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May 272013
 
Courtesy of MTV Asia/Aloysius Lim

Courtesy of MTV Asia/Aloysius Lim

Are the first words that come into your minds and out of your mouths the same as mine? “Sweet Disposition”? Or, to be precise, “sweeeeet dissssspooooositionnnnn”?

The MTV Sessions is an MTV Asia original series which showcases intimate sessions with the featured artiste and a studio audience, consisting primarily of contest winners, typically die-hard fans. Previous featured artistes include a dynamic Vanness Wu, a charming James Morrison, a very clickable Kyle Patrick, a sweet indie songstress by the stage name of Russian Red, a “make-the-girls-go-wild boy that is other than Bieber” Greyson Chance, and to join the niche gang, Australia’s very own indie rock favourite The Temper Trap.

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Mar 142013
 

ATL-1

“NEW YEAR, NEW PLACES, NEW FACES TO MAKE BABIES WITH”

I may secretly – unknowingly even to self – be a punk rock music fan – just a little bit, admittedly.

Originally, I had my reservations. Openly, I am not a fan of All Time Low, and long had I moved on from the mainstream, ready-made radio-friendly formulae. The concert venue added some additional icing on the cake – the last concert-going experience spent at The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel was for Nelly Furtado, and waiting two hours in line for a show to start could have very well tested my patience to a whole new all-time low (pun shamelessly and completely intended). I should’ve and would continue to stay the night with my guard let down, thankfully.

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Mar 042013
 
Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

WAS IT ALL A DREAM WITH NORAH JONES? 

Treading on partially wet grounds for my first concert-going experience at the west side of Singapore, The Star Performing Arts Centre served as a blooming fresh outlet for events of sorts. Despite the grandeur of the new environs, it was let down somewhat by the spectacle of snaking (really year of the snake, isn’t it?) queue lines at the ticketing counter .

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Dec 142012
 

CITIZENS!

FRED PERRY’S 60TH BIRTHDAY ANNIVERSARY AT TANJONG PAGAR RAILWAY STATION

Where else can one get on a special guest list to watch 5 bands perform on the same stage, with high fashion on the wayside, at a place of significant historical value, and with easily accessible beer to down into stomachs and possibly ruined livers?

Fred Perry seemed to have the answer for that on the Sunday of 2nd December (check in with your own prescribed doctors for the liver problem, please). As always, Fred Perry is injecting its fashion roots into the music scene like it often is well known to have done, to be doing, and will certainly be doing into the future as well, without a doubt.

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Dec 142012
 

MARTIN REYES’ UNSTOPPABLE ALBUM LAUNCH

Admittedly, when I took up this assignment, I had no clue who Martin Reyes was. See, it was scheduled to take place on a Friday night, and I had no concrete plans for the evening’s invitation into the weekend ahead. So, you can either classify me as a music sell-out, or just a soul that was simply killing two birds with a single stone.

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Sep 212012
 

Photo by Amos Wong

Singapore, it does feel like The Wanted are best pals with all of us out here on this tiny little red dot island that we call home, or as some expressive ones will say, once we called home. So much so that it feels like the lads are our nation’s residents already – boy, won’t that make the majority girl fans burst out in heaps of screams and tear-jerking moments, I don’t know what else will. (Or maybe the rumour that the lads of One Direction may be in town sometime next year will probably do the same amount of trick and damage.)

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Sep 032012
 

FRED PERRY SUBCULTURE AT THE LAWN @ THE FOOTHILLS

If Fred Perry is well remembered for its tennis origins, then it should also be reputed for its involvement with music on a global basis. With the international website portal dedicated in providing a platform for featuring credible and up-and-coming music and artistes alike, the Singapore subsidiary isn’t failing at doing what its parent counterpart is best at. Not even a far shade behind.

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Aug 202012
 

Photo by Amos Wong

What do DJ Tiesto, Nas and Mike Angelakos of Passion Pit have in common?

Artistes of different genres, but all featured on one album – that is, the upcoming fifth studio release and fourth English offering by Nelly Furtado titled The Spirit Indestructible, due out for release sometime in the middle of September 2012.

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Aug 112012
 

Jo Hamilton by Joanna Kwa

Jo Hamilton: it’s not a name that will instantaneously ring much bells in people. It painfully showed, with the scarcity of audience in the capacity of the Esplanade Recital Studio. That, without the consideration of the media coverage portion of the seated. One could tell that it somehow affected the artiste herself, with the look of contented disappointment across her face, in her eyes – in that split second moment she allowed herself to display her vulnerability.

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Jul 252012
 

MTV WORLD STAGE 2012 

(created on actual date of event, 14th of July, with finishing touches on the 23rd of July)

A heat wave is sweeping over Malaysia at this very moment as I write this. That is, besides the hot and humid weather that has surrounded us after several days of moody cloudiness. It is the time for this year’s MTV World Stage Live in Malaysia!

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Jun 282012
 

POWER OF POP’S NIGHT AND DAY WITH HOT CHIP

For one of their two stopovers in Asia – the other being in Tokyo, Japan, Hot Chip swung by our island for a one night only concert, that could very well be a one life stand affair for those who attended, and also those who had missed out.

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MUSIC MATTERS LIVE 2012

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May 312012
 

Kate Miller-Heidke by Glenn Taubenfeld

Review by CJ Ang

For what it was worth, Music Matters Live 2012 was extravagant, and spectacular like fireworks on display.

In local, Singaporean context, it is a free three-days music event in conjunction with Gaming Matters and Digital Matters, it is like a musical discovery journey out amongst the 8 participating venues in the urban, nightspot jungle of Clarke Quay (my workplace)!

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Apr 052012
 

The Specials by Jonathan Wong

Timbre Rock & Roots 2012 – Day 1: Bleu Rascals, Keb’ Mo’, Buddy Guy and The Specials

Let me start off this year’s review of Timbre Rock & Roots festival with an honest note – artiste line-up wise, it may appear not as spectacular as compared with the previous two years’ running.

