CSS Donkey (Sub Pop)

Means Cansei de Ser Sexy (or tired of being sexy in Portuguese), if you’ve always wondered. Thank goodness the world is getting smaller so that we music fans can enjoy bands like CSS, who hail from Brazil!

Like the excellent MGMT, CSS (sense a trend?) indulges in a spot of indie-electronica which is extremely danceable and hot to trot! Best part, the guitars take centrestage with the synths providing support, which is definitely the way I like it. 

With songs like Let’s Reggae All Night, Left Behind (“Gonna dance my ass off till I die”) and Beautiful Song, the concerns of CSS are not too cerebral but are more concerned with getting our collective booties shakin’ but nobody really minds. 

Pretty irresistible. Don’t give it a chance in your iPOD if you’re easily embarrassed by a spontaneous burst of dancing. You have been warned.

Check out CSS Myspace page.


THE BRILLIANT MISTAKES Distant Drumming (Self released)

Wow, I really love authentic country rock – not the anemic Eagles variety – but the Gram Parsons’ Cosmic American Music type. Glad to report that the Brilliant Mistakes take their nod to Gram’s legacy seriously.

Thus, Distant Drumming is a intriguing collection of well crafted rock songs with a healthy twangy bent and reminiscient of similar efforts by Neil Young, Teenage Fanclub, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Wilco, the Jayhawks and so forth. The title track is an absolute gem (and recalls early 70s Beach Boys!)

Competent, dependable, comfortable and familiar all the way through.

Check our Brilliant Mistakes’ Myspace page.


SOFT TARGETS Heavy Rainbow (Cloud 13)

Y’know, with each succeeding generation of young rockers, I get increasingly amazed at the sheer buffet of influences and genres that get mashed up and served up to oblivious modern audiences.

Take Tallahassee, FL trio Soft Targets, with their wilful mix-up of Bowie, the Smiths, the Cure, 60s Northern Soul and 80s British twee pop. Best part is that everything is arranged with the core three-piece in mind (i.e. guitar, bass and drum) – quite a wonder to behold actually.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Jesse Corry is indeed talented enough to pull off his eclectic ambitions with aplomb, with the crucial assistance from Nathan Sadler (bass) and Steven Gillespie (drums). I’m certain that Soft Targets must be an awesome live act if this wonderful album is anything to go by. 

For indie pop fans with an open mind.

Check out Soft Targets Myspace page.


JARED MEES AND THE GROWN CHILDREN Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, Money (Tender Loving Empire)

How many indie musicians do you know who infuse country folk music with an enthusiastic punk rock verve? I don’t know many, but Jared Mees and his band, The Grown Children, would rank amongst them. On his newest release after last year’s If You Wanna Swim With The Sharks, Jared Mees is an infectiously energetic voice of hollering giddy glee reminiscent of Joe Strummer, over the bright sounding country folk of The Grown Children. He is ably backed up on vocals by his wife, Megan, who matches her husband ounce for ounce in terms of sheer enthusiasm. It should be pretty safe to say that the couple didn’t bond over a mutual pondering of existential angst. 

The Grown Children themselves are a schizophrenic mass of vibrant riotous fun. Reading their Myspace band description is more like reading a high school class list than a band profile; these people exchange instruments like saliva at a Christmas mistletoe party. One would think such inconsistency would cause a band to fall into helpless amateurism, but I suspect that the amorphous nature of The Grown Children lineup actually plays a huge part in their sound. It’s reflected in the non sequitur nature of the album title, which reads like an adult update of the ingredients that made the Powerpuff Girls: Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, Money. 

Mees himself translates his vocal enthusiasm into his lyrics, with little snippets of narrative that sounds like they could have been taken right out of a conversation. Wordplay is rife on this album, and listeners who appreciate the cleverness of words that are strung appropriately (or inappropriately, at times) will enjoy tracks such as album opener Bees, which is clever in its wordplay without ever reaching the point of grandiloquence. The Tallest Building In Hell is itself restrained brilliance, its success to be found in the conversational tone that frames the absurd comedy of the lyrics. Excellent Time is a catchy acoustic punk sing-along tune, rather like an unplugged Green Day.  

Strong Black Coffee is pure country in the way every college student can relate to the opening line of “I drank pots and pots and pots and pots of strong black coffee, trying to keep my sleepy soul awake. But the sleepiness still comes along and when it does its fast and strong, I end up with a bad case of the shakes!” Wetting Down The Dirt is easily the most country tune on the album, and is quite literally drippin’ with jangly folk sentiment. There are also three bonus tracks on the album that are not listed, which are also worth checking out. 

