“It’s unbelievable.” The first words spoken in Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story sum up the horror about to unfold. Directed by Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim and released in 2006, the film tells a story that is alarming to this day. In 1977, 13-year-old Megumi was walking home from school in Nigata, Japan, and disappeared. Her mother, Megumi’s younger brother Tetsuya says, “Even though I was just a kid, I knew something big was happening.” Sakie, recalls worrying but not quite absorbing the profound loss before her. The camera hovers over the sidewalk where Megumi walked, looks up at tree branches that likely cast shadows over her. The sun sinks into a distant horizon, and a percussive soundtrack pulses, pushing forward, ever faster. The sea laps the shore, ominously.
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Stephen Wyatt: Twenty years later, Low still travels at the speed of silence, utilizing time and space as instruments equally worthy of their otherworldly harmonies. Mimi Parker delivers moments of peace in whispers on “Into You” and explodes over the classically-formed minimalism Alan Sparkhawk constructed during in the era of grunge. Even today Low sounds more like an antidote to overproduced pop and EDM. The sparse electronics carefully instruct today’s musicians about how the less-is-more philosophy still reigns as pop music’s perfect prescription. [9/10]
Ian King: Coldplay were compelling back when Chris Martin was a middle class college student who wanted to be Jeff Buckley and sang nonsense about how making friends in wooden houses is easy. Somewhere after the last interesting gasps of Viva La Vida, the band seems to have outsourced all creative decision making to Max Martin and a panel of Coca-Cola executives. “I’m feeling drunk and high”? To think that X&Y seemed like a low point at the time. At least Martin can still hit those nice falsetto notes. The best way to honor the memory of what Coldplay used to be is to pretend you never saw this and go give Parachutes a spin instead. [2/10]
Stephen Wyatt: The ghost of Otis Redding lurks in Leon Bridges’ “River” as the song opens, a haunting and visceral reflection on the pains of sin. Bridges laments, “Take me in your smooth waters / I go in / As a man with many cuts / As my sins flow down in the Jordan” as the chorus soars and the collection of voices echoing the ethos of negro spirituals. The song yields to Bridges’ voice and guitar, which exemplifies the power of stripped-down production and evades studio trickery. Heaven’s hymn spoken in a language often taken for granted by the throngs of contemporary R&B artists, Bridges resurrects the past in a language both refined and timeless. [10/10]
Maria Schurr: As stellar of a song as this is, it also sounds like the first time that Harvey is repeating herself. It’s like a Let England Shake song with a change in location, married to the warped blues tone that Harvey’s so good at. Then again, Let England Shake was one of this century’s most powerful artistic achievements; even a retooling of it bodes well for the year in music and Harvey’s upcoming The Hope Six Demolition Project in particular. At the same time, it’s gritty enough to be something that will cause those who didn’t like Let England Shake to rave. Ultimately pretty damned satisfying. [8/10]