Having looked back on the best songs to come out of Singapore in 2023, we now turn our attention to the longer music releases that made strong impressions on us.
From unforgettable introductions to rising forces, stunning collaborations that left us craving more, and sonic experiments that pushed the envelope for homegrown music, this year's lovingly assembled albums and EPs are welcome additions to the Little Red Dot's ever-growing music catalogue.
In a sea of projects, these six stood out to the Hear65 team. Here are the best albums and EPs from Singapore in 2023.
OK! - Cravism, ABANGSAPAU, Mary Sue
Looks like the golden trio had more in store for us this year. Teaming up for an eight-track album, homegrown musicians Cravism, ABANGSAPAU, and Mary Sue crafted OK! with tracks that pay homage to their distinctive essence. As you stream the first track from the last, you’ll find yourself transported from one specific sound trip to another, where you’ll get to witness each artist’s signature style in all its glory.
If you’re looking for a refreshing change of pace in your playlist, this would be it. The album begins with a smooth jazzy ambiance and concludes with a snazzy cadence of Cravism’s sequences. What makes the album profound is the shift from a collaborative effort for the majority of the record to the spotlight on individual artists – ‘Sue’s Letter’ and ‘Shazuan’s Letter’ for instance. Upon closer listening, it’s clear that each track was intricately tailored according to the featured artist such that their unique talents would be amplified.
Together with contributions from Maya Diegel, lullaboy, Zaymm, and nkei in the album, OK! further proves to be a collaborative masterpiece that weaves a tapestry of diverse musical genres that mingle harmoniously. - Adlina Adam, Writer
PARKA's Treehouse - PARKA
The young representatives of Singaporean music are (more than) all right. This is the assurance you will come away with after listening to PARKA’s Treehouse.
A collaborative album that features the entire artist roster of PARKA — Regina Song, ICEBOX, ANNÉ, Jeyes, Elaine, and d0my (the stage persona of founder Dominic Yuan), PARKA’s Treehouse is the perfect way to get acquainted with the homegrown hybrid music company, which prides itself on being "by youths for youths". Instead of being a compilation of solo releases, the album opts to take a different approach with its intra-label team-ups. It is a creative decision that pays off as we get to not only be acquainted with PARKA’s six creatives, but also see the chemistry that already exists between them early on in their PARKA journeys. In an interview with Hear65 earlier this year, Yuan spoke of fostering a “family spirit” within PARKA, and this first album release proves that the music company is very much committed to ensuring that this continues to remain its goal.
Also featuring songs with guest contributors (or “friends of PARKA”) shazza, Veturn, SIREN, Amari Teague, and Adriel that further showcase PARKA’s collaborative spirit, PARKA’s Treehouse is a herald of great things to come for this youthful unit. - Brandon Raeburn, Staff Writer
The Nomad Diaries - Count Vernon
From the moment Count Vernon stepped onto the Baybeats 2023 stage, we knew we were about to witness the rise of a promising force in the indie and alternative rock landscape in Singapore. Looking at his latest debut album The Nomad Diaries, we can vouch for that.
Taking on the plethora of musical soundscapes of electronica, post-punk, synth-pop, and drum and bass, the self-produced 11-track masterpiece is lively despite its gloomy origins. Apparent in the tracks ‘Red In The Eyes’, ‘Sisyphus’, and ‘An Undying Truth’, Count Vernon has a way of keeping you on your feet given the feel-good atmosphere that pulsates off the album. But as you delve deeper into the lyricism, you’ll realise that The Nomad Diaries dabbles in much deeper themes. Taking the opportunity to vocalise personal and global issues in the album, Count Vernon exhibits his grief for the artificial nature of online content in ‘Thrash of Our Youth’ and reflects on climate change, social unrest, and internet rage in ‘Red In The Eyes’.
“The album emerges from three long years of deep reflection. It documents the whirlwind of change I’ve seen take place within myself and the world around me, and I hope it offers listeners compassion, comfort, and connection in these trying times,” Count Vernon shared in a press release.