One gets the feeling that Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, Money is what you would get if you crossed Bob Dylan with The Libertines and took the result on a roller coaster coffee-high. Comedic by turns and brilliant by whole, this is indie-rock at its very best: irreverent, rootsy but still oh-so relevant. 

(Samuel C Wee)
Check out Jared Mees’ Myspace page.


The Stars’ gig at the Esplanade Concert Hall is less than three weeks away! I understand that limited tickets remain unsold so there’s still time to book your place at one of the highlight concerts of 2009 (or any other year, for that matter).

Here’s a lookback at Star’s album discography so that we can get a little sense of what to expect.

Electronica-based songs dominated the sound of Stars when they released Nightsongs in 2001. Lush and elegant, songs like Going Going Gone and Tonight remain on the band’s current set list. Notable tracks also include On Peak Hill, The Very Thing and a cover of the Smiths’ This Charming Man. Fans of soft and twee pop will do well to check it out.

Heart followed two years later (in 2003). Not much change from Nightsongs as electronica still rules.That said, the sound is markedly edgy despite the presence of many many twee pop moments. Amy Millan comes on board to provide a counterpoint to Torq Campbell’s breathy vocals. Only Elevator Love Letter survives at live performances.

Set Yourself On Fire, Stars’ breakthrough album (2005) starts out with a significantly altered sound from its predecessors with real instruments viz. guitars, horns, strings and harmonicas. But it is when the band discovers good old rock ‘n’ roll that their career truly takes off as Ageless Beauty’s energy and guile lifts them into worldwide prominence (not to mention a prestigious JUNO nomination). Amy Millan’s vocal is simply heavenly. An indie anthem that marks the rest of the album, of which many tracks are, as you can imagine, still played live by the band e.g. Your Ex-Lover Is Dead and Set Yourself On Fire.

This 2007 album – In Our Bedroom After the War – develops the direction brought forth by Set Yourself on Fire – the heady melange of indie rock guitar and electronica. As immediate as much of its predecessor was, Stars are on a bit of a roll, with songs like The Night Starts Here, The Ghose of Genova Heights and Take Me To The Riot being firm live favorites. Again, Amy Millan is in superb voice especially on tracks like My Favourite Book.

If you’re on a budget, then I would recommend that last two albums as perfect appertisers for the upcoming gig. Get your tickets from SISTIC.


FALL OUT BOY Folie a Deux (Universal)

“Nobody wants to hear you sing about tragedy”

The reason behind the success of emo punk pop monsters Fall Boy Out is evident enough. A keen awareness of what make pop works. Hooks hooks hooks and more hooks. And dollops of creative plagiarism.

I mean, is that the chord riff from The Who’s Baba O’Riley in Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes? And more classic rock riffage on lead single I Don’t Care. Or how about the vocal intro scat to the cooly titled She’s My Winona (an 80s phenomenon – heh!). And, Beach Boys by way of ELO backing vocals on the blue-eyed soulful America’s Suitehearts. 

I think you get the idea. It’s obvious that Fall Out Boy has pulled out all the stops to make Folie a Deux as accessible as possible. Which is not necessarily the act of dumbing down but it does mean the band has somewhat reduced the eccentricities of previous works. Which to me is fine though hardcore fans may find a little disconcerting.

Notable is the epic power pop ballad What A Catch, Donnie (recalling Eric Carmen/Raspberries) featuring a vocal cameo from no less than Elvis Costello. Quite an endorsement. I like!

Ultimately, that’s what I dig about Folie a Deux, its ecleticism and a twisted commitment to classic pop melody. Impressive.

And a word from the concert promoters: – FREE Fall Out Boy CD “Folie a Deux” for every S$98 (free standing) ticket purchase only. Applicable till 23 Dec 2008 only. Redeem your free copy of the Fall Out Boy’s new album, “Folie a Deux” by 26 Dec 2008 at HMV Heeren Only.

Tickets available now at SISTIC.


Photo by Lisa Schaffer. www.skylerbug.com
Photo by Lisa Schaffer. www.skylerbug.com

Jim Boggia has been consistently delivering authentic pop classicism for quite a while now. Jim shares with us his PoP10.

1. Why play music?
It beats taxidermy.

2. Who are your influences?
The Beatles. The Kinks. Randy Newman. Harry Nilsson. The Faces. Carl Stalling. The bridge to the theme from the original Bob Newhart show (particularly the version used in the third season, though the rest of the theme was better in the version used in the first season), Jack Nitzsche, George Carlin, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Kurt Vonnegut, Sesame Street, Vince Guaraldi, Thelonius Monk, the guy who played piano on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, my cats.