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PLACEHOLDER

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Jan 312012
 

Nothing Is Pure (Better Days Records)

Think of a heavier Good Charlotte, a no-rap/Mike Shinoda’s Linkin Park, or even a younger Metallica.

Nothing Is Pure is Placeholder’s debut LP offering, after their Demonstration EP under the moniker of Coastal. Both were released within the year span of 2011, earning them my recognition of a focused and hardworking rock band.

Described as playing “emotionally intense post-hardcore” in their press release, one will not feel short-changed at such a descriptive, and it perfectly describes the musical direction of the album and the first sounds of Placeholder.

Scream-core, angst and an unsettled sea – those are the emotions and scenarios felt consistently throughout the record. It’s not a bad thing with consistency, but rather hard to find a standout track to significantly recommend.

Maybe it is right what their album title suggests – nothing is, indeed, pure.

[CJ]

 

NATALIE’S PLIGHT

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Dec 192011
 

What You See Is What You Get EP Launch

As what their EP title suggests, what you see is what you get – and what you get from the EP launch performance from Natalie’s Plight is a set of visionaries and dreams come true for the homegrown band.

Formed in 2007 by four Republic Polytechnic students, the band is now made up of Ashlee Tan on vocals (from picture – second from left), Chris Cheah (right most) on drums, guitarist Mark Spencer (third from left) and newly included bassist member Sharime (left most). Youthful looking bunch, I must say, but with big dreams to fill.

Performing hits both old and new, as well as doing two song covers, the band appeared more than confident in their approach for live delivery, with clever management from the lighting crew (lights off, everyone, so that all’s welcome to wave their light sticks provided at the entrance’s ticketing counter).

Contrary to the opening band serenading with covers, Natalie’s Plight shines more on their original material than their live cover renditions. They were more able to connect and associate with their lyrics, melodies and anthems than those of their agreed favourite tunes, which I reckon they pretty much enjoyed singing them live as well. However, Use Somebody (by Kings Of Leon) deprived of the desperation needed to complete the tune basically, and The Only Exception (by Paramore) lacked the emotional element of love entanglement. Next time, my advice would be to pick songs to cover that are just plain fun seeking, catchy and silly.

That said, the foursome’s expressions on their faces were more than pleased to be jamming together and in front of a small and intimate set – of audience filled mostly of close friends and family members. Afterall, this is their own EP launch, something they should be proud and accomplished for.

There was even a midpoint acoustic set made up of Ashlee and Mark, as she sang through a couple of songs seemingly with torn emotions left on the sleeves of her shoulders (one of which is called San Francisco). Even Mark had a special dedication to a member of the audience, his girlfriend in the crowd of spectators. The night rounded up with an encore of Hello Buttercup, one of three songs featured on their new EP.

In a good way, some of Natalie’s Plight tunes felt like they could have easily come from the soundtracks of Twilight. Before the hippies pass this off as a negative comment (because the movie series is… too bloodsucking), some artistes that had been featured previously include Metric, Beck and Bat For Lashes, Florence + The Machine, to name a few.

Find out more about Natalie’s Plight on their Facebook page. Their EP, What You See Is What You Get, is out now.

[cj]

 

 

DANIKA HOLMES

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Dec 172011
 

 

Living Your Dream

There’s certainly no denial that Danika Holmes has got her own distinctive voice and her own set of power vocal chords; but what would have been better is if she has a more defined style and direction with this album.

The album opens up with shimmering positivity, with tracks like Dreams Held Hostage and How To Be Beautiful – the latter with the Sarah McLachlan’s style of hush-hush. By the third track Bluebird, the positivity embracing may wear off to be too overwhelming, like indulging on a slice of cake with too much sugar and cream on it. The track also suffers and tracks down the familiar country-rock path that listeners by now know too well.

In a twist, Someone New To Forget and Kiss And Make Up show the jazz side of Danika, and the diversity she takes on the album.

Title track Living Your Dream, though thought to be a positive number about covering endless boundaries, shifting landscapes and climbing mountains like Miley Cyrus can (not), turns out otherwise – to be a song on someone living in the shadows of someone else’s dreams (I am living your dreams, it’s not mine; I only have one life to give).

There’re generally no major showstoppers on this album, and could lead to the general confusion and puzzlement as to which is the real sound of Danika Holmes.

[CJ]

 

UPHORIA PARTY WITH SONY

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Dec 122011
 

Two features for the price of one!


Technology is as advanced as it already is, but if there’s one thing that Sony could do on one eventful night on Saturday, 3rd December 2011, it would be to somehow make the rain go away.

But that didn’t stop the party from happening down at *Scape, as fans of international superstars Mike Posner and Train made their joyous way to watch an evening of performances. Already in the day-long event, regional superstars like Hao Ren from Malaysia, Julia Abueva from the Philippines and Slot Machine from Thailand, had graced the stage and showcased their homegrown singing talents.

With anticipation, the fairly packed crowd (however, much lesser than I myself had anticipated) were mainly youngsters, and gathered themselves before a relatively compact stage. Newcomer Mike Posner would be to appear first, as he only has an album under his belt (31 Minutes To Takeoff) so far. Fans need not wait any further, as second offering Sky High will be released sometime early 2012, with first single off it ironically titled Looks Like Sex. You read it right – and um, how much more intelligence can you expect from that, really?

Dressed in a bright and dashing red jacket, with a back embroidery titled Brain Trust, a plain black tee inside, black three quarter pants and loud sneakers, Mike looked refreshed and alive, as he looked ahead to his own debut Singapore performance and interaction with the fans alike. But alas, has he not been told or informed of the basic Singapore crowd behaviour – conscious, cautious and careful?

