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Mark Ronson - Uptown Funk ft. Bruno Mars

 

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Album Review: Nicki Minaj - The Pinkprint
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Album Review: Demi Lovato - Demi (Deluxe)
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Album Review: McBusted
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Written by Holmen Tham and Angela Low

St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival Singapore 2015 was sold-out, and for good reason, too. Spread out over three stages at The Meadow, Gardens By The Bay, it hosted a beyond stellar line-up including highlights such as FKA Twigs, Chet Faker, Banks, and St. Vincent. Any participant of this alternative musical year-opener would be struggling to recover from the greatness that’s transpired over the weekend for the weeks to come. And here’s why.

English post-punk band Eagulls, fronted by the charming George Mitchell, rocked the main stages of Laneway with their ferocious, angry sounds, appropriate for the then scorching-hot weather. Though the band seemed pretty nervous, with little attempt to interact with the crowd, the crowd was rather into the music, with a few punk-heads bopping along to their tunes. NME award-winning number Nerve Endings hit a nerve with the crowd – probably the only moment throughout their set where people knew the lyrics.

The band that really loosened up the crowd here at Laneway attracted a rather sizeable crowd to their stage with their psychedelic rock act. Complete with songs that changed mid-tempo, loud reverbs and electric guitars, Pond completely tore the Garden Stage apart. The casual listener would want to hear more from Pond naturally. You’d be lying if you did not look them up on YouTube after Laneway was over. The rather underrated band from Down Under deserves more attention. Had they been around when Pink Floyd and The Beatles were at their peaks, they would have gone pretty damn far by now.

Canadian-native Mac DeMarco attracted the largest afternoon crowd at Laneway, with many fans losing their spot for Garden Stage’s Pond for Mac. The indie rock and self-labelled “jizz jazz” crooner captured the crowd’s hearts with his jokes, goofy behavior and of course, good, laid-back music.

At one point, Mac’s guitar experienced some technical issues. Being who he is, he fixed it himself then and there on stage, while his equally-goofy band played a rather hilarious cover of Coldplay’s Yellow to a rousing ovation. The set ended with Mac crowd surfing over the soaking wet crowd over Still Together – an experience anyone who’d caught Mac would never forget.

It’s Laneway’s second year calling local acts upon the stage, and this instalment saw two outfits immensely worthy of the honour – indie folk group Hanging Up The Moon and chill wave electronic twosome .gif. Despite occasional minor hiccups, .gif dominated the Cloud Stage with cool, swaggerific vibes that refused to fall prey to the harsh afternoon heat. Laneway is a festival of heavyweights and high expectations, explaining why the homegrown duo would want to up their game by introducing a drummer (Isyraf of The Psalms) and bassist (Hanis Isahak of sub:shaman), who would accompany them on stage periodically. The result is an amplification of sound, depth and dimension, inspiring a more uptempo interpretation of singles such as Diatribe, and Good Night, Green Light.

The evening was welcomed on a high note and in even higher spirits, thanks to another duo at Garden Stage, except unlike .gif, they didn’t have a supplementary backing crew. I’m talking about Royal Blood, throwing in a riotous splash of garage rock into the mix of indie jams. The tri-sound of vocals, guitar-like bass and drums rippled through the sea of headbangers and bodyrockers with such resonance, it came as a surprise to some that there were only two lads on stage. Chairs and guitars were hurled across the platform, and drummer Ben Thatcher went within sweating distance of the audience as gritty, heavy riffs and power beats roared on palpably. Forty-five minutes of serving up crowd-pleasers one after another – Little Monster, Careless, Ten Tonne Skeleton, Loose Change and the closer, Out Of The Black – was obviously not at all enough.

Before long, we were moseying over to the adjacent Bay Stage, trampling over used ponchos and beer cups and feeling like being stuck in a crowded MRT train. But it was all worth it when seven-piece British soul-funk ensemble Jungle hit their first note. Easily the most danceable set of the night (in part by dint of two back-up vocalists, who were dancing in flawless sync), they were a direct contrast to Royal Blood, yet equally as supreme. And what’s a groovy gig without a misty horizon, courtesy of an overused smoke machine? Jungle may not command as massive a crowd as the bigwigs, but they sure warrant a spot at the top of our list.

