Singapore music track reviews: Disco Hue, Blood Pact, thecolorfractal, Knightingale, The Fleurist, Stephycube, pretty havoc., Killmeslow, Sam Veil, MattGnaw, Fingerfunk, Sasha M, Baby Combat, Valiantes, stillsunrise and Leon Markcus

Singapore music track reviews: Disco Hue, Blood Pact, thecolorfractal, Knightingale, The Fleurist, Stephycube, pretty havoc., Killmeslow, Sam Veil, MattGnaw, Fingerfunk, Sasha M, Baby Combat, Valiantes, stillsunrise and Leon Markcus

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 Disco Hue, Blood Pact, thecolorfractal, Knightingale, The Fleurist, Stephycube, pretty havoc., Killmeslow, Sam Veil, MattGnaw, Fingerfunk, Sasha M, Baby Combat, Valiantes, stillsunrise and Leon Markcus.

Knightingale– ‘Skate and Destroy’

Rock and pop owe their vitality to how easily and profoundly they usher you to transcendence. Overcoming, and, in fact, harnessing, the limits of form to create a reality that is unstuck in time, where you feel sublime, free and complete, is the most common veneer of that experience. Without a bassist, Knightingale has been proudly flying the flag for staunchly DIY more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts rock since its 2016 debut full-length God Damn Youth. But ‘Skate and Destroy’ is an altogether new roar from this three-legged beast.

The boys have gone widescreen here, widening their serrated and thunderous charms to a panoramic extent, wherein swirls of texture twin with frontman Ashwin Rao’s reverb-ed vocals to offer a gorgeous counterpoint to the unrelenting guitar-drum barrage. This is a song that goes for the jugular and allows the listener to stop and survey the view. That dynamic also informs its narrative, which hinges on the universal chase for happiness, while invoking the memories of all the roadblocks along the way. Now, there is nuance in the noise – and it’s a beautiful thing.

Disco Hue – ‘Ultra Venus’

Disco Hue is a buzzing band that has done an un-trendy thing: Release an album. 

Unfazed by the high-stakes emphasis placed on “numbers” and “strategy”, the band has bravely put a full set of songs to its name. Since its inception, the Singaporean quartet has shown how crucially it views form in the abstract sense. That’s why its fidelity to the album format is mirrored by a collection of songs that are consistently reflective of the supreme sense of pop-forward fun that it traffics in.

‘Ultra Venus’ is amongst the album’s best songs because it affirms the central principle that Disco Hue operates on: If you’re really sincere, you won’t make the mistake of being a mere revivalist. In the hands of the band, the retro/vintage/disco tag is a license to explore how culturally beloved sounds and tropes can tell compelling stories in the digital age, where you are more connected than ever and yet never more alone.

When frontman Sherlyn Leo coos, “I’ll be all you dream about”, amidst precision engineered hit-ready production and hooks, you believe her. Not because she has the baggage of the ‘80s behind her but because she and her band are that convincing.

Blood Pact– ‘Spiralling’

This is one instance where artistic reinvention doesn’t come off as tired and gimmicky: the trio of Bruised Willies has shed its skin and re-entered the fray as Blood Pact. Because the Bruised Willes existed so far away from a mindset that would see merit in exhausting stratagems such “rebranding”, its reconfiguration is that much more easier to invest one's faith in – what helps is that the fruits of its rebirth are legitimately excellent.

‘Spiralling’ is the Platonic ideal of a new calling card. It exhibits the kind of ground-up paradigm shift that signifies a total break from the past and which heralds a new frontier for its makers to plant their flag on. 

Every weapon is deployed masterfully: The guitars provide sweep and shimmer, building a world just as effectively as it adds dashing accents to the sensual, body-blasting groove that charts its course. In an interview with us, frontman-guitarist Nicholas Wong revealed that it’s an ode to insomnia, to the sleepless nights where you’re hanging in midair against your will. No wonder the moment it comes on, your feet leave the ground. 

