We are officially bordering on the dawn of a post-lockdown, but while most of us already have one foot out of the door, check out this list of fresh drops to share with friends once we’re finally granted permission to see them again.
1. Too Well by Shye
Young and impressionable, Shye-Anne Brown is the local scene’s answer for raw talent that needs to be polished. Being all of only 17, she is aware that her “age doesn’t help” and is worried that “people might just see it as a passing phase or hobby but it’s definitely but it’s definitely not that, I’m not just dabbling in it.” She hopes that “people will start looking past my “bedroom” musician image and take me seriously for the music I put out and not be fixated on how or where the music is made.”
On whether she feels accepted by her peers or is considerably more popular with this new-found fame, Shye quips, “I don’t think my friends find me cool, maybe the idea of making music might be, but I don’t think they see me any different.” Riding on the waves of Bedroom Pop and quickly garnering a sizeable fandom, she still comes across grounded, stating that writing and production are done by herself straight from her bedroom, and whilst she is open to “what’s going on or trending”, she holds true to her sense of self, and it comes as a relief to her that they don’t think she has changed at all.
Shye’s newest number, “Too Well” is arguably one of her bests, with clean beats that are reminiscent of the stylings of New Zealand singer Benee, and a catchy hook bound to stay in your mind all day. When asked about her favourite past performances, she fondly recalls the times she opened for Clairo, and scored gigs at BayBeats and Kuala Lumpur-based Urbanscapes, further expressing her enthusiasm to go back on stage after the circuit breaker. Each day she grows stronger, and criticism aside that might be levelled at her current performances, she finds herself struggling more with herself, more than anyone else: “I’m my own biggest critique and it’s something that I’m learning to moderate but I never want to become complacent.”
2. The New Normal by Watchmen
Industry veteran Kevin Mathews has had a strong hand in building the foundations of the local music scene in the 90s with Watchmen (My One and Only, Please Believe Me). He takes on many hats as a composer, curator, film score writer, lecturer, mentor, music journalist, and a seasoned musician, publishing regularly on Bandcamp. Among his new releases is “The New Normal”, a nod to the updated way of life, brought about by the current happenings of the world.
The candid track itself is Brit pop-rock-inspired, with elements of Kevin’s favourite English musicians David Bowie and Blur. “I try to be as eclectic as possible even within a song itself—which explains the Genesis-like synth solo at the end.”, he elaborates on the structure of the uptempo tune that poses the question: “Is this the new normal?”
3. Love by Jonan
Ipoh-born, Singapore-based Jonan may be new to the scene but he’s not holding back—and newest single “Love” is proof. In a big, broadway-style ballad number, we see his friend, Jonathan Khoo with gleaming charm and an incredible display of vocal control against a piano accompaniment that builds him up for the anticipatory climax. Following the theme of a musical number, we witness the inner altercation of his character within the song, “We shouldn’t call this love, just ‘cause it’s real doesn’t make it love”.
4. Hurry Home by No Rome, Beabadoobee & Jay Som
If the mellifluous, chill-hop vocals of Beabadoobee in “Hurry Home” sound familiar, it’s probably due to the explosive, overnight popularity of melancholic ballad “Death Bed” by Powfu that has been setting the backdrop to every Dalgona coffee tutorial on TikTok. Together with fellow Filipino musicians No Rome and Jay Som, “Hurry Home” takes on a much lighter message, one about hopefulness and fleeting feelings. The trio’s vocals shine through the steady stream of acoustic guitar and twinkling synth.
5. Serenade by Jean Tan
If you’re looking to inject a little folk-jazz into your playlist, perhaps local singer-songwriting Jean Tan’s latest endeavours will hit just the spot. Featuring a picturesque contemporary-vintage melody, M. Ward-inspired electric guitar, kept in time with gentle sweeping snare drum brushwork and a groovy walking bassline. It’s evident that Jean has grown comfortable with the musical styles of R&B artist and producer Dru Chen, who previously worked with her on 2019 release “Fly”. “Dru is encouraging, affirming, and is able to translate my non-technical inspirations into works of art. He is a brilliant and great producer to work with, and I’m honoured to have done ‘Serenade’ with him.” She confirms that the upcoming EP will also be produced by him.
Above all, it is Jean’s vocals and emotions that bring the personal track to life. Behind the optimism of “Serenade” is a tough breakup that left her feeling discouraged for two years, before finding the will to open her heart up to possibilities of love again. “I felt ready to love again, and it was in that same place that the melody of ‘Serenade’ came to mind. This is a song birthed out of the possibility of hope and recovery again, even after loss.”
Rapper and local YouTube sensation Subhas Nair brings a topical and much-needed conversation to the table with bilingual track “Mada Sambrani”—translating to “bumbling idiot”. The hip-hop track directly addresses a controversial Instagram Story post made by local influencer and socialite Jamie Chua that included racist implications against migrant workers. Being no stranger to social commentary and controversies, Subhas spared no mercy spitting bars, with the help of fellow rapper DNL.
The final nail in the coffin is his tongue-in-cheek disclaimer that states “no influencers were harmed during the making of this video”. Mic drop.
7. The List by Maisie Peters
In a heartfelt love letter to herself, Atwood artist-to-watch Maisie Peters is brutally honest about her vulnerabilities with single “The List”, featuring reflective lines ripped straight from the pages of a diary. 19-years-old and already finding her footing in the scene, Peters is the icon of a role model for the coming-of-age. Instrumentally, “The List” begins as delicately as how she describes herself; fragile and light piano chords dance carefully around her words, before the song builds up, as does her confidence. It certainly takes a lot to stand before a crowd to spill your darkest secrets.
8. Cheap Buys in G-Town by O$P$
The Geylang Crunk crew comprising of Zushan and Race never fail to deliver straight fire. Case in point, their latest project—”Cheap Buys in G-Town”, a beat tape documentary of unreleased tracks by various experimental artists, such as Fauxe, AngelK, mickeyLEANO, omarKENOBI, Zadon and more. The mix is accompanied by footage taken around the Geylang precinct.
9. Small Lanes by M1LDL1FE
Apt for these uncertain times, indie/alternative outfit M1LDL1FE’s frontman Paddy Ong opens “Small Lanes” with an expression of their perplexity, “I don’t really know where to go, moving is the only thing right”. The piece is chockfull of synth sounds, electrifying guitar lines and soaring energy, setting the atmosphere for the band as one of three singles to be released this year in the lead up to their debut album in 2021.
Though the sentiments of “Small Lanes” are eerily reflective of our current feelings, Ong explains that it was completely by chance, “It was written as a reflection of our journey as a band and some of the personal rough patches we were going through, so to release it in a time where we’re experiencing the most uncertain of times is accidentally prescient.” Nevertheless, the uplifting nature of the indie-pop number serves as a reminder to continue moving forward even if the future seems unclear.
10. Sujud by Fathin Amira
Having weathered through various talent shows such as Singapore Idol, The Final 1, SG Mania and Asia’s Got Talent, multilingual powerhouse singer Fathin Amira is aware of her brimming potential. On “Sujud”, Fathin grasps the empathy of listeners with lyrics expressing the despair of withheld feelings through mastery of vocal techniques. Behind her, a sombre orchestra carries the soulful message; all vibrant strings, weighted keys and slow rock beats.