Just because Keigo Oyamada is sort of a studio nerd, it doesn't mean that he can't ease up off of his abstract techniques of cutting and pasting that made his debut album turn heads. Fantasma was a happy sampling smorgasbord of cartoon noises and melodies, not to mention a dream come true for people looking for more substance in their music. Somewhere between melodious pop and electronic wizardry is where you'll find Cornelius on Point.

His name is taken from Planet of the Apes, and true to the movie, Cornelius is an evolving scientist of sorts. Point is more of a polished second effort. Critics will probably argue that this new album technically shows off less than Fantasma, and this is completely true. There's far less knob-twiddling and jumpy sound effects, but this is replaced by more soothing sounds, like chirping birds, crickets, and falling drops of water. The song-to-song transition is smooth (just ignore the bursts of high-pitched noise and clamoring guitar chords), and easier to take. Oyamada's voice is akin to that of a Japanese Beach Boy, and what a suitable accompaniment this is to the more mellow rise and fall of Point. Now if only he'll let his new wife (Japanese songstress/cutie Takako Minekawa) guest on the next record. -Claire Buxton

Stephin Merritt
Eban & Charley Original Soundtrack

Stephin Merritt is an evil bastard for two specific reasons, and I will now list them in order of increasing bastardness:

Reason #1: The man makes me enjoy being miserable. I can't begin to count the number of hours I've wasted listening to his records while moping around hopelessly in a big melancholic puddle of black bile, loving every second of it. Unluckily for me his newest offering, soundtrack music to the film Eban & Charley, maintains the standard. "Poppyland" offers a telling example of how Merritt creates surrealistic playgrounds of pain and longing, tricking you into thinking that suffering is fun: "When black waves break on the world you make, the pieces go to Poppyland. Wished-upon moonbeams and abandoned dreams, they fall like snow in Poppyland." Can there be anything more destructive than a daydream about a fairy-tale world composed of disappointments?

Reason #2: Merritt is so prolific that I have to create a budget around him the way most would around addictions like heroin or Thai food. He leads four bands (Magnetic Fields, 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, Gothic Archies), and the last Magnetic Fields album was a 3-cd box set. And while non-Fields records tend more towards experimentation and sound noodling, every record tends to have at least two or three truly great songs. This album is no exception as "Maria Maria Maria" and the one-minute "Tiny Flying Player Pianos" will make you enjoy wishing you'd never been born. -John Norris