Vancouver trio, Hotel Mira, returns with its first full-length album, a collection of songs brimming with musical confidence and melodic bravado that belies the simmering anxiety of singer-songwriter Charlie Kerr’s personal challenges.
There is not a single compromise to contemporary pop tastes as the music on Perfectionism runs the gamut of pop-rock viz. new wave, indie-alternative, post-punk, glam, punk – it’s all evident in their blazing glory.
Together with co-conspirators Colton Lauro (guitar) & Mike Noble (bass), Kerr has fashioned an album that will get you dancing, fist-punching, tearing up and smiling all at once.
Songs like “This Could Be It For Me” with its bouncy vibe clashing with its barely-veiled suicidal theme sums up Kerr’s modus operandi. The listener is drawn in by the infectious tunes and rhythms and then you realise that the sentiments are not qutie gelling with the music. Quite the kicker!
Elsewhere, “Arcade Heart” expresses an escalating beat that at least mirrors the tense lyrics that carries the listener on an emotional ride. “The Eyes on You” slithers its way around your unsuspecting heart with dynamic chord changes and moods, while the title track jerks around with similar tone control and catchiness.
To be honest, to simply highlight individual tracks does a disservice to the consistency of quality throughout the entirety of this excellent album. There is so much happening here both musically and lyrically that it would be a shame NOT to spend time examining Perfectionism and discovering its diverse delights.
“Oh if this album is a hit, they’ll probably release another one!” was the cynical response from the CD store clerk, when I mentioned that Fambly Cat was Grandaddy’s last album, their swan song, so to speak.
Background 50 FOOT WAVE is an American alternative rock band, formed in 2003. The band is fronted by singer-songwriter Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses fame) and backed by Bernard Georges on bass and Rob Ahlers on drums.
Background Radiohead are an English rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, formed in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards), Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments), Colin Greenwood (bass), Phil Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Ed O’Brien (guitar, backing vocals). A Moon Shaped Pool is the band’s ninth studio album.
In their fourth live appearance in Singapore, Copeland tugged on the heartstrings once more. It’s been six years and for this comeback, the band gave its loyal and adoring fans a special night – a set list of songs handpicked by fans themselves.
To be honest, Field Music has somewhat been under the radar for Power of Pop. Why exactly is a mystery, when you consider that the core duo of the brothers David and Peter Brewis have been making timeless/classic PoP friendly music since 2005!
Here’s a recommendation for old school pop-rock lovers – the new Turin Brakes’ album is a definite winner. Filled to the brim with well worked melodies and hooks, coupled with appropriate instrumentation and arrangements, with a strong acoustic guitar vibe – this is a welcome addition to the best of the new year’s release so far.
Manchester trio MONEY received either acclaim or disdain for its debut album The Shadow of Heaven (2013) with folks either hailing them as the ‘next big thing’ or writing them off as ‘overrated’. In either case, it would be instructional to see where MONEY went with its sophomore effort.
I am listening to the Letters to Ubin EP and smiling to myself because I am thinking of how a critic/observer of the local scene slammed iNCH’s music for being ‘soft’ and ‘not edgy’. Fact is that could not be further from the truth. Perhaps that critic was fooled by iNCH’s public persona! Certainly, there are numerous elements of Letters to Ubin that most casual listeners would consider too arty and indulgent — definitely ‘edgy’!
Cadence formed a year ago & in that one year, they have already played at Baybeats Festival as a Budding Band! Well, that is quite often the ‘be all and end all’ for a local indie-alternative rock band. But at the launch of its debut EP – Heights – at Hood Bar last night, there was evidence that the band might just have the potential to truly make a name for itself, not just in our indie music scene but even beyond our shores.
Alright, here’s the concept – let’s have ‘crossover’ events with music for the Singapore Writers Festival 2015. All perfectly logical – after all songs have lyrics.
Now, let’s stretch that further and have the opening event a concert featuring two of Singapore’s leading INSTRUMENTAL rock bands!
Yes indeed, that’s the way to do something completely different and with In Each Hand a Cutlass (left, above) and I Am David Sparkle on board, one can be sure that the music will be up to the task.
Luckily for Power of Pop, we get to quiz the bands and they get to write some words to – hopefully – offer some clarity about Island of Dreams.
How did the organisers set out the task assigned to you regarding Island of Dreams?
Sujin Thomas (IEHAC): We were approached at first as a potential band to write the theme song for the Singapore Writers Festival and later commissioned to do the job. I think the organisers decided on an instrumental band because we offered that element of songwriting without words. What was cool was that they left the creative process entirely to us to work out.
Daniel Sassoon (IEHAC): We definitely appreciate the creative freedom given to us, although the track is ultimately a commissioned piece. We shared our ideas and vision of what the song was meant to capture – namely, the spark of inspiration that ignites the whole creative process, and the birthing of new worlds as a result. They saw where we were coming from and liked the demo, and gave some feedback; we tweaked it a little when recording it, and off we went to Snakeweed Studios.
I Am David Sparkle: Expressions of life’s liberties.
What was the main challenge in coming up with a set that would be suitable for the theme assigned to you?
