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Scoring LegendJune 10
Julian YeoArtist: Julian Yeo
Title: Old New Borrowed Blue
Genre: Jazz/Standards
Rating: *****

Julian Yeo is, perhaps, the most distinctive vocalist out there. A vocalist whose style is straight out of the 20's, 30's and 40's, if you hear Yeo sing, you instantly forget that's he's Asian. In fact, if you are like me, you'll not trust your ears and want to see him sing in person! Yes, Yeo is THAT distinctive.

"Old New Borrowed Blue" is Yeo's first album and it features a mix of new compositions with old standards. While the style might not be exactly new (think of a crooner like Bing Crosby), it's something new for this generation. That being said, I'm not sure that youngsters will flock to buy this CD because it's "old" styling may not feel "new" to them but I think that those fans of standards already will certainly enjoy this new take and come away smiling.

Favorite Tracks: "Steppin' Out with My Baby" and "That Old Black Magic"

Nels


CompilasianArtist: Born in Chinese
Title: Compilasian
Genre: Rock/Pop
Rating: ***

"Born in Chinese" was a term that company founder Eugene Song heard one day from someone in a fit of ignorance and that inspired him to use the phrase to help spread cultural awareness through music. This collection of 12 songs from Asian American artists. While this isn't the first compilation to have been released, this certainly is a noteable one. The collection is primarily focused on folk/rock/pop and does a good job in sticking to somewhat similar genre. That's always key because chances are good that if you like one song, you'll enjoy the others. Despite some noticable quality differences between songs, this compilation is a great way to listen to many artists and figure out which are your favorites.

Nearly all of the songs are mid-tempo, guitar-oriented pieces starting with Johnny Hi-Fi's "This Is The Song" and ending with Eugene Song's "Valerie." Highlights of the album? I'd say give all 12 tracks a listen but I personally enjoyed Koo Chung's "Photo Love" (which reminded me of my music business days growing up in the 80's) and The Francis Kim Band's "Abraham" (I've been a Francis Kim Band fan for awhile now).

Favorite Tracks: "Photo Love" and "Abraham"

Nels


Lunch MoneyArtist: Notorious MSG
Title: Lunch Money
Genre: Hip Hop

Listen up, muthasuckers. They’re back, they’re MSG with the hot tracks. Three ex-delivery boys from New York City’s Chinatown serve up their new EP Lunch Money and it’s something to be excited about. If you’re never heard Notorious MSG before, you’re in for a treat. Their delivery, emphatic hooks, bouncing beats, and simple audacity grab your attention and before you know it you’re coasting along with these cats on a joy ride of just plain fun.

The package of six songs on the EP is a healthy dose of the trio’s music. It is a delicate line that an artist has to walk when playing a tongue-in-cheek role like this one. Go overboard, and you’re lame. Not experimental enough, and you’re boring. Lunch Money works well because it can’t really be too much with half a full-length to work with. A full release may have led to fillers and could have sounded too repetitive. Then again, if they could double the tracklist and keep the quality up it would be the making of a classic.

Returning to the album in hand, the classical aspects (places facetious lyricism can’t touch) of the work still hold water. Choruses are catchy, showy, and flamboyant. The production is solid and they are easy to listen to in that respect, which balances them well. Speaking of balance, “Last Showdown” is a very important track to include. It speaks to their critics and demonstrates that they are conscious of their MC personas and the social consequences of them. And then you have them dropping great lines like, “I feel no pain/ I’m insane/ Smoke your ass and eat a bowl of chow mein/ I’m a genuine Chinatown OG/ Original Recipe K.F.C.!”

One might be concerned about replay value with songs of this nature. But rest assured, your friends and you will enjoy the Chinatown Bad Boys for as long as ramen cups can sit in pantries. Though you’ll definitely have to take Notorious MSG with a grain of salt.

vincent chen (reviewed on Ninja Pants)


CertaintyAuthor: Madeleine Thien
Title: Certainty
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 978-0316834995

Gail Lim, a documentary maker in her mid-sixties, dies from the outset and the story unfolds back in time as we discover her search for answers to what happened to her grandfather. Her grandfather dies under mysterious and suspcious circumstances in Japan during WWII. She tries to piece together what has happened in her family history and get to the truth.

This novel, by first-time novelist Madeleine Thien, requires your full attention. I tried to read the book while on the deck of a cruise ship and quickly discovered that the writing style of this novel required no distractions. Once you have your full attention, you can truly start to delve into the story and words and take the time to ponder them all, often times you'll need to take a break to shift perspectives. Perhaps the writing style overpowered the characters a bit too much as I felt less interested in the characters but kept reading because of the overarching mystery and how that unfolds.

