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 RRILEY, Adia Tay, W.Y.Huang, Latro, Amanda Ong, Sharizal, Don.a.a.ron, Killmeslow, Made With Monsters and Sha.
RRILEY – ‘Burn’
Another one of The Sam Willows’ sirens steps out on her own. As RRILEY, Sandra owns all the real estate of her debut single, which is an emphatic manifesto of the territory she seeks to conquer.
Picking an empowerment anthem with which to soundtrack her solo unveiling pays off well for RRILEY. Her voice is a coiled snake, able to strike out in different directions and in different guises. But there’s an allure and grace that interlaces the power of her performance here: Though utterly sensual, she inflects certain lines with a triumphant smirk, lines such as, “Don’t cry when you see me on fire” and “I don’t need a chaperone”. Decked with trap signifiers and neo-classical accents, the production creates an epic mood – the entrance music of a Queen that works just as well when you’re in the club and need something heady and regal to set the mood.
LATRO – ‘Seasons’
In LATRO’s latest transmission, the rapper takes another stab at emo-trap, a genre he’s picked up with his previous single ‘Tatted’. It’s a mellow mix of skittering beats and tingling chimes, one that is not uncommon with songs of this nature, but what LATRO lays over it is touching. Laden with pain and sadness, LATRO narrates his post-breakup throes. “I just want to be free / free of my binds / I just want to fly”, he laments as he searches for lover who’s long gone. While this track can blend into the crowded emo-trap lane, it’s a nice addition to his growing portfolio.
Sha – ‘Mufasa’
Sha definitely knows how to make an entrance. The first song off Sha’s latest EP Dreamstate, ‘Mufasa’ serves as a strong, slightly malevolent, introduction to the young rapper. The song is pretty much your typical modern rap track – an entrée of confidence complete with a side of swagger, arrogance and heavy trap beats.
With lyrics such as “Ain't nobody tell me nothing 'cus nobody that reliable / And there might be collaterals, you wanna watch your vitals”, Sha comes for those that have let him down. This track serves as a savage warning to the doubters and the haters and draws a comparison between the rapper and the kingly Disney hero: If you come for Sha, you’re going to get Mufasa.
W. Y. Huang – ‘Mercy’
This song doesn’t give you a choice: Assume the all-digital-everything thrall as your idea of heaven or else.
The artist formerly known as Yllis operates from the premise that, because art imitates life (and vice versa), neither is spared from the other. Techno-Orientalism and Sinofuturism are ornate bows to tie around the monumentality that this song summons, handy conceptual rails with which to approach its teeming world. But this isn’t a red-eyed work that insists on meeting the criteria to Mean Something. It’s a massive totality, composed of elements you’d recognise from the wide, generations-spanning spectrum of pop culture, that reflects the totality of today . “East” – in the form of plinking Oriental sounds – and “West”, manifesting in jet-engine bass and seismic drums, fuse into and around each other. When worlds collide, some things will die and new forms will arise. All things constant, this is the sound of what’s to come, as a depleting United States makes grudging acknowledgment of China’s unignorable superpower status, an echo of foreshadowing that runs its current along the spine that connects the past, present and future.
As war zone and new beginning, ‘Mercy’ is gloriously fertile soil.
Amanda Ong – ‘Eye To Eye’
Nestling in the boughs of last week’s bounty of releases is Amanda Ong’s innocently chirpy track ‘Eye To Eye’. At first listen, the track is reminiscent of Lenka and Colbie Caillat: Sweet melodies injected with a spoonful of optimism. Bubbles of saccharine melodies are the first to hit as the first few notes come in, and as it rolls along, Amanda introduces her airy, sweet vocals, which perfectly match the bubbly vibe felt throughout. Although, she sings of the struggles of not being on the same page as her lover but it gets lost in the glittery sounds. The lyrics are cutting but the music is anything but. In the end, it leaves an overtly sweet taste throughout the listen, which makes it perfect for those gloomy days where a little ray of sunshine is needed but not for a message of sorrow.
Don.a.a.ron – ‘NO ONE ELSE - 他に誰もいない (TELL ME)’
Those who are familiar with Don.a.a.ron would probably know of his interest the ‘80s synth-pop sound. Compared to his other releases, ‘NO ONE ELSE’ does not fall far from the tree. This electronically-charged song evokes a sense of nostalgia; it is as if one is walking down a flight of stairs illuminated only by neon lights into a retro discotheque.
