NATALIE HIONG – BEAUTIFUL MESS [REVIEW]

Beautiful Mess Album Cover

First thing one notices when listening to Natalie Hiong‘s new EP is the sound production — a marked improvement from her debut EP certainly. This time around, everything one hears seems more organic and more ‘human’, and it’s much easier to get into the songs itself. Natalie has also improved in the vocal department and extended her range of singing styles as well. No longer relying on the cutesy little girl vibe of her debut EP, one senses that this is a chanteuse now coming into her own.

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NORAH JONES – LIVE IN SINGAPORE [REVIEW]

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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ELLIE GOULDING – LIVE IN SINGAPORE [REVIEWS]

Courtesy of Dominic Phua & Now/Live
Courtesy of Dominic Phua & Now/Live

Judging by the response at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Tuesday night, Ellie Goulding’s first performance in Singapore was an undisputed success.

The full house consisted of a good mix of young tweens and older hipsters, who eagerly lapped up her every word and note. Even Goulding herself repeatedly remarked at her awe and surprise with the number of people at her first show here.

Starting off the night with songs mainly from her recently released sophomore album, Halcyon, such as “Figure 8” and “My Blood”, Ellie Goulding blew us away from the very start with her beautiful voice. It was amazing to hear the entire audience sing along to the chorus of “Guns and Horses”. However, it took some time for the sound engineer to get the mixing right, as it was difficult to hear her voice over her backing track in the beginning.

Also, it appeared that she took a while to adjust to the stage, only moving around to interact with the inviting audience after taking awhile to get used to the venue.

Goulding was not fazed for too long though, and one of the most memorable segments of the concert was when she slowed things down with tracks like “I Know You Care” (she admitted it was about her father) and “Joy”. The audience was also in for a special treat as she sang a wonderful cover of Elton John’s “Your Song”.

Picking things back up with harder hitting songs “Only You” and “Salt Skin”, Goulding gamely danced in her sheer dress through these songs, eliciting more cheers from her fans. During other parts of the show, she also treated the audience to performances of “Hanging On” and “I Need Your Love”, which she wrote with Tinie Tempah and Calvin Harris respectively.

Most of all, it was impressive to see how she took her music to a whole new level with her live show. Her music sounded so much bigger, expansive, richer and complex live than on her studio albums. Moreover, her live energy was explosive, even reminiscent of Hayley Williams (of Paramore fame).

All in all, Eliie Goulding had great charm and clearly enjoyed performing, and her infectious energy in turn made it especially fun and enjoyable for all present. With “Lights” as her final euphoric song, she left everyone without a doubt that she could just very well be the reigning queen of the current crop of synth rock songstresses.

(Melissa Ng)

Thanks to Dan Gordon (Now/Live) for making this review possible.

 

 

INSTANT SPECIES – THIS ROME… [REVIEW]

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Nothing quite compares to a British pop band trading in the fine legacy of Britpop and being able to make the connections between The Kinks and Blur and beyond. Instant Species has been around since 1997 and according to its official site, “we’ve made music we love, played gigs to entertain people and released records with an enormous sense of pride. It’s more than a hobby but it’s far from a career and it’s always fun. We don’t have a “plan” or “bid to be” anything other than 4 blokes playing some music we hope is half decent.”

More than “half-decent” I’d say — This Rome… is the quartet’s new album (#8) and it is chock full of catchy tunes, spiky rhythms and an edgy pop smart attitude. It’s clear from songs like the languid “Rise of the Idiot”, the bouncy “Simple Repetition”, the chirpy title track and the garage-y “I Need A Little Help” that the band writes and records the kind of music it loves without any thought about trends. Essential for fans of classic British pop music.

 

HOT NUN [REVIEW]

No frills melodic rock n’ roll is the only item on the Hot Nun agenda and why the hell not? With a bio that declares that rock is not dead, Jeff Shelton (guitars, vocals, bass) and Braden McGraw (drums) keep things simple and straightforward on this eponymous debut. With eight songs that celebrate “The Spirit of ’76”, the album is aimed directly at classic rock n roll lovers and fans of Cheap Trick, KISS, T. Rex and Glam-era Bowie. Rollicking numbers like “Who Do You Love” and “Fight Fight Fight” will get adrenaline pumping easy enough. No denying the sheer power of this uncanny album, with the faithful rendition of Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” the perfect touchstone of what Hot Nun is all about.

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THE GREAT SPY EXPERIMENT – LITMUS [REVIEW]

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Six years in the making, the sophomore effort of The Great Spy Experiment arrives with the band a completely different entity to what it was when I first met Saiful, Fandy, Song, Khai and Mag in the rehearsals for Singapore Day in 2007. Interim period has seen marriages, children and daily challenges with the ubiquitous work-life balance. Factor in the creative musical need of recording artists and things no doubt become complicated.

