With vocals akin to the likes of Mars Argo (which I might describe as a “baby doll” with helium?) and instrumentation that’s a mix of grunge and pop, there’s very little to not like about this band. The lead singer’s vocals aren’t usually something I’d stay around for but there’s a high-powered energy to her style of singing that I just got hooked on. It feels like she’s managed to harness the impossibly high falsetto in her voice into something that sounds deceivingly sweet (she sounds nice and innocent but would daringly flip the bird right in your face). And I do hear a tinge of Weezer in the guitar solo – what’s not to like about that? The band may not be revolutionary but definitely has something that has been missing in the indie-rock genre (cause I suggest that hipsters branch out from something other than chillwave or synthwave or something of that like).
Lorde | Melodrama |
I rarely write about albums because I’m usually unfamiliar with the artist’s entire discography and I always think to myself that it’s necessary for me to hear how a particular musician has developed their sound through different albums. And I think I’m familiar enough with Lorde’s musical career that while listening to her new release, Melodrama, I had a few thoughts on how the singer-songwriter has either made alterations or improvements to her sound, both of which showcases Lorde’s maturity as a musician. I found her in the beginning to be an indie darling with her debut “The Love Club EP,” (when I was young and was very into electropop). It was a decent album but was just slightly lacklustre and was missing something. Then came “Pure Heroine” which of course garnered critical acclaim (rightly deserved). That album was a refreshing take on pop music that felt different, authentically youthful and goddamn catchy. So it was normal to be excited to hear that Lorde was making new music but after hearing the first single “Green Light” I was kind of dubious about the new album. But then “Liability” was released and my hope was somewhat restored. It was a great ballad track, but it wasn’t what I was looking for in Lorde. I understand that musicians can take different directions with their music but the style of music on “Pure Heroine” had such an effect on me that it was hard to not look forward to it in her new album (she did not disappoint btw).
I think it’s great that Lorde took her time with “Melodrama” and it shows, the album feels complete and carefully thought through. But me being a huge snob had some qualms with some tracks. I’ve heard time and time again that “Hommade Dynamite” is probably the best track off the album and was the single that was never meant to be, but I kind of disagree. The track played out like it was targeting for the top charts (which I’m not too fond off). I feel the same way about the closing track “Perfect Places” (which I’m sure after a few more listens I’ll come around to it but for now I just kind of see to who it’s being catered to). “Hommade Dynamite” did however have one redeeming quality in which Lorde says so gingerly “now you know it’s really gonna blow” and makes an explosion sound which definitely shows her quirky (and down-to-earth i guess?) aspect of her music.
I’ve adored Lorde for her signature sound of layering her own voice over in tracks which presents her distinct originality and even puts her above the rest of other pop singers that just fall into the category of generic. And this was what “The Louvre” delivered – the track had a simple guitar riff in the beginning that built up Lorde’s own layered vocals that echoed throughout the track, giving it some sort of insurmountable depth. The chorus of this track, “broadcast the boom boom boom and make ’em all dance to it” is again something representative of Lorde’s quirkiness – it’s simple, meaningful and pretty memorable.
“Hard Feelings/Loveless” is basically two tracks combined into one and seems to have no bearing on each other (and I’m still not sure why they’re one track instead of two, probably could be how Lorde herself has transitioned and moved on from her past relationship and becoming a whole new person or something like that). Lorde said in an interview that “we can all do whatever we want in terms of instrumentation” and I think she tested that theory in this track (Hard Feelings) because I kind of hear a beat made out of doors squeaking. At times it sounds innovative and inventive, but at other times it really just sounds like a squeaky door.
Lorde also explored new sounds with the addition of orchestral instrumentation in “Sober II (Melodrama)” elevates the outpouring of emotion from the singer-songwriter (it changed my mind on solely looking for electropop when listening to her music). This pretty much goes for “Writer in the Dark” as well, with simply just piano instrumentation, it places focus on Lorde’s Fiona Apple-esque vocals and the emotion poured into this track was palpable. Lorde came across as genuinely hurt, portraying herself as the type to leap into a relationship rather than just dipping her toes in and accepting the consequences of her openhearted nature.
“Supercut” is alike to “Green Light” nothing breathtaking but not terrible either (I probably just need to listen to it on repeat or something).
“Liability (Reprise)” kind of brings a calming close to the emotional album before “Perfect Places.” It seemed like she’s come to terms with not only her shortcomings as a partner but also how the other had their own faults as well (basically it made me feel emotions). Her vocals are particularly raw here (maybe less so than “Writer in the Dark” but felt honest nevertheless) and the beat feels reminiscent of her previous single “Tennis Court” (which felt like a throwback to me).
