Archive for April, 2009

Thank you note for a love letter

April 17, 2009

The love letter in question

How do I love Love Letter to Japan by The Bird and the Bee? I’m only a moderate fan of Victorian poetry, so let me count two ways.

First, the song feels happy and danceable, and who am I to argue with that? I’m always on the lookout for additions to the Charm-o-Matic manifesto soundtrack.

If I were a music critic, I’d describe the Bird and the Bee’s music as other reviewers have, using words like “buoyant,” “charming” and maybe even “immaculately produced.” If I were a real pro, I could refer to the group’s “pop pastiche” or even blithely mention “the synth-tinged retro pop brimming with kaleidoscopic detail.”

Instead, I’ll just say that I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to Love Letter to Japan, so enchanting is it to my ears. The tune is a veritable prescription for high spirits. Perhaps you need something to induce dancing while you’re getting ready in the morning. Perhaps you need something for the heartache that resulted when this hockey season ended with your team just a broken cheekbone away from the playoffs. Perhaps you need a little sugarless boost to power you through the afternoon these days. In any case, have a listen.

Love letter of my own

The semiotics of cute?

Second, I frequently extol the virtues of various Japanese delights and have been composing my own love letter to the entire country for several years. These things take time. The Bird and the Bee are more succinct than I am and thank Japan “for the patience and the peace, cherry blossoms and the candy.”

That’s a promising start, although the mere word “candy” doesn’t begin to describe the odd wonders filling that aisle in any Asian market worth its soy sauce. My own love letter also includes bento boxes, Yoshitomo Nara and the nation’s inventive use of vending machines. One of Japan’s most monumental imports in my life, though, are notebooks by San-X that feature cats playing in food.

I’ve never been able to pin down the subtext of these little notepads and toys: Do the designers who create these tasty kitties revel in the irony of their work? Do they have conversations about semiotics during lunch? Are they evil geniuses with a subversive agenda? Or do they just think the little kitties are cute? (Cute enough to eat, you see.) My friend Jenner calls these characters “Hello Kitty in grad school,” so I’m going with the semiotics option.

So thanks for that love letter, The Bird and the Bee. Your cheerful tune is sure to inspire even more love letters in the future and lift moods across the country in the meantime.

Watch their Jimmy Kimmel performance on YouTube.