He performed songs from his debut, kicking start with Please Don’t Go, Do U Wanna, Bow Chicka Wow Wow (less Lil’ Wayne), a new song from the upcoming record (which I think he lied in saying that it was the first time he was performing it live, as an artiste’s marketing and hype technique to get more cheers and screams), covered Adele’s Rolling In The Deep (with an interesting drummed-up version) and a surprise slowdown to Oasis’s Wonderwall, away from all the current mainstream dance-pop that he is well associated with.

He had the look and eyes of confidence, arrogance and stride as a musician may have, and maybe that of an American. His energy was contagious, as he bounced and jumped up, down and across the stage, standing atop the sound speakers and various attempts to get close and intimate with the front of the audience. However, as much as he worked the crowd, it was quite concrete evidence (through his expression) that he was disappointed with the whole response – it wasn’t like an O2 Arena, U2 concert type. Nonetheless, both sides of the spectrum (Mike as performer and the audience at large) did their best, especially much so the ladies when Mike joined the crowd and lost his tee in the process. You can just imagine and visualize the girls go weak in the knees as a buffed Posner stood onstage to conclude his set and greet a goodbye.

*

With the success of Hey Soul Sister, Train reconnected with the mainstream this year, and the young ones talk about Train as though they know every single thing about them (when they don’t). And in a way, I pity Train for that, as they are more of an adult contemporary act than pop.

And how about did the fellows do to connect with a younger crowd, you may ask?
(a) got a handful of ladies from the audience onstage to just sing the line “hey soul sister”, in as many soulful attempts and versions as possible?
(b) got Mike Posner back onstage and covered Journey’s (or Glee’s, for that matter) Don’t Stop Believing?
(c) gave away an autographed acoustic guitar to someone in the audience?
(d) added random oh-oh’s during the musical bridges of songs?
(e) all of the above?

And the answer is (e). Patrick Monahan appeared onstage with messy hair, as though he had done up his nicely in the hotel room but had to rush to sing at the concert in the pouring rain. But he was entertaining, in an actor kind of way, as he cracked some very straightforward jokes. I suspected that there may be a bottle of liquor somewhere backstage, as sometimes it does help, when dealing with an audience who spent half the time with their hands up in the air, and a camera or a camera phone on it, taking non-stop snapshots. Jimmy Stafford looked the most sincerely merriest, like a person embracing this part of the world and the culture for the very first time.

If you have to ask, yes, despite not being a particularly big fan of their smash hit for the year, I couldn’t resist but to sing along to the lyrics out aloud (maybe I’m a closeted Train fan?). The Journey cover went down pretty bad, in my books, and I thought Patrick had the regretted look almost immediately as he started performing it together with Mike, as though he was trying to figure out what he was doing and what was going on here (the sobering stage, post-liquor, I reckon).

Other familiar songs performed in the quite short timeframe were their 1998 smash Meet Virginia, Calling All Angels (from the 2003 album My Private Nation), the title track from latest offering Save Me, San Francisco, and others like If It’s Love and the very close, intimate (he went around and took pictures with fans throughout the entire song, how much sweeter could he get, really) and some-may-consider romantic number Marry Me. He even joked just before singing the last round of chorus, saying, “now you really have to marry me”, in a slightly impatient manner, and in a very warm way, poking fun of their own selves and own hit song.

But the definite song of the night has got to be their biggest smash still, Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me), which they performed as a one-song encore before closing the night. Yes, the same one local singer/songwriter Tanya Chua covered. I remembered myself belting out along, with emotions switched on full gear mode, and felt this small part of the world well connected together for that one particular moment. And then I took the train home.

Thank you to Sony for inviting Power Of Pop (and three pairs of our lucky readers) to this event.

[cj]

On December 2 the Sony Group of Companies held the UPHORIA Party with Sony press conference, with guests Grammy-nominated international hit band Train, and recent break-out star Mike Posner. The artists were in town for the UPHORIA Party with Sony, where their performances would be the highlight of the event.

First widely known as the ones behind massive hit Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me), in the last two years Train has returned with a bang from their three-year hiatus. Especially with multi-platinum hit single Hey Soul Sister, which certainly took the airwaves by storm. As for Posner, his following has grown enormously from the time he was releasing mixtapes from his dorm room at Duke University to his 2010 debut album 31 Minutes to Takeoff featuring Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 single Cooler Than Me.

—————————————

This “press conference” with Train and Posner was more of a media promotional event, with contest winners, regional press, bloggers, the local reporters etc. all present, making the headcount about two hundred in total. It felt rather like Sony were trying to squeeze everything into one event and milk the most out of it, which was a pity as we didn’t get to spend much time (or any at all) actually interacting with the artists.

The session opened with a question for Posner: Will we be hearing any new material from the upcoming album at the UPHORIA party? “I’m planning on doing one or two new songs,” the singer/songwriter/producer replied.

Posner later talked about how he never expected to be performing on such a platform, sharing the stage with established international stars like Train. It’s certainly heartening to consider how far he’s come since he recorded his first mixtape in his dorm room. And he was evidently thankful for his label, family and fan support, and for friends who apparently treat him worse now to keep him grounded.

Throughout the hour the level of enthusiasm from the media was lukewarm at best. Disappointing, but then again, as the main interviewer helplessly acknowledged, welcome to Singapore. Fortunately the artists tried their best to liven things up, especially Train lead singer Pat Monahan, who had no problem throwing out jibes at the main interviewer and the other artists  present like Thailand’s Slot Machine, or bantering with Posner.

On the topic of a special collaboration between Train and Posner being planned, Monahan teased the gathered crowd with suggestions of a Pussycat Dolls cover performed with hot pants and tank tops. And when there was the customary awkward pause waiting for the first question, Monahan came to the rescue with: “I have one! Mike, is it true that I’m cooler than you?”

