(c) 2009, Apple Corp Ltd

Apple Corps Ltd. and EMI Music have announced the release of the original Beatles catalogue, which has been digitally re-mastered for the first time, for worldwide CD release on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 (9-9-09), the same date as the release of the widely anticipated “The Beatles: Rock Band” video game.  Each of the CDs is packaged with replicated original UK album art, including expanded booklets containing original and newly written liner notes and rare photos. For a limited period, each CD will also be embedded with a brief documentary film about the album. On the same date, two new Beatles boxed CD collections will also be released.

Beatles fans (and that’s every living person on the planet who has an interest in rock music) are divided on these remasters. On the one hand, we’re happy about having the opportunity to listen to those wonderful songs in pristine digital sound (the Love album demonstrated this). On the other hand, it seems like an exercise to squeeze money from fans in less than economically viable times.

On balance, whilst I think that it’s about time that the Beatles catalogue received the deluxe re-issue treatment many lesser acts have already received many times over, I am a little concerned about the fact that fans will be asked to pay full price for 30-minute albums, from whom the record label (viz EMI) has made megabucks from fans already. Sure, you can talk about the packaging, the expanded booklets and the embedded documentaries but if this exercise was about the fans, then the discs should be priced at not more than half the usual CD prices.

Unfortunately, with EMI in dire financial straits, it will see this as a perfect opportunity to replenish its coffers with even more Beatles money. Personally, I can see myself simply purchasing the entire catalogue without too much hesitation (just look at the CD package for Abbey Road above) but I’m hoping for some common sense from Apple and EMI. Am I being too naive? What do you think, Beatles fans?

Pix (c) 2009, Apple Corps Ltd.



Why do I love the Great Spy Experiment (GSE) as much as I do?

There will be detractors who accuse GSE’s style of being derivative of Interpol, the Editors, the Killers et al. Pardon me if this sounds like sheer hyperbole, but that’s like saying that Coldplay sounds like Radiohead and Viva La Vida sounds like a Santriani song! To these ears, I’d rather listen to GSE than any of the above mentioned bands.

Yes, GSE draws from the same post-punk revival as these other bands but GSE is also able to imbue melodic soul into their original material. Flower Show Riots. their shimmering debut album contains tunes that make one sing and rhythms that move one to dance. Pure & simple.

Following below is GSE’s very first music video of their breakthrough deubt single – Class ‘A’ Love Affair – and I like the ‘black vs white concept’ that runs through the spine of the video. So enjoy… and spread the word.

Check out GSE’s Myspace page.

Pix by Fir.




Tuomas Kallio, DJ, Producer and founder of The Five Corner Quintet, believes that everyone is a Jazz fan….it’s just that they don’t know it. Not wanting to disagree with him too much there, but I am most definitely not a Jazz fan, and I am pretty certain that I know it. So when Hot Corner landed in my ‘To Do’ pile of reviews I cannot say that I looked at it with a great deal of enthusiasm. Jazz is just a genre that has never taken root in my soul and given me any kind of yearning to be part of the whole scene or even an innocent bystander on the pavement as the parade passes me by. I am not opposed to Jazz, I don’t hate it or wish that it would fall off the planet like Miley Cyrus and her kind with their safe pop/rock for the ‘Tweens’, but I don’t think about listening to it in my spare time either.

I am going off track though, I simply wanted to point out that if you are looking for a review that can delve into the influences and meaning behind T.F.C.Q. then stop right now, this is not the review for you. It is not even a review that will end with a cathartic seeing of the light from myself and a declaration on my part that Jazz is precisely what I have been missing all of my life. I am simply saying excuse my ignorance, but this is a review by someone who is not all that bothered about Jazz, so if you find it lacking in comparison and depth that is why.

So who are T.F.C.Q and why are they here? Well as mentioned before, Tuomas Kallio decided it was time that the world found Jazz again and decided that this rebirth would start in Helsinki. So in 2005 he formed T.F.C.Q. and with some of Helsinki’s finest released Chasin’ the Jazz Gone By on Ricky-Tick Records to much acclaim. Kallio used his experience as a DJ on the dancefloor to breath some modern life into Jazz, not through updating it with beats and other gimics, but simply introducing a new flavor to the genre, and that is what he has tried to achieve again with Hot Corner.

I do have to say one thing about Hot Corner right from the offset; it does get your foot tapping. Easy Diggin and Rich in Time are both numbers that it is literally impossible not to at least have a quick nod of the head to. This doesn’t convert me people, I have tapped to Britney Spears and much worse in the past, but it does show that the aim of the album is hitting it’s mark by reaching out to the roots of the founding member. I cannot deny the repetitiveness sometimes spoiled my enjoyment while listening, Habib’s Habit especially had me gritting my teeth and taking longing glances at the timer of the track, but overall what was offered on ‘Hot Corner’ seemed to have a fresh quality to it.

Adding some heavyweight backing to the project, as he did on T.F.C.Q.’s debut album, is Mark Murphy. His voice fits the two numbers he sings on perfectly and opens proceedings on Come and Get Me, a sleazy, slick track that shuffles through it’s verse and chorus with ease. The second song he appears on is ‘Kerouac Days in Montana’ which is nowhere near as good as the first song, the vocals are more than competent but they appear to not be at ease with the music.

Overall I did enjoy Hot Corner, it was catchy enough to hold my attention and certainly I think someone who has more than a passing interest in Jazz as a whole will really go for this band. As I said and stated at the beginning though, although it is a good album and the musicianship is very high I would not think about going back to it. Kallio may believe that people just don’t know they are Jazz fans, but a friend of mine once also stated that Jazz is the only genre of music where the musicians have more fun than the audience.

(Adam Gregory)

Check out The Five Corners Quintet Myspace page.



EXTRA GOLDEN Thank You Very Quickly (Thrill Jockey)

Not quite sure what to make of Extra Golden, an African-American combo (not what you may think but a quartet comprising of two Kenyans and two Americans) combining America rock stylings and African rhythmic structures. Also not what you think, i.e. nothing remotely close to what Talking Heads or Vampire Weekend have achieved with their hybrid format.

Thank You Very Quickly is the band’s third album and it features six tracks in all and they all feature very prominent African styled rhythm guitars, percussion, other instrumention and vocals. There is not too much to suggest that there is any American creative input in this. Personally, the melodies take a little time to fully appreciate but there’s no doubting the skill and expertise in the lively performances. And that will more than suffice for now.



