Monthly Archives: March 2012

#390 The Offset: Spectacles – Can’t Quit Your PR Face

Who needs a drummer when the rest of your rhythm section works as hard as this, chugging and grinding along just like Sister Ray says? In what makes for a pounding, primal experience, the psych-garage sludge of Beijing-based Hong Kong band The Offset: Spectacles (憬觀:像同叠) is a natural articulation of their Debordian situationism, where music is stripped of how it should look or sound in favour of how it actually feels. And that feeling cuts brutally through the noise, stabbing and stomping hypnotically to their scathing critique of the city. Thrilling, addictive stuff. – Dan.

“Can’t Quit Your PR Face” is taken from the band’s eponymous debut EP, released on Rose Mansion Analog. They have a new, also self-titled, LP out on the same label. Our friends Ujikaji Records are distributing it and taking pre-orders from now till 31 March at a special price of SGD28.


#389 Eric Chenaux – Amazing Backgrounds

As with Colin Stetson’s Judges last year and Thee Silver Mt. Zion’s Kollaps Tradixionales the year before, Constellation Records seems bent on beginning each year on a seemingly unmatchable high, this year with the release of Eric Chenaux’s Guitar and Voice. The title captures the simplicity of Chenaux’s approach but reveals little of the depth of his music. That underwhelming surprise is captured in “Amazing Backgrounds”, a deceptively placid piece that, considering Chenaux’s sweet textured vocals and gently caressing guitar, would surely have fit as a concluding lullaby for most other albums. Yet, it is daringly placed right at the beginning, setting the tone for the rest of the record’s willingness to immerse, meander and sustain, convincing me it’s just another place I won’t mind wasting away. – Dan.

mp3: Eric Chenaux – Amazing Backgrounds

Guitar and Voice is out now on Constellation Records.

#388 Spiritualized – Hey Jane

“Hey Jane” is Spiritualized’s “Jenny Ondioline”, if you know what I mean, and in fact it’s probably the closest Jason Pierce has floated to the hynoptic pop universe of Stereolab. Everything else, from the wretched storyline to the obscenely excessive choral and orchestral arrangements, is Spiritualized through and through, brutally stirring the coldest soul whilst wallowing gloriously in its own vomit. The video for the track enacts upon itself a similar kind of violence – you’re convinced the ending isn’t going to be good but while everything unfolds you can’t help but stay gripped and, quite perversely, enjoy how it all fits so perfectly together even with the knowledge that the guilt that follows isn’t far behind. – Dan.

“Hey Jane” is the first single off Spiritualized’s new album Sweet Heart Sweet Light. Both will be released April 16 on Double Six Records.

#387 Sea Lions – I Don’t Wanna Go Out

Sea Lions frontman Adrian Pillado may sing about how he wishes he was Lou Reed but his band’s brand of garage indie pop is essentially more Jonathan Richman or Beat Happening — frisky, shambolic songs themed around social neuroses that seldom (never?) breach the three-minute mark. And perhaps the peculiar poignancy of a song like “I Don’t Wanna Go Out” is something that not only the reserved personality types can readily identify with. I just love how the angular melodies jaunt along blissfully to Pillado’s deliberate funny-serious singing to evoke scenes of afternoon idleness and the discreet charm of homebodies. – Keith.

mp3: Sea Lions – I Don’t Wanna Go Out

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask is available on Slumberland. If you’re in Singapore, you may mail order it through our favourite indiepop distro Happy Teardrop Music.

Music Alliance Pact – March 2012 Issue

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
ShelvesStar Alright
The much-anticipated debut album by Shelves was released this month on both vinyl and digital, resurrecting not just the choicest cuts of Britpop and college rock, but the very essence of the 90s Singapore scene. Yet the record sounds anything but dated, with its clever balance of crisp melodies and generous distortion pointing the way forward for indie rock today. That vision is epitomised in Star Alright, a song that rides above the crackle and feedback to poke fun at the studded-leather ironies of pop stardom. – Dan.

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.

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#386 Shelves – Killer Concern / Sussed Out

Singapore is a peculiar place. It’s a post-colonial state in the barest sense of that term, since everything from street names, laws and spelling conventions continues bearing the colonial imprint, right down to the attribution of the country’s founding to the British. Yet, so much of what shapes popular culture in Singapore today is clearly American – just have a look at what’s on local TV and the radio and you’ll get the idea.