When asked what advice they would give to aspiring young artists, Monahan emphasised the importance of staying true to oneself: “The only advice I have for anybody is, be yourself, because if you’re successful, then you get to be yourself for a little longer, but if you try to be something you’re not and you’re successful, then you gotta try to figure out how to be that other thing for a really long time to keep it together. So if you’re not successful but you’re being yourself, then the reward is still cool because you get to make the work that you want. I mean you know money ain’t everything, so being yourself can be pretty awesome, and then you just get better at it.” And then in characteristic cheekiness he added, “Money isn’t everything, but it’s about nine-tenths of it.”

Somehow the topic of stars being discovered on the internet came up. “I’m one of those people,” Posner grinned, “so I think very highly of social networking and things of that nature.”

Monahan weighed in with his view that things like giving away music for free, which is what Posner did and continues to do, is a very smart move because it gets people to see his shows when they like his work. “If you come into this business to be a business then you’re not gonna probably be here long,” Monahan mused, “but if you come here to make great work then, you know how like Mike proving… You could be here for a long long time.”

What’s next for all of them?  Posner has just done another free mixtape, and his second album is scheduled to come out next year, “March-ish”. As for Train, according to Monahan their new single Drive By is lined up for a January release, with an as-yet untitled new album in April: “We don’t have a title for it, we’re thinking maybe, something along the lines of ‘Singapore kicks ass’.”

(Desiree Boey)

 

 

Dec 072011
 


Your latest album is titled This Is Chris Botti. Do you mean it wasn’t Chris Botti with the previous album offerings of yours?

The album is a sort of “Greatest Hits” collection.  It’s a title that my record company came up with.  I rely heavily on my record label, and they have done a fantastic job of making me a worldwide star.

Now with 13 albums under your belt, would you say that you have accomplished your musical dreams, the aspirations and goals that you may have set for yourself when you first begun on this magical, mystical, musical journey?

Yes, there is nothing more rewarding than having the opportunity to get up onstage in front of a live audience of enthusiastic fans each night and play with my outstanding band.  I have been very fortunate being able to perform on a regular basis and this is what energizes me each time we go out onstage. I’m so appreciative that they’re there.  It’s not lost on me at all that we have fans that buy tickets, take a night off and come to the show.  It means so much. Now, my only concerns are “Do I have a growing audience?” and “Are my fans at my concerts enjoying themselves?” and as long as these two things are taking place, I am more than happy.

What is the message you would like to send across to your fans and the listeners, when they are listening to any Chris Botti song? How about when they are in the audience, watching you perform and serenade live?

I strive to create a specific atmosphere with my music, a romantic, moody atmosphere that can be enjoyed best late at night in a penthouse with a great bottle of wine.

You seem like quite an ambitious kid since young. How did that help shape you as a musician and an artiste?

Yeah, I just basically forgot about everything else or did away with it. At a certain point, you’re committed to something to an extent that you would do anything, and I’ve always been that way since I was a kid. I was really committed to practicing music, very, very ambitious and dedicated as a young person to my trumpet, and so it was many hours a day, many, many hours a day that I practiced. There’s a great quote from Joni Mitchell that said “Being a musician is 1 percent God-given talent and the other 99 percent insanity.” It’s really sort of a joke, I suppose, but it’s really true in a lot of ways. You have to be blinded by your own dedication, and that’s a real important part of it.

What was the toughest part in learning how to play a trumpet?

The trumpet is an instrument that requires daily attention to keep up your chops. Every day I practice.  My practice regiment is the same as it has been for the past 25 years.  I do the same routine that I learned from my trumpet teacher, William Adam, who I studied with in college.  It’s very disciplined with long tones, arpeggios, chromatic scales, classical exercises, etc… to make sure that I’m flexible and that the apparatus is working on the trumpet.  Then the jazz aspects take over in more of a fluid and elusive way, but the core of the trumpet technicalities need to be tended to daily.

How much would you charge me – someone obviously fascinated with everything music, yet not knowing how to play a single instrument – for a session of trumpet learning lesson? What’s the best advice you can give for people taking up learning to play one?

I don’t generally give trumpet lessons unless it’s part of an auction that raises money for a charity.

If I can give a tip to anyone, it is don’t be afraid to do one thing great. A lot of young kids these days want to do many different things, and they have many different distractions. Playing an instrument will give you some grounding point to do one thing great.  It takes a lot to play the cello or classical piano or the trumpet, and I think to focus on one thing and be proud of doing one thing is the number one tip that I would give to someone.

Share with us the music playlist that you are listening to, and how it relates to the current stage in your life right now.

I’m always listening to:

Miles Davis – My Funny Valentine

Keith Jarrett – The Melody At Night, With You

Frank Sinatra – Only the Lonely

With 2011 closing itself as a chapter, what would you like to see 2012 shape up for you?

2012 is going to be great year.  I’ll be releasing a new album.  I’ll continue to tour worldwide and I look forward to coming back to Singapore and the rest of Asia!

In the history book of music, where do you want to see yourself sit in those pages?

See question 2. As long as my fans are enjoying themselves, I’m happy!

Chris Botti performs at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 8th December. This interview was made possible by Universal Singapore.

[cj]

 

 

 

LEPA(R)K!

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Dec 042011
 

Lepa(r)k!: A Gig At Tiong Bahru Park

Tired of not being able to attend frequent music festivals in the outdoors, like how they seem to happen everywhere else except here in Singapore?

Now there, Lepa(r)k was the answer for you on 19th November 2011, where six local bands shared the stage in celebrating a night of local music delights, right in the comforts of a very neighbourhood park. You can’t get any more heartland than that, seriously. The six bands, in order of schedule, are: In Each Hand A Cutlass, Obedient Wives Club, Ingride, Run Neon Tiger, Cheating Sons and Plainsunset.

If you were present there for the night, you would have been served with a vast variety of music and genres; and for the very Singaporean in you (indirectly meaning kiasu), free popcorn and candyfloss – I saw a line queuing there.

