Monthly Archives: May 2009

#182 camera obscura – french navy


in my opinion, camera obscura has always been a quietly confident band. on their newly released my maudlin career, however, that confidence has grown to assume a bolder and more extroverted character with a sound that’s more expansive and a delivery firm and entirely at ease with itself. nothing exemplifies this better than album opener “french navy”, a stomper bursting with energy and finesse. last year, the band gave the singaporean audience a glimpse of that as they previewed the song during their gig here, although as i noted before, they did seem rather dwarfed by the large, imposing venue. today, listening to “french navy” as it appears on the album gives me renewed hope of the greater heights the band can reach, and as evident in the song’s flourishing strings and smashing beats, it’s something they’re totally in control over.

mp3: camera obscura – french navy

my maudlin career is out now on 4ad!


#181 wilco – i’m the man who loves you


i’ve been waking up to this every morning for the past week.

so here it is, especially for you.

mp3: wilco – i’m the man who loves you

gone deerhunting …


in a space of three short years, the staggering output of deerhunter and its affiliate acts has thoroughly infiltrated the fragmented psyche of indie music (if such a category makes any sense at all). 2007 was the year most of us got our first glimpse of the band with its post-shoegaze cryptograms album and the impressive follow-up fluorescent grey ep, which boasted a title track invoking the rotting corpse of david baker’s mercury rev. showing no sign of slowing down, 2008 saw the consolidation of the hegemonic grip of the band, which started the year with bradford cox’s solo project atlas sound, and ended it in style with the devastatingly beatitiful couplet microcastle/weird era cont.

this year, we already have two related releases to contend with, lockett pundt’s solo effort lotus plaza, and the band’s recent ep rainwater cassette exchange. the former’s the floodlight collective already has the makings of a classic as it reaches towards the outer limits of both ends of the dreampop spectrum, with album centerpiece “what grows” representing just about every possibility of such a project. rainwater cassette exchange is no less adventurous, as evident in the opening title track with its deceivingly naive holiday-themed melody blending surprisingly well with the song’s garage inclinations. it’s only may, but i can’t wait for what else the band’s got to offer for the rest of the year.

mp3: lotus plaza – what grows?

mp3: deerhunter – rainwater cassette exchange

all deerhunter, atlas sound and lotus plaza releases are available on one of our favorite record labels, kranky.

regional spotlight – sore (indonesia)


i miss the grad room, the place where i used to spend countless days and nights trying to finish up the seemingly unfinishable thesis. it was a long tedious process that would have been unbearable if not for the fantastic people who populated it. one of the things i missed too was the spontaneous but frequent music exchange sessions – that was how i got acquainted with the music of indonesian band sore, as recommended by janssen who was learning bahasa indonesia at that time.

i couldn’t believe i hadn’t heard of them earlier. as i soon found out, the six-piece band based in jakarta had already been making waves regionally: their debut album centralismo was voted by time magazine as one of the five asian albums worth buying in 2005; more recently, rolling stone indonesia voted their follow-up record, ports of lima, as the album of the year last year. my eagerness to check out their music, however, stemmed more from the curious plurality implied in their album titles and art, which seemed to hark back to a fictional colonial past through the perspective of a romanticized present.

in ports of lima, this is expressed with the deeply nostalgic sentiment of the record weaved effortlessly into a modern context and celebrated with flourishes of strings, flutes and other subtle intricacies. what strikes me repeatedly is the band’s awareness of their various musical roots, which are derived from both the charm of indonesian soundtracks of yore as well as the pop mastery reminiscent of great american albums like pet sounds. most impressively, though, the band retains its originality in creating a culturally relevant record that sounds perfectly at ease with its marriage of disparate influences.

