Monthly Archives: February 2012

Laneway Singapore 2012 – Girls

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.

mp3: Girls – Morning Light

Girls’ releases, including their debut Album, are available on True Panther, via Matador Records.


Laneway Singapore 2012 – Yuck

Photo courtesy of Chugg Entertainment

Photo courtesy of Chugg Entertainment

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.

mp3: Yuck – Rubber

Thanks Allan from Heineken for making this possible. Yuck’s self-titled debut album is out now on Fat Possum.

Music Alliance Pact – February 2012 Issue

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
Obedient Wives ClubFragments
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.

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#380 Lim Ling and The Silverstones – (Funny Funny) Why Do I Fall I Love With You?

Clearly inspired by Sweet’s 1971 single “Funny Funny”, 70s Singaporean-Chinese pop starlet Lim Ling recorded her own version of the song that same year. Lim was only 13 when she started singing and releasing records, mostly with her backing band The Silverstones. That partnership is reprised in this B-side to her First Love in the Rain EP on Sakura Records, in which she teasingly ruminates on the unfathomable mysteries of love: “Why do I fall in love with you?/What exactly is the rule?“, as the opening lines go. That question is of course never resolved as the song takes a delightfully circular path, twisting the relatively standard pop structure of the English original with a refreshing playfulness unique only to that era. Funny, funny, indeed. – Dan.

mp3: Lim Ling & The Silverstones – (Funny, Funny) Why Do I Fall In Love With You

Some of the songs of Lim Ling and The Silverstones are compiled in Singapore A-Go-Go, Vol 1 by Sublime Frequencies.

2011 – A Second Take

It’s February already, so get on with it, you say? Not before a second take …

I don’t know where to start, really. I tried writing my year-end reflection some time back, but was never quite satisfied with how it just failed to capture everything I wanted to say. On this second take, I’ve decided to abandon that ambition and opt for something a little bit more realistic, and hopefully, meaningful – releases last year that have, in some way or another, compelled me to relook their back catalogue or the discographies of others. For me, that sums up what good music should be about, that which leads you to revisit your past loves and to discover new ones.

One of the first albums to grab my attention last year was Colin Stetson’s New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, released on my favorite Constellation Records. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and no wonder since Stetson has through the years been more (un)known as a sessionist for Tom Waits, David Byrne, Arcade Fire, and most recently, Bon Iver. On Judges, he demonstrates his strength as a solo musician in his own right, with spontaneity and vocal expressiveness driving his already-signature deep baritone sound which you’ll find in generous doses (see “Minnesota, WI” for example) in Bon Iver‘s self-titled album, also released last year. In a way it was nothing I had heard before, but now I can’t help but keep my ears open to how he makes his mark in so much of the music I love.

Listening to Liturgy‘s Aesthetica was quite a different experience. I’m not usually into the genre, but this is surely an album that sounds everything and nothing like metal, and that perverse paradox has kept me fixated. Its brutal intensity, in particular, prompted me to relisten my copy of Mean Man’s Dream by the similarly metal-not-metal band Gore. That 1987 album, re-released a few years ago by FSS (Kranky founder Bruce Adam’s new label), is an enthralling treatise into pure rock aggression, one that burns deep. I’ve also dug up my old 80s Swans records, perhaps subconsciously shaped by the uncanny semblances of their cover art, but perhaps more significantly for their industrial post-punk sound, that majestic swamp that remains not just influential but just as awkwardly confrontational as it must have been in its day.

More than any other genre, I’ve really been into the dub/techno/psychadelia revival that’s made quite a distinctive mark on the shape of music last year, something that’s breathed an organic soul into electronica. Beneath the breakout success of James Blake has been a strong undercurrent of releases ranging from the summertime hedonism of Peaking Lights936 to the evocative rave of Zomby‘s Dedication, the “blue-wave” electronica of Nicolas Jaar‘s Space is Only Noise, and the haunting Tri-Angle albums by Holy Other and Balam Acab. The standout release for me must be Andy Stott‘s double release on Modern Love, Passed Me By/We Stay Together, which I’ve found the most stunningly impressive of the lot in the degrees of emotional depth, nuance and texture weaved onto the techno template, which Stott has deftly slowed down and stretched out most elegantly. But it’s also made me look up his earlier work, especially the minimal genius of 2006’s Merciless and the experimental breadth captured in Unknown Exceptions, a compilation of his singles output since 2005. Seeing Stott’s development had made me appreciate even greater where he’s at now, since he really takes his time (like us here).

On a more literary note, I’ve enjoyed the songwriting in Destroyer‘s Kaputt and Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues, but more so, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat‘s Everything’s Getting Older, a collision of the romantic and the sleazy in the form of Wells’ sweet, understated compositions and Moffat’s sordid narratives and wry, idiosyncratic delivery. Apart from getting me back on the early Arab Strap albums I had only recently discovered anyway, the album’s title (and cover) remind me I’m not as young as I used to be. Sometimes that means not keeping up with the latest trends (which is perfectly fine, really), but sometimes it also means a reluctance to change and a stubborn sentimentality with the music I love, looking back more than looking forward. On these second takes, I’ve found myself viewing the present through shades of my past, but hopefully, without too much resistance to appreciating the new things that’ll be shaping up this year. Cheers. – Dan.

mp3: Colin Stetson – The Stars in His Head (Dark Lights Remix)

mp3: Liturgy – Generation

mp3: Andy Stott – Intermittent

mp3: Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Copper Top

Dan still can’t decide on his favorite albums of last year. Maybe it’s time to just move on.

