnaise on top; chicken skin in the middle; chicken kidneys on the right; somewhere underneath is a skewer of pork and a skewer of quail eggs wrapped in bacon...

This is the pricey tuna cheek. It was only about $4USD per skewer...

And, of course, that egg pudding to push me over the top gastronomically...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hitting A Dai Pai Dong In The Rain

It was raining so we had to eat inside. This dai pai dong is near my hotel and I can't believe I walked past it so many times on 4 trips without venturing inside....

We had those spicy clams in black bean sauce above, as well as razor, or bamboo, clams which were not spicy at all...

This is the oyster omelet sort of thing. Delicious. It came with a fish sauce like you might find at a Vietnamese restaurant...

Fewer clams are left and the mess is increasing...

The aftermath. I was sweating and mopping my brow by this point...

Green Lantern Lands In Hong Kong: A Mini-Review And More Food Photos!

Despite all of the special people and fun places I came to Hong Kong to see, today really revolved around Green Lantern (2011) which opened here this morning.

Let me first say this: despite playing Green Lantern with a rusty cast-iron red (!) lantern and a ring from Cracker Jack box as a child, DC's Green Lantern just doesn't entirely fill me with the kind of joy that Captain America and The Thing and other Marvel characters do.

That said, I was looking forward to the film and here's my first reaction: the problems with this movie -- surprisingly! -- have little to do with Ryan Reynolds!

How can a film with so much exposition be so friggin' confusing?

Problems with Green Lantern (2011): The dialogue is as stilted and forced as a comic book from the 1960s. The subplots are poorly set up and they remain confounding time-wasters. The whole Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) plot is unnecessary; who needs a second villain when you've got the planet-devouring Parallax bearing down on Earth? Add to that the fact that Sarsgaard vaguely camps it up a bit and the effect is just ridiculous, like a mincing "Star Trek" villain.

Positives about Green Lantern (2011): The 3-D is acceptable and enjoyable in some spots. Reynolds seems to be striking a different tone here but, as others have already noted, he's not Robert Downey, Jr.. There is a sense of the cosmic here and that's a quality sorely missing from a lot of these superhero films; Thor (2011) looked sillier, frankly. The finale, once Sarsgaard is out of the picture, is cool and seems quite true to the character of The Green Lantern.

Before the film, I went back to Ippei-An only to find that the kushiyaki is not available at lunch. Oh well. I got a curry with pork tonkatsu and I got gyoza as well.

And then I had the egg pudding. Almost as good as a similar dish that I had at Fernando's in Macau nearly two years ago, this dessert was sublime. And it was only about $3.50USD!

I went to HMV today to grab Let The Bullets Fly (2010) and it was only about $11USD! I didn't get too much this time.

If only there were still HMV stores in America and if only I lived in a country where Suede still got this kind of respect!