2015 signaled a period of steadily mounting momentum for Forests, who released their debut EP, “Worst Beach Vacation Ever, Circa 2017”. Spanning features in Bandwagon, Popspoken, and an incredible amount of testimonial support and approval on Bandcamp, all signs pointed to a of a hit. The group’s follow-up and first full-length, “Sun Eat Moon Grave Party” solidified their status as one of the first real significant local midwestern emo/math bands which enabled them to grace the local big stages, such as Baybeats, in addition to performances overseas in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Malaysia. The album is a marked improvement over the EP, in almost every conceivable way, with production being the most immediately noticeable aspect. Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate these advances is by performing comparative analysis: listen to the version of “Who Cares, Really” which opens “Worse Beach Vacation”, and then check out the ultra-HD penultimate closer on “Sun Eat Moon”, which has mysteriously acquired a question mark in its title. On “Sun Eat Moon”, Adam Lee’s guitar playing is finally given the stereo treatment it so rightfully deserves, in addition to the welcome appearance of heavier and more layered tones. The quality of drum and bass tones have improved tremendously as well. This Super Resolution version of the band hitherto unheard of can be accredited to Waihuin of Phatphuck studios, who also happens to drum for Long Live the Empire. The record just sounds right, sounds like how Forests had always intended, like the band had abided by and therefore realized its sonic vision. After my virgin listen to “Worst Beach Vacation”, I took to YouTube in search of live performance videos, just so I could connect the voices to the faces. Since that time, I’ve become quite adept at telling Adam’s whiskey-and-cigarettes voice apart from the lighter yelps of bassist Darell Lazer, who is actually more of the lead singer. Having penned most of the lyrics that appear on “Sun Eat Moon”, Lazer’s style is one of smartass jest and punk puerility, which when combined with the music, makes for a fun and invigorating experience. These lyrics are letters of youth, reveling in its glorious stupidity and unaware of the abducting transience of it all, not unlike Blink 182 at the height of their fame, less the naked running and midgets. The lyrics run the gamut of moods and traverse a wide terrain of subjects, from anxiety, to heartbroken nostalgia and regret, all the while walking the line between serious and goofy with its witty and often straight-up crass tone. 6th track “Tamago” encapsulates all the best facets of Lazer’s lyrical style. Written in a first-person discourse style, Lazer’s narrator pulls out all the stops, addressing his ideal romantic interest casually (“Nevermind let’s go get coffee”), in a manner perhaps best understood colloquially as “geram” (“you’re so cute I want to punch your stupid face”), with backhanded-pickup lines (“I hate nightmares but you’re my favorite one”), intentionally cheesy one-liners (“You asked if I loved you/I said 1 2 3 4ever”), and innuendos (“that’s what she said”). Lazer’s lyrics puts forward smart and intriguing ideas (I wish you were just like the rest/so I can find another you”) drenched in self-reflexive irony, as the narrator curses those darned Midwest tunes, with their proclivities for over-sentimentality and irony. Most importantly, “Tamago”, and by extension the rest of the songs, succeeds in articulating pg-13 indiekid desires brilliantly with lines like “let’s make out to shoegaze until we fall asleep”. Hell, even I didn’t know I wanted that until this song. Speaking to Popspoken, Lazer remarked that the subject matter contained within his sons do not stem from personal experience, and that he instead creates stories with the aim of making them relatable to as many people as possible. With that in mind, and regardless of whether Lazer is aware of it or not, he has pulled off some high-level social satire on the dweebiness of being a hyper-emotional hipster. With a finger this close on the pulse of the cultural zeitgeist of Gen Z , one gets the feeling that Mr. Lazer would probably fare pretty well as a writer of Young Adult fiction. Arrangement-wise, “Sun Eat Moon” frequently surprises with groove-laden instrumental breaks, such as 1:33 during “What the Magic Is?” The compositions never overstay their welcome, and are chockfull of samples and woos, another fine example of the whimsical and fun aspect of the band. A steady midtempo pace is maintained throughout the record, thanks to fantastic sequencing, which sees the album split nicely into two halves by two shorter and slower numbers. While some might be inclined to argue that such interludish songs, particularly the acoustic “Feels Like Your Best Friend is Going Away Forever” might hardly be considered songs at all, and thus should have been left off the record, some ideas need not be fleshed out to be deserving of a spot on a record. “Best Friend” warrants inclusion by merit of its strong emotional content alone, and I’m especially glad they didn’t put it at the end of the whole thing. Talk about cheesy. I actually like every song on this record, which is something I don’t say too often when listening to local music; it’s easy to be overly-critical of your homegrown talents. However, despite such appraisal, there are definitely some things that could be improved upon. A major grievance for this reviewer was the minor grammatical errors spattered across the record. For instance, in “What the Magic Is”, it should be “word” in the line “every nervously-spoken words”, as the use of the determiner “every” decrees a singular noun to follow. Even so, the grammatical errors add to the distinctly Singaporean tone, as close listening will reveal that the vocal pronunciations have that Singapore accent flying high (that spoken word bit in “You Seem A Little Anxious” was so aberrant it knocked me off my seat the very first time). Cohesive, fun, and technically proficient, “Sun Eat Moon Grave Party” is a solid debut LP and my candidate for one of the standout local records of this decade.
This album is fresh to death and will never quit. Some of the best hooks 2010s Singapore has to offer