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 MYRNE, Tabitha Nauser, bittymacbeth, Oya Paya, Haziman, Royal Estate, ORANGECOVE, KARAN, Baby Combat, Valiantes, P_NEDA, Firefly Search Party and Faraday.
MYRNE – ‘Call, Call Me feat. Sam Rui and Gentle Bones’
MYRNE doesn’t get enough credit for his resume. There is no other Singaporean artist in his weight class whose CV includes names such as Diplo, The Chainsmokers, RL Grime, DJ Snake and What So Not. Recently, he was also embraced into the roster of the EDM-world-conquering powerhouse Ultra Music. He’s a bona fide big tent attraction whose musicality is correspondingly mammoth.
That’s why ‘Call, Call Me’ sounds the way that it does. It’s a maximal cut with teeming poly-rhythms, idiosyncratic synths, colouristic accents and speaker-widening bass, over which two of the most celebrated voices in Singaporean pop music coo about tumultuous love. In terms of impact and intent, the going is straightforward: This song is supposed to explode in your heart and beam you into the stratosphere.
Valiantes – ‘Wasting Time’
There’s something enchanting about the musical mode that is voice and guitar. It has a lot to do with the approach: Summoning one's deepest feelings via one the most musically straightforward of ways. Valiantes perfectly executes this in his debut single.
The song is simple; there are background vocals and a tambourine introduced into the second half but, other than that, it’s Valiantes’ controlled and clear vocals that carry most of the emotional burden. A clip of an announcement in a train stations caps both ends of the song, furnishing a visual of Valiantes sitting at a station with his guitar, singing and strumming, in an almost-natural state.
Tabitha Nauser – ‘Don’t Let Me Drown’
Tabitha Nauser has come full circle. On her debut single ‘Bulletproof’, she sang of a timeless, impregnable love, but her latest transmission ‘Don’t Let Me Drown’ soundtracks her walking away from a suffocating relationship.
But walking away is never easy. Though the track is an ode to letting go, Tabitha uses its runtime to affirm the push-pull struggle that underpins her better judgement. The fact that it’s not superficially celebratory is the source of the song’s power. When she sings lines such as, “Baby, I just can’t forget you” and “I hate how much I love you”, her voice is strained and quivering. Her pain is palpable and so utterly devastating. It detonates within the song’s trapped-out limits and cuts through the voluptuous swells of bass. In an age where the image is all-powerful, 'Don't Let Me Drown' makes a strong case for the heart, for the humanity behind the pose.
bittymacbeth – ‘fly. feat. Sesamii’
If you haven’t heard the name bittymacbeth, you’ve sorely been missing out. She has an amazing ability to deliver the sensual comfort of blues, the richness of soul and the punchy power of pop all in one package; take a listen to her 2016 EP Beauty For Ashes.
In her new single, she took a leap of faith and introduced more electronic elements: Muffled pulsating bass and shimmeringly ascending chimes, thanks to her housemate, Sesamii. Her decision for the music production on the track is befitting of her narrative. She sings, “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life, paying my debts for a matchbox in the sky”, spurning the hollowness of socially enforced conventions and insisting on marching to her own beat. It’s a bold path she’s embarking on and I believe she made the right decision to do so.
Oya Paya – ‘Seven Four’
Oya Paya have a debut EP christened Som. They’re those guys. But it’s to their credit that the trio of Ashwin, Saam and Maxime’s tongue-in-cheek-ery is charming and legitimately awesome as opposed to trite and exhausting.
The length and breath of the six-tracker is suffused with mood-setting synths, spiky drums, robust bass and guitars that jab and jangle, all in a colouristic, light-giving and undefeatedly joyous way. Of them all, ‘Seven Four’ packs the most endorphin-blasting power. The grooves are supernaturally tight here; the melodies shimmering and buoyant over the masterful rhythm section. Yet, through it all, there’s self-reckoning: “Sorry means that it’s too late”.
ORANGECOVE – ‘So Alive’
ORANGECOVE revels in the energy of the early ‘00s rock from bands such as Bowling For Soup and Green Day but updates it all with pulsating electronic rhythms in new its track ‘So Alive’, which comes off its sophomore EP, We Are Infinite. Marshalling soaring guitars, fast-paced snare pounds, a sprinkle of lightly tinged synths and an unrelenting spirit, the song blossoms into an addictive listen, worthy of ‘earworm’ status.
