Thrillers: The 4 best albums of the year so far

Thrillers: The 4 best albums of the year so far

Blink – we have passed the midpoint of 2019 and are well on the way to 2020. So much has entered the bloodstream of Made In Singapore music and to celebrate the quality of the output, we’ll be rolling out weekly lists of the best music videos, singles, EPs and albums that have entered the canon between January and now.

This week, the Hear65 team honours its four favourite albums of Singaporean music of the year, so far. 

Forests – Spending Eternity in a Japanese Convenience Store

Forests entered the cosmos of Singaporean music with the force of sledgehammer through a windscreen. The charms of frontman-bassist Darell Laser, guitarist Adam Lee and drummer Niki Koh were obvious from the outset: Jagged, compositionally dazzling and emotionally immediate songs carried by an off-kilter charisma and downbeat verve.

The surprise release of the band’s second album on the last day of the first month of 2019 belied how much and intensely fans would come to embrace it. Spending Eternity doesn’t rejig the essence of the Forests sound but expands its lexicon. Multi-tracked guitars, a conscious emphasis on technicality and all-around more focussed approach to songwriting – best experienced on ‘Goldust’ and ‘You Must Be Fun at Parties’ – make this the visceral, uncompromising and easy-to-love opus that it is.

Vanessa Fernandez – I Want You

Vanessa Fernandez has a voice that is a queenly presence. It’s commanding yet commiserative, authoritatively gorgeous and also divinely empathetic and pleading, down to the final quiver of any utterance. Whenever she releases music, she challenges herself and the listener, just as much as she furnishes an enveloping charm suffused with a beatific warmth.

Her new album I Want You is another gauntlet thrown. Throughout its 12 songs, she globe-trots through various eras and canons of music, renewing songs by Curtis Mayfield, Michael Jackson, Gil Scott-Heron, Radiohead and Amy Winehouse, to name just some cornerstone artists – by reworking them in her voice. Together with an all-star cast of musicians such as Tim Pierce, who has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Roger Waters, former Michael Jackson bassist Alex Al and current Jimmy Kimmel Show Band keyboardist Jeff Babko, she changes the chemical structure of the classics – the prize is in how much and differently they come alive from her touch.

And from the vantage of her own legacy, the sole original song ‘Hey Stranger’ is among her very best.

Listen to I Want You here. Vinyl copies of I Want You are stocked at Roxy Disc House, Retrocrates, Simply Music, White Label Records, New Disc and Vinylicious Records. 

Joshua Simon – Filthy

In conversations with friends, I’ve likened this album to a free fall into the night. Thematically and essentially, Filthy is a paean to the switch in the rhythm of the day when the sun sets. Correspondingly, Simon invokes a world where the only method is a dashing madness, a soul-rattling trip through the most self-defining musical, sensual and existential indulgences. The songs are pushed to their furtherest extremes – from the apocalyptic ‘Drive’ to the angelic comedown that is the penultimate ‘Hush’.

Within its 10-song thrall, no two songs are alike. Each has a place in the narrative spine that connects them but Simon goes the distance in privileging the exploration of sounds in their totality over the safety of cohesion. In how he unleashes the torrential feedback of the heart, in how he renders the blazing fires that occur when bottled-up pain is finally released, Simon doesn’t have an equal this year.

Disco Hue – The Yearbook

An album-sized helping of Disco Hue entails this: Supremely polished pop production, writing that mines revelatory light from boy-meets-girl (and/or vice versa) problems and a superlatively robust rhythm section to carry it all.

Sherlyn, Zie, Rush and Billy have built themselves up to be a what-you-see-is-what-you-get proposition: The songs, like the band name, speak for themselves. If you conform to the classical idea of pop as an escapist medium with a vast blast radius, that is irresistible, thrilling and youth-authored, The Yearbook is a manifestation of what that means in 2019 .