No wonder you feel suspended in midair, as if caught in reverie as a supernova unfolds around you.

thecolorfractal – ‘don’t lose the plot’

Back in May, thecolorfractal made his debut with the breathtaking single ‘twenty three’. With the release, he caught the attention of local music fans and critics alike, thanks in part to his smooth vocals and strong songwriting. Now, he returns with the light, and fun-filled ‘don’t lose the plot’. If ‘twenty three’ was thecolorfractal’s ode to John Mayer, his latest track pays tribute to Michael Bublé. 

Despite being a complete 180 from his debut single, ‘don’t lose the plot’ still has the same songwriting senses. This time, however, a full band backs him, complete with trumpets, drums and guitars. The only flaw this otherwise solid track has, is its production. The audio is crystal-clear, right up till the guitars and drums are introduced. Once the full instrumentation comes into play, the mix becomes muffled and muddy with questionable distortion. Get past the production value, and we’re certain you’ll agree that the track is a fun and vibrant song that you can’t help but dance to.

stillsunrise – ‘Untitled’

If stillsunrise’s music had to be summed up in one word, it would be “consistent”. 

Since the band’s inception, it has been known for its flawless performances from the entire band, gripping songwriting, and impeccable production value. Much like its predecessors, the band’s latest single starts off rather simple, gradually evolving into an elevated version of itself, with additional layers joining the fold as it progresses. We can’t stress enough how great this band is, but if we had to single out one standout element of the track, it would be the violin that slowly creeps in and takes over towards the second-half of its four-minute-run.

Wukong, Kaku & Ghost – ‘Legend of Wong Fei Hung’

Rising Singaporean EDM star Wukong makes his return to the Hear65 review list with his collaborative track, ‘Legend of Wong Fei Hung’, which features Taipei’s Kaku and Singaporean-Korean duo Ghost. The track, which was released last Friday, has seen support from the likes of EDM titans Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, and has garnered over 20 million streams in under 24 hours in China via the Douyin app. The track is essentially a remake of the classic Chinese anthem, with a modern Jersey, psytrance and hard trap/big room twist. The first verse of the song is predominantly the same as its original version, albeit with soft rumbles of bass and percussions bubbling under the surface. By the time the first drop hits, you’re engulfed by a wave of classic psytrance kicks, which slowly build to the song’s strong climax; an all-out assault on your senses, with hardstyle kicks, and big room synths. If this track doesn’t get you hyped up, we don’t know what will.

The Fleurist – ‘I Don’t Wanna Die’

The Fleurist’s first single of 2019, ‘I Don’t Wanna Die’ is essentially a lollipop coated with extra sugar. The song encapsulates the sweet adoration and affection that exists between lovers – when one feels genuinely loved, there’s no reason for them to leave, hence the title. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, as suggested by lyrics such as “I love the way you talk / I love the way you walk / I’m loving all the things you never see”. Such sentiments are held when one is truly head-over-heels for their partner, and this song tells of the purity of such feelings.

A simple synth-pop tune, ‘I Don’t Wanna Die’ plays to The Fleurist’s aim to make listeners happy just like flowers do. The simple setup of the track mirrors its innocent sentiments. A constant set of chords played on the synths, some simple beats and clean vocal delivery makes The Fleurist’s latest release a pleasant listening experience that leaves one feeling light and refreshed.

Stephycube – ‘Departure (ZIONN Remix)’

Stephycube’s orchestral ballad, ‘Departure’ is given the electronic treatment by Singaporean producer and multi-instrumentalist ZIONN. The piano and violins are swapped out in favour of MIDI instruments and drum machines in this rendition of the song, giving it a fresh and modernised sound. The original version comes off as raw and emotional, whereas ZIONN’s remix focuses on the fun that this song brings, thereby lightening the intense mood of ‘Departure’.

The one constant between the original and this remix is Stephycube’s velvety vocals. In fact, the production on the remix further shines a light on her vocal prowess. Some might argue that electronic elements of a song can drown out the vocals due to their overwhelming effects, but that is also precisely how it highlights a singer’s ability – if Stephycube’s vocals can remain strong and intact on this electronic remix, it shows, that, as a vocalist, she can stand her own no matter what genre or style she might find herself venturing into.