A significant part of the album is Lorde divulging into a past relationship that has affected her in a big way and it felt like an open letter to her listeners. An open letter about her experiences as a youth under the limelight and the consequences of fame. The album had stellar production that suited Lorde’s unmistakable musical style and the countless commendation is well-deserved.
The other day I accidentally clicked on a Hippo Campus music video from my YouTube recommendations (i say accidentally because from the pastel-coloured thumbnail I was guessing I’ve heard this band’s sound before) and I realised how long I haven’t listened to simple, catchy and snappy indie guitar music. For some reason I always feel like I have to listen to music that’s unconventional and groundbreaking (most probably to pander my insecurities regarding my self-worth ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). Trying to be a music snob isn’t as easy as a melon (theneedledrop) makes it out to be. Experimental music isn’t exactly a genre you want to put on to unwind during vacation. So I decided to click on all the YouTube recommendations of indie music (after clicking that Hippo Campus music video) and I’ve compiled some of my favourite tracks into a playlist. I have no intention of offending hipsters with the title of this playlist but let’s face it, hipsters (including me) tend to gravitate towards music like this like a moth to a flame. Could you blame us? It’s like instant gratification in easily digestible tunes (which were made by people that kind of carry that hipster aesthetic as well?).
Phoenix has been a band that I’ve gone to for polished indie-pop when I just want to give myself some sort of mental break because of the simplicity of their sound (I can’t listen to Death Grips all day can I?). I love Phoenix for their upbeat, jangly and animated sound which I often use to compensate for the lack of good and solid pop songs (bless the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen for changing that fact). Phoenix’s music is usually pretty energetic and spirited which I think is lacking in “J-Boy”. The instrumentation is great, very reminiscent of Phoenix’s signature peppy synths. The synths in this track also bring to mind The Human League a little bit (not complaining since I’ve unashamedly sung out loud to “Don’t You Want Me”). But Mars’ autotuned vocals are a turn-off for me as it overshadows the charming hushed voice I’m so used to hearing from Mars’. It also kind of takes away from their romantic vision of love and desire since the autotune makes him sound more detached and dispassionate to me. I’d still play this song on repeat though, just until it grows on me.
Me being me, I missed Explosions In The Sky when they first came to Singapore in 2013 but in my defense, I had a national exam coming up (excuses). This post-rock outfit just manages to strike a chord with me, and many others I’m sure and there was no way I would miss seeing them in the flesh. There was a particularly large crowd that night, pleasantly surprising the band who didn’t expect so many people to show up (it’s nice to see a band being fully supported by a sizable crowd). They absolutely deserved that crowd, delivering a compelling live performance.
The supporting act, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, was a band that managed to show off their wide range of musicianship during their set, going from slow and psychedelic “Ffunny Ffrends” to the upbeat and dynamic “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”. I’ve heard many compare them to Tame Impala but I think that UMO has a sound of their own with Ruban’s sultry voice that’s full of affection, singing about issues that he is emotionally invested in such as his polygamous relationship. Their music also has a bit more funk that contrasts with his mellow makes it more textured and enthralling to listen to. I love the diversity of this band’s discography and it was a blast hearing a passionate performance from the band. UMO and EITS may be an odd pairing but UMO’s soulful, psychedelic and mellow sound nicely accompanies EITS’ ethereal music.
Proudly introducing themselves to hail from Texas (their love for the Loner Star State was quickly established by Munaf), Explosions In The Sky put up a surreal performance that was unforgettable. The band is known for their work on the TV show Friday Night Lights, producing the theme song of the show and several songs for the soundtrack. Their music is one that evokes strong emotions in a person, it is notable and memorable without the assistance of words and lyrics. Friday Night Lights has definitely benefited from EITS’s ability to add sentiment to a pivotal moment of a story which what differs the post-rock outfit their contemporaries such as This Will Destroy You, Mogwai or even 65daysofstatic. It’s because of EITS’s straightforward compositions of crescendos and melodies which provides a a sound that is somewhat much more tender in the post-rock genre, resonating with a wider audience (like me).
To hear their music live, elevated those strong emotions, captivated me in a moment of absolute awe. I was engaged in a narrative that was brought to life with the guidance of the band’s music. Even though they’re not a band that gets you pumped with hands in the air, the crowd around me were more than engrossed in a world of their own. It was a varied set list that delighted long-time fans (like my brother who takes credit for introducing me to EITS) with favourites like “Your Hand In Mine” and “The Only Moment We Were Alone”. The band also performed new songs off their recent album The Wilderness like “Logic In A Dream” and “Disintegration Anxiety”. That album took a different direction from the band’s other discography, showing off the band’s experimental creativity. The few songs from the album also contributed to diverse sound in their live performance. My personal favourite from the band, “Catastrophe and the Cure” is a song that has brought me through some rough times ( basically not getting good grades and typical shit like that). The moment I heard it, I immediately relived these memories I’ve associated with this song (I’m sure you can do that with any song but this song specifically has accompanied me through some tough times). Hearing them perform this song live was like having a friend comfort you in a time of need and it was hard to keep my emotions in check (cheesy, but true).
