So here it is again! If you missed it before, we've broken our album review hiatus just recently for a massive comeback. And by 'massive' we mean spilling over into two separate instalments, and here's the second.
This time, we feature local acts like Cockpit, Radiant Archery and stillsunrise, along with some other musicians around the globe, such as Thundercat and Town Portal. Knock yourselves out with these seven new albums, but most importantly, tell us if you like them. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you may just win some irresistible music goodies yourself!
The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam | Thundercat
The past 12 months have been greatly impactful for Thundercat's career, appearing not only in label-mate and close friend Flying Lotus' explosive jazz/hip-hop/electronic opus You're Dead but also made his mark all over Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, which many critics have deemed as one of the best rap albums in the past decade or so (we agree).
It's only an appropriate time for Thundercat, real name Stephen Bruner, to release music of his own amidst growing attention. With The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam, a self-proclaimed "mini-LP", it works as both an accessible sampler of Thundercat's creative compass and a possible preview of what's to come with his next full-length effort. Featuring both his penchant for heady songwriting that teeters the line between velvety R&B melodies that were front and centre in his debut album The Golden Age of Apocalypse and a new-found appreciation for atmosphere and a dreamy soundstage. If this mini-LP is truly an indication of where he's heading to, it's headfirst into the cosmos.
Standout Tracks: 'Song for the Dead', 'Them Changes', 'Lone Wolf And Cub'
Four Horsemen Riding in the Sky (Behind Got Sun) | Cockpit
The Gods of Metal themselves commissioned this album. You can't go wrong.
Cockpit rules. Heavy metal forever. Get this album.
Standout Tracks: 'Gods Of Metal', 'Epic Single', 'Crystal Ball'
Salvation | Radiant Archery
It doesn't take long in the dark and dramatic soundscapes of Salvation to see that Radiant Archery has turned up a world-class record for their debut full-length. Masterfully transitioning between incomparably badass sequences and plaintively soulful ones, the local quartet's creative dexterity adds a technical intricacy to their heavy post-metal sound. The title track decrescendos from its boldly majestic intro to make way for a spirited voice-over speech, but even here the instrumentals never lose their power and the impassioned layers are steadily built upon to a rousing, dynamic climax. And indeed throughout this fervently intense album, the vigorous instrumentals never sleep, and never fail to overwhelm.
Especially with the treat for longtime fans to a new rendition of the track 'IV' off their first EP release, the evolution of the band's music is clear: they may have gone heavier on reverb, but these tracks seem even more adventurous with their sonic textures than those of the EP. It also shines through that their sound has grown and matured over the two releases, and this grand second one is an apt follow-up to the first. Perfectly straddling the intellectually stimulating and the viscerally emotive, this record never fails to leave us in pure reverence and raw passion.
Standout Tracks: 'Salvation', 'Peregrination', 'Kings and Emperors'
Colours In Black | stillsunrise
Fresh from their recent set at Baybeats, stillsunrise exude a sense of confidence performing from their latest EP release Colours in Black. This possibly stems from frontmen Yuresh Balakrishnan and Glee Wee’s participation in Channel 5’s singing competition The Final One. However, unlike what its title suggests, Colours in Black is brimming with flavour and bursting with colours like rainbow refractions through a characterless prism.
‘Permission to Dream’ is unlike any other local produce; the tune backtracks into the hazy realms of European delights filled with accordions and jingles off a wind up music box, before stepping into a contemporary piece with swashes of lock stock and barrel harmonies beside a spirited violin. ‘Doctor’ pulls back on the dream and exasperates in a solemn cry about life detailed through a fight with disease. The four piece speaks of Colours in Black as a representation of finding hope in darkness, but if this moment of searching with hands outstretched is so beautifully spun, we hope they don’t ever find their answer.
Standout Tracks: 'Permission to Dream', 'Doctor', 'For Now'
Tear Down This Marketplace | Plate
Promising local band Plate may have fallen short in their push for Baybeats 2015, but their latest LP release Tear Down This Marketplace may have shown otherwise. Fronted by Koh Zhong Ren who fiddles on pretty much every darn instrument on the record (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, cello, glockenspiel and drum machine), his writings are concise and fluent, with agendas marked clear as giant bullseye targets.
Opening track ’Revolutionaries’ features quick warbling on the public verbalisation of (political) ideas matched with angular guitars pushed through electronic filters. Coincidentally enough, the album was recorded at the now-defunct Home Ground Studio, located across Hong Lim Park and the Speakers Corner. Sure they may have been overlooked during auditions for Baybeats but we are certain it won’t take long for them to step up to the plate again.
Standout Tracks: 'Revolutionaries', 'Nest', 'Landslide'
The Occident | Town Portal
From the very first track, we are plunged without warning deep into Danish band Town Portal's mélange of delightfully erratic and complex layers. The Occident is a powerful and well-arranged record, skilfully balancing and blending the various sonic textures of the tracks from distorted to clean. With their distinct but diverse musical prowess, the progressive math-rock/metal outfit have created a sound that's sometimes apocalyptic, sometimes wistfully personal, sometimes both at once. The band already are impressively heavy for a trio, but they certainly don't rely on noise alone.
'Yes Golem', one of their heavier tracks, clearly manifests this as it relishes in booming dissonant glory even while flitting through different time signatures in just one riff. The overall flow of their tracks, the technicality of their composition and instrumentation, all are equally crazy and mind-bending. It's evident this album sets out to rethink the boundaries of math-rock, and the band certainly puts the 'mental' in 'instrumental'. Much like the geometric, organised chaos of their album cover, their tracks embody the order and grace in anarchy. When instrumentals run free as they've done here, it seems the possibilities are endless and the beauty definitely one to behold.
Standout Tracks: 'Bonus Trigger', 'K.', 'Yes Golem'
Wrecked Till Further Notice | Lydia Low
Denton-based Lydia Low returned to Singapore all through June this year to promote her re-released guitar-heavy album, Wrecked Till Further Notice. While we are unsure if similar feelings were evoked when performing these songs live two years after, the tracks are well-written entries of the experiences she has compiled over the years, creating a personal relationship between listener and artist through these tunes — if you want to get to know her. ’Wrecked’ is vibrant and a fun number despite the reflective tone over the fragility of heartache, ‘Hole’ pours soothing wash over a gaping cut from love. But these tunes aren’t purely romance-centric, ‘Sleepers’ Night Railway’ is a folk tale-like story-telling of escapism over tender guitar fingerpicking.
The future looks awfully peachy for our home girl Lydia, who will be embarking with her other ska-punk project, The Holophonics, on their American tour that stretches across 18 dates from July to August.
Standout Tracks: 'Hole', 'I Swear I'll Be Fine', 'Sleepers' Night Railway'
Written by Chew Wei Li, Darren Ng & Daniel Peters