The gig unveiled itself with In Each Hand A Cutlass (http://www.ineachhandacutlass.com/), an instrumental, ambient and progressive rock band, whose music sits and paints itself well against the landscapes of familiarity behind – of concrete rising buildings and surrounding greeneries. And what better way to welcome the night than the band with the man responsible for pulling together a gig like this, Daniel Sassoon.

Next on the bill was the summer-y, 50’s-60’s infused indie pop-rock Obedient Wives Club (http://www.facebook.com/obedientwivesclub). I think their music was the most suitable, most appropriate fit with the overall feel and theme of having the gig in the park. Ignoring the evening hour ambitious runners, it was the comfortable feeling of being able to lepak (Malay for chill) on the grass without worrying about wet marks and patches on the butt of your favourite jeans and skirts, while elsewhere on the island it poured cats and dogs. They brought a dash of Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls (considered influences) into the fix, much thanks to lead singer YinQi Lee’s quirkiness; and covered Shimmering Stars, Raveonettes and Lesley Gore before wrapping up with their popular smash and well-known number, That Boy.

Ingride (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ingride/128732987245), an ambitious post-hardcore, rock outfit demonstrated and showcased the alternate darker side, in heavy contrast with the previous OWC’s set. Lead singer Mahathir, if he ever explores, has the troubled, ballad-y vocals of a blues rocker-lover, before he let his better alter ego took control and let loose an inner, burning man with passion.

Ladies’ favourite Run Neon Tiger (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Run-Neon-Tiger/245915307468) was next, and it was good to watch the lads again almost a year after their Baybeats performance. Not quite sure if it was due to lead singer, Paddy, being a little tad under the weather, but it felt to me that the lads had become a little washed out, maybe with the letdown of living and struggling with the music dream in Singapore. Not that they could be blamed or are generally at fault for it. Still, their friendly indie pop were met with spontaneous cheers, let alone their covers of indie favourites like The Killers and Two Doors Cinema Club.

Cheating Sons (http://www.cheatingsons.com/), one with the promising future in Singapore music, was definitely the highlight of the night for some in the crowd. You got the unanimous feel of unity in a band – the togetherness in spiritual and musical entanglements, and the poetic lyrics and vocals of lead singer Renyi. There was even a song performed dedicated to Redhill, creeping around the corner from Tiong Bahru, of its old histories, senior residents sitting by the wayside and of stories long forgotten and untold of. They ended their set with a rockin’ high, letting their fiery fingers on their musical weapons do all the walking and the talking.

Plainsunset (http://www.facebook.com/plainsunset) Now vets in the indie scene, Plainsunset thrilled the crowd with their user-friendly pop-punk filled with infectious hooks that left smiles on many. Frontman Jon Chan was in his usual jovial mood, humorous stage banter abounded and the tightness of the performance reflected how comfortable the band members were with each other. A new song was debuted which provided the icing on the cake for a milestone night for S-ROCK.

Lepa(r)k! was presented by Snakeweed Studios and Incursive Productions and organised by Tanglin Cairnhill Citizens’ Consultative Committee. Also present for the night was Member of Parliament (MP) Indranee Rajah, who gave the green light for this gig to happen and to become a reality; in a way, a Singapore dream come true.

Hopefully, the first of many such events.

[cj]

ZEE AVI

 MUSIC  Comments Off
Nov 292011
 


Zee Avi could be, and just may very well be, the biggest export to the international music platform from this corner of the world – Asia.

Discovered on YouTube by Patrick Keeler, the drummer of The Raconteurs, who passed along the video link to then-The White Stripes manager Ian Montone, the whole story ends up with Emmett Malloy (one-half of the directing talent duo The Malloys) signing her up to Brushfire Records, partly owned by Jack Johnson.

This Malaysian talent has definitely come a long way, and is in no way slowing herself down. And if you think her musical journey just ends right there, she already has two full-length albums under her belt, with her latest offering Ghostbird charting at #129 on the Billboard Hot 200 Albums Chart.

Interviewing – or rather chatting – with Zee Avi is an all new experience for me. For one, she is really humane, in her mannerism and her responses, and it feels like she doesn’t have to put on a front to gather more attention or buzz around her; she isn’t trying too hard, simply put. Her answers were direct, and her voice is thickened with her deep Malay roots across the border and even at a point, she may have accidentally used Singlish!

The only downside to the interview was that the venue, TAB, was blasting relatively loud music throughout the interview. Not a fault of anybody’s, of course, but it doesn’t really helped that Zee is a relatively soft-spoken person, in her petite kind of way.

Below is the interview, and thank you to Universal Music Records for arranging this. Do check out Zee Avi’s latest album, Ghostbird, which is already out in music stores.

Roundtable interview with Zee Avi

Legend
Q Question,
Z Zee Avi
Kevin Kevin Mathews
CJ CJ

*Transcript from recording of roundtable interview held on Monday, 21st November 2011. The actual words used may vary from the text below, but the meaning and the most and best appropriate words had been used for those that were unclear of.
Q: You’ve got lots of fans in SP [Singapore Polytechnic], and they’ve been coming up to us with questions. We’ve actually sort of got rid of those that have asked for your number.

Z: 323… (obviously, teasingly giving out a fake number)

*laughter all around

Q: One of your fans asked how old were you when you actually decided that you’d do music?

Z: The day I got the e-mail from the record label. That is a serious answer.

Q: How did you decide on which musical genre you’d go into?

Z: I didn’t, and I still don’t. I actually don’t have a genre. People asked me what my style is, and I tell them I don’t know. My style is I don’t have a style. I think it allows more freedom, as an artiste and a songwriter to… “let’s see if you’re okay to it”. You don’t want to restrict yourself…

*

Q: We actually heard that you write a lot of love songs. What kind of guys do you like, material wise?

Z: (lets out a girly, flirtatious outburst) Ooooh! Haha. You know, when I was younger, your criteria and your preference is like, I want someone who is big, who is mysterious… After a while, when you get older, you realize that, you just want someone with a good heart, warm, a good conscience and a good smile.