3. What is success?
It’s what failure looks like in the mirror.

4. Why should people buy your music?
As opposed to buying other people’s music or as opposed to stealing my music? For the latter, music is now a micro economy and one that is very close to total collapse. If someone’s music moves you somehow – support it in every way you can or soon it will not be there. As for the former, you should probably buy a few Dylan albums if you don’t already own them before buying my music. Yes, Dylan first, then Boggia.

5. Who do you love?
Clearly, the answer here is Bo Diddley.

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?
That’s changed over time. Basically, I’ve scaled back from an initial desire for world domination to a more recent hope of remembering the words to the songs.

7. Who comes to your gigs?
Hopefully, people who know the words to the songs for when I forget them.

8. What is your favorite album?
That’s nearly impossible. Here are a few good ones: Revolver – The Beatles, Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society – The Kinks, Nilsson Sings Newman – Harry Nilsson, Sail Away – Randy Newman, Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel, Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan, Tonight’s the Night – Neil Young. If none of those work for you, you could always go with Texas Funeral by Jon Wayne (that’s not a typo, it’s Jon).

9. What is your favorite song?
That IS impossible. ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson 5 is pretty good. If that doesn’t work for you, you could always go with ‘Texas Funeral’ by Jon Wayne (that’s still not a typo). Actually, now that I 
think of it, it might be ‘Nature Boy’ written by Eden Ahbez.

10. How did you get here?
Either walking or Public Transportation.

Jim’s new album Misadventures in Stereo is out now.

BEST OF 2008

By Charlotte Lourdes

5. VAL EMMICH Little Daggers

Emmich has a voice that takes you by surprise if you’re used to judging a book by its cover. It’s full of emotion, deep and even holds a teasing quality. Track after track on this album is melodious, acoustically creative and does not disappoint if you’re up for catchy, lyrically stimulating tunes. Emmich has received a wider fan base since appearing on the series Ugly Betty and the songs performed on the show have been in great demand. My personal favourite is his rendition of Tom Petty’s American Girl – which is unfortunately not on this album but has definitely put him on my radar as an artist to be taken seriously.

4. DUFFY RockFerry

An album that is reminiscent of the swinging, soulful, motown era, it also speaks of a sense of self-awareness in the tracks belted out by this Welsh newcomer. Often cited as channelling Dusty Springfield in her style, Aimee Ann Duffy is definitely one to look out for if this album is anything to go by.

3. GLASVEGAS – Glasvegas

A band from Glasgow that had me hooked when I first heard Daddy’s Gone in late 2007. With a Doo-Wop style, charged with heavy guitars, harmonizing and a thick accent painting pictures with emotionally stimulating lyrics, this 4 piece band has received rave reviews for the 3 singles which are thankfully included in this debut album: Geraldine, My Own Cheating Heart and of course Daddy’s Gone. Flowing from luminous, shimmery melancholy to emotionally charged sadness – this album has every track taking you to a place of your interpretation with James Allan and the band’s vocal and musical direction as a guide.

2. ELBOW The Seldom Seen Kid

This Mercury Music Prize winning band (beating out Radiohead and the likes), have been around for almost 18 years. This album – their fourth, solely funded and produced, has begun to see the commercial success that has been eluding them for years. Alternative, with a signature style infusing strings, keyboards, steel guitars and echoic vibrations and vocals, it’s an out of body experience that gives you just enough rope to still feel your feet on the ground. Worthy of mention are One Day Like ThisWeather To Fly and Grounds For Divorce.


They’re from New Jersey and they carry with them the Springsteen benchmark – the difference with Brian Fallon and the guys though, lies with the fact that they’re doing it right. Keeping it simple but cranking it up with their brand of originality. And this coming from a fan of The Boss – this album was like a super-charged walk down Born to Run from the early 70’s. Every track on this is worth losing your working class hopes and dreams to.


Okay, here’s some priority booking information on Ani’s Singapore show in Feb 2009 from our good friends Greenhorn Productions (and yes, it’s all in caps)




So don’t hesitate, get your tickets while hot…(sorry, could not resist).


PAUL SIMON Live From Philadelphia GHL (Eagle Rock)

Eagle Rock has been on a hot streak delivering classic 80s concerts of such music luminaries as Queen and Earth Wind & Fire. Add this Paul Simon concert in Philadelphia from 1981 to the list. With a crack band backing Simon on his sophisticated jazz-folk pop material, Simon churns out fan faves like Still Crazy After All These Years, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and Late in the Evening. But of course the most enthusiastic response is for his popular hits The Boxer and The Sound of Silence.

