YOUTH.SG REVIEW

Here’s a review from Nawira of the Jon Chan/Kevin Mathews performance at the WeekendTRIP last month.

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Link to full article.

Thanks, Nawira but… only one “t”…

NEIL YOUNG

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NEIL YOUNG Fork in the Road (Reprise)

Not entirely sure what to make of this latest offering from the legendary singer-songwriter. Fork in the Road is apparently a concept album about Young’s attempts together with biodiesel pioneer Johnathan Goodwin to develop a commercially viable electric power system for automobiles.  The prototype Lincvolt vehicle, Young’s own 1959 Lincoln Continental, is now completely finished, and a documentary is planned about the car’s first cross-country gasoline-free road trip to Washington, DC. for automobiles.

All well and good but what kind of album does all this make for. Better than you’d think. Without even bothering with the lyrics and themes, Fork in the Road is filled with good old fashioned rock n roll Neil Young stlye. Which is fine by me. I love the music’s pure and primal quality – it sounds like Young and band in a rehearsal jamming away. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Young’s backing band features all the usual suspects – Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Chad Cromwell and the missus, Pegi Young. And this provides the comfortable bedrock from which Young springboards his own musical journeys. To be honest, I find the lyrics a little forced at times although in songs like the lone acoustic number Light A Cradle – “Instead of cursing the darkness/Light a candle for where we’re goin'” – rather inspirational for these depressed times.

The rest of Fork in the Road is suitably ragged with songs that pay tribute to Goodwin (“Johnny Magic”), songs about aging (“The Road”), songs chronicling Young’s trip (“When Worlds Collide”) and the current economic crisis (“Cough Up the Bucks”). It ain’t perfect but it’s still Neil Young and if you’re a fan, then you’ll know what to expect. If you’re not a fan, I’ll suggest you check out his 70s albums first and then work your way slowly to Fork in the Road.

Check out Neil Young’s Myspace page and a video of The Road below.

Neil Young – Fork In The Road

LIVE N LOADED

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It’s almost been a week since the last episode of Live N Loaded aired. On an episode that featured members of Stomping Ground and Boredphucks revisting classic S-ROCK songs, you could say it was a bit of a nostalgic show, topped of course by the rendition of My One & Only by Jack & Rai and yours truly.

In all modesty, I think we did a great job, considering we only had one rehearsal. I’m so proud that the song has survived and indeed prospered even after 15 years. A humbling notion. Who says Singaoporeans don’t care about original Singaporean music, eh? Even more thrilling was having my faith in Jack & Rai justified as I surprised them with an ambituous arrangement which they pulled off with aplomb. Legends already!

The whole day was a bit of a blur but it was all worth the time spent hanging out with Jack & Rai. Not only are they passionate and talented but they’re extremely nice guys as well. It was also fun to meet up with so many cool S-ROCK folk, Jon, Sham, Nizam and Ronny (Plainsunset), Mag, Khai, Song, Fandy & Saiful (Great Spy Experiment), JBoss (Boredphucks/Suns), Hafiz and Suhaimi (Stomping Ground), Fir (silly boy with camera), Samuel, Weiwen, Roland, Daniel, Matt, Esmond et al.

Kudos to the Live N Loaded folks – director, producers, crew – very professional and competent in all aspects. My main gripe about Live N Loaded – and this is no secret – has been concerning the selection of bands featured on the show. Also, the sheer number of bands could have been more discreetly handled. That said, I guess the objective was to feature as many bands as possible – which the show definitely achieved. Still, considering that it has been too long a time since S-ROCK bands have appeared on TV, beggars can’t be choosers and certainly I cannot deny the pleasure of seeing GSE, Allura, Fire Fight, For This Cycle, Ling Kai, Rachael Teo, Nick Tan, Jack & Rai et al on the little screen.

Will there be a 2nd season or another TV show featuring S-ROCK? I certainly hope so and this time, I would humbly offer my services to provide creative input. Heh!

What did you guys and gals think of Live N Loaded? Comments, please.

PoP10 – ARIEL ABSHIRE

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1. Why play music?

It’s involuntary, like breathing.  It’s my outlet for my feelings and for my hopes.

2. Who are your influences?

Elvis Costello, Loretta Lynn, Billy Bragg, The Format, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, My Morning Jacket, The Shirelles

3. What is success?

Success is getting to make music, and having people want to hear it.

4. Why should people buy your music?

It’s a genuinely heartfelt album that I think people can relate to, and hopefully be moved by.

5. Who do you love?

I love my family. I love my boyfriend. I love my friends. I love the people of Austin who support live music.

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

I want my music to connect with other people, and hopefully to mean something to them.  That’s it.  I cannot ask for anything more than that.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

My friends and family are always at my shows, and more and more, so are people that I don’t know.  That’s a good thing.