CJ’s intervention: I heard you said older, but you’re not that old now.

Z: That’s what you think. Good surgeon.

Q: Everyone has a shower song. What about yours? Do you listen to your own song and go, ooh nice song?

Z: (begins singing live) Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool. Mary MacGregor’s Torn Between Two Lovers.

Q: What inspired you to write Kantoi? Was it based on a breakup and a true story?

Z: It’s based on my friend’s story. I was just talking about that just now. It’s been a while since I revisited that writing process, which was one of the most incredibly fun writing process I’ve ever had. She was hanging out over at my house, and she was like (exclamation in Malay), and I had a ukulele in my hand, (Semalam I call you, you tak answer). It was a fun kind of jokey song.

Q: You are very sure that it’s not yours?

Z: I’m very sure.

Q: Why the name Zee Avi?

Z: My name is Izyan, and it gradually turned into Zee. It’s just 5 letters, people, and now it’s 3. And Avi is an abbreviation of my last name (Alirahman), because anything more than 3 syllabus is a mouthful, apparently, in some countries. And I actually just found out recently that Zee means sea in Dutch. So if you put an E at the back of Avi (Avie) means sea of life.

*
Q: Are there any craze for K-pop bands that you are crazy with? Any closet love for K-pop bands?

Z: I used to listen, back in ’98, there’s a girl band named S.E.S. I know that they are a Korean girl band (begins singing). But K-pop, no. But recently I went to Korea, and they were telling me about this band called 2PM? It’s like 12 of them or something?

Q: No, 6.

Z: Oh, really ah?

Q: That’s a really small size for them.

Z: Yeah, cannot make football team.

*

Q: Your concert here in Singapore, what would you like your fans to take away or understand from it, cause obviously your fans had heard your album quite a few times,  so the actual performance – what would be the difference?

Z: For me, I find that the real creativity lies in live performances. Luckily for me, my band – it’s nice to work with actual artistes and not just actual musicians. And we work together, we collaborated together, putting together this kind of force, putting more life to the songs, live performance wise. What I want my fans to take away from that is whatever they choose to take away with them, I hope that they take it away with a smile.

Q: Your album is written over in the US. How will fans in Asia and Singapore relate to songs with inspirations from over there (US side of matters)?

Z: Yeah, but it’s universal! I mean, how do you relate to I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor? How do you relate to Never Say Never by Justin Bieber? Or Spice World by Spice Girls? As long as it has a universal message that people can take away and people can relate with, I think the key ingredient to that is to still have sincerity of some sort in your music and in your words. And people watch movies from other countries, people read stories from other countries, and it’s a matter of transporting as a storyteller. It’s a matter of transporting someone through your words, to where you were and what you were feeling at that time.

Q: Obviously the album is pretty fresh in Asia. So how far after this tour will you be thinking of getting intergradation for new songs for another album?

Z: Cause I already have it in me. It comes in spirits, it’s sporadic. The intention of writing new material is there, although I feel that Ghostbird is still taking its nice little slow pace to show itself to the world, and I am still dawning them in the best light I can, and sort of enhancing it and sharing it with the world still. New material definitely comes about and pushing.

Q: Could you give us some specific examples as to what they are?

Z: It’s quite premature to talk about. Two years ago, I was like, my second album is going to be bleak, and then this comes up. I always say a lot can happen in an hour, let alone a year. So you never know.

Q: So nothing is concrete yet?

Z: No.

Q: A different tone from the second album?

Z: Well, probably. You know, it all comes with experience, it all comes with lessons, it all comes with obstacles that I’ve really been through and learnt, so the growth in that may be different. If I were to tell you something really concrete, then it may be something really different… then. I don’t know, techno.

Q: How do you differentiate yourself with artistes that you have been compared with? How will you see yourself different from these other artistes?

Z: The difference is we all experience things differently, and  we all choose to feel certain emotions differently, we choose to embrace different situations differently, we are all very different. Being compared to any other artiste is inevitable, because people always want a sort of comfort, to know that they can relate with this person. But, as an artiste, we are all out there to create, to have a sense of authenticity and originality within itself, and I find that everything has been done, just it matters how differently you do it, and being compared is flattering, very, very flattering, to be in the same cycle as those artistes, I would never in a million years dream this night would be… and now my name is here (right beside all these other artistes), written down. I just feel that we all have our own voices.

*

Q: How much does your native culture influence your music making, besides the obvious songs in Malay?

Z: People always ask me that, what is it being Malaysian, or being Asian, mean to you? And I am like, everything! I was born and raised here, therefore my upbringing  had a lot to do with it, therefore my mentality had a lot to do with it, as well as being abroad, and travelling around and meeting different people from other cultures kind of chizzles that down a little bit, and sort of altered and is custom for me. That has a lot to do with… just because I sing in English, that’s it; but the way that I think and the way that I feel is definitely from the lands which I came.

Q: If your time as a musician has come to an end  (touchwood, literally, Zee touching the wooden table) which would be your proudest moment?

Z: My proudest moment  – well, I hope by the time I have a long list of it, but for now, I think, just sort of seeing my parents in the crowd and seeing how proud they are of my achievements, because all of this – like my family and I have been waiting for a while to figure out what am I supposed to do, but when the whole thing came together, they’re like okay, now they know why I’ve got my eccentricity and it all makes sense now, and my proudest moment would be to see the pleased faces of my parents.

Q: How was the process of making Ghostbird like? Did you already have the sound in mind or was it very go-with-the-flow?

Z: It was go-with-the-flow, much like everything I do. Half of the songs were written in Brooklyn, and then the rest of it was written in Florida, Everglades, in the Sampath. It’s a very contrast feel, so you have the hustle and the bustle of the city, and then you have the stillness and the calmness of being in an open environment in the water, so I was left alone with my thoughts for a while, and that made everything very smooth, and flow really nice.