Definitely one for the fans.



AMOS LEE Last Days At the Lodge (Blue Note)

Philadelphia folk maestro Amos Lee completes his triad of studio records with this current offering. 

Lee is no stranger to the limelight. Some of you might recognize his track Colors, which has received airplay during episodes of House, as well as the finale of the second season of Grey’s Anatomy. He’s also played several big-ticket gigs: Austin City Limits, The Tonight Show and even at Abbey Road for the Live at Abbey Road series et al. as well as toured with Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan.

Travelling in such eminent company has had a profoundly apparent influence on Lee’s songcraft. Last Days At The Lodge is a soulful gumbo of grassroots jazz served up with a dollop of southern blues squash, running the gamut from Buddy Guy, to Johnny Winter, to Thelonius Monk.

Not to insinuate any degree of sonic mimicry though, the songs off this album stand alone as exceedingly well-crafted, by virtue of their own merits.

Breezily dealing with personal struggle and observational musing, and replete with carefully timed vocal cues that steer decidedly ruminative lyrics, Last Days At The Lodge stands as a flagbearer for contemporary singer-songwriter pop. That’s right you geeetar pickers: This is how it should be done.

(Sherwin Tay)

Check out Amos Lee’s Myspace page.



THE SECRET HISTORY Desolation Town EP (Le Grand Magistery)

Desolation Town is the debut EP of NYC’s The Secret History. The comparisons made to The Smiths and Roxy Music seem warranted with the storytelling, dream-like flow evident in each track. The theme of the EP seems almost nostalgic – sprayed with messages tinged in light hearted moodiness, accompanied with radio friendly beats and riff. Worthy of mention of course is Lisa Ronson’s (daughter of the legendary Mick Ronson) effortless weaving of the tone of each track and her echo-filled harmonizing that catches you pleasantly by surprise when she slides into verses of strong proclamation. It reminded me almost of a very early Natalie Merchant.

The riffs in a couple of the tracks – most notably on the intro It’s Not The End of The World, Jonah and Obelisk/Mark and John were anointed with a bluesy-pop touch that is very fetching.

All in all, a great marriage of Michael Grace Jr’s sound and direction with Ronson’s ability to steer each unique wave to tell of different places, different faces and different spaces.

(Charlotte Lourdes)

Check out the Secret History’s MySpace Page.


Laurie Biagini is a fairly new name in the Pop Underground but certainly a welcome addition to the canon of modern sunshine pop. Biagini gives us the skinny on her PoP10.

1. Why play music? 

I love to create new music based on my favorite styles from the past.  

2. Who are your influences?

The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Jan & Dean, The Mamas & The Papas, The Monkees, The Carpenters. 

3. What is success? 

Success is the outcome of following your passion and seeing it through to a tangible result – a sense of accomplishment. 

4. Why should people buy your music? 

People who love the sound of harmony rich, melodic pop of the sixties, and are craving more should buy my music, and hopefully they will enjoy what they hear. 

5. Who do you love? 

I love my family and friends. 

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

I hope to entertain people who enjoy the genre of music that I create, and in the process hopefully influence the younger generation to appreciate this style as well. 

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Friends and fellow musicians who appreciate melodic pop music. 

8. What is your favorite album?

The Beach Boys – Endless Summer

9. What is your favorite song?

Car Crazy Cutie – The Beach Boys

10. How did you get here?

From writing my first song just over 2 years ago, to all the radio airplay, and finally finishing and releasing my album, this is how I got to where I am now. 

Laurie Biagini’s album, Ridin’ the Wave is out now.

MY ONE & ONLY 2008

Here it is, a video teaser for the upcoming watchmen@midnight Ep. 

Featuring James Lye (electric guitar), Brian Koh (bass), Low Han Quan (drums), Esther Low (keyboards, vocals) and Kevin Mathews (vocals, acoustic guitar).

Special thanks to Fong Cheng, Felicia and of course, Ric.

… and there’s more …

BEST OF 2008


By Samuel C Wee


10. AC/DC-Black Ice

With Black Ice, AC/DC mounted a massive demonstration of the possibilities of the three primary colors of rock: guitar, bass and drums. When you consider the average age of the band, that’s a stupendous feat. 

9. U2-Boy

Not really a 2008 album per se, but the digitally crisp remaster was so gorgeous in its rendering of The Edge’s original echoing work, I had to include this one. 

8. Firebrands-First The Flash Then The Pulse

Local bad boys Firebrands shake off the black sheep reputation to turn in an album as explosive as their moniker. High on production values and headbanging numbers, low on the snooze factor, which can only be a good thing for rock and roll. 

