POP10 – ODI

Claire Odium is a talented singer-songwriter from Leeds, UK who, together with Dave Redfearn, forms the duo ODi. Claire has been self-releasing singles and EPs so far but I’m sure she will certainly get more attention and acclaim as more people get to hear her gorgeous voice and heartfelt songs. Claire was kind enough to share her POP10 with us…

1. Why play music? 

Life would be to dull and dreary without it.

2. Who are your influences? 

A wide range from Kings of Leon to Otis Reading to PJ Harvey.

3. What is success? 

To be able to afford to play music all day and not feel guilty about it.

4. Why should people buy your music? 

It’s cheaper than therapy

5. Who do you love? 

Most people, but musically speaking it would have to be Radiohead.

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

To be able to give respite to people when they need it.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Family, friends, strangers, all sorts!

8. What is your favorite album?

‘The Bends’ Radiohead

9. What is your favorite song?

‘Street Spirit’ – Radiohead

10. How did you get here?

Hardwork, determination and stubbornness

Check out ODi’s Myspace page for more…

HEARTS OF PALM UK

HEARTS OF PALM UK For Life (Hypnote)

The first thing that strikes you upon listening to Hearts Of Palm UK’s debut album, For Life, is how magically infectious the melodies are. The second thing that one notices is the effort that has been put into coloring the songs with lovely cascades of synthesizer loops and keyboard patterns, as well as the brooding basslines that serve to ground the album. It’s a lovely marriage of the best of electronica and typical indie quirkiness, with a lingering bitter-sweetness that come from songwriter Erica Elektra’s nakedly honest lyrics. 

The album opens with a beguiling shimmer of synth loops on the quirkily titled People and Logistics, set beneath Elektra’s dainty vocals. Second track I Flow breaks away from the delectable candy of People and Logistics, but holds its own with an infectious chorus and drum-machine hooks, as well as a certain folksy rawness in the lyric.  

There are gems to be found throughout the rest of the album too, such as Kavorka, a tasty salad of juicy synthesizers and yummy harmonies, sprinkled with an endearing Seinfeld reference, and Goodbye, a bittersweet reflection on the end of a relationship with a melancholic undercurrent. Erica Elektra delivers a versatile performance throughout the record, alternating from ingénue-like girlishness that is reminiscent of Camera Obscura to the lower-register somberness hinting at traces of Stereolab. 

For all the superlatives I’ve showered on them so far, though, the album has its duds as well, with the forgettable Trust, Open Letter and Jonathan FMF. The band’s cover of Roxy Music’s More Than This is averagely competent and likeable, but treads too much clichéd ground to truly make an original statement.  If I wanted to be picky, I could possibly pick up on the album’s lack of lyrical depth as well, but to do that would be rather like accusing The Beatles of shallow songwriting on Please Please Me. 

Overall, it’s a wonderfully melodic debut that sparkles and shines with a likeable charm and twinkling with invention. In the grander scale of things I suppose it has its flaws, and I would like to see more of that political edge hinted at on their MySpace page, but I’m not complaining. This is a marvelous album for all you music-lovers out there with a sweet tooth. 

(Samuel C Wee)

SAMUEL C WEE

Samuel C Wee lives in sunny Singapore. He studies Media Management and has a passion for everything that carries a tune. In his spare time, he enjoys football, music, films, poetry and, to quote Neil Gaiman, “making things up and writing them down”. He is happily attached currently, sings for a rock band, wants to play guitar very badly and does play guitar very badly. 

Make Samuel feel welcome, okay?

ODi

ODi A Superman EP (Self released)

ODi’s Claire Odium has a attention grabbing voice. Listen to Odium singing on headphones and I guarantee that you will be enthralled. I sure was/am. 

Her songs are simple and folky, embellished with pointed fret play and warm strings arrangements and that voice. This EP features three new songs and a couple of live recordings of previous cuts.

The title track contains atmospheric guitar work from Dave Redfearn (the other half of ODi) and certainly out-emotes any song from that hit Coldplay album. What I Deserve is closer to the popular wave of British singer-songwriter material that the likes of Damien Rice has fostered. But Tears and Wine is my favorite. Just Odium and guitar, unadorned. The chorus is a little predictable but Odium pulls it off with tenderness and heartfelt expression. 