the songs in the album reflect this confidence. album openers “bogor biru” and “senyum dari selatan” lay out sore’s favored idyllic sound surrounded by layers of harmonies that sigh collectively at full stretch. the songs that proceed from it explore a whole range of emotions and moods, from the sunshine-tinged pop of “layu” to the dreamy balladry of “merintih perih” and the surprisingly intimate “apatis ria”. by the end of repeated listens, i find myself less occupied with the band’s pastiche that so intrigued me at the start, and more immersed in the magical world they’ve crafted so beautifully in one album. it’s a work of fiction, no doubt, but one that’s rooted firmly in both the cultural and the personal, crucial elements that keep this band ticking as time stands still around them.

mp3: sore – bogor biru

mp3: sore – apatis ria

ports of lima is released on aksara records and their music is available digitally through equinox.

if you’re in singapore, do check the band out as they perform at the heeren on 30th and 31st may, 6pm. see you there!

music alliance pact (may 2009 issue)


bringing you the best music from around the globe, this issue of MAP is yet another testament of the international diversity of indie music as well as the universality of music itself in bridging national and cultural boundaries. this month, our very own local correspondent brian koh picks the explosively fresh indie rock outfit the fire fight, a band i really enjoy watching live. enjoy, and keep listening folks, all over the world.

AMERICA: I Guess I’m Floating
4 Lands & PeoplesAwake
Baltimore-based Lands & Peoples seem to have a knack for hypnotherapy. With a commanding ethereal ambience and gorgeous catatonic tensions throughout, Awake is an eye-opener from start to finish. You’ll ask, “How have I not heard of them?” and “I can’t believe they aren’t signed!” Well, believe it. There’s an album in the works coming out later this year (perhaps self-released), but for now you can listen to more gems at their MySpace page.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
4 Les Mentettes OrchestraHold On
Les Mentettes is a psychedelic pop band who just released a five-song EP with orchestral arrangements conducted by former Orquesta de Salón member Manuloop. It’s a free release so if you like Hold On you can legally download the other tracks as well. They are currently playing this record live with a full orchestra in several venues around Buenos Aires.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
4 Jonathan BouletA Community Service Announcement
I only recently discovered the very talented Jonathan Boulet’s music online, and upon hearing this song immediately purchased his album from iTunes. It is simply amazing that the 20-year-old produced and recorded everything himself in his garage. Big future for this guy.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
4 A Banda de Joseph Tourton#3
A Banda de Joseph Tourton only have a few songs on the internet and released a digital EP last year, but they are already one of the most interesting of the new generation of alternative groups in Brazil. They create instrumental songs full of groove, emotion and originality, making the next step in mangue beat’s (a musical movement from Brazil’s northeast) history, going through post-rock, jazz and their regional culture influences.

CANADA: I(Heart)Music
4 Green GoBrains For Breakfast
For a year or two now, my friends in Toronto have been raving about Green Go to me and now that their debut album, Borders, is out, it’s easy to see why. As songs like Brains For Breakfast show, the band create infectiously catchy pop with shouted group vocals and bouncy riffs that sound like they’d make for a big, sweaty blast of fun in concert.

CHILE: Super 45
4 MutroneBristol
A mix of experimentation, psychedelia and improvisation are the foundation elements from which Mutrone build solid sound walls comprising samples, effects and a dynamic reminiscent of the machine-like structures of krautrock. With two albums, Oscillatore and Centinela, both released under a Creative Commons licence, the four guys in Mutrone have discovered an exciting way to bring the real sounds of the city into the machine.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
4 SinusstøvWho Am I?
The translation of their name is “Sinus Dust” but there’s nothing at all dusty about Claus Pedersen and Søren Friis Dam’s musical output. Who Am I? is lush, sweeping and crackling electro, showered in the melancholy Scandinavians have to live with and everybody else finds moving. Another grand testament to the incredibly healthy state of Danish electronica.

ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
4 Blue RosesDoubtful Comforts
Another month and I’m sticking with all thinks folky, although we’re leaving London for Shipley in Yorkshire which is the home of Laura Groves. She has recently rebranded herself as Blue Roses and released an amazing self-titled album (on XL). Of all the young folky female artists I’ve enthused about here and on my blog, she’s possibly the best.