*

Kevin: You are actually living the dream of many Asian artistes, having a US label and so forth. Do you have any advice for people in the same position with that kind of aspirations?

Z: My advice would just be keep doing what you do, and again I can’t stress this enough, I think the 3 main ingredients that I find worked for me as an artiste are honesty, simplicity and sincerity, for sure, and do not have any expectations. I mean, I am aware that people try very hard to just sort of be out there and to be noticed, but a part of the manifestation of it is to just to do it because you love doing it, and not because it is something that you strive for. And if you work hard enough, someone, somewhere out there will hear your call, and it will definitely be your destiny. So I think a part of that is definitely to just keep doing what you’re doing, because of passion and reason.

CJ: We are writing for Power Of Pop. So you are part of the Asian music scene as well…

Z: Am I?

CJ: Sort of.

Z: Yes!

CJ: In an international kind of way. So what’re your views of the Asian music scene in the big picture (international music scene), and how do you fit in?

Z: Well, how do I fit in? I never fit in before, anywhere, haha. I think the Asian music scene is so vast, and there’s just so many different, you know… it’s definitely quite advanced, if you ask me. Like with the K-pop, and then you have the traditional singers. And you have girls like Joanna Wang from Taiwan, who’s like doing her own thing now, and you have Thao with the Get Down, Stay Down from the States as well. And you have Dengue Fever, who’s this Cambodian group and amazing, amazing. You know, it’s very tasteful at the same time, and I think how I fit in there is just to bring the way that I was brought up, which is to be courteous and considerate, and aware of my surroundings; and at the same time, being warm and welcoming to whoever is around me. Through artistry, it allows me as an Asian woman to have more freedom in expressing myself.

CJ: Share with us something that you face while you’re pursuing this musical journey , like something difficult or an obstacle or something.

Z: Yeah, it’s a huge industry, and everybody knows everyone, and it’s a small world in this industry, but the challenge is just knowing how to feel another person to see if the vibe is well. For me, I embrace everybody just the same. Secondly, when you’re on the road and everything’s amplified, what would take much slower in real time, so you have to grow up really fast. For me as well, I have never been in this industry before, and you have to learn really fast, mental strength. And third is being away from home. Like sometimes it’s hard, because when you’re on the road, you don’t want to eat at Denny’s all the time, you don’t want to go to Waffle House all the time. I want my belacan and my nasi lemak!

CJ: What’s your outlook of life in general and what’s your next goal?

Z: My outlook of life is that life is a grand reception of oneself. Life is your own party, and it’s how you make it.

CJ: So what’s your next goal perhaps, after this album Ghostbird?

Z: After this album, I hope that I would be blessed enough to still be doing this. And hopefully, I will have a third album under my belt, in my belt, or under.

CJ: It’s highly likely that you would have a third album.

Z: Ah, I hope so, haha.

CJ: Any covers that you would like to do next, because you have been doing covers for a while – You had covered Interpol, and you had covered Morrissey. Who would you like to cover next?

Z: There’re so many covers that I would like to do, but I respect the artistes so much that I don’t want to touch them anymore.

CJ: Just one that you would like to touch?

Z: Um, probably a Malay song, like it’s been done already, but I would like to have my take on it, and it’s Getaran Jiwa by P Ramlee. You know Getaran Jiwa? P Ramlee? Okay, check it. (Proceeded to spell it out for the courtesy and stupidity in me) It means fluctuating of the soul; it’s about deep passion for music and melodies.

*

(while an interviewer prepares himself and his mobile phone for recording, Zee teased him on how he has got some tweets and someone BBM-ed him)

Q: This is the third time you are in Singapore, I understand, first time was a concert in Timbre in 2009, and in 2010 it was a showcase in Stereolounge. So how do you feel about coming back to Singapore again, for your very third time?

Z: It’s great. I have been waiting to play Singapore for a while now, cause everytime I come back, the audience are so… you know, like the exchanges of energy that we have when I’m on stage, and they’re just sort of projecting, so it’s like a mutual love, and that’s one thing that I love about performing in Singapore. And you know, Singapore is like up there with Tokyo, a lot of great artistes come by here, that doesn’t come by Malaysia. Being here, to play here is like an honour. Our neighbouring countries.

Q: So how would you compare Singapore’s music scene and the music scene in Malaysia? Are they like parallel?

Z: I think they’re sort of parallel. I have a lot of friends who are in bands, and they roll around the same circuit like the Singapore bands as well, when they come over there, they are all buddies, and when they come over here, they are all buddies. But I think Singapore has an advantage in a way in terms of music, because there are more opportunities here, I find, in terms of venues, events – you guys had, like Laneway, and so many different types of festivals. I think, when was the last time I followed my friend, One Buck Short, to this festival at Esplanade, a couple of years ago. Was it Beats (corrected to Baybeats by the rest of us)? You guys had that, and you invite Malaysian bands as well, like all good in the hood man.

Q: You were discovered on YouTube by the drummer of The Raconteurs, Patrick Keeler. For artistes, if there wasn’t YouTube and this technology, do you think you would have made a name for yourself without technology?

Z: Well, one thing is going to be my conclusion, is that you can’t fight progress. It’s just inevitable that we will eventually evolve into, like an evolution that will have technology as a necessity. For me, technology, especially the Internet. The cool thing about 2011 – I can’t stress this enough – is the fact that we do have all these outlets on the Internet, like Soundcloud, Bandcamp and YouTube, the power is given back to the artiste, and they are allowed to display their music, their gifts without third parties. So you can still do that, with the help of the Internet, which is basically how I did it. I mean, I did it without any intention of it being a marketing or a promotional tool, but I know of a lot of other people who had gotten discovered through MySpace, because it is there. The Internet is like this huge treasury chest, so many jams, and now people know where to look. And you just look for the jam that speaks to you, and you pick that up. Now record labels are looking for artistes through the Internet, or not even record labels at all! Sometimes you gain followers just by being there, and they are following you – and everybody’s on Facebook now, and Twitter. At the same time it is cool, because there are no filters, no walls in terms of you and your appreciators.