ODi’s music is available from Myspace and iTunes.

THE PRESENT

THE PRESENT World I See (Loaf)

You know how sometimes when artistes get into really extreme territories with their art of expression and end up getting lost in their own world so much that they forget the very audience that they sought to communicate with?

That is perhaps one of the dangers that musicians such as Rusty Santos has to risk every single time he picks up an instrument or sits on the producer’s throne (For the uninitiated, Rusty Santos is a producer of works such as Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, and Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs, which has brought him high acclaim).

His latest project, The Present, with long time friend and fellow musician Jesse Lee, and the enigmatic Mina, has seen the release of its debut album, the improvisational World I See, which is described as a piece that “tramples on musical boundaries and preconceptions, whilst leaving an album that is still capable of relating musically and emotionally to a wide audience”.

Now, if you think Santo’s prior works were far out, one would be forgiven to suspect he is holding back his punches. World I See is unexpected and unpredictable: six tracks of sonic possibilities stretched out a million light years, peppered with a lots of delays and dribbles and drums that sound almost shamanic in vibe. Perhaps the closest relation is his experimental works on “Eternity Spans”, and even then I would say I am forcing the comparison.

The first track, Heavens on Ice, speaks heavily about what is to come. A 13-and-a-half minute sonic journey laced with lush atmospherics that transcends between urban, to electro-tribal ish, to sci fi, and to a more familiar indie-tinged experimental (which is what Santos is known for), it is perhaps my personal favourite track in the album. Other noteworthy tracks include Love Melody, a lucid, bizarrely poignant piano lead track, and “Symbols on High”, another atmospheric ambience to indie tinged piece, quite similar to Heavens on Ice albeit less complex in its build up. In fact, I am honestly fighting myself from saying that ALL of them are as noteworthy.

That being said, fair warning to say that this record is NOT an easy listen. One has to approach it by taking in the improvisational context of its production. That approach will help to appreciate the album better, almost like putting on 3D glasses. It is through those “lens” that the music becomes surprisingly ear candy even!

I will not go so far to say that the album is ground breaking. Groundbreakers usually find immediate success despite its unconventionality. World I See fails to achieve that palatable serving status. But if you are the type who enjoys the exotics, then “World I See” can perhaps be very fulfilling consumption.

Bon appetit! 

Still not convinced? Check out The Present at their Myspace.

(Armen Rizal Rahman)

ARMEN RIZAL RAHMAN

Armen Rizal Rahman is a songwriter, music producer, performer and founder of The House of Anonymous, a musical collaborative/collective of musicians, performers and artists who are inspired, influenced and driven by the art of music. 

Armen graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma in Mass Communication. His various pursuits in the arts make him a versatile expressionist: acting, writing and illustration and design were just some of the many interests that Armen had. But it was during his time in pursuing his diploma that he started dabbling in sound and music. Armed with little technical and musical background but with a desire to exercise this new medium and canvas of aural art, he started recording and producing his first two compilations of his musical pieces: Orbital Nocturne (1999) and Prologue to Genre (2001), the latter being the flag bearer of  his then-musical front, Ubermensch.

However, Ubermensch first introduction to a mass audience happened through Armen’s musical contributions in INRI Studio’s [e’ Tzaintes]; Armen wrote, produced and performed for the tracks “Catastrophe” and “Streaks”, which was done exclusively for the production. In INRI Studio’s second production, A Wicked Tale, Armen was again at the helm of the music seat, this time as a musical producer and arranger for the entire film. He also wrote and performed Apple Skin (2004), another exclusive for production track that appear at the end credit of the film.

In 2005, Ubermensch went through a philosophical makeover, and became The House of Anonymous or THOA for short. Through THOA, Armen kick started a series of musical projects and performance outfits; the most notable of them are a female collaborative project called SIRENS, and a blog that showcases socially inspired tracks and forms of expression called Mics with a Purpose. The House of Anonymous also entered and topped several competitions; as a solo performer in hip hop scene, Armen was one of the top acts in the 2006 rap competition called Platform 6, while his band was a recognized finalist in Yamaha’s Asian Beats competition.

