To be honest, Field Music has somewhat been under the radar for Power of Pop. Why exactly is a mystery, when you consider that the core duo of the brothers David and Peter Brewis have been making timeless/classic PoP friendly music since 2005!
“Well, I’m a lion in the haze and the lamb in the lightning/Oh these spears and chains of flames around my neck are tightening/So line up your armies, burn down my home please/Take the part that’s in my lungs, and the song I’m singing.”
King Charles (aka Charles Costa) is a good old fashioned singer-songwriter – cramming flowery words into his straightforward indie rock songs. After all, in 2009, he became the first ever Brit to win the International Songwriting Competition in Nashville for his song “Love Lust” and he’s basically kicked off from there.
Here’s a recommendation for old school pop-rock lovers – the new Turin Brakes’ album is a definite winner. Filled to the brim with well worked melodies and hooks, coupled with appropriate instrumentation and arrangements, with a strong acoustic guitar vibe – this is a welcome addition to the best of the new year’s release so far.
An interim release between Wilson’s previous album Hand. Cannot. Erase. and the next studio album. Which makes 4½ sound like some throwaway, some stopgap. Trust me, it is definitely not.
Happy days are here again cuz The Coral is back! Psych-pop at its best!!
To be honest, have never quite been able to connect with the music of Mystery Jets, for one reason or another. However, one has to admire the manner in which this English band has stuck to their guns and followed the pop-rock muse, wherever it might have led them.
Thankfully, the flood of made-in-Singapore releases continues unabated even though we have uncomfortably transitioned to 2016. Here is a sampling of what is to come in the coming year for Singapore music fans. Reviews to come.
Inevitably, there is a mixed sense of resigned defiance amongst the obscure fraternity of rock n roll/powerpop community that is holding fast to the influences of 60s/70s classic pop-rock.
Putting together the recent Beatles playlists had got me thinking about whether the Fab Four is ‘relevant’ to our modern times. That got me deep into discovery mode to construct a playlist of music that had been released in the last two years, which in my mind owe a thing or two to The Beatles and/or the pop-rock music of the past.
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Back in 2011, in a public Facebook note, singer-songwriter iNCH (a.k.a Inch Chua) criticised Singaporean attitudes toward local music. iNCH even moved out of Singapore (to the US) in order to pursue her musical career. Four years later, back in Singapore, as a packed audience demonstrates their hearty approval, iNCH is moved to tears by a post-gig video filled with expressions of congratulations, love, admiration and celebration for the launch of iNCH’s new EP, Letters to Ubin.
Laneway Singapore 2016 promises to be the music festival all hip music kids need to be seen at – and this was doubly confirmed by the news that British hip rock outfit 1975 will headline the festival when it returns to our shores on 30th January.
Some respite for true pop lovers from the onslaught of the prefabricated anti-music dominating the current Billboard charts in the form of a new Squeeze album! Yes! When frontman Glenn Tilbrook was in Singapore last year, he mentioned that the band was recording a new album and here it is – Cradle to the Grave – the band’s first album of new material since 1998!
For most of its first run, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) operated as a band. However, in effect the success of ELO was really down to one person viz. singer-songwriter-musician-producer Jeff Lynne. Thus, this album of new material — the first since 2001’s Zoom — is credited to “Jeff Lynne’s ELO” and perhaps rightly so. Though personally, ELO would have done it for me — I mean ELO fans know who is the force behind those wonderful songs.
LAMC Productions has announced that Sheffield’s Bring Me The Horizon are set to perform in Singapore on Thursday, 28 January, 2016, 8pm at SCAPE* Playspace!
Paul Weller’s new album Saturns Pattern is a revelation! Here is one of my favourite tracks, the infectious “Pick It Up” with an equally memorable music video, starring Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock etc) as a sad bloke going through a mid-life crisis of sorts. True blue pop lovers, don’t miss this!
At a time where there are millions of causes to get behind, some pretentious music-hating moron starts a petition to ‘stop’ Phil Collins from coming out of retirement. Over 2,000 people have signed the petition and of course, the music press gleefully reports about this juicy bit of ‘news’.
