Monthly Archives: July 2010

#295 broken social scene – romance to the grave

I woke up this morning listening to the manic, guitar driven pop music that’s easily identifiable with Canadian indie rockers, Broken Social Scene, on the way to work today. This was of course preparation for the BSS gig that was to happen later tonight. It was the perfect recipe for neurosis, as the seemingly incoherent chordal structures melded with staccato drumming and cathartic vocals to give way to a beautiful disaster, like a gas giant slowly collapsing upon itself.

But it wasn’t until I sat down in that office chair, the illusion and safety of music fading away, that “romance to the grave” came on, and time started to dilate. I couldn’t help but drop everything I was doing, to listen intently to each note being played. If this morning’s commute was a collapsing star, then this song was the glowing pulse of a white dwarf, glowing like the embers of a dying fire, shining one last time before fading back to the start of time. – brian

mp3: broken social scene – romance to the grave

“Romance to the Grave” is found on BSS’ latest album Forgiveness Rock Record, released earlier this year on Arts & Crafts.


#294 built to spill – distopian dream girl

Last week, I was pleasantly surprised to have come across the Criterion Collection edition of Jean-Luc Godard‘s Pierrot Le Fou (1965) selling at one of the neighborhood DVD shops – of all places in the whole wide world, I thought, and hats off to geographical convenience – and I just can’t resist shelling out for it, having not seen the film in many years.

I guess revisiting this film, one of the first few of French New Wave films I saw, brought me back to when I first became an avowed admirer of the staggering inventiveness of Godard’s most vintage works, and Pierrot Le Fou has aged ever so ravishingly. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays the lovably confused intellectual wannabe Ferdinand, who abandons his TV executive job and married life to go on the run with quirky gangster moll Marianne (Anna Karina).

These two most implausible fugitives scurry across France with typical insouciance and a zeal for disorderliness. While Pierrot Le Fou zooms in the pair’s lowlife charisma and their misadventures with an intoxicating sense of narrative spontaneity, I can’t help but be strangely enchanted by Ferdinand’s seeming rediscovery of his artistic passion as a writer, Godard peppering the film with a great welter of literary quotations and references that would make their way into the film as part of Ferdinand’s ravenous journal entries – quite an interesting reversal of the incorrigible petty thief Belmondo played to perfection in Godard’s monumental debut Breathless (1960), in which his loutish character Michel wanted to know whether his girl fucked William Faulkner.

As Ferdinand and Marianne’s road trip hurtles toward catastrophic consequences, Pierrot Le Fou, in all its ineffable beauty as filtered through the drippy galvanic colors Godard utilizes throughout the film, begins to echo the muzzled frustrations of an intrepid filmmaker turning his lens on his own hang-ups. More than one critic has made the breakdown of Godard’s romantic relationship with Karina as an essential point of reference for discussing this film (their marriage would be over around the time the film was released), which makes it all the more poignant that it is on Pierrot Le Fou that she gave probably one of her most creatively provocative performances – perhaps a performance that reinforces the fact that Anna Karina, who appeared in so many of Godard’s early films that I’ve enjoyed, will always remain my ideal of a dystopian dream girl ever prone to fits of pique and tantrums.

“Distopian Dream Girl” captures quite possibly one of the most luminescent pop moments in the repository of memorable Built to Spill songs, and you got to love how Doug Martsch chew out the throwaway lines in the song’s chorus (“If it came down to your life or mine, I would do the stupid thing/ And let you keep on living”) like he’s trying to convince himself that he actually believes in what he’s singing; it’s the sort of counterintuitive sentiment that would not be unfamiliar to Ferdinand in Pierrot Le Fou, I suppose. The band’s brand of ponderous indie rock would bulk up considerably on their first two major label records on Warner – Perfect from Now On (1997) and Keep It Like a Secret (1999), both awesome albums – and Martsch has deservedly developed somewhat of a reputation for being an unassuming guitar hero, but I think I am no alone among Built to Spill fans who have a soft spot for There’s Nothing Wrong with Love (1994). – keith.

mp3: built to spill – distopian dream girl

#293 perfume genius – perry

the difficulty with being a “fan” of elliott smith or xiu xiu lies with how hard it is to “like” the pain and brutality exposed so starkly in their music. the same goes with the debut album by perfume genius, a moniker that thinly veils the confessional songwriting of mike hadreas. while the subject matter is similarly bruised and battered, learning takes a rather different path from smith’s underdog poetry and jamie stewart’s tragic theatrics, opting instead for feeble harmonies more reminiscent of the less ornate offerings of sufjan stevens (heartbreakers like illinoise‘s “casimir pulaski day” come to mind). comparisons aside, learning stands on its own as a record of much sadness, present not only in the words but more pervasively in hadreas’ breath and consequently everything he touches. the simple piano intro of the penultimate track “perry” attempts to clear the air, but only for a moment before the sadness returns with a greater heaviness, which i frankly don’t know how to deal with. – dan.

mp3: perfume garden – perry

learning is out now on matador records.

#292 the love language – heart to tell

It’s probably a good thing that Libraries, the lovely second album by The Love Language, sounds not that far off from their well-received eponymous debut (which was one of the more outstanding first efforts from last year, in my opinion), as the band continue to tap into a rich vein of fuzzy garage rock crossed with rapturous summer pop sensibilities. The music generated from these psychedelic Libraries is delivered with confidence and zeal, while a spirit of nostalgia holds sway over its most knowingly retro moments. The frenzied bloom of “Heart To Tell” sculpts all that aching wistfulness into two and a half minutes of knockabout pop wonder, adding an enlivening presence to an album awash in dreamy enchantment. – keith.

mp3: the love language – heart to tell

Libraries is available on Merge Records.