I must admit that I’ve been deeply impressed by Barbara Trentalange, who is a talented singer-songwriter-musician and judging from her answers below, a critical thinker as well.

1. Why play music?

I have found that music is my form of communication. I am not great at expressing myself while speaking, but am able to be very clear about how I feel and who I am through my music.

2. Who are your influences?

I have so many influences, I don’t know where to start. I think that is why my music is so varied. Some of my earliest influences came from my dad, who is a great music lover. Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and various flamenco guitarists were in constant rotation in my house growing up. I also love classical music. I was trained as a classical flutist and can’t listen to an orchestra without becoming completely engaged. In high school and beyond I find myself to be particularly drawn to musicians with a darker flavor: early peter gabriel, pink floyd, black sabbath, sinead o’connor, siouxie sioux and the banshees, nick cave and the bad seeds, pj harvey, eurythmics, led zeppelin, catpower, crooked fingers, massive attack, portishead, tricky, aretha, sly and the family stone, john lennon, goldfrapp, radiohead, blonde redhead… this list could go on forever as I am constantly adding to it.

3. What is success?

I think I ask myself that question everyday. Defining success could be the key to my happiness. It seems to be some intangible unattainable thing to me now. I think I define success to be something much bigger than it actually is, which is surely a recipe for suffering.

4. Why should people buy your music?

If my music connects with a person on any level and the listener wants to participate in the conversation I am trying to have.

5. Who do you love?

I try to love everyone no matter what. That is a challenge, so the people (and pets) that I spend most of my energy loving are my amazing friends and family, husband and dogs.

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

Beyond making a living,  I want my music to connect people and give them permission to be honest with themselves about their emotions. I’d love my music to inspire others to feel safe in expressing themselves through whatever means is most suited for them.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

I have met some of my closest friends through music. They are the ones that continually support me and come to my shows. It always feels like a big party that I don’t need to clean up after.

8. What is your favorite album?

That’s a tough one. I have worn out many many records. One that I keep coming back to is PJ Harvey’s “Dry.” Amazing, emotionally honest record.

9. What is your favorite song?

Can all your artists answer this question? Good lord, too much great music, too limiting a question! If I had to answer though, “San Jacinto” by Peter Gabriel is my favorite song. today. ask me tomorrow and it will be different.

10. How did you get here?

Baby steps. I started out learning how to play the piano as a toddler and it has been years of baby steps ever since.

Trentalange’s Awakening, Level One is out now.


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WAND Hard Knox or “Are You Sure Hank Jr Done It This Way?” (Estatic Peace)

Official releases of demo and home recordings are by their very nature tend to be strictly for fans only. That said, I must admit that I’m not familiar with Wand, which basically consists of James Jackson Toth of Wooden Wand. So I’m definitely not a fan so to speak. Yet, this collection of country-folk-blues songs succeeds at every level, in my view, notwithstanding (and because of ) the fact that the tracks are raw and stripped down. With acoustic guitars, minimal percussion (the odd electric guitar embellishment) and vocals from Toth and his wife (and Wooden Wand partner) Jessica, present a dark, gothic soundscape that will intrigue fans of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Nick Cave, Hank Williams (both Sr and Jr), Johnny Cash. I certainly am.



There you go – the final results are out! As the keenly observant will note, this year’s “finalists” have a distinctly heavier vibe about them. I think there’s a good mix in the final selection and I’m looking forward to see what the bands can do at the Festival itself come end August 2009.

I will be personally “mentoring” two of these bands (and blogging about the experience) and I’m intrigued by the prospect. Will let you know more when it’s made official.

…still there’s more…



Canadian pop-rock outfit Danny Echo take their turn on the PoP10 hotseat.

1. Why play music?

We play music because each of us is mentally imbalanced, in one form or another.  In the music industry this tends to work in our favor!

2. Who are your influences?

Our influences include rock legends like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, U2, The Who, CCR, T Rex, Oasis, The Clash, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead.  We’re also into contemporary bands like The Raconteurs, Green Day, The Secret Machines, Mute Math, and Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club.  We’re also into everything from Beethoven to Willie Nelson to Abba.

3. What is success?

We hope to make our mark on a large scale, but even if things don’t work out that way we will still view the new album as a success.  We overcame a lot of obstacles to make the CD, and we’re very happy with the way it turned out.

4. Why should people buy your music?

People should buy our music because we think a lot of people will enjoy it.  Plus, we’re tired of working for a living.

5. Who do you love?


6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

We want to expose as many people as possible to our brand of rock ‘n roll, through radio, TV/films, and touring.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

It’s kind of a mix, although we get a lot of people in their 20’s.  It’s kind of a 50:50 male to female ratio.

8. What is your favorite album?

That’s a tough question, please let me do my best to evade it.  I’d have to say it’s a toss-up between Revolver, the White Album, Abbey Road, Let It Bleed, Who’s Next, The Bends, London Calling, Morning Glory, and Achtung Baby.

9. What is your favorite song?

At the moment I’ve got “In My Life” by The Beatles stuck in my head, so I’ll go with that one.

10. How did you get here?


Danny Echo eponymous album is out now!



It’s amazing how many artists/bands there are in Singapore. The only thing that’s missing is popular appreciation and acceptance. If nothing else, Live N Loaded has given Singaporeans (those who gave the programme a chance at any rate) a widescreen glimpse of what’s available in the Singapore music scene, such as it is.

A lot of these bands are young and untested before an audience so expecting them to soar in front of TV cameras is probably asking too much. It’s then left to the more established acts to carry the show, so to speak.

And they certainly don’t get more established than Tokyo Square! Getting this 80s era band for the show was definitely a coup for the producers. Pity then, that the extremely young audience seemed bemused by the performance. Which again indicates the lack of a sense of history that is imbued in young Singaporeans. But that’s the subject of another post.

Episode 9 was also graced by two talented and experienced bands in Stoned Revivals and Tiramisu.

Tiramisu has been around for more than a decade, of course. With their costumes, they brought some color to the proceedings, not to mention Rizman’s antics! The sound came across a little thin but I liked the edgy post-punk quirky performance, which was a welcome relief from the ordinary. Made me smile anyway.

