There was a playlist on Reverberation Radio a while back with the song Sports Men on it. It's the kind of song that really sticks in your head and is weird in all the right places. I've even incorporated it into some mixes here and there but never investigated Haruomi further, until now.
Listen to the full album here
Pam: I find it hard to take most of this album seriously as music. This seems like one long synthesizer yank. The first "real song" on the album is the cover/parody of Funiculi, Funicla (from 1880!) titled funnily Funiculi, Funicura. Hosono clearly likes to goof around. But then the gem of a track Sports Men assures me Hosono can really write a pop song. Living-Dining-Kitchen is super fun too but I don't think I'd care if I ever heard it again, it's kind of like a lesser version of Sports Men. Hosono sounds really great singing in english though. His voice sounds foreign of course, but that just adds to its charm. His intonations are strange and that feels fresh. The lyrics (when there are lyrics) are smart but silly. It's a shame there aren't more fully fleshed out tracks on this album. I was surprised to see it garnered so much love and sells on vinyl for around $60. I looked into his work further and found a much better/different album of his called Hosono House which has the delightfully yacht rock/Shuggie Otis feeling Bara To Yajyu (Rose & Beast). Ultimately I'd give Philharmony 2.5 out of 5 Big Macs.
Phil: Another week another genre chameleon, Psych rock, Exotica, music inspired by video game sound effects. Haruomi Hosono is a name that I’ve seen come up here and there but I’ve never checked him out until now… and sadly I have a strong feeling that we picked the wrong album to start with. Philharmony is an eclectic, experimental, electronic mess. Most songs lock into unmemorable, and often aggravating loops. The sound selections are thin, and occasionally painfully sharp to my ears. Thank heavens the album is broken up with a couple gleefully strange electropop tracks – Living-Dining-Kitchen and Sports Men. I wouldn’t consider Living-Dining-Kitchen a great track but it sounds refreshing after the preceding 18 minutes of seemingly thoughtless electronic clutter. Over a pastiche break beat our boy Hosono barks out half-baked non-poetry - "Standing in the kitchen, can’t think what to eat, got to make my mind up, noodles or big mac?" It’s kind of fun and it’s kind of forgettable. Once again it seems the only true take away track is the track that originally attracted us to the album. Sports Men is a real head bopper/shadow boxer. Here we have Hosono’s sleepy casual vocals over a polyrhythmic base coat. There is a super poppy, very lighthearted synth loop that carries on nearly unchanged throughout the full track. Unlike the rest of the album the performance and lyrics come off as genuine, reflective, and deeply personal. The protagonist is exposed and vulnerable in his relationship, worried that he might be anorexic, frustrated that he "can’t seem to find the right charge", aware that he’s never been "the star of the poolside", yet in every chorus the mantra is repeated "be a good sport, be a good sport, be a sportsmen". I like that. Sing along. Punch air. Aerobicize.