7. Lambchop-OH(Ohio)

Gorgeously blending several genres into a distinctive slow burn is Lambchop, with their lush soundscapes, easy melodies and narrative lyrics that retain a touch of humor. Bittersweet at times, gorgeously evocative at others, and beautiful throughout. 

6. Keane-Perfect Symmetry

That’s much to be said for a band who can make synthesizers and electric guitars sound like a new invention. With Perfect Symmetry, Keane took a step back into the 80s while simultaneously capturing the ethos of this digital generation. 

5. Val Emmich-Little Daggers

 Bright, catchy, soulful melodies combined with dark, emotive and occasionally angsty lyrics to produce an excellent full-bodied album. Get On With It alone is worth the price of entry.

4. The Lard Brothers-Forest Action Team

Which stroke of insane genius gave these F.A.T lads the chutzpah to reinvent local anthems? It wasn’t enough that they had to produce a star-studded album that was overflowing with brilliance in its creative adaptations of familiar local songs, they had to give it away free. 

3. The Killers-Day And Age

The Killers may be many things, but boring is not one of them. And on this new release that combines the masculine testosterone of Sam’s Town with the Brit-rock of their Hot Fuss, they prove again why so many fell in love with their synthesizer laden brand of hook-based rock. 

2. Kings Of Leon-Only By The Night

The Followill brothers have been threatening to break into the mainstream for some time, and with Only By The Night they accomplished it with a combination of bluesy stompin’ numbers, country rock and sheer panache. And who could ignore that howling soulful voice, one moment a broken-hearted wind, the next a snarling narrator of lust and desire?

1. LIME-Smells Like Indie Spirit

Okay, this isn’t really a normal album. (One would argue that the digital mp3 format of the CD that was distributed would disqualify it from being an album at all.) But for the mass communication efforts launched by LIME to gather the best that the Singapore scene has to offer and make it readily available to the public at a dirt-cheap price, this gets my vote for favorite album of 2008.



FUNERAL PARTY Bootleg EP (Fearless)

Following in the vein of electronica-infused post-punk rock popularized by The Bravery is L.A. based band, Funeral Party. Their formula of Eno-style keyboard invention, liquid guitar soundscapes and catchy punch-the-air lyrics are a recipe for youth anthems, and it’s no surprise that over in L.A they have developed quite a following.  Their EP offering, Bootleg, is an enjoyable 3-track selection fresh with the heady scent of college freedom that is sure to resonate with youngsters, but with track titles like NYC Moves To The Sound Of LA, they’re unlikely to impress even the most plebeian of rock snobs. But that’s alright, mama, because as the corporate record executives like to preach, target market is everything. 

EP opener, Carwars is deeply reminiscent of bands such as The Killers or The Bravery with its fuzzed-out vocals, danceable guitar hooks and effects-bending guitar solo, while Chalice is a stomping headbanger that puts the electric into electro. The aforementioned NYC track is itself a deeply addictive, rhythmic concoction of visceral grooves and body-invading drums, topped off by a catchy bridge designed for crowd-pleasing (unless you happen to be a resident of the Big Apple, that is.) 

In summary, this is a very enjoyable EP that cleverly taps on the zeitgeist of the times and turns in a neat balance between pop catchiness and electronic experimentation.  

(Samuel C Wee)

Check out Funeral Party’s Myspace page.



Jeff Shelton is a pop underground luminary known for his work with Spinning Jennies and the Well Wishers. Jeff graciously shared with us his comments on the PoP10.

1. Why play music?
I do it because it’s in me. I didn’t start playing guitar and writing songs until I was about 18 or 19 years old. Music was always in me…it just took the first half of my life to realize I could actually learn to express it! At some point anyone’s inherent “talent” finds a way to manifest itself. What’s truly sad are those who feel they have it but don’t reach into themselves to bring it out. 

2. Who are your influences?
I love everything….from the Beach Boys to Black Sabbath…Mozart to Miles Davis; but as a musician and songwriter, most influence flows downhill from the Beatles. I get inspiration from just about every decade …with the most influential being the 80s and early 90s. I grew up listening to 80s modern rock with the cornerstone bands of my youth being REM, The Smiths, The Cure, Husker Du, X and others. In the 90s it was pivotal power pop bands like The Posies, Sloan, Redd Kross, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, and many others. All those bands and genres shaped my musical background. I love the dark moody post-punk of bands like the Chameleons and Killing Joke as much as a cheery 3-minute pop song.