Sujin: For the theme song itself, we had to think outside of our familiar realm, that is, to steer away from the technicalities and mood shifts of our own tracks. We kept in mind that we had to create an instrumental song that could not only be catchy and engaging but also be palatable for mainstream listeners. Our set for the gig is made up of a range of songs off our second LP, The Kraken, with a few tracks from our debut album, and of course, the theme song. Again, we kept in mind that the audience at the gig may not all be familiar with our stuff so we’ve curated a set list that will offer them an easy introduction to the band, with a few fan favourites thrown in the mix for good measure. Basically, we plan to blow their minds to bits.
IADS: Aggressive discipline and barbaric control.
What is your interpretation of Island of Dreams – what does it mean to you?
Amanda Ling (IEHAC): Dream factory, through the mind, to the hands and out to the world.
Daniel: I imagine this island as a safe space in the middle of the ocean, which carries certain danger and the unknown that lurks in its depths.
IADS: No disguise can deface evil, that stains the primitive sickle blood red.
As an instrumental band, how do you convey your ideas effectively, without the use of words?
Amanda: Music is a universal language that can be understood through its emotive nature of the mood, tempo, instrumentation set by the musicians. The dynamics of each element interplay with each other and the wordless nature provides the listener with a vast possibility of interpretation through their imagination.
Nelson Tan (IEHAC): Most of the time I go with the flow. If I feel that it sounds right, I would go for it. I also try not to focus too much on the technical aspect of my bass playing but more like let the song develop into the way I feel is right. Many a times I’ve tried to introduce more advanced ways of playing only to find that grooving with the drummer prevails over tapping demisemiquaver notes over a 3 octave B harmonic minor scale in major 3rds using both hands at 300BPM. Sometimes less is more for most of the time.
Daniel: I didn’t even understand that, but that’s why Nelson’s got that music degree!
IADS: Oppression ruled by bloodshed.
Besides the music itself, are there any other aspects of your performance that will go towards an interpretation of the theme?
Daniel: We should be having some background visuals and mood lighting that would enhance the atmosphere; but we’ll leave that to the professionals to come up with all that good stuff. We’ll just focus on playing as best we can.
IADS: Seizing all civil liberties.
Island of Dreams will be held at the Victoria Theatre on 30th October.
Liverpool-based indie rockers Circa Waves have emerged as the next big thing on the UK music scene with a Top 10 debut album (Young Chasers) and a sold-out UK tour to boot. Taking the early Noughties indie boom (think: The Strokes, The Libertines & Arctic Monkeys) & re-packaging its shiny bright sound for today’s teenagers, Circa Waves have caught on like wildfire.
Truth be told, when I read the email about Dr Martens bringing the band on a South East Asian tour for #StandForSomething, I had not even heard of them! But a quick listen to Young Chasers, led me to conclude that it’s at least comforting that a real pop band playing real pop music is making waves (sorry!) out there in the pop wasteland.
Before their gig at Theatreworks last night, I was privileged to speak to Kieran Shudall (vocals, guitar) and Joe Falconer (guitarist) – the band is completed by Sam Rourke (bass), Colin Jones (drums). I must say that it was probably one of my most enjoyable face-to-face interviews since… the one with Travis last year (?) Well, you know, I’m an anglophile so chatting with British musicians is always a bonus for me. Check out the highlights of our conversation below.
Where do the songs come from? Your head, your heart or your groin?
Kieran – Somewhere in between the head and the heart, maybe the neck? In that area, collarbone. They’re a mixture of all things – contemplation, frustration – not many from the groin. Although there are some sex songs on the next record.
What is your musical philosophy?
Kieran – Be genuine, I think. (PoP – What does that mean to you?) It means, not compromising too much, always making music for yourself. If people like it, it’s because they like what you’re thinking about or talking about. You’re trying to write something cuz you love it.
Are you happy people?
Joe – Yeah. I mean, I’m not unhappy. It does sound like an upbeat record except for the lyrics…
Kieran – Well, I’m pretty upset with myself, most of the time.
Joe – I think that’s good. Who listens to songs with happy lyrics? Really.
Kieran – Like the Cure or The Smiths – some of the songs are major-y but they’re all about heartbreak.
(PoP – “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” is a good example)
Kieran – Yeah, that’s spot on with our music. “Lost It” is major chords and quite happy but it’s about being fucking miserable.
(PoP – That’s the vibe I get from “Fossils”)
Joe – Guess it’s kinda like the equivalent of shouting into a pillow. A release. Y’know positive energy comes out of it.
Kieran – There’s a happiness and euphoria about telling people how miserable you are.
What do you hope to get out of life?
Joe – I don’t want to do anything I don’t want to do. Being in this band is the most fun ever. And if this all ends, then I hope that the next thing I do is like that — I want to do that everyday. I never want to turn into those people who literally dread waking up 5 days a week. Well, y’know, I feel like that has to happen but will try to avoid it as much as possible.
Kieran – I’d like to get to the point where I don’t give a shit about what people think of me. Just being content with my lot. Growing old and just being happy with the paper and a cup of tea. And that would be nice.