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FUZZY VOX – TECHNICOLOR [REVIEW]

The French rock n’ roll band known as Fuzzy Vox behaves as if no new music was made after 1969! This myopic vision provides incredible focus as this five-track EP amply demonstrates. The music here is simple yet powerful, straight-forward and visceral. If push came to shove, probably the most accurate reference point would be the first Stooges album. Sure, one could also point to the influences of the mod greats (The Who) and blues-rock legends (The Rolling Stones) but there’s a basic garage-punk energy that suggests Iggy and his band of freaks held greater sway. In the modern context, The Hives come to mind immediately and every other garage-punk revivalist you would care to mention. The scintillating cover of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” provides a clarity of purpose, translated well on the meaty title track, the beaty “Same Old Story”, the big “I’ll Be Gone” and the bouncy “Hurricane”. Pure & easy.

Listen to “I’d Be Gone” and the rest of the EP at Soundcloud.

Like Fuzzy Vox at Facebook | Buy the EP at Deezer

 

 

MY BLOODY VALENTINE – m b v [REVIEW]

MBV (Front)

After a wait of 22 years, without much fanfare, comes the third My Bloody Valentine album. The first three songs – “She Found Now”, “Only Tomorrow” and “Who Sees You” – sound like the band have always been around (which is probably true, legacy-wise) with the noise-drenched indie pop fans have come to know and love. Then we get “If This & Yes” which sounds uncannily like a Beach Boys outtake from the mid-60s (or a High Llamas track – same difference), eschewing guitars for keyboards. From then on, the agenda is to subvert expectations somewhat with sonic explorations of a similar vein (“If I Am” and “A New You”) and foot firmly off the distortion pedals. The final trio of songs (“In Another Way”, “Nothing Is” and “Wonder 2”) get decidedly experimental in terms of guitar textures and rhythmic expression. All of which makes for an intriguing comeback and fairly worth the prolonged wait!

Official Site

BAYBEATS AUDITIONS 2013: ROUND TWO [REVIEW]

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Just got back from the Round Two of the Baybeats Auditions 2013 and we wanted to put out a quick response whilst our thoughts and feelings are fresh in my mind. This is the seventh year of the Baybeats Auditions where young local bands are given an opportunity to showcase their talents during one the largest alternative rock music festivals in the region. This year’s slate of hopefuls have thrown up a diverse array of bands/artists signaling a sea change in the very definition of alternative rock music.

First off, we want to congratulate all 16 bands for giving it their best shot. It is instructional to note that playing at the Baybeats Festival is not the be-all-and-end-all for aspiring bands/artists although it can be a useful launching platform for a new band. It is heartening to see the different bands provide a snapshot of what can be available in the S-ROCK scene in the years to come. we want to highlight bands that – in our humble opinion – represent exciting prospects for S-ROCK.

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SAPPORO SAFARIS “FIGURES OF EIGHT” LAUNCH [REVIEW]

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Photos courtesy of Sapporo Safaris/Goh Liang Bao

First off, let me get something off my chest. The SCAPE Gallery is a horrible avenue for live rock music performance. No two ways about it – the sound was so harsh and unbalanced at the venue that I felt physically nauseous at times. Which is a pity because certainly the four bands that played at this gig deserved a much friendlier platform to showcase their music. But there you go…

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ST. JEROME’S LANEWAY FESTIVAL 2013 SINGAPORE [REVIEW]

Photo by Nina Sandejas c/o Chugg Entertainment
Photo by Nina Sandejes c/o Chugg Entertainment

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM!

There is little doubt that St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival (Singapore edition) has become a landmark indie music event in SE Asia since it made its debut in 2011. Fans from all over the region flock to our shores to catch a glimpse of indie artists/bands hand-picked by the team at Chugg Entertainment. With the recent deluge of performances available to Singaporean music lovers, it is sometimes easy to take an event like the Laneway Festival for granted. After all, it’s not often that a true blue music fan gets to watch 14 bands/artists in a single day in Singapore and for a reasonable price (especially in the context of today’s rock concert market).

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IDENTITE 8.4: BIG NIGHT OUT LAUNCH PARTY [REVIEW]

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Dan Chan, frontman of Xingfoo&Roy brings us his unique perspective of being a performer and audience member at Identite 8.4

I met Amir through a fellow local musician named Chris(also known as Bravepaper). After exchanging emails, Amir asked if our band would like to play at Homeclub’s Identite 8.4 and we gladly accepted!

We played Homeclub’s Big Night Out Launch party along with The Livid Suns and Deon Toh on the 25th (last Friday) and it was great. A fairy large crowd showed up and The Livid Suns kicked the party off with some of their original tracks. Ending with a cover of “Gold Lion” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their fierce musical style reminded me of comparable local acts such as Fire Away! Samson and Caracal.

Xingfoo&Roy played next and we can’t express the amount of gratitude we have towards Homeclub and the crowd. The crowd was warm and cheerful which vanished our anxiety almost immediately. The sound was also the best we’d ever had, so props to Homeclub for that! The show was amazing mainly due to the crowd as they danced and sang along to our songs. Pleasing the crowd drove us to play so much better than we ever have.