With leader Esam now resding in KL, performances by the Stoned Revivals are a rare and precious commodity. So it was fortuitous for the band to make it on Live N Loaded before it ended. With the original line-up reunited, with backing musicians included horn section (properly used), the band swaggered its way through the rollicking Soundtrack of Our Lives and the smooth New Way. Sweet!

And so all (good) things must come to an end and on episode X – airing at 11pm on 9 April – yours truly will be appearing on Live N Loaded singing My One & Only (what else?) with Jack & Rai!

… still there’s more …


It was a new decade. Singapore’s only independent rock mag BigO had come out of the underground and onto the newstands and bookstores all around Singapore. And their message was simple. Singapore music is as good as any in the world and we  support it. I must admit that I had largely ignored the mag for most of its existence, but it was getting increasingly harder to do so – especially with Chris Ho glaring daggers at you on the cover.

In 1991, the mag launched the New School Rock CD series and effectively kickstarted the local scene. On this CD, the talents of The Oddfellows, Opposition Party and Coporate Toil were showcased. Whilst the recording standard was very rough (  do well to remember that this was before ‘lo-fi’ became a fashion statement ), certainly the potential shone through the murky productions. In particular, The Oddfellows’ Song For Caroline left a deep impression on me and would serve as an inspiration for certain musical ideas of my own.

It had become increasingly evident that any ambitions I cherish in relation to what I could do with my music lay very much in my own hands. With that in mind, I complied a cassette of songs that we had recorded over the course of a decade and sent it off to BigO.

This little effort on my part would have greater significance that I could have hoped for. Subsequently I was contacted by Yong Shu Hoong, a writer to whom the mag had assigned the task of checking the Watchmen out. Shu Hoong was encouraging and seemed to be taken up somewhat by our material. His impressions were printed in the April 1991 issue ( which sported a Patrick Chng cover ) under the mag’s Ruff Cuts section.

” What baffles me is how they managed to remain unknown all this time. Through the years , they never stopped believing in the music that they are playing – maybe now it’s time the recording companies start believing too.” * ahem *

As flattering as it was I was cynical enough to appreciate the irony of the reality of the local scene. It was never difficult to ‘remain unknown’ in Singapore and I am very sure that there are many in my generation that possessed the skill and talent to make their mark musically and artistically but never had the chance because of the paucity of opportunity and reward to motivate development of their craft. That I had taken a first tenative step towards ‘recognition’ made me feel very fortunate indeed. I had no illusions about how far this could go and in fact, I had in all truth expected it to end there and then. My three minutes of fame had come and go albeit on a very minor scale.

The reasons for my pessimism were simple. I had no band. My colleagues were in the States and there was no contact from them whatsoever and my contemporaries were too busy pursuing career and family priorities to consider a time-consuming sideline like music-making. No, this had been the first and last hurrah of the Watchmen.

Or so I believed.

Stephen Tan is an editor with BigO and indeed a founding member of The Oddfellows. Stephen was emphatic that I should release the demo compilation I had sent to the mag. I had never seriously considered it before but his encouragement gave me the impetus to do so and thus, Who Watches The Watchmen hit the shops in August of that year. The fact that it sold out briskly ( all twenty copies !!) prompted a second release – Industry And Commerce – two months later.

Although it had been suggested that this was proof of how prolific we were, actually both tapes were culled from existing material , some dating back to 1979, which somewhat deflates that claim.

Back in the real world, Patrick Chng and The Oddfellows were taking the local scene by storm with the single So Happy and the album Teenage Head.  A new era had been heralded by these releases as for the first time since the Sixties, a homegrown song topped the radio charts all over Singapore. A new phrase had entered  into the public consciousness – ” indie band ” – which to the unintiated simply meant, a local band performing their own original material. It seemed as if the island could not get enough of the band, as they dominated the airwaves and meida attention for that surrealistic period in the third quarter of 1991.

Despite all the hype and publicity, sales of Teenage Head were disappointing – less than 2,000 copies – the public it seemed were not convinced of the value of local music. On the personal front,  I had embarked on a homemade recording of new material together with my wife’s cousin Phoon Kwong Mun, then eighteen. Mun was blessed with impressive equipment in his bedroom – four track machine, sequencer, synthesizer & electric guitars as well a keen head for music arrangements. Our gameplan was basic, I would record the songs on a portable recorder on an acoustic guitar and Mun would flesh out my bare bones into full-blown productions.The end-product would be This Savage Garden.

1992 witnessed the delivery of New School Rock II, and the introduction of  the likes of  AWOL, The Shades, Stomping Ground, The Padres, Fish On Friday & Black Sun. Co-ordinated by Patrick Chng ( who esle!), the disc moved decidedly into the mainstream direction with songs from AWOL ( Postcards) and The Shades (The 5 Cs) generating chart action and national attention.

A rosy future seemed inevitable for the bulk of these bands and interest in “indie bands” reached a new high. Gigs were well-attended affairs and the major labels watched the entire proceedings keenly. Certainly, it would not be long before the masses embraced the local musician warmly to their collective bosom.

This Savage Garden was released in February and was generally well-received. This collection of political songs was a watershed for me as it proved that my music-making days were only beginning. Stephen Tan again proved encouraging and put me in touch with Patrick Chng to explore the possibilities of getting my material properly done.

Without sounding too cynical about it, I had my doubts as to how much could be achieved.

As I was mulling over limited options, the trio known as Black Sun invested their time and hard-earned cash to independently release their self-titled CD in mid-1992. Whatever one thought of the easy-listening pop fodder of the actual material, the drive, motivation and the commitment could not be faulted.

However, as with most other local releases the first weeks of release were torturously slow sales-wise. Worse, for the band, they were constantly being written off as ” middle-aged rockers ” or derided due to the fact that they were wealthy enough to pursue their dream.

But, as fate would have it, radio picked up on Love You Now, the opening single and the band found itself with a Number One Song! Better yet, the accompanying musicvideo was a feature in the MTV Asia Top Twenty !! Had Singapore pop arrived ?

Sadly, sales again contradicted. Reportedly no more than a measly 3,500 copies! What would a local artiste have to do to sell albums?

