HOWE GELB

HOWE GELB ‘Sno Angel + Melted Wires 7inch (Fort Lowell)

“There’s a lot of people out there having a hard time tonight”

Howe Gelb (and Giant Sand, his musical vehicle) pushed the boundaries of alt-country music in the 90s, going as fay as pioneering his own ‘desert rock’ genre. Gelb manages to channel Bob Dylan and Neil Young, with a good pinch of Lou Reed for good measure – into his idiosyncratic music. On this special 7inch single, Gelb pairs the live gospel-tinged A-side Spiral (as Sno Angel) with Cordoba in Slow Motion, a jazz instrumental collaboration between Giant Sand and Calexico.

Spiral is a strident reflection on the plight of the ordinary folk going through difficult times. Hints of the economic depression, global warning and echoes of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq resonate in Gelb’s storytelling. Backed simply by a honky tonk piano and the Voices Of Praise Gospel Choir, Gelb grabs your attention from the get-go and never lets go. Enthralling. Cordoba in Slow Motion is an authentic jazz workout, raising visions of smoky bars populated down-and-out drinkers, a film noir setting easily conveyed.

Howe Gelb’s 7inch record is also going to be an official release with Record Store Day, Saturday, April 16th. Worth checking out.

Official Site

DOPE

(Press release)

Celebrating everything cultural, national and aesthetical, DOPE has been invited to curate Afterhours: Grounded! An Art Party at the Singapore Art Museum this 18th March 2011.

Featuring a stellar lineup of home-grown and regional experimental musicians, video artists and performance artists in a collective effort to overthrow your usual routine, be sure to expect crazy interactive visuals, experimental live acts and DJs, contemporary performing arts and a flea market to top off the icing on the cake.

Get set for something a little less ordinary this Friday 18th March…

The Singapore Art Museum is located at 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555.

More info.

RSVP

STARDUST 2011

Closing date for registration has been extended to this Friday, 18th March…c’mon!

Here’s what went down at the first auditions as witnessed by Samuel C Wee.

It was a pretty interesting four hours I spent last Sunday judging the band category auditions for this year’s Stardust competition–my first time on the judges’ panel for this established competition!

 Of course, I was in excellent company–lots of laughs and camaraderie were provided by my fellow judges, vis a vis Keith Tan of TAB as well as Alvin Tan and Md Yazzit of The Music Lab, the music school where the auditions were held. That said, I was surprised at how reserved and shy some of the auditionees were. Aspiring contestants, if you’re reading: Go for broke and don’t be afraid to express your personalities and your imaginations in your arrangements! 

Of course, if you’re an aspiring musician who’s in a band and haven’t applied yet for the audition, we have a more serious issue to address: why the hell not?! 

Consider this: even if you don’t make it through to the final rounds, you’ll be able to receive valuable feedback on your musicianship from experienced industry professionals. 

And if you do have what it takes, there’s only the small matter of $10,000 worth of cash and prizes waiting for you at the other end of the rainbow! Raking in the good cash by playing music in Singapore, eh–who’d have thunk it? In fact, those prizes were so tempting I could have sworn I heard a few of the judges conspiring to form a band and take part in next year’s edition….

It’s not too late yet if you’re just deciding to take part: the closing date for registration has been extended to this Friday, 18th March! If and when you make it to the finals you’ll find familiar faces like Amanda Ling and Mr Kevin Mathews himself peering out at you from the judges’ table. 

First, though, you’ll have to get past me at the auditions this Sunday…

To shamelessly steal a catchphrase from Kevin: still there’s more…!

POWER OF POP INTERVIEW – MICHAEL FRANTI

This has to be one of my all-time favourite interviews ever. I’ve been a fan of Michael Franti since being totally bowled over by the Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury album (1992) by Franti’s previous band, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Since 1994, Franti has continued to deliver great music with Spearhead and it was my distinct pleasure and honour to speak to him ahead of Spearhead’s performance at Timbre Rock and Roots on the 15th April.

Throughout your career – with Beatnigs, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy & Spearhead, your songs have contained social-political messages, what is the reason for this?

