Regular PoP visitors will be aware of my affection for Vancouver band JPNSGRLS and that their debut album, Circulation, is one of my faves of 2014. So, was pretty stoked to take a look at their latest MV for the title track, which is really hot! Frontman Charlie Kerr literally bursts into flames on this one and reflects perfectly some of the best lyrics seen this year.
“Like I’m counting Mississippis til it’s convenient/You say I’m nothing baby, we’re in agreement”.
Check out the video below and listen to the LP at Spotify!
2014 has been a very good year for made-in-Singapore pop music with more album/EP releases and more live performances to capture the imagination of the music-loving public. One significant factor has been the EP Grant administered by the National Arts Council which awards the sum of S$10,000 to a band/artist applicant for the cost of recording, production, marketing and launch of a 4-song (minimum) EP. This EP grant not only gives the successful band/artist the platform to share the music but also generates business activities for producers, recording studios, sound engineers and venues. In short, the grant has been a boon to the local music scene as a whole. Thus far, 15 such bands/artists have benefitted from this grant – including Celina Kimble, Gentle Bones and Gareth Fernandez.
Fernandez’s debut eponymous EP was launched at The Barbershop by Timbre – a relatively tight venue (in terms of space) – but that didn’t stop singer Fernandez, his four-man backing band The MommaShop (Sikai Goh – Keyboards/Organ, Titus Ng – Bass, Anson Koh – Drums, James Lye – Guitar), three-man horn section (Daniel Chia – sax, Vignesh Mohandasan – trumpet, Deric Tay – Trombone) and a duo of backing singers (Tok Xue Yi & Andrew Mark Oh) from bringing the (Arts) house down with a scintillating display of sinewy soul-R&B prowess. The sound throughout was fairly competent when considering the challenge of 10 persons on stage to deal with and there was hardly any issue with the sound that got in the way with a full and complete enjoyment of the show in front of us, the audience (which consisted mainly of hip and trendy twenty-somethings, include well-known local musicians like The Sam Willows, Joel Tan (aka Gentle Bones) and members of hot indie bands like Stopgap and Take Two).
The show opened with the crowd parting like the red sea and the band making a dramatic entrance resplendent and looking sharp in their suits before Fernandez made his way to the stage. Drawing mainly from the songs off his debut EP and a couple of choice covers, it was all systems go right from the moment Fernandez and band launched into a feisty Physical (also the opening track of the EP) which sounded more authentic than the recorded version when sans the cheesy electronic keyboards. When you consider how sophisticated the song arrangements tend to be, the talent and effort demonstrated by Fernandez and band was impressive.
My personal favourite moments arrived with passionate renditions of Movin’ On and Northern Lights – songs imbued with the classic soul vibes of the 60s & 70s. The former had Fernandez engaging the audience with a call-and-response that all in attendance participated in whilst the latter brought the crowd to a collective emotional high (or low, depending on your perspective) with its fragile piano balladry and prayerful sentiment (“Come back home”). With well-worked covers from Allen Stone, Justin Timberlake and Sam Smith operating as appropriate fillers (in the absence of more original material), there was a welcome surprise with Heart Walls, an original explicably left off the EP – a suitably impassioned albeit heart-breaking rant about a severed relationship.
And while it is accurate to pay due credit to the fabulous musicianship on display, the star of the show was Fernandez with his sparkling vocals, physicality, stage presence and casual banter, which won the hearts and souls of the rapt audience in a manner that would suggest that Fernandez deserves to showcase his promise and potential on bigger stages in the future.
(Originally intended for TODAY newspaper)
Photo credits: Cherlynn Lian
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
I am often asked about how the current Singapore indie music scene compares to what we had in the past. It’s a valid question, of course. Since the 90s revival and subsequent economic depression, the scene has been growing at a steady pace in the last decade or so.
To assess how far we’ve come, we need only look at two factors. First, the improvement of the technical abilities, musicianship and songwriting capabilities of our artists/bands and second, the expansion of the fan base – the increase of awareness, acceptance and approval amongst Singaporeans for local indie music.
As important as the first factor is – aided by the number of music schools that have proliferated across the island – the challenge has always to build up a fan base at home for homegrown music. Whilst still not ideal, there has been a marked improvement in that area.
Back in 2010, I recall kids rushing to the stage when Inch Chua opened at SingFest but then walking away when they realized that she was ‘local’. Contrast that to the generous reception of local bands at music festivals today, where bands like The Sam Willows (above), Gentle Bones and others have the acceptance of the audience. Not only that but many artists/bands have rapturous EP/album launches where pundits actually fork out cash to watch their local heroes.
And what about Inch? She has gone from strength to strength – chasing her dreams in the USA (see above) and elsewhere, and those kids in 2010 are probably cheering her on, whenever she does play back in her hometown.
