The 12 Discs of Christmas, Cibo Matto

There’s a great line in Ex Machina where Caleb is caught lying about his favourite colour, and he admits “I don’t have a favourite colour, because I’m not 10”. Being a grownup often means wading deeper and deeper into relativism and further from, if you like, pure experiences. Or to put it as Hayseed Dixie do, they don’t know any people with just one kind of record in their collection. This list is something like a stratigraphy of that meandering and changeable music habit, a partial schematic glance at who I was when I liked what music. But, over a roughly 14 year period now, there is one band whose music has never been terribly far from my current listening pattern, and whose music I still feel like I get more out of each time it plays – Cibo Matto. Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori are responsible for 5 of my most-loved albums, and picking between them for the one to buy is not easy, because they’ve all got real virtue. Their first two albums, Viva! La Woman and Stereotype A are very different albums, and I’ve blogged about that before. Their two best individual albums, Memories are my only witness and Ecdysis are similarly disparate. And the great thing about Hotel Valentine is that when I listen to it, it seems to draw together all of the best elements of the other albums. I didn’t love Hotel Valentine when it came out, but it’s really grown on me.

In the end, it’s got to be Viva! La Woman, the beginning both of the band itself and my love for it. It’s a complicated album, and I’ve listened to it again specifically today while thinking about this post so I could be as specific and analytic and insightful and all those good things as possible. But the truth is I just don’t have the musical training or knowledge to unpack what the album is doing the way I can unpick a film or a book, which I’ve devoted years of my life to studying at post-grad level. The best I can get is something like “it’s polyphonic” – I can sense lots of different layers shifting, and the sound is really complex as a result. The main big disadvantage to the album is it really rewards a great listening environment, but suffers instantly in background noise or on a poor-quality sound system. There’s a playful energy to it too, imbued in the names of the songs and in the lyrics. “White Pepper Ice Cream” and “Know Your Chicken” being my two favourites on that score.

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