(PoP “When I’m 64” Kieren starts singing…)
Kieran – Yes, I would like to be content. 3 kids. House in Spain, house in Canada. Maybe an apartment in New York.
What is it like to be a band from Liverpool, which has such a rich heritage of producing some of the greatest bands ever?
Joe – It’s the sort of place where people encourage you when you’re doing well. ‘Well done. Go ahead lad’. Everyone wishes you well. Lots of people are still around – Zutons, Bunnymen, for example. It doesn’t feel like we’re that separate (from the bands that came before).
Kieran – It’s a very real place and people don’t tend to forget who they are and where they are from. It feels like you’re from somewhere with a real identity.
When you are playing on stage – what do you feel? What goes on in the head?
Joe – The perfect show is when everything is happening automatically but at the same time you’re taking everything in. So you’re aware of the experience but you’re not distracted and you know something good is happening. The worst gigs are the ones when you can’t get out of your head. Your mind goes blank and you go off stage and it’s like it never happened. Those are the best gigs.
Kieran – Hard to explain when it’s really going well. Euphoric feeling – like having a constant orgasm really, on stage.
It did seem, from my perspective, when Circa Waves finally took the stage at 10pm – Riot !n Magenta opened with an invigorating set with Ginny Bloop bringing it! – that it was the young lasses in the audience that were the ones getting off – know what ah mean? Really enthusiastic crowd that did justice to the band’s energetic performance. Especially the kids that were cordoned off – underaged at an event with free booze – there was something for everyone, definitely.
Kudos to Dr Martens for another great #StandForSomething show (remembering the memorable night with Deap Vally last year). How about Nada Surf in 2016??? Pretty please???
Thanks to Andy Chua (Dr Martens) and Pardon My French PR (Sandra Cameron & Sharon Wong) for kind hospitality etc. All photographs by Jazreel-Anne.
Zhong Ren Koh is probably one of the most talented musicians in Singapore that you have never heard of. Well, to be fair, if you are a hardcore S-ROCK fan, you might remember Zhong Ren playing bass in Basement in My Loft or sessioning as a cellist for Hanging Up the Moon, Victor Low or Alise.
But really, what you should realise is that as Plate (with support from drummer Jason Cruz and violinist/co-producer Yi The Seow) – Zhong Ren (on (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, cello, glockenspiel, drum machine!) is one of the more exciting singer-songwriters out there in the #sgindie wasteland. And here’s the evidence: a nine-track debut album (Tear Down the Marketplace) with a maturity and intensity that belies Zhong Ren’s own personal under-stated style and underscores the artistic depth of what can still be achieved in 2015 with indie rock.
The easiest reference point for Plate is Radiohead & perhaps early Muse (especially on the opening tracks “Revolutionaries and “Building With Sticks” but that is only the starting position for Plate). On the atmospheric, cinematic folk of “River”, “Nest” & “Landslide”, Plate echoes the work of Hanging Up the Moon and Leslie Low, plundering the 1970s British electric-folk scene for raw inspiration.
There is a strong melancholic vibe on Tear Down the Marketplace that is fairly relenting – on “Straphanger” & “Expanse” Zhong Ren explores the lower register of his vocals to induce a depressive mood and again, displays the range of his inventiveness – ever restless to find the suitable ambience for the song. It’s difficult not to respond emotionally to what the compositions convey.
Though this album has been out for a while now on Bandcamp (see below), Plate is planning a general release on 31 October with live shows to follow. For more info, follow Plate at https://www.facebook.com/platemusic.
So… I got to know about this Boston outfit as guitarist Huxley Rittman used to play in Singapore band The Cave. But once I began listening to the tracks, my attention was drawn to two things. One, the sheer eclectic spirit of the music and two, the dynamic vocal chops of singer Olivia.
If nothing else, Kolohe Kid reminds me of something an English band might put together during the post-punk era. You know, it’s edgy, cool and doesn’t give a fuck. I mean take “Perspective”, where Olivia wails on the chorus like a Banshee (Siouxsie, of course) – “Riding alone/Not ready to go home/Take all I own/Then leave a message at the tone” whilst the band does their best Nirvana impression.
“Mall Girls” is an observational ditty that overstays its welcome rather quickly. “Fish” is a minute long but contains this rather tasty couplet – You know, you know, this is not how anything should go/You’re just a man, and I’m a bitch”. But save the best for last why don’t you? “My Asian Grandma” fills a punk rock fortune cookie with auto-biographical disses like “My Asian grandma will fuck me up if I get a B/Strange fashion sense but still a mother fucking P.I.M.P.”
With all the festivals springing up all over the place in Singapore, I thought I’d indulge myself with the fantasy of organising a Power of Pop Indie Rock Festival! My only criterion would be that my acts would have to have been formed no earlier than year 2000 (with one or two exceptions of course).
Here you go!
Besnard Lakes / Free Energy / Joywave / JPNSGRLS / Kevin Tihista
LOVE X STEREO / Max Jury / Pugwash / The Courteeners / The Decemberists
The Disappointed / The Paranoid Style / The Whigs / TOY / White Denim