Faraday – ‘Runaway’
The main reason rock will never die is because it’s resistant to the fickleness of the zeitgeist. Faraday is a band that wears that truism like a coat of arms. The Singaporean quintet makes muscular guitar-forward music that melts classic rock, heavy metal, post-hardcore and post-grunge down into a riffy, arena-ready brew of its own. It most definitely isn’t a trending proposition but that’s just as well. The stakes are higher, the sentiments deeper than any concern for public approval, here. There’s a life-or-death gravity that gives this band its cinematic power and ‘Runaway’’s narrative of rebirth perfectly and mythically is emblematic of the band’s larger aims.
Firefly Search Party – ‘I’m Not Gonna Lose You’
We don’t want to be alone. It’s embedded in our DNA, whether we like to admit it or not. But on in its new single, Firefly Search Party deliver a playful take our helpless need to love and reciprocity. The words “I’m not going to lose you” are repeated in the chorus, like a stubborn reminder that pops up on your phone to “Buy eggs” every five minutes. The hooks and laments bounce playfully over nu-folk tunes and the harmonies of Dian and Nathan. The duo also enlisted the help of Khalis Jalil on the electric guitar, who provides the country rock-inflected guitar riff in the bridge that gives the song an overall kick.
Royal Estate – ‘Mess’
One of the reasons “alternative” became a modifier of rock music is because it had the bandwidth to encompass rock music that is beautiful. In a broad sense, that’s what Royal Estate brings to the table. On its new EP A Love Letter to Innocence, the band demonstrates how this unfolds against the emotional backdrop of nostalgia of the rarefied, fairy-lit kind. ‘Mess’, the second song, is also one of its highlights. Anthemic but hushed, the song is composed of an immaculate marriage of gorgeous guitars and a driving rhythm section. Its overall affordance is chanty and meditative – two things that a lot of songs can’t be at the same time.
Haziman – ‘are you sinking?’
“I just wanna know what you were thinking/ I just wanna see what you are seeing/ I just wanna feel how you are feeling”.
Haziman repeats these lines with a painful tinge in the first verse of his latest single ‘are you sinking’. It’s a glimpse into his mind as he ponders about someone he longs after. Transitioning into Auto-Tune, he then chronicles the frustrations of wading through these emotions and the devastating consequences of stewing in them. Although the track is just under two-and-a-half-minutes, the impact of the torture is felt every second.
P_NEDA – ‘Die Now’
At some point in the enforced opposition between rap and R&B, the hard-soft dichotomy dissolved into a sweet spot wherein some of the most confessional music to enter the contemporary pop cultural bloodstream is being made.
On his new single, P_NEDA bares his heart, letting the listener into his innermost self, where he grapples with love that is empty, where people who don’t have his back keep telling him how to live his life, and, where, on a deeper level, he squares up against the fundamental sense of loneliness that is inextricable from the human condition. The beat, produced by Fridaus Shah Ali, is sublime and lush – melodies in the crystalline depths of the space; there’s an aquatic quality to the sonics, mirroring the listener’s vantage point. P_NEDA’s vocals skim the surface of a beat like ripples. But what he’s saying – the promises he makes to himself and his total self-awareness – is spiritually significant. This is a fantastic song.
KARAN – ‘XO feat. BOYINSPACE’
Grappling with the romantic deceit just plain sucks. That's why KARAN's latest screed is full of disgust and anger. This is his first solo single, having previously featured on two of BOYINSPACE’s tracks, and he pulls back no punches. Every line is coated with a snarling fury and every underlying beat resonates with it. The resulting number is a seething love letter to the people who have betrayed his trust. It’s in this track where you can relate to finding an avenue for release because holding on to all that, is just not healthy.
Baby Combat – ‘Tokyo’
Baby Combat is the brainchild of Noel Yeo of Shelves, which stands amongst the elder statesmen of Made In Singapore indie rock. ‘Tokyo’ bears all the hallmarks of the kind of appeal Creation Records-era indie rock had as a universally beloved source of refuge for a lot of people.
There are the jagged guitars, a percolating stream of beats and an unobtrusive bassline, over which Yeo’s deeply reverbed vocals ride. All these disparate elements split the difference between the general states of “happy” and “sad” and in this interstitial space, Yeo delivers goner exhales about “drifting with the flow” and being “just a part of the show” with “no meaning of [his] own”, which are threaded to the larger fact that all of this was always meant to be. Tokyo is a placeholder – you could hear this song anywhere and feel lost and be totally ok with it. Just like the old days – days sorely missed.