I should admit, I didn’t find the Sweet Hollywaiians. They found me. Anyone who uses twitter knows that sometimes you can say something like “my god I love raspberry jam” and about ten minutes later you’ll have a jam reviewer following you. It’s the way ads work there, I suppose. Anyways, I was talking about hula music in one of my “tweets” when all of a sudden these guys started following me. I went to their myspace page, learned about them and heard just the most…INCREDIBLE music. And thus began my love affair with the Osaka based Sweet Hollywaiians. What must have been a month or so later, I received a package with four of their albums including the latest, Ticklin’ The Strings (which I am listening to while writing this).
I love this group because they really seem to inherit the spirit of Hot String music and manage to sound authentic. They’re right on par with the original groups of the time such as Ray Noble and His Hawaiians or other revivalist groups like R. Crumb & The Cheap Suit Serenaders and The House Rent Serenaders. Listening to them is like being transported to a 1920s kitchen jam or a small club. They’re just amazing.
What’s more amazing, it seems, is that the Hollywaiians are from Osaka, Japan. A place that sounds so unlikely for this music to thrive enough to form a band as talented as the Hollywaiians. But I suppose that it is further proof that the power of music knows no borders, regardless of genre. The Hollywaiians have played with members of the Cheap Suit Serenaders Robert Armstrong and Tony Marcus. They have received praise from Robert Crumb himself as well as legendary filmmaker Terry Zwigoff who has said that they “have probably the best feel for this 20’s music of any string band working today”.
Here’s a small e-mail interview I did with Nobumasa Takada (aka Mario) of The Sweet Hollywaiians.
The most common reaction from people regarding the Sweet Hollywaiians is surprise that you come from Japan. How did your interest in this kind of music spring up?
In our young days,we were collecting Yazoo Records.Because we were interested in album jackets which were illustrated by Robert Crumb and Robert Armstrong.The music were based on 1920’s,30’s blues,jazz and hawaiian.
What appeals to you most about this type of music?
We can feel nostalgic and sound is comfortable and soft to the ear.
How big is Hot String music in Japan? Is there a community based around it?
Very small.There is a community but very small.Majority of people don’t know about this type of music.
I understand that you all were pursuing solo careers and through an accident you formed the band. What was the accident?
All of our member were at the intersection crossroad.We were all crossing from different directions to each other and all of us crushed at the center of the intersection.It sounds like fake story but It’s true story.
You guys have a European tour coming up, right? Will this be your first time in Europe?
Yes but I have been there so many times in my imagination,Ha!
How did it feel to get high praise from the likes of Robert Crumb and Terry Zwigoff?
We are very glad and so proud of ourself.Because we respect them so much and it’s our pleasure to accept such comments from them.
After the tour, what’s next for the Sweet Hollywaiians?
We’ll come see you.Can we?
And there you have it. A great band with a great sound just doing what they love. That’s the musical dream, right? Remember these guys. You’ll be hearing a lot more from them soon.
Here’s two tracks from their latest album and a video of them playing My Girl From The South Sea Isles.
To me, making a tape is like writing a letter — there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with “Got to Get You Off My Mind”, but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and…oh, there are loads of rules.
-Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
After a bit of a hiatus that involved family deaths, broken hearts and unemployed grief, I’m back to writing for this thing because damn it, I have things to SAY. Expect some stuff in the future consisting of horror indie bands, Japanese Hot String and maybe something steampunky. But for now I want to talk about the concept of “mix tape”.
I know that this subject has been brought up before, but let’s try to look at things a bit differently. Frankly I’m surprised that I’m still hearing griping about this subject.
“The mix tape is dead.” is pretty much the main thing you hear at parties/concerts/any kind of social setting where the topic of music nowadays is brought up amongst anyone who enjoys music. The reasons for why it is dead are always brought up. I’ll spare the rant, but just say that the general view is that with cassettes you could put your HEART into it, man. You could make something completely personal, almost handcraft it, spending hours and hours picking the right songs and the right order and putting it on to the tape and then experiencing the sheer excitement of decorating the cover and tape yourself. Silver spray paint? Sure! Glitter? Damn right! And I would consider you inept if you didn’t draw a picture of a moose.
So the big view is that “you can’t do that nowadays” which let’s face it, is total bullshit. Some people have said that CDs lack that personal touch, but for every person that says that, there are at least two who listen to every single song before they put it anywhere near the tracklist, all the while keeping that person in mind. And for every person that just makes the same CD for their friends, there are two who make one and only one copy and delete the tracklist (while possibly keeping a playlist on their computer so they could think of the person they sent it to).
And anyway, who said that mix tapes have to be personal? One of the great things about music is that it brings people together and that can lead to some incredibly interesting projects with complete strangers found on the internet. Take The Post-Apocalyptic 8tracks Project I started up several months ago. Went on to a forum, created a thread stating a theme (in this case, anything post-apocalyptic), gave them the link to 8tracks along with the account name and password and let them loose. 19 post-apocalyptic mixes were created and we’ve accumulated up to 52 followers with countless people who don’t have accounts listening. A large number of random people putting together a mix based on one central theme can come up with some mind-blowing music that you’ve never heard before. You might want the song and can get it through the use of DownloadHelper (Which officially I should say you should never ever use because it is stealing). From there you can look the artist up and before you know it you might have a new favorite artist.
Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that The Mix Tape is far from dead. The cassette isn’t around anymore, but CDs and the internet are powerful tools and can contain limitless possiblities. If you want to make something personal for that special someone, the fact that you have to use a CD will in no way take away the personal feeling and the touching knowledge that someone cared enough to create a special mix with specifically them in mind just for them. And if you want to discover new music, by all means start or take part in a project similar to the one I mentioned above. Do it on a forum, with your friends, or whatever you want. Use 8tracks or just upload them all on to a free file hosting site. Hell, when it starts up again take part in m3p3, an amazing livejournal audio penpal community. I don’t really how you do it, just go out there and discover some amazing fucking music.
Now here’s some music that I have received in mixes from some random audio mix projects I’ve been a part of.
I feel like god wiped his ass with my brain and I just got beaten up by a group of skinhead midgets from Nebraska. So unless you want to read about the stuff I’m coughing up and how it compares to whatever the hell Conor Oberst coughs up when he cries himself to sleep, there will be no review today.
However, I’ve been messing around with 8Tracks, muxtape’s better faster and stronger clone since it went all “we don’t do that anymore” and I have three mixes from my collection I can share with you.
Mix 1: Are Friends Electric?
All female vocalists. Good stuff.
Mix 2: I Don’t Sleep Well
A mix to listen to when going to sleep proves unfruitful.
Mix 3: Bad People
So very bad. Good songs though!
Right, I’m off to die.
Well, to most of us Summer is finally here and we’re starting to go outside with more skin showing and we should already be listening to some more upbeat music (unless you’re one of them goths but even then perhaps a song about how glorious blood is, yes?). I’ve been going back in to some things and rediscovering some old favorites and even finding some gems I can’t fucking believe I missed. One of these gems is Eric Bachmann’s solo album (eg Not Crooked Fingers, which is also a solo project of his) To The Races from 2006. That’s right, 2006. I never said I was “with it” damn it.
Crooked Fingers, Bachmann’s solo project after playing with Archers Of Loaf was always pleasant background music to me. one of those bands that I would hear in the Green Room or some other bar playing on the stereo that would intrigue me to the point of asking the waitress “who is that playing?” and would immediately forget what she told me. When I finally DID look them up, I was amazed at the sound that they produced (And if you don’t have it already, go right to whatever the hell internet store or record shop you go to and pick up the album Red Devil Dawn. Brilliant. Fucking. Album). But I never really looked in to it that much and that was that. Then a couple of months ago as I was skimming through my old music collection, I decided to look Eric Bachmann up and see what the hell he’s been doing since 2005. This album was one of them.
To The Races is a wonderful, relaxing album. The acoustic guitar and Bachmann’s voice are the only prominent elements in this album (with some other instruments and a choir occasionally showing up). The songs are honest, beautiful, and provides further evidence that Eric Bachmann is a lighthearted, less wanky and (to me, anyways) more tolerable version of Iron & Wine. Despite being from 2006 the sound is still fresh and takes me to a happy place when I listen to it while walking in the sun. The song Carrboro Woman and Man O’ War in particular just makes me feel like I could be on a carriage or in my room contemplating…anywhere really. It’s just beautiful.
Bachmann has a great voice, amazing writing skills and can play like a champ. I wish I found this album when it came out in 2006, but right now I’m just happy I found it. Get it. Listen to it. Enjoy it.
Now here’s some mp3s for you:
The Floodlight Collective is the debut solo album of Deerhunter‘s Lockett Pundt (going by Lotus Plaza) and to many people, this has been a much anticipated album. Some tracks were released on the Deerhunter blog and they were met with giddiness (yes, GIDDINESS). And after hearing a track that writer Warren Ellis put on an 8tracks mix he put together, I became very enthusiastic about giving the whole album a listen. I contacted my editor from the bowels of…actually, I don’t know where the hell he lives. I always assume it’s a bachelor apartment with weird rantings scribbled on the wall in blood, pen or whatever he can find. Anyways, I contacted him about it and he got in touch with the good people at Kranky, who rushed a copy of the album to me.
I’m glad I listened to this album at around this time, where spring is starting to pop up. This is very much an album that goes well with sunlight and doing things like looking out a car window in the passenger seat. It’s contemplative, mildly nostalgic and sunny. I’m hearing all sorts of influences here. No artists in particular, but more of genres from different times. 60’s surfer music, 50’s crooners…it’s there if you listen close enough. The song Quicksand really makes that point stand out for me. I felt like I was on a fucking beach. The album also has it’s meditative moments too, such as the song I fell in love with, These Years. It twists and turns but the album never escapes those overexposed sunlight moments from your mind. Also an honourable mention should go to the song The Floodlight Collective for making me think of the science fiction movies I used to watch in the 80s.
Now that said, it wasn’t perfect for me. Three or four tracks in I was under the impression that I was listening to a male-fronted, down tempo version of Camera Obscura. There are some big differences between the two, but some of the sound was very similar and I found that the two brought up the same kind of visions in my head and while I love Camera Obscura, why should I listen to music that reminds me of them when I could actually be listening to them?. Another thing that kind of annoyed me about the album was that it just…didn’t seem to change that much. The vocals always gave that “singing in an empty auditorium with shitty acoustics” echo sound. No matter what the tempo of the actual song, I was still hearing the same inaudible ghostly moaning which for all I know could have been singing the contents of a grocery list. But what the hell, maybe that was the point.
In conclusion, The Floodlight Collective is a decent album, but is probably more appreciated by fans of Deerhunter than anyone else. It’s got a great sound and is clever, but I can’t help but feel that there should be more to it. put 2-3 songs in your spring playlist but any more than that and you might overdose on the sound.