Much as I enjoy the cantankerous side of Randy Newman as a songwriter and his gift for barbed satire, it’s often his more sentimental numbers that I love most when I listen to his albums, those songs of simple, unadorned beauty such as “Marie” and “Real Emotional Girl”. A recent song such as “Losing You” from his 2008 album Harps and Angels is a good example; “I Miss You” from Bad Love (1999) is another great one, even if he professes with regards to this song that something in him “can’t be straight about romance”. The one song that always kills me when I come across it is “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today”, released on his self-titled debut in 1968 and a song that’s covered many times. Randy Newman’s own version is probably the closest anyone can come to the core of the song’s sad lament, his vulnerable rendition conveying all the stark loneliness and disappointment in his somewhat ambivalent lyrics. Human kindness is overflowing, and I think it’s going to rain today.- Keith.
The weather in this part of the world is pretty straightforward but never predictable, something that applies rather well to the new climate-themed album by Malaysian band Ferns. While their debut On Botany strove admirably for the laziest perfection, Fairweather Friends goes for a clearer distillation of their winsome dreampop sound. Yet, it’s not so much about a more polished studio production, but the band’s intent at taking their music beyond just that sound. And as with the weather, surprises are aplenty especially with frontman Warren Chan’s whispery vocals vacillating between newfound confidence and vulnerable brittleness.
Following the featherweight melodies of the opening title track, “Miss Stormcloud” introduces the band’s crisp, glistening and upbeat pop, and along with it the album’s foremost protagonist – the “girl who’s good at bringing out the rain“. The meteorological themes that follow in the album serve as open-ended allegories for shifting hues of emotions (“When the clouds turn grey / she keeps sunshine at bay“) and commentaries on the localised condition of the heart (“Sweltering hearts wandering round in a tropical haze / a physical ailment these days“). Regardless of the literary device deployed, the lines delivered are personal and cleverly honest.
“Today I’m okay / but tomorrow, forecast gloom and sorrow“. In “Dismay”, Chan’s voice comes close to trembling point, quivering at the thought of what lies ahead. Tragically, it seems that any declaration of love comes just too easily to shoulder the weight of the impending storm, with the sentiment here expressed with the fullest certainty and most gripping fear. It’s with at least a drizzle of irony that consolation is sought: “I could use some warmth“. Such a powerful moment here, that for me captures most succintly the album’s understated beauty. - Dan.
Ferns – Dismay
Fairweather Friends is out now on both digital and CD formats on Bandcamp.
And what costume shall the poor boy wear? Lest we forget, it’s every effeminate mod’s fantasy to play in a guitar group such as The Horrors — I believe Vince Noir of The Mighty Boosh can attest to that, skinny legs policy notwithstanding. In their jaundiced gloom and unhealthy obsession with the ghosts of post-punk past, there’s no other outfit in this year’s Laneway lineup that quite share similar sensibilities with The Horrors. Not that it fucking mattered. Summoning energy and strange currencies from the darkest recesses, the band proceeded to whip a raucous storm that matches the cagey, crepuscular tone of their records. “Scarlet Fields” picks up on lead singer Faris Badwan’s bummed-out romanticism that always makes for compelling listening. Onstage, the song’s torrents of synth-plus-guitar contortion are rendered with dreamy gusto, a sense of conviction that their path to glory is indeed one paved with dark silhouettes. Collapse into dream, collapse into dream. - Keith.
While those familiar with Feist’s live show antics and visual spectacles from The Reminder tour may have been hoping for a sampling of it at Laneway 2012, her more minimal performance was still nothing short of amazing. On tow for her debut performance in Singapore was a tight six-member band providing just the right amount of bedding for Feist’s enamoring voice to lie in.
With half of the setlist being from new release Metals, the crowd received a good mix of old and new tunes, with old tunes going as far back as “Mushaboom”, a gem rearranged into a wonderfully minor-ish and more brooding rendition. “How Come You Never Go There”, a track from Metals, very quickly reminded listeners that her sound was still similar, albeit simpler. Cheekily suggesting it was crazy to do “So Sorry”, a “delicate flower of a song”, in such a festival setting, she went for it anyway and delivered perfectly. The set continued to undulate with “Comfort Me” and “Graveyard”, woven nicely into set-closers, “ I Feel It All” and “Sealion”, creating a sonic journey of emotions that left you smiling at the end.
In all, an appetite-whetting tidbit of a show that leaves one with bated breath for the much needed return of Feist to Singapore. - Adrian.
I was wondering if Toro Y Moi was going to fit in with the rest of the festival line-up, seeing how festivals tend to be guitar driven affairs. However, I was really itching to check out how Chaz Bundick and band were going to pull off their live show and introduce their much hyped “Chillwave” sound to Singaporean music-goers, or even to let my own ears believe it was more than just hype.
Well, I’m positively thrilled to report that all my preconceived notions were unfounded. Toro Y Moi held their own, and then some, confidence brimming with every distinct groove and just the right touch of euphoria on those warm synthesiser swells. ‘Chillwave’ was just a word that writers use to embellish Bundick’s tasteful songwriting, but you could feel it in the air that night, the warmth as psychedelic tones and lights washed over you, as you basked in its glow, swaying to the haze of alcohol and moving bodies.
