February 26th, 2005



I'm staying alone in a borrowed apartment in Nishi Ogikubo, West Tokyo. It's early morning and sunshine is making the curtains a big block of diffused white light. I'm playing The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour album and actually remembering what it felt like to be in Britain in 1967 (I'm old enough to remember that!) but also what it felt like to be in Tokyo in 1997, because this weird, genre-colliding psychedelic brass band music was very much in the air here then too. The LSD referenced in the album's lyrics may have helped The Beatles to achieve the rich disorientation and decontextualisation you hear in songs like I Am The Walrus and Strawberry Fields Forever, but I sometimes think Tokyo doesn't need to do LSD: like Obelix from the Asterix books, the city seems to have been dipped in a vat of the stuff at birth. Everything here is wonderfully out of context, suffused with the same gentle, positive sense of whimsy that seeps from these songs.

My favourite recent echo of this atmosphere--one which, unlike, say, Oasis, actually matches The Beatles' radicalism and originality--also qualifies as my favourite song released in 2004. It appeared outside the confines of the music industry and has remained untrumpeted, unhyped, and unheralded. It's a song by the design group Delaware. It's called Graphic Designin' in the Rain (they made a book with a similar title) and I grabbed this version from a Flash animation they did for the Shift website. The IdN DVD I bought on Thursday includes a live rendition of the song in Singapore. The studio version is better, a taut, simple arrangement which manages to recall George Martin's elaborate productions using nothing more than a simple synthesised voice for backing. I'm sure Delaware won't mind if I make it available to you here:

Graphic Designin' in the Rain (stereo mp3 file, 1.6MB)