Well I’ve always been somebody who believed that everybody should have equality. Didn’t matter what walk of life you came from, what colour, what religion, what language you spoke, everybody should be equal and so that’s always been the message in my music but as I’ve gone on in life, I’ve been to a lot of places where there’s injustice. For example, I went to Iraq, played music on the streets of Baghdad. While I was there people said to me – ‘we don’t wanna hear songs about pain and politics, we wanna hear songs that make us laugh and dance’ (laughs). Sometimes that can be the most political message.

Continue reading “POWER OF POP INTERVIEW – MICHAEL FRANTI”

GENERIC GIG

This is a DIY gig organised and funded by the bands without any middleman-organiser. Thus, all the proceeds go to helping pay for the venue and to the bands themselves. Probably, it’ll all go to covering the cost of the venue.

Featuring:

Forget Who We Are http://www.facebook.com/pages/Forget-Who-We-Are/133495220051268

Basement In My Loft http://www.facebook.com/pages/Basement-In-My-Loft/273052952914

Amterible http://www.facebook.com/Amterible

The Roses http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Roses/99318289455

At-the-door entry: $8

First 25 guests receive a FREE generic Compilation Album!

RSVP at Facebook

PJ HARVEY

PJ HARVEY Let England Shake (Island)

I have little doubt that this eighth album of English songstress PJ Harvey will be a guaranteed fixture in a multitude of year end best of lists. Conceptually, Let England Shake will already trump many of its competitors for the right to be so revered. As the album title hints, the songs here focus on Harvey’s commentary about her homeland. And it makes for depressing reading for sure. Think of Roger Water’s diatribes (that he tried to pass as rock songs) in Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut and you will have a good idea of what Harvey is trying to accomplish on Let England Shake.

Continue reading “PJ HARVEY”

HOME CLUB PRESENTS LOCALMOTION

LOCALMOTION is a gig happening at Home Club every now and then organised by music lovers, for music lovers.

The intention: To showcase original musicians in Singapore.

In this edition (Friday, 18th March):

8:30pm – The Verge

(http://www.wearetheverge.com/)

9:15pm – Bluescentric

(http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bluescentric/197504360267363?sk=info)

10 pm – Black Disco Ball

(http://www.myspace.com/bdbonline)

Tickets at $12 per entry (with 1 free drink)
ALSO INCLUDES ENTRY TO BEAT! AFTER

MAROON 5


Have just heard from Coca-Cola Singapore that over at www.coca-cola.com/music on 22nd March, fans of Maroon 5 will be able to interact with the band and give input into creating a new Maroon 5 song!

We understand that music bloggers from nearly 20 countries will be onsite to keep their followers informed and involved in the process. 2009 Singapore Idol finalist and Universal Music artiste Sylvia Ratonel will be representing Singapore and updating Singapore fans on the experience, watching the process in the studio in London.

We will keep you posted on any further developments right here.

PoPINIONS

Is the Singapore indie music scene worth saving?

More than a couple of years ago, I wrote a series of articles for the now defunct Audioload site entitled ‘Saving the Singapore Music Scene’. If you’re reading this and rolling your eyes, it’s probably because broaching this topic is akin to flogging a dead horse. And I totally agree with that sentiment. It’s getting rather tedious to even talk about the Singapore Music Scene. Taking a step back and looking at this issue objectively, quite obviously, I personally have a vested stake in the development of the Singapore Music Scene. So naturally the success (or failure) of the Singapore Music Scene has a significant impact on me. Obviously then, it’s hard not to be emotional and subjective about the subject. But lately, certain encounters have narrowed my perspective somewhat on this issue such that I am even asking the question – is the Singapore indie music scene worth saving?