In October, my contact with Patrick Chng paid off as he invited me to contribute two tracks to New School Rock III. So it was off to the Savior Faire studio in Sim Lim Square backed by friend Stephen Huen on lead guitar and Patrick on drums. My first recording experience was quite rewarding as we churned out On Orchard Road and Please Believe Me in a day. Certainly, the satisfaction obtained by putting the songs together was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I wanted more!

1993. On Orchard Road was the first of my songs to be played on radio. It was definitely a cheap thrill I could possibly get used to very quickly. It was also the first to be made into a music video ( courtesy of Eric Khoo ) and aired over national television. Things, it seemed were begining to happened. Remarkably by May I had secured a recording deal with local indie outfit Odyssey Music. At last twenty years of unfulfilled dreams were to be resolved.

For the next year, the pace could only be described as hectic as if to compensate for the long time it took for me to reach that stage. And through it all I had to take the good with the bad. My One and Only, whilst managing to be a #1 radio hit was also summarily snubbed at the Perfect Ten Awards. At gigs, the song would be wildly received by hundreds and yet the album Democracy failed to sell more than a paltry 4000 copies. I performed ‘live’ on National Television but would later be accused of falsehoods in The New Paper by former friends and partners. The Love EP was recorded and mixed in less than 22 hours only to be ignored by everyone.

By May 1994, Watchmen were history.

Indeed, though this journey appears to have ended, I am beginning a fresh venture with The Crowd. It doesn’t matter to me how many albums I sell, or whether The Straits Times writes about me, or if the radio plays my music. This adventure is for me, my family and whomsoever is interested in jumping on board. If there is but one person who is keen on following my art then it is certainlky worthwhile to soldier on. I see Modest not merely as a demo i.e. as a means to an end but an end to itself.

My recording career has only just begun.

Well, that’s where I had left it in 1995, which is now 14 years ago! Should I fill in the blanks? Comments, please…



Roger Joseph Manning Jr will always be best known as a founding member of legendary powerpop meisters Jellyfish. Roger was kind enough to share his thoughts on the PoP10.

1. Why play music?

That’s not even a conscious thought for me. I get up, I hear things and get inspired and that is what moves me to be proactive in my life. It’s practically innate and at my core essence as a natural conduit for music, like many other artists I know.

2. Who are your influences?

My influences are basically what was happening in music between 1965 and 1981. The music released in that window of time shape my musical motivations the most.

3. What is success?

Real simple, being in a position (regardless of your vocation) to where the day to day work that happens is something you enjoy at least 90% of the time, that is success to me, being grateful to do what I love to do for a living.

4. Why should people buy your music?

Because as a Society, we have all agreed to use money as an exchange mechanism that drives our economy, as opposed to simple bartering where I would trade you music for services or other items as we needed.

5. Who do you love?

Well, to begin with, I love myself. Because as long as I have a healthy relationship with myself, I have the reservoir of love inside me that I can then freely give to everyone else.

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

One simple thing, to evoke an intense passionate response as my own musical heroes have done for me. I want to throw something forward, to hopefully ignite the listeners passion, to help make them feel alive using the same musical philosophies and skill sets my own heroes employed.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Most screaming Japanese girls at this point. People who want to be inspired  and moved in person, who want the whole different projection of the live setting

8. What is your favorite album?

For years it was XTC – The Big Express

9. What is your favorite song?

“Pretty Song from Psych-Out” from the Strawberry Alarm Clock LP “Wake Up…It’s Tomorrow”.

10. How did you get here?

Some would say I just showed up on the scene, incarnated into the physical form and put on this costume know as the human body. All of us start out with equal connections and it’s the circumstances of life that alter the here and now.

Roger’s new album, Catnip Dynamite, is out now.



DANNY ECHO Danny Echo (Self-released)

So Coldplay are intently setting their sights on producing The Unforgettable Fire 2.0, Radiohead are giving away their albums for free and U2 are releasing singles that speak of submarines and gasoline (but not wars between nations!) What does this bode for rock and roll, 2009? Most would point towards the Kings of Leon or Oasis, leading purveyors of amped-up electric rock. But hold your horses yet, because bursting out from Vancouver is five-man outfit Danny Echo, and they are poised to take over the world.

Okay, fine, so world domination might not be so likely at this point, but even a cursory listen to Danny Echo’s self-titled album is going to tell you that this is a band with no hint of indie pretensions or alternative ambitions. No sir, this is music made by men gunning for top 40 airplay.  Their influences betray as much: Rolling Stones, The Beatles, U2…all bands who make liars out of everyone who have ever proclaimed their intention not to be big. And as if afraid we might not be getting the point, every single column on their Facebook Personal Information page is insistently filled in with “ROCK & ROLL”. Gee, are they subtle or what?

Their lack of pretension is almost refreshing however. In an era where most rock bands seem intent on denouncing the sorry state of the world and moaning about their desire to slit their wrists, Danny Echo are a breath of fresh air in their single-minded intent to have a good time. The band kicks things off with some U2 referencing on album opener Out Of Style, with soft atmospherics that give way to unabashed gleeful riffing over subtle, soaring sweeping synthesizers. (Hurray for alliteration!)  Killing Me is an inspired, thoroughly enjoyable track with its lifted choruses and supremely headbangable riffs, topped off with a wildly sexy snarl. It’s a combination of John Lennon and Pete Townsend updated for the 21st century, and it works.  On Tomorrow Today, lead singer Danny sounds thoroughly like the bloke from Oasis who sings with his hands behind his back, although the nifty Britpop touches on the track are much more derivative of Blur. The band take a detour into Americana territory on Help Yourself, which is at times reminiscent of Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, before winding things down on a singalong number, Natural Disaster, a song that brings to mind the Rolling Stones’ 1968 effort, Beggars Banquet.

It’s a testimony to a band’s pop sensibilities when one’s first instinct upon finishing a record is to replay it. It’s an even bigger testimony to their talent when they manage to produce an album that pays off successfully both as a collection of songs and as a whole. In a day and age when most artists are paying more attention to the digital single instead, Danny Echo must be commended for producing a record as consistent and as wholly enjoyable as this one. Wonderfully addictive and thoroughly enjoyable, this is all that powerpop rock n’ roll is meant to be. Highly recommended.

(Samuel C Wee)



I’m sure that some of us here can at times identify with Rebecca Bloomwood the protagonist of the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic which is based on a series of Shopaholic novels by author Sophie Kinsella.