The first time I heard Suasion live I fell in love with the band’s basic approach to songwriting and performing. Whilst it is true that more often than not, you can walk into a club in Singapore and hear country-inflected melodic pop-rock but typically, it would be played by a cover band. Suasion were a refreshing change – playing their well-construction originals within a popular medium that for some reason is overlooked by artists and bands here.
For me, this reflected the band’s strength of conviction – not content to merely get on the bandwagon – but to make music on their own terms. The kind of music that they wanted to make. The kind of music that they wanted to listen to themselves. Highly admirable it must be said.
Frontman Michael Intrator – a Swiss expat – possesses a honest voice that resonates with power and feeling on tracks like “Resolve”. Backed brilliantly not only instrumentally by lead guitarist Chris Bong and bassist Lyndsey Long but also on luscious three-part vocal harmonies that elevate Suasion’s music from the typical Singapore indie sound. Completed by drummer Alvin Lim, the quartet keep things simple but accomplish the task with some aplomb.
This comes across in memorably infectious tracks like “Melanie in the Morning”, “Firelight” and “Drinking on Sunshine”.
My last word? Forget about Ryan Adams’ lame attempts at covering 1989, best spend your time checking out the Suasion EP.
Suasion launches its debut EP at the Substation on 30th October 2015 (with Joie Tan).
Tickets now available from http://suasionlaunch.peatix.com/.
More information from https://www.facebook.com/events/1647020308907934/
Honestly, have never been a fan of Canuck heartland rocker Bryan Adams but on his latest album, producer Jeff Lynne (ELO) is the only reason I am recommending Get Up! And of course, Lynne’s fingerprints are all over this ode to rock ’n’ roll, even though Lynne has only one co-writing credit here – the mid-tempo 80s pop sheen of “Do What Ya Gotta Do” which smacks of Lynne’s collaborations with Tom Petty and Roger McGuinn. Ironically, the most ELO-channeling track of all – the gorgeous ballad “We Did It All” was written by Adams and songwriter partner Jim Vallance.
There’s no denying that Adams sounds invigorated by Lynne’s influence, keeping the songwriting simple, yet allowing the sophisticated arrangements to elevate the basic pop-rock material. That’s no hiding the agenda behind feel good rockers like “Go Down Rockin’” and “That’s Rock and Roll” & the years peel away with ease. Who cares whether the hipster generation will Get Up or not. That’s their problem.
And if you’d like a free CD of Get Up! (and why wouldn’t you?!), Universal Music Singapore are giving away 5 copies if you can answer this question.
Who is the producer of Bryan Adams’ Get Up!?
Send your answers to email@example.com with your full name, NRIC No., mobile number and of course, home address and a Get Up! CD is yours! First come, first served. Power of Pop’s decision on who is or isn’t a winner is final and conclusive. (For Singapore residents only)
The problem with critics in general is that quite often, a band’s commercial success may adversely impact the critics’ opinions about that band’s artistic credentials. Which is strange in itself, when you consider the immense popularity of The Beatles, for example.
But such was the case for Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) who in their heyday (1970-1986) sold over 50 millions records!
Formed initially as a side-project of 60s psych-rock outfit The Move by Bev Bevan, Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne to ‘continue where the Beatles left off” (as Wood put it) – this lineup released the project’s debut album (No Answer – which contained the hit “10538 Overture”) before Wood defected leaving Lynne to be sole creative force behind ELO.
It would take ELO six albums before becoming a force in pop music and New World Record was the LP that truly broke ELO into the pantheon of pop gods, attaining #5 in the Billboard Album Charts and platinum album sales in the USA and native UK.
Singles like “Telephone Line”, “Livin’ Thing”, “Rockaria” and “Do Ya” (originally recorded by The Move) established ELO’s signature sound – orchestral pop-rock with sophisticated arrangements and infectious melodies. However, New World Record is much more than its singles and it is arguably one of the purest pop masterpieces ever recorded, fulfilling the legacy of The Beatles and The Beach Boys, and even Roy Orbison (in the epic closer “Shangri-la”).
It’s no exaggeration to suggest that Jeff Lynne was the main man behind ELO’s success. Even though at this time, the band had seven members, Lynne was the singer, songwriter, producer, arranger and even lead guitarist! There would be no ELO without Jeff Lynne.
