Singapore music reviews: WUKONG, Theodora, Richard Jansen, Marijannah, Krysta Joy, Nicco Homaili, The New Modern Lights, Inflake, Edson Charntor, Pseudo, mersie, dolltr!ck, Farisimo, Amberhill and Soph Retief

Singapore music reviews: WUKONG, Theodora, Richard Jansen, Marijannah, Krysta Joy, Nicco Homaili, The New Modern Lights, Inflake, Edson Charntor, Pseudo, mersie, dolltr!ck, Farisimo, Amberhill and Soph Retief

Last week, we celebrated the latest songs from the canon of Made In Singapore music to reach the ether. Now, we dig deeper into our national anthems with a critical eye. Read our review of the latest songs by WUKONG, Theodora, Richard Jansen, Marijannah, Krysta Joy, Nicco Homaili, The New Modern Lights, Inflake, Edson Charntor, Pseudo, mersie, dolltr!ck, Farisimo, Amberhill and Soph Retief.

Nicco Homaili – ‘Bad Fantasies’

This song is an elevation. 

Navigating the murky distance between love and lust was amongst the primary concerns of Nicco Homaili’s debut album Late Night Doppelgänger but this latest song is a greater, more devastatingly personal admission of how difficult it is to separate affection from one’s more primal inclinations. Over a lush, bassy and emphatically percussive beat, he concedes defeat from the very beginning: “Yea my love is on the way / But intuition tells me it won’t really stay”. What makes his defeatism so incredibly nuanced is the uncompromisingly honest confession that underpins it: As much as he sincerely desires the object of his affection and as much as she’s out of reach, he ultimately acknowledges that it’s a “bad fantasy”. 

DJ Khaled made having ‘Wild Thoughts’ seem like a joyous experience. But Nicco plunges headfirst in the flip side of that. At the bridge, when the beat switches amidst churning synths and a heavy pound of bass and percussion, he exclaims, “Never wish that I would really have to wake up”, underlining the song’s universal thesis. No matter how agonising it is, our bad fantasies have a hold over us that takes a mythic will to break. Until that happens – if it ever does – they’ll linger every single day.

Marijannah – ‘Bloodsucker’

What makes the Marijannah experience such a thrilling one is how the quartet transcends the stoner rock and doom metal foundation its enterprise is build on. ‘Bloodsucker’, the lead herald from its forthcoming album, finds sublimation in the crucible of undying rock music. Doubling down on the alchemic power of riffs, pulse and rhythm, the band signs off on a transmission that is panoramic, resplendently muscular and emphatically elegant. Buttressed by the epic narrative of the plight of Gary Oldman’s Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 rendition of Bram Stoker's Dracula, the song is an tidal wave of majestic guitars, jet-engine drums and bass so sludgy, it’ll shake the windows. With its vocals featured more prominently in the mix and the instruments weaponised to the n-th degree, the band rips through its seven-minute-runtime with a knowing strut. 

Make no mistake: ‘Bloodsucker’ resists unpacking. It is precision-engineered to overwhelm and awe. And on that count, it absolutely soars.

Theodora, Flightsch and Shaykhandbake – ‘DLMK’

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Sometimes, not knowing if they’re going to stay or leave frees you from feeling the crushing finality of definitive answers. 

It’s apt that Theodora is the mouthpiece of a song such as this – ‘DLMK’ serves very well as her artistic manifesto. She has always eluded the safety of fixed positions, of grounding emotions, whether happy or sad. To her, love itself in an interstitial space where meaning is most resonant where boundaries are most fluid. That essence is what makes ‘DLMK’ more than just a soundtrack to a good cry. To start with, Flightsch and Shaykhandbake furnish a gorgeous canvas for her hushed – pained – vocals, weaponising nocturnal, fairly-lit R&B and mood-perfect guitars, elevating them beyond the utilitarian function of complementing her voice. Their sum total makes the gravity of this song easier to bear. 

Because, unfortunately, the most crucial words in a plea such as “Don’t let me know /If you’re planning to leave when it’s over”, are Don’t let me know.

Richard Jansen – ‘Get the Bag’

“See the numbers add up / But it ain’t enough” – This is Richard Jansen’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. As an anthem of self-motivation, it’s a gloriously rousing salvo. As a rap banger, it’s a heat-seeking missile. Imbued with the bounce of Dr. Dre’s G-funk and contemporary (t)rap’s nihilistic menace, ‘Get the Bag’ is the soundtrack of transcendence. 