The single most anticipated act to take the Cloud Stage, Aussie electro-soul music-maker Chet Faker (and his ginger critically acclaimed whiskers) was no disappointment at all. Though getting off to a slow start with the lesser knowns, Blush and 1998, a public chorus of sorts eventually congregated to lend their voices to Cigarettes & Chocolate, Gold, and easy hits such as Drop The Game, and Talk Is Cheap. When he finally bestowed upon us his much-awaited rendition of No Diggity, like a déjà vu of Pitch Perfect’s Riff-Off, the hey yo, hey yo, hey yo’s were chanted with unadulterated pride. You simply can’t go wrong with a set list like that. What could go wrong is the size of the partying grounds – this time, it was undersized.

Even before Banks took center stage, the crowd was electric, many giving Little Dragon a miss for a good spot for Banks. Her debut album, Goddess, was released four months ago and she’d been touring ever since. Her debut in Singapore was nothing short of amazing. The set featured a beautiful light show, which complemented her haunting vocals and dark instrumentals. Waiting Game struck everyone’s hearts with its dark murky beats that could have shaken the Earth beneath us. The R&B songbird expressed her love for Singapore between songs to loud cheers from the crowd, though I’d admit her voice seemed so shaky and fragile, she might break down in tears any second.

Following her was the petite English singer-songwriter, who goes by the name of Tahliah Barnett and was nothing but a backup dancer for Jessie J in 2010. Two years later, she earned herself a cult following as FKA Twigs (Formally known as Twigs) and is no doubt one of the most unique and revolutionary performers in recent history. From the intricate beats to the choreographed lighting with her commanding body language, the concert was an immersive, one-of-a-kind experience. Videos will never do her performance justice.

Possibly one of the reasons why Laneway fully sold out this year, Twigs was greeted with an eruption of shrieks and cheers the moment she took the stage. Shrouded in thick stage fog 70 per cent of the time, she added an element of mystery to her set. The occasional ‘Sit on my face, bitch!’ from the crowd proves that Singapore love FKA Twigs. A lot.

The indie music festival wrapped up with the American queen of all “freaks and others”, St. Vincent, otherwise known by her off-stage moniker, Annie Clark. A chansonnier and guitar powerhouse, she is the priestess of art rock and psychedelic electro-pop, often seen shredding her instrument effortlessly. The set opened with a robotic announcement a la Stephen Hawking’s speech synthesiser imploring spectators to “refrain from digitally capturing your experience”. Emerging into sight decked in a black, seemingly rubbery cheongsam, she dived into Rattlesnake and the groove-oriented Cruel and Digital Witness. Eyes rolled back on occasion paired with stiff, doll-like dancing, her performance was schizophrenic yet poised, eerie yet vivacious.

Following last year’s configuration of setting two major stages (Garden and Bay stages) side by side, the festival ran surprisingly smoothly in spite of a handful of inevitable hitches. Both stages were meant to alternate, hosting an act on one stage whilst the other conducted sound checks for another, seamlessly scheduled and pulled off without delay. Punctuality itself scores points with us, the impatient natives. The only downside is that it didn’t allow for encores, and each show lasted for about less than an hour, which hardly satisfies hardcore fans wanting more.

Set clashes were inevitable as well, with .gif, Chet Faker, and Jon Hopkins clashing with Royal Blood, Banks and St. Vincent. I suppose it shows you shouldn’t have too much of a good thing – scheduling will be a nightmare. The sheer number of acts we jostled through the crowds to catch barely left us enough time to visit the stalls lining the hills and roads, but then again, we’d rather starve than miss out on what Laneway has to offer.

Photo credit: Lionel Boon, Nor Asyraf, Cliff Yeo, Alvin Ho, Rueven Tan/ Laneway Festival

One of the biggest bands in the UK finally made it to Singapore and what a show they put on for the crazy, crazy fans. Bastille didn't disappoint as they rocked the Hard Rock Hotel stage at Sentosa like never before. 2 years after their debut release, Bad Blood, they made finally decided to come to our little country and definitely gave everyone a Friday night to remember.

The show was scheduled to start at 8pm but as usual we all expected it to run late. Indie DJ Ginette Chittick opened with a perfomance spinning the discs trying to get everyone pumped up for the main event.

Bastille are known for their unique style of electronics, haunting vocals and pounding drums and they displayed that special identity that night. Everybody sang along like football fans chanting for their team to their hits like Laura Palmer, Things We Lost In The Fire and Poet. Frontman Dan Smith announced to everyone that he was probably the worst dancer in the place there but I thought it was alright. And really energetic. Especially when he came to the side of the arena and danced on top of the ledge. Waves of fans came crashing to the left side to take a selfie with the singer.