8. What is your favorite album?

The Stand Ins – Okkervil River

9. What is your favorite song?

I’d have to say that my favorite song right now is either Backstage by The Crash or Plus Ones by Okkervil River, but it changes all the time.

10. How did you get here?

Well, I’m not there yet! I’m just seventeen, so I haven’t even figured that part out yet.

Ariel Abshire’s album Exclamation Love is out now.

LONG LIVE THE CD (?)

Sean Boyd, partner at Fanatic Promotion, debunks the myth of a ailing music industry on Fox Business News. According to Boyd, CD sales have increased overall with too much focus on the major labels and ignoring the relative success of indie companies. Comments?

ARIEL ABSHIRE

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ARIEL ABSHIRE Excalamation Love (Darla)

This 2008 debut album from Abshire is an excellent approximation of modern alt-country-folk indie female pop in the vein of Jenny Lewis and She & Him. All well and good but here’s the kicker – Abshire is 17 years old! An astonishing fact when you consider how mature most of this debut sounds. From Abshire’s talented pipes to her world-weary (albeit from a teenage perspective) lyricism, from the spot-on catholic pop references to the austere production values, this teenager displays qualities pretty much beyond her tender years.

The highlights for me include the tautly wound Nervous, the delicate Unknown Encounter, the Dylanesque Thin Skin (see video below), the country-western Hotel Hallway and the lushly constructed Everybody Does. Yes, there are the odd raw and rough moments both in the vocal delivery and the songwriting but these are minor complaints when set up against the promise (some of it fulfilled) in these well-sung, well-written songs.

Suffice to say that Ariel Abshire is a name to look out for in the years to come.

Check out Ariel Abshire’s Myspace page.

FAITHLESS – LIVE IN MOSCOW DVD

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FAITHLESS Live in Moscow-Greatest Hits

I guess if you’re a fan of Faithless or electronica in general, you’re going to enjoy this live DVD. Although in this context, I’m not sure whether the “electronica” tag applies here. After all, apart from the mandatory electronic keyboards, there’s a full band viz. electric guitar, bass, drums, percussion and even mini-string orchestra providing the music. So to all intents and purposes, it’s probably most accurate to describe this live recording as a rock concert, in every sense of that term.

Which is fine with me, as I’ve always felt that pure electronica is a little tough to deliver in the context of a rock concert format. Certainly, no problems with the typical dance music that is presented here with its usual obligatory nods to Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk and the 80s synth pop pioneers of course. In addition, Faithless also indulge in a little reggae-ska workout at times, which is also cool.

I’m not familiar with these songs but taken at face value, there’s enough variation to recommend this live DVD to folks who may not strictly be fans of Faithless and/or electronica.

MAPLE MARS

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Maple Mars is a brilliant name for Rick Hromadka’s powerpop outfit. Equal part melodic sweetness and spaced out bliss. With three definitive powerpop albums – viz. Welcome to Maple Mars, Circular Haze (one of PoP’s top albums of 2003) and Beautiful Mess – Maple Mars has established itself as one of the premier bands of the pop underground. Good news is that Maple Mars has a new album in the can and embedded below is Transcendental Guidance, a teaser of the joys to come. To these ears, the new song is a tasty amalgam of Syd Barrett psychedelia, Byrdsy folk-rock and prog-rock instrumentalism. Enjoy…

Check out Maple Mars’ Myspace page.

PoP10 – THE LION STORY

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1. Why play music?

It is one of the best ways for us to express ourselves. It is always nice to be able to create something to share with others, and the greatest payoff is when we see or hear of people being moved by our songs.

2. Who are your influences?

Any bands/artistes with melodic songs and infectious beats really. But to name a few, our influences include The Beatles, The All-American Rejects, The Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, McFly, Matchbox Twenty and more.

3. What is success?

Doing what you love everyday and gaining something from it.

4. Why should people buy your music?

It will be worth buying if you wish to listen to something that could help to brighten up your day! We’ve put a lot of time, dedication and effort into producing a high-quality sounding EP and also trying our best to keep the price affordable for our listeners. The Lion Story EP is retailing at less that $10 at HMV (available soon), Roxy Records and Big Ear Musica.

5. Who do you love?

Everyone who has played a part in the local music industry. Although it is a pretty small scene – when compared to other countries – it is really encouraging to see people who are motivated in driving the local scene like Leonard Soosay, Don Richmond, Kevin Mathews and Patrick Chng just to name a few.

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

We hope to make a positive change in people’s lives, even if it is only for 3 minutes. If, within that short period of time, we are able to make a person smile or be moved for just a little while, we believe that we have achieved what we set out to do with our music.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Family, friends and hopefully fans. We’re still pretty new to the scene and we’re really grateful to have received a lot of positive response to our EP. We hope to develop a decent following and expose our music to more people across the country.