Songs like this work best when they get you pumped. But this one goes the distance to be more, to be invincible. When Richard says, “I want it all”, he’s testifying to the by-any-means-necessary ethos of the hustle that’ll get him to the top. Success is an abstraction but this song concretises it, gives it a shape and definition. 

Play this when you’re blasting through the opps.

Krysta Joy – ‘Made It Out’

I’ve always felt that Krysta Joy is a musician who will always be on your side. Her music is consolatory and, when it matters most, life-affirming. It all starts with her voice, which emanates the kind of warmth that makes her an ally and a salve. But this song takes all that literally.

It is what it says on the tin: A chronicle of how she made it out of a tough situation, an ode to overcoming. Keeping the listener locked in, Krysta threads the song’s arrangement with the trajectory of the narrative. She chronicles the dark days when the walls are caving in, just as the song begins with serrated guitars. Gradually, it builds to a spectacularly funked-out climax that beams so much soul, like deliverance itself.

WUKONG – ‘Immortal Peach Garden’ featuring Nimez

Singapore’s fastest-rising EDM act in recent history, WUKONG, has out out a ton of music since making his debut earlier in January. He’s released a four-track EP and four standalone singles. His latest track, ‘Immortal Peach Garden’ continues in the same artistic vein of its predecessors: Ethnic Chinese music mixed with hard-hitting EDM. It’s a formula that works, and one that WUKONG can claim as his own. On ‘Immortal Peach Garden’, WUKONG teams up with Nimez to produce a festival banger that includes thick bass rumbles, pummelling kicks, intricate trap hi-hats and heavy synths. Sure, WUKONG has only played one show in Singapore, but make no mistake, his eventual homecoming will be a cause for celebration within the local dance music scene.

The New Modern Lights – ‘Dreams’

Singaporean indie-rock/dream-pop quartet’s third single, ‘Dreams’ serves as the perfect introductory track to anyone who has yet to listen to the band’s previous releases. It’s a lively culmination of its past work. Littered with melancholic textures and fuzzy guitar work, ‘Dreams’ is the best representation of the band’s technical abilities, with intricate songwriting and exceptional performances from its band members. A special mention has to be made for the production of the track, which levels out each instrument so that they compliment each other, without one standing above the rest. 

Inflake – ‘For You’

At just 15 years old, Inflake released his debut album earlier this year. Now, he’s back with a new single, ‘For You’. Having grown up with mainstream radio being flooded with tracks from the likes of Marshmello, Diplo and Zedd, Inflake is a student of the game. After scoping out his biggest influences, which includes future bass hero San Holo, Inflake has learnt the tools of the trades, and has combined his understanding of the music he loves with his youthful ambition. ‘For You’ is by all counts the quintessential future bass track. He understands that sometimes, less is more, and if done right, that’s really all you need. Not one to overcrowd a track with vocals and unnecessary electronic wubs, Inflake is strong in its repetition. He knows exactly what listeners want, and gives it to them. There’s no fooling around here; Inflake gets right to the point. For the time being, Inflake may not be able to perform in clubs, but at the rate he’s going, he’ll be a big name in the scene once he’s of legal age and can perform at clubs across the country.

Amberhill – ‘Indecision’

Amberhill’s latest track, ‘Indecision’ is the band’s first release since 2017, but over the course of the past two years, the band has managed to tie up its loose ends and come back stronger than ever. A math rock band to its core, it comes as no surprise that Amberhill’s comeback track is chalk full of groovy bass lines, odd time signatures, dizzying drum fills and hypnotic guitar work. While the track is melancholic, it showcases the band’s technical prowess with lighting-fast transitions and uncanny ability to keep the song clean and precise. It’s also a testament to frontman Joshua Lau’s strong songwriting capabilities. It’ll be interesting to see what else Amberhill cooks up with its upcoming releases.

Farisimo – ‘Emptiness’ featuring bojio

Six years ago, Farisimo tried his hand at music production after his interest was piqued in school. Now, everything seems to have come full circle, as his latest single, ‘Emptiness’ is masterclass on the ideologies that when it comes to production, less is more. Instrumentally, ‘Emptiness’ is a simple track, but it’s really a lot deeper than that. It’s easy to litter a track with unnecessary notes that may not always pay off. Farisimo’s restraint in overcrowding the track proves his core understanding of what production truly is. The uplifting beats, which feature piano chords and light synths are further elevated with his selection of percussions, and Malaysian rapper bojio’s cool and calm delivery.

