The title of Cadence’s debut EP, Heights, clearly alludes to the fact that they desire to achieve so much more (greater heights you geddit?) Although it might seem rather cliché to describe a debut release as such, it is a fitting title for Cadence’s humble five-track release.
Driven by hooks and an undercurrent of youthful energy, it is clear that the band is still in the process of carving out a distinct musical identity. They have, however, put together an intriguing selection of tracks that is brimming with raw emotion and heartfelt sentiment.
After a brief introduction, the EP opens with ‘Reignition’- a number that bursts with life from the get-go before simmering down into the verse with a particularly strong lyrical hook – “Hey now/ Why’d you let your sceptics paralyse you”. It is a familiar yet enticing brew for followers of the genre with its blend of reflective, lyrical advice in the verse followed by a hard-hitting, pit-ready chorus.
The band’s undeniable flair for writing anthems is also apparent in the delightful guitar riffs and melodies that accompany lead single, ‘Come Home’. Although the track doesn’t follow a conventional song structure, the instrumentation and vocals interchangeably soar and dip over a melody line beautifully.
There are several snags in the overall production of the release however; choruses don’t come across as blistering or as powerful as they should be and certain musical threads aren’t consistent with the band’s overall sound. These small hiccups however don’t detract from the fact that Cadence has presented us a memorable release that is genuinely honest and authentic.
While individual members have diverse current influences, it is pretty clear where Cadence draws their inspiration from as a collective. If you were a fumbling teenager in the mid to late 2000’s and swear by the likes of Anberlin, Copeland and Relient K (or West Grand Boulevard), give Heights from Cadence a spin.
02. Come Home
The EP also includes intro tracks ‘Stratosphere’ and ‘Nebula’.
Heights will be launched on Saturday, 14th November 2015, 7-8pm at Hood Bar and Café.
Lost Weekend‘s debut self-titled release is an ambitious and concept-driven effort that offers their take on the life of the young, somewhat disenchanted city dweller. This is a concept that would not be too unfamiliar to fans of the band as they have been consistently exploring such ideas in their music and image since their early beginnings. In their debut full-length, the Singapore-based outfit successfully weave this narrative over the album’s ten tracks.
Album opener ‘Chips + Wine’ is our first introduction to this deliberate stylistic choice. Though it lasts for a brief 49 seconds, its inclusion as an album opener might seem perplexing unless one bother’s to listen to the entire album from start to finish. Unlike several other concept albums however, it is not essential to listen to the album in a strict, chronological order in order to fully appreciate Lost Weekend’s thought-provoking, almost confessional approach.
The band’s familiarity with indie rock touchstones from the 90’s is also apparent throughout the course of the album and considerably strengthened by vocalist Rachel’s ability to parallel the many iconic female musicians who made inroads into the industry within that particular decade. This, coupled with purposeful song-crafting from the rest of the band is a definite sign of accomplished musicianship.
On ‘About Forever’ for example, an upbeat bass line, muted finger snaps and resplendent guitar sweeps wrap the poetic lament about heartbreak and youthful regret with warmth and tenderness: “I was young and you were free/ Etching wooden hearts in the tree.” This continues until the bridge where the song breaks in what I’d term as relatable advice for the young soul: “And when indie bands teach you about love and responsibility / you better listen / you better listen.”
Another clear standout track is ‘After Midnight’ where gentle guitar picking complement the use of strings and harmonies brilliantly. The track reminds us of the beautifully tragic and glamorous world we live in and it’s almost a pity that the other tracks on the album – while undeniably still very good – didn’t quite follow the same vein.
Overall, despite some variation, the album largely remains within the comfortable and safe territory of indie pop. Lost Weekend’s musical experimentation is unsurprising, but serves to add a degree of musical depth especially when the instrumental track doesn’t quite complement the theme or vocal melody.
Unfortunately if you consider the 90’s to be a nadir for music, Lost Weekend’s debut might lack sufficient earworms for it to be on heavy rotation for you. However if you were to approach the album with enough understanding of its context, it is guaranteed to bring you considerable satisfaction.
