Monthly Archives: December 2009

Year End Review: Our Top 40 Records

Has the year gone by just like that? Time really flies when you’re having fun, especially this year when so much good music’s been produced and released. Although most year-end best-of lists have been published already, we’ve left it to the real end of the year to give you our scoop on what’s been hogging our stereos these 12 months. And while our posts through the year have been song-based, this list is decidedly record-based, with both full length and shorter ep’s included. With that, here’s 40 of our favorite records of 2009, presented in alphabetical order. From the way this year has turned out, we can’t wait already for what 2010 has to offer. Cheers, and as we always say, see you on the other side. - dan and brian. Continue reading

#230 amberhaze – 1994

1994 appears to be a milestone in the birth of post-rock, with the term coined by simon reynolds in his review of bark psychosis’ hex. that same year would see the release of tortoise’s debut self-titled album, arguably the launching pad for the band and its like-minded thrill jockey label mates in the development of that experimental post-rock sound. today, post-rock has become a term that’s become all too ubiquitous, and too often used as a convenient label for any instrumental rock music that employs that familiar loud-soft formula, whether guitar-effects based or electronically driven. singapore-based amberhaze, the solo project of giuliano gullotti, references these roots with little hesitation, yet creates music that’s surprisingly free from the expected confines of the genre. in the concisely titled “1994”, gullotti carves out a post-rock epic of sweeping atmospherics, explosive percussion and electronic suspense that engages both heart and mind, a resilient strategy that manages to stay fresh in 2009. - dan.

mp3: amberhaze – 1994

amberhaze’s latest album then we saw the stars again is out now on kittywu records. you may purchase the album directly from the band website, where gullotti writes an awesome feature series on the post-rock lover’s guide to classical music. highly recommended reading and listening!

#229 the airfields – home is always an imaginary place

you know it too, i think, that liminality of wakefulness. the questions that wash ashore the littoral zone and tumble away, their rhythm soothing you into another cycle of sleep. what time is it? where am i? KL? hougang? serangoon? the airfields are from canada, but they’d probably tell you it doesn’t really matter since home is always an imaginary place. over the drum machine’s detached nostalgia, lush’s wistful and world-weary voice sha la la las you back into that narrow in between consciousness. - b.

mp3: the airfields – home is always an imaginary place

the airfields released an album earlier this year titled up all night, available on humblebee records. get it!

#228 cat power & dirty delta blues – amazing grace

sometimes, the least religious interpretations of religion teach us the most about what faith means. the traditional christian hymn “amazing grace” has an amazing backstory of its own, written by the 18th century slave trader john newton whose life turned around after several near death experiences. newton’s expression of amazement, however, finds little resonance with the disenchanted world today that shrugs its shoulders at any form of institutionalized religion. it is in this regard that cat power‘s revision of the hymn does some work in restoring the meaning of amazing grace as not some abstract theological concept, but as a saving reality realized in all its fullness by “a wretch, just like me“. the thing about this version that brings me to tears is the way chan marshall inhabits the song and wrestles it in the first person, at times holding on so tightly to the freedom promised, and at others loosening her grip (“you know the rest“), but never ever losing sight of the respite for her own wretchedness, which she knows so well. have a grace-filled christmas, all ye wretches. - dan.

mp3: cat power & dirty delta blues – amazing grace

“amazing grace” is taken off the red hot compilation dark was the night released earlier this year. do support the organization’s efforts in raising awareness about AIDS by purchasing your own copy of the album.

#227 dirty projectors – stillness is the move

Dirty Projectors picks up where Talking Heads left off two decades ago in integrating the muscularity of rock with the liquidness of funk. It’s as if key Projector Dave Longstreth has taken to heart George Clinton’s advice, “Free your mind and your ass will follow”. The inquisitive spirit that pervades Bitte Orca is encapsulated in “Stillness is the Move”, where songcraft, arrangement, and production work together seamlessly. Electronic bass samples and acoustic drums join forces with double-tracked guitar, setting the scene for duelling diva vocals. Painting on the canvas of rock music, “Stillness is the Move” drips with African blues and RnB, recalling Ali Farka Touré’s guitar playing and Mariah Carey’s vocal acrobatics. Not since Radiohead’s Kid A has rock music been so consciously reconfigured. And it’s sooo motherfucking funky. - Song-Ming Ang.

mp3: dirty projectors – stillness is the move

Song-Ming Ang makes art about music: www.circadiansongs.com

#226 zee avi – first of the gang to die

i woke up this morning with my heart stolen away by zee avi‘s voice, with her acoustic rendition of “first of the gang to die”. while morrissey’s original wins you over instantly with its charm and his operatic delivery, zee’s version coaxes you affectionately but persuasively to love it by smoothening the song’s rough edges and rounding up its melody in a most endearing way. quite lovely indeed. - dan.

mp3: zee avi – first of the gang to die

zee avi’s self titled debut album is out now on monotone/brushfire.

music alliance pact – december 2009 issue

there’s always a sense of pride when we showcase the best of singapore music to the rest of the world through MAP, and all the more so when the spotlight is on a young new talent. this month, we’re really excited to feature our youngest selection yet: 16 year old weiwen seah, who goes by the name for this cycle. thanks as always to our local music ambassador brian koh! Continue reading