Unlike the protagonist, I hope that most of us don’t rack up thousand of credit cards bills, spin tales to wriggle our way out from debt collectors, disappoint a supporting best friend, see mannequins move and hear them urging you to buy, buy and buy, whilst at the same time ironically finding success as a business reporter who writes articles from a sense of fashion, and finally snagging a hot editor boss.

Isla Fisher aka the future Mrs Borat is fun to watch as the shopping-crazed Bloomwood, imbuing the vivacity and kookiness which Reese Witherspoon did so well in Legally Blonde.     The supporting cast sees acting pedigrees such as Kristin Scott Thomas in a turn as a fashion editor who spews French accented English, John Goodman and Joan Cusack as Bloomwood’s tender and supportive parents.  Hugh Dancy as the love interest is confident, hot and suave in his role.

The plot is nothing new.  The protagonist has a problem but still has the faithful support of a good friend, lies to her handsome squeeze and finds redemption in the end – but to the many people in reality who are stuck in an economic rut, how can we find redemption?

Yet, Confessions is fun and hilarious to watch.  There were many laughs in the cinema throughout the film.  Yet in the era of a credit crunch and economic crisis, it would be dangerous to fall into this fantasy and fallacy that everything could be bought on credit and debt isn’t as bad as it seems.  This movie makes a great 100 odd minutes escape into the world of glamour and fashion but it may seem insensitive a film to those affected by the economic crisis and credit crunch.

(Darren Boon)




We (Rachael Teo and I) posed some questions to Rachael Yamagata and we are so pleased that she took time off from her busy schedule to grace us with her thoughts. Thanks, Rachael!

What is your favorite aspect of being a singer-songwriter-performer? What are the challenges you face?

I love the songwriting part the most I think.  I’ve never found a better ‘language’ to express my emotions than through a song.  Something about a chord progression and just right lyric, with the subtleties of delivery and melody – I can say layers of things that I can never quite get right in conversation or prose.  The performing aspect is my challenge.  I definitely have a love/ hate relationship with it.  I’m normally a very reserved person and quite shy.  All of that changes on stage when fronting a band and I really have to will myself to step up to the plate.

What is the one song you’ve written that means the most to you and why.

Hmmm.. I think ‘Little Life’ is certainly a song that I really needed to write.  It honors someone that I was very close to and has since passed away.  I think there were potentially a lot of judgements surrounding their life and death and this was my way of remembering them as well as defending them.

What is your songwriting process? Do you write complete songs before recording them or do you write songs in the studio? What inspires your writing?

I’m my best around four in the morning, totally alone, able to chain smoke and work by candlelight.  Environment becomes important to me, although a luxury.  It’s very difficult for me to write on the road.  Usually, I’m a lyric/melody/music all at once writer – sometimes they come in 5 min. and sometimes a few hours.  On occasion I’ve had a phrase stuck in my head that I’ll use months later (‘Horizon’), and ‘Elephants’ was a 10 min lyric channeling experience that took 6 months before I figured out the music for it.  I’m really interested in production so for this past record I demoed every song complete with drums, bass, guitar, strings, horn lines, effects  etc.. all before going into the studio.  As for the inspiration part, I’m fascinated by our frailties and strengths and all the internal conflicts we have within and with others.  I learn a lot of lessons through my romantic relationships of course, but on a broader scope I really believe we can all connect more fully with each other.

Damien Rice has a song called “Elephants” as well. What is it about this animal that is so intriguing?  Why did you pick it as the song title instead of the other animals you mentioned in the song, like tigers and vultures etc?

haha.. Hawks, not vultures…That’s a bit to creepy for me.  Yeah, when I heard Damien had that song I was like, ‘Shist!’  My record was in limbo, but I’d had my ‘Elephants’ before his record came out and had no way to release it. Alas.  I love his song and ours are quite different so all is alright.  I was drawn to elephants really because it was a symbolic of a past relationship.  This person and I noted the fact that elephants never forget and have this incredible memory and applied it to ourselves and our time together.  After I wrote the song, I started to notice all these articles come out about them speaking of their newfound aggression toward humans, unexplained and unprovoked attacks etc.  They spoke of their social behavior and how they travel as a pack for life and I think are one of the only animals who have an intense mourning process when one of them dies.  The attacks were happening because the young elephants were witnessing so much slaughter and basically getting traumatized in these new ways and not learning how to adapt.  And yet, there were stories of elephants killing trainers etc and yet mourning them as if they were their own, not letting any other human near them.  They are incredibly complex and have such strength and yet such vulnerability.  All of those things fascinated me and the song really parallels this instinctive reaction to being hurt and the damage it might do, on animal and human levels.  They seemed right for the title.

Besides love and relationships, are there any other themes that you hope to explore further in the near future?

I do all the time, the songs just aren’t as good.  I’ve written political songs, songs about my cats, songs about bands – I even wrote a ‘porn song’ with totally x rated lyrics just because I wanted to write something, but didn’t have any ideas at the time.  When I nail something on the head that isn’t about relationships – I’ll certainly get it out there.

Do you have any advice for aspiring singer-songwriters balancing between music and a day job/studies?

Hahah!  I’ve never gotten that question before and man I could talk for hours about it.  I remember being a waitress, full time college student and in a band all at once and man, it was not easy.  Three shows a week with rehearsals starting sometime at 11 at night.  Class in the morning.  We did a whole record and couldn’t afford the daylight studio hours so recorded from midnight to 8 am and had to eat hot peppers just to stay awake.  Especially when you are starting out you need some sort of way to make money to have rent so find a job with some flexibility.  It may suck, but if it lets you take off here and there for shows – it’s important.  The restaurant industry is hellish, but by the end we had the whole staff come out to our shows and they were really pulling for us.  Education is important because it will inspire your songs, so in terms of advice…?  Get ready to do it all.  You need drive and dedication and discipline.  Make goals for shows, catalog and record your songs so you can find them again, play out play out play out and build your following.  Eat, sleep and breathe the music part and if it really is your passion – you will find a way.

Besides music, what are the some of the other things in life that you enjoy?

Decorating. Cleaning (calms me down). The show ‘Lost’ – I’m obsessed.  Traveling. Languages. Reading. Nature…

What is the one motto you live by and what anchors you as a person?

There is a lesson in everything and where I am in this moment is exactly where I’m meant to be.  My mother has always been my true north.

