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 Jason Jenkins

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Jason Jenkins
Jason spent 13 years in Tokyo writing about cameras, parenting and the arts. In 2013 he left to travel, homeschooling his kids in Spain, Mexico and Southeast Asia before moving back to Japan in 2019.
For Jason Jenkins's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Oct 23, 2002
Mr. Lif: "I Phantom"
In recent years, no other music has suffered more identity crises than hip-hop. Chat rooms and studios are constantly boiling over with debate over what direction urban poetry should take, while the airwaves are smattered with mixed messages on how it can achieve artistic prestige -- via activism, lyrical prowess or designer clothing.
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Oct 17, 2002
Doug Martsch: "Now You Know"
When rock musicians "rediscover" the blues, it usually means one of two things: They feel a need to step back from their careers and look at one origin of their craft, or they've run out of ideas and need to give writer's block a swift kick in the pants.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Oct 9, 2002
Manu Chao: "Radio Bemba Sound System"
Ask anyone who saw Manu Chao at Fuji Rock this year, and they'll tell you it was the best show of the festival. Volunteering to perform a pre-event set on the day they arrived, Chao and his band, Radio Bemba Sound System, blew the roof off the site's Red Marquee Stage with their Latin-tinged punk rock that mixes elements of ska, world beat and even a bit of hip-hop. The resulting amalgam was delivered with such fervor that for their scheduled performance the following day, the crowd size had tripled.
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Oct 2, 2002
Cowtown: "Ghost Train"
The fusion of jazz and country music may seem new, but what is now called western swing first took root more than 60 years ago. It was then that Bob Wills and his band, The Texas Playboys, fused cowboy twang with the big band sensibilities of the era, becoming one of the most popular groups in 1940s America. At the same time in Paris, young Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and jazz violin pioneer Stephane Grappelli formed The Hot Club of France, a string quintet that made some of the most influential jazz recordings in Europe. It is from the latter group that a certain Austin, Texas, trio derive their name. The Hot Club of Cowtown have looked to the Wills/Reinhardt/Grappelli axis for inspiration, creating music appropriate for both a cocktail party in Brussels and an Oklahoma roadhouse.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Sep 18, 2002
Cruise: "The Art of Being a Girl"
It's hard to think of Julee Cruise without conjuring up images of cursing madmen or midgets in red-curtained rooms. Ever since her ghostly lullabies hovered eerily over the movie "Blue Velvet" and the '80s bizarro hit TV series "Twin Peaks," people assumed that she was just another character from the freakish, dystopian universe of filmmaker David Lynch.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Sep 4, 2002
Interpol: "Turn on the Bright Lights"
Back in high school, my art and drama classes were spent hanging out with the goth-rockers and burnouts who slouched over the corner table. As we gushed over bands like Bauhaus, Joy Division and Wire, we etched their names on our jeans with crappy, public-school calligraphy pens.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Aug 28, 2002
Guided by Voices: "Universal Truths and Cycles"
Hype moves in mysterious ways. Take the band Guided by Voices, for example. Although frothy fanatics such as myself have been touting GBV as the best rock 'n' roll band on the planet for years, our claims were often met with little more than a shrug. Therefore, please ignore the smug look on my face as media darlings The Strokes now sing GBV's praises -- even asking them to appear in their latest video. After 13 full-length albums, four live CDs, countless EPs and a myriad of side projects, it seems hype's lubricious light will finally shine on these indie lo-fi pioneers.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Aug 14, 2002
Janet Klein: past perfect
Janet Klein's ukulele is no gimmick. Nor are her "obscure, lovely and naughty songs from the '10s, '20s and '30s." Klein and her L.A.-based band, The Parlor Boys, are about as real a deal as it gets. More than just fans of phonographs and sepia tone, Klein and company are musical archaeologists, taking crumbling sheet music and 78 rpm records from their private collections and performing it with sincerity and authenticity.
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Aug 14, 2002
The Flaming Lips': "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"
Meet Yoshimi. She's a black belt in karate. She keeps in shape and takes her vitamins, because, well, it gets tough fighting giant androids bent on world domination.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Aug 7, 2002
Sonic Youth: Murray Street
Jim O'Rourke is on a roll. First, post-rock's poster child released his best solo effort, "Insignificance," late last year, and now he's on two of the best albums of 2002. As well as having produced Wilco's breakthrough album, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," O'Rourke has become producer for -- and a member of -- Sonic Youth.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 17, 2002
It takes a village . . .