There is much to be optimistic about but we must not rest on our laurels. We still do not have enough opportunities for indie bands/artists to play on a regular basis.
My wish list for 2015 and beyond?
(1) Venues to have residencies for our bands to develop their own music.
(2) More local bands opening for foreign bands.
(3) A regional touring circuit be established for our bands.
(4) Local bands breaking into overseas markets.
(5) Original music no longer a dirty word to Singaporeans.
There is so much work to be done but these are exciting times for the Singapore indie music scene.
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Always a boon when given the opportunity to catch Singapore rockers in their element. AND when a good cause is the rationale behind the music event then it is time to pause and consider exactly what that cause is. For the organizers, it’s simple and clear.
Through our event, we hope to generate awareness among youths and reduce the stigma associated with people living with HIV/AIDS. Its time to change our perspectives and #RethinkAIDS!
A week away from the deadline for our Power of Pop – Spotify giveaway! A premium account (for 6 months) awaits. Submit your playlist of 12 favourite songs for 2014 to info AT powerofpop DOT com before 30th November to stand a chance of winning. In the meantime, follow us at Spotify and enjoy our curated playlists.
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Uber and Spotify partners? Seems like a strange bedfellows scenario, doesn’t it? How does it work?
Connect your Spotify account via the Uber app, request a ride, and when you get matched up with a Spotify-enabled Uber, simply select music from any one of Uber’s featured playlists or one of your own Spotify playlists within the Uber app. You can also jump to the Spotify app and select music from within the Spotify catalogue.
When your ride arrives, your tunes will be playing on the speakers. You can also change what’s playing during your journey right through the Spotify and Uber mobile apps. It’s all there – your own music and playlists and well as specially curated Uber playlists.
To be honest, I didn’t try this but I did try Uber for the very first time. What’s Uber, now?
Uber is a technology platform that is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber’s rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.
Yeah so basically, I got to the Uber-Spotify launch event by using the Uber app and I was able to track where my ride was via the app. Cool huh? The driver seemed to get a little lost along the way! Anyways, the ride was good fun mainly because my driver (see above) was an awesome conversationalist! A smooth ride and a tasty convo – what more could a Singaporean resident ask for? It is an excellent alternative to cabs. No money changes hands cuz the fare is charged directly to your credit card and the relevant info will be posted to your account, easily accessible on the app. Highly recommended.
Now to get that Spotify mobile app hookup going…
Singer-songwriter Daphne Khoo will be performing at KEEPERS on Saturday, 29th November. Tickets are priced at $25 (with the Wonderland EP) & $20 and can be purchased from deetalk.peatix.com. All proceeds will go to the Singapore Cancer Society.
Also featuring guests Dee Kosh, Gareth Fernandez, Gayle Nerva and Nathan Hartono.
A fabulous double bill awaits rock fans when Jagwar Ma joins The Flaming Lips on 1st December at The Coliseum. So here’s an email interview we did with the former’s Gabriel Winterfield and the results were good fun, as you will soon discover.
PoP: Last time out, you had to cancel a performance at Laneway Singapore – could you share with us what happened?
Gabriel: I tore a ligament in my knee, and was unable to perform or travel. Very sad. I’ve been waiting to get another chance to play Singapore ever since.
This just in…
Secret Sounds Asia presents Julian Casablancas (vocalist of The Strokes) with his latest side project JULIAN CASABLANCAS+THE VOIDZ, live in Singapore on Saturday, 10 January 2015 at The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa.
Tickets available from SISTIC on Monday 24 Nov, 9am.
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Groove to the show-stopping gigs by five spectacular local act and welcome 2015 at the airport this New Year’s Eve.
4-piece pop-rock band ORANGECOVE, Marc X Hashy of the Final One Fame, up-and-coming pop-punk band JJ and The Paperplanes, finalist for ‘SG50 The Gift of Song’ competition Ciao Turtle and acoustic act The Jaywalkers, will take to the stage with punchy made-in Singapore numbers and covers of familiar favourites to end your year on a high note.
Also hosted by Singaporean blogger and a familiar face to the hosting circuit, Mint Leong will keep the crowd entertained through the night with her effervescent personality and entertainment segments.
The Loco Local 2015 Countdown Party will be held at the Lobby Lounge of Crowne Plaza Changi Airport from 31 December 2015, 9:00pm to 1 January 2015, 1:30am.
Sure is a exciting time to be a #sgindie lover, ain’t it?
The Singapore music scene is growing! There is little doubt about that. Songwriter-producers Tat Tong and Roland Lim are two individuals that I have been following for some time now. These gents are talented, committed and fun to be around with – they started with the same tools as everybody else but by sheer determination (with relentless belief) have managed to carve out successful music careers. The collective experience they have amassed so far merits closer examination and in December the pair offer this opportunity to fellow musos in Singapore with the Gamechangers: How To Produce and Release #1 Hits workshop. Don’t miss this!
