I know we haven’t been the most regular in writing this year. But the year-end review is something we’d never let go, so look out for our take on the best releases this year. Thanks for sticking with us.
The appended artwork for Actress‘ R.I.P is an an evocative accompaniment to the album, with Eve Ackroyd’s charcoal rendition of a hand feeling for yet blending into the textured painting serving as an apt interpretation of how Darren Cunningham immerses himself into the multifarious layers that make up his music. This is dark stuff that’s full of life, meaning, and context: Cunningham’s rave roots still occupy a shadowy presence, but with R.I.P it is but one part of a larger ensemble that slips in and out of your consciousness and remains in my opinion the most deeply affecting release of the year. - Dan.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To… Gema – Before
Gema’s debut EP Before is a sprawling canvas of sounds, textures, layers, beats and samples that come together to form a cohesive theme of soulful disturbia. I’m somewhat afraid of what I might find inside Gema’s head. Every sound seems to have a sort of nascent meaning, which is scary because such premeditated behaviour has no place in the hands of a musician capable of carving another world straight into your skull. He’s one of the newest additions to the Syndicate stable, and we hope the marriage of the two will equal three. - Brian.
To download all 40 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. This month marks the 50th edition!
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To… Galactica – Saul’s Tighs
In a little-known recess in Singapore’s music scene, there existed a group of science fiction aficionados with a common love for the space odyssey Battlestar Galactica. They went on to write some dreamily-inspired shoegaze with titles such as Saul’s Tighs and Gaius Is Crying… Again, referencing series characters Colonel Saul Tigh and Dr Gaius Baltar. While the concept is an inside joke, the music is anything but. Their songcraft and taste in melodies evoke an immense sense of loss in the immeasurable vastness of space. It takes you back to the heyday of science fiction when the music was sprawling and searching, as opposed to present-day equivalents of over-budgeted pyrotechnics.
To download all 39 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.
I finally caught the Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal exhibition at the Art/Science Museum last weekend. Presented in a strictly chronological and unapologetically didatic approach, the exhibition served as a well-charted primer to Warhol’s work through the years. There was something magical about viewing his early commercial work, his rudimentary but precisely transferred blotted lines anticipating his impending factory-produced pop art statements. But I found his later works somewhat devoid of that cutting edge, as if he ironically ended up mass producing and reproducing his established aesthetic, almost labouriously. I did, however, find myself mesmerised at the middle of the exhibition by the seemingly never-ending video of the Velvet Underground at rehearsal with not just Nico but also her young son, doing his bit to add to the incessant waves of noise.
That’s perhaps a somewhat contrived, literal, if not roundabout, way of introducing what I’ve happened to be listening to a lot to these days – the clearly Velvets-inspired Dear Eloise and their second album 美丽陌生人 (they’ve written it as Beauty in Strangers in the liner notes, although I feel – despite the unwarranted Madonna comparison – it should be more accurately Beautiful Stranger). The protagonist makes her existentially-challenged appearance in “她从来不” (She Never), defined by the shadow of her absence, a mysteriously powerful force that absorbs the sun and the wind into that nothingness as well. It’s a perfectly ethereal and partly naive storyline that endears to as much as it loses itself in the very consuming noise it invokes. - Dan.
Divine Fits, the new project fronted by Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner (former member of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, both bands now defunct), is an amalgam of the two’s shared musical ethos, all tightly-wound pop hooks and raw energy. Their perfectly executed cover of “Shivers”, a song originally performed by The Boys Next Door (the teenaged incarnation of The Birthday Party featuring Nick Cave, Mick Harvey and Rowland S Howard), operates on a propulsive pulse that draws inevitable comparisons to Britt’s main band that we long admired. So yes, as much as it sounds unscripted, the song’s very familiarly Spoon, still. Yet “Shivers” pulls us into a wistful mood — every time we find ourselves unwittingly identifying with the rock singer, as he steadies himself to disown every shred of romantic longing he feels. - Keith.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To… FAUXE – Be My Love
A mysterious force has been brewing in Singapore, bubbling beneath the shiny veneer of saturated city lights. The glitchy imperfections of static haunt the corridors of abandoned buildings, a sign of life from androids realising self-awareness. FAUXE leads a charge into this unknown realm, stirring up quite the storm with his debut EP Ubuntu and letting his music trickle down your window panes on a rain-sodden day. - Brian.
To download all 38 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.
Me? I’m getting better everyday. I was revisiting one of my favourite Jim O’Rourke albums this week, and was surprised at how well, albeit quietly, the popping and rocking Insignificance has aged through the years. In “Therefore, I am”, the driving opening riffs sound like they’ve never stopped since they were first recorded more than a decade ago, while the pop harmonies that gave the song its richness sound even brighter than before.
That’s what I said, don’t believe what you heard. But I never know whether to take O’Rourke for what he says – is this the work of an artist at odds with himself (and his listeners), or a gifted songwriter capable of crafting a perfect pop song around confessional antagonism? There is a deliberate ambiguity in this work that contrasts with the straightforward song structure that encases those unlikeable thoughts: Is that really him speaking? To me?
It’s not like I want to be king; but I can’t help myself, it’s just that I am. Or is this pure arrogance? I really can’t tell. While this is usually regarded as among his most accessible work, I think it grows in complexity with each listen. Perhaps more accurately it reveals more about the man than his other recordings and collaborations, the conflicts borne within, but also the simplicity with which things can be expressed. I don’t think I’ll tire of revisiting this. – Dan.
I can’t wait to listen to Love This Giant, the album-length collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent which will be out sometime next month. The band’s third album Strange Mercy (2011), a collection of kaleidoscopic art-damaged songs, is still on heavy rotation of course, and last weekend’s Summer Sonic 2012 festival in Japan provided us with the chance to get acquainted with the evolving music and lead singer Annie Clark’s intense stage performances. The mannered chamber pop of her debut Marry Me (2007) is a distant memory, ceding to wiry musical catharsis, manic guitar soloing and a choice post-punk cover (The Pop Group’s “She Is Beyond Good and Evil”). The studied subversion of “Dilettante” works particularly well in this context, the singer teasing out every twisted nerve and casual vacancy in the song like a sustained illusion: “I got no patience for an estrangement, anyway”. - Keith.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To… MUON – Aqua Assault
The muon is an elementary particle similar to an electron. MUON is also a musical entity that exists in Singapore, whether as one person (Nick Chan) or more (currently, Jordan, Ren and Adam). Despite its varying states of existence, MUON’s music is rather akin to its sub-atomic namesake with its deconstruction of pedantic structures, but also as intelligent, intense and cryptic aural and visual forms. Always exciting and always new, MUON has been forged in its singularity, and their craft emerges through parallel universes. - Brian.
To download all 34 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.
“Bird of Paradise” seems to push all the right buttons. A processed background terrain crackles with the warmth of vinyl and the uncertain static of broadcast radio. Meanwhile, a singular recurring keyboard melody aims squarely at recalling those haunting, poignant, late night soundtracks, especially when awash with synth strings, inserted at those precise moments you’re held most breathless. And of course the words, with well worn cliches thrown in, sounding as true as they could through the breathy vocals of Ruth Radelet. I’m torn between filing this under “formulaic ballad”, “devious slight of hand”, or “heartfelt stroke of genius”, wondering if sincerity, manipulation and irony could ever co-exist. Perhaps it does in the enchanting but unfathomable world of Chromatics, who claim it’s in fact you who hold the keys to their heart. - Dan.
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
your generous donation will contribute to the running of this site. thanks!