You’ve been to Singapore in 2007. What was your experience like and what can your fans expect from your upcoming gig?

Experience was very lovely.  I remember a stellar audience that I was so excited about.  We’d never been and I couldn’t believe so many people were there. We didn’t get to sightsee very much, but I remember beautiful flowers and sweet folk.  For the gig this time round we’re bringing a full band as well as a cellist which I think will really be excellent.  The strings add so much to our sound and I’m really excited about the line up of musicians.  It will be a very dynamic and exciting set.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans in Singapore?

I can’t wait to see you again and thank you soooooo much!!! Xoxoxo

Thanks also to Evelyn, Tat Wee and Sammy of Warners Singapore.

Rachael Yamagata performs at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 15th April. Tickets available at SISTIC.



When I was asked to review Coldplay, it was an amazing feeling. ‘I was there! I would know’, I thought to myself. After that, it dawned on me that it’ll be difficult to sum up a concert like Coldplay in a review. But so kindly given the opportunity to, I shall try.

I came when the opening band, Mercury Rev, were halfway through their set. There was something in the air that made me think that not a lot of people cared or knew who Mercury Rev were. I would think any band opening for Coldplay would be under tremendous pressure to put up a good show. I was not impressed with Mercury Rev, probably because I was too excited about Coldplay.

Coldplay played a mix of old and new songs, and the transitions between the songs were flawless. I enjoyed the other 3 albums, but I still have mixed feelings about Viva La Vida. I felt that the the set list had a nice flow to it with the mix of old songs and newer ones, although I felt that the differences in the musical direction between the older and newer albums were very distinct.

I’m a sucker for openings, and Coldplay opened with Life In Technicolour/Violet Hill. They played Life In Technicolour behind a translucent black veil, which would have been pretty cool to watch, except I was seated at the rear of the stage so I could see them performing, unveiled. After watching videos of the opening songs on Facebook/YouTube (you could probably get tons online), I realised that it would have been a treat watching them perform through the veil. The lighting behind the veil made it such that you could often see two shadows of Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion, which would have been very nice.

After playing Life in Technicolour, the stadium went pitch dark, the veil fell and the stage was slowly illuminated while they played Violet Hill. I think about it and it still sends chills down my spine!

Clocks was next, and it was incredible, with a mix of red, yellow and white laser lights. By then, people all around me were dancing and singing along to Clocks. I was amazed at how much energy everyone had, and how the age gaps were quite large. There were a mix of people in office attire and those wearing casual attire.

It was amazing when they played Yellow, because all the lights were yellow and people from the exits brought it yellow balloons and people in the middle of the stadium could bounce them up and down. There were at least 50 of such balloons, and as the song progressed, they were popped by people, and confetti came out. It was an audio and visual treat for me, because I LOVE going for concerts/gigs that fuse the two together.

Towards the middle of the concert, Coldplay walked into the audience and played a few songs, which included I’m a Believer (The Monkees Cover) and Death Will Never Conquer, where Will Champion did vocals for the song. He sounded good, and the audience cheered him on and sang along!

My favourite part of the concert was when they played Lovers In Tokyo. Confetti fell from the ceiling into the audience and the coloured lights changed throughout the song. I loved it when Chris Martin twirled the Japanese umbrella while walked down the ramp as more confetti fell from the ceiling. I could just imagine him walking through Sakura trees somewhere in Japan!

Coldplay was an audio/visual treat for me. I enjoyed the fusion of music, videos and photographs, which were shown on the screen behind the stage and on balls above the audience. There was the use of different images to portray the moods for different songs, Lovers In Tokyo had images of Japan, and some of the other songs had videos of the performance on the balls above the audience. I felt that it added to the warm ambiance and setting of the concert.

The thing that made Coldplay special for me was how everyone in the audience was able to connect with the songs that were performed. The whole concert was well-put together and audience participation made a difference to the whole atmosphere throughout the night. People sang along, danced along, and even shouted “WHOOOOOOOA” from Viva La Vida as an encore instead of shouting the usual “Encore”. It was as if everyone present shared a special love for Coldplay, and I would rate this concert as one of the best ones I’ve been to so far. I still haven’t gotten over how spectacular the concert was!

(Rebecca Lincoln)

Here are 2 videos, Yellow and Lovers In Tokyo, from the Coldplay concert for your enjoyment.



TRENTALANGE awakening, level one (Coco Tauro)

Here’s the components of an exciting recipe/formula –

1. A singer that recalls the dark, sultry tones of PJ Harvey & Annie Lennox.

2. A multi-instrumentalist that plays piano, wurlitzer, moog, bass, flute, theramin, percussion, guitar, tibetan singing bowls.

3. A songwriter/arranger/producer that is able to combine influences of Blondie, Black Sabbath, Massive Attack & Nick Cave.

The result? Barbara Trentalange.

With this accomplished sophomore effort, Trentalange confirmed the promise of her debut with an assured control & mastery over  myriad styles and approaches, which keeps the listener intrigued and interested. Always.

The best part? Eclecticism, of course. My favorite attribute.

From the spaced-out Tex-Mex flavor of the Fever to the distorted & sinister growl of Heavy Metal Astroman, from the soulful inflections of Valentine to the torch-poppy confection of Racing with Nowhere to Go, Trentalange keeps one guessing and impressed with her sheer versatile grasp of rock’s dynamics in all its twisted glory.

By the time one gets to the atmospheric, shuffling final track – Awakening, Level One – this writer is convinced that Barbara Trentalange is a talent to note and that this album is one to consider at the end of 2009, for one of the albums of the year. Magikal.



After an interesting five-odd hours listening to sixteen Singapore bands in the surreal atmosphere (rock music ringing out before calm waters, not to mention the imposing concrete skyline) of the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, the judges (viz. Daniel Sassoon, Amanda Ling, Jon Chan and yours truly) retreated to the Esplanade offices to debate the identities of the final eight bands who would grace the Baybeats Festival in late August this year.

To be honest, most of the choices were easy to make, based on the assured performances over the entire course of the auditions. There were some difficult decisions to make but I believe that overall, we made the right ones. For me personally, this experience has been an enriching one as it certainly expanded my own appreciation of the S-ROCK palette. There are certainly many talented bands/musicians out there on our little red dot. Spending the time with my fellow judges as well as the Baybeat folks (i.e. Junmin and Keith) definitely made it a very fun time.