More details here.
I love the early Squeeze records but my favourite is probably Sweets from a Stranger (1982). Although lumped together with all the other 80s ‘new wave’ bands, Squeeze were/are basically 60s pop revivalists with erudite lyrics/sophisticated melodies being the main emphasis. Check out a video of the band playing “Points of View” below.
Formed around the songwriting nucleus of Chris Difford (lyrics) & Glenn Tilbrook (tunes), the duo were hailed as the Lennon-McCartney of their era and deservedly as well. Following Squeeze’s second breakup in 1999, Tilbrook embarked on an acclaimed solo career. Tilbrook will be performing in Singapore at Hero’s on 29th November and I caught up with him via a short phone interview.
KittyWu Records has announced that Caracal has launched the pre-order for their forthcoming studio album Welcome The Ironists at iTunes. Listeners can pre-order the digital album on iTunes and receive an early download of the exciting new single “Welcome The Ironists”.
The new album was recorded and produced together with the band’s longstanding collaborator and dear friend – Singapore’s leading music producer and sound engineer, Leonard Soosay of Snakeweed Studios (The Great Spy Experiment, I Am David Sparkle). The album was mastered in Canada with João Carvalho of João Carvalho Mastering (Sloan, Buck 65, The Weakerthans, Death From Above 1979).
The full album is slated for release on 18 December 2014 and will be available in both physical and digital formats. Caracal will launch the album at The Substation on that night. Look out for the music video on 5th December at the band’s YouTube Channel.
The Singapore music scene is crying out for more small to mid-sized venues that can host brilliant artists that do not command the mainstream attention of an Ed Sheeran or a Pheonix. Beep Studios – located in Bukit Merah – operates mainly as a recording studio but has of late, been the location of great shows from Deafheaven, Deap Vally, MONO and last night (8th Nov), Wild Beasts.
The UK band is touring Asia and squeezed Singapore between Bangkok and KL and sounded no worse for the wear and tear. A good-sized crowd did not have to squeeze into Beep Studios but were entertained and thrilled by an excellent performance in fairly intimate settings. That is the beauty of a gig like this – it feels like the band is playing in a large living room!
The music of Wild Beasts (viz. Hayden Thorpe, Ben Little, Chris Talbot & Tom Fleming) provides a fine balance between indie rock and electro-pop with Thorpe, Little and Fleming adept at exchanging instruments so that different musical textures, timbres and approaches might be attained. Drummer Talbot was expert in coming up with intricate patterns that drove the ethereal tunes rhythmically.
The voices of Thorpe and Little (falsetto and baritone respectively) captured the attention of the rapt crowd brilliantly. Songs like “Mecca”, “Daughters” & “A Dog’s Life” highlighted these attributes succinctly and even though the pulse never quite quickened with the band’s chilled out groovy vibes, there was no denying the passion.
Thorpe made a little joke about not leaving the stage for the obligatory call-back (basically, the venue could not accommodate that aspect!) and so remained on stage to deliver the songs that would have been their encore. Which was fine and removed the usual awkwardness about the encore’s artificiality. A lusty “Wanderlust” turned out to be the high point of the gig for me, as the performance concluded. Overall, the perfect venue for a mesmerizing sonic experience.
Thanks to Symmetry Entertainment for making this review possible.
This year’s Music Matters Live was the best yet! On a personal level, I had an absolute ball and met up with many great bands viz. JPNSGRLS, Love X Stereo, Buffalo Sunn and many others. Significantly, MML’14 provided an important platform local bands as well – with Gentle Bones, Take Two and others taking full advantage.
And… Music Matters 2015 promises to be even bigger and better! So bands out there, this is your chance to get on board. Apply now!
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Always an exciting prospect to catch some of the brightest indie rock talents in Singapore but when the event also serves to raise awareness of an important cause then, the reasons to attend increase! With a fairly varied lineup as well, Rethink: AIDS promises to be an exciting #sgindie day out. We got in touch with organizer Jared Rezel to find out more.
PoP: How does a music event raise awareness for a cause?
Jared: Music fans tend to connect to their favourite artists via their music. The bond between the audience and performer is hence strengthened through their attendance at live music events. As the bands perform at this event, they will be constantly promoting our cause through their songs and shoutouts, strongly conveying our message to the audience and ultimately succeeding in raising awareness for our cause.
PoP: In what ways are you asking people to “Rethink AIDS”?