Sam Veil – ‘Fantasy’

Sam Veil brings us yet another positivity-loaded track with ‘Fantasy’. As highlighted by the xylophones that play throughout, the song brings about an almost childlike type of hopefulness that is sure to put some pep in your step. The production on this song is relatively simple – aside from the aforementioned xylophone riff, a guitar coupled with simple bass and percussion puts the focus on Sam’s soulful vocals and the message that comes along with it.

In ‘Fantasy’, Sam Veil opens up about his struggle with insecurities with as physical appearances and musical capabilities, and how he finally came to terms with accepting himself for who he is. Lyrics such as “Well, I don’t care what you say to me” and “I’m gonna be what I’ll be / just living in my fantasy”, exhibits that Sam has grown out of his doubters and haters – he pays them no mind as he continues in his mission to do what he loves. Perseverance is a virtue, and Sam Veil encourages his listeners to keep putting work into what they love no matter what.

MattGnaw – ‘oygbia’

In case you were wondering, ‘oygbia’ stands for “Orange you glad because I am”. MattGnaw’s title for his latest single plays into the “Orange you glad” joke that was popular in the 2000s to 2010s era.

But on a deeper level, MattGnaw addresses the masses and stakes his claim on his future with lyrics such as “Climbing to the top, climbing to the summit / Going for that number one spot you know I'm comin’ / Don't wanna let go of all my friends I know / If you listening to this then you mean somethin’”.

A rap track set to a scattering trap beat and spacey synths, ‘oygbia’ is MattGnaw’s resounding declaration – He is thankful to his friends and supporters, but he couldn’t care less about the naysayers. Regardless of how you feel about him, the young rapper is going to fight and evolve as he attempts to capture the crown, and you’re either with him or against him.

Fingerfunk ft. Gail Belmonte – ‘Ilha’

Grab a coconut and don’t forget your picnic mats, because Fingerfunk’s debut single is going to take you to a tropical paradise. ‘Ilha’, which means ‘island’ in Portuguese, makes a strong entrance into the Singaporean music scene with its uniquely refreshing sound. The rounded melodies of a marimba and gentle rhythm of maracas prepare listeners for an aural holiday while more contemporary beats from the drum machine introduce an element of modernity to the song. Additionally, Gail Belmonte’s sweet and sultry vocals provides a completely new layer to the multi-dimensional track.

Thematically, ‘Ilha’ explores going on a vacation to a secret island with the person one fancies, as illustrated by “Fire, burning down these walls of inhibition / Don’t you know girl that I’m so into you / Desire, let me take you to a secret island / Where nobody else can find us two”. This is a common date idea among couples, be it for their honeymoon or just a quick weekend getaway – nothing is quite as romantic as relaxing in the sun sipping on iced tea with the love of your life, disconnecting from the world and all its worries.

Baby Combat– ‘The Kids Will Never Dance’

Noel Yeo, the pilot of the Baby Combat enterprise, pulls off a hushed miracle every time he releases a new song. It’s tempting to think of his strides as incrementally great but that’s just not it. What he brings to the table is that each new transmission is distinctly different from the last in patently unexpected ways, all while issuing forth from the retro-gazing British indie canon that Yeo favours. 

Like its predecessors, ‘The Kids Will Never Dance’ is doused in reverb and nostalgia. Like its predecessors, this song emphasises the emotional profundity of a simple narrative and wrings out of it a cosmic sense of melancholia that is stylish and powerful. But it has breakdowns, where there’s room for bass and drums to rise, to pulse with a primal bounce both summer-ready and existential, that instantly sets it apart from inert, navel-gazing soundalikes.