Toro Y Moi gets my vote for a new breed of producers that offers warm soul and groove with the treble rolled just slightly back, and I’m definitely looking out for his next record dropping in the first half of this year. - Brian.
The other band I had eagerly awaited was The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, one of my favourite indiepop revivalists who I guessed would go on to draw quite a following, but never quite expected to become big enough to perform internationally, let alone Singapore. But it seems that our gig-starved days of yore are coming to an end, while the C86 sound has resurrected and found itself a wider and younger generation of fans.
Still, the Brooklyn band were very much the babies of the day’s lineup, perhaps in character with the naive innocence much associated with the genre. Their opening was nervous and shaky, and on top of that plagued with such distracting glitches that they had to stop for the technical problem to be sorted after the second song (“Say No To Love”), which they gallantly played to the end anyway. When the set eventually restarted, that unbearable crackling static was finally exorcised, but seemingly along with it all semblance of intended distortion, leaving behind Peggy Wang’s keyboards and an all-too-pristine and jangly guitar section. Stripped bare, the band sounded thin and uncharacteristically clean, even if still winsome and eager to please.
Thankfully, things ended on a high as the band fought hard to regain their confidence, urged on by an encouraging crowd. It helped too that they saved their best for the latter half of the set, playing their older and more familiar fare like “Come Saturday” and particularly “Everything with You”, which was attacked harder and more incisively than any other song on the setlist. The stars were finally crashing through, but if only that high could have come a bit earlier and lasted that little while longer. - Dan.
While it’s only been my second time at any real festival, I’ve come to a conclusion that there are two phases in any all-day festival – day and night. While there’s sunlight, there’s a warm, positive vibe in the atmosphere; everybody relaxes, and you start getting to know new people. Come the night, the artificial lights spin out of control, and the culmination of all that pent up fun unleashes itself in a full blown frenzy.
Then we have Twin Shadow, taking the stage just as the sun was setting, bleeding out the horizon, and finishing it off as a glorious welcome to the night. It was rather special to be treated to their 80′s influenced synth pop while the entire festival ground chased light and ushered in the last leg of Twin Shadow’s Laneway tour.
Perhaps it was because of such inevitability that George Lewis Jr gave a most urgent and intense performance that night. Despite the machinations of future sounding synths and rhythm parts, his lead guitar lines were beautifully organic and lush on lead moments like “Forget”, or shimmering through sparkly syncopations as on “Shooting Holes”.
Like his namesake, two shadows seemed cast that magical evening, born from sunlight and moonbeams. It was special and I loved it – a perfect moment for any transition between phases. - Brian.
I could have simply filled this post with “Whitney Tribute”, linked the above video in all its tender, touching and tearful glory, and it would have fit Dan’s brief for this series nicely. But that would have been playing to the gallery.
I was really looking forward to my imaginary fiancée Feist’s set, but it fell short of my expectations. (Sorry luv.) What lived up to my expectations was Girls’ excellent set. From the 1-2-3 opening punch of “I Will Always Love You”, “Lust for Life” and “Laura”, through the earnest “Love Like A River” and to the rip-roaring “Morning Light”, Christopher Owens, Chet “JR” White and their band harmonised with the emotional frequency of Saturday’s tragic news, and never let up except during the strangely muted closing chorus of “Hellhole Ratrace”. The crowd sang along, Owens cried (“Don’t cry!”), pumped his fists, climbed up the drum stand, and at the end of the set the band threw the flowers gracing the stage – their stage trademark – into the audience.
The set closer “Morning Light” was signature Girls circa Album – the band punched very hard all song yet emoted sweetness and vulnerability through Owens’s wide-eyed croon. If Nirvana and The Pixies popularised loud-quiet dynamics, Girls are the masters at embedding a soft, sensitive core within a hard, tough body of sound. It’s easy to think that they are mellowing when you compare their recent output to the debut Album, but in truth they have always had an emotionally delicate DNA. - Eugene.
“Tryin’ to make it through the wall!” was the rallying cry of Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom of Yuck as they gamely tore through the scorching Singaporean heat. The band, carrying a heavy baggage of noise-driven slacker rock, ensured that their wall of sound was no barrier to a tightly performed set. The favorites were clearly teenage riots like “Operation” and of course “The Wall”, although the sweetest moments like “Shook Down” and “Suicide Policeman” reminded the festival crowd that the band was as much Teenage Fanclub as it was Dinosaur Jr.
Personally, I was most anxious for Yuck’s set to soar, eager for the festival to have its fair share of noise and shoegaze especially in light of WU LYF’s unfortunate withdrawal. Set-closer “Rubber” dispelled all doubt if there ever was, with its slow-burning, emotionally-draining pace that stretched out into a cathartic finale. Make it through the wall, they did, as even Christopher Owens of Girls would soon cheekily tribute. But more of that tomorrow. - Dan.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To… Obedient Wives Club – Fragments
The first release by 60s indie-pop distributors Happy Teardrop Music is the debut self-titled EP by Obedient Wives Club, and what a hit it’s been with all physical copies selling out within a month. The band, cheekily named after a controversial Muslim organisation of the same name, plays a delightful blend of girly noise-pop – or what they helpfully term “Spectorgaze”. Fragments indulges its Jesus And Mary Chain obsession with generous doses of saccharine melodies and interstellar fuzz. - Dan.