4 Delay TreesDesert Island Song
Indie-pop quartet Delay Trees have just self-released their seven-song debut CD, Soft Construction EP. Desert Island Song is the opening track and the beginning of a dreamy trip through tender pop melodies and bits of psychedelia. It is a very promising start for these guys.

FRANCE: ZikNation
4 WalterLe Dernier Bastion
In the beginning, they were two, playing in parks, festivals and concert halls. Six years and three musicians later, Walter keeps riding French roads offering a tasty blend of reggae, blues and folk, spreading messages of love, respect and peace. They’ll be back in studio by the end of the year to record their next album.

GERMANY: Blogpartei
4 SchlachthofbronxGood To Go
Schlachthofbronx defined a whole new genre called Munich bass. This bastard relies heavily on Kuduro, baile funk, dub and dancehall but also likes to play with elements of Bavarian folk and synthpop. Good To Go has never been released officially but turned on the crowd at their sweaty gigs all over central Europe.

ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
4 Retro StefsonPapa Paulo III (Re-edit version)
Retro Stefson was founded in late 2006 by a group of eight teenagers, school friends from Austurbæjarskóli. They write catchy, semi-pop/semi-rock crossover songs and give great live performances. Last year the band released their debut album Montaña on the Icelandic Kimi Records label. The band’s principal songwriter is Unnsteinn Manual Stefánsson. The lyrics are in English, Spanish and Icelandic.

IRELAND: Nialler9
4 Super Extra Bonus PartyRadar
The first single from Super Extra Bonus Party’s second album Night Horses sees them joined by Cadence Weapon on a stomping live band/electro-hop crossover. It’s a good indication of a band who don’t like to stick to genres for too long. Night Horses also features pop, acoustic folk, instrumental rock and electronic goodness with guest vocals from Mr. Lif, R.S.A.G., May Kay of Fight Like Apes, Ann Scott and Heathers.

ITALY: Polaroid
4 Buzz AldrinSmall Bad Talk With Koala Friends
Obsessive rhythms, nagging guitars, alienated voices, dirty synths and strangely beautiful songs that are greater than the sum of their parts. Think of Liars, think of Wire, think of Pere Ubu, or don’t think: just dance. This young trio show a driving strength when on stage and they are improving with every gig.

MEXICO: Club Fonograma
4 Mr. RacoonFerry 3
Mr. Racoon is one of several projects by Roberto Polo, among them 60 Tigres and Fuck Her, Or The Terrorists Win. This is by far his most charming moment yet. His music unfolds the very best of a prolific songwriter that, as opposed to what his music may sound like, is a maximalist taking the lo-fi production and his shimmering voice to heroic amplitudes. Ferry 3 is a cut from his third album Katy, released earlier this year through the free storage music website Delhotel Records.

NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
4 The Sing SongsPamphlet Baby
The Sing Songs sing songs, saccharine sweet pop songs. What gives them their staying power are the lyrics. Where you might expect girl loves boy, boy loves girl, instead you get the story of a woman dealing with the death of her baby by walking the streets with a pram, delivering pamphlets. To date the band don’t have any releases but this song has been included on a compilation issued by Real Groove magazine to celebrate New Zealand music month.

NORWAY: Eardrums
4 MaribelFlesh & Blood
Oslo-based Maribel released their long-awaited and brilliant debut Aesthetics only a few days ago, and the Norwegian critics gave them full scores in the reviews. The band play dreamy, noise-drenched, multi-layered shoegaze with almost psychedelic elements. There are obvious references in their sound to bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Spacemen 3, Pale Saints and even The Velvet Underground, but Maribel definitely do their own thing and they do it their own way. Maribel and Aesthetics is highly recommended, and will be this Norwegian blogger’s soundtrack to the spring of 2009.

