album picksmore album picks
Winner of local singing competition The Final 1 Farisha Ishak has dropped her debut record, Aligned, and for the 19-year-old Singaporean, it showcases her soul-jazz influences and alikeness to artistes like India.Arie, with her saccharine, laid-back coos and easy-going tracks. That said, having watched her sporadically on the talent show, I thought she was someone who could really pull off the emotions that would be needed in tracks like Life is Beautiful and Stranded, of which she penned personally for the album. I found the often over-polished tracks a little flat and uninspirational, and the highlight was probably the ones she wrote on her own, as it showed a slight more connection to the artiste singing the songs. Otherwise, it was a lot of redundant guitar solos, unnecessary synths and beats to make it seem more relevant in today's music scene.
Malay track Oh Cinta featuring Taufik Batisah is one to look out for, as it has enough soul-jazz elements incorporated with a pop riff to make it sound like Ishak's own. But I know that she's still young, and has the passion to strive in this industry, so that's what is working for her for me. Ishak has great vocals, don't get me wrong, as I have seen in her YouTube videos (particularly the one of Adele's Skyfall), but hampered by the production of the album, her emotive and expressive pipes got washed out in the process. So, for this debut, I'm not really putting this on the map, but hopefully she manages to find her place soon and do some amazing things.
Track Cuts: Stranded, Oh Cinta, Life is Beautiful
So I'm racking my brains to understand what kind of progression British four-piece Bombay Bicycle Club are heading towards ever since their 2006 debut onto the indie rock scene and I'm coming up short. That's not to say I'm not enjoying their latest effort, So Long, See You Tomorrow. But it just feels like more of the same old, same old, with a little sprinkling of aggression and attempts at convincing the listener that they are listening to something new.
Which I don't exactly doubt, but it doesn't push any boundaries that they are capable of doing. I get it, the laid-back kind of musical evolution could be their sort of thing, but it frustrates me to no end. Even in their debut album, wasn't The Giantess a slower, more acoustic version of Emergency Contrapception Blues? Admittedly, I was taken with chill-out bass-riffed Always Like This, but skip to five years later, and it seems they have overdosed on the synths and atmospherics.
I appreciate their effort to meld different elements together, especially when it suitably complements Jack Steadman's alto-ish vocals. Luna is one such tune, with an added female singer to add some kind of chemistry into the song. It's so saccharine that it has become more indie-alt pop more than an indie rock sound. However, I do like the visuals the pitter-pattering synths are trying to emulate, and it's one of the better songs on the album. It's something Aussie indie-pop band The Jungle Giants would be proud of.
Home by Now is similarly a duet with female vocalist Lucy Rose, and it kicks off with an almost R&B-hip/hop intro but slides back into the dreamscape of that thin line between indie and full on synth-pop. I have to say, Rose saves this song from dropping into obscurity with her etherealist voice and convincing emotions. The backing tracks just gets a little too overwhelming at the chorus and feels messy.
Overdone, however, starts off with that on-the-radio sound, but turns into a slightly aggressive, dramatic reenactment of its title. It's intriguing, and also something different, which probably got my hopes a little too high.
It's weird, because they started off strong, but I'm not sure if BBC are starting to feel the pressures that this industry can bring - to always innovate and create the new. Especially in this environment of instant gratification; but since they are still topping charts, I think I might be the only one who's feeling that way?
Track Cuts: So Long See You Tomorrow, Luna, Home By Now, Overdone
Just a few hours before it's time for me to head down to *SCAPE to catch Taking Back Sunday perform live, I was given the opportunity to review an exclusive stream of the band's forthcoming album, Happiness Is. You can imagine how excited I was.
Happiness Is is the pop punk band's sixth studio album - the first under their new record label, Hopeless Records.
To summarize my thoughts on the 11-track album in one word, it would be 'safe'. Even with a new label, there was a certain familiarity to Happiness Is, with the band's previous albums. Perhaps it was frontman Adam Lazzara's croonings or the occasional angsty lyrics, but this familiarity is definitely the band's double-edged sword. While some may be pleased to know that the band has kept true to their original sound after all these years, some might also find it repetitive or a lazy attempt at a new album.
I wouldn't say that I was disappointed, but I wasn't entirely impressed either. There were a couple of catchy songs which I quite liked, such as Flicker, Fade, Stood A Chance, Better Homes and Gardens and We Were Younger Then. However, I was left unsatisfied when it came to the end of the album. The closing track was the only proper acoustic track on the album, Nothing At All, which was boring and draggy, and altogether a bad choice to end the album.