01. Chips + Wine
03. On A Sunday
04. What Do You Call It
05. Wild Ones
06. After Midnight
07. Red is the Colour
08. About Forever
You might have noticed the R&B landscape changing quite a fair bit over the last couple of years. The sub-genre now dubbed as ‘alternative R&B’ is climbing towards a creative peak with an entire platoon of artists (The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Sampha, etc) backing its surgence onto the music charts.
Meanwhile, musicians around the Southeast Asian region are slowly warming up to the R&B genre’s new narrative. While it’s undeniable that many of these acts rely heavily on electronically produced tracks, there’s an increasing trend of musicians incorporating their own unique set of cultural influences in their music too.
Malaysian singer-songwriter Najwa Mahiaddin‘s latest release, Aurora EP, places her firmly in the epicentre of everything ‘alternative R&B’ in this region. Najwa adopts minimalist arrangements (courtesy of producer wahono) to back her soulful voice in this five track EP.
Najwa kicks things off with the barely two minute long ‘Lover’. Although relatively short, ‘Lover’ turns out to be the album opener – the perfect transition from the diva-licious glamour on her debut neo-soul album, Innocent Soul, back in 2011. The track’s more electronic elements come across as muted, and simple, accented keys take centrestage in its production.
With the eerie, haunting sound of bells, we’re led into the second track, ‘Before’. Najwa’s departure from her previous pursuits is made crystal clear in this particular number. Opting for mellow simplicity instead of the chirpy, uptempo jams she used to do, Najwa’s voice masterfully takes the listener on an emotional journey of hope and heartbreak.
Special mention must also be given to Najwa’s interpretation of the classic Malay folk song, ‘Seri Mersing’. An ode to her Malay roots, Najwa gives the melancholic track a dark twist. The track’s sinister arrangement is far from linear and can be slightly disconcerting at first. But give it time, and Najwa’s weightier reconstruction will grow on you.
05. Seri Mersing
Also, watch the music video for Najwa’s latest single, ‘Before’, here. The video is artistically shot in monochrome: a visual metaphor that matches the dark themes she explores throughout her Aurora EP.
MONSTER CAT’s sophomore release sees the band exploring new possibilities within their signature spectre-gaze folk sound. Fans of their debut EP, Mannequins, are likely to find that the band has taken a rather giant leap from the sounds they had fallen in love with on that debut.
The new album is, in several ways, startlingly vibrant for a band that won fans over with melancholic strains in tracks such as ‘Underwater’ and ‘The Courier’. Lyrically however, the band continues to lead the listener on a dignified, sombre odyssey – except this time they’re traversing across slightly different soundscapes.
Lead single ‘Take Me to Love’ is an upbeat, celebratory rock number with a cheekily groovy bassline. Brief, anthemic whoahs towards the song’s end come across as rock festival friendly. However, the track as a whole won’t exactly be easy for drunken festival reveller’s to catch on and sing-along to – for the band has clearly refrained from dumbing down the musical formula too much.
In this vein, ‘Tower’ is another track that deserves special mention. The track is an inventive brew that consists of tribalistic chants, brass elements and with a healthy dose of MONSTER CAT’s quintessential quirkiness. Other than proving that they are not the type of band to shy away from inventive concoctions, ‘Tower’ is also representative of a band that has been steadily taking their ambitions further since their inception.
While The Violet Hour features a number of dynamic tracks, MONSTER CAT truly shines on mellow tracks where the folk element is more pronounced – such as ‘Pockets (All I Have)’ and ‘Circling’. The band’s signature vocal harmonies seem to go well with such acoustically driven tracks, and the result is a comfortable sense of disquiet that few other acts could pull off.
The band continues to embrace this sense in ‘Knife Through Water’ – a metaphorical track that is styled like an reinvented English folk song. The track is suitably dark, but it is warm and inviting at the same time; due to a catchy vocal melody as well as the addition of majestic strings. Just as the track hits its climax however, this emotive masterpiece aptly fades out and makes way for closing track, ‘Behind’.
An apt album closer, ‘Behind’ breathes new life into The Violet Hour. Interestingly, vocals on this track don’t quite function as the prime melody driver but instead successfully function as yet another instrument (Thom Yorke would be proud). This is especially clear as the track culminates into a dazzling splendour, where lyrical content takes a backseat and instrumental bravado takes centre stage.