8. What is your favorite album?

Amin : Michael Jackson – Dangerous
Khair : Limp Bizkit – Significant Other
Haffiz : Extreme II – Pornograffitti

9. What is your favorite song?

Hi-Standard – My First Kiss (It’s always a different answer for this particular question whenever we’re asked)

10. How did you get here?

NOISE Singapore. Before we got chosen for The Apprenticeship Programme, we were just three guys who have been learning and playing music since Secondary School hoping to perform someday. When we received the call that Don Richmond had chosen us to be his apprentices, we realised that it would be a great opportunity for us to finally take part in the local scene. So we decided to take this stepping stone, upsize it to a springboard, take a huge jump and dive as deep as we can into the local music industry. This meant that we had to go into overdrive and lose sleep between work and studies while saving up and practicing hard to produce our first EP and have it released during our very first performance at the Esplanade Waterfront. All the effort paid off – with a suprising ‘encore’ request at The Esplanade, plus our songs being chosen as the official NOISE Singapore advertisement soundtrack and also being played on the radio by 98.7FM. So we’d really like to thank Don Richmond, all the great people of NOISE Singapore, our dear families and friends for getting us here.

RACHAEL YAMAGATA – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

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With her sophomore effort Elephants… Teeth Sinking into Heart, Rachael Yamagata re-defined herself. From the ballad-heavy agenda that populated her debut Happenstance to the edgier model that emerges on this double-album, Yamagata is definitely taping into the so-called “rock” side of her musical persona.

Sure, you still have the spine-tingling, ornate orch-pop exercises like the opening title track and What If I Leave, both of which contain such memorable & sublime tunes. But by the time one gets to Sunday Afternoon, with its awe-inspiring Pink Floyd touches, orchestral blues atmosphere and Yamagata’s own breathless vocal delivery, one realizes that Yamagata is crossing an artistic threshold.

And with the 2nd disc – Teeth Sinking into Heart – the electric guitars come to the fore, the drumming ups the ante and even Yamagata’s vocals favours a gruffier style to present a totally different aspect. Personally, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s good to see Yamagata breaking out of her own (and that of the media/fanbase) mould. Nothing ground-breaking, mind you, as many other female rock singers-songwriters (notably Chrissie Hynde/Pretenders) have travelled this road many times but tracks like Faster and Don’t make for intriguing listening.

Me? I’m more interested in the transitional material between the poles, like the aforementioned Sunday Afternoon and Horizon, with its Beatlesque undertones & country-folk underpinnings. I’m looking forward to hearing these songs live with a cellist in tow. And of course, I will, come next Wednesday, 15th April at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

Tickets available at SISTIC.

THE LION STORY

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THE LION STORY Self-titled (Self-released)

In days of yore, this debut 7-track release from The Lion Story would probably have been a hot demo cassette. But with the advances in technology and lower recording costs, it is now possible for a newbie band like The Lion Story to self-release their own CD. Which in this case, at any rate, is a good thing.

The first thing that strikes a listener about The Lion Story is the “old-school” melodies and harmonies, which is unusual for a Singapore band in their twenties. Greatly welcomed, because bands who write and perform good ol’ fashioned pop-rock in Singapore are an endangered species.

There are some absolute gems on this debut EP, notably the opening track, Stars & the World, which is probably one of the best Beatlesque pop songs I’ve heard on these shores since maybe the sixties. Melodic hooks, pristine harmonies and tasteful arrangements permeate this track. Another highlight is Something’s Going On – featuring Don Richmond – and consequently possesses a stronger mainstream vibe. The rest of this EP does not match up but are still worth checking out.

In the S-ROCK scheme of things, The Lion Story reminds me of a more polished Oddfellows or Ordinary People and if the guys (viz. Amin, Khair and Haffiz) work hard enough and make the right moves, may even scale the heights of Couple, the powerpop kings from across the Causeway. That remains to be seen. But simply based on the promise of Stars & the World, the Lion Story is certainly a band to keep a close watch on.

Check out The Lion Story’s Myspace page.

THE BEATLES

(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.

S-ROCK SPOTLIGHT: GREAT SPY EXPERIMENT

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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.

THE FIVE CORNERS QUINTET

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THE FIVE CORNERS QUINTET Hot Corner (Ricky-Tick)

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

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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.

PoP10 – TRENTALANGE

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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.

WAND

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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.

BAYBEATS 2009

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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…

PoP10 – DANNY ECHO

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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?

Ringo.

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?

Google.

Danny Echo eponymous album is out now!

LIVE N LOADED S1E9

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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 …

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD – PART III

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…

PoP10 – ROGER JOSEPH MANNING JR.

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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

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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)

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC

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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)