Happiness Is may not be a revolutionary album that we probably would have hoped for from the band, but it is a good-enough effort to keep our pop-punk cravings satisfied for the moment.
Photo credit: Hopeless Records
American R&B, neo-soul singer-songwriter India.Arie is back, and ready to have a Songversation with her listeners. Her fifth album comes after a short hiatus that saw her taking a step back from the limelight to focus on some personal and spiritual matters. Overwhelmed by the money-making industry, India.Arie felt it best to detach herself from the commercial aspect of things in order to delve deeper into the sensitivity of human emotions.
Truth be told, this album is very much one that taps into loving yourself for who you are before learning to love someone else, in her smooth, velvety alto tones. Love is the crux of the Songversation with India.Arie, as can be seen from the empowering Just Do You, the uplifting Nothing That I Love More, the calming harmonies of Soulbird Rise, or as she gushes her gratitude to the important people in her life by presenting them with Flowers.
Some of my favourites come in the form of a more acoustic production, like Nothing That I Love More, and the uptempo Just Do You - which gets me grooving and happy. Which I think is also something India.Arie hopes to achieve with her soothing, lilting ballads of hope and positivity.
Cocoa Butter is a warm chicken soup for the soul if you ask me, with brilliant sensuality that doesn’t go over the line to trashy. It’s more of a Beyoncé-esque classy.
At a time where the music industry is very much focused on the commercial (sex sells…), it is hopeful to see people like India.Arie managing to rise above all that and still put out such authentic tunes which will no doubt inspire many to spread the love. And what's more, the Colorado native will be in town for a gig as part of the Singapore Jazz Festival 2014, so isn't this enough reason to want to start a Songversation with her?
Track Cuts: Cocoa Butter, Just Do You, Flowers, Nothing That I Love More, Songbird Rise
Photo credit: Soulbird Music
Without any warning at all, Beyoncé dropped the world a nucleic-sized sonic bomb in the form of her fifth self-titled album a few weeks before the end of 2013. The world's reaction? Utter disbelief and massive panic which collapsed into a flurry of devotees getting down on knees to worship the work of art that is Beyoncé.
The Queen's latest stellar album is one that explores more deeply the sultry, sensual characteristic of Beyoncé. The Houston-bred contemporary R&B singer was last seen strutting her Single Ladies' gig as a more fiercely independent Sasha Fierce, and moving on to the evolutionary album 4, which highlighted the more classic, funky side of Bey who put Love on Top.
With the visually artistry in focus in Beyoncé, we get an all-access pass into her stable yet provocative relationship with Blue Ivy's daddy, rapper Jay-Z. The theme of the album that runs strong throughout the album is the exploration of a woman's sexuality in a relationship - not in the risque Rihanna/ Miley Cyrus way. There's a fine line drawn out in this album between classy and thrashy. As Beyoncé sexily growls "Why can't I keep my fingers off you baby/ I want you" and "Last thing I remember is our beautiful bodies grinding up in that club/ drunk in love", it makes such sweet irony of mainstream club-bangers and reminds us of how easily words can have double entendres, just in intonation. The dark yet seductive undertones of the synthesizers complements the usually vivid, picturesque videos, and vice versa.
XO is another greatly thought-out track which celebrates love as being on a high, like going for a rollercoaster ride in an amusement park. She also means what she says, crooning ever so sincerely, "You better kiss me / before our time has run out". This stadium-filling atmospheric sound is also echoed in Pretty Hurts, which is also a reminder of how amazing Beyoncé's stylistic range can be, as she talks about popular culture's obsession with perfection.
One confusion I had was the song Superpower featuring Frank Ocean, which really didn't mean much to me except for the fact it brought the other 2/3 of Destiny's Child back together, but even then, it's an alternative R&B experiment that doesn't seem to quite grasp what it is going for. Mine, featuring Drake, on the other hand, was a confessional number that Drake takes credit for in creating the melodic, intuitive soundscape.
You have to give it to Beyoncé, who has thought through each and every song on the album with great care and detail, and while I would like to analyse to death each and every song in that album, I think it would only seek to ruin the experience that she meant for the listener to have - which is indeed a personal, emotive one. I don't know how she does it, but in each song, the delivery always comes through, whether it be fierce, or sensual, or just pure happiness - you can call her Queen B alright.
Track Cuts: Blue, XO, Drunk In Love, Yoncé, Mine
Picture credit: Columbia Records/ Sony Music Entertainment