So you've already heard from our staff and musicians from all over Singapore — 2015 is not quite over yet, and as our obsessive-compulsive selves, we're not done with doing lists. We're finished when 2015 is finished!
For now, we've summoned some of our friends in the music industry to chip in as always, and it's resulted in the most eclectic selection yet, with a strong presence of dance music this round. Read on!
Abandoned | Defeater
A masterful concept album from start to finish, topped off by Derek Archambault's rather excellent wordsmith-ery and the band's pounding riffage. The album I turned to this year for those mad/angry/cathartic in-the-zone work modes.
Kintsugi | Death Cab For Cutie
I guess most of the albums I (when i had the time) managed to listen in full this year has soundtracked specific moments/occasions. DCFC for me will always be associated with Coachella and California road trips: Transatlantism for my first Coachella in '05; Narrow Stairs for '08; and most recently, Kintsugi for Coachella '15 (Thanks Lush!). Actually driving down the pacific coast highway at night with 'The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive'/'Little Wanderer' on the stereo equals much feels.
Ego Death | The Internet
I'm not really an R&B/hip-hop kinda guy but holy *insert F-Bomb* shite.
Special Mention: Hiatus Kiayote's Choose Your Weapon and Envy's Atheist's Cornea (my other cathartic backup)
Magnetoception | Joshua Abrams
Raga, avant jazz and repetition, pulled by the gravity and irresistible force of Abrams’ bass lute – the most hypnotic, patient album of the year.
This is Not a Miracle | Food
The jazz band – now a duo – enlists the guitar wizardry and textures of Fennesz in this gem of a release that’s as atmospheric as it is groove-laden.
Skid Row | James Ferraro
Like if Knight Rider had been directed by David Lynch and driven by James Deen. Gotta love Ferraro’s sense of humour and nostalgia for the future.
M3LL155X | FKA Twigs
As usual, everything she comes up with is amazing. Every track nails the spot!
Ego Death | The Internet
Stumbled upon these gems somehow and now I'm hooked! These guys are so underrated, and Syd's voice can really get you in the mood~
Zulu | Gardens of God
Bit far off from the first two picks but this really gets me going if I'm getting hyped up before a night out of proper dancing :)
Sleep Cycles | Neat Beats
I’ve been a huge fan of the elusive electronic producer Neat Beats ever since I randomly discovered his music from a college radio station, three years back. Cosmic Surgery became my all-time favourite album, so naturally I was really excited for the sophomore Sleep Cycles. Interestingly, he took a turn towards a warmer and mellower tone, and does not disappoint. Its segued tracks are infused with a well-crafted mix of trip-hop and instrumental samples. It’s really easy listening music that detaches you from the harshness of reality and as its title suggests, puts you delicately in a dreamy, evocative setting. Definitely worth a listen, big ups to this guy!
Yume | Helios
Keith Kenniff, under alias Helios, continues to surpass my expectations with his intricately composed ambient pieces. Imagine a creative mixture of Brian Eno and Hammock. His sonic palette includes re-recorded elements of serendipitous environmental sounds, gentle guitar riffs and elegant piano melodies. Yume (a Japanese word for “dream” (夢)) is deeply introspective in its reflection of hope and wonder, and its atmospheric crescendos evoke a gamut of emotions that I find restorative and comforting. I love the cinematic feel that lies in this beautiful masterpiece. ‘Pearl’ left me overawed.
In Colour | Jamie xx
I believe Jamie Smith needs no introduction. I remember how excited I was for his solo full-length debut release, In Colour. It is really refreshing to see him step forward to deliver an album comparable to The xx’s, and highlights his flexibility and creativity as a producer. Jamie worked on this album with an array of musical styles – from UK garage to drum & bass to house, along with guest vocals by The xx bandmates, Young Thug and Popcaan, which makes it so impressive and promising. It is highly infectious, with a strong propelling force that immerses you into his unique world of sounds.
The Wall | Pink Floyd
Pride: Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture | Various Artists
Clearly I am stuck in the 80s (haven’t ever denied this).
The Sound of the Smiths | The Smiths
Does anyone listen to albums any more?
Softsins EP | MYRNE
I know this is an EP but I couldn't bear to leave it out. I didn't hear about MYRNE until I saw an article on the newspaper about him — a local lad signed to Mad Decent. I then checked out his music and was blown away completely! The tracks are so fun and fresh. Very excited to see what lies ahead of his short but already impressive musical journey.