#291 inch chua – wallflower

after two promising eps, singaporean songstress inch chua has come of age with her debut full-length, wallflower, an album she approaches with both youthful, girlish enthusiasm and a fair amount of retrospective maturity. woven with experiences quaint and intimate, it’s the place in which she wrestles with fundamental questions of identity – the core of who she is and where she stands in a world seeking to homogenize and colonize. hello world, she asks in the title track, first with trepidation and later with growing courage on how she doesn’t fit in its mould and probably never will. still, it bothers her enough to dwell further on this conflict, as mirrored in the tension between her dreamy strings and the defiance of the harsher guitar strokes, drawn out perfectly with her impish vocal throwback to joanna newsom. yet, while newsom captivates from a mystical distance, inch draws you closer in no less enchanting terms to this pretty wallflower that’s coming into bloom even as we speak. – dan.

mp3: inch chua – wallflower

as with all her releases, wallflower is available as a free download. get it, and do support her at her album launch at the esplanade recital studio, 30 july, friday, 9.30pm.

music alliance pact – july 2010 issue

here at i’m waking up to, we pride ourselves at bringing to you the best of established Singaporean acts (like our favorites the observatory and b-quartet) as well as up and coming local bands to look out for, as featured on the monthly international music bloggers’ collective, the music alliance pact. this month, brian koh handpicks cheating sons, whose debut album due later this year is already eagerly awaited here. enjoy!

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Cheating SonsThe Last Queen
Look at some Singaporean cliches and you’ll be faced with an urban cityscape with sterile modern amenities. But scratch the surface and you’ll remember that we were once a humble fishing village that actually remembered how to relax. Cheating Sons sounds like a band that is in the process of retracing those roots, turning over every leaf and scribbling notes in the margins of journals. To say they’re updating a nostalgic country-rock sound would be downplaying the creativity behind the band’s songwriting. While they’re still recording their debut album, they were nice enough to share this demo with us because everyone back home is so excited about the music these boys are making. – brian.

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#290 melee – built to last

This is probably a song no contributor on I’m Waking Up To would ever write about, so I’ve made it my mission to introduce it to the world (not that it needs any introduction; we’ve probably heard it on commercial radio or at a wedding, gosh). Melee’s “Built to Last” is one song that makes a perfect candidate for satire, perhaps on a music column titled ‘What’s Wrong with This Song?’. Well, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with this squeaky clean American pop-rock number – it sounds like U2/Coldplay/Firehouse on Ecstasy; it appeals to the same high school crowd as Justin Bieber does; and it’s got words like ‘fireworks’, ‘candlelight’, ‘sun’, and ‘universe’. I don’t think there’s a song that aspires to be as blatantly romantic as this. (Usually songwriters DO get self-conscious at some point.)

Am I going to ask you to listen to it like a music connoisseur should, i.e. close an eye (or ear) and have a laugh with it? Hell, no. It’s a feel-good song, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it seriously. Today I woke up to the feeling of ecstasy. I feel inexplicably overjoyed, and I feel everything is awesome. (This is real, and this is good, it warms the inside like it should.) I feel that it’s speaking to me, and I’ve played this song about thirty-six times in a row. If you’d just drop your guard and listen to “Built for Last” once, it will be the sun in your universe, and there’s no escaping it for you. – song-ming.

mp3: melee – built to last

Song-Ming Ang makes art about music. Write him a letter and get a mix CDR in return:

#289 belle and sebastian – i’m a cuckoo (avalanches remix)

belle and sebastian will finally be in singapore next month for their first ever show here, and i can hardly wait for it already. just this morning, i was digging through my collection and found this avalanches remix of their best single of 2003, “i’m a cuckoo” (does anyone remember that cuckoo game they put online to promote this?). such a perfect choice it was to commission this elusive aussie duo to work their nostalgic, tropical magic on an already irresistibly catchy pop gem, with the light-headed flute opening reminding me of all i loved so much about the idyllic masterpiece that was since i left you. while the original sounds richer owing largely to trevor horn’s distinct choice of fully inhabiting every hook, this remix focuses less on melody and more on mood and atmosphere, in this case a joyous and celebratory one that makes listening to it here almost as good as being on that breezy island this mix was done on, wherever that might be. and because i’m in such a good mood this morning, i’ve also included a rather rare japanese version of this song as well, just for you. enjoy! – dan.

mp3: belle and sebastian – i’m a cuckoo (avalanches remix)

mp3: belle and sebastian – i’m a cuckoo (japanese version)

belle and sebastian will play at the esplanade concert hall on 7 august, 7.30pm. see you there!

#288 m. ward – one more goodbye

Just as Leonard Cohen provided a few of his songs to Robert Altman’s 1971 classic McCabe and Mrs Miller, I have always imagined “One More Goodbye” set to snowy scenes from some similarly hallucinatory Western. Matt Ward’s versatility as a willing pop collaborator (working with the likes of Zooey Deschanel and Norah Jones) may have gotten him much deserved attention of late, but it is his emotionally haunted voice and the introspective pull of his own compositions that retain a stronger resonance. Illustrative of his songwriting talents, the modestly scaled “One More Goodbye” exudes plenty of the melancholy, lonesome-traveler lyricism that distinguishes his best albums from other more expendable fare. It is a song tangled up between the tender mercies and bedraggled laments that hang in the wake of a drifter’s escape, riding towards everywhere; a redemption song manipulated out of practically nothing. – keith.

mp3: m. ward – one more goodbye

Volume Two, M. Ward’s second and most recent collaboration with Zooey Deschanel as She & Him, is available along with most of his other records on Merge Records.