Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Death Of The Import, Sort Of

There was a time, before internets and torrents, before forums and iTunes, when "imports" were the holy grail of record collectors everywhere. A generic term that encompassed any recording made outside of the US, "imports" represented everything from bootlegs, to singles, to alternate album versions. In many cases, it was the only way to get certain live tracks or B-Sides. These days, however, imports are largely a thing of the past. Most of those rare tracks can be had a la carte on music services like iTunes, and even the ones that can't are usually readily available in fan forums, blogs, or file sharing networks.

That being what it was, we were kind of saddened to be heading to Japan in a import-free world. The last time we were abroad was in 2000, and then there was still a need to grab the latest and greatest imports. The Pogues were out of print in the US, and Bowie was releasing singles with exclusive B-Sides in Europe. With our hopes quashed, we drearily decided that browsing Tower Japan might still yield some fruits, and we're happy to say it did. We got two CD's that not only have made us happy, but as we peeled open those funky Japanese CD bags, we realized that the import may have a little life in it yet. Here's what we snagged:

Jason Falkner - I'm Okay, You're Okay: Falkner is one of those artists who we consistently love, and who never seems to get the recognition he deserves. He's been a session man for everyone from Air to Beck to Paul McCartney. He was formerly the guitarist for Jellyfish, as well as The Grays. But more importantly, he's released a number of fantastic solo records over the past ten years. This one is his latest, and despite being out in Japan for over a year, it is nowhere to be found anywhere else in the world market. We had hemmed and hawed about buying it on Amazon for months, but the import price seemed ridiculous. When we saw it in Japan, we knew it was time. 7 years in the making, the record is fantastic, and worth the wait. It is the perfect extension of Falkner's explicitly crafted power pop that we love so much. We have no idea when the US release will be, but for now you can stream some of the tunes on Falkner's myspace page.

Happy End - Kazemachi Roman: Okay, we admit it, just like you, we heard of this band because of the Lost In Translation soundtrack. That being said, the one tune wasn't enough for us. We wanted more, and we tried to find it in the US. Still, even at Amoeba, no dice. So, as we headed for Japan, we kept our eyes open. We were rewarded with the awesome "mini LP" packaging that the Japanese seem to have developed a fetish for: tiny CD-size recreations of the original album art right down to the annoying plastic sleeve for the LP. The record is great, and hard to describe. It has elements of the Allman Brothers, as well as a definite head-nod to psychedlica. We're still absorbing it, but it's nice to snag a record that is from a completely different slice of the musical pie.