Before, we move any further, let’s have some clarity about what I’m talking about. For our purposes, the Singapore indie scene comprises of bands/artists writing, recording and performing original English language pop and rock music, independent of any major label support. Thus, this definition excludes the Singapore Idols (who are signed to Universal Music) and bands who play only cover music (like the Goodfellas). Anyone familiar with the Singapore music would then realize that this definition would include almost every Singapore band/artist out there playing English language pop-rock music. Sounds like this would be a rather massive grouping, right? But it isn’t at all. Relatively speaking, the numbers would be quite small. Maybe slightly more than a hundred active bands/artists? By ‘active’, I mean gigging on a regular basis and releasing recorded original material (either for sale or for free). Assuming that Singapore’s population is currently about 5 million people, then the ratio of band to persons is about 1: 50,000. Staggering, isn’t it?

However, out of the 5 million people that make up Singapore, the maximum number of people who would pay to watch a Singapore indie band play, will not be much more than 250-300 people! And the same numbers also apply to number of persons actually purchasing Singapore indie CDs! So… the audience that exists to patronize Singapore indie music is less than 300 people. This is 0.006% of the population of Singapore! Sad and depressing but true.

But… should it matter to anyone other than Singapore indie musicians? I’d like to say that it should and trot out all the usual cultural reasons and compare us to this country and that country but then I come to my senses. After all, this is a country of people that by and large do not understand pop culture or appreciate pop & rock music. Sure, we now host the F1 Grand Prix, rock festivals, two casinos, theme parks and so on BUT this is purely appreciated from a functional & economic value standpoint. Typically Singaporean, isn’t it? Almost nobody appreciates pop culture here on an aesthetic level – it’s purely a numbers game. e.g. number of Grammys/Oscars won, number of albums and concert tickets sold etc.

Thus, purely on this numbers game, Singapore indie musicians are losers and failures. Glorified hobbyists who should not be tolerated or given the time of day. Singapore indie musicians are no better than panhandlers and freeloaders expecting their family and friends to support their hobby. Singapore indie musicians should in fact get a proper job so that nobody else should be put out of pocket and they should be obliged then to give their music away and play gigs all for free. I mean, other ordinary Singaporeans do not expect their family and friends (and even strangers) to fund their hobbies so why should Singapore indie musicians?

This perspective has been formed by decades of social engineering, mind you, so it’s not surprising. After all, no Singaporean raises violent objection (or eyebrows) that the Singapore Symphony Orchestra consists of full-time classical musicians whose salaries are paid for by fundraising activities. You never hear any Singaporeans crying out – ‘get a proper job’ to SSO musicians, do you? But that’s because in the true Singaporean mindset, the thinking will be that these classical musicians actually have proper qualifications as they have obtained a degree in their (classical) instrument in this or that prestigious foreign university so they have the right to be professional musicians.

Therefore, as far as the public consciousness is concerned, the authorities have half succeeded in their determined quest to eradicate rock music from the local culture, which they pursued with vigor in the 70s and 80s. So even if they have recanted previous position based purely on economic grounds, at least they can savor the victory of turning Singaporeans against rock music created by Singaporeans, which is surely half the battle! Yes, let the foreigners make rock music and let our businesses benefit by charging people (Singaporean or otherwise) to watch these foreign rock bands but by no means, let a Singaporean rock band be able to do the same thing. No, that would be wrong… and which would send a dangerous message to our youth that rock music is a viable career option.

So if the authorities deem it as such, it’s no wonder that our sheep-like populace should entertain such mindsets, it’s so logical and ultimately understandable. So any question about educating the general public about music and so on is a losing proposition. After all the powers-that-be do not want such a scenario to materialize. Why else would the Media Development Authority in a fake attempt to explore the possibilities of aiding the Singapore indie music industry commission a foreign accounting agency (who have absolutely no clue about Singapore indie music) to conduct a study into this issue. A study that to date, there is no news whatsoever about. Why else would MDA also sponsor a Mediacorp TV program – Live and Loaded – which sole purpose was to present Singapore indie music in the worst possible light? There cannot be any other reason why the producers of Live and Loaded chose to showcase mediocre bands (including school bands!) on national TV. At least, both MDA and Mediacorp can now declare to the general public that they tried to support the Singapore indie music scene in this manner but found the ground to be less than accepting and thus any further requests to support the Singapore indie music scene can be justifiably denied! A brilliant strategy!