Despite the utter brilliance of ‘Behind’, it also highlighted the fact that The Violet Hour as a whole lacked cohesion and fluidity. There are times when the music gets particularly interesting, but these moments are scattered throughout the 13 track album. The Violet Hour will definitely impress some with its technical reinvention, but it is an album that requires multiple listens in order to fully appreciate its creative aesthetic. MONSTER CAT aren’t quite in their element yet – but they come pretty close.
It’ll be interesting to see how (or if) MONSTER CAT indulges in their inner spirit animals and continue to shapeshift in their next release. For now, The Violet Hour is one heck of release that tantalises and puts the band out as a force to be reckoned with.
01. Take Me To Love
04. Pockets (All That I Have)
10. Eat You Up
12. Knife Through Water
The Violet Hour is now available for purchase via MONSTER CAT’s Bandcamp. It is also available via iTunes and Spotify.
As far as first impressions go, I’m expecting something manically wild and beastly from The Experience Brother’s latest album, From the Deepest Growl. On the album cover there is a baboon screaming at me, and the backdrop is a deep, fiery red. Bold yellow font spells out ‘The Experience Brothers’ – a band name that could only stem out of an admiration for the most important guitar player of all time, Jimi Hendrix. At this point, I’ve yet to settle myself down in my little corner and hit the play button on my record player, but I’m already anticipating some good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll.
On From The Deepest Growl, The Experience Brothers embody the spirit of the flower children with their simple yet poetic lyrics. This is nothing entirely new for the band, especially when one takes into consideration their earlier material in Summer of Love (2008) and Eye Contact (2010). While previously they have taken an angrier, more literal approach, this time round they express their disillusion and disappointment through ambiguous statements that could relate to practically anyone – be it a foolish former lover or a rogue, corrupt politician.
It is almost as if you are sitting at the table nearest to the forgotten bluesman at the local coffeeshop. He is plucking his guitar delicately as he coos, “You used to be a lion but you don’t remember”. The melody is particularly pleasant one, perhaps unsurprisingly so. His faded flower power bellbottoms and permanent smile (obscured slightly by his beard) indicate a lively and colourful mind as he continues, “We have wrong / We have been wrong all the time”. You’re trying your hardest to nonchalantly sip your coffee while observing this curious talent when the both of you make eye contact; and he once again breaks into, “You used to be a lion but you don’t remember”. Suddenly, you’re struck with the realization that all this time, he wasn’t singing about anyone else, but you.
The anthem of the forgotten bluesman, ‘Lion’, is quite possibly the only track that has a mellow feel in the entire album; for the bulk of it is an exercise in heavy rock ‘n’ roll. Justifiably, it provides the album with a sizzling start; guitarist/vocalist Bram’s guitar is ablaze and thoughtfully complemented by stylistic drum patterns from Daud, his brother and partner in crime. The band’s attention to detail also hits the mark. The subtle use of a distorted guitar tremolo effect on ‘Different Planet’ provides delightful effervescence and on ‘Too Many Fire’ a bewitching manipulation of the track’s main instrumental refrain oozes an exciting, exotic flavour.
Midway through the album however, the music increasingly feels like a series of recycled riffs. Moments that should have been energetic and rousing come across as more self-indulgent than meaningful. The potential in ‘Nevermind’ is downplayed by a less than stellar arrangement. An annoying guitar squeak during chord changes on ‘You Can Run but Can’t Hide’ is a significant blemish that can’t seem to be unheard. The opening notes of ‘You Got Me’ feel oddly familiar, and soon enough it feels more like a B-side to earlier track, ‘Young, Wild and Free’. (Granted, my perception of the track would probably be more positive if I hadn’t listened to its more muscular cousin.)
Despite it all, The Experience Brothers remain committed to the cause and aren’t afraid to cause a musical racket. It is an admirable tenacity, that helps craft a consistent and well executed album. As a whole, From the Deepest Growl makes for a crackling listen, though perhaps less savage than the screaming baboon on its cover suggests.
1. Something Wrong
2. Different Planet
3. Too Many Fire
5. Young, Wild and Free
6. Devil’s Hand
7. Head Made From Stone
8. You Got Me
10. You Can Run but Can’t Hide
11. Freedom Anthem