This is special. I’ve first came across Esther Lowless back in 2007 as the frontperson of the now-defunct Indus Gendi and was duly impressed by her vocals, songwriting and keyboard playing. With respect to the last matter, enough to have her on board as part of The Groovy People and she contributed amazing vocal and keyboard parts to the Watchmen@Midnight EP. Since then, she’s gone on to be a side-woman of sorts in Monster Cat and DEON but finally, Esther Lowless steps out of the shadows and releases her debut EP, Strange Place to Meet, on 21st June.
But there’s more. Esther herself is also a freelance actress and in that spirit, decided that her project could serve as an “anthological mosaic of short films that displayed the brilliance of Singapore’s filmmakers” with the music films in Strange Place To Meet made possible by Henry Hiah, Leonard Soosay, Gerald Stahlmann, Sivaraj Pragasm, Wu Jun Han, and Esther herself.
To be released via http://www.youtube.com/user/estherlowlessmusic from 19th of May onwards, the 6 short films – visual representations of Esther’s songs – will lead up to the album launch of Strange Place To Meet, to be held at the Esplanade Recital Studio this 21st June 2013, 9pm. Tickets can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org one’s name, contact details, and number of tickets one wishes to purchase.
Apart from the launch, Esther will also be playing with a full band at Hood Bar and Cafe on the 18th of May 2013, 7.15pm, and three acoustic sets on Baybeats Day 3 (30th June 2013): one acoustic set at the Esplanade library at 3.30pm and two acoustic sets at the Chillout Stage at 7pm and 8.30pm.
Reviews to come. Suffice to say that Esther Lowless has truly evolved into a genuine art-rocker and the music on her EP will rather amazingly evoke the likes of Sakamoto, Massive Attack, Russian Circles and more. A truly scintillating EP!
The 90s alt-rock revival continues apace with singer-songwriter Sam Page weighing in with a knowing album of edgy melodic rock n’ roll numbers that bring to mind the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Gumball, Sebadoh and Buffalo Tom. There’s little doubt that J Mascis weighs in heavily as a positive influence on Page’s work as evidenced on tracks like “Hold On” and “Now I Know”. Page is less slacker-rock-intensive with more casual swagger that suggests several nods to Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
There’s an easy going charm in songs like “Tumbleweed in the Grand Scheme” and “Crush (Lovin’ You)” whilst other tracks like “I Don’t Want To Think About Her Anymore” and “Pheromones” have a cockeyed tongue-in-cheek attitude that recalls Canadian smart rockers The Pursuit of Happiness and even Elvis Costello, on some level.
All told, Breach is a solid rock n’ roll album of the old school variety, where the songs serve each other and the greater good as a whole. The lyrics are clever and pointed, the music is rollicking good fun and the attitude is always spot-on sardonic. Much to admire on Breach and always encouraging to see artists unafraid to follow their own muse, wherever it may take them, without too much notice of current trends.
Iron Man 2 was only half a movie, in my humble opinion. The first half was quick-paced and exhilarating but then the wheels came off and the movie came to a tired conclusion. The sequel did well at the box office but one sensed that director Jon Favreau had lost interested in the franchise that he had kickstarted. So when it came to talk about the third Iron Man movie, Favreau passed and Shane Black came onboard.
A promising sign of a developing indie music scene is the ability to embrace different styles of music where the key factor is not ‘genre’ but an appreciation of ‘good’ music. Melodic pop-rock quartet Tricks & Cider is a wonderful example of this.
I first met singer-songwriter-guitarist Victoria Ho (above, far left) a few years back (as part of the Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriter Showcase) and was impressed by her lovely husky voice and songwriting (and easy going manner). I remember her sharing with me some tracks she had recorded (live in a jamming studio) with a band and though the songs were promising, the performance itself was at best, shambolic.
Fast forward to last year and I’d invited Victoria to Sing A New Song, a songwriters’ showcase held at Esplanade Library (which included then-newcomers The Sam Willows and Tall Mountains). She performed as part of hew new band, Tricks & Cider (which included a former piano school colleague, the talented Dawn Ho on bass) and by all accounts, most were impressed by their set.
And so here we are in 2013 and the Tricks & Cider debut EP is playing on my laptop speakers – five songs that showcase the individual talents of the band (multi-instrumentalist Karen Lee and drummer David Liu round up the team) – and indicate that there is certainly a place for well-crafted melodic pop-rock in our S-ROCK scene as well!