Bastille even included songs that were not yet released from their second album and a rather well-received performance of No Angels - a mashup of TLC's No Scrubs and The xx's Angels. I was surprised to know that Dan's favorite song to perform live was These Streets and after they rocked out to that song, I could see why. Icarus was definitely my pick of the best song of that night. Everyone was 'pogo-ing' (as Dan would put it) to the chorus in complete unison.

After an emotional performance of Overjoyed from Dan, they told us they had 2 songs left for the night. And we all knew what they were. Bastille ended off the night with Of The Night and of course, Pompeii, in spectacular way and we really want them to come back after their much-awaited 2nd album.

 

Setlist:

1. Bad Blood
2. Weight Of Living, Pt. II
3. Laura Palmer
4.Laughter Lines
5. Things We Lost In The Fire
6. Blame (From 2nd unreleased album)
7. Overjoyed
8. Poet
9. These Streets
10. The Driver
11. The Silence
12. Oblivion
13. No Angels
14. Icarus
15. The Draw
16. Flaws
17. Get Home
18. Of The Night.
19. Pompeii

Photo Credits: Dominic Phua and Marcus Lin/ Now/Live Singapore

To state that Yellowcard has been plagued by a series of unfortunate events would be to oversimplify the upheavals that have persistently challenged the four-piece from Jacksonville, Florida. From violinist Sean Mackin’s fight with thyroid cancer to the harrowing accident that paralysed frontman Ryan Key’s wife, these were already potential tell-tale signs that could have ruptured the band’s future. On top of it all, the hasty separation from beloved drummer and founding member Longineu Parsons stole further headlines but nevertheless, YC refused to be eclipsed and the result is Lift a Sail – a lavish rock record whose natural habitat could easily include sold-out arenas.  

The Coliseum is no arena but as the pop punkers’ second Singaporean stint there, the air close to that of a homecoming was unmistakeable as a similar restless fervour audibly simmered. Drawing a parallel to the headliners’ compelling narrative of resurgence was Sign of Five – the refurbished alter ego of Dropbeat Heartbeat who injected a brand of light-hearted (if not shop-worn) banter into their opening set. With a limited repertoire that spanned only a handful of songs, their cover of the bawdy Fountains of Wayne favourite, Stacy’s Mom, boded well enough with the audience as did Wheatus’ one-hit wonder, Teenage Dirtbag. Implicitly stirring certain antagonistic sentiments against One Direction, ‎Rozaihan Ramlan was eager to please – poking fun at their own poorly-lit acoustic endeavour of Less Than Three while guitarists Matin Wallister and Shafiq Hameed busted out melodic riffs to close the quintet’s lead single, Here We Go.

Usually associated with his signature backflips (which later made a striking appearance mid-Way Away), it was Sean Mackin’s stringed soliloquy of Convocation that held the crowd enraptured in its sombre grip notwithstanding the halting technical glitches that preceded it. As former Thursday drummer Tucker Rule smashed out thundering beats that grew louder in succession, the slow-burning instrumental lead-up inevitably erupted into a frenzy of beefy, blaring fretwork courtesy of lead guitarist Ryan Mendez. In remission or not, Mackin’s onstage athletics were far from compromised; never failing to gesticulate wildly in encouragement towards those in the front row to join in Crash The Gates’ soaring battle cry.

Placating long-time fans with the inclusion of 2006’s Rough Landing, Holly and Lights and Sounds, the setlist for the evening was Lift a Sail-centric that was charged with emotional highs. Having proclaimed a worldwide guarantee that it would be absolutely impossible to remain stationary throughout Make Me So, vocalist Ryan Key aired his heartfelt thanks to staunch listeners of the particular album (next to multiple complaints about the humid weather). As a reiteration of his hope that the group’s “darkest days are done,” Illuminate was ever the uplifting track that saw Key’s versatility in crooning silkily, “As we ascend air will get thin, we’ll become ghosts together again.”

Memory, it seemed, still served those present well, euphorically lapping up rare Paper Walls jams like Fighting, before responding equally enthusiastically to more recent anthems like With You Around and Awakening. Coolly sauntering across the stage, bassist Josh Portman was hardly a man of many words, opting instead to let his instrument do the talking by grinding out the gnarly rhythms of Southern Air. Having recently shared a co-headlining tour with Memphis May Fire, it would’ve also been interesting if YC had attempted The Deepest Well sans Mutty Mullins but one can’t really complain too much.

