We had the privilege of hosting two stages for Music Matters Live 2017 recently, held at Barber Shop by Timbre and Timbre Music Academy.
We had acoustic sets, a full nine-piece band, and even an ex-Australian Idol finalist. Here's what went down that night.
On a stage bereft of a glitzy light set-up and the usual chiaroscuro shapes of darkness and colour, the music of NUSSY came to the forefront, and it was an unexpectedly refreshing way to take in pop music, and giving us a chance to really acknowledge Dani Smarrelli’s exceptional vocal prowess.
From sugary coated glorious love songs like 'Dizzy', to the more serpentine, midnight tracks like 'Body Talk' and 'Sinking Into You', NUSSY’s music is fashionably compelling on its own, even without the embellishments that fluff up stadium pop shows. Her two accompanying musicians provided all the multitasking and precision required to pull off the songs with aplomb, taking up backing vocal duties whilst playing their respective instruments.
Check out NUSSY on Apple Music here.
The electronic feast at the Academy stage carried on, as a sizeable crowd gathered to catch one of the latest talents out of New Zealand. Theia, the moniker of Em-Haley Walker, has been making waves with her brand of electropop, and here in Singapore for the first time, she did not disappoint.
Her dynamic voice, backed up by enticing beats and electronic instrumentation, mesmerized and intrigued, throughout a set that comprised songs from her debut EP, as well as an unreleased track, 'Tasty'. Opening with 'Silver Second', the first track off her EP, Theia demonstrated a flair for eloquent flow and rhythmic vocals reminiscent of Lorde, her Kiwi contemporary.
But Theia’s falsetto and wonderful range made for a performance all her own, captivating us with her sultry, voluptuous melodies. Other tracks off the EP, such as 'Champagne Supernova' and 'Treaty', were sheer electropop goodness, and by the time she was ending things off with her smash hit 'Roam', we were more than impressed and won over by her alluring presence.
Check out Theia on Apple Music here.
Hailing from the Philippines, the tight nine-piece band — featuring the twin-brother duo Paolo and Miguel Guico — was the highlight of the night for many.
The band started off strong with their hit track, 'Ride Home'. Twins Paolo and Miguel were front and center of the band, with their spine-chilling vocals winning the hearts of many first-time listeners. Fellow Filipino performers Reese Lansangan and Kiana Valenciano were seen singing and dancing along to Ben&Ben’s music, posting moments on Instagram to share the #TeamPH pride.
Ben&Ben have been setting the standard for invigorating folk-pop music in their country since their inception and it’s no wonder why. If you ever get a chance to see Ben&Ben perform, be sure not to miss out.
Check out Ben&Ben on Apple Music here.
Calan Mai kicked off his set with 'Mountain Mountain', quickly grabbing the attention of audience members still reeling from the hype of Ben&Ben’s set.
Donned in a striking tie-dye muscle tee that contrasted with Barber Shop's smoky atmosphere — let's say he looked more at home in a psych-rock band — he mused about how it was his first time in Singapore and how he “really, really liked it here”.
He performed 'We’ve Got Love', the first single from his debut EP, and also as an ode to his family – his parents and beloved dog. Backed by a live band — featuring some members of beloved Australian band Fairchild — and armed with a rustic, resonant acoustic guitar, Calan Mai delivered performances with rich vocals and delicate guitar work.
Check out Calan Mai on Apple Music here.
Tom Jay Williams
Tom Jay Williams is no stranger to the live stage. At the age of 16, he competed in season six of Australian Idol, where he was the youngest contestant to make it to the Top 10 of the competition (a global-level achievement). His experience was evident, as he first serenaded audience members with a new track 'Kiss and Forget'.
He also treated fans in the audience with newer numbers 'Comeback' and 'You Deserve to Know', a track which he admitted he had “written recently”. We suspect that these tracks will be present in his upcoming EP – and based on what we heard tonight, the potential album will certainly deliver – so fans should definitely keep a lookout for it.
Check out Tom Jay Williams on Apple Music here.
JJ Ong, the brainchild behind Falling Feathers, was all smiles on the Timbre Music Academy stage. The young musician first won Singaporean fans over with his debut music video 'Why So Serious?'
That song encapsulates Ong's free-wheeling and sparkling personality, and his set became a platform for acoustic pop fervour. Paying tribute to a deep-rooted influence, Chester Bennington, his music carries weight behind his effervescent melodies.
Check out Falling Feathers on Apple Music here.
The final act at Barber Shop By Timbre saw a showcase carried by the effortlessly charming Kiana Valenciano. Performing alongside fellow musician and friend Moophs and rapper Curtismith, whom Valenciano affectionately referred to by his real name, Mito.
Curtismith was mainly there to perform his collaborative track 'Does She Know', but his presence on foreign soil also felt like a personal co-sign for the burgeoning singer-songwriter, who began life in the public eye as the daughter of renowned musician Gary Valenciano. Kiana was clearly there repping #TeamPH — at the end of her set, she goaded the audience to run up for Reese Lansangan's showcase.
Check out Kiana Valenciano on Apple Music here.
Reese Lansangan drew in one of the largest crowds the Timbre Music Academy has ever seen, that was no surprised. Fans swarmed to the front of the stage and began to sat down the moment Falling Feathers had ended his set, signaling their excitement for the final act at the Bandwagon Stage. Hushed whispers grew to loud cheers as Reese and the rest of her band popped into the room to set up their instruments.
The 'Grammar Nazi' has already won over many fans in Southeast Asia, and Singapore was next on her ever-growing checklist. Not only was it a sign of solidarity, but genuine excitement emanated when most of her fellow Bandwagon Stage acts had hurriedly congregated into the intimate room. There isn't much we can say, except that you should definitely watch her full set below — it's as convincing as her recorded material.
Check out Reese Lansangan on Apple Music here.
Listen to the official Music Matters playlist on Apple Music below:
Written by Surej Singh, Louisa Chan and Jared Monteiro.