Sunday, 11 March 2012

Concert Review: Rachael Yamagata - Live! in Singapore 2012

Above: Rachael Yamagata (Meh quality, I know)

Rachael Yamagata is one of those artists worth seeing live.

Back for the fourth time since her very first concert in 2007, she was the same old candid self, seducing the crowd with her witty banter and charming vocals. This was also her first concert since parting ways with Warner Bros. Records and self-releasing her third LP Chesapeake.

Kicking off with an upbeat "Even If I Don't", she serenaded the house with an assortment of new and old ballads including "Letter Read" and "Starlight" while alternating between the piano and guitar. The mood turned sombre when she launched into "Elephants" and "Sunday Afternoon", both taken off her Elephants album, leaving the audience in spellbound silence.

Her early hits "Be Be Your Love" and "Worn Me Down" (given a bluesy makeover) were evident crowd pullers, as the fans eagerly lapped up both songs.

Even though she was nursing a cold, nothing seemed to stop her. That is, until she hit a snag on "Dealbreaker", where her voice cracked and her bassist had to fill in the high notes. She wrapped up the set with a heartfelt rendition of "Reason Why", striking a chord with everyone like she did many times before.

Singapore can't wait for her to get back here soon enough.

Rachael Yamagata - Live!
Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore
Thursday, February 23, 2012

1. Even If I Don't
2. Letter Read
3. Starlight
4. Elephants
5. Sunday Afternoon
6. Saturday Morning
7. Full On
8. Be Be Your Love
9. Worn Me Down
10. Dealbreaker

11. You Won't Let Me
12. Meet Me By The Water
13. Reason Why

Monday, 27 February 2012

Concert Review: St Jerome's Laneway Festival 2012

When I first heard about the stellar line-up for this year's Laneway Festival, I told myself I had to go. I'd missed the inaugural edition so I wasn't going to sit out on this one.

So on a sunny Sunday, we arrived at Fort Canning past 3, missing show openers Cults, and caught a snippet of Yuck's performance. By the time we settled on a shady spot and laid out our picnic mat, Chairlift took to the stage.


Chairlift were brought on to replace WU LYF, who had been forced to cancel their appearance at Laneway Festival. Caroline Polachek, the self-assured frontwoman, managed to charm the crowd with her airy vocals which she put to good use on offerings like "Sidewalk Safari" and "Amanaemonesia". When "Bruises" came on, everyone recognised it as the song that was featured in the iPod commercial, and started to cheer and sing along.


Austra hypnotised the crowd with their dark synthpop songs, while decked out in amazing costumes. Singer Katie Stelmanis and her band enthralled everyone as they flailed their arms and danced to the music, and the crowd responded with enthusiasm.


Christopher Owens of Girls paid tribute to the late Whitney Houston, who passed away the previous day, by launching into heartfelt rendition of "I Will Always Love You", leading the crowd in a massive sing-along.

The Drums

Jonathan Pierce, the insouciant frontman of The Drums, let his natural charisma shine through, encouraging the audience to dance to indie-pop numbers like "Let's Go Surfing".

Anna Calvi

Anna Calvi was decked out in fine livery, strumming her guitar and displaying her vocal prowess on stage. Though she didn't blow me away with her live performance, I felt her determination and passion for her craft.

Twin Shadow

Twin Shadow's show kicked off late due to a technical glitch. Thankfully, I was at the long-ass queue for drinks, so by the time I returned I was ready to soak up the performance. I was duly rewarded when George Lewis Jr. brought his songs to life, such as the nostalgic-sounding "Shooting Holes", with his smooth and charming delivery.

Laura Marling

I am a fan of Laura Marling, the young folk doyenne, so it was brilliant to see her in the flesh. What was more surprising was when she emerged on stage, the audience let out a few hollers, that I realised she had a considerable number of fans in the crowd.

Despite being a woman of few words, she was assured and well-connected with the audience. Her voice was pure and ethereal, and she did a fresh take on "Alas, I Cannot Swim", one of my favourite hidden tracks off her eponymous debut album.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's performance was marred by another glitch, causing them to halt their show midway through their second song. Despite that, they managed to bounce back. Keyboardist Peggy Wang apologised for the delay and even thanked the audience politely after every song. I'd readily admit I'm not a big fan but it was a good performance from a very grounded band.

Toro Y Moi

Chillwave pioneer Toro Y Moi, otherwise known as Chaz Bundwick, toned things down with his brand of soothing electronic pop. He preferred to let his music do the talking, peppering his show with some thank yous, so I relaxed and basically swayed to his music.


Feist was the undoubtedly the main act of the night, so when she came on, everyone rose to their feet. She was the seasoned, consummate performer: Charismatic and magnetic, playful yet charming. As she wound her way through new songs such as "How Come You Never Go There" and older ones like "Mushaboom", she had the audience transfixed. It was a solid performance, albeit a tad short.

The Horrors

By this time, a portion of the crowd had trickled out. Although The Horrors put up a brave performance, unleashing a torrent of rock songs, most people were exhausted by then and were conserving their energy for the last act of the night.


