Compact Marvels: The 5 best EPs of 2019 so far

Compact Marvels: The 5 best EPs of 2019 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 5 favourite EPs in Singaporean music of the year, so far.

W.Y. Huang – Crossing the Great Water

Whether he intends on it or not, every artistic incarnation of Wang Wei Yang’s, especially his current W.Y. Huang guise, has, in its unquestionably progressive thrust, the larger aim of broadening the scope of what pop can look and sound like. By prioritising a Sinofuturist narrative that corresponds to the vastly fragmented, technologised, post-globalised reality of the now, in Crossing the Great Water, Huang contextualises himself within the canon of electronically minded artists finding meaning in the depth of their cultural roots via the digital mode.

At an elemental level, these six songs are signifiers of a modernity framed by a specific cultural lineage. Therein lies this collection’s endlessly explorable heft: Without being outwardly political, it swallows entire musical worlds and spits out a bold new one fashioned in its image, weaponising and humanising our diasporic connections to sound, to the beat of a drum, to the human voice, to the sound of music made on a computer, to a tomorrow that is today.

Adia Tay – Kintsugi

The most potent legacy of the singer-songwriter mode is that it offers the listener a real-time view of its makers’ moments of existential reckoning. But on her debut herald ‘Comfort & Shelter’, Adia flipped the script: She appeared to the listener already-healed, a soul reclaimed. With the emotional bloodletting done off-stage, Kintsugi, the ensuing EP, is a more florid long-form testimony of the raw experience(s) that Adia wants to communicate.

The base material – a beautiful voice and gorgeous arrangements – are also deployed differently here. Adia never lets her earnestness speak for her music; the monumentality of her message is affirmed by her artful singing, of her honing of her superlatively lovely voice into a gloriously versatile instrument.

Kintsugi hinges on Adia’s portrayal of earthiness and ethereality as a dialectic – all of its songs glow against a colossal backdrop of darkness. The climactic ‘Ghost’ – a song as powerful to me, now, as it was the first time I heard it – is the dam-breaking moment when Adia interrogates that duality and levels it.

In a world where extremes are intertwined, Kintsugi offers a snapshot of how we can, if we chose, untether ourselves from them, or, fit better in the mesh.

Oya Paya – Som

Oya Paya’s debut EP is many things. It’s a great collection of songs that also showcases the band’s genius branding. The trio’s tongue-in-cheek-ery is charming and natural, instead of being trite, and forced. The six-track EP is full of atmospheric synths, spiky drums, poppy guitar riffs and intricate bass lines that all converge in a colourful and joyful way. The trio focuses on the irrevocably tight grooves on the record, making for a triumphant debut effort.

Valiantes – Valiantes

More than a musician, Vincent Tan, otherwise known as Valiantes, is an artist.

Not everyone has mastered the art of the musical mode that is voice and guitar. Two major factors play a part in this genre of music: Honesty and approach. If the tracks on his debut EP feel so honest, and, at times, raw, that’s because they are, to a large extent, drawn from Tan’s personal life and experiences. He flawlessly combines that with his understanding that a significant portion of it has a lot to do with the approach: Summoning one's deepest feelings via one of the most musically straightforward ways. The songs on his debut EP are intricately put together and well thought-out. Allow them to resonate with you and you'll feel their power.

Sha – Dreamstate

Sha’s second EP takes listeners on a journey into his psyche. This heart-on-sleeve record displays the strengths and vulnerability of the young rapper as he explores subject matter such as relationships, growing up, and the different sides to his personality.

The record makes a strong introduction through ‘Mufasa’, a chest-pounding warning to the doubters and haters, which draws comparisons between Sha and the kingly Disney hero. Contrastingly, the next two songs, ‘Gap Kids’ and ‘Outta Order’, cast away the mask of strength as Sha talks about the issues he faces both internally and externally. The EP closes out with ‘Freeze Now?’ And ‘Must Be Haunted’, tracks that explore relationships and loneliness.

Dreamstate presents a complete picture of Sha as a person. From his pride to his pitfalls, it seems as if the young rapper is taking listeners by their hand into his vulnerable subconscious.