To download all 36 songs in one file click here. MAP is published on the 15th of every month, featuring a showcase of music handpicked by bloggers from all over the world.
sharon van etten:
Lately, I have been obsessed with this band from Montreal called Automelodi. I work at a record label (Ba Da Bing Records) and my boss, Ben, is constantly getting new records in. He knows I have a soft spot for 80s/90s post punk/early electro, vaguely alternative music... and so one day, he put on a Wierd Records compilation. It was a vinyl set of like 4 pieces or something. There were so many good bands on there... however, Automelodi stuck out in my mind as being an authentic, genuine, NON-cheesy version of the 80s I wish I was a part of. The song in particular that gets me going in the morning is called "Schéma Corporel".
mp3: automelodi - schéma corporel
bani haykal from b-quartet:
often enough, it’s the early morning rush which gets me excited about shutting my eyes. and by morning, we’re looking at the 4 a.m. time frame where all you hear is yourself in a foggy blur, thinking if sleep is really all that important because the early few are storming off for work. in all honesty, there is no ipod nor a single earplugging devicetron which i’d attend to. often enough, it’s someone else’s sonic leak i’m getting addressed by. but, i’m listening to Steely Dan’s “Babylon Sisters”. in my head, at least. sanity ‘from the point of no return’, personally. it’s a breath of fresh air. despite its age. everything is beautiful then.
mp3: steely dan - babylon sisters
naomi yang from galaxie 500:
The perfect song to start the day is “A Tonga Da Mironga Do Kabuleté” – the live recording from 1971 by Brazilian artists Vinícius + Bethania + Toquinho. It is like a beautiful sunrise – although I think that the lyrics are actually some sort of political commentary disguised as a Candomble/Afro-Brazilian curse – but whatever! And then you should just leave the CD on, and listen to the rest of the album while you have your coffee. And you will have a great day.
mp3: vinícius + bethania + toquinho – a tonga da mironga do kabuletê (live in buenos aires, 1971)
jamie stewart from xiu xiu:
i have a nico button on my guitar strap and her excess eyeliner has been burning the dirge "janitor of lunacy" into my waking ears as of late, at least 20 times in the last week. until yesterday we have been on tour in scandinavia, russia, poland, austria, germany and czech. these grey locations held hands with her harmonium perfectly.
mp3: nico - janitor of lunacy
justin ringle from horse feathers:
i have been obsessively listening and waking up to this tune by gillian welch called "annabelle". it's a song about a sharecropper in alabama and it is so sad, beautiful and timeless that I can't help but listen more than once in a row. the harmonies in the chorus make my hairs stand up... beautiful song.
mp3: gillian welch - annabelle
tracyanne campbell from camera obscura:
my favourite song at the moment is called 'one in a million' by steve miller. it's really beautiful. his voice is like honey in the sun and it totally melts my heart. the lyrics are quite simple and i guess
corny but it's a great tune and the production is so good it really doesn't matter. i wish i'd written it. in fact i'd love to do a cover version of it. i was recently in stockholm visiting my friend victoria (bergsman) from taken by trees and we were singing it in the flat and talked about recording it. watch this space...
mp3: steve miller band - one in a million
stuart murdoch from belle and sebastian:
every day when i leave the house and walk over the iron bridge and up to the glasshouses, i listen to “what for” by james. i have a habit of dropping back 20 years in my thoughts, and having a parallel soundtrack running in my head so that i may be walking in a street in 2008, but my head is in 1988. i don’t know why that is. this is an up and hopeful song of the period from a band i used to care for deeply.
as we slip into the autumn here, i am prepared to let my new song of obsession become “the game” by echo and the bunnymen.
“everybody’s got their own good reason why their favourite season is their favourite season”.
mp3: james - what for mp3: echo and the bunnymen - the game
alison eales from butcher boy:
I'm waking up to Labi Siffre, and wondering how I managed to stay asleep for so long. His songs are diverse, unpretentious, and performed with tangible joy. I'm literally waking up to him as well - I have 'It Must Be Love' set as my alarm, and it is proving to be a very nutritious musical breakfast.
mp3: labi siffre - it must be love
who we are
i love music, but i can't play it for the life of me, so i might as well try writing instead. hope you like it. i'm from singapore, where there really is good music if you look hard enough. i'd love to hear from you (yes, you): email@example.com
I'm a four stringing minstrel of doom, and hired gun for the odd band or two. Few things excite me more than music, and whiskey soaked vocals are a definite plus, so please be sure to send some my way. When I'm not contributing to I'm Waking Up To and MAP, you should follow my misadventures at http://litford.wordpress.com And yes! I'd love to hear from you too: firstname.lastname@example.org
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