When M83 bounded onto the stage sometime past midnight, the crowd sprung to life again. The massive, danceable numbers like "Midnight City" and "Reunion" had the crowd head-bopping, and banished all their tiredness. Anthony Gonzalez had great showmanship, and literally had the crowd eating out of his hands. It was a magical way to end the night.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Daily Randomness

A look at what's happening right now:

"National Anthem", the latest track off Lana Del Rey's album Born To Die, just leaked online [link].

Zooey Deschanel files for divorce from Ben Gibbard -- and she has no balance on her three credit cards [link]!

Saturday, 31 December 2011

10 Favourite Albums of 2011

Here we are again. Before 2011 comes to a close, I'd like to present 10 of my favourite albums this year. As an added bonus, skip to the end for my favourite EP. Happy New Year everyone!

10. Wild Flag - Wild Flag

Here's one record that psyched me up before its release because of the pedigree of the band members. Bringing together Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, Helium's Mary Timony and the Minders' Rebecca Cole, Wild Flag is the eponymous release from the prominent indie-punk rockers. "Romance" kicks things off with swagger and exuberance that embodies the entire record, but my personal favourite has to be "Electric Band", with its lazy, heady sound that harks back to a bygone era.

Wild Flag - Romance [MP3]

9. Washed Out - Within and Without

Elegant yet subtle, Within and Without's sensual and refined sound is an evolution from Ernest Greene's earlier material. "Eyes Be Closed" is the lead single and one of the album's stand-out tracks. Soft, gauzy synths are glazed over with a hazy feel, and the beats are crisp and clear. "Amor Fati", or Latin for "Love of Fate", sounds blissfully sweet (read the full review here).

Washed Out - Amor Fati
Washed Out - Eyes Be Closed

8. Radiohead - The King of Limbs

At 37 minutes long, Radiohead's eighth studio album is their shortest record to date. When it comes to dishing out an exquisite record, Radiohead knows that brevity is the order of the day. Savour the tunes like fine wine: Soak up the smells. Take a sip here and a swig there, and you'll be duly rewarded in the end.

7. Marissa Nadler - Marissa Nadler

After being dropped from her record label, folk singer Marissa Nadler turned to Kickstarter, a fan-driven platform, to fund her fifth album. This fuelled arguably her best and most frank LP to date. Lead single "Baby, I Will Leave You In The Morning" is a pleading song about forgiveness, but my top pick is "Puppet Master", a quiet composition about lost love.

Marissa Nadler - Baby, I Will Leave You in the Morning
Marissa Nadler - In Your Lair, Bear

6. Katy B - On A Mission

Nominated for this year's Mercury Prize, On A Mission is a solid record that combines elements of dubstep, dance and pop. The album bursts to life from the get go. Katy B's (Kathleen Brien) vocals are deliciously sensual. I was smitten with songs like "Witches Brew", "Go Away", "Broken Record" and the witty "Easy Please Me". Moreover, midway through the album closer "Hard To Get", Katy acknowledges those who have supported her on her musical journey. Kudos to a truly grounded star-in-the-making.

Katy B - Broken Record

5. Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials

Florence Welch has been on a roll since the release of her brilliant debut Lungs and she just keeps getting better at her game. Her sophomore effort Ceremonials is a pompous and grandiose affair, captivating and spellbinding, lyrically and vocally stunning.

Florence + The Machine - What The Water Gave Me

4. Thievery Corporation - Culture of Fear

Culture of Fear, Thievery Corporation's sixth studio album, is one of the most underrated records of the year. Sure, the electronic DJ duo continue to take on their socio-political stances, but like they say: If it ain't broken, why fix it?

Thievery Corporation - Culture of Fear

3. Metronomy - The English Riviera

Metronomy blew me away with The English Riveria, the most laid-back and fun record I've heard all year. Shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, it's chock-a-block with shimmery tunes that wouldn't sound out of place on mainstream radio. Lead singer Joe Mount's falsetto is intriguing and charming, and he's backed by brilliant musicians like bassist Gbenga Adelekan and former Lightspeed Champion drummer Anna Prior. It's interesting to see where this band will go next.

2. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

Lykke Li has come a long way since her Youth Novel days. Wounded Rhymes, her second album, is a work of art. It's defiant, darkly hypnotic, yet deeply passionate, you just get sucked into the swirling vortex. There's a whole lot of emotions going on, but you have to give it to the lady (and producer Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John fame) for pulling it all together into one neat, minimalist package. Certainly one of the best Swedish exports yet.

Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers
Lykke Li - Jerome

1. Feist - Metals

The fourth studio album from Canadian chanteuse Leslie Feist tops my list. It's pretty much the most cohesive and perfect record I've heard this year. Recorded in Big Sur, California, Feist smartly eschews lavish production for a cool, melancholic soundtrack that somehow becomes warm, comfort food for the soul. Sublime.

...and my favourite EP:

Florrie - Experiments EP

Florrie (Florence Arnold) is one hell of a beautiful and talented woman. She's a singer-songwriter, drummer and model. And she's really in it for the music, given that she has adopