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.
Chicago quintet Great Divide (Teddy Grossman – vox, guitar/Josh Teitelbaum – drums/Jeff Leibovich – keyboards/Josh Kahle – bass/Jeff Burke – guitar, vox) takes the rock and roots maxim to its logical conclusion. If a cursory listen to the band’s eponymous sophomore album suggests to you The Band, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Tedeschi Trucks Band and the like, then you’d probably be better off exploring Great Divide, don’t you think? Yeah!
Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Great Divide is a evocative, soulful rock n’ roll record in the old fashioned way. In other words, it is as smooth as you like, bringing together a veritable buffet of influences, spanning soul, folk, country, pop and rock with the dynamic horn section providing the proverbial icing on top.
First-rate musicianship, competent songwriting and the honey-dripping pipes of Teddy Grossman make Great Divide, essential listening for the true-blue pop-rock fans out there. How can one argue with genuine articles like the slick opener “Ain’t No Roads”, the lush “Easy Chair”, the gospel-tinged “Moorie” and the Stevie Wonder-channeling “Shine”? Simple, you don’t!
I am a people pleaser. Chronically so, in fact. Sometimes it hurts so much to realize that another human being actually hates me that I lose all rationality and respond in the wrong manner. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But in the final analysis, I’ve come to understand that you just can’t please everyone, no matter how you try.
My inherent inferiority complex and low self-esteem have been the bane of my existence but one truth I’ve learnt is that I can never control the way another person thinks or feels, I can only control my own response to this person’s opinion. Of course, there have been challenging negative experiences that have tested this principle to the hilt and whilst it has always been difficult to navigate those stormy seas, I think I arrive home, safe and sound at the end of each voyage.
The S-ROCK scene is nascent but growing. There are many players who are doing their part in their own way to improve the scene for musicians. The authorities are also involved in this process. It isn’t easy by any means – so much emotional and historical baggage to overcome but nothing worth fighting for ever comes easy. Scour through social media and you will, of course, find the ‘haters’ – folks who post potentially libelous statements against these players (yours truly, included) making accusations that are plainly inaccurate and unwarranted. Conduct a simple online search and you will discover these defamatory posts easily.
What can we do? Do we resort to legal means to protect our hard-earned reputations? Certainly, we would be legally entitled to do so but what good would that do, ultimately? Do we fight fire with fire – by posting similarly hateful statements targeted at these ‘haters’ – to name and shame them?
No, we take the higher ground – we simply ignore them. Not entirely of course – which is the whole point of this op/ed. If you’re reading this, dear ‘haters’, I would humbly ask that you would consider spending your energies in more productive activities and stop your futile personal attacks, especially if you truly love the S-ROCK scene. No good can ever come out of this course you are taking. Of course, this is a ‘free’ country and whilst you are entitled to your opinion, at least show respect to a fellow human being, if nothing else. Let’s agree to disagree but kindly stop the personal attacks. Thank you very much.
1st April to 5th April 2013 | Yellowbox Studios, 1 Ubi View, Focus One, #01-19, Singapore.
SGMUSO are presenting four Singapore bands, the fantastic opportunity to record with the legendary producer Steve Lillywhite. Lillywhite will select from submissions, three bands with SGMUSO selecting one other band, to join him on Monday 1st April to record LIVE. From this recording session, Lillywhite will critique and select one band from these four, to spend the rest of the week to further record material whilst the other three bands will be able to observe some of the following 4 days of recording. There will be other potential opportunities announced for these bands at a public event called SOUNDcheck (details to follow).
Joining Lillywhite for this Production Week will be three Singapore producers who will be mentored by Lillywhite, with these producers being matched with the remaining three bands to come back to Yellowbox Studios at a later date to mentor and record one track each. These recordings will be further critiqued after completed via a video call with Lillywhite, the Singapore producer and band members present.
Bands submit by sending one song, one picture, one-page bio and a paragraph on why they should be recorded by Lillywhite Friday 15th March and closure will be end of Friday 22nd March
The Production Fee for the selected bands, is subsidised from S$6,000 by e2i, SGMUSO, WDA and Yellowbox Studios and will be $500 per band who are members of SGMUSO (the subsidy is for Singaporeans/Permanent Residents only).
This production week will give the selected Singapore bands, a chance to be around one of the top international producers in the world and help them develop their music craft. The producers present will also gain greater skills in production through the mentorship of Lillywhite. SGMUSO will be documenting throughout and posting via social media throughout the week and follow ups thereafter.
The week-long activities will culminate with a new initiative from SGMUSO called SOUNDcheck. SOUNDcheck is to develop a deeper advocacy of Singapore music by providing an update for key advocates such as media, promoters, venues, labels and other music companies. Details on SOUNDcheck to follow.
What is the latest update for EMO FASCISM, my first solo album? Well, at the moment we have final mixes for about 70% of the songs and the album should be ready by the time, I perform with The Groovy People at Artistry on July 31st. That’s the plan, anyways.
But I am getting ahead of myself. April 26th at Home Club will be the first appearance of the ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT, GROOVY PEOPLE and I am glad to announce the line-up –
PATRICK CHNG (lead guitar), RAY AZIZ (drums), NELSON TAN (bass) and BENJAMIN ANG (keyboards).
All amazing ARTISTS in their own right, I am blessed by their contributions and so far the rehearsals have been great fun! I intend to play as many gigs in support of EMO FASCISM when it is released in August 2013 and I really would appreciate all your support for this endeavor.
At the end of the day, the continuation of The Long and Winding Road of being a musician is really about fulfilling my dreams but I am also mindful of the great people who are along for the ride. So stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
Fans of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will be excited to find out that creators Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill have delivered a spin-off story not long after the end of the Century trilogy. Published jointly by Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics, this is how the publishers have summarized the plot for your easy consumption —
It’s 1925, fifteen long years since Janni Dakkar first tried to escape the legacy of her dying science-pirate father, only to accept her destiny as the new Nemo, captain of the legendary Nautilus. Now, tired of her unending spree of plunder and destruction, Janni launches a grand expedition to surpass her father’s greatest failure: the exploration of Antarctica. Hot on her frozen trail are a trio of genius inventors, hired by an influential publishing tycoon to retrieve the plundered valuables of an African queen. It’s a deadly race to the bottom of the world — an uncharted land of wonder and horror where time is broken and the mountains bring madness. Jules Verne meets H.P. Lovecraft in the unforgettable final showdown, lost in the living, beating and appallingly inhuman HEART OF ICE.
As usual, Moore strings together characters from various fictional universes (in the public domain, of course) to weave his own distintive story. This time around, we find ourselves in the pulp fiction world of the 1920s, when science-adventurers captured the imagination of its reader. Moore uses his 56-page allotment economically, setting up the conflict quickly and resolving the same with a deft touch. It’s basically one big chase scene across the frozen wastes of the South Pole before both pursued and pursuers get their minds blown by the horrors torn from the pages of Lovecraft’s In The Mountains of Madness.
These frightful conjurings are brought to life by O’Neil’s wide-eyed angular illustrations. The grizzled features of Janni’s henchmen contrasted greatly with the relative youth of the young Captain. And once the crew slips into Lovecraftian territory, O’Neil is adept at delivering horrific representations of these classic monsters as well.
Good pulp-ish fun all round in the grand LOEG tradition. Not to be missed!
“NEW YEAR, NEW PLACES, NEW FACES TO MAKE BABIES WITH”
I may secretly – unknowingly even to self – be a punk rock music fan – just a little bit, admittedly.
Originally, I had my reservations. Openly, I am not a fan of All Time Low, and long had I moved on from the mainstream, ready-made radio-friendly formulae. The concert venue added some additional icing on the cake – the last concert-going experience spent at The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel was for Nelly Furtado, and waiting two hours in line for a show to start could have very well tested my patience to a whole new all-time low (pun shamelessly and completely intended). I should’ve and would continue to stay the night with my guard let down, thankfully.
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.
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 .
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.
Thanks to Dan Gordon (Now/Live) for making this review possible.
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.
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.
It is a good time to be involved in the S-ROCK scene. Interest in the scene is definitely growing as the media gives it attention it properly deserves. More releases, more gigs, more open mikes, more bands, more venues…more, more, more! In the last two weeks, I managed to witness two launches – first, by Another Sunday Afternoon and last Friday, by Obedient Wives Club. These bands are very different in terms of musical approach and execution but share the same passion, talent and ability to touch and thrill true-blue music lovers. Also worth considering – the fledging outfits that opened viz Victoria Street and Rocketswan, interestingly enough, both female-fronted! Exciting times, indeed.
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.
In any case, I wanted to share with you the ‘video’ I put together to help push “Dare” along. It’s actually a simple photo montage chronicling my experiences in the local music scene in the last six years, the bands, the gigs and the people who made a difference. Yes, it’s a little self-indulgent but there you ago…
“Dare” is the first track to be made public from the Emo Fascism recording sessions which took place mainly in September last year at Patrick Chng’s excellent home studio. The album will consist of ten tracks (with two bonus tracks on the CD) and for the most part I wrote, sang, performed and produced the lot with Patrick engineering, mixing and mastering the recording. Only one other musician played on Emo Fascism (“Dare” to be specific) and I am proud to say that it was none other than Daniel Sassoon.
Daniel has of course, in the past, been closely involved with legendary S-ROCK bands like Livonia and Electrico. Of late, Daniel has been leading the instrumental rock outfit – In Each Hand A Cutlass – and is renowned for his talent and skill on the guitar. Sometime back, I had finally recorded a proper demo of “Dare” (which has been kicking around for decades – I shit you not) and sent it to Daniel for feedback. What I got was an offer to contribute guitar ideas to the track and I jumped – didn’t need to asked twice! So earlier this year, Daniel laid down his amazing guitar lines (and a mind-blowing solo) for “Dare” in a fecund three-hour session at Thom’s Loft.
And now you can hear the results! I am particularly proud of the final product and I am so excited to be able to share the first fruits of our labours with you all. If you liked what you heard, I hope you will share the links on your respective social media platforms and spread the word around! That would be so cool and greatly appreciated! Remember – Emo Fascism is due for release in August 2013.
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.
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…
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).
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.
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.
Bored Spies’ “Summer 720” b/w 沙鼠E will be released on 25th January 2013.