4 Diablos AzulesPorno Music
It is time for a classic night: trumpets, breaks, ska and contagious melodies that immerse people in the most insane of their intentions. It is perhaps no surprise the band are called Diablos Azules (“Blue Devils”). Porno Music is the best legacy of their existence – an old song which is still fresh and gets revived every time someone goes to a party in Lima.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
4 The TiMariaPretty Girls Are Pretty High
Last year, a man was organizing a gig with a three-band bill but had just two booked. When he was creating the poster, he made up the name TiMaria and included this fictitious group as the third act of the night. (Un)fortunately, he didn’t erase the name before the posters went to press and ended up with a stock of paper to throw away. However, he persuaded his friends, André Moinho and Nuno Rancho, who live in small villages around the city of Leiria, to form a band in 15 days so that he could use the posters and save the planet. And so, with the addition of Nuno’s younger brother, Luis Jerónimo, The TiMaria (“Aunt Maria”) was born. Their debut record will be released in September or October.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
4 SemiosisRecovery
Semiosis is the post-rock/ambient/electronic project of Seidiu Alexandru and Serban Ilicevici, two young guys from Craiova. They have just released their debut album, Pictural, and it has received a lot of positive feedback. Pictural is considered the first Romanian post-rock album and is available for free download here – it’s a must if you enjoy listening to this preview.

4 BoycottsBeat On The Dancefloor
Boycotts have been in existence for barely a year but it’s still no surprise they’ve got people in Scotland very excited indeed. The Glasgow-based quartet’s edgy guitar-pop pushes all the right buttons, but the ace in the pack is their enchanting frontlady, Stina Twee, all youthful exhuberance and ‘don’t screw with me’ lyrics.

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
4 The Fire FightFires At Night
The Fire Fight are an indie-rock band that have set the local scene on fire with their firebranded musicality and heartfelt lyrics. Fires At Night is the first track from their demo, The Green EP. Brandishing straight-up indie guitar rock that combines the intensity of Bloc Party and the poetic ebb and flow of The One AM Radio, Fires At Night draws the listener into its warmth and, like a slow burning furnace, purifies the experience. Perhaps the best thing about The Fire Fight is their lyrical optimism in a world spiraling into nihilism, as singer Josh Tan pleads that music is for “the hope that burns in your eyes”.

4 Stretching Journey060
Post-punk band Stretching Journey put out a self-titled album on its own last month. The band is not afraid to blend a plethora of genres into their music and as a consequence of the lo-fi production, several of their songs ended up with a slight psychedelic edge. The album opens with 060, which has a progression and a beat influenced by Los Bunkers, whereas the style of the chorus is inspired by Korean dance-pop act Koyote.

SPAIN: La Página De La Nadadora
4 SundaeArte y Ensayo
The Field Mice, My Bloody Valentine, The Radio Dept. and The Cure are four good references for this band who have even been namechecked by the famous label Shelflife with their second demo. Sundae are like the best shoegaze pop inherited from Sarah Records, but this time from Seville.

SWEDEN: Swedesplease
4 Robert SvenssonI Was Summer, You Were
I can’t tell you one quaint biographical detail about Robert Svensson – he’s a mystery to me. But I am now an instant fan on the strength of I Was Summer, You Were. The song exists to share these two sets of lyrics: “I was summer and you were November” and “I was architecture and you were the wrecking ball”.

To download all 25 songs in one file click here.

#180 beast – mr hurricane


the trip hop genre was literally birthed in bristol, home to pioneers like tricky, massive attack, and of course portishead. it was however a genre that quickly made more sense as an influence to other musical forms than as a fixed sound of its own, which probably explains why portishead took almost a decade before releasing last year’s third, an album that successfully departed from the stereotypically chill, laid back feel of the genre with its more aggressively experimental sound. i’m guessing it’s a direction that may have influenced upcoming montreal duo beast in their recently released self-titled debut album. while beast, comprising producer jean-phi goncalves and vocalist betty bonifassi, may not equal portishead in terms of sophisticated production, it does hold its own in terms of balancing a raw, harder-edged delivery with what is at heart a smooth and danceable vibe – a beast exuding its own beauty, if you must. in album centerpiece “mr hurricane”, all this happens when the rough edges of bonifassi’s vocals meet the greasy surface of the track’s fat bassline, the effects of both combining eventually in the awakening call of the final chorus.

mp3: beast – mr hurricane

beast is now out on verve forecast. you may purchase their album online at maple music.