Jared: We never actually wondered what we would do if we found out our friend has AIDS and decided to think more about this issue. Most of us realised that we’d probably avoid these friends for fear of contracting this disease. However when we look at the facts, there is no risk at all unless we were planning to engage in some sexual activity with these friends. Hence we want people to rethink the facts they know or think they know in hope that they would ultimately rethink these subconscious stereotypes they place on the people suffering from AIDS. Most AIDS campaigns are all about the ‘safe sex’ aspect especially what we learnt back in sex ed classes in school, hence we felt that our event could influence youths to relate more to the social side of AIDS.
PoP: How should the public attitude towards AIDS change? What should it be instead?
Jared: Most people know the dangers of AIDS or rather HIV and they know that they want to avoid it as far as possible. However, it’s that avoidance and some misunderstanding that has led to stereotyping people with HIV/AIDS as well. We want people to know the facts & the dangers but at the same time, not treat the people with it any differently. Basically, we want people to remove the links between AIDS and friendship, since sex isn’t a requirement of friendship.
PoP: What do you hope attendees will take away from Rethink: AIDS?
Jared: Besides enjoying music and introducing more people to local music, we hope that they at least gain new perspectives towards AIDS. Ideally, we hope that they would change their attitudes towards people with AIDS and treat them as normal people.
PoP: Can you explain the process behind the selection of the bands?
Jared: We wanted to find bands who were rather current and had a pull with different groups of people hence reaching out to a variety of people. We were not so worried about the genre, for example, AVA. When people see a post hardcore band, they usually think like these guys are rebels. But seeing them standing for something good fights for our cause even more.
More info here.
Squeeze was without doubt one of the seminal bands of the 80s post-punk era, combining elements of pub-rock and Beatlesque pop-rock to produce a highly melodic and intelligent brand of pop music. Glenn Tilbrook – whose distinctive tenor graced almost all the best Squeeze songs – will be playing a “one-night-only” show at Hero’s (69 Circular Road #01-01, Boat Quay). Tickets available from www.dashtickets.sg now!
Tilbrook has a new album out called Happy Ending and its chock full of the well-constructed, sophisticated pop that Squeeze was legendary for. Check it out!
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Here at Power of Pop, we emphasize substance over form, artistry/creativity over genre/styles and champion the right attitudes over cynical media manipulation. PUP fits the bill perfectly. Its eponymous album is a shameless celebration of edgy pop-rock music with energy and melodies to die for! Power of Pop caught up with the band via email and vocalist/guitarist Stefan was kind enough to answer our queries.
POP: How did PUP get together?
Stefan: The other 3 guys have known each other forever. Zack and Nestor grew up on the same street. They were playing around town in a few shitty bands and I was in a shitty band as well. Eventually we got bored of those projects and decided to band together to form a slightly less shitty but still shitty band called PUP.
PoP: What is the best thing about being PUP?
Stefan: We’ve had the chance to travel the world the past year. It’s been incredible. Getting to play music with your best friends every night in different weird places is the best thing in the world. And sometimes you get to play with your favourite bands and that’s cool too.
PoP: Why should anyone listen to PUP?
Stefan: You probably shouldn’t. But if you do it’ll be because you’re bored.
PoP: How do decide which song gets on the album?
Stefan: We wrote a bunch of songs, and just chose our favourite ones. We weren’t trying to choose ones that sounded the same or worked together or anything… We just wanted the 10 songs on our first record to be the best 10 songs we’ve written.
PoP: Would you wanna play in Singapore?
Stefan: Of course! that’s another adventure for us.
Hopefully we’ll get to see PUP in action in Singapore sooner rather than later! In the meantime, listen to PUP (the album) now.
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“Myracle Brah is an American indie pop/power pop band primarily centered on singer-songwriter Andy Bopp.”
What it fails to say that at one point in the 90s, Brah’s debut LP – Life on Planet Eartsnop – was on heavy rotation, not only in my CD player but in my very consciousness. This LP served to be my doorway to the 90s Pop Underground, which was a magical epoch of 60s retrolicious goodness. Since that epochal album, there have been highs and lows for Andy Bopp’s music BUT I am so glad to report a spanking new EP that rekindles this pop lover’s belief in the POWER of POP!
For the time being, the EP is free via download at Bandcamp. If like me, you dig bands that channel The Beatles, Big Star & Badfinger without sacrificing an iota of self-expression then The Peach EP is a godsend! What are you waiting for?
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I must confess that out of the all the bands that were slated to play at the last (sadly cancelled) Hostess Club Weekender, the one I was most looking forward to was Wild Beasts. But of course, the good news is that the English band will still be in Singapore tomorrow at Beep Studios.
Wild Beasts released one the best albums of 2014 – the sophisticated collection of groovy tunes known as Present Tense – and surely is one of the most important bands to come out of the UK in the last decade. So, don’t miss the chance to watch them in the intimate settings of Beep Studios.
Standard: 65 SGD
At The Door: 80 SGD
Look out for our review.