We’re off to a promising start to the year, music-wise. Kick back with this specially-curated R&R playlist of new tracks from home. 2021 is beginning to look like the year of local music.
1. Make Her Mine by Jason Yu
To Jason Yu, innocent, naive love comes in the form of vanilla ice cream.
At least that was what the local songwriter visualised when penning the bubbly “Make Her Mine”. Jason photographs the wholesome growth of an infatuation that seeks a deeper connection with the indie-pop tune, composed and recorded from the bedroom after attending a gig by Melbourne-based Good Morning. Fascinated with the melodious, yet tastefully streaked with unpolished elements that substantiate his favourite indie-pop music, the acoustic serenade reflects the best of the genre—simple, genuine and down to earth.
Now on his fourth studio single, Jason looks back on his busking roots and modestly professes that there is still so much to take away from performing on the streets. “While it always feels good to stand on a stage and perform to a crowd that’s all ready to sing along with you, there’s nothing quite like the challenge of putting yourself out there on the streets and attempting to grab the attention of people that are going about their busy lives with nothing but a mic, an amp and your music.” The jump from the lively streets of Orchard to performing under the spotlight of Esplanade’s handpicked local acts proved to be greater than just disparate playing fields; standing on the same ground as his audience provided Jason with an unshakable appreciation for intimacy and a genuine connection with his listeners, even as he climbs the rungs of his creative journey.
March will mark the launch of his debut EP, “Ideals”, with an online listening party to showcase the tracklist and to connect with his fans on a more personal level. “Ideals marks the start of my musical journey, and I can’t wait to bring more songs and sounds to the world.”
2. Fate by MJ Kuok
EDM producer MJ Kuok dishes new dance tracks every week for the feel-good Friday groove that’s now muscle memory for most of us. “Fate” is a soaring synth fantasy that swells in its instrumental chorus to charm listeners into believing in miracles. For three minutes you are airborne and unstoppable as your personal soundtrack takes you to a whole new high.
3. Animinimism by Subsonic Eye
Indie rock crew Subsonic Eye has remained a cornerstone in the evolving realm of local music since their debut in 2017 and the kick-off as the promising alternative outfit of Baybeats 2017’s Budding Band roster. In their third and most recent studio experimentation, “Nature of Things” narrates the flow of nature taking its course. The album reads maturity and refinement that comes from growing with the scene, punctuated with the same distorted electric strings that have characterised Subsonic Eye since Day One. Nature of Things takes a step back to avoid getting lost in itself and instead notes the world we are surrounded by; plants, people, cats, and the interaction of it all.
Of the tracklist, “Animinimism” stands out (apart from “Kaka the Cat”—the tribute to guitarist Daniel’s late feline companion prefaced as “The song about my cat and what she went through on November 2019”). The lines are polished in a way that’s symbolic of their growth throughout the band’s creative journey. Reflecting its sonic presentation, the track follows significant changes and viewing the world in a different light. “I guess to put simply it’s about the renewing phases in life – like how we see season patterns in nature,” explains Daniel.
Honesty is a core theme in the junior album, as frontwoman Wahidah shares. “It was actually a really liberating process to be able to write whatever I wanted.” In moments that threatened to overstep vulnerability, she flipped the script and took it in her stride, using it to fuel her songwriting about matters close to home.
4. Perfect Picture by Cigarette Burns
“Perfect Picture” is a fresh breeze of indie-pop in the key of comfort, brought to you by rising artist Cigarette Burns. Real name Joshua T Smith, the multi-talented musician has crept up on the radar of the local playlists. “Picture Perfect” is the perfect taste-breaker that still somehow falls in step with your melancholy indie mix—uplifting ukulele tones, whistles and handclaps encapsulate the catchiness of a jingle and the depth of a healing relationship.
5. Thanimai by Shabir
Shabir’s resume extends past impressive and borders on brilliance; the Singapore Youth award-championing musician takes on many hats as a producer, singer-songwriter and composer, with the title of the nation’s highest accolade for youths under his belt.
In “Thanimai”, Shabir pours emotions into a soulful Tamil indie-pop that expresses the uncertainty of the next reunion with a partner. Masterfully, he succeeds in conveying the wistful longing atop an ethereal layered backing and sparkling chimes. Indeed, the track resonates a modern-day meaning with many couples, having been through the perils of circuit breaker last year.
6. Can’t get you off my head by Ron
This year introduced us to Ron and his pensive thoughts chronicled in the lofi “can’t get you off my head”. The song opens with clipped audio of spoken word; an unsent heartfelt voice note meant for a past lover. The mix of feathery tones and floaty keys project the gloomy night that bore the single from the lonesome confines of insomnia, and closes with a repetitive note to himself to ‘go to bed’. Despite being Ron’s debut, “can’t get you off my head” is an achingly candid letter to lost love. “We ended the relationship over one and a half years ago but reconnected last December. I was too immature to have appreciated how blessed I was to have had experienced such a love, and the song is about that regret.”
The course of an artist’s first years is almost always potholed, and Ron attests. Challenges manifested in the form of financial, political and self-confidence issues, but the toughest battle to face in his path was discovering who he truly was. “If anything, the journey has solidified my character and made me believe in my self harder than ever.”
Ron dedicates the upcoming EP—a year in the making—to anyone on the same arduous path he has chosen to take, one that leads to the promised land of finding oneself and understanding the worth of self-love and acceptance. “I’ve been working on it for the past year and framing my identity as an artist, and I cannot wait to share it with the world. It’s rather heartbreaking, but you can bet it’s 100% honest and a documentation of my early 20s dealing with high-functioning anxiety, the emptiness of finding love and acceptance in the wrong places.” Sonically, the rest of the album gears towards a more alternative R&B route, not dissimilar to the sounds of The Weeknd, Joji and Alextbh.
7. Silhouette by Shaun Jansen
Against his younger, My Chemical Romance-belting self from his time in The Final One, Shaun Jansen seems almost unrecognisable on his debut solo single, “Sihouette”. The pop heartthrob cleans up well, now 35 and has found his own sound. Emotive keys and violin strings frame the slow-burning scupper of romance in the ballad. “Silhouette” is unhurried, each note and pause ringing through your head for the rest of the day.
Following up to his appearance on the MAJULAH WEEKENDER project by Zendyll Studios, producer RIIDEM releases “Regina”, a sweltering electro-hop number featuring R&B rapper Strange Alias. The chemistry between the duo is undeniable, completing the bop with juicy bars, fresh, clean vocals and energy that bounces off one another.
9. UR TYPE – Gen Neo
Singer-composer Gen Neo may have worked alongside the hottest Kdramas and K-pop boybands (think Super Junior, GOT7 and “Oh My Venus”), but “UR TYPE” testifies that even a man of such talent and credential falls vulnerable to the withdrawals of a fizzled-out relationship. “Why do I keep falling for your type?” Gen Neo questions amidst the narrative of a love that’s quickly slipping through the cracks. The dulcet verses are delivered with much swagger, alternating between melodic Mando-rap and chilled-out hip hop bars.
10. Days to Morning Glory by Shye
“Days to Morning Glory” is the title track of Shye’s most recent 14-tracker that bathes in wistful nostalgia for simpler times. The honeyed tones of the electro-pop princess’ voice work remarkably well in the familiar indie-bedroom-pop sounds, which have clearly grown with Shye since her first album, “Augus7ine”. As per always, the song is written, recorded and produced in her bedroom; an impressive feat considering the quality of its songwriting and production.