Alright, let me just start off by saying that the title is slightly misleading. I am only 22 this year and I only spent a year less than a decade following the releases of Singaporean bands. I did however, spent my teenage years - where my interests in the type of music was shaped - attending local gigs. Although my list of local bands that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing isn’t extensive (and certainly not something to be vaunted about), I still have difficulty in organising a top ten list of local music that exudes talent, at the same time creating a lifetime worth of impression (atleast to me). This difficulty stems from the fact that local bands are, contrary to popular folklore, incredibly talented.
Here, I shall attempt to suppress the whirlwind in my head and put them into understandable perspectives that humans can register with their organic systems. Because perspectives are cool like that.
The list featured are songs that walked with me through my do-first-think-later years. Years that allowed me to scream in public places where strangers deemed me the stature of a hooligan (and not mentally inapt). Anyway, you can probably decipher the kind of gigs I attended back then, with help from the list!
3Dash1 is an emo/pop punk band that won the Straits Times Band competition titled “School of Rock” back in 2005. June’s Lucky Bunch (3Dash1’s first album) was only released 2 years after their victory in the competition. I’m not sure why it was release that late, but there’s an unproven reasoning that lingers around my consciousness suggesting that their supposed ‘label’ was f*cked up. Or maybe not. To be honest, I don’t even know if they were managed by a label in the first place. So slap that thought away right now.
‘And If You’re Gone’ is one of their famous song from the album that according to 3Dash1, was one of the song that ‘clinched us the title for School of Rock’. The purposefully contradicting yet melodious lyrics really sets the stage for a massive crowd singing session. The song continuously perpetuates a keep-it-simple formula (much like all their songs in the album) that naturally brings forth the songwriting talents of the trio.
And when you’re gone, I’d be the first to sigh inside but when you’re far away, I’d be the one to call you back…
If you followed the Wake Me Up Music roster, then these alternative indierock outfit is of no stranger to you. Fronted by the lovely Jean Low, the band coordinates itself in mysterious, abstract ways while their music is always developing and constantly shaping itself. Up To You represents their younger musicality works compared to the soundscapes achieved in the Leprosy EP. Up To You would seem to be a song that is representative to what the local music scene collectively releases. Yes, which means it is slightly on the average side. However, it would seem that Jean’s capacity to write interesting melodies did not just salvage the song, she eventually made it better.
If you’re a fan of experimental alternative indie or post-rock ambient soundscapes (my goodness what’s with all these sub-genres??) then take a shot at listening to Leprosy EP. You will love it.
“I hate what I am, I hate what I’ve become, you say…”
Subtle yet incredibly infectious. There’s this sex essence at the core of the song that emanates throughout the whole time that keeps molesting your mind and digitally caressing your body. And it feels good. The vocals just glows and gently flow at the tip of the song. It never gets anywhere near aggressive with its incredible use of reverb and dosage of autotune. In the case of an electronic song like this, it definitely works. The electronic instruments aren’t flashy at all. The commendable use of suitable sounds create a fitting concept to the cold, sexy sound. At the same time, it could even be coined as something more ‘minimalistic’ in some sense. All these while, the haunting, alluring lyrics slowly makes you cave in and before you know it, your mind is in a stage of total deference. You are, afterall, a sex slave.
“Damn this disco baby, it makes me feel alright…"
Terrific song. Clear, distinct, impressive vocals. Incredibly infectious and melodious tune by the instruments. It is apparent why Comic Strip is one of the respected, renowned Ska band in Singapore. Obviously they are. How can they not be? Just listen to this song.
Be warned that 5 seconds into the song, a spell is casted onto your feet that resurrects it. If your feet suddenly decides to spiral into a krump-style dance (or just plainly, boring taps), don’t be alarmed. It’s only temporary. They stop when the song ends because the dull silence of the world kills.
“I see you, you see me. I wished you'd fly away from here…”
You can’t resist it.
I miss watching them play this song. So much memories of good times come crashing down on you when you listen to it. Good ol’ emo lyrics could really satisfy your insatiable hunger to kick down a door or kill an ant to finally rise up from the depressing feeling of ‘life’. Such is the character that the song posits. It plays you innocently with the laidback guitar intro that may float you around the familiarities of Blink182’s Stay Together for the Kids… until the chorus kicks in. Matt’s vocals soars and the instruments picks up the ‘heavy’ in the distortion and overdrive department. Well, maybe it’s not really heavy if you’ve been listening to Villes or Avalanche or A Town in Fear, which is a whole new ball game as it is.
A Vacant Affair is a post-hardcore band that deserves the respect for the miles they had covered with the genre in Singapore. One of the first of its kind to have made such a success. And I love this song.