3. What is success?
I received two emails recently from two people I did not know who went out of their way to find me and tell me how much my music meant to them. When music becomes more than just background noise…when it really reaches to people and makes them feel more than what is on a superficial level, that’s the golden ticket. The fact that two random people conveyed this to me completely justifies everything I’ve ever done musically. And for that, I can be eternally grateful!

4. Why should people buy your music?
So I can send my kids to college 

5. Who do you love?
God. Family. Friends. (is there anything else?)

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?
As I alluded in question #3… the best I can hope for is that my music will reach out to someone in more than just a superficial way. If I can accomplish that – even with a few folks, then I feel I’ve achieved something.

7. Who comes to your gigs?
I don’t currently play live (as I don’t have a backing band). In the past (with Spinning Jennies) it was the die-hards…and on down nights it was usually just the drunk at the bar, the drummer’s girlfriend selling merch…and the other bands on the bill that night.

8. What is your favorite album?
POSIES – Dear 23

9. What is your favorite song?
“God Only Knows” Brian Wilson

10. How did you get here?
On a hippy trailhead full of zombies …. or was it The Magic Bus?

The Well Wishers’ album Jigsaw Days is out now.


LAURIE BIAGINI Ridin’ the Wave (Self released)

As an avid Beach Boys fan, it is always re-assuring and comforting to know that the Beach Boys remain high on the agenda on numerous modern-day musicians’ list of influences and inspirations. Already this year, you can point to the sterling work of the Fleet Foxes and the Explorers Club as proof positive of this phenomenon.

Add British Columbia native Laurie Biagini to the burgeoning list. In fact, listening to Ridin’ the Wave, you’d be convinced that Biagini is a lost-long Wilson offspring or distant relative (at least). Focusing on the Beach Boys 70s output, where Dennis and Carl Wilson held greater sway over the Beach Boys due to Brian Wilson’s health – there is a certain affinity to those classic Sunflower/Surf’s Up albums, not to mention traces of Dennis Wilson’s solo Pacific Ocean Blues. 

In addition, Biagini’s uncanny vocal invocation of the late great Karen Carpenter and Mama Cass, definitely brings in a different twist to the Beach Boys tribute that unfolds over the course of this wonderful album. The 16 tracks on display here (including Bambuzled – a heartfelt tribute to Dennis Wilson) effortlessly seque into one another like a seamless heady stream of sunshine pop extacy.

My only reservation is that the music sounds like a little “canned” and lacks the immediency of a live performance, which I guess was a recording choice by Biagini. That said, if its melodic 60s/70s SoCal classic pop you want, then Ridin’ the Wave will scratch that itch and more…

Check out Laurie Biagini’s Myspace page.


THE WELL WISHERS Jigsaw Days (Self-released)

Jeff Shelton (aka The Well Wishers) has been consistently churning out these power pop/jangle rock nuggets with his old band Spinning Jennies and The Well Wishers solo vehicle for years now. By and large, Shelton takes a dollop of REM and Guided By Voices references, and throws them all in the blender with a generous helping of Shelton’s own hugely melodic sensibilities.

In my opinion, Shelton is produced better GBV-centric material than Bob Pollard is managing at the moment. Songs like Conscience Breaking Down, Moving Mountains & I Don’t Know display the 60s Anglophile-leanings marked by the 80s alt-rock influence of the Dream Syndicate, REM and the Paisley Underground. 


Check out The Well Wishers’ Myspace page.


Emo megastars Fall Out Boy are returning to Singapore for their 2nd gig in 3 years at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. 

Ticket sales will coincide with the worldwide album launch of Folie a Deux on December 16, which will be given free to early bird buyers, for top-tier tickets.

“This is a first ever for Singapore, if not the world and is part of Midas’s efforts to help people deal with the economic downturn. It is our way of giving something back,” says Michael Hosking, Managing Director of Midas Promotions. 

Concert and Ticketing Information: 

Fall Out Boy – Live in Singapore
Date: 10th February 2009

Time: 8.00pm
Venue: Singapore Indoor Stadium 
Tickets: $ 58, $78,  $98  *Not inclusive of standard SISTIC fee. 

Tickets will go on sale Wednesday, 16th December 2008 at 9.00am for online booking and 10.00am at all authorised SISTIC outlets. 

CD Redemption Details : 

Early bird top-tier ticket buyers can redeem their free albums in exchange for their ticket stubs at HMV (only), at the Heeren.

Check out Fall Out Boy’s Myspace page where the new album is streaming in its entirety.


It’s Ling Kai’s turn in the PoP10 spotlight.

1. Why play music? 

Its the only way to say things that cannot be said otherwise. 