Basically, the songs on this EP straddle different styles across the length and breadth of pop-rock – from 70s-channeling “Girl from Outer Space” to the new wave-evoking “Superstar” to the jazz balladic “Summer Breeze”, the tunes will stick in your head and the instrumentation/arrangements will impress the more musically-inclined listener.
It is a good time to be a S-ROCK lover in Singapore and you need to add Tricks & Cider to the burgeoning list of essential Singapore bands you have to listen to and savor…
… and you can this coming Friday, May 3rd at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre when Tricks & Cider perform three sets viz. 7.30pm – 8.15pm /8.45pm – 9.30pm /10pm – 10.45pm.
Last Friday (19th April) Fred Perry launched a vinyl exhibition at the Fred Perry Laurel Wreath Collection Shop, held in conjunction with Record Store Day, which is curated by #vinyloftheday and record store Vinylicious and showcases over 100 exclusive vinyl editions alongside all-time favourites.
Thursday’s (April 18th) S-ROCK gig at Night & Day Bar was significant for two things. One, it was the debut performance of Bored Spies (Cherie Ko, Sooyoung Park, Orestes Morfin & Adel Rashid) and two, it was the final performance (before a short hiatus) of everyone’s favourite spector-gaze band, Obedient Wives Club.
Of course, most importantly, it was another impressive show of how much indie rock has grown in the Singapore music scene in the last couple of years. A packed crowd jammed the arty venue and soaked in the ambience and atmosphere engineered by these two bands.
Bored Spies’ repertoire consists mainly of midtempo slow-burning numbers which accentuate Ko’s pleasant vocals and Morfin’s controlled rhythms. Considering that this was the band’s first gig, it was a very calm and assured performance, as if the band had been together for years and it was refreshing to encounter and appreciate the beauty of subtlety in songs like “Summer 720”.
Obedient Wives Club is practically an indie rock staple now in Singapore and the songs off their two EPs have become classic S-ROCK in a short space of time. I have always felt that – of all the new bands out there – OWC best channels the spirit of 90s S-ROCK. The songs are sweet but never lacking for an edge, with vocalist Yinqi coming into her own more and more with each succeeding gig. “Murder Kill Baby” is a special track, retaining a Singaporean quality in the way Yinqi sings in her lower register at the end of each phrase – spine tingling! The band will be preparing a new EP in the break and so there is much to look forward to!
It was also good for the S-ROCK scene that this event was hosted by a ‘new’ venue – Night & Day – and hopefully we will have more venues opening up to S-ROCK as we are currently very very short on venues like that. So all in, a very significant night for S-ROCK!
Multi-platinum selling singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles has revealed the title to her highly anticipated third studio album, The Blessed Unrest, which is set for release on July 16th through Epic Records. The album’s first single, “Brave,” was co-written by Jack Antonoff from the band fun. and will be released at all digital retailers next Tuesday, April 23rd. Fans can stream the song and view the official lyric video starting today at Sarabmusic.com or check it out right below…
“Beyond the Ashes” is the second teaser off the upcoming album, EMO FASCISM – due in August.
Catch Kevin Mathews/The Groovy People play “Beyond the Ashes” next Friday, April 26th at Identite 9.3 – KAMCO MUSIC at Home Club from 8pm. Cover is $12 (one free housepour and free entry to Kicks! afterwards). Also on the bill – Enec.e, Tricks & Cider and TypeWriter.
“The MTV Show” Season 2 Premieres Saturday, 20th April 2013
Two weeks ago, Power of Pop was invited to the preview of the second season of The MTV Show at the Waterfront Studio at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS). MTV’s popular original series, The MTV Show, a weekly music and lifestyle show that features top-rated music videos, movies, celebrity news and popular culture, returns for its second season with a new format. The refreshed programming format enables its millennial viewers to determine what goes on the show, through active social media engagement.
Other Sounds has a second show and this time the featured band is Australian garage rockers Dune Rats. The Brisbane duo will be bringing their raucous and energetic live show to Singapore at Night & Day Bar, alongside local garage pop favourites The Pinholes.