The haunting vocals convey lyrics portraying a doubt-filled relationship, as exhibited by lines such as “I wonder why you won’t tell me there is no one else”. Just like Don.a.a.ron’s other releases, the instrumentals earn a sizeable portion of the listener’s attention. A short four-bar trumpet solo from Farhan Remy adds further variety into this absorbing track – a cherry on top of this beautiful slice of cake.
Adia Tay – ‘Ghost’
Songs like this do something to you. Songs like this make me step away from all the online poisoning that haunts the work of music journalism and say, in a hushed, reverential tone, “Wow”.
‘Ghost’ is a superlative performance. It lends itself easily to epic metaphors and grandiose descriptors because of how much it transcends what it could have been. Adia Tay is a musician in the singer-songwriter mode but this gem off her debut EP Kintsugi is a world-expanding exercise. Following an interpolation of “Scarborough Fair”, that opens the song, the listener is left mouth agape as a deluxe unspooling of seething strings clashes with post-rock splendour, swooning textures, battle drums and all. In the middle of all this feral lushness is Tay’s ray of light voice, the song’s internal religion that proffers order and harmony upon the apocalyptic beauty, anger, fear, loss and pain that the music tries to contain.
If you are haunted by ghosts – those slinky beings that come and go as they please – know that this song is the supernova that will blast them out of existence.
Made With Monsters – ‘Chameleon’
Made With Monsters follow up three singles, all released in the last two years, with its debut EP Warmer.. Within the veins that run through the six tracks is the band’s surprising musicality, having just formed last year. It seems as though the quartet has been sitting on this trove of material, only to finally decide to let the world hear them, little by little.
The previously released track ‘The Transient State’ offers a slower-paced tune with catchy lyrics; ‘Underscore’ allows the band to let its instrumentals loose and give the listener an idol start to the rest of the tracks; ‘Spinnin feat. Syah’ exudes a gnarly vibe with hollowed melodies and gritty guitars. But what stands out is ‘Chameleon’. The introduction swells with guitar and drums before transitioning into a gritty passage and then, to a sparse guitar riff with hushed vocals. It’s a token emo/post-hardcore song that sets the foundation of its debut EP, and a pretty good one at that.
Killmeslow – ‘I Miss U’
A relationship going south is the last thing one would want. The dilemmas that follow such circumstances often over-complicate an already-sticky situation. Killmeslow’s latest single ‘I Miss U’ perfectly illustrates this scenario.
Kicking off with a series of chimes and mallets, the song draws listeners in with a feel-good melody, evoking the innocence and purity of young love. That is contrasted by Killmeslow’s processed vocals cutting through the fluffy clouds of innocence and purity like a rusty iron sword, singing melancholic lyrics such as, “Baby watch me fall apart like I kissed you / I might have a broken heart, I got issues”. Served with a side of light trap beats, this is a track that devastatingly encapsulates the irony of falling out with the person one fell in love with.
Shahrizal – ‘Oh So Beautiful, You Are’
What Shahrizal does best is take a galaxy-resounding truth and render it in a whisper.
To listen to his new song is take a tumble into a hyper-sensuous world where the heart beats with an irreducibly sincere pound. Angelic melodies, vocal samples doused in the haunting mist of reverb and a stylish backbeat are the main agents with which Shahrizal evokes his environment: Picture satin cushions in a plushly furnished room; incense burning thickly in the back. Intimate reflections unspool; the sweet release is as much literal as it is lyrical. All this while, things are perfect in this paradise. Then, Shahrizal coos, “Tell me, was it all a dream / ‘Cos I don’t want to fall asleep”. In one stroke, he changes the entire mood without changing anything.
All you can do is listen to it again and again and again.
Terrible People – ‘Peachy’
Emo quartet Terrible People returns with its first single since 2017’s 'Smoking Man' with ‘Peachy’. This is also a first glimpse into the band’s forthcoming album Like Clean Air, due to be out 31 May.
This is the band’s take on the transition into adulthood; maturity blooms, door open, priorities change but sometimes, we feel that we’re lagging behind and when faced with all these new avenues, it can be overwhelming. The band experiments with vocal harmonies over gentle guitars and drums for the first half of the song – a route which was not explored in the band’s previous project – then progressing into harsher and louder territory into the second half of the song, mirroring the frustration that builds up as the story is told.