Armen is currently embarking on his third musical project with INRI Studio, helming the Executive Music Producer role for their upcoming full feature film; tentatively title FRVL.

For more info, visit:

INRI Studio’s website:  

The House of Anonymous Myspace.

Please welcome Armen and make him feel right at home, y’hear…

READYMADE BREAKUP

READYMADE BREAKUP Alive on the Vine (Self released)

To describe Alive on the Vine as a powerpop album is misleading. That description is pretty far off the mark. Sure, there is quite a bit of classicist revisionism going on in Readymade Breakup’s sonic agenda but it is also informed by modernist tendencies. In any case, in this day and age of everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approaches, Readymade Breakup’s focus on the latter-day Beatles’ approximation of country-soul-blues-rock perfected by the Band is admirable.

So Readymade Breakup reaches right across the late 60s, rustic, twangy and guttural evoking the shadows of Paul McCartney, Robbie Robertson, Jimi Hendrix, Alex Chilton and Van Morrison with songs of distinction and potency. Thus, fans of Bruce Springsteen, Nils Lofgren and the Hold Steady will warm to the ragged glory of One By One, the nervous tension of Honey, You Might Be Right, the ethereal vibrance of “Talking to Myself” and so on.

Repeated listens to Alive on the Vine will reveal a multitude of goodness, believe me, this is rock music rooted in history and tradition and yet, fresh enough to keep the fists pumping and the feet moving.

DENI BONET

DENI BONET Last Girl on Earth (M.R2)

I’m actually surprised by how stridently 80s this album sounds. Not necessarily a bad thing. Bonet postulates an eclectic 80s sound, rounding up the influences of Talking Heads, R.E.M., the Pretenders (she even name checks Chrissie Hynde on I Want To Get Arrested) and the like.

Yes, unfortunately the recordings do possess that glossy, day-glo 80s production values as well but what mixes things up and makes it all that more interesting is Bonet’s fiddle. Which, when it does appear, might distract from the fact that melodies are a little too obvious for comfort. 

At best, I suppose you could say that Last Girl on Earth is middle of the road alt-rock. Hmm, a conundrum. That said, I really do like the folk-rockin’ drive of Is This A Test?, the nasty back-biting Hynde-channeling How Far Can I Push You? and the epic balladry of the title track (the full band version).

WEEZER

Here is Weezer’s video of Troublemaker off their critically-acclaimed new album. Courtesy of Yahoo! Music.

STARS LIVE IN SINGAPORE

From the Facebook Group page.

Greenhorn Productions presents STARS Live! at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 7 January 2009! 

STARS is a critically acclaimed Juno Award-nominated Canadian indie band that has taken the indie world by storm. Amy Millan, Torquil Campbell and Evan Cranley are also members of the indie band Broken Social Scene, with whom they currently share the record label, Arts & Crafts. Campbell is also an actor and has appeared on the television shows Sex and the City and Law & Order.

In Our Bedroom After the War, the name of STARS’ fourth and latest full-length album, is mysterious, grand, and multi-faceted. 

Set Yourself on Fire, STARS’ previous studio album, provided the Montreal-spawned quintet with their international breakthrough single “Ageless Beauty”, five years after the band was first formed by Campbell and keyboardist Chris Seligman while they were living near-penniless in New York City. Now gold certified in Canada, Fire proved so enduringly popular in so many parts of the world that the band left on tour following its 2004 release and barely stopped for the next two years. Suddenly, this most sophisticated of pop groups was required to adapt to the life of something its members never expected to become: road warriors. 

Don’t miss this chance to experience STARS Live! in their first ever performance in Southeast Asia. This promises to be an amazing night at the Esplanade Concert Hall. Don’t miss it!

Ticket prices (excluding Sistic charges) are $68,$88,$108, $128 and $148. Fans of Greenhorn Productions Facebook page will receive passwords entitling them to a 10% discount. Fans of Greenhorn Productions Facebook page will also receive a password entitling them to priority booking one day prior to public sales launch. Detailed ticketing information will be available by 7 November 2008.