So where does that leave my original query? Is the Singapore indie music scene worth saving? My answer would be no. But that’s because it does not need to be saved and we should not look to anyone to save it! I have said this before and I’ll say it again – if Singapore indie music is important to you, kind reader, then support it… if it isn’t, then FUCK OFF! This entire issue has nothing to do with you then and nobody is interested in your opinion.

I feel exactly the way I felt back in 1998, after the Asian Financial Crisis brought our economy to its knees. if Singaporeans are not willing to listen to my music then I will look for non-Singaporeans who are interested (which is why I worked hard to secure US distribution for the two Popland albums and did not bother with Singapore). Now, in a perverse way, the highly popular immigration policy of Singapore has actually brought many foreigners (not pathologically prejudiced against Singapore music) onto our shores. This is the demographic Singapore indie musicians should target and aggressively as well. Also, look for fans overseas, find the opportunity to gig outside Singapore to find the fans who will appreciate your music (and not care what nationality you are). Start regionally – population numbers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines are huge and they will listen to your music without prejudice – and then move beyond South-East Asia to Japan, China, Australia, UK, Europe and the USA. Singapore bands have done this before – metal bands like Rudra, Wormrot, Meltgsnow and indie bands like Electrico, Great Spy Experiment, I Am David Sparkle, Stellarium, Etc and Caracal likewise. There’s a whole wide world of unprejudiced non-Singaporeans out there to listen to your music.

So what are you waiting for?

 

BAMBI KINO

BAMBI KINO Self-titled (Tampete)

Y’know sometimes music should be made for fun. We often forget that. This special project band call themselves Bambi Kino (named after the fledging Beatles’ original lodgings in Hamburg). Ah, got things a bit backwards. Consisting of various indie stalwarts viz. Ira Elliot – drums (Nada Surf), Erik Paparazzi – bass (Cat Power), Mark Rozzo – guitar and vocals (Maplewood) and Doug Gillard – guitar (Guided By Voices) – Bambi Kino played 4 sets at the Indra club in Hamburg (yes, he exact same club The Beatles played their first show in the Reeperbahn) in 2010 consisting of tracks the Beatles themselves performed at Hamburg 50 years before.

Well, the band decided to record their afternoon rehearsals and now the result of these sessions will be released in the USA. Yes folks, it’s a tribute of sorts and Beatles fans will probably be intrigued but really, it’s a fun record and an album that should be listened in one sitting and enjoyed in the spirit it was made.

With uncanny authenticity, Bambi Kino has evoked the rollicking mood of those heady days and old-time rock ‘n’ roll faves like Some Other Guy, A Shot of Rhythm and Blues, Shakin’ All Over, Wild Cat mixed with standards like Besame Mucho, Soldier of Love and To Know Her Is To Love Her. Simply a blast!

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MGMT + WHITEST BOY ALIVE – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Back when The Flaming Lips were in town, amongst the tracks featured in the pre-show mix was MGMT’s Time to Pretend and it seemed appropriate considering how in many ways, MGMT were the Lip’s freakbeat heir apparents. So… of course, the same people who brought the Lips here (Untitled) have secured the services of MGMT (with special guests, The Whitest Boy Alive) on 24th March at 8pm.

So be prepared for another stir-fried psych-pop night. Get your tickets from SISTIC.

MY COUSIN, THE EMPEROR

MY COUSIN, THE EMPEROR The Subway EPs (Self-released)

“Instead of recording a full album, we decided to record 2 EPs, but to give them entirely different personalities, volume 1 is more folky, country, singer- songwriter music.  Volume 2 is more rock, upbeat, and energetic.  This band does both of them very well, so I wanted to showcase it’s different personalities across the two EPs.” Jason Reischel

Serious doubts about the concept behind the presentation of one album as two EPs and the mannered self-categorizations BUT no denying that Brooklyn’s My Cousin, The Emperor parlays the perfect mix of country-folk-blues and rock ‘n’ roll music that Gram Parsons envisaged for his Cosmic American Music. I have always maintained that when done right, country-folk-blues can be some of the most soulful music on the planet and thankfully, Reischel and company provide ample evidence of this assertion.