In Colour | Jamie XX
I think all possible superlatives have been used to describe this album that there's nothing more I can say to substantiate how good and refreshing this was. Start to finish non-stop head-bobbing and feet-tapping. Jamie XX showcased his versatility in this album for sure.
Making Time | Jamie Woon
It's been four hollow Woon-less years but I was very stoked to see that he put out a new record. His unique and inimitable voice fused with jazz/folk along with definite influence from being classically-trained makes this album a joy to listen.
The Epic | Kamasi Washington
This, for me, is the release of the year. Completely blew me away with the level of technicality, arrangement & emotion. How is Mr. Washington ever going to top this?
Mutant | Arca
I got to know of Arca’s music through FKA Twigs’ EP2 and LP1 which he had a hand in the production. I thought his self-released &&&&& mixtape was absolutely stunning and Mutant is just as brilliant. It’s minimalist, dark and feels alive.
To Pimp A Butterfly | Kendrick Lamar
Best hip-hop record I’ve heard in a while by the greatest rapper of this generation.
Infectious electronic instrumentation with an emphasis on dark thematic sound, coupled with a heavy djent like bounce to his beats. After listening to his music two months ago I got inspired to invest time into learning how to produce electronic music.
Favourite track: 'Tides'.
Softsins | MYRNE
If bliss had a soundtrack I gather this is what it sound sound like. Crazy good uplifting "put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step" type of electronic sound. Don't matter if you're in the CBD or on the beach, pop this in your ear and you're guaranteed to feel a vibe that can only be described as dope af.
Favourite track: 'Brand New'.
Let's Just Be Honest EP | THELITTLEGIANT
The darkest lyrics and the catchiest happy hooks. Super eclectic just like her personality. Her music pulls me in emotionally despite the fact that I've developed a strong preference for electronic music.
Favourite track: 'I Do'.
soma | .gif
For me, this record encapsulates not only the weighty musical evolution of .gif, but also, in an idealistic, abstract sense, represents the overall growth of music in Singapore. This album is complex, poignantly moving and yet filled with near-perfect restraint. Just ask my goosebumps! (Elias' goosebumps could not be reached for comment — Ed.)
Huh Fuck Another Beat Tape | Fauxe
If anyone is capable of paying simultaneous homage to the Singapura musical vanguard past and... future, it's super-producer and Swiss Army Knife, Fauxe. It's genius! Why didn't anyone else think of this — make bare-bones hip hop the traditional way by sampling rare records, pick records made in Singapore that nobody from this generation would normally care about, and give the mic to Singapore's most exciting hip-hop group to jump out of nowhere in 2015, Mediocre Haircut Crew, on it. So simple, you might see a sanctimonious Jony Ive quote about this record in the near future.
'I Used To Feel' | The Neptune Waves
Okay, so this isn't an album. But if breaking the rules for family is good enough for Tony Soprano, then it's good enough for me. My kid brother picked up the guitar at the age of 17, and in less than a year, convinced a bunch of older kids to start a band with him. He also wrote this song with the boys. The future is brighter than the sheen on Donald Trump's hairpiece. Check it out here.
(My brother sings and plays guitar for The Neptune Waves)
Lyrics to the song hit a raw nerve for those who have been in the shoes of the protagonist - "maybe it's the pain of being mixed in an all-boys school" I MEAN COME ON
FYI, if I wasn't enraptured by familial bias, my third pick would've been Cheating Sons.
Coming Home | Leon Bridges
Soul has a new poster boy and this is a great record. His live show is pretty special too.
Choose Your Weapon | Hiatus Kaiyote
So many ideas yet assembled perfectly. Pushing soul music into a world of new directions. Nai Palm is a super front-woman and another band you need to see live!
In Colour | Jamie XX
The best all-round electronic album of the year. Can he put a foot wrong?!
Cheating Sons | Cheating Sons
Arguably the most underrated album by a local band. Genius songwriting coupled with melodies steeped in timelessness, it'll go down (imho) in the annals of Singapore's rock & roll music history.
Favourite track: 'Carry Me Down'.
Not All Who Wonder are Lost | Paint the Sky Red
Evocative tunes created by chords drenched in emotion. An album of sublime melodies that takes you places you wish existed.
Favourite track: 'A Billet Doux'.
Songs to Make Up To | Ta-Ku
More of an EP than LP, should be re-named Songs to Make Babies To. An intimate collection of songs made up of sex'ed up beats, lush orchestration and tender vocals.
