As Popspoken bids adieu to 2015 in a few weeks’ time, we want to reflect on the time and effort the local music scene expended during the year. 2015 has seen a fantastic bumper crop of new Singapore releases, ranging from Charlie Lim’s phenomenal “Time/Space” LP launch to Inch Chua’s idiosyncratic release “Letters to Ubin”.
But how many other tracks have slipped under the radar? We put together a list of the most essential ‘Made in Singapore’ tracks of 2015.
- Charlie Lim – Knots
- Sphaeras x Two Seas – Ensemble
- Cashew Chemists – Feel Amazing
- Jawn – Fade To Black
- DEON – Summer
- Sphaeras – Delorean
- Stopgap – Nervous
- iNCH – Mousedeer
- Forests – Who Cares, Really
- [.gif] – Godspeed
- Paint The Sky Red – A Billet Doux
- Exhibitors – Deceased
- Shigga Shay – Everybody
- Myrne – Rainflora
- The Psalms – Snake And The Mongoose
- Take Two – In Your Arms
- Cheating Sons – To Dance With The Devil
- Riot In Magenta – Ctrl
- Theodora – Lines
- The Sam Willows – Take Heart
- Mean – Basic (feat. Deeranae)
- The Lion City Boy – All Night (feat. Sezairi, Mr Boo)
- Trick – Some Girls
- Pastelpower – Pstlpwr
- Lost Weekend – Mornings
All tracks were released in 2015. Happy Listening!
25. Lost Weekend – Mornings
Indie-pop darlings Lost Weekend released their eponymous debut album on 2nd August 2015, ushering in this list with singer Rachel Tan’s breezy vocal melodies, cheerful guitars and indie pop/rock sensibilities.
24. Pastelpower – Pstlpwr
Obedient Wives Club‘s lead guitarist Cherie Ko has been been making music for as long as we can remember, all the way from YouTube moniker talktothewalls to indie rock outfit Bored Spies. We particularly enjoy her latest offering, Farewell Cruel World, which displays the whimsicality and idiosyncrasy of her bedroom-made dream pop. Think of the likes of Owl City-meets-Wes Anderson-meets-Cyberbully Mom Club.
23. Trick – Some Girls
Local urban hip-hop duo Trick released their single Some Girls just in time for the height of this year’s #SG50 celebrations. While the bass intro sounds oddly reminiscent of Britney Spears’ Pretty Girls, all is quickly forgotten when Marc Lian’s pop-friendly vocals and Richard Jansen’s sneering, confident rhymes enter the picture.
– Jovi Ho, International Music Editor, Popspoken
22. The Lion City Boy – All Night (feat. Sezairi, Mr Boo)
We’re digging former Singapore Idol Sezairi Sezali’s Michael Jackson/The Beach Boys breezy vibes here as featured artist, together with the fact that the music video is totally covered with zombies. Although we miss grittier tracks like “S.S.A”, “Rockstar 2.0″, and “Fresh Pair” from 2010 debut offering Let’s Talk About Kevin Lester, All Night is a feel-good track, with MC Kevin Lester dropping gold lines like “I rep the lion city in the states tho/ Came back/ Asap to make a peso/ tried to lay low but she so kecoh”.
21. Mean – Basic (feat. Deeranae)
Mean’s grimy, dirty south, Atlanta trap sound reminds us of Hip-Hop artists like Schoolboy Q, Gucci Mane, while his impeccable flow brings to mind the likes of A$AP Rocky. We’re also digging featuring artist Deeranae’s sick Missy Elliot vibes here. Mean’s latest album – NSFW – is an evolution of his own signature sound and a manifestation of his journey within. Upbeat and rocksteady, Basic will keep your head bobbing along after just one listen.
– Asshiddiq Ridzuan, Music Photographer, Popspoken
20. The Sam Willows – Take Heart
Arguably one of Singapore’s highest selling bands, The Sam Willows makes this list at 20. Take Heart is a track that is all over your Spotify advertisements, making you go – Hey, what is that cool sounding Avicii track ah? And then you find out it’s The Sam Willows.
19. Theodora – Lines
Accompanied by a beautifully-shot video, Noise Singapore alumnus Theodora’s first-ever single features feathery vocals, textured multi-track harmonies, and cameos from an entire farm’s worth of animals (shout-out to Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary!). Between the leading acoustic guitar and creeping electronic instrumentation, a resplendent balance is reached – placing her vocals and lyricism comfortably in the spotlight. A splendid debut.
– Jovi Ho, International Music Editor, Popspoken
18. Riot In Magenta – Ctrl
As the title track in their Voices EP, CTRL is a track that weaves the band’s smooth synths and hard-hitting rhythms with lead singer Eugenia Yip’s wispy vocals, creating a standout and distinct track. The lyrics, mellow and reminiscent, sets the tone of the record, breaking away from their previously pop-friendly sound. Tactfully, the band brings a different touch to produce a sound that’s full and vibrant. With laptops chugged out and instruments producing their full sound during live performances, we’re anticipating their set at Laneway Festival 2016.