Q: How do you find the food in Singapore?

Z: Gooooood. I haven’t had ayam penyet yet, so I’m gonna get my fix tonight! But I’ve had nasi lemak from Forum (The Shopping Centre).

CJ: Is it up to standard, to Malaysia’s standards?

Z: (silence, dodgy eyes)

(laughter all around)

CJ: I see.

Z: Well, we all stem from the same seed anyway, we all use the same spices, so it was pretty delicious.

Q: Any other food you are looking forward to try in Singapore?

Z: Chilli crab.

Q: They don’t have chilli crab in Malaysia?

Z: Got, but not the same lah!

*

Q: What’s the best time you are inspired to write music – is it when you are having your breakfast, or on your bed, or?

Z: It usually happens at night, at around 3am, or in the morning when I have my coffee, if I have my instruments. But sometimes it also happens at the most random of times, like when I’m on the plane, and I have the melody in my head, and I just write down the words that come with it. It’s sporadic. But before I used to do it in a routine when at night, and in the morning when I wake up, it’s something that I look forward to.

[cj]

Thanks to Universal Singapore for setting up the interview.

APOLLO 18

 MUSIC  Comments Off
Nov 252011
 

 

Black EP

Explosions of colours invade the night sky.

Apollo 18 is a post-hardcore band formed in the suburbs of Seoul, South Korea, in the summer of 2008 (having the words suburbs and summer closely connected in a sentence always sounds appropriately cool). Made up of Hyunseok Choi (guitars/vocals), Daeinn Kim (bass/vocals) and Sangyun Lee (drums), they have performed in numerous music festivals around the world, inclusive of the renowned SXSW festival in the US.

Clear as the colour it represents, the Black EP glides along in its respective shades of grey and darkness. Their previous EPs are coincidentally and conveniently titled Red, The Blue Album and Violet EP. Colourblind, anyone?

Mur opens up the EP to an intimate start, with early and naive traces of Stereophonics, Coldplay and even Elbow lingering in its aftertaste. But just when the listeners think that the sea at large is at its peaceful calm, the band decides to showcase its dynamic and differentiating sounds, and starts its own soundwaves. True post-hardcore is continued in its prideful stride till the 4-track EP’s end, presenting Apollo 18 with crossroads and the definite choice of many music journeys to come.

[cj]

Check out the teaser below

Official Site

THOMAS COMERFORD

 MUSIC  Comments Off
Nov 012011
 

Archive + Spiral

Thomas Comerford is 50% my type of artiste/music.

To explain, I don’t visualize watching him perform live to be a very entertaining affair [note: presumption only], like Sara Bareilles’s intriguing conversational engagement, or Peaches’s crazy on-stage persona (walking on the raised hands of the audience, anyone?), cause I like the money I fork out for live shows to be well rewarded. On a positive note, he will fit perfectly into my bedroom playlist, preferably listened to on an indoor rainy afternoon or on a night, with a book and a mug of beer (which I don’t drink much of, I honestly swear!).

Comerford firstly comes across to me as someone knowledgeable. This is totally based on judging the book by its cover, with his album’s tracklisting. Opener titled Robert Bresson, followed by Dear Stephen Hauser and Joseph Cornell had me Wiki-ing on who exactly these folks are that he had penned the songs in relations to. This also loosely shows my significant lack of knowledge in the world at large (shame on me!).

The second reaction while listening to his music brings about is a quick glance through my iTunes library to find an artiste who can be easily associated with him, as his music strangely recommends me to do so. Frustratingly, I gave up quite easily not even midway through, but a more matured version of Sondre Lerche did sink in and dance around in my head for quite a while (even now).

There is something about Comerford – it’s in the music. His voice is as contemporary as it sounds, with fragments of wisdom and experience, and tells one story; the lyrics of the songs most probably telling another story altogether, but this does not result in a conflicting war of thoughts, but rather complimenting each other in a soothing combination.

To give Thomas the cover recognition and swag (so many artistes doing so many covers and renditions of their favourite music or the easiest way to release something without penning in their own thoughts!), the third track of the album is Sunday Morning, a cover of the famous classic by Velvet Underground, done his own acoustic style.

Archive + Spiral is out in CD and digital format.

[CJ]

 

LITTLE SPACE DONKEY

 MUSIC  Comments Off
Oct 242011
 

Dreamer’s Manifesto EP

Ever wonder what rocking in space sounds like?

Little Space Donkey answers this question (indirectly) with their latest 4-track EP release, second only to their debut offering quirkily titled “Collection Of Songs That We Will Never Play Live, Ever”. You know that can’t be true.

A band from Jakarta, LSD is made up of Dhendy Mawardi and Amy Amanda on guitars, Made Indar on bass (and one of the contributing artists for this EP’s artwork), Dave Leonard on drums, and Anthono Oktoriandi on synthesizer and sampler. Young as they may look in pictures and in age, but don’t let that fool you. Their music and sound offerings as tight, united and focused  as can be.

The space sounding ambience is attributed to the inclusion of the synthesizer, which provides the musical journey into the other dimension. Not quite certain of the underlying story concept about a leader who united the world in his grasp, though. A glance through their listed influences (like Sigur Ros, M83, Explosions In The Sky, Daft Punk, The Flaming Lips and The Radio Dept. to name a handful) clearly ascertains their musical direction and genre, and then there is a surprise in mention of one of everyone’s classic favourite bands of all-time, The Carpenters (much celebrated!).

Two questions raised:
1) Are LSD really as young as appear to be?
2) Are you in space yet with LSD’s music?

Dreamer’s Manifesto is distributed as a free download at littlespacedonkey.bandcamp.com (FREE!), and you can find out more about Little Space Donkey on MySpace and on Tumblr.

Support Asian and local music too! Do your part!

(CJ)