Date: Friday, 31 May 2013
Venue: Night & Day Bar (139 Selegie Rd)
Tickets: $15 at the door (includes one drink)
If you’re reading this and were born in the 90s (I know, unlikely), then hopefully you’d know who Nirvana was and not be caught wearing the above tee merely cos it’s ‘hip and cool’. Thing is, of course, the early 90s saw the last commercially viable rock music before the music scene went pear-shaped in the noughties. In any case, the 90s witnessed the weird going pro as alternative rock became fashionable…. these are my favourite musical memories from that special time…
We get tons of links every day from publicists, labels and bands to showcase new music at Power of Pop. So, in order to satisfy everyone, we will do these daily (!) wrap-ups of fairly interesting new songs from the modern rock wasteland. No judgement, no assessment, mere presentation. Enjoy…
Truth be told, I was excited when I saw the first trailer for sci-fi Tom Cruise action movie vehicle Oblivion. It looked intriguing. Of course, a trailer really does not tell you anything about the movie itself. I was also excited by the fact that Oblivion was an original premise (based on a story co-authored by director Joe Kosinski) and perhaps was hoping that it would be as good as District 9, Moon or Inception.
Ultimately, Oblivion is a huge disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is a visual treat throughout. For most of the first thirty minutes or so, Oblivion comes across like Wall-E meets I Am Legend (the Will Smith remake), updated with cool gadgets, weaponized drones, sexy encounters between Jack Harper (Cruise) and his colleague Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) and menacing ones with alien beings called ‘scavengers’. The setting is a dystopian future (2077) where the earth is dying after a war with aliens (which humans won, it seems) and humans are about the leave the planet and start a new life on Titan.
However, things are not as they seem (when are they ever?) – Harper has memories of another woman (strange, as his former memories have been removed), he meets this woman when her ship crash lands on earth and Harper is captured by the ‘scavengers’ and discovers the truth.
From then on to the hackneyed resolution, the movie degenerates into a sequence of cliches, with planet-sized plot holes and pedestrian acting – Olga Kurylenko, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones‘ Jamie Lannister) and even poor old Morgan Freeman – and by the time the ending comes, the promise of ‘original’ sci-fi movie genre is utterly lost. Apparently, director Kosinski himself stated that Oblivion pays homage to science fiction films of the 1970s. Seriously? Well, perhaps superficially but whilst Oblivions certainly borrows heavily from the dystopian worldview of movies like Omega Man, Soylent Green, Zardoz, Logan’s Run, Silent Running and the Planet of the Apes series, it has none of the imagination, gravitas or even consistent writing that was a hallmark of the decade.
Two bands will be coming together for a secret pop-up gig this April 18! It will be a night of fuzzed out intrigue! Fans are invited to solve a crossword puzzle to reveal the line-up and location of the gig. The bands will also be seeding clues with the hashtag #KODoubleBill via Twitter and Instagram leading up to event day. Solve the puzzle and find out who and where. Free Entry! For more clues, look for #KODoubleBill
Continuing our educational video series on the ground-breaking rock music of the Seventies, we focus on Progressive Rock, a time where serious minded musicians created serious music from a variety of styles, sounds and instruments – classical, folk, jazz, rock, avant garde, traditional. This platform had its heyday in the earlier part of the decade reaching its peak in the mid to late Seventies before punk arrived to decry the style as ‘irrelevant’ and ‘pompous’. Progressive rock lives on to this day, either as ‘neo-prog’, revised versions of the classic prog rock or ‘post-rock’, where prog rock approaches are applied to indie rock sensibilities.
Here are the details of Bored Spies‘ debut 7 inch single “Summer 720″ from KittyWu Records.
Title: Summer 720 b/w 沙鼠E
Artist: Bored Spies
Street date: 20 April 2013
Format: 7″ Single
Genre: Minimalist Pop Rock
Label: KittyWu Records
Catalog No.: KWR015
A. Summer 720
Recorded and produced in the summer of July – August 2012 at Seagrass Studios (Los Angeles) and Snakeweed Studios (Singapore) by Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Sunny Day Real Estate, Pete Yorn, Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo) with engineering support from Leonard Soosay (Snakeweed Studios). The recording was mastered at SAE by Roger Seibel.
‘Summer 720’ is pressed on gorgeous sea foam green vinyl, and is backed with the b-side ‘沙鼠E’ (shāshǔ E) and is a 7″ release in an edition of 100 with KittyWu in Singapore/Asia, Deer Island (edn. of 150) in N. America and Damnably (edn. 250) in Europe.
Remember how it felt all those years ago when you first watched Dexter? You mean, the hero of the show is a serial killer? Mind-blowing, wasn’t it?
Considering how unique and groundbreaking Dexter was, it’s rather amazing that it’s taken almost seven years for more tv series involving serial killers to show up. In 2013, we’ve had The Following, Bates Motel and Hannibal take up Dexter’s challenge. Truth be told, it’s been a mixed bag so far from these three offerings.