– Sweehuang Teo, Music Photographer, Popspoken
17. Cheating Sons – To Dance With The Devil
In 2011, Cheating Sons was touted as the next big thing to hit Singapore music, with their country-folk rockability and Mumford & Sons stylings. Back then, Master, Wives and Daughters was a brilliant offering, giving the audience a good ol’ throwback to the Matthew & The Mandarins days. Fast forward to 2015, and we were presented with their brilliant eponymous sophomore effort, with the visceral To Dance With The Devil – a standout track.
16. Take Two – In Your Arms
Take Two’s indie jingle In Your Arms is a mellow, rollicking track, with lead singer Paddy Jonathan Ong’s voice reminiscent of a young, nascent John Mayer. Take Two’s music gives us massive Bombay Bicycle Club and pre-Total Life Forever Foals vibes, which is a good thing. Who knows, Take Two might actually spark an indie-rock music resurgence in Singapore in the close future. Lovers of Two Door Cinema Club, Vampire Weekend, and Foals – Take note.
15. The Psalms – Snake And The Mongoose
The Psalms crazy, unfiltered, live shows has reminded us of Japanese noise rockers Bo Ningen’s unhinged performance when we caught them recently at Neon Lights. With her snarls and commanding stage presence, Frontwoman Suhaili is an absolute beast to watch on stage – reminding us of feisty powerhouse female vocalists like Savages’ Jehnny Beth and ex-Crystal Castles’ lead singer Alice Glass. One might insouciantly dub them Minah Rock, but hey, The Psalms are probably one of the hardest rocking bands out there in Singapore.
14. Myrne – Rainflora
Singapore’s very own Mad Decent export got one of his very first showcases at the Jakarta’s Djakarta Warehouse Project just a week ago. At a bristling age of 20, this young chillwave/house producer – we feel – has tons to bring to the table. But somehow, the young electronic protégé has been missing from the scene. Yo Myrne, when you gonna play some local shows man?
13. Shigga Shay – Everybody
While Shigga’s hits such as Lion City Kia, LimPeh, and Shigga Morning have received copious amounts of attention, we would like to bring the audience’s attention to this gem of a track – “Everybody”. “Everybody” is a track that chronicles the nascent rapper’s journey, dropping one-lined burns such as “Back in ’09, Channel 5 used to hate on ya boy / Now everybody on the bandwagon wanna write and create with ya boy”, over similar-sounding Drake Tuscan Leather beat. Gold stuff.
12. Exhibitors – Deceased
Melodic hardcore outfit Exhibitors are probably one of the very few bands that are able to hold their own among other foreign hardcore exports, with their sound emulating the likes of stalwarts such as Defeater, Touché Amoré, and even a hint of post-Sempiternal Bring Me The Horizon. We are really hoping that these guys will open for BMTH when they come to Singapore. Hey, it can’t hurt when ex-Caracal Lead Singer KC Meals is a fan of your band right?
11. Paint The Sky Red – A Billet Doux
While it is difficult to pin post-rockers Paint The Sky Red down by just one track; this meandering, epic ballad A Billet Doux (Love Letter in French) perfectly sums up its namesake. Bittersweet and haunting, the song has a familiar, down-to-earth start that mounts into a dramatic crescendo with little pretension. More Explosions In The Sky than (post-rock outfit) Tortoise, the band skips over cerebral leanings to simply tell a story, filtered by pictures of serenity.
– Weets Goh, Music Curator, Popspoken
10. [.gif] – Godspeed
Masters of electronic music [.gif] have been making music for as long as we can remember, with singer Weish plying her trade in bands such as sub:shaman before this. We particularly enjoy Godspeed, a neo-noir, trip-hop, goth-like soundtrack that echoes the likes of Portishead, Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation. Check out the band’s recent feature on Vice’s electronic music channel Thump here.
9. Forests – Who Cares, Really
Probably one of the few bands that have flown very under the radar, emo-math rock outfit Forests needs more recognition than they deserve. The trio released debut EP, worst beach vacation ever, circa 1997, on July 2015, and have restricted themselves to mostly playing small dive-studio shows. Their self-deprecating humour is what gets the fans, with song titles such as “Who Cares Really” and a Twitter account run by the ostentatiously funny frontman/bassist Darell Laser. Go Forests!