2. Who are your influences?

Anyone who connects, like a fist to your face, with their music and words. 

3. What is success? 

I tend to have a lot of self-doubt and paranoia, so success is when I am happy with my work, with no reservations whatsoever. 

4. Why should people buy your music? 

They should buy it because they like it! =)

5. Who do you love? 

Someone else who is the exact copy of myself, as egoistic as it sounds. But he has his flaws, just like mine. Its weird that way.

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

I really hope that people listen to it, and relate to whatever I’m writing about. They don’t neccessarily have to like it because I’m local, so as to support local music; but really like it for the music itself, you know?

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Anyone, from strange, lonely old men, to young, single office workers. Occasionally there are guys in skinny pants and girls with cool hair cuts; but they’re rare.

8. What is your favorite album?

It changes, but my all time favourite album, on regular rotation recently, is Aimee Mann’s Lost in Space. 

9. What is your favorite song?

Its Not, by Aimee Mann.

10. How did you get here? I have no idea actually.

Ask my mom and dad?  But I do know there’s only one way out of here. 

Ling Kai’s new EP, Honestly, is out now!


ANGELS & AIRWAVES NUS Cultural Centre 7th December 2008

It was a gig of many hits and a couple of misses.

The chosen venue (NUS UCC) was somewhat risky. Angels & Airwaves (AVA) was easily the 1st international band with a huge passionate fanbase to appear at UCC. The UCC models itself as a host of buttoned down arts events after The Esplanade. 

AVA is however a ROCK BAND, loud, solid and hard. And while The Esplanade has learned how to handle such acts, UCC has much to improve on in comparison. Among other things, crowd control was an obvious problem with $85 far-end ticket holders rushing forward into the $180+ stage-side areas.

On the band’s part, AVA was nearly impeccable. Tom DeLonge entertained, and pandered: a medley of songs from the Blink182 years was his hint to the fans that he knows his roots. (Judging by the loud echoes to Reckless Abandon, so do they!)

But with anthems like The Adventure, AVA laid down strong reminders on what everyone had came for.

A great night, a triumph for AVA, an OK (but could be better) start for UCC as a rock show venue.

(Thomas Tan)

I guess you could say that I’m less of a fan than Thomas and whilst it was obvious that the band was giving its fans they had come for, I wondered what the neutrals thought about Tom DeLonge’s juvenile frat-boy stage antics. Indulging in a little too much toilet humour for my taste, DeLonge’s in-between banter bordered on the puerile and stood in sharp contrast with the mature U2 meets Police sonic thrust of the band’s material. Perhaps a Blink reunion is not too far away from DeLonge’s mind as he tested the waters with a couple of Blink songs which had the rapturous crowd singing in wild abandon. That all said, apart from my stated reservations, a splendid time was had by all…

… and there’s more … 

Pix by Thomas Tan. See more here.


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.

Facebook Photograph

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”.

Midas Matches

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.

Larkin Step

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.


A Vacant Affair

A Vacant Affair


Music criticism can be a right old conumdrum sometimes, especially in the S-ROCK scene. As someone who is keenly aware on what goes on in the background of many gig organizations and also familiar with many of the parties who participate in such gigs, it isn’t easy to simply throw negative assessments into reviews based on assumptions and impressions. Then again, it does nobody any good to exagerrate events and performances just to paint a pretty picture. Thus, striking the balance is constantly on my mind when I write about the S-ROCK scene.

On Saturday (6 December), I hopped on the train at Bugis Station and made the “long” journey to Dover Station to arrive at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre just before six. Got my reserved ticket from Colleen (yes, I certainly could have gotten a comp ticket from the organizers but decided to fork out my 12 bucks) and waited whilst the opening of the doors was delayed due to technical glitches. 

Pause here. “Technical glitches” and “delay” tend to plague S-ROCK gigs due to a variety of reasons – teething pains of a fledging scene or symptoms of something more serious – I haven’t analysed yet. However, I understand that the organizers had only a week (!) to put the gig together (after having to postpone the earlier scheduled gig and that fact alone should put things into perspective.

On a practical note, the idea of eight bands in one event seems great on paper but… when you’re sitting in a fairly cold auditorium on an empty stomach… tends to get rather challenging after a while. Perhaps, less is more…

Anyways, I managed to catch the Fire Fight, Force Vomit, Jack and Rai, A Vacant Affair and Allura before I gave in to my body’s demands and left. Overall, I have to say that the bands really did their best to overcome certain sound issues – the guitar sound sucked, basically – and I will summarize what I thought of each performance accordingly…

The Fire Fight – it’s obvious that FF put considerable thought into their set. The songs – new and old – sequed into each other like a classical suite with Josh tying up the interludes with cryptic (for now) introductions. A great teaser for the upcoming debut album.

