Even when they went by the name of Take Two, the group’s penchant for crafting great hooks and laying down funky grooves was undeniable. Returning with “Small Lanes”, a track that is equal parts 80s dancefloor anthem and modern indie guitar pop, M1ldL1fe show that time has only helped them fine-tune their vision. Lead vocalist Paddy Ong’s singing calls to mind Julian Casablancas and Rick Astley simultaneously. Please give me a chance to get out of this hole that I’ve dug for myself. Firstly, it is the prevalence of smooth synth sounds and the lengthy intervallic vocal runs (2:20) which prompts me to think of Casablancas, particularly his non-Strokes material such as the 2009 solo album “Phrazes For The Young”, or the grimy, hard to explain (heh, for you Strokes fans out there), post-everything band The Voidz. Eventually, however, the Casablancas comparison checks out and the Rick Astley comparison comes waltzing in. Ong’s voice, well-honed and sonorous, caters naturally not to the disaffected Lou Reed murmur often utilized by Casablancas, but instead the fully impassioned, resonant crooning of Astley. If you’re reading this, Paddy, my man, know that I’m not rickrolling here. I couldn’t bear the thought, as obligated as I happen to be to speaking my mind. A full commitment is what I’m thinking of; you wouldn’t get this from any other guy. I just want to tell you how I’m feeling, gotta make you understand. The music of “Small Lanes” is expertly constructed. The rhythm section of bassist David Siow and drummer Jeryl Yeo provide that impeccable sense of groove for which the band is known for, as well as and a stable foundation upon which guitarist Tan Peng Sing layers an impressive tapestry. A masterclass in modern pop and rock guitar, Tan utilizes a wide array of techniques to beef up the track: doubling the vocals in the verses, a stylish and totally unexpected post-chorus solo, luxuriant chorus chords, funky comping in the chorus. Tan shows the way for today’s guitarist, and how he may serve a song and yet still reclaim some essence of the flamboyance and fun which used to be associated with the instrument. I first listened to “Small Lanes” whilst navigating the richly-colored Paddle Pop swirls of the accompanying artwork, which somehow emphasized the song’s championing of 80s sensibilities in my mind. My eyes soon were drawn to the phrase “Where are the fruits” on the top left corner. Never one to shy away from opportunities for a conspiratorial hunch, my best guess would be that this correlates to a new EP. If M1ldl1fe are indeed in Phase 1 of priming us for the imminent EP, and if “Small Lanes” is any indication, it’s going to be great for Singapore’s Phase 3 post-Covid celebration parties.