On the 1st volume, Prospect Park West, there are luscious vocal harmonies, lush acoustic guitars and lusty evocations of rustic beauty in songs like Lies End and Burly, Old Coach. A dash of rockabilly informs Southern Nights whilst mournful strings will touch the heart on Annie (The Leevee Song). Volume II, Broadway-Lafayette, ups the tempo ever so slightly – Down N Out is white-knuckled barroom blues, Nothing Left For Us To Find is unapologetically rollicking and Early Morning Show channels The Band and Neil Young with slow burning intensity.

An excellent addition to the country-folk-blues-rock canon. File next to your Wilco, Uncle Tupelo and Jayhawks LPs.

Official Site

[amazon-slideshow height=”324″ width=”430″]dba94a1f-8e63-4681-9646-99398d492ba5[/amazon-slideshow]

WORDS GO AROUND!

It was a week of talks for me. On Sunday (6th March) it was the Bitesize: Music Journalism 101 talk at the Esplanade Rehearsal Studio (full review to follow later). Then on Wednesday (9th) and Friday (11th), I visited two schools as part of the Singapore Writers Festival: Words Go Round program. On my part, my task was to share with students my take on songwriting with special emphasis on lyric-writing. Simple enough, eh?

Continue reading “WORDS GO AROUND!”

RED WANTING BLUE

RED WANTING BLUE These Magnificent Miles CD/DVD (Fanatic)

I will shamelessly confess to the fact that there was a moment in the DVD documentary that I had to stop and basically broke down in tears. The culprit? The Red Wanting Blue track Finger In The Air, along with the band members talking about what that song was all about.

They say, “give up and go back where you belong/Dreaming’s for the dead, kid, the road is too long”/Middle finger in the air, I’m still here/Egging them on…

For every dreamer who’s ever had to fight for what they believe in, this song resonates powerfully and it fit perfectly with the story that unfolded on this simple yet touching documentary.

Continue reading “RED WANTING BLUE”

EMPRA

Full text of the email interview with Sanny Veloo (of EMPRA) that formed the basis for the TODAY piece. Thousand apologies for the typo error, the name of the debut single is Like A Runaway and NOT Like A Runway (which has it’s own implications!) Anyhoo, extra lashes for yours truly tonight methinks (or maybe less?)…

What do you remember being the best and worst times of being in the Boredphucks in the early 90s?

The best time for me was watching some TCS variety show and Gurmit Singh was interviewing Zoe Tay and he asked her, “Eh Zoe, you know right now got this local band write song about you?” and Zoe Tay laughed and replied, “I know lah my Engrish not very good lah!”. That was pretty cool cos I knew then Boredphucks had left its stamp on Singapore culture forever. But it would preferred if writing a song about Zoe Tay got me a date with her instead!

The worst time was when the Boredphucks got banned and it came out in the papers. It was pretty cool at first cos our CD ended up outselling the Backstreet Boys because we got banned. But Honestly dude, I was more afraid of what my father would say then what the police was gonna do to me the next day.

Continue reading “EMPRA”

MUSIC MATTERS: A Bear Fruit Music Workshop

Calling all aspiring musicians who live and breathe music! Learn what it takes to make it in the music industry!

The National Library Board (NLB) presents ‘MUSIC MATTERS’

– a 4-part Bear Fruit workshop. The workshop aims to bring together young aspiring musicians with a burning desire to share your music with the world! In this series of workshops, Producer /Composer Roland Lim will share tips, tricks, the knitty gritty and the mindset required to achieve success. Learn to develop the right mindset and work ethic to achieve success, relevant and crucial musical skills to make an impact, entrepreneurship skills to make music your career as well as the marketing and law knowledge required to succeed in the industry.

Participants get to perform their songs at a concert after the completion of the workshop, and 1 artist/band will be handpicked to record a fully-produced song with Roland Lim worth $1500!