And so… stay tuned for the results. To the bands who did not make the cut, don’t be discouraged, continue to work hard on your music and keep on keeping on. Make use of every opportunity to hone your craft and continue to learn and improve.

…still there’s more…



KAISER CHIEFS “Off With Their Heads” (B-Unique/Polydor/Universal)

If there was any justice in this world (HAH!), then Kaiser Chiefs would give the bulk of their royalties to Andy Partridge and XTC. Fact of the matter, of course, is that probably Kaiser Chiefs’ source of inpiration is equal parts post-punk and Britpop circa ’95.  Still, I guess a XTC-Blur fixation is definitely more palatable (to these ears) than the endless Joy Division-referencing that modern rock bands shamelessly indulge in nowadays.

Certainly, notwithstanding the derivative nature of the music, I rather enjoy the edgy, melodic quality of the songs on “Off With Their Heads”. I mean since XTC  is no longer recording anymore, it’s rather fun to bop and sing-along to fiesty gems like the campy Spanish Metal, the strident Like It Too Much, the frenetic Can’t Say What I Mean, the quirky Tomato in the Rain and so on.

So more power to bands like Kaiser Chiefs and hopefully, their continuing success will inspire more like-minded melodic pop making!

Kaiser Chiefs perform in Singapore at the Fort Canning Park on 7th April. Tickets available at SISTIC.



For the second day of Weekend TRIP NOISE Edition, I managed to catch Nick Tan for the first time. Having caught him on an episode of Live n Loaded on TV, it was a treat to catch him perform live. He looked more relaxed than he did on Live n Loaded.

The first thing that struck me was how matured his vocals sounded. He looked laid-back and casual, but his vocals opposed the first impression I had of him. His lyrics were well-written and he managed to inject emotions throughout the set.

I felt that his songs would have been better if he added another dimension to his songs to make them more memorable. He put up a fantastic performance, and getting Rachael to perform the last song with him was a treat I enjoyed.

Rachael Teo was next, and I hadn’t heard much about her so I wasn’t sure what to expect. She brought a friend along (Su Yin) to perform with her on the guitars and violin. Despite finding that some of her songs sounded familiar, I felt that her strong vocals and lyrics set her apart from other singer/songwriters.

She added a nice touch to her set when her friend played the violin while she sang and played the guitar for one of her songs. I felt that the violin complemented the song and added dimension to it. I enjoyed her set and I would definitely look forward to hearing more from her in future.

After dinner, I came back to catch the set by Duxton Plains, which I enjoyed. I hadn’t heard them perform before, so it was a memorable set. The lead vocalist talked about how he came to be in the band and I liked how he connected with the audience. They put a smile on my face throughout the set, despite being annoyed by the people who were inconsiderately smoking under the tent. After their set, I went off and came back just in time for Caracal’s set.

Having caught Caracal at the School Invasion Tour Finale late last year, it was a treat to watch them perform again. There’s something about Caracal I really like that I can’t quite put a finger on. Their songs are so well put together, the instruments so precise and it seems as if everything was well-thought of and intentional. Their songs are a balance of technicality, precision and punch.

Caracal got the crowds rocking out with them, especially when they performed In Regards to Myself by Underoath with guest vocals by Matt from A Vacant Affair. I felt that it was very well performed, and that Caracal outdid themselves during that song. Matt’s vocals contributed to the fact that that song left the the crowds in a heady state that didn’t end until the end of the night.

After Caracal’s high energy set, Bittersweet (KL) took to the stage and with their catchy tunes that were a hit with the rest of the audience who stayed behind to catch them. Some of the friends I was with were happily dancing along and having a great time. Their performance was a great way to end the event because they gave it their best and it was evident in how they managed to work the crowds and get people in the audience to respond to them.

Towards the end of the night, I happened to walk in while Indus Gendi was playing their last song. I liked the song they sang, and I really liked the vocalist. She sounded incredible, and the band complemented her perfectly. I look forward to hearing more from them.

Once again, kudos to the excellent sound engineers and the hardworking team at *scape and Wake Me Up Music for an excellent final day of the NOISE Edition of Weekend TRIP.

(Rebecca Lincoln)


“Hi, I’m Rebecca, and I’m insane”

So much for introductions! My passion for music came from my father. My grandfather used to have a large vinyl collection, which my dad would play for us while my brother and I were growing up. I believe that my love for music came from countless hours of sitting at home, reading while listening to Julie London, Miles Davis and a lot of other Jazz musicians growing up.

To me, there’s something instantaneous about music. It has the power to invoke emotions and speak directly to the soul, unlike art and design, where you have to mull about it in order to get a deeper perspective. I love going for concerts and gigs, especially when the bands that perform are able to connect with their audiences and the audience in return is able to reciprocate.

I’m passionate about graphic design, music and photography. I find that all 3 mediums have the ability to stir emotions and break boundaries that have been set. My ideal concert/gig would have a fusion of art, music and design, which would speak to individuals on multiple levels.

Chances are, if I’m not out reviewing shows, I would be at home with a book playing The Beatles and sipping on Ribena, at the beach or out exploring Singapore with my camera.

So please welcome Rebecca as the latest addition to the PoP roster!



Weekend TRIP NOISE Edition at the Confessions stage kicked of with For This Cycle, a 16-year old singer/songwriter. By the time his set started, *scape lab was packed with people, mostly students and probably some of his friends.

His songs were catchy, but after awhile, they started to sound similar. It was also easy to spot who his musical influences were from his 30-minute set. He was also nervous throughout the performance, which he made known to the audience.

Although I think he’s talented, I felt that he should have taken the time to explored more and make the music his own. I also felt that he wasn’t tactful enough when talking to the audience, and he should work on that in order to deliver a better performance in future.

Overall, I enjoyed the set. Weiwen (For This Cycle) is talented, he just needs to brush up a bit so that it’ll take him further on his musical journey. He’s a musician I’ll keep a lookout for.

The Karl Maka was up next, and their songs were something fresh. I hadn’t heard that much about them, and I definitely think I missed out. They were catchy and their tunes, dance-worthy. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a crowd, and despite encouraging the audience to dance along, there wasn’t much audience participation either. At the last song, the vocalist got off stage and danced in the audience, which I thought was impressive.