Listening to the new self-titled debut by Singapore band Shelves provides an inkling of that strange paradox, something the band cheekily alludes to in one of their many attempts at describing their sound (consider, for instance, the clumsy but hilariously apt “If Teenage Fanclub played in Pavement to songs written by Weezer“). By their own admission and as evident on record, Shelves wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, with those roots drawn largely from 90s Britpop and American indie rock. And it hits you at the get-go with album opener “Against a Wall”, the fuzzy, garage-tuned college-rocker that lets the guitar distortion drip all over the hook-laden melodies, and its follow-up “(She Wakes Up To) The Beat”, which reverses the order of things by letting all the pop take centre stage.

Yet, the band finds no problem at all in handling these polarities. In “Alien Invasion”, vocalist Noel Yeo drags his lines like only the Brits do even whilst declaring himself to be “through and through American blue“; meanwhile, a guitar riff goes on that sounds somewhere between Blur’s “Parklife” and R.E.M.’s “Departure”. At other moments, the Brit influence rings truer, especially when “Superstar” saunters like a Liam Gallagher ballad, and the chorus of “Star Alright” stretches out into the laziest of Bobby Gillespie drawls, which remains most striking despite their strongest efforts at a Strokes-like finale.

Could it be that nothing’s changed? To pigeonhole the band on the sole basis of influences neglects their own contribution to Singapore rock, which each band member has been a part of for some time. In that sense, Shelves captures the essence of the local scene in the 90s when being played on John Peel’s show (and quite a few made it!) meant so much more than a slot on MTV (“Does she know there’s so much more?” they ask, of the budding MTV temptress). Still, they’ve built upon that spirit with a pristine production that maintains both the raw energy of that period with the shiniest treatment that befits their modern pop sensibilities.

This time we’ll go further. In the end, it’s really all about the songs, with the band’s classy songwriting, irresistible hooks and balls-out delivery on each track providing the formidible structure around which the most memorable characters – be it Julie, unaware of her “killer concern“, or that sussed out boy who’s “so far gone” – are weaved into an unforgettable 40 minute excursion. What a clever, triumphant effort, and an utterly enjoyable one at that. – Dan.

Shelves is now out on glorious 180g vinyl and digital download available on Bandcamp, where you can also sign up for a free mp3 of “(She Wakes Up To) The Beat”.

#385 Wilco – A Shot in the Arm

Since forming in 1994, Wilco have amassed quite an impressive back catalogue of songs, spanning from their early country-rock exploits to the more expansive experimentation that inhabits their later records. This much was made clear during their recent gigs in Brussels (part of the current tour supporting their new album, The Whole Love) — two sold-out nights at the Ancienne Belgique (March 2-3) where the band performed two virtually different set lists, oscillating between newer material and the old.

The band have taken to opening their recent sets — as they did so on the first night in Brussels — with the 12-minute “One Sunday Morning (For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)”. Much as I found The Whole Love to be a middling affair — that said, each new Wilco album has never ceased to be a treasure of anticipation, at least for me personally — I marveled at how the band injected fresh zeal into the album’s standout tracks. The languorous melancholia of “One Sunday Morning” (“Something sad keeps moving, so I wandered around”); the Beatles-meet-Krautrock romp “Art of Almost”; the lacquered pop radiance of “Born Alone” and “The Whole Love”, all of which are unmistakably Wilco.

Not surprisingly, the band members cleaved to Nels Cline’s guitar-playing finesse for the more musically robust numbers such as “Impossible Germany” and “Bull Black Nova”. Or anyone game for an acoustic “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” to showcase their Dylanesque knack for transforming their songs onstage?

Experiencing Wilco live, I felt that the band’s best performances came down to the two songs they revisited from their 1999 album Summerteeth, “I’m Always In Love” and “A Shot in the Arm”. The whirling “I’m Always In Love” is classic escapism, all wrapped up in throbbing power pop exultation so insatiable that you can almost believe that Jeff was belting this out without a trace of irony.

“A Shot in the Arm” felt like something else altogether. One of only a handful of three or four songs that were reprised both nights, this bruised and bracing anthem tossed the band members into their frenzied best. In howling sonic terms, “A Shot in the Arm” captures how it feels to exist in a state of emotional flux, searching for the proverbial angry fix (“Something in my veins, bloodier than blood”). The song also speaks to me of a sense of renewal, of having the courage to look ahead with insouciance. What you once were isn’t what you wanna be anymore. – Keith.

mp3: Wilco – A Shot in the Arm

The Whole Love is the first Wilco album released on their own label called dBpm Records. Find out more on their website.

Keith, our roving correspondent for the time being, has been hotel foxtrotting across Europe. He sends his regards from Cologne.