Yet, ELO never quite gets the credit or acclaim for the wondrous pop music they made and critics often deride both ELO and Jeff Lynne for the very thing that made them click – orchestral pop magic!
PoP visitors will no doubt be aware of my love for all things Jeff Lynne/ELO and New World Record is an excellent starting point to find out why.
Best Coast is one of those bands that critics love to hate. There’s the common accusation that the hype over the band is over singer Bethany Cosentino and the gossip surrounding her life and not the music. Trolls claim that Best Coast’s music is simple and dumb, writing the band off as any kind of musical force.
While I do agree that Best Coast’s music is simple, that in itself does not make the music dumb. To be honest, the kind of power pop parlayed by Best Coast has been bettered decades ago by The Muffs, Essex Green and Dressy Bessy but compared to what passes for modern pop in 2015, Best Coast is a breath of fresh air!
Like Vivian Girls and Cults, Best Coast owes a huge debt to the 60s girl groups, 70s power pop and 80s indie pop and there’s nothing wrong with that if one is able to crank out infectious numbers like “Feeling Ok”, “Heaven Sent” and “So Unaware”. More power to Best Coast – keep the pop coming!
An excellent sign that Singapore music is slowly (but surely) permeating the mainstream consciousness is the clutch of music events to be held in the upcoming Singapore Writers Festival, from October 30th to November 8th 2015, organised by the National Arts Council.
Kicking off is Island of Dreams, an instrumental rock concert at the Victoria Theatre on 30th October, featuring In Each Hand a Cutlass and I Am David Sparkle, two heavyweights in the local indie scene.
From epic rock bombast, the music gets all stripped down and fragile with Story Songs by Tiny Ruins. Kiwi Hollie Fullbrook returns to Singapore on 1st November at the Chamber, the Arts House.
Finally, we have Dimensions and Demons, with artists from literary and musical disciplines collaborating on works to be presented on 5th November at the Esplanade Recital Studios. Writers Dave Chua, Daren Shiau and Stephanie Ye have been rehearsing with musicians weish (.gif), Riot !n Magenta and Ferry (Giants Must Fall) for the past few months for this co-presentation with The Esplanade.
Power of Pop will be in the thick of the action with reviews and interviews but so can you. The Festival organisers have kindly offered a pair of tickets to each of the above events to lucky PoP visitors.
Now, you can only select one of these events to apply to – simply write in to firstname.lastname@example.org with a 5o-word note on why you love Power of Pop so much! (Also include your full name and NRIC No., please) Oh and let us know which event you would like to attend and voilà (!) you could be on your way. (Winning entries will be published here! Be warned!!)
First come, first served and all that jazz. The decision of Power of Pop regarding the identity of the lucky recipients shall be final & conclusive. Closing date is 27th October.
Punk trio Dirt Radicals began life as Pug Jelly and earned a reputation as Singapore favourite “pop punk ang mohs”, became Saw Loser and settled for The Dirt Radicals. Whatever. What matters is the music and in that department, The Dirt Radicals continue to deliver melodious, chirpy punk rock in spades. The Dirt Radicals are set to release their new EP “Duder.” on November 3rd, with pre-orders available now. The debut single “Your Heart” is already circulating on Lush 99.5fm. See music video below.
This October 17th, 2015 the band will be performing a free show at Hood Bar & Café at Bugis Junction, Singapore. Local heroes Caracal will be opening the show. Doors open at 6pm. For more information, log on to www.thedirtradicals.com.
Well, that’s it for S-ROCK trio Another Sunday Afternoon (left to right above: Zhiwei Xu, Caleb Lye & Kamal Yacob), they have released their final single, “No Word No Bond Row On”, a chilled out instrumental rock beauty. We caught up with frontman Caleb Lye, for the last word on Another Sunday Afternoon.
What has the band been up to since The Bookmark?
Since releasing The Bookmark (2012), we’ve been playing some shows, with the highlight probably coming when we opened for Biffy Clyro in 2014.
No Word No Bond Row On is an instrumental track. Why?
