ali barter – trip EP

Lately, I’ve been feeling really driven to do something with my life. I’m coming to the end of my college career and it’s absolutely daunting that, in less than a year, I’ll be expected to become an “adult.” Suddenly, I find myself thrown into unknown territory where I’m looking up grown-up jobs, possible graduate schools, insurance, and ways to move to Canada.

What can I say, I’m ready for a change of pace.

Since I was a kid, I never really felt determined to do anything with life, nor would I try to pursue any sort of dream I may have had. This was mainly due to my wanting to become a pastry chef which my dad laughed away, though it is now a much beloved hobby. One of the perks of my college experience is that I’ve been able to fight for music in a way I’ve never fought before – I’ve dabbled in DJing, reviewed musicians and albums, and even started this lovely blog for you beautiful readers.

I’ve been lucky to find my passions at a young age, and have these seemingly different worlds connect so well with each other. Japan, music, and baking have collectively made me a person I’m proud of.

Okay, sentimental time is over, let’s cue in some new tunes by Ali Barter.

What initially drew me to this girl was that Thrupence did the artwork for her Trip cover, and it is absolutely stunning. I’m drooling into my beer bottle like a freshman due to pretty-overload, pardon me.

1. Run You Down

I don’t often write on non-electronic music, but when I do it happens to be groovy folk jams. Ali Barter opens up with smooth vocals over a lush melody of piano, guitar, and drums. The haunting lyrics of “I’ve been trying to run you down,” sets a darker mood for the EP, by lyricism at least. It reminds me of Rachel Yamagata meeting Ben Kweller and having a nice cup of coffee. Not quite as grunge feeling but there’s some sort of groove the different artists play on. This is a sweet track and Barter does a fantastic job of creating a song that would do well in live performances.

 

2. Riding Bikes at Night

This is a favorite of mine off the EP. Since I’m not usually one for lyrics in songs, this was a change of pace for me because I found myself more partial to the words than just the melody. It’s the layering she does with the instrumental making a perfect compliment to her voice. An absolute beauty.

 

3. Little Bruises

This is a quieter song off the EP and probably one of the saddest songs she bequeaths onto us. I can’t help but stare out the window and fall into a quiet flood of memories of past people I’ve dated. This is another favorite of mine because of how adept she is at writing lyrics. Must be all that Australian air going to her brain. Instrumentally, the guitar stands out the most for me, with the drums adding a nice nostalgic mood.

 

4. Marigold

“Marigold” is the most folk-oriented song Barter gives us. It continues with a quieter feel that “Little Bruises” introduced to us. It’s a sweeter song, thankfully taking away from the sadder qualities of the EP as a whole. I say this with a grain of salt because it is still a melancholic song in general. The highlights here are the guitars with Barter’s soothing voice over it.

Thrupence and Ali Barter are just adding to my desire of adventuring to Australia. Maybe that will be my treat next year.

-jo.

shugo tokumaru – port entropy

I’m one of those music listeners, that, whenever I’m put in a situation where music is playing in the background I am always listening to it. Literally, cannot fully pay attention to anyone I’m with, even if it is a significant other or someone of interest, because I’m too involved in listening to whatever song is on. I’m also one of those people that knows if someone plays a song twice, or if a mix starts over, or even when a different person takes over for the music.

It’s kind of intense. Whatever.

Cue in me at Sephora about a month ago. As I was checking out, a song by a musician from Japan, Shugo Tokumaru, came on and I flipped out. I immediately started grilling the girl on who was in charge of music selection, where did they get this song, etc. She (sadly) told me it was internet radio but I was still very impressed. Which key words did you use, Sephora, to come up with such a cool playlist?

This guy is relatively unknown, especially in the states, but he’s still a pretty Westernized musician, in terms of folk-pop. Despite that, Shugo Tokumaru is known for being a multi-instrumentalist and possesses an adept understanding of the instruments he uses. His songs could easily be used in movie soundtracks <cough>. The fourth album released by him, Port Entropy (2010), takes on an even more playful sound than his 2008 release, Exit.

I have a huge soft spot for Japanese music as you’ll come to notice. Even though I can’t understand everything he’s saying, without the help of translations, it still makes me long for childhood. As a point, I make a habit of avoiding reading Pitchfork reviews of albums before I listen to them, just because I don’t want to taint my own interpretations of releases. The Jayson Greene review from October 2010, however, I did agree with – he makes the observation that, true to Japanese standards, the main catch of Port Entropy is its nostalgic value. You are constantly reminded of the past, without it being overly depressing (which Japanese music tends to morph into).

Off the album, the songs which gained the most recognition were “Tracking Elevator” and “Straw” but, for me, I fell in love with “Rum Hee” first and foremost. It definitely has more Japanese vibes than the previous two mentioned, but it was also very catchy. “Straw” and “Laminate” felt the most different from the rest of the songs which feel repetitive after awhile. “Laminate” was one of the coolest since right at the end you feel like you’re in Eastern Europe. “River Low” was also a favorite with its almost Ben Kweller vocal range, guitars, and folk-rockish drums.

A glaring problem with the overall aesthetic of the album is the predictability with each track. While solo musicians and producers are more than capable of creating a distinctive album with varied tracks, it’s not so much the case with Port Entropy. You can anticipate what Tokumaru will do next which doesn’t make me enjoy the album as a whole. From the vocals, to the guitar riffs, and even the drums, it’s all very straightforward. Not that every single song should stand out from one another (no flow no go) but there were so many throw aways from the album that it was near obnoxious.

If I had to give the album an overall rating, I’d sit it at a 6. My standards are high, so it’s not often that I’ll give high numbers to artists. The best way to listen to this album is on a playlist set at shuffle. You’ll enjoy the songs on its own, but not in context.

-jo.

Check out Jayson Greene’s article here.