“Please take your shirts, your smiles' not working. No more…”
Soothing, serene and it pulls the strings of your emotion with its male-female exchange of an amazingly melodious statement from a simple “You take my breath away”. How could 4 simple words slap such significance to the entirety of the song? It really makes you wonder how an effective manipulation on vocal melody can alter monotone into beauty. The instruments make way for the vocals that drives the backbone concept of the tunes. The guitars make subtle features by standing itself out cautiously and at appropriate times and does it carefully enough to not break the vocal patterns. In fact, it serves to always keep the song interesting whenever the vocals go for a break. Good instrumental synchronicity.
The whole song just sits perfectly with each other. Simple and efficient transitions from intro to verse to chorus to interlude to the end. Remember KISS. ‘Keep It Short & Sweet’ OR ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’. This song is a true testament of how a simple song can manifest itself into a marvelous art form that frames grace as its centerpiece.
“You take my breath away…”
A song for every underdog. I do not get why no one talks about this song. Such good use of sound elements, manipulating them to converge into a creative concept. The intro keys are a good fit that aims to set the overall concept of the song from the beginning. I would have to admit that this song sticks out from the rest as being the ‘adopted child’ that wreaks havoc albeit in a good way (like the naughty boy that keeps the family actively busy and happy). Just listen to Daniel Sassoon’s guitar riffs!
Fever Fly is as the title suggests, about a fly that carries fever. Aedes, of course. Like… who in the blue hell would think of such a concept for a song? This is creativity at its finest. Local music is really something else.
“Because of you, I’m here to stay…”
Ahhh. This song is another one that slaps memories of good times in my face. The perfect layering of different instruments into a song, the unique vocals harnessed by Josh that brings the ‘whoa’ crowd participation into a new level (especially during their live performances) and basically the bass riff that makes you feel like you’re chasing after the bus… or the train. The bass is one of the obvious reasons to why the song sounds like it tries to push and rush you into a frenzy, making you aware of that ‘you-need-to-do-something’ feeling but can’t really put a finger to what is it that you have to do. That bittersweet, uncomfortably comfortable feeling is really quasi-menacing and at the same time, exciting beyond words.
If that was what The Train Song was trying to achieve in the formulation of the song, then I honestly believe that it is successful beyond measure. The guitar’s chord progression is actually a common blueprint that creates a joyful, feel-good reaction to the listeners, played with only 3 chords, while the 2nd chord extends into the 3rd bar. Try it with your guitar, it sounds pretty amazeballs.
“Sad, sad so we are together. Now will you please be satisfied with me…”
You can never quite forget the first great local song that confirms to you that the local music scene has talents. Caracal’s The Best Defence is Nonsense was the song that whispered to me about Singapura’s musical talents. This dance-esque number must have been quite a breakthrough for Caracal with its clever use of electronic samples in the intro, but not forgetting to mention its periodic features throughout the song.
Ex-vocalist Chris is able to effectively leverage his vocals to suit the dance beat – something that the modern Caracal’s new music direction won’t be able to match (but not necessarily suggesting inability, more of separate ideas, image and taste). At the same time, the clever manipulation of the instruments to slot itself into the beat of alternative, dance rock is really something worth giving attention to. The only thing I find frustrating is the fact that the intro sacrificed about 1 minute 10 seconds and the slow bit at the end looted more than 30 seconds, which leaves the band only about 2 minutes to kick the audiences ass with their grandeur. Oh well, remember KISS.
“Rest easy in the rush of traffic…”
The finest art came from the band that inspired me to always be involved with any art form. B-Quartet is no stranger to anyone that follows the local music scene deep enough to evade through the ‘noise’ of the surface and linger enough to appreciate the complexities of subjective, contemporary art in the form of music. Its daunting instruments and grandiose backing elements coloured by haunting vocals and simple but beautiful piano draws you into its abyss of silence and imagery. B-Quartet did not just made music, they made art that interacts with your very being, leaving you satiated with emotionless weary from having pulled into a marveling crescendo.
Bani Haykal, notably a singer as well as a poet, showcases monologues and displays musicianship and even live-looping apart from singing in B-Quartet.
If you penetrate deep into the core of the local music scene, gems like them might just leave you ponderously breathless. But don’t take my word for it! Give it a listen!
“All our stensils quiver; map distort skies, let’s please make no mistake…”
Other local stuff you should listen to:
Misissued - Lie Awake
Postbox – Miss Sunshine
Astroninja – The Bukkake Udon Song
Inch Chua – Wallflower
West Grand Boulevard – Flights of Fancy
Deputy Siren – I Watched You Chase Grandeur
After The Sky – We Lost Ourselves To Algebra
Stentorian – Fancy Girl
Monofone – Sylvia Reborn
Leeson – Absolute Beginners
Armchair Critic – Shush
Article written by Tom, lead vocalist of Aquila Vasica.