Force Vomit – Is Dino feeling his age? The lead Vomit passed a few remarks about how old audience members were in 1995 or 1998. Heh. Despite their status as a “veteran” band, Force Vomit rocked hard and fast with their garage-mat-rock hybrid. Record that third album, Dino!

Jack and Rai – Smart boys who keep things simple, 2 guitars and 2 vocals belting out a short set of by now familiar hit songs and a Coldplay hit that got a big reception (why must we reserve our biggest cheers for a non-Singaporean song – more of that in the Angels & Airwaves gig review). That said, it was satisfying to see how appreciated a tune like the Falala Song was… the power of radio, I guess.

A Vacant Affair – The boys got a spirited response from the crowd with the inevitable body surfing and timid moshing. Matt’s voice rang out clear through the turgid auditorium air like a hot knife through butter and held court with his movement and vocals. Melodic hardware is how I hear AvA and with their debut album being distributed by Universal, be sure you pick it up and catch AvA at the album launch at the Esplanade Recital Studio on 26 December.



Allura – The band waited patiently whilst video presentations of past (!) events were being shown and launched into a competent set let down by the poor guitar sound. Aaron looked particularly miffed at the lack of response his guitar was getting (especially, on Gamajazilion – my favorite track!). Despite all that, the band gave their all, Inch especially shining on the new song, Loose Change, showcasing how far she has grown in her vocal range. 

As usual, a quick shout out to Poh Choo, Edward, Syed, Beni, Esmond, Jon Hems et al.

… and there’s more …



LAMBCHOP OH (ohio) (Merge)

I would imagine Kurt Wagner, lead singer and central mythic figure of American band Lambchop, gives record executives nightmares. The conversation might go something like this: 

“Right, Jack, that new Lambchop record. We’ll stick an alt-country sticker on the front cover, alright?” 

“Alternative country? Gee, Bob, I don’t know. That opening track Ohio sounds like a bit of jazz and folk to me.”

 “Alright, fine, jazz and folk. We’ll market it as Kris Kristofferson in a bar lounge.”

“Hmm, yeah alright, but that track A Hold Of You sounds really soulful to me. You think we shall sell it as soul instead?”

“Yeah, soul is fine. So we’ll put a soul music sticker at the front like Marvin Gaye or something and–”

“Hang on, Bob, there’s a fair bit of funk on this track Popeye as well, you think we should mention that?”

“Okay, funk, funk is good, we’ll put an ad out in the papers and–”

“Gosh, this track “National Talk Like A Pirate Day” really does sound an awful lot like alternative country…”

“Jack, I need a drink.”

By now it should be pretty obvious that OH(Ohio), the latest offering by Nashville band Lambchop, is a genre-bending record that deftly blends together jazz, blues, folk and country with a heavy undercurrent of blue-eyed soul  What Jack and Bob up there fail to tell you is how darn enjoyable the album is. 

To be fair to poor Bob(who’s currently ingesting a copious amount of alcohol into his system), you’re not likely to find a Top 10 radio hit on the record. There are no wildly infectious hooks or headboppin’ catchy tracks. Instead, we have sweetly subtle melodies and light, unobtrusive harmonies like the ones on Slipped, Dissolved and Loosed, and full, slow burnin’ band soul love reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke on tracks like the aforementioned A Hold Of You.  

The seven-member strong band sound intuitive and comfortable enough to sparkle with an attractive looseness on tracks such as Sharing A Guitar With Martin Luther King Jr. National Talk Like A Pirate Day is another such track, brimming with raw trademark country energy reminiscent of Whiskeytown and humour that is all Kurt Warner. Warner himself is quietly brilliant throughout the record, his trademark staccato baritone anchoring the listener with an easy assurance at times, and phrasing a quiet lyrical thunderstorm on tracks like the simple yet powerful Please Rise.

In all, this is a gorgeously lush album that will go down well with listeners who like their music diverse. Warner is unmistakably the mastermind behind the record, but at the same time there is a positive air of collaboration that can only come from the easy charisma of a band that has learnt to play in the scales of the soul. The album is varied in its influences and stylings, but it never delves into schizophrenic territory, always retaining a strong sonic and lyrical identity. The energy never really rises above a quick brisk here, but its alright. This is music for the comfort of your living room, sounds of joy, love, grief and wonder that will evocate beautiful images in the theater of your home and your mind.  

(Samuel C Wee)

Check out Lampchop’s Myspace page.