The Following actually presents us with an entire cult of serial killers led by the charismatic Joe Carroll (James Purejoy) and pursued by the FBI and former agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon). The series started out promisingly enough but since then has degenerated into a totally implausible tale, where the FBI is constantly represented as incompetent and helpless whilst Carroll, is somewhat portrayed as an infallible super-villain! Utterly preposterous – the inherent flaw in the plot requires that Carroll never be caught which results in ridiculously unrealistic stories. What is truly amazing is that the series has been renewed for a second season already! Now that is a crime…
Bates Motel is obviously based on elements taken from Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal Psycho movie. A prequel of sorts but set in modern times (the movie was, of course, filmed in the early 60s), Bates Motel is a strange beast and so far rather mystifying. There is a general creepiness about the town in which the Bates (mother Norma and young son Norman – not forgetting older son, Dylan) reside in and there is a sense of a dark underbelly to the town in question. The leads (Vera Famiga and Freddie Highmore) do credible jobs with their respective roles and there is enough brand awareness to keep viewers interested (as evidenced by the series being renewed for a second season) but overall, I am waiting for the series to deliver a more than average impact.
Although only the premiere has aired thus far, Bryan Fuller’s re-imagining of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon holds the greatest promise of the trio. Focusing on the relationship between special FBI investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and psychiatrist Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen), there is much to admire in Hannibal. The genuine attempt made to connect the audience with Graham’s fraught psycho-analytical experiences and Mikkelsen’s deliciously dark portrayal of the sinister Lecter, makes Hannibal one of the more surprisingly successful TV series revolving around a serial killer.
With Dexter on its last legs, I am betting on Hannibal to deliver the thrills, spills and yes, the kills, in the weeks to come.
Tricks & Cider (Victoria Ho on lead vocals and guitar, Karen Lee on backing vocals, keyboard and violin, Dawn Ho on bass guitar and David Liu on drums) is a melodic pop band that incorporates diverse musical styles. Check out the two advance tracks from the band’s upcoming debut EP below.
Check out tricksandcider.com and follow the band at @tricksandcider on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Soundcloud.
How did DIVIDE form? Apparently we know each other because we went to the same high school.
Why do you play such angry heavy music? We play such music because this kinda music is our real passion even tho we actually listen to many kinds of genre.
What is your message? Our message is we’re trying to tell about the concept of God, human interaction, the gap between the rich and the poor and anything about life.
Do you think your fans are more into your music or your message? From what we’ve seen people only listen to the music at first, but eventually they also learn about the lyrics.
Do you face social objections for the music you play in Indonesia? If so, what is your response to that? We’ve never really faced any direct social objection, but if there’s one we’ll try our best to respond it.
Why is your tour called “This is Not a Headline Tour”? The reason why we called it ‘Not a headline tour’ is because we wanted to make it a friendly tour of sorts as most of the special guests bands are good friends.
DIVIDE + guests play Home Club on Saturday, 13th April.
My regular readers will be aware of my love of hyperbole. After all, art and music should always be bigger than life and so I am always happy to oblige in that regard. So forgive me, if this post outstrips all previous in the hyperbole department.
No other way to describe the week that will forever be known as The Steve Lillywhite Production Week! As a huge Lillywhite fan (and SGMUSO EXCO member), it was going to be an amazing experience no matter what. However, even that did not prepare me for the surreal, seemingly out-of-body experience that it ultimately turned out to be! See what I mean about hyperbole?!?
I was fortunate enough to sit in the production sessions on the 1st and last day and was thrilled not only to see the legendary Steve Lillywhite in action but to witness the four bands (Atlas, MONSTER CAT, sub:shaman and The Sam Willows) have their collective confidence boosted sky high by a man who so obviously loves good music and music people.
Everyone in the studio was buzzing thanks to Lillywhite’s infectious enthusiasm. It was impossible not to be infected with the buzz! From the bands to the producers to the crew to bystanders (like yours truly), it truly felt like S-ROCK history was unfolding before our very eyes (and ears).
As much as we ourselves believe in S-ROCK, it is re-assuring and comforting to find someone of Lillywhite’s stature to be equally (it not more) excited about the potential and possibilities of the S-ROCK scene. It is validation of our efforts in the scene and our belief in the great S-ROCK bands that toil tirelessly in our sometimes thankless nation.