I wouldn't classify "Certainty" as an easy read because it does require the reader's active attention and participation. The stories do not always flow smoothly together and can be jarring at times requiring a moment or two to re-focus and to recall or gather thoughts.

Overall, it's a noteworthy first novel by Thien.

Nels


TransparencyAuthor: Frances Hwang
Title: Transparency
Publisher: Back Bay Books
ISBN: 978-0316166935

A collection of 10 short stories relating to the immigrant experience in one way or another, "Transparency" showcases the difficulties and sometimes heartbreaking struggles of assimilation and alienation. East meets West, though the meeting is rarely a simple greeting, the stories feature characters that aren't quite lovable but still likable. Often, the stories focus on immigrant parents in conflict with their American children. It's not often a pleasant exchange but certainly mimics struggles between 1st and 2nd generation Asian Americans.

While you would expect the writing style to be consistent throughout, most of the stories in this collection tend to flow together and I sometimes felt that I was reading the same story over and over again. There were a couple of stories that were standouts and luckily the first one came mid-way through the book ("Transparency) and the end of the book ("Garden City"). In the end, the entire collection, though uneven, is interesting enough to read in the order presented. It's not a feel-good collection but definitely based in a reality that many second gen Asian Americans may be able to identify with.

Nels


Previous Reviews

March 2007 (Music: titofelix, PaperDoll, Basco Bros., Tila Tequila; DVD: Red Doors)

December 2006 (Music: Exit Clov, Moulann, Lillian Lee, Woody Pak)

September 2006 (Music: Megadose Soundflake, Jenny Hyun, Kellee)

August 2006 (Music: Gi, Asian Crisis; DVD: Lumpia Palooza 2)

April 2006 (Music: Kim Del Fierro, Eugene Song; Movies: Take the Lead)

May 2005 (Music: the PACIFICS; Books: What Wendell Wants; Movies: King Fu Hustle, Seoul Raiders, Leave Me Alone; Comedy: Take Out Comedy 2005)

April 2005 (Music: Jargon, Kite Operations, Twilight Sentinels, Jack Tung; Books: What Wendell Wants; DVD: Jin: The Making of a Rap Star)

February 2005 (Music: Jordan Segundo, Bento, Ravish Momin's Trio Tarana, Cynthia Lin; Books: Born to Lose)

January 2005 (Music: Anna Maria Flechero, Kristine Sa, Honore, The Francis Kim Band; DVD: Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle; Movies: House of Flying Daggers, Yesterday Once More; Books: I Do. I Did. Now What?)

December 2004 (Music: Project J, Justice, Lawrence Chang, Erica O'Young)

October 2004 (Music: Slowjam Sessions Volume 1; Movies: Masters of the Pillow, Ong Bak)

September 2004 (Music: Janeska, Elemnop; Books: Total Strength Training for Women)

August 2004 (Music: Benny Mao, Phuz, Bastion, Charlie Liu, Emilio; Movies: Protege De La Rose Noire, Jiang Hu, Moving Targets)

July 2004 (Music: Pam Tan, Mion, Johnny Hi-Fi; Movies: Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle)

June 2004 (Music: Teri Untalan, John Flor Sisante)

May 2004 (Music: Kite Operations, Titofelix; Movies: Star Runner, Herbal Tea, Turn Left Turn Right, Hidden Track, Fantasia, Floating Landscape)

April 2004 (Music: Alvendia, Bryan Chan, Mion, William Hung; Movies: Running on Karma, Anna in Kung Fu Land, Kill Bill Volume 2, Kikujiro, and The Way Home)

March 2004 (Music: Putnam Hall, Organic Thoughts; Movies: Charlotte Sometimes, Infernal Affairs 3; Books: Bringing Down The House)

February 2004 (Music: Vienna Teng, Odessa Chen, Akamai Brain Collective, Justin Young, One Vo1ce, With Love, Stereostar FM)

January 2004 (Music: Chops, One Vo1ce EP, Moulann; Movies: Torque, Good Times, Bed Times, Shiver, Infernal Affairs 2)

December 2003 (Music: The Francis Kim Band, Himalayan Project, Sonic Orange, and Jeff Hsin; Movies: Men Suddenly in Black, My Dream Girl, and The Last Samurai)

November 2003 (Music: Harlemm Lee, Fiona Wong, and Adagio; Movies: Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat and So Close)

October 2003 (Music: Kevin So and Kaila; Movies: Marrying the Mafia, Heroic Duo, Kill Bill, and Under the Tuscan Sun)


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