Key initially had qualms about pouring his heart out whilst writing lyrics dealing with his wife’s tragedy – comparing it to a “really, really, rocky road,” – but as a lone figure on the piano singing California, it’s quite apparent from the hypnotic quality of his performance that the heart-warming ballad and even the band’s recent record as a collective, has to be a purgative experience every night. There is a certain poetic symmetry too as the jagged riffs of Ocean Avenue come crashing in that is quite meta. Yellowcard literally tells you that this is goodbye (for now) and it is this seamless connection that mirrors one’s easy investment in this group of individuals who have already displayed a willingness to bare the banes of their existence. 

Setlist:

1. Convocation
2. Transmission Home
3. Crash the Gates
4. Way Away
5. Lights and Sounds
6. Make Me So
7. Illuminate
8. Light Up the Sky
9. Rough Landing, Holly
10. Awakening
11. Fighting
12. Lift a Sail
13. Only One
14. With You Around
15. Southern Air
16. Believe
17. California

Encore:
18. One Bedroom
19. Ocean Avenue

Photo credits: Instagram/ danfollowill, arcariee

If you want to know what it’s like to be in love in the 21st century, just look towards Vine couple Us The Duo. In early 2014, they found Internet fame on Vine with their six-second covers, quickly amassing over four million fans, earning themselves a record deal with Republic Records as well as a chance to tour with the grande dame of wholesome television, Oprah Winfrey.

Two months after their inaugural landing in Singapore for a brief show at the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Finals, they found themselves craving the tropical Asian air, the warmth of this little city-state. And here they are, Dec 10, in the Kallang Theatre preparing for their first-ever Asian concert – thanks to the good people of LAMC Productions.

The night kicked off with the home-grown Gentle Bones (also known as Joel Tan, a singer-song writer, one of the island’s most prized possessions), joined by the ace scarfed violinist, Josh Wei. Serenading us with singles including Elusive, Until We Die, and a cover of Ed Sheeran’s Lego House, he warmed up the auditorium for the love that’s about to permeated the air.

We couldn’t take the amount of gorgeousness radiating from the husband-wife folk-pop team, Michael and Carissa Alvarado – one, a mocha-skinned Filipino stunner; the other, an American charmer looking just as delectable with his curls up in an irresistible man bun. Laidback yet heartfelt, their acoustic set was bereft of the glitz and glamour, and featured only two backing instruments maximum at any one point.

Getting off to a slow and steady start, the smitten-eyed crooners opened with the quietly romantic Make You Mine while the 1,000-strong audience sat in the presence of two immensely adroit artistes. The 70-minute gig was one big storytelling session where audiences were taken through their love story, largely narrated by and from the perspective of the suave cavalier, Michael.

It’s like a romance novel come to life (Take note, Nicholas Sparks). He never believed in love at first sight until he locked eyes with the exotic brunette bombshell at a music video shoot three years ago. And there, he knew he had met his wife. Cue Falling in Love, a dreamy and dizzy number.

But the course of true love never does run smooth. It took Michael incessant tweets (50 times a day) and social media wooing from across the country to win the lady over. Eventually, love begets love and they’re ascending the stages of online dating – culminating in a movie date via FaceTime. That’s when they birth their first collaborative effort, Missin’ You Like Crazy, a cute little track exploding with chocolate wishes and candy kisses.

Sauntering over to the keyboard, they brought the atmosphere down to a poignant degree with the ever-emotional Take Me Home, written when they were away from each other. Just the piano prelude itself (courtesy of Michael, the insanely versatile multi-instrumentalist) was effortlessly poetic enough to melt our hearts and moisten our eyelashes.

But of course, it’s not all lovey-dovey at the Us The Duo concert. The night saw them belting out an ode to the banana, as well as an “open letter” to a few singing competition judges who didn’t believe in their talent. The highlight that stuck with us was their cover of David Guetta’s Titanium. Forget the EDM-laden original. With Carissa dominating the cajon and Michael dropping the slickest of grooves on the electric guitar, the song was at its best stripped down to the basics.

The night closed on a crescendo with No Matter Where You Are, the title track of the duo’s second record, the hit that made its way into the animated film, The Book of Life. From the way they sent figurative sparks flying towards each other every time they looked at each other and launched into a dulcet duet, the audible outbursts of Aww’s in unison were to be expected. It sucks to be single and witnessing these lovebirds in action, but they sure make it easier for the members of the Lonely Hearts Club with a reciprocal outpouring of adoration. If you didn’t believe it before, you’d believe it now: Love conquers all.