I, for one, had my head bopping and my feet tapping throughout their set. There were a few others enjoying the set, and it was a memorable one for me.

After the set, I was amused as the Jon Chan/Kevin Mathews band set up. At one point in time, Iain was playing the drums with plastic bottles for sticks! My ears pricked up when I heard Jon Chan playing parts of Message in a Bottle by The Police. I excitedly tapped my friend furiously on the shoulder and exclaimed that in excitement.

By the time 10pm arrived, there was a sizable crowd. Most of the teenagers who had came for For This Cycle had left, and had been replaced by an older crowd. The Jon Chan/Kevin Mathews band far exceeded my expectations. I caught them for the first time at the Media Fiesta on March 8, and I thought they were brilliant then. They kicked off the set with a song by U2, which was a hit with the audience, including me. Jon and Kevin played their own songs, as well as a new track, The Secret. The duo managed to inject something different into the different songs they played, making each song something unique. They ended on a high note, with Message in a Bottle. I left with a new-found respect for Kevin Mathews, who sang Sting’s parts with such gusto. Sting is an very respected musician, and I felt that it took courage to sing it with such gusto the way Kevin did.

The last song got some of the audience bopping along, and I even saw a handful of people grooving to the music. It still amazes me how congruent everything sounded after three jam sessions and a performance. I left with a spring in my step and Message in a Bottle playing in my head, looking forward to the buffet of musician performances the next day.

Before I left, I managed to catch a few song by Sandwich (Philippines) at the Main stage. The vocalist had charisma and immense stage presence. The atmosphere was exhilirating, and there were people dancing around and shouting to the lyrics. The band put up a stellar performance, and it’s no wonder that they’re so big in the Philippines.

(Rebecca Lincoln)



Before I start being swamped by accusations of gross misrepresentation and inaccuracy, let me qualify my review by saying that entering the studio late and watching the performance from the side of a stage is not exactly ideal for a review. That said, props still go out to those friends of mine who took invaluable time out to offer me their opinions of the various acts that went on stage on Tuesday.

The Fire Fight started things off with a solid performance of Fires At Night before launching into their song with Joakim Gomez, All These People (Call This Love). On his part, Joakim sounded better than he did in my memory, even though he looked a tad out of place on the crowded stage. Unfortunately, Leeson were a tad disappointing when their turn came around and delivered a rather underwhelming performance of Some Girls. To be fair though, that probably had more to do with the constant sound problems throughout their set than with the band itself. After taking to the stage a second time to redo Some Girls, they sounded considerably better, although Michael was still a tad too restrained for my taste.


I rather enjoyed the Industry Pick of the week, Quantum Revival. I must say that I wasn’t exactly the most avid fan of Live The Dream so I was pleasantly surprised when they managed to pull off Amy Winehouse’s Rehab with aplomb. Dawn Ho was another pleasant surprise with her charmingly seductive version of Barracuda, and had the crowd eating out her hand. (Although whispers of, “is this the same song as the one that Wicked Aura Batucada did?” were overhead.)


Sleeq, too, were refreshing in their grooving candor and lack of pretension. I might not be the most hip-hop person around, but I’ll take the soulful pipes of Syarif over wannabe rappers with faux-urban accents any day. Paul Twohill, on the other hand, left me undecided at the end of his set. Performing to a backing track is always going to be less compelling that with a live band, but even still, his performance felt rather by-the-numbers for me. I’ll stay away from the lip-synching rumors circulating around his performance, and instead take the word of the Mediacorp intern who told me it was only the backing vocals on the track that made it seemed so.

Still, Twohill did a better job than Paranoid Vision, who were disappointingly mediocre, to say the least..  They seemed to be a band that were only there to fulfill the producers’ weekly quota of painfully amateur performers, and would have been wholly unmemorable save for their conspicuously flat-ironed hair. I still haven’t quite figured out why they insist on putting up bands who nothing more than aggressively bash out I-V-vi-IV riffs in an out-of-time manner (albeit with perfect hair).


I’ll end by saying that if the producers are looking to up the rockout factor on the show, they should be looking more at the likes of Cardinal Avenue With a tight solid, and adrenaline pumping set, they managed to incite mass moshing that was actually on beat for once, and left everyone in the studio leaving on a high. For this reviewer, they were proof that for every amateur band in Singapore, there’s still a band capable of electrifying a crowd spectacularly. With two more episodes until the end of the season, one hopes that we’ll be seeing more of the latter and less of the former.

(Samuel C Wee)

Pix by Fir.



WHITE LIES To Lose My Life… (Fiction/Polydor/Universal)

The latest big thing to emerge from the British indie-pop scene is White Lies. Which according to typical NME hyperbole are the “grandiose archbishops of cathedral pop”! Whatever that means…

To these ears, White Lies are premier exponents of the art of the post-punk revival and it’s quite easy to spot the influences viz. the now-ubiquitous Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears, Teardrop Explodes and Depeche Mode. In fact, the music is so faithful to that (blessed) era that listening to the album left me feeling awfully nostalgic.

That said, it’s difficult to see any distinguishing qualities between White Lies and the multitude of Joy Division-referencing acts out there in the modern rock wilderness e.g. Interpol, the Killers, the Editors, Stellastarr ad nauseum. If anything, White Lies possesses a keener harmonic sensibility than most of its peers and the disco referencing title track even reminds me of early Duran Duran.

Bottom line? Fans of the both original and current post-punk eras will do well to pick up To Lose My Life…no hyperbole just simple recommendation. Now to dig up Unknown Pleasures, Songs from the Big Chair, Boy, the Crossing et al…



So far, we’ve had three jam sessions and just one performance (at the MDA Fiesta) but this little collaboration with Jon Chan that Esmond (WMUM) suggested has been working out fine for all concerned.

Today, at 10pm at the Scape Lab, we add three more songs to the 15 minute set we did at MDA Fiesta, which are basically another song by Jon (Security), a new song from me (The Secret) and a 70s cover that we’ve had loads of fun prancing around to.

I’m particularly enjoying this change of environment after about two years either playing solo acoustic or full band with the Groovy People. With Jon around, I can take a breather – a back seat if you will – and just be the rhythm guitarist/backing vocalist on his songs. Refreshing!

So hope to see as many of you guys as can make it tonight…please come up and say hello!

…yes, there’s more…