Dedicated to those who feel like a nomad – feeling like they don’t fit in and are wandering from one place to another – this album is Count Vernon’s wish for them to attain peace and to realise that there is so much to be grateful for within the frantic world. - Adlina Adam, Writer
THE ART OF WAR II - Axel Brizzy, Calista Liaw, Jeremy Wong, Wovensound, Khalif Rawi
An EP that may have flown under the radars of many this year, THE ART OF WAR II is a marvellous marriage of traditional and contemporary influences, music and literature, and the English and Mandarin languages.
The work of erhu artist Calista Liaw, pipa player Jeremy Wong, and rapper Axel Brizzy, and producers Wovensound and Khalif Rawi, THE ART OF WAR II — as suggested by its name — is a collection of four tracks that present teachings from Sun Tzu’s 孙子兵法 (Art of War) to modern listeners. The sound of Axel Brizzy impassioned deliver of his rap verses over Liaw and Wong’s fiery instrumental performances is an absolute auditory treat, one that leaves you craving for more once you have reached the end of the EP’s final track. Whether or not a fusion of different styles and art forms ends up being successful very much depends on the artists bring them together, and in THE ART OF WAR II, Liaw, Wong, Axel Brizzy, Wovensound, and Khalif Rawi seem to display a deep understanding and respect for each other’s craft, leading to lovingly put together end product we have before us.
THE ART OF WAR II is also an important addition to the Singapore music catalogue that draws our attention to the wondrous results that collaborations between the different music communities in the Lion City can yield. - Brandon Raeburn, Staff Writer
Temporal Dimension - Woes
Comprising band members Russell Seow (bass), Raizel Gonzales (vocals), Alex Calaunan (guitar), Aloysius Au (guitar), and Khoo Shen-En (drums), Woes emerges as the heart of math-rock, jazz, and emo combined. If you’re a fellow first-time listener, the quintet’s first full-length album, Temporal Dimensions, is here to prove that to you.
Comprising nine tracks which span the length of thirty-four minutes and forty-eight seconds, Temporal Dimensions transports you to a “sanctuary where individual emotions converge in a shared experience of solitude”. Bringing together cathartic lyricism and flowing notes, the album imposes a safe space for you to come to terms with your emotions and feelings.
Mixed, mastered, and recorded at PK Records by Ian Lee, the album consistently features Woes' signature gloomy soundscapes, which is backed by a recurring theme – a heartfelt and longing melody – especially apparent in ‘Trees’ and ‘Temporal Dimension’.
So if you’re ever feeling down in the dumps, you can count on Woes to brighten your day and seek solace within their melancholic bombshell. - Adlina Adam, Writer
chapter one - shazza
For anyone listening to chapter one, it can be hard to believe that it is first studio record to come from local singer-songwriter shazza. An up-and-coming force in Singapore’s music scene, the 22-year-old cleverly pairs ruminations on love, life, and self with memorable melodies. It’s a feat that you would expect from a seasoned songsmith, yet here we have an artist who has accomplished it in her introductory album.
Opening chapter one with ‘Pity Party’, shazza, also known as Shareefa Aminah, sings of throwing a “pity party” for herself amidst trying to make sense of a messy, frustrating, and stressful thing known as life as a young person in this world. Not long later, we find her offering comfort in the tender lyrics of ‘one day’, through which she assures those who are lost: “One day you’ll wake up / In the arms of someone dear.” Then, switching gears again, she links up with her brother and fellow artist Kidmeddling for ‘BUTTONS’, in which she sings of a complicated relationship as a dance-inducing beat combines with the sounds of a guitar.
The differences in the tracks from chapter one serve to tell us that shazza is not someone you can expect to only stick to what is tried and tested. Instead, she is constantly on the search for new ways of telling her stories. And when these distinct numbers come together, they paint a beautiful portrait of their creator, showcasing not only her artistic qualities, but also all of the parts that make her human, just like the rest of us. - Brandon Raeburn, Staff Writer