Sushi Sample for the Ears

Sushi 3003 -- A spectacular collection of Japanese Clubpop"(Bungalow)

The United Kingdom has acid house, the United States has hip hop, the continent has techno. You may disagree with me, but I find all these styles danceable but extremely boring -- and stimulant-use encouraging -- simply because the music itself is so little fun. Judging by the "Sushi 3003" compilation, the Japanese scene is utterly different and much more jovial. The music is electronic, but it manages to seem more human and funky: The bands mix up modern techno beats with 1960s-feel, easy-listening swing, 1970s disco, sexy "cocktail lounge" sounds and plenty of cool, dry humor. This record is so uplifting that it has replaced CDs by Moloko, Chemical Brothers and Bravo as the soundtrack for my morning exercises.

Alyona Sviridova Nochiu Vsyo Inache (General)

Most Russian pop is a nightmare: low-quality, tacky, stupid and dull. I'm Russian, so I should know. This music exists in its own bizarre niche, a place designed by the new local mafia and the old Soviet art nomenklatura out of restaurant tunes and some outdated Western trash. But, luckily, there are a few exceptions to the rule, and Alyona Sviridova is among the most spectacular of them. This singer-songwriter and Annie Lennox look-alike is in her early 30s and shares more than just appearances with the remarkable English pop diva. She has a very intelligent and dramatic approach to singing, and she understands the importance of lyrics. This, her second album, was mixed in Germany, thus giving her work what had previously been lacking -- the right sound. "Night Changes Everything" is a very solid record, notable for its impressive melodies and expressive performances. Those who understand Russian can also appreciate the songs' messages, which occasionally deal with social issues -- an incredibly daring move in Russian pop. For example, "Old Colonel," an "Eleanor Rigby"-type song, is about a miserable a old neighbor, who, in Sviridova's words, "deserved a different kind of ripe old age." No matter how bleak today's Russian musical environment may occasionally appear, albums like this give some ground for future optimism.

Pascal Comelade Un Samedi sur la Terre (Delabel)

An eccentric recluse, cult hero, composer extraordinaire and resident of the Pyrenees, Pascal Comelade is slowly stepping into the limelight. This is the soundtrack of his first big movie, and it bears all the unique features of the man's work: beautiful little melodies arranged in an irresistibly naive, child-like manner; simple yet miraculous soundscapes that evoke the purest form of sentimentality without a trace of "schmaltzy" tear-jerking. Somebody once compared Comelade's music with "Alice in Wonderland," but I'd rather recall a tale written by his compatriot -- "The Little Prince." This is music for adults who remain children at heart.