#179 god help the girl – come monday night

god help the girl

the period after belle & sebastian‘s lukewarm release of fold your hands child at the turn of the century was perhaps the most crucial of the band’s career. at that point, many had felt the glaswegians had probably run out of ideas and trapped themselves within a tweefolk sound that was beginning to wear thin. the next proper album in 2003, dear catastrophe waitress, provided just the change they needed, boasting a polished gleam without loosing any of its understated charm, a direction pushed to even greater perfection in 2006’s the life pursuit.

that turning point, however, cannot be viewed apart from the other possibilities that the band could have taken. according to stuart murdoch, it was during the dear catastrophe waitress tour that he began to envision something different, songs with strings and female vocals that didn’t fall under the institution that had become belle & sebastian. in the course of the subsequent five years, this has grown into the project now known as god help the girl, revolving around murdoch’s musical narrative supported by the uplifting vocals of catherine ireton, celia garcia and alex klobouk, with mick cooke’s expansive orchestral arrangements.

“come monday night” is the first single to be released, and offers that exact glimpse into what else belle & sebastian could have become at that turning point. the lush but clearly defined strings are a natural progression from the simple arrangements found in their earlier albums, but with a certain buoyancy distinctive of the band’s later efforts. what we get then is an alternate view into the belle & sebastian universe without having to depart too far from its current solid form which you’d be wicked not to care about.

mp3: god help the girl – come monday night

“come monday night” will be out come this monday on rough trade, who together with matador will release the album on 22 june.

goodbye, grandma


the date grandma was born was the fourth of july. the year, however, remains a disputed fact, although i’m quite sure it was 1921, since she was born in the year of the rooster, just like me. we share other things too, like our common love for sweet things and afternoon naps.

yesterday, after waking her from her nap, i talked to her for the last time before she passed away hours later. she couldn’t talk very much, but nodded as enthusiastically as she could and smiled her unforgettable smile when she could tell we were around. for someone who’s lived with me all my life, i’m ashamed to say she probably knew me more than i knew her, and i’m sad that it had to take this illness for us to grow closer. but it was never too late, and in this short life there’s no space for regrets. i cherish every conversation we’ve ever had, especially the last few we shared through these past weeks.

grandma, it breaks my heart every time i think about the state were you in, tubes and all, and how thin you had become in just a matter of weeks and months. and i can’t believe how your hands, once ever so warm, now lie cold and lifeless.

but i feel alright when you smile.

mp3: galaxie 500 – fourth of july

#178 susumu yokota – tree surgeon


one of my favorite activities is buying things i’ve never heard of before, based purely on how they strike me at any point in time. this has applied especially to music, where time and time again i’ve bought albums on account of their cover art and little else. that’s how i got acquainted with the music of susumu yokota in 2000 with his album sakura, which became one of my favorite electronica records at the turn of the century. i still remember picking that one from the shelves at borders because i loved the birds on the cover. this year, he releases mother, a buoyant collection of songs produced in collaboration with female vocalists of his choice, a direction not unlike the preferences of fellow countryman dj krush. i initially found it hard getting used to hearing vocals on top of his music, often straining my ears to hear and decipher what’s going on under all that singing. but i’ve since learnt to let go of the need to make perfect sense of everything i hear, and that’s when i’ve finally allowed mother to float above my stubbornness and everything else i hold on to so tightly.

mp3: susumu yokota – tree surgeon

mother is out now on lo recordings. get it!