THE PIGEON DETECTIVES

PIGEON DETECTIVES Get Up, Get Out 

Is it just me or is this post-punk derived cod-anthemic hogwash really over-hyped? To be honest, it’s easy to get into the singalong chorus and the soaring lead guitar until you realize that it’s all second hand Skids/Big Country licks. However, given enough listens, I’m sure Give Up, Give Out will worm its way into your synapses. Right off the band’s sophomore effort, Emergency, produced by Stephen Street, no less.

Download: Get Up, Get Out

Courtesy of RCRD LBL.

NOW PLAYING

THE EXPLORERS CLUB – IF YOU GO (off the album Freedom Wind)

This simply gorgeous song from the Beach Boys-channeling Explorers Club is a highlight of their wondeful debut and one that must be played over and over to savour its luxurious grace and beauty.

Not an official vid but interesting nonetheless, yeah?

SPRINGHOUSE

 

SPRINGHOUSE From Here To OK (Self released)

After 15 years, this 90s shoe gaze band returns with a new album. This time around the effects pedals have been left at home and in their place the melodic quotient has been amped up. From Here To Okay will be released in October in a limited edition (550 copies) CD and free internet download (Radiohead style – i.e. pay what you wish).

Springhouse consists of Mitch Friedland (guitars, vocals, keyboards), Larry Heinemann (bass, guitar, pedal steel) and Big Takeover editor (and a big writing influence on yours truly) Jack Rabid (drums, vocals) and From Here To Okay was recorded by the trio over a ten (!) year period and yes, it’s definitely worth the wait!

In fact, it’s probably one of the better song collections I’ve heard this year. It’s sharp, intelligent, eclectic pop-rock created by people deeply steeped in rock history. Sure, there may be certain “spot-the-influence” elements in much of the music here. But that’s what makes it so fun.

And this is most evident in the Zombies-Pink Floyd channeling opener Passion – the slide guitar break is spine-chilling. Conceptually, the song speaks to the art of music creation on how “Passion creates a song”. Does, in this instance. 

Moving Van is refreshing jangle-pop that references the Who by way of Guided by Voices and might be something criminally left off Matthew Sweet’s magnum opus, Girlfriend. (Listen)

No More Yesterdays is mature folk-rock number that might have originated from the 80s British post-punk scene e.g. Josef K, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera etc.

Never Impossible is fashioned in the Nick Drake style – Pink Moon being the obvious influence. Whilst Mercedes Marxist is a Kinks-Move-Syd Barrett 60s jaunty nugget which thoroughly succeeds.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not dismissing From Here To OK as being derivative – some of my favorite albums indulge in what Elvis Costello called “creative plagiarism” (with tongue firmly in cheek) and isn’t what the best POP music has ever done? 

From Here To OK will definitely be one of Power of Pop’s albums of the year and if that’s not a recommendation….

Stay tuned for more information on how you can get hold of From Here To OK. Check out Springhouse’s Myspace page.

WANTED: MUSIC WRITERS

Yes, Power of Pop wants you. If you’re a music writer, that is.

You would preferably be residing in Singapore and share the same musical tastes as expressed on this site. 

I can’t offer remuneration only music and perhaps press passes.

If you think you’re up to the mark, get in touch with me – info (at) powerofpop (dot) com – and we’ll talk…

NOW PLAYING

ALLURA – CLOSURE (off the Wake Up and Smell the Seaweed EP)

Regular visitors to this humble site (and S-ROCK before that) will be aware of my love affair with Allura. Closure remains my favorite song from the band (though Gamajazillion runs close) Here’s a vid of the band performing Closure in August last year at Deafcon 5. A little rough but there’s no denying the energy and passion. Ah, the memories…

And isn’t Inch just an irresistible front person?

GLASVEGAS

Britpop has not been much cop lately but if you believed the NME then Glasvegas is the future of Britpop. The Scottish quartet has recently signed with Columbia and you can download Geraldine from their eponymous album below.

Download: Geraldine

Yes, it contains elements of Big Country, shoe gaze and Jesus and Mary Chain simplicity. Which is to me a good start. Check it out and tell me what you think. The next big thing?

Courtesy of RCRD LBL.

STARS LIVE IN SINGAPORE

Stars, the indie shoe-gaze quintet from Montreal, will be performing one night only on 7th January 2009 at the Esplanade Concert Hall. The gig is organized by Greenhorn Productions and official details will be available soon.