Honestly, I think we kind of ran out of interesting things to talk about, to sing about. Our music has always been primarily about telling good stories, and I guess when you run out of good stories to tell, you lose your voice. We also thought it would be cool to explore instrumentals and soundscapes. I’ve always been a fan of layering and this seemed like a good time to get into that.
Is this a new direction or just a minor detour?
I think it’s neither really. It would be cool to do something like this as part of your traditional Another Sunday Afternoon album, as a segue, to connect the rest of the tracks to each other.
What does the title signify?
This is where it gets really interesting. We asked our friend Charlie, who came up with the title for our first album (“The Uncanny Tree of Fractured Hearts: featuring the Peculiar Case of Janet Leno and other short stories”), to help us out for what could possibly end up as our last effort. She came up with this because, after listening to a demo of the song, she thought it would be cool for the title to be a palindrome (even though the song, in itself, isn’t). We’re also very lucky to have Boon, who designed the album art for “The Bookmark”, come up with an ambigram, which was really cool. So if you actually flip the album art upside down it says exactly the same thing!
What were the feelings and ideas you wanted to convey?
When we let some of our friends listen to it, a lot of them mentioned that this sounded like a perfect song to say goodbye. Maybe it’s something like this – something different (and free!) to remember us by, till we see you all again.
It’s not really goodbye to Another Sunday Afternoon, is it?
Well truth be told, I think in its current incarnation, this is sadly, probably it. We do need some time to go away, rediscover ourselves, think about what kind of music we really want to bring to the table the next time – so it’s something like a soft reset if you like. Probably play with other bands, expand our music palette, evolve and come back in the not-too-distant future. I think that’s the key word for us: evolution – because we certainly don’t want to be doing that same thing over and over again!
And there you have it – pick up your copy of “No Word No Bond Row On” from Bandcamp now, and if you have not done so before, do check out the band’s other releases as well.
Xiao Zar Bo (“Crazy Women” in the Hokkien dialect) is a bi-annual music initiative fronted by iNCH and Esther Lowless, designed to provide a platform to female singer-songwriters to showcase their own works. The rather stately environs of the Singjazz Club delivered a suitable venue for this sold out ticketed (over 80 pax) premiere event. The audience was appreciative of the efforts of the ‘crazy ladies’ throughout and there was an air of community and collaboration about the performances as performers fronted and backed each other seamlessly.
For the two headliners – iNCH and Esther Lowless – it was an opportunity to share music from upcoming releases in a safe environment. Eschewing the need for a rhythm section, relying more on backing tracks (for iNCH) and copious harmonies and stringed instruments, there was a beatific ambience about the entire proceedings. iNCH went further and shared with the crowd a sensational little secret (which shall remain so till officially announced) and new songs from her much anticipated Letters From Ubin EP. Esther herself played a couple of new songs – “Warpaint” and “Withered Oak Tree” that highlighted the cinematic prog-rock style that distinguishes her music from the rest. Watch out for the new album!
KindaKim (aka violinist Kim Eun Hyung) set out an astonishing live looper performance complemented by what would be described as commercial-alternative pop songs. Her use of a looper was illuminating – taking occasional to speed up her loops which made her songs quite distinctive in the main. Though self-deprecating about her singing, it fit her songwriting perfectly (one of the main rules of songwriting) and overall, her set was an engaging one.
Lisa Haryono opened the night with a enthralling lineup of piano-based originals that hearkened to old-school pop compositions. jazz-pop-soul numbers were thrown out effortlessly as Lisa’s gorgeous voice bounced around the walls and into our collective hearts, sending chills down spines. It’s amazing to think that Lisa is already such an accomplished musician (as a session cellist) as well as fronting one of most promising Singapore bands out there (Enec.e), and to add this other musical persona to the list was simply mind blowing. Please record these soulful gems soon, Lisa!
One of the best local gigs in recent memory left me with mixed feelings somewhat. On the one hand, I appreciated the coziness of the affair and being able to savour the wonder of some of my favourite singer-songwriters up close but on the other hand, I would have loved for 500, 1000 or even 2000 people to have witnessed this! So good! But also, the sight of iNCH’s producer Evan Low in a tight-fitting dress was enough to gain him the accolade of Xiao Zar Bo of the night! See what you missed?
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