8. iNCH – Mousedeer
Inch Chua’s sophomore offering Letters To Ubin is a brilliant one, one that chronicles her sojourn at kampung/island Pulau Ubin. A silent tune of yearning, “Mousedeer” encapsulates Inch’s various emotions – one of despair, hope, desperation, love, solitude, and pain. While most of the clean, masterful output can be attributed to producer/”button-masher” Evan Low, Inch shines in her solid songwriting skills here, drawing in from the Ubin ambience and making it her own. Insightful and contemplative, Letters To Ubin – with lead single “Mousedeer” – is a solid record that trumps 2013 debut effort Bumfuzzle.
7. Stopgap – Nervous
We thoroughly enjoyed Stopgap’s debut LP Totems launch two weeks ago, with the boys segueing into hits from their debut effort while we were effortlessly half-drunk on snow leopard Vodka. Jokes aside, Totems is an absolute and total gem, packed with standout tracks such as “Run Out“, “Crossing Swords“, and of course – titular track “Nervous”. Who can ever dismiss the whimsical, lonely boy-isque dance of sound technician Irsyad “Shag” Sidharta?
6. Sphaeras – Delorean
We loved post/math rockers Sphaeras debut release Moirai so much that we felt that the four-piece outfit deserved two featurings on this list. “Delorean” is a rollicking track that echoes the structure of spaced-out time signatures like The World Is A Beautiful Place’s Heartbeat In The Brain and Don Caballero’s Railroad Cancellation. A splendid, hard-hitting and grandiose track, “Delorean” is an effort that deserves top mention among other post-rock greats.
5. Deon – Summer
“Sunburnt and twenty-three, curious hazel eyes/ When the moonlight pierced her freckled skin/ It pales all aside”, singer-songwriter Deon Toh drawls on the most popular single from his 11-track album “Oceans”. Drawn from a set of four compositions named after the four seasons, Deon is an emerging visionary in the local pop-rock field. The textured harmonies and yearning vocalisations in “Summer” are reminiscent of former American duo The Civil Wars, and Deon’s falsetto bears resemblance to The Sam Willows’ Benjamin Kheng’s at times. Bonus: the video is a slow-mo work of art.
– Jovi Ho, International Music Editor, Popspoken
4. Jawn – Fade To Black
Jon Chan’s intricate, stellar Death Cab For Cutie stylings resonates heavily with listeners here, with the singer-songwriter opting for a minimal set-up of an acoustic guitar and drum kit. Chan’s penchant for brilliant, Konica film-style music videos is also a massive plus on his side, showcasing to the world that local musicians can be highly marketable to a mass audience. Check out his brilliant video for Chase Away The Dark here.
3. Cashew Chemists – Feel Amazing
Cashew Chemist’s summer-drenched feel-good song is one that connects with the ordinary listener, making us feel that this song has potential to become an advertisement jingle. Lead singer’s Yuji Kumagai’s breezy vocals and distinct harmonising are reminiscent of McCartney–Lennon–Harrison vocal melodies. Coupled with their viral video of Chen Tianwen’s “Unbelievable” and their upcoming set at Laneway Festival 2016, we’re sure that 2016 will be the year of the Chemist.
2. Sphaeras x Two Seas – Ensemble
The first ten seconds of this track can be deceptive. It opens with an ambient sequence before reminding listeners what both bands revel in. Sphaeras and Two Seas demonstrate their distinctive styles in Ensemble, leaving us with a part post-rock, part post-hardcore experience. Two Seas are a breath of fresh air – not just in homegrown music per se, but delivering killer rhythms and melodies with precision à la Blue Sky Noise-era Circa Survive. We’d like to think of Two Seas as the yin to Sphaeras’ yang, the latter much more nuanced and atmospheric.
– Hadi Lee, Music Curator, Popspoken
And now, for the number one track… drumroll, please.
1. Charlie Lim – Knots
It’s amazing to know how then-little-known singer Charlie Lim from Melbourne blew up in 2012 to become one of the most revered and acclaimed acts in local history. Since then, Lim’s double EP Time/Space has performed well in the music charts, making it one of the top-selling local albums of 2015.
Knots is a song that is built around its troubled lyrics – as many of Lim’s songs are – with stellar sound hooks such as Lim’s impassioned cry of “So help me understand why/Why you wanna go back/Still running to your past life/When there’s nothing left”. A highly emotional banger, Lim opts for a minimalist approach in terms of song structure, employing transient house beats and silent bass trots.
Although we’d like to think that Lim draws inspiration from electronic aficionado Jamie xx – but truth is – there is probably no other act in the world that can draw a parallel to Lim’s work. Knots wins our top selection for best local release of 2015, and it is definitely a song to jam to on a late night drive or spending a night over a bottle of wine with a loved one.
– Isabelle Chan, Former Music Editor, Popspoken
– Evan Woon, Indie Music Editor, Popspoken
Photo Mosaic taken from bands respective Facebook pages
Editors Note: We love every single release here that has been in 2015. Here’s to a great 2016!