 

Set List:

1. Make You Mine
2. Falling in Love
3. Missin’ You Like Crazy
4. ‘Til The Morning Comes
5. Titanium (Cover)
6. Take Me Home
7. Never Gonna Leave You
8. Final Bow
9. Don’t Lay Your Head
10. The Banana Song
11. Top Hits of 2014 Medley
12. No Matter Where You Are

Encore:

13. Christmas Medley

 

Photo credits: Aloysius Lim/LAMC Productions 

It’s been 10 years since The Reason brought light into our music-obsessed lives, and we’re still not tired of the golden hit. Neither are its creators, Hoobastank. They’ve dropped by this sun-drenched city five times now, and they’re still not tired of us. Neither are we of them.

The last time we saw Hoobastank, it was 2009 and minutes away from the new year. Since then, they’ve left Island Def Jam and birthed a new record, Fight or Flight (2012), as an indie outfit. But bassist Jesse Charland was quick to remind us of their affinity for and connection with Asia. “We’re not independent here in Asia. We’re part of Universal Japan,” he said at the press conference hours before show time.

“It’s simply fun to make music,” shares Dan Estrin, the lead guitar maestro. “You just play something and you’ll get a natural high that feels really good. That’s what I keep going back to. I walk out of my kitchen to go my bedroom and there’s a piano and I just ‘bleh’! Sometimes, I hit something that’s really cool and I just end up sitting down and playing just based off of ‘bleh’.”

Evidently, their “blehs” turned into a refined anthology of more than 90 songs and six albums that a multitude of followers (from the opposite end of the globe) have come to witness live.

For starters, home-grown 14-piece percussion army Wicked Aura warmed up the stage with a half an hour set, escalating our heart rates with explosive rhythms and slick grooves. A melting pot of samba, funk, rock, reggae and a touch of screamo, the noisemakers are fronted by Idham Budiman, an electric ball of energy, who left some of his effervescence in the air ready to be followed up by the headliner.

Soul-shredding riffs, courtesy of Dan's handiwork, were aplenty that evening – the first of which came from opener Just One. Lovely, lively and limber, frontman Doug Robb was like an athlete on stage with his jersey numbered 00 (which may or may not be a nod towards the band's success as a '00s post-grunge wonder), prancing about with ease despite the humidity.

Two songs in and he decided to launch into his go-to song for hyping lukewarm crowds. “This next song has the perfect tempo for this entire floor of beautiful people to jump up and down to,” Doug declares. He was right. No Destination never fails to lift our feet off the ground. The Hoobastank maniacs in Singapore may be an intimate bunch, but nothing could stop them from howling and hooting at the top of their lungs in reciprocation to the leader's call.

In case the Coliseum at Hard Rock Hotel starts to combust, the Californian hard rockers had to mellow down with Remember Me andIf I Were You. The 90-minute set included deep cuts like Same Direction, Born to Lead andInside of You – all delivering punchy, anthemic ear candy.

If there's anything that could top Jesse Charland's Movember-fresh bristles, it'd be his bass line, with which our bodies trembled in sync. Behind the drum set was Chris Hesse whose silhouette was projected onto a wall left of the stage on a larger scale, adding to the enigma and upping the drummer’s cool factor.

Mid-set, Hoobastank whipped out the good old call-and-answer with My Turn, getting the ladies to sing a melody while the lads bellow, “When’s it gonna be my turn!” “I did this last time here and it went so good, I want to do it again,” Doug prepped the audience. Because what’s a good concert without a little two-way interaction? Needless to say, they kept the energy and excitement in the air, a feat not quite easy with the typically reserved local audience.

Climaxing at the 2004 kingpin, The Reason, the show was greeted with a much-anticipated, slightly nostalgic, yet blissful and epic sing-along by the masses. The night closed on headbanging heights with schizophrenic numbers like Out of Control. Thanks to the heavy thumpers, we left with muffled hearing, but in high spirits having been in the presence of an underrated gem. Whether a diehard Hoobafan or a single-song admirer, it’s clear that there’s no getting tired of Hoobastank - for now and for(n)ever.

Set List:

1. Just One
2. Let it Out
3. No Destination
4. Same Direction
5. Remember Me
6. If I Were You
7. I Don’t Think I Love You
8. All About You
9. Born to Lead
10. Running Away
11. No Win Situation
12. My Turn
13. Inside of You
14. The First of Me
15. Pieces
16. This Is Gonna Hurt
17. The Reason
18. Out of Control
19. Crawling in the Dark

Spin or Bin Music is proud to be the Official Music Blog for Hoobastank Tour in Singapore!

Photo credit: Impact Entertainment Group