Whither to next, Baby Combat?

pretty havoc. – ‘come thru if ur lonely’

R&B trio pretty havoc. may be an unfamiliar name to many but with the release of its latest single, that’s about to change. ‘come thru if ur lonely’ is a smooth and soothing r&b and trap hybrid that gets listeners in touch with their feelings, especially on a cold, rainy night. With its soft instrumentation, the track isolates listeners’ emotions, forcing them to feel everything with intense urgency. Try as hard as you may, you’ll eventually cave in and find yourself thinking about the good old times with a loved one. The vocals are mellow and captivating, further elevating any inkling of emotions.

Valiantes – ‘For Fire of Hearts’

There’s a reason why Singaporean singer-songwriter Vincent Tan, known professionally under the guise of Valiantes’ songs sounds so honest. They are, to a large extent, drawn from Tan’s personal life and experiences. A true artist, Tan has flawlessly managed to turn his stories into a sonic experience that everyone can relate to. ‘For Fire of Hearts’ is as pure as a track can be. While deeply personal, the track is one that resonates widely, thanks in part to its theme of getting through hurdles with a loved one. The instrumentation on the track is as clean as they come, showing off Tan’s incredibly strong songwriting capabilities. Despite the lack of percussion, layers of guitars, and a faint harmonica, add additional texture to the song, making it sound full. Tan’s vocals coast over the track effortlessly, tying everything together seamlessly.

Killmeslow– ‘Waste Your Love’

As they say: issa vibe.

The heady cocktail of emo’s helpless bloodletting confessional candour and the blueprint of narcotics-fuelled trap, that makes it so tantalising for one to go spelunking in the depths one’s psyche, have resulted in a perfect sweet spot of a trendy-but-sincere aesthetic. In this sense, Killmeslow is a disciple who wields an advanced understanding of how this world works. “Waste Your Love” conforms to all the rules: Plaintive guitars, devastating lyrics about broken hearts and the corresponding need to numb the pain with illicit substances and the salvation-proffering feeling of just being suspended in a dream. His sonic architecture is gorgeous and inviting – between the cavernous depths carved out by swollen bass blurts and soaring guitar melodies lies a narrative of ruptured love rooted in an inescapably familiar modernity.

But there’s a larger timeliness at play here: His acknowledgement that, “[He] just be stuck in a dream”, affirms the need to retreat from the barrage of stimulation against which we fall in and out love in the too-fast present. Sometimes, floating in midair can feel like a safe space, after all.

Sasha M– ‘Tangled’

It’s a great thing when an artist finds an interesting way to the re-articulate those three simple words: “I love you”.

Sasha M has a lovely voice, the fundamental building block of a pop-facing love song. It’s the crucial bit of fairy dust that makes rote lines like, “You make me smile / I just can’t hide it” and “It’s wrong but it’s right”, among others, feel like the hypnotic, magical invocations of one’s beloved. Though a gloriously beaming tropical beat lights up its world, Sasha’s vocals are the track’s bigger prize. There’s a sincerity in her coos, an all-pervading beauty in her inflection and a poignant sweetness in her tone that makes her voice a perfect arrowhead in Cupid’s arsenal.

There’s no need to read between the lines here: Everything is spelled out clearly in unmissable terms. Sasha’s in love and the world abides.

Leon Markcus – ‘Forgotten Natives’

This is a brave, wonderful song – everything else I’m about to say about it derives from that.

Feeling alone is one of the more pulverising aspects of the human experience. But being queer in an society that sternly enforces heteronormative conduct sets forth a wholly different kind of nth-degree alienation that I don’t have the vocabulary to articulate. But Leon Markus does. 

This song is ballad of isolation, a lament whose silver lining is its own internal strength. Using the spectrum of colours as an imagistic principle, he brings down this sledgehammer: “Why, oh why / Am I invisible? Am I visible?”

But there’s a spoken word interpolation that blooms like a ray of light within the mix. It makes the already-ethereal song feel like it’s destined to a higher, more humane plane. That’s why, though it’s so tempting to think of this song as a rallying cry, it’d be ultimately reductive to do so. What this is, is one individual’s testimony. One person’s truth that pierces the heart with its revelatory power.

For real, let’s be good to each other – and let’s decide that it’s not too much to ask.