Stay tuned.

PRIVATE JETS

PRIVATE JETS Jet Sounds (Sparkplug)

Swedish power pop has a great rep. Bands like Private Jets merely confirms why. Believe me, listening to this talented quartet, will leave you with a sugar rush. Throwing in every pop cliche in the book, from show tunes to Jellyfish riffs, enveloped with high-octane harmonies, toe-tapping rhythms, sensual chord changes and sweet sweet tunes, Private Jets don’t give pop junkies much of a chance of losing the habit. And the Beach Boys references are not limited to the album title – I mean, The Fire Academy contains jazz vocal arrangements that Brian Wilson himself would be impressed with. 

Elsewhere, you will catch the McCartney inflections (Jet!) on tracks like I Wanna Be A Private Jet, Speak Up, Speak Out and Starshaped World. If you’ve got the McCartney/Wilson camp on your side, chances are that the pop underground will adopt you as its own. Beyond that, I don’t know but anyone with a sweet tooth will find it hard to resist Jet Sounds.

Check out Private Jet’s Myspace page for more goodies.

YOU AND WHOSE ARMY?

YOU AND WHOSE ARMY? Misplaced (Self-released)

It’s a thrill and a joy when you witness a young band flowering and I’m glad that You and Whose Army? (viz. Bonk, Adam, Beni and James) have delivered on their early promise with a confident debut EP.

Fear

Compared to the live version (which is fairly one-dimensional), the opening track is a multi-layered mini-epic. From the acoustic guitar intro to the spine-tingling chorus harmonies to James’ blistering solo, this is a solid deep sonic accomplishment.

When Desire Strikes

A little quirkiness is always welcome and this song has its share. For instance, the guitar riff is intriguing to say the least and helps to lift When Desire Strikes from its overall melancholy tone. Good contrast. 

5min

I love bands to be as eclectic as possible. Here is where Bonk’s Bjork influences rears its (ugly) head BUT this post-punk obsessive is picking early Japan (which I’m sure YAWA have never heard of). Heh. Great counterpoints between electronics and electric guitar work. Not to mention to jazz fusion middle eight and the punchy rhythm sets it apart too. 

Ordinary is King

My fave YAWA song re-recorded. Hmm, maybe I’ve gotten too used to the Ballyhoo version but somehow second time around does not seem to do the trick. Seems a little lightweight and not as meaty. Not quite as driven either. Ah well.

Misplaced

Well, this song is notable for the band changing instruments (except for James) during performance. Away from the odd “gimmick” and taken on its own, Misplaced is revealed to be a strong and touching track. Nice jazzy flourishes with a rock-ish coda seals the deal. Really.

I enjoy EPs. I mean who listens to a complete album nowadays? 3 – 5 great tracks and you’re set and with Misplaced, you’re definitely set. Don’t miss out on this fairly limited edition. Get your copy now from the band at yawa.music@gmail.com 

Now!

POP10 – EPICYCLE

1. Why play music?  

We used to think it was a good way to get girls.

2. Who are your influences?  

Bob Hope & Frank Zappa

3. What is success?  

Bob Hope & Frank Zappa   

4. Why should people buy your music?  

Because they’ll get a return on their buck tenfold.

5. Who do you love?  

Kate Moss… but we can’t get her so we’ll settle for Captain Sensible.

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

Peace, Harmony and a date with Kate Moss. 

7. Who comes to your gigs?  

We never sang for our father but our mother has come to the odd gig here and there.

8. What is your favorite album?  

“God Bless Tiny Tim”… a much overlooked gem.

9. What is your favorite song?  

“Revolution #9″…. very catchy stuff that is.  

10. How did you get here?  

By pure stupidity…. and now we have no chance for a decent retirement.

Epicycle’s brilliant new album – Jingo Jangle – is out now and available online from CDBaby and itunes.

NADA SURF

NADA SURF Lucky (Barsuk)

As you can probably guess, I listen to quite a bit of modern pop-rock music. Have been doing so for almost thirty years now. I find that in the advancing years, as the number of album releases increases, the quality of albums is dropping at an alarming rate. I suppose that’s to be expected. So, when I hear an album that is actually head and shoulders above the deluge, then I take note! 

