LING KAI Honestly EP (Lempicka)
In many ways, Ling is already a Singapore music legend. Having attracted a million views to her youtube video of a performance of Larkin Step, Ling has reached a global audience most Singaporen musicians would have considered impossible.
After all, back in the early 90s, Singaporean singer-songwriters’ only avenue would have been selling their “homemade cookies” i.e. demo cassettes of lo-fi recordings at sympathetic music & book stores. How times have changed…
Naturally, that attention has brought Ling the ability to turn down a couple of major labels. Instead, the student in her early twenties has opted instead for Aussie indie Lempicka Records, an outfit that specializes the kind of acoustic music that Ling excels in. The result, her debut EP, Honestly.
Opening with a piano and a violin, is perhaps a good way to subvert expectations for this acoustic folkie although it does give the listeners what they anticipated ultimately. The melancholy tone that permeates this song will “thrill” the angsty teen in us all – “You are better off without me/And I knew from the day that I realized/Being with you was giving up everything love stood for” Easy on the ear and mind.
Ling stretches her musical palette a little to incorporate tiny jazz flourishes – not to mention A minor flamenco touches – in this breakup song. Ling vocalizes where a trumpet should be – until a real trumpet solo comes along with a bizarre psychedelic section. Interesting.
More trumpet-mimickry highlights this jaunty jazz-pop tune about a dream-like Singaporean heartland, maybe? “Magazines, furniture catalogs and things/Fill up houses and dreams the head of dairy queens” – your guess is as good as mine. And yes, you WILL be singing along before long – “Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Paaa”.
A brilliant evocation of a film noir soundtrack. Torchy and extremely old-school. The song appears to tell the story of a fiery romance gone wrong with the metaphors of “I’m the match and you’re the flame” succeeding well. Mature songwriting on the level of say, Elvis Costello. Impressive.
The one that started it all. The strength of which hinges on the opening guitar chord sequence which is rather sticky on the memory. Subtly simple in execution with violent imagery expressed – “Life comes along and it trickles down the cheeks of every beautiful boy/Time moves along and it breaks every bone in your spine”. Harsh sentiments for someone still so young.
My personal favorite. Melodic folk that hearkens back to that classic 70s singer-songwriter era. Joni Mitchell, Carole King and even, Joan Boaz. Surely, this is where Ling’s current strength lies. With a voice that will melt hearts and words to match – “Sometimes I wanna be alone/I pushed your number on the phone/And hang up once you’re there”.
With admirable economy, this EP fills the gaps with choice strings, staccato trumpets and copious amounts of acoustic guitar. A milestone in Singapore music history in more ways than one. I believe that this is only the beginning for Ling…
Check out Ling’s Myspace page.