Is it 1991 again? I sure hope so! This split 7″ shared between two London-based punk outfits viz. Skinny Girl Diet and The Ethical Debating Society, is a refreshing kick in the nuts for music lovers tired of the travesty known as ‘pop-punk’.
SGD‘s two tracks – “DMT” and “Homesick” strike a blow against pristine, hi-fi, politically correct teenybopper crap that poses as ‘punk’ in 2013. Literally three chord wonders that bleed with attitude and a reckless disregard for the conventions of what a female pop band should sound like (especially like the way “Homesick” actually speeds up during the song!). Sure, it’s a style and look that recalls the Riot Grrl movement of the 90s (and all its antecedents) but definitely, something we desperately need in these anti-sceptic musical times!
Similarly, TEDS owe a debt to the Riot Grrl movement with its strident anti-pop agenda. The two songs here – “Child’s Play” and “Creosote Idea” are slightly more structured punk fare with an agitprop slant. Lots of shouting backed by slashing guitars and over before you even know it – but ultimately catchy as all hell.
Part of their promotional tour for their latest album Heartthrob, Canadian sisters Tegan and Sara performed at the Esplanade Concert Hall on the 13th of May.
Apparently handpicked by Tegan and Sara themselves, homegrown singer-songwriter Weish delivered a memorable opening act that featured her signature searing vocals and electric looping shenanigans. Continually layering, looping, and effecting her voice into rich tapestries of songs, this reviewer thinks Weish is an act to watch, and a breath of creative fresh air in a local scene crowded with too many plaintive guitar-based songs from singer-songwriters.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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!
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.
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.
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…
Yes, this review of the Other Sounds launch party is a little late. Yes, I had loads of fun with friends and new acquaintances, not to mention the delivery of good good music. What else do you need to know?
Upfront let me just say that congratulations are in order to Other Sounds for hosting a fabulous party. I mean, the food was simply yummy and even though I had dinner before I came, I still managed to polish a couple of burgers and pizza slices. So kudos! And… the free flow alcohol, courtesy of Asahi was much welcomed as well. Is the indie music scene coming of age. Step by step, in the right direction.
To be honest, I never expected to write this review. Up to the point that I received the email from Peipei (LIKES Communications), I had not even heard of Hong Kong/Canadian singer-songwriter Ellen Loo. And when Peipei invited me to catch Ellen’s show at the Esplanade Recital Studio, I was feeling a bit mixed. After all, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of Mandarin pop but I thought – “nothing ventured, nothing gained” – and I am so glad that I took the plunge.