Edson Charntor – ‘Did I Go Wrong’

Edson Charntor’s latest offering is an electro-pop track with multiple sonic textures. Chiming MIDI keys, clap snares and a pulsating bass gives ‘Did I Go Wrong’ an almost-Sci-Fi feel. The reverb-loaded chords contribute to an ambient, spacey mood that seems to be characteristic of Edson. This song expands on Edson’s exploration with different textures, being reminiscent of an ‘80s disco sound yet influenced by today’s hip-hop/trap music.

Somewhere between his other songs ‘Freedom’ and ‘Don’t Try’, ‘Did I Go Wrong’ combines the anthemic nature of the former with the atmospheric quality of the latter into one single track. It further solidifies Edson’s interest in experimentation, fusing the vintage with the modern into his unique flavour of electronic music.

Pseudo – ‘Half As Good ft. Miguel Reyes’

Pseudo’s collaborative effort with Miguel Reyes is a refreshing groovy number. Compared to his previous single, ‘See You Again’, this song is a 180-degree change. Pseudo swapped out the form of the heart-wrenching piano ballad for a catchy, tropical tune consisting of melodic plucked guitars, percussive shakers and a bright saxophone solo. All these contribute to making ‘Half As Good’ a wholesome and uplifting track.

Its subject matter also boasts the positive qualities that the instrumentals posses. The chorus, “Every time you look at me / It’s like butterflies in the day / Every time you look at me / It’s like hot chocolate in the rain / Every time you look at me / I can’t help wondering what we could be / If only i was half as good, half as brave as him”, illustrates the all-consuming powers of having a crush on someone who’s already attached. Pseudo and Miguel did a spectacular job spotlighting the positive aspects of such complications, both instrumentally and lyrically.

mersie – ‘Before I Get Home’

Hot on the heels of her first showcase which transpired last week, Mersie unleashed ‘Before I Get Home’. A simple yet soulful piece, this song highlights the Singaporean singer-songwriter’s musical sensibilities; she is able to piece together an auditorial feel-good pill with minimal production and instrumentation. Mersie’s latest offering is the epitome of the saying “less is more” – she knows what sounds good, and she doesn’t need over-the-top production or effects to achieve that.

What stand’s out is Mersie’s well-rounded R&B-influenced vocals. It perfectly emotes the need to be open to change and be a better person. Lyrics such as “All I need is / To see less of myself / I’m trying to understand / So I can love even more” depict her journey to self-improvement. And for that, we wish her good luck, and bid her merci for this beautifully honest song.

dolltr!ck – ‘Battleground’

The solo artist project of Singaporean electronic musical Claire Marie Lim, dolltr!ck is a culmination of her background as a DJ, remixer and liver performer. ‘Battleground’ gives listeners a first look at her upcoming EP, Innocent Intentions, and introduces us to her unique blend to feel-good electro-pop. A picture of a song, the impeccably produced track builds an auditorial universe with the use of several effects and different MIDI instruments.

Just as the title suggests, the lyrics tells the tale of an internal struggle. This might be a story that’s been told many time’s before, but dolltr!ck puts her personal spin to it – this inspiring track tells of her own victorious battle. She might have struggled and sustained scars, but as the coda, “With my battle scars / There ain’t a flame I can’t ignite / My lion heart has won the fight”, suggests, she came out on top and has conquered her demons.

Soph Retief – ‘Better Without You’

“We never got to love / ‘Cause you left me / For someone else / Hope it was worth it / But I’m glad you did / ‘Cause now I see / How much stronger I can be”

Soph Retief’s ‘Better Without You’ is an empowering pop anthem for all the broken-hearted. This song stands up against the heart-breakers and the people who couldn’t appreciate what they already have. A diary of Soph’s own journey to self-love, ‘Better Without You’ is a song that can uplift those still trying to find themselves.

Produced by Mateo Donoghue, aka. Kult Eviction, the instrumentation of this track is clean and sleek. Soph’s vocals stands well against the electronic backdrop of the track, which is made up of bright MIDI melodies and rounded percussions from the drum machine. In essence, ‘Better Without You’ is a song that inspires and pleases, and we can’t ask for anything more.