Summertime, summermusic.

It’s July now, and Tokyo is simmering under an exceedingly sticky sun. (Seriously, though, this humidity!) Here to help ease the fever the world over is “High School Love,” a brand new cut from Tokyo’s own Teen Runnings. And good god, is this thing a cool breeze— or, rather, an industrial sized air conditioner situated directly in front of your body and fixed on a comfortable setting, intermittently dispersing gusts of life itself, as it were, in the face of unbelievable heat.

"High School Love" bounces effervescently in, under, around, and over those familiarly fuzzy guitars, punchy drum fills, squirmy bass lines, and impossible-not-to-sing-along-to vocal melodies. It invites repeat listens, so long as those listens are spread out over a montage of you and your best and most beautiful friends reveling in youth and carefree euphoria. It’s released in advance of Teen Runnings' forthcoming full-length Now, due out July 23rd via the inimitable Sauna Cool, and follows on the heels of "Don’t Care About Me," another unfairly infectious slice of summery guitar pop, as well as a split 7” with Chicago-based The Lemons with features “I Wonder What Your Mom’s Thinking.” Both of those tracks will also appear on Now, which is shaping up to be an absolute gem.

Teen Runnings: Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr
Sauna Cool: Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud

An icy hailstorm of swirling synthesizers backed by a heartbeat rhythm reverberating in zero-gravity, punctuated by ambient washes blurred by neon. A new White Flashes song is always an Event, and “Relief” is no different. There’s no mistaking this for the work of any other artist, which is meant as the highest compliment for the hard-working Des Moines songwriter/producer/artist extraordinaire. Over the last few years, White Flashes has cultivated such a unique, focused sound, and “Relief” finds him reveling in that comfort while simultaneously flirting with previously untrodden territory. The vocals are much more front-and-center this time around— confident and emotive— and the song shines for it.

Free download —> White Flashes <— daolnwod eerF

one moment

Standing on the 53rd floor in a room painted white overlooking a city too beautiful, too perfect for my eyes. The sun tucks away and lights flicker on, resulting in an early-hour luminescence so soft and so warm like a pastel lampshade in the corner of a floral print room. (You can just make out the Rainbow Bridge between the window panes— it’s white tonight.) Me, a stony figure transfixed by my current physical and mental and emotional states, unable to move. I unfocus my eyes and stare at my reflection in the glass. Silvery balloons float effortlessly, aimlessly, perfectly behind me— I’m bathing in the light that beams from them like stars. Someone more attuned to life than I: please use this as a metaphor for opportunity and excitement and fear and dependency and independence and life and happiness and death and loneliness, about how they’re all probably the same anyway. I feel helpless most of the time. I can’t hide here.

I’ve been here for over a month now. I continue to be amazed everyday by something new— life is pulsating at an alarming rate, and I’m unable to comprehend every detail. But that percentage of joyous life that I am able to partake in rejuvenates me in new ways. I find myself falling in love with this city and culture deeper and more richly each day.

(Photos #1-4: Hanami in Ueno park. The cherry blossoms were overwhelmingly beautiful, and the Japanese approach to appreciating their beauty is equally inspiring.

Photo #5: Delectable crêpe / tasty café lunch in Harajuku [which, incidentally, is quickly becoming my favorite area in Tokyo, I think].

Photos #6-7: Roppongi Hills / ‘Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal’ exhibit at the Mori Art Museum. The 53rd floor of this gorgeous building is an art museum, and I visited their massive Warhol exhibition last weekend. The exhibit showcased more than 700 Warhol pieces (paintings, prints, films, drawings, memorabilia, etc.) and included a precise replica of a portion of his Factory. I especially enjoyed seeing the ‘Electric Chair’ series, as well as the display featuring the Velvet Underground.

Photo #8: Lights on the street in Shinjuku.)

A few snapz from my first week in Japan.

