Thank you to Kristie and Jackson for introducing me to blip.fm, another venue through which I can attempt to impose my musical tastes on other people. So far, I have a grand total of one follower. Bless you, 2Serenity! If anyone else happens to be using blip.fm and wants to join the crowd, my handle is UncMo.
If you like piano-heavy music, and I think you know I do, then by all means take a moment to contemplate Ikuko Harada. Unfortunately, it is very hard to actually listen to Ikuko Harada, because her music doesn't seem to ever be released in the States (and she is not on blip.fm).
Radio host Chris Douridas chose the Japanese singer-songwriter's Piano in a 2005 NPR roundup of most overlooked CDs, but somehow failed to mention that it was only available as a ridiculously priced import, and therefore quite overlookable. Music from Harada's band, Clammbon, also remains unreleased in the United States, judging by a search on Amazon.
I managed to get a digital copy of Piano and have gone back to it regularly over the last three years. "Waltz" is the only lyricless song on the album -- the other songs feature Harada as a vocalist, singing in Japanese -- and it is one of the most beautiful, happy-sad songs I have ever heard. Everything on Piano sounds very casual, but in a way that feels more serendipitous than sloppy. I love the whole thing. I also love the way Harada sings wordlessly over the music in "Waltz," and how playful, meditative and rhythmic the music is.
I will try to post direct links to this and other songs by Ikuko when I get past a technical glitch on my other site. In the meantime, here's the imeem link.