So far, this year there are only a handful of albums that I can honestly say have truly caught my attention. Sure, there have been some enjoyable fun releases with a couple of good songs but precious few that have been worthy of re-listening from start to finish. Well, Lucky is definitely one of them.

Yes, two paragraphs before I even mention its name, and that’s because I have really no idea how to do justice to this sublime effort with a review. Simply put Matthew Caws, Daniel Lorca and Ira Elliot have outdone themselves this time. Which, considering the high standards set by their previous releases (viz. High/Low, The Proximity Effect, Let Go and the Weight is a Gift) is pretty astonishing. 

Let’s start at the end. An acoustic guitar is plucked and vibes are being played and Caws sings, “The shutter clicked but the film did not go round” with a sadness that is palpable and a melancholy country sentiment that is so fragile. Simple and yet effective, there’s no need to overplay the emotion as a string quartet embellishes the mournful tone. Perfection.

Perfection – that sums up Lucky – from the moment the rhythm section gets into gear on the opening “See these Bones” and rises ever upwards till Caws yearns in falsetto – “Do you remember when the line was blown/Do you remember when it fell”, there’s no denying the creative power that the band seeming conjures from nowhere. Or there’s the sharp chorus of Whose Authority, anthemic, uplifting, a declaration- “On whose authority? I have none over me!”

It goes on and on. The hypnotic allure of Beautiful Beat (“Get me out of despair”), the jaunty humor of Here Goes Something (love that toy piano!), the ethereal coda to Weightless, the cosmic americana of Are You Lightning?, the exploding energy of I Like What You Say, the powerpop posturing of From Now On and on and on and on…

Sometimes, it truly bugs me when lesser talents like Coldplay hog the limelight when the genius of Nada Surf continues to be marginalised but I guess that just means that those of us in the know are … Lucky!

EPICYCLE

EPICYCLE Jingo Jangle (Cirkle)

Sad to say but I believe that the powerpop genre has been going through a slump for some time now. With the odd notable exceptions, there has not been a genuine powerpop masterpiece this side of the millennium and even since perhaps Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk. 

That said, Epicycle’s new album Jingo Jangle comes pretty close, as close as ex-Jellyfish members Roger Manning Jr, Jason Falkner or Jon Brion have managed in any case. Consisting of brothers Tom and Ellis Clark, Epicycle has the requisite production know how, melodic chops and wacky sense of humor to pull off one of the better powerpop albums of recent times.

Apart from the obvious Jellyfish riffs, there is more than a touch of 70s pop-rock legacy in 12 memorable tracks (viz. Sparks, Todd Rundgren, ELO, ex-Beatles, Supertramp) to satisfy most powerpop diehards’ fancy. From the moment the opening harmonies, harpsichords and power chords ring out on 8-Track Mind, there’s no denying the sugar rush.

And the pumping adrenaline does not let up with the jaunty Girls Don’t Rule My World, the cod-soulful Randy Newman-channeling Goodbye, the creepy tongue-in-cheeky Tom Waits-baiting Ode to Branson, straightforward rocking X-Mas, the psychedelic-informed Syd Barrett-haunting Day for Night, the gorgeous Beatlesque Lazy Jane and so on and so forth.

Yeah, it’s been awhile but it certainly warms the heart and chills the spine to soak in such cool pure powerpop vibes once again. 

Jingo Jangle is out in September 2008 and available online at cdbaby and itunes.

Check out Epicycle’s Myspace page.

BAYBEATS 08

Maybe it was the fact that I spent most of August overseas but somehow I was less than enthused with Baybeats 08. My expectations were pretty low for the event and fact is I only attended a couple of performances. So this summary by necessity only skims the surface and if you’re looking for something more comprehensive, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

However, what is clear to me is that the highlight of Baybeats 08 was the reunion of the Oddfellows. With all the fuss over emo and indie rock, it was a breath of fresh air to listen to unadulterated alt-rock, the way it first came to us in the 1980s as the Oddfellows channeled the likes of the Replacements, REM, Husker Du, Teenage Fanclub, Bob Dylan and Neil Young in their taut 30 minute set. 