The feat of building a community takes vision, commitment and lots of time. But once every year, a massive village materializes on a mountainside in Niigata Prefecture in late July, only to vanish into thin air less than a week later.
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Jul 10, 2002
Azure Ray: 'Burn and Shiver'
Somewhere between heartbreak and happiness lies a mist-shrouded land of limbo, where it's always raining softly and people stare pensively out windows, contemplating love and life over steaming cups of Earl Grey. Wherever this place is, it seems Azure Ray are permanent residents. On their new CD, "Burn and Shiver," the duo craft quiet, fragile, dream-pop duets that are appropriate for the make-up or break-up of your relationship.
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Jul 3, 2002
Cee-lo: 'Cee-lo and His Perfect Imperfections'
Neo-soul began in the late '90s when vocalists who grew up listening to Curtis Mayfield, Prince and De La Soul made their own records, and in doing so, finally made the urban music charts interesting again. Now progressive-rap aficionado Cee-lo has decided to throw his hat into the ring. It was his group, Goodie Mob, and their friends and collaborators in Outkast and Organized Noise who broke away from the East Coast/West Coast rap dichotomy with their own, Southern-fried-soul-style hip-hop. On "Cee-lo and His Perfect Imperfections," he breaks out on his own, belting out gritty funk, old-school R&B and the occasional rhyme.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Jun 12, 2002
The Breeders: 'Title TK'
Ahh, The Breeders -- champions of the low-tech, indie ethic of the early '90s. Those twin sisters, Kim and Kelly Deal, and their spooky-yet-sensual vocals. Those guitar riffs your kid brother could play, but could never pull off like they did. This was the band that helped bring college-rock aesthetics into the mainstream.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
May 29, 2002
Wilco: 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'
On the new Wilco album, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," frontman Jeff Tweedy muses that his mind is filled with "radio cures." Looks like his old label didn't think so. Citing a lack of commercially viable tracks on "YHF" and the band's refusal to rework them, Warner/Reprise Music showed Tweedy and company the door. But not before allowing them to buy the finished studio tapes for $50,000. For Wilco (which, ironically, is shortwave-radio lingo for "will comply"), it was 50 grand well-spent. "YHF" is easily one of the best albums of the year and confirms Wilco's membership in the pantheon of great American bands.
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
May 15, 2002
Sage Francis: 'Personal Journals'
The marriage between art and entertainment in music has always been a dubious one, with hip-hop no exception. That's what makes Sage Francis, the spoken-word poet and freestyle-rhyme champion, one of the medium's brightest hopes. Hailing from Rhode Island (not exactly a hip-hop mecca), Francis bagged the top rhyming honors at both 1999's Superbowl Emcee Battle in Boston and the 2000 Scribble Jam Battle in Cincinnati, after which he focused on his first full-length album, "Personal Journals," on Anticon. Filled with razor-sharp narratives and DIY production, "Personal Journals" is the best hip-hop you'll never hear on the radio.
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
May 8, 2002
Treasure Isle: 'Ska All Mighty'
Ska -- Jamaica's first indigenous music -- has experienced several revivals. Led by Desmond Decker in the '60s, The Specials and Fishbone in the '80s, and third-wavers Sublime and No Doubt in the mid-'90s, each new version strayed further from its origin, often achieving a cult status. Still, somehow, in the Jamaican music legacy, true ska has stood in the shadow of reggae.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Apr 10, 2002
The Music
Critical acclaim can be a fickle creature, with up-and-coming bands often drowning in their own hype. Whether because of fate, arrogance or the nature of the music industry itself, countless artists have been swatted off their pedestals by the very same writers and fans that helped place them there.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Apr 3, 2002
Reverend Horton Heat: 'Lucky 7'
Honky-tonks, hot rods and a half-dozen bottles of bourbon. Welcome to the wild and woolly world of the Reverend Horton Heat. It's been 10 years, four record labels and endless gallons of booze and premium unleaded since the good Reverend (aka Chris Heath) first introduced us to his blistering brand of deep-fried, Texas-style rockabilly. And with the Heat's latest, "Lucky 7," this former pool shark continues to crank out aural fire and brimstone that sounds like The Cramps, Butthole Surfers and Jerry Lee Lewis all rolled into one.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / HIGH NOTES
Mar 27, 2002
Macha: 'The Ride'
After the disbanding of their Gainesville, Fla.-based prog-rock group Emperor Moth, multi-instrumentalist brothers Joshua and Mishco Makay moved to Athens, Ga., where they formed Macha. The shift from one thriving college town to another -- and a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia -- changed their music forever. Their guitars, keyboards and drum kits were now surrounded by zithers, hammer dulcimers and enough gongs to fill a few temples in the rain forest.

Longform

Historically, kabuki was considered the entertainment of the merchant and peasant classes, a far cry from how it is regarded today.
For Japan's oldest kabuki theater, the show must go on