Best part of all was actually getting to know Lillywhite a bit better and chatting over his experiences producing some of the more important releases of the 80s and 90s. This was aided by Lillywhite’s own humble, down to earth manner – it was impossible not to think of him as a like-minded ally and these are some of the memories I will always treasure.
You might say that Rich McCulley has been a fixture of sorts over here at Power of Pop. The good news is that McCulley is still going strong, as his official bio explains – “after six albums and twelve years of solo music making, roots rocker Rich McCulley is still finding fresh beginnings and new inspiration in life”.
Ten years ago, I had written that McCulley had – with his sophomore effort – discovered roots rock, “lining his obvious pop-rock chops with a rustic country edge” and which made McCulley’s music, worthy for “all lovers of melodic rock ‘n’ roll, country rock and everything in-between”.
This assessment rings through for The Grand Design as McCulley continues to emphasize rustic melodicism, which rings out loudly and proudly his influences viz. Elvis Costello, Gram Parsons, Marshall Crenshaw, Tom Petty, Squeeze et al.
Songs like the wistful “Let You Go”, the dynamic “The Most Beautiful Thing”, the smooth “Just Begun To Run” and the heartfelt “She’s Like a Tattoo” will please country-folk-rock lovers. Yet again, McCulley pulls off yet another loving toast to the power and beauty of Americana-based rock n’ roll. Long may he run.
Check out the video of “The Most Beautiful Thing” below.
I’ve probably said this before but the Seventies is/was my favourite rock decade! Basically, the Seventies built on the foundation of the Sixties and went OVER THE TOP! The sheer diversity of Seventies music is mind-blowing and once again, what I am going to share with you is merely the tiny tip of the massive iceberg (and only focuses on the singer-songwriters!) But rest assured, every artist mentioned is bloody essential listening, so… fasten your seat belts…
Recommended albums – Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars, StationToStation, “Heroes”, Low and Scary Monsters.
Recommended albums – After the Gold Rush, Harvest, On the Beach, Tonight’s the Night, Zuma, Rust Never Sleeps.
Recommended albums – Born to Run, Darkness at the Edge of Town.
Recommended albums – Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything?, A Wizard A True Star, Todd.
Recommended albums: The Stranger, 52nd Street.
Recommended albums – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Mind Games, Walls & Bridges.
Recommended albums – Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Honky Château,Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.
Recommended albums – Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’s First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life.
Truth be told, I am pretty sick and tired of the ubiquitous generic contemporary hipster synth-pop sound already. Man! So yeah, right now, I am aching for sweet rock n’ roll music that features real instruments, real vocals and fucking real songs. Y’know, songs I can sing along to (intelligently) and shake to (without looking stupid).
So Mooner! A self-described powerpop band from Chicago which new EP is like balm to my electronically sated ears. This EP only has four tracks but I’d rather listen four tracks that hit the spot over an LP’s worth of meaningless drivel trying to pass itself off as 2013’s version of hip and cool. Don’t what I mean?
Indeed! It’s comforting and re-assuring to hear a new band take the tired-and-tested influences of Television, Elvis Costello, The Replacements and early Wilco and fashion distinctive material. Certainly, powerpop fans are totally gonna fall in love with the midtempo groove of “Shapeshifter”, the twangy goodness of “White Lines”, the knowing country-soul balladry of “Never Alone” and the new wave raunch of “Overrated”.
Despite the relative success of “Orchard Road” (with the track getting radioplay and music video being featured on national TV), my ambitions were still modest. I was happy to be able to record and release another song, whatever the platform. The guys from BigO magazine wanted me to test a MiniDisc player/recorded and to review it for the mag. So I ended up writing and recording two songs – “The High Cost of Living” and “The Offender”, the latter as yet unreleased. The song ended up being featured on BigO’s free CD, Death Valley 92328, and was played on radio again (which still amazes me, considering the lyrical content)
“The High Cost of Living” was basically inspired by two things – the opening chords to The Style Council’s “Speak Like a Child” and The Clash’s Cost of Living EP title. Contrary to popular belief, the song had nothing to do with Neil Gaiman’s mini-series about Death. The content of course, was all about inflation in Singapore and little did I realize that 1993 was to the beginning of a vicious inflationary cycle that the country is still a victim of.
Twenty years later, the lyrics still resonate and that speaks volumes in itself. So, check it out for yourself if you’ve never heard it before and download if so minded as well. The song will be the opening song for the upcoming Kevin Mathews/The Groovy People performance at Home Club in a month’s time (see what I did there?). Heh.