2011 – Year of Pop and Smoldering Decadence

Yes, it’s taken us a while to come up with this. We’re slow that way, you know?

To start this 2011 recap off on a slightly moribund note, the death of Scottish folk singer Bert Jansch (1943-2011) in October rather cast a pall over the past year. Jansch has long been a part of my everyday experiences of listening to music, and the influence of his unhurried acoustic guitar playing can be heard in several other musicians I admire as well (Neil Young and Nick Drake come to mind). I have always loved how his best songs always had this dry and infinitely mysterious quality, a sense of quiet gravitas about them that deepens upon his passing. And as much as one cares to obsess over his music, one comes closer to only disconnect. RIP, Bert Jansch.

The understated electronic pop of James Blake has been ubiquitous for the most part of 2011, more than often as the music swimming in my head when experiencing a case of excessive introspection. Saddled with the expectation that comes with being a well heralded dubstep producer, Blake delivers a fine debut LP that flows mellifluously between layers of carefully constructed electronics and unadulterated piano-and-voice musicianship. (The follow-up Enough Thunder EP has its high points too, including his elegant cover version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”.)

One of the year’s most thoughtful pop records is Last Summer by Eleanor Friedberger (better known for fronting the Fiery Furnaces with her brother Matt), a set of wistful summer songs that is a wonderfully paced throwback to the warmth of 70s FM pop. Part of the appeal is the whole sense of spontaneity about the album, its rambling lyrics scanning like placid memories — Last Summer succeeds as an honest mediation on lost love that never feels indulgent.

2011 proved to be another pretty fruitful year for indie-pop connoisseurs, with great new releases from the likes of Comet Gain, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and The Andersen Tapes. On their latest Fading Parade, Papercuts craft widescreen pop nostalgia for the incurably romantic. Veronica Falls bowl me over with their much anticipated self-titled debut, the latest in a long line of bands to have resurrected the shambling sound of C86 — I’m just about glad for their infectious, reverb-laden jangle to slip occasionally into my cracked consciousness.

Which brings me to Wild Beasts, purveyors of dense, darkly euphoric songs that merit comparisons to the outsider English pop of Kate Bush, Robert Wyatt and Talk Talk. Suffused with smoldering decadence, the startling Smother finds these leonine pale kings of unknown pleasures tapping into a more expansive and musically sophisticated vein on their third album. The results are electrifying, and incredibly sensual — Smother opens with “Lion’s Share” and singer Hayden Thorpe’s lascivious foreplay (“I wait until you’re woozy, I wait until you’re lame/ I take you in my mouth like the lion takes its game”) — in its heightened quests for carnal knowledge and intimacy. Elsewhere, “Plaything” quivers with Nabokovian menace (“New squeeze, take off your chemise/And I’ll do as I please”) while the melodic “Reach A Bit Further” shudders with sensuous abandon. With Smother, the ever intransigent Wild Beasts has served up a mesmerizing album of brittle, estranged beauty for the ages. – Keith.

mp3: Bert Jansch – I Have No Time

mp3: Eleanor Friedberger – Scenes from Bensonhurst

mp3: Wild Beasts – Plaything

Keith’s Favorite Albums of 2011
1. Wild Beasts: Smother
2. James Blake: James Blake
3. Eleanor Friedberger: Last Summer
4. Veronica Falls: Veronica Falls
5. Drake: Take Care
6. Bill Callahan: Apocalypse
7. Papercuts: Fading Parade
8. Real Estate: Days
9. The Weeknd: House of Balloons
10. Destroyer: Kaputt

#379 Ekra – A ‘Lil Called Strength

I haven’t been this excited in a long while. In fact, I think this is the best thing I’ve heard since 2012 started.

Ekra is an NYC-based husband and wife duo, who make some of the most glorious, noise inspired melodies that reek of certain depravities and sensitivities. All at once, it is a hurtful hiss of lashing snakes backed in a corner, and blissful surrender to the fates that toy with us so.

I’ve been looking for that particular sound, that would drown me in its waves of emotion, asphyxiate me in its splendour, embrace me in its all-encompassing arms, and I think I’ve found it through the magic presented here.

The astounding thing about this music, is that it’s so very primal. There’s a particular minimalism that strikes as an up-yours to what we already know, or a departure to various progressive sounds we’ve heard of late. It’s amazing what this particular rhythm section has chosen to do, in the realm of deconstruction and then reassembling it all over again into a new whole. – Brian.

mp3: Ekra – A ‘Lil Called Strength

Men, the latest release by Ekra can be purchased through their bandcamp, or their website.