Favourite track: 'Love Again (feat. JMSN & Sango)'
RE:saudade | .gif
A good revisit to .gif's earlier 2013 drop. Having their friends to help reshape the prior EP was a great move and perfect introduction to the dense, recently released soma.
Totems | Stopgap
Nice uplifting vibes, reminiscent of early 00's British indie music. Really catchy riffs that would be instantly endearing to most people.
Bear Culture | Bear Culture
The band finds its footing by paying homage to great guitar legends that came before them while fusing that heritage with their own melodramatic tinge. Great amounts of Van Halen and Nuno Bettencourt with this self-titled release.
soma | .gif
I loved this album even before I heard it. "Where is boy with big dreams / lionheart don't count when body is weak". I spent many days analyzing this lyric for the track 'godspeed', and it is torture like a cockroach crawling into an ear. This song is about me, I am sure of it. This album is best enjoyed driving from Changi to Tuas, it will take you 16 seconds and 39 minutes. I have listened to it many times, but I am banned from driving. If you have car, I have CD.
Previously On... | Cashew Chemists
We had so much fun working on first EP, we decided to do another one. When band writes songs, they do not have titles, so I give each song a girl's name and that would dictate how each song would sound like. For example, "Take a walk with Sarah and the First Kiss Feels Amazing" describes the entire EP. But if you have a friend called Sarah, don't try kiss on first walk. For the dance EDM version, replace Sarah with Sia.
Time/Space | Charlie Lim
I misplaced my first CD copy that Charlie gave to me. I left it at Thunder Rock School's Katong branch. If you find it, please return to me or Charlie. Charlie asked me "Leo, which do you prefer, Time or Space?" I bluff him, I say I prefer both, then I rush home to Spotify him.
I listened but with advertisements, and then I listened again and again and again, until time became space. I also have an earlier version of the song 'Bitter' in my computer but my favourite song from him is 'Knots' and 'Conspiracy' because it is good for when I do push ups. I confessed to charlie that I lost his cd but like a magician, he took out another copy from his bag to give to me. I knew then, that Time/Space makes the list of my top three albums of the year.
Purpose | Justin Bieber
Love a lot of the songs on here. Great comeback, solid songwriting and fantastic production.
Beauty Behind the Madness | The Weeknd
Heavy lyrical content and a brooding sound that just stands out in the current pop market, it's like hip-hop meets alternative, industrial and cinematic sounds. Love the boldness of the lyrics and the delivery of the hooks.
25 | Adele
Beautiful and lush productions, melodies and an iconic voice to boot. Love the incredible mixes and the collaborators on this album. A breakout from her previous sound on 21.
Four Horsemen Riding In The Sky (Behind Got Sun) | Cockpit
One of my favourite bands to listen to in the car with my buddies! They are great sounding, fun and catchy to listen to — every song on the album has a different style with different tastes and energy. It's really refreshing to listen to! Most of all, they have a sense of humour. Hope to see more work coming from Cockpit!
Welcome the Ironists | Caracal
Fun fact: my office is right beside Carcal’s practice room. That means I've heard every song on the album from its early development stage, evolving into what we have here today. It sounds amazing — a lot better than listening in from another room while trying to work overtime. High energy, and much, much more musically mature than their previous album.
It is a great album to listen to while working out — give it a try!
From Bedroom to Oblivion: Two Decades of Obscurity | Forbidden Planet
This one right here is a hidden gem! Every track, every instrument, everything you hear on this album is done with so much care, emotion and expression, it just blows me away every time I listen to them. It's a really new album from a very new band with not so new members — the blokes behind this album are armed with years of experience as sessionists for cover bands, and this is what they want to show the world.
Great for long lonely drives where you ponder about existence — or what to have for dinner.
Art Angels | Grimes
Bold, inventive, future pop that is both super fresh and mega contagious. Made by a true icon of modern music. A woman pushing her own boundaries.
Currents | Tame Impala
Another self written, produced and mixed pop gem. Took his spacial psych rock dreamscapes and turned them into hyper-personal soul pop beasts.
Every Open Eye | Chvrches
They definitely stepped up the production but essentially made another Snyth pop gem that confirmed their position as one of contemporary music's most dynamic forces. Unlike the solo efforts of the aforementioned, this was a band album in the truest essence. Written and produced in their home studio and turned around in under 6 months from start to finish. Showed a band in their element and the moment when they go from debutant stars to proper contenders.