More info

REDONDO BEAT

REDONDO BEAT Meet Redondo Beat (Dionysus)

Bring out those dancing shoes, cause if everything and everyone is going forward in time, let all of us music lovers out there, go back in time to a period with no worries, and dancing is all that matters.

Continue reading “REDONDO BEAT”

PoPTV – SARA BAREILLES

Sara Bareilles – Uncharted

Album: Kaleidoscope Heart

While most of us wait for the arrival of Miss B to this part of the world for her tour, I guess, her new music video for Uncharted will just have to do, in the meantime.

But alas, the pretty little thing is nowhere to be seen in the music video! That is, until the final scene of her enjoying at the beach just before the video finishes.

However, in her place, with big shoes to fill, are the appearances of many other big names: Ben Folds appearing as a professor, funnily explaining the terminology of the title of the song in the beginning of the video; Cary Brothers; Josh Groban singing with and then eating a banana; indie twins Tegan & Sara; N*E*R*D’s Pharrell Williams; Greg Laswell, with a middle finger; Ingrid Michaelson; OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder; Maroon 5’s Adam Levine; Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, in pajamas; Keenan Cahill; Laura Jansen and Vanessa Carlton.

Sure makes this an unsuspecting, star-studded video, that no one may have seen coming. Now, continuing on with the countdown to May 11th…

Official Site

 

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(CJ)

PoPTV – THE LIVING SISTERS

The Living Sisters – How Are You Doing?

Album: Love To Live

Director: Michel Gondry

Michel Gondry was recently in town to promote his latest film – The Green Hornet – with stars Seth Rogen and Jay Chou. He is also known for directing well-loved music videos, such as The Hardest Button To Button by the recently defunct The White Stripes, Come Into My World by Kylie Minogue, and Dance Tonight by Paul McCartney featuring the talented Natalie Portman, just to name a few of his works.

Yes, his directorial resume is, pretty much, an impressive one.

Though you may not have heard of the group The Living Sisters, the name Inara George may ring a bell in some of you. Yes, she’s one-half of the duo, The Bird & The Bee. Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and Eleni Mandell make up the other two members of The Living Sisters, and this song is taken from their debut album, Love To Live.

In this video, the concept behind Emotions by Destiny’s Child comes creeping back into one’s mind, though there’s definitely less competition/centre of attention involved amongst the fine ladies of The Living Sisters (despite the placement of Inara in the centre frame). Both Becky and Eleni have better storylines and fun to play around with during the shooting, that I can be assured of.

Myspace

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(CJ)

THE LONG & WINDING ROAD

THE STORY OF GUM

The song – Gum – was actually originally tacked on to the end of This Savage Garden demo in 1992, with only one verse. When the Democracy album was recorded a year later, I decided to add the second verse and the Hey Jude-like coda. Remember, this was 1993 and so I was not too comfortable about the song receiving too much attention and so I made it a hidden track (very much in vogue then). So imagine my surprise when 98.7FM DJ Suresh Menon played the track on national radio! Not only that but Chris Ho highlighted the song in his Pop Life column in the Straits Times! So much for keeping a low profile.

Well, thankfully, there were no knocks on the door in the middle of the night and the song (and I) have survived till today.

Folks who appreciate the song often mistake it for a comic song about chewing gum. Well, okay, that’s partially true but in essence, the ‘chewing gum’ of the song symbolizes anything that has been taken away from us ordinary beings by the powers-that-be. It could be freedom, liberty or any other human right. Still relevant in 2011 as it was in 1992.

CLOSEAPART

CLOSEAPART Whispers In The Wire (Self-released)

Looking at S-ROCK band CloseApart’s new album, it is obvious that it has spared no expense in putting together the best package reasonably possible. The CD sleeve is well designed and lavishly produced and the album was recorded at the famed Lion Studios. There’s no doubting CloseApart’s commitment and self-belief to its cause. And whilst this is laudable in itself, sadly the music on the album just does not live up to the expectations built up from a visual inspection of the album.

Continue reading “CLOSEAPART”