Get Me Away from Here, I'm Dying
Belle & Sebastian

Today is Thursday, March 6th, 2014. It’s 2:13 am. In approximately four days, I’ll be on an airplane from Chicago to Tokyo, where I will land and make my way through customs and obtain my resident card and pick up my luggage and board a train into the city and complete a two week training program and begin my new job teaching English at an eikaiwa school in Adachi-ku. I’ll be there for 13 months. Sitting down in the room in which I spent the majority of my childhood and contemplating the next year of my life is rather frightening, especially considering the trajectory of how it came to be.

If you had told me seven months ago that I would be moving to Japan for a year, I would have thought you were crazy. If you had told me at that same time that I would have the opportunity to travel to New York City, by myself, for an interview, I would not understand how. But I did— I was alone, I scrambled to and from bus stops in an attempt to find the upscale Midtown building in which my interview was taking place. I stopped in a corner café for a quick coffee to-go and overheard an elderly couple complaining about the freshness of muffins. I stayed in a hotel that was used in a Woody Allen film. I took the subway to Brooklyn and spent an afternoon browsing record shops and sipping coffee. I saw the buildings and breathed the air and imagined myself as a character on 30 Rock. I got the job I interviewed for. I loved every minute of it, and if I stop to think about how it happened, I have to admit that none of it would have happened if the me from seven months ago had his way. (We’ll spare ourselves the accompanying headache and heartbreak by not acknowledging that the me from seven months ago would probably have been equally happy (if not mores o) should things have turned out the way he planned, because where’s the fun in that? The romance? The drama? Wait—)

So it happened that I decided to uproot what little life I’ve made for myself in St. Louis, pack the necessary items, and move to Japan for a year. I’ve probably grown a lot as a person over the last seven months— dealing with issues that every person deals with at some point in their lives, realizing that some Hollywood-esque clichés are relatively true. (Happiness is not absolute, however all-encompassing it appears to be. Ideals are not absolute, however closely they are held. The future is not absolute, it is contingent upon people and forces far beyond anyone’s control. Trust and love are real, beautiful things that should continuously be strived for. Etc., etc., etc.)

I hope that living and working in a completely new and exciting culture will force me to grow even more as a person. I expect that growth to be exponential. And I want to share it with everyone that I can. Which is why this (previously dormant) blog will be re-awakened and repurposed as a vehicle for expressing my thoughts and sharing my experiences of living and working in Tokyo. I still have an unrivaled passion for music, so I will likely continue to use it to share songs and artists that strike me in that unique, singular way (given that the spark reignites at some point), and I hope to become as involved as I can with the local scene in Adachi-ku and beyond, so keep an eye and ear out for that as well. But I suppose this will primarily be used as an outlet for me to keep friends and family and interested acquaintances up to date about what’s happening in Japan.

Even though I haven’t posted on this blog regularly since last summer, music has remained an extremely important presence in my life. Certain songs, albums, and artists became my comfort, my confidants, and my friends over the past several months. One song in particular that I have always quite enjoyed but only recently clicked in a more serious fashion is “Get Me Away from Here, I’m Dying” by Belle & Sebastian. It’s from their second album, If You’re Feeling Sinister (my current favorite B&S record), and it’s a song that echoes and personifies a lot of what’s been going on in my life, both internally and externally, since last August. It’s kept me looking forward to March 10th, when I’ll leave the United States for 13 months and embark on the biggest adventure of my life so far. So, as the song goes, “This is no declaration, I just thought I’d let you know goodbye.” Sayōnara! See you next April.

fever dreamt again last night
about you and about me and about it
about the sun and about the moon and about the stars
(something about the universe and magnets so specifically i don’t know)
and about death
it was raining a very cold rain—
steady drops fell impassively
around my face
and into my eyes—
they slipped so delicately into my body
and they slid so delicately out of my skin
but i didn’t understand why
(i’ve never understood why)
but the rain was acid and it burned and it boiled
and it melted everything
s l o w l y
and i died
i didn’t wake up