The band played so well with an intensity that left me preoccupied with these uplifting feelings that were still lingering from the concert. Their concert was one that impacted me to a point where I found myself missing the moments of the strong emotions that I had while watching this band play stellar music.
I also kind of miss seeing Munaf sway from side to side, totally focused on his guitar.
Heeyyyyyy Kirby, whatcha doing Kirby? This song is addictive.
For a guy who’s been making music for at least 2 decades, I kind of hope that he gets more recognition for the great music he’s putting out. If he can rap about his new cat with pretty impressive lyricism, I don’t think he’s a rapper that should be dismissed. His lyrics vividly tell the quirky behaviour of his pet cat but in such a creative manner that I sometimes forget that it’s just about a pet cat.
‘The Impossible Kid’ as a whole is pretty darn good too (even though I’m late to get to it).
I am actually absolutely frustrated by the negative responses people have had towards this song. Mostly because most common complaint I’ve seen was that there was too much Benjamin Celmentine and too little Gorillaz. Are people oblivious to Gorillaz’s constant collaboration with the countless talented artists in the past? (I’m really quite pissed by those comments). It is the different collaborations that has made Gorillaz special and make each album creatively different. Some of my favourite Gorillaz songs are ones that where the featuring artist have sung a significant part, Fire Coming Out of A Monkey’s Head, Doncamatic (I’m not ashamed), November has Come, Stylo, Some Kind of Nature, Empire Ants, I could go on. I feel that Benjamin Clementine’s vocals actually add to the track, calm and collected but yet assertive and bold enough to capture your attention, actually making you listen to this political message of corrupt politicians and worshiping money, a message that is pretty relevant right now. I am always grateful to Gorillaz for introducing to me to these new, up and coming and exceptionally interesting artists.
Another common complaint that I seriously disagree with is that the track is boring. It’s anything but. The track is quite intriguing, it builds progressively but ultimately proves to be still calm and gentle, kind of leaving with you with chills (I kind of ignored Spongebob running away crying which I don’t think I want to analyse Spongebob). Maybe the beat seems uninspired but I think that it sounds just like the Gorillaz I’ve always known and adored and I think its composed ambiance of the track is just to make way for Clementine’s strong and poetic words spoken through his distinctively passionate voice. The beat actually nicely accompanies Clementine while Damon Albarn will from time to time softly question the future of the human race (a voice which I have missed), elevating the song to feel just that more poignant.
I love Gorillaz and have been anticipating their comeback just as much as any other fan but the escalating hype surrounding the Gorillaz’s comeback was probably this track’s downfall. I just think that expectations have been built up to the point that disappointment was inevitable. I really think that people just have to give a few more listens or just wait for the entire album to be released (I have faith in Gorillaz).
The semester is over and how do I celebrate? By drudging through mud on festival grounds. Only for Neon Light’s stellar line-up would I ruin my new shoes. I read someone’s review about the festival somewhere about how he wasn’t into ‘indie’ music and thought that the festival would only attract a small crowd of hipsters and I was baffled. Neon Lights had an amazing range of acts being featured on their stages and I was extremely grateful to soak in some jazz, funk, hip hop, pop, RnB, folk, electronic, post-rock and of course, indie rock during the weekend. Whoever claims Neon Lights to be only an exclusively hipster event clearly did not enjoy the festival as a whole, or in the words of The Sugarhill Gang (one of the acts featured), they did not JUMP ON IT. Sure I saw a good amount of flower crowns but I’m pretty sure those got destroyed in the rain and mud.
Speaking of mud, it was probably the most prominent guest of the festival and many people had to say goodbye to their new shoes (that includes me) and festival outfits. But I kind of think that the mud made it more enjoyable cause what’s a music festival without rain and mud? (Probably clean shoes and feet).
Neon Lights had a seriously mind-blowing line-up but since I’m just one person with no cloning abilities, I wasn’t able to able to catch everything. I did do my darndest (through the mud I might add) to catch a glimpse of every act over the two days and I came out more than fulfilled.
It rained on the first day but that didn’t dampen anybody’s mood, except maybe my shoes (I really loved my shoes sorry I can’t stop mentioning them). The rain may have delayed some of the sets like Lucy Rose’s, but she was so sweet about it her endearing personality just made it all better (like a mom tending a wound). Her songs felt so comforting during the rain and when I saw her tear up during ‘Shiver’, so did I. I even managed to get a picture with her *squeals*. Shura came on next and damn, I didn’t know you before but I do now. The energy she brought on stage was magnetic. She gave everything during her final song and I was left petty much impressed. Of course I couldn’t miss the headlining acts; Foals and Crystal Castles.