The band viz. Paddy Chng, Johnny One, Vincent Lee and Kelvin Tan were on top of their game and like the best wine seems to get better with age. Delivering popular songs like So Happy, Lost My Head, Unity Song and Your Smiling Face, the band had the audience eating out of their collective hands. It’s a pity that with Johnny Ong residing overseas, these performances are far and between but I was thankful for the experience. I wanna be Paddy Chng when I grow up!

For me, the other impressive Baybeats 08 performance came from You and Whose Army? Simply gratifying to see the band in their element – communicating their raw blend of Pink Floyd and Radiohead (with a dash of Bjork) to a rapt audience. Probably one of the biggest gigs so far for this fledging outfit, it was satisfying to hear songs like Misplaced, Ordinary is King and Stuck ring out over Marina Bay. Sure, there were nervy bits here and there but you could sense that the band were reveling in the spotlight. 

I really wanted to catch Leeson’s set but due to work commitments got to the new Nokia Arena 15 minutes late and boy, was I angry. The design of the arena did not help as it was murder trying to see the band play. So I was reduced to craning my neck over bobbed heads at the uppermost level of the Arena squinting to catch a glimpse of the band. Somehow the band seemed dwarfed by the stage and unsuited to the environment. You see, Leeson – for better or for worse – is the quintessential pub-rock band. Which is not a putdown, seeing that one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters (Elvis Costello) is also a pub-rocker at heart. Leeson needs to be savored up close and in your face, where the jaunty melodic mayhem of their catchy material can wash over your entire being and you’re in a position to see the glint in Jamie’s eyes as he delivers those witty musings on neurotic romance and to appreciate the kinetic energy and tight co-ordination of Gerald, Brian, Mark and Thomas. Still, the band gave as good as they could and I am comforted by the fact that Baybeats 08 provided great exposure for this worthy band and hopefully will open the doors for those intimate gigs that I crave…

One last thing. If nothing else, Baybeats 08 demonstrated that there is a massive audience for live rock music in Singapore. This was obvious from Electrico’s riotous segment at the Nokia Powerhouse. Packed to the brim, the band played an utterly professional set mixing old favorites with new ones. To be honest, the sound is too close to Oasis and Coldplay for comfort (and I really detest those two bands) but there was no denying the power and appeal that Electrico oozed from stage. I firmly believe that there is great potential in our S-ROCK music scene. It’s really all in our own hands.

… still there’s more …

JEFF LARSON

JEFF LARSON Left of a Dream (Red Bell)

Larson is a veritable master at evoking the silky smooth sounds of the early 70s West Coast rock scene viz. latter-day Byrds, Crosby Stills & Nash, America, James Taylor, Neil Young and the Eagles. Which basically means that Larson is adept at mining the rich vein of country-folk Americana that delivers twang and soul with an easy vibe.

This spanking new album is no different and finds Larson is prime form, chockful of melancholy tunes and wistful lyrics, the perfect soundtrack to the dead of night when the world is quiet and thoughtful. With sparkling production values and pristine instrumental performances, Left of a Dream may be the epitome of the classic Californian rock approach.

Highly recommended.

ELECTRICO

Maybe it had something to do with the unfamiliarity of the new songs that Electrico was showcasing. Maybe it was due to the poor sound at Zouk. Maybe it was down to playing without erstwhile guitarist Daniel Sassoon. Whatever it was, something wasn’t quite right with Electrico’s performance at the album launch of its third CD – We Satellites – last night.

Or maybe it was the high expectations as the word was that the new songs were some of the best Singapore music ever produced. Zouk was packed with yuppies (is that still used or has it come back like so many other 80s colloquialisms). 

The opening songs were edgy affairs and intriguing developments but the middle section sagged a little with a ballad which was ordinary and some Oasis-inflected material (which to me is always a lowest common denominator). I think I really hate Oasis now…

The band came back for its encore with a ripping We Satellites, which at least contained an interesting tune. Which I thinks was the main problem with the new material in general. Short on melodies. I’m hoping that this is a first impression thing and that when I listen to the new album, it’ll come together nicely.

Pix by Song.

… still there’s more …