Ending the event with a mix of alternative-pop tracks was singer songwriter Deon Toh. Deon sang as his backing band complemented his songs. His creamy and soothing voice toned the mood down quite a fair bit and left the audiences bobbing their heads to a set of his original songs which included the catchy, “Little Lives” and they ended with a cover of a Band Of Horses song. Deon Toh is a very talented individual with an immense amount of soul and we hope to hear more from him in the near future.

On the whole, Identite 8.4 was a success and we’d love to thank Homeclub for being such a great contribution to the thriving local music scene.

BORED SPIES – “SUMMER 720” B/W 沙鼠E [REVIEW]

Who are Bored Spies? Well, think of the trio (Cherie Ko, Sooyoung Park & Morfin) as some kind of off-the-wall Canadian-Korean-Singaporean musical venture that somehow perfectly falls into contemporary indie rock space circa 2013. Privileged as always to be slightly ahead of the game, I am listening to the debut single from Bored Spies and marveling at the immediacy and intricacy of the music – sweet yet brash, bold yet amiable – full of contrasting hues and yet dead-eyed focused on heart and soul.

“Summer 720” opens with a psychedelic rock motif that would not be out of place on a Jefferson Airplane record before Ko’s languid vocals pulls us violently into the present and the so-called retro-wave, where high treble guitar arpeggios provide relevant soundscapes. A brilliant summer anti-anthem for the 360 degree summer nation (720 is 360 doubled, geddit???).

“沙鼠E” is a slowburn 90s alt-rock channeling number where bass chords, guitar riffs, synthesized string attack, tempo shifts and Ko’s swooning vocals produces a bittersweet effect. With soaring musical phrases to keep one’s attention, it’s gone too soon after it begins, leaving the listener bereft and begging for more.

Simply brilliant.

Bored Spies’ “Summer 720” b/w 沙鼠E will be released on 25th January 2013.

Official Site | Facebook | Twitter

 

IDENTITE 8.3: THE OTHER SOUNDS LAUNCH PARTY [REVIEW]

ScotDrakula
ScotDrakula

Yes, this review is a little late. Yes, I had loads of fun with friends and new acquaintances, not to mention the delivery of good good music. What else do you need to know?

Upfront let me just say that congratulations are in order to Other Sounds for hosting a fabulous party. I mean, the food was simply yummy and even though I had dinner before I came, I still managed to polish a couple of burgers and pizza slices. So kudos! And… the free flow alcohol, courtesy of Asahi was much welcomed as well. Is the indie music scene coming of age. Step by step, in the right direction.

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THE PINHOLES “SUNSHINE” [REVIEW]

Sunshine Artwork2

The Pinholes have been active in the S-ROCK scene for some time now. Through personnel changes, singer and principal songwriter Famie Suliman remains the constant as the band continues to carry out its retro pop mission with aplomb and no small amount of fun.

The single “Sunshine” is The Pinholes’ opening salvo before the release of its debut full-length (sometime this year?) and this live favourite is given the happy production treatment its cheerful sound thoroughly deserves. Light-hearted and infectious, listeners are guaranteed a splendid 60s poppin’ time with this authentic pastiche/tribute to a special era.

“Sunshine” is now available from Bandcamp.

Official site.

ELLEN LOO + RIPPLES BAND – LIVE IN SINGAPORE [REVIEW]

Rockmui Ellen Loo

To be honest, I never expected to write this review. Up to the point that I received the email from Peipei (LIKES Communications), I had not even heard of Hong Kong/Canadian singer-songwriter Ellen Loo. And when Peipei invited me to catch Ellen’s show at the Esplanade Recital Studio, I was feeling a bit mixed. After all, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of Mandarin pop but I thought – “nothing ventured, nothing gained” – and I am so glad that I took the plunge.

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CLASSIC ALBUMS: DEPECHE MODE – SPEAK AND SPELL (1981) [REVIEW]

There are numerous landmarks achieved with this, the debut album of synth-pop combo, Depeche Mode. Released by Mute Records, it was a rare genuine indie album for its time. Speak and Spell contained also many songs which were amongst the first electronic numbers heard on the airwaves e.g. “New Life”, “Just Can’t Get Enough” and my personal favourite, “Dreaming of Me”. The use of synthesizers instead of the usual guitar, bass and drums instrumentation was so refreshing back in 1981. But what made the music of early Depeche Mode so memorable and timeless are the brilliant songs. Pop songs filled with hooks that captured the imagination of the post-punk generation, and taking Kraftwerk’s uncompromising electronic agenda to its logical conclusion. The album was also the only Depeche Mode LP with then-prinicipal songwriter Vince Clarke (who’d go on with further success with Yazoo, The Assembly and Erasure). Martin Gore would come to the fore in Clarke’s absence, turning the outfit towards the darker material it would become world famous for in subsequent years. Three decades later, thanks to the post-punk revival, Speak and Spell is as relevant as it ever was. Essential.