And oowee did Foals get me all hyped. Yannis is a born frontman and the rest of them were just on fire (looking at you Jack Bevan). Foals’s discography boasts a good range of indie rock, but songs from ‘Antidotes’ in my opinion, is where Foals truly shined. When I heard ‘Cassius’ live, I lost it. That song is so good, and even better live. That guitar solo near the end of the song probably made my shoes even more muddier, but it was worth it (just for you, Foals, just for you). Just when I thought Foals were the highlight of the day, Crystal Castles shows up and blows my mind away, while attempting to blind me with their strobe lights (thank god I made it out alive). I can’t say that I’m too fond of their songs from ‘Amnesty’ but their old hits still hold up even with Edith fronting the band. She does such a great job imitating Alice (if that’s what she’s going for), someone beside me kept mistaking her for Alice and even screaming Alice’s name (poor Edith). Crystal Castles’ set was a completely immersive experience, I even lost my voice without even realizing it, mostly because I was actually screaming “THIS IS YOUR BAPTISM!” Their set was intense, exhilarating and I don’t mind risking my eyesight again for them.
When we rolled into day two of the festival, we came to find that the mud has just overtaken the grounds of Fort Canning Park and I was grateful to trade in shoes for sandals that day (RIP new shoes though). I stumbled upon Pumarosa’s set and was pleasantly surprised, they had some solid songs that were easy to get into and the singer had a personality that you just gravitate towards. Shame they had such a small crowd. The Tallest Man on Earth, not so tall after all but still amazing nonetheless. He shared some similarities with Lucy Rose, sweet, endearing and he even managed to take the stage even without a full band. It felt like a full set with drummers and everything even though it was just him (I mean, who else could do that?). When he shared to audience about his divorce, it just made his songs feel a lot more sentimental and meaningful ( chin up Kristian, your music’s amazing). He made enduring the mud a lot more easier.
I have to say that it was kind of jarring to go from folksy Tallest Man on Earth to post-rock 65daysofstatic. But the foursome are an incredible band that has a way of transporting you into another universe. Listening to them live was like being completely immersed in a good book. The four of them were entirely focused on their performance, moving at lightning-quick speed (almost impossible to take a photo) and I was just swept away by their live music. After that, I went to catch a quick look at Yuna and she was just stunning. I’ve never actually listened to her music but she sounded so smooth that day that I couldn’t help but sway to her songs. She was charming, delightful and had such a lush, rich voice and I had no regrets catching her even when I had to rush on over to Jose Gonzalez’s set. That man can serenade me any day, cause the moment he was on stage, I was captivated. His closing song ‘Heartbeats’, just made me want him to play forever.
Sigur Ros closed the entire festival and they blew my mind away. Even as a three-piece, their sound still felt powerful and moving. Jonsi’s falsetto was unyielding and did not let up (damn did that man had some impressive pipes on him). His voice made the entire performance that much more breathtaking. His band members Georg and Orri were also forces to reckon and their high energy could be felt throughout the park (I could almost feel the ground shake for some reason, or maybe my feet were just tired). Their set felt surprisingly short and I was already feeling sad that Neon Lights would be coming to an end.
It was truly one of the best weekends I have ever had (really). The people weren’t packed in like sardines and nobody gave me the up-down glare, judging me on how I look. The mud may have been a shortcoming but it was kind of a fun one (not exactly fun washing it out though). The line-up was amazing and its range attracted not just hipsters, but almost everybody who is basically a fan of music and having fun.Can’t wait for next year.
On a side note, I did manage to hear The Surgarhill Gang and BADBADNOTGOOD from afar and both of them still sounded splendid, my only regret was not being able to catch them.
Clipping. dropped a new video yo (it’s okay, I cringed too). Looks like Daveed Diggs has some free time away from being Thomas Jefferson and that Tony Award can’t save him in this X-Files situation he’s in for the video for ‘Air Em Out’. I’m no hip-hop expert or whatever, but I do know that I like this song and the video’s equally good too (has that signature Clipping. concept of simplicity infused with “hidden messages”… or something).
The experimental hip-hop group impressed with their debut mixtape Midcity but I became more interested in their album CLPPNG. Their EP ‘Wriggle’ was nothing short of what Clipping. are capable of but it felt slightly toned down from the intricate noises that I usually hear from their songs (‘Shooter’ was banging though).
‘Air Em Out’ seems to be going back to those intricate noises that were prominent in CLPPNG (well, to me but what do I know about hip-hop right). But it is just the first track released for their new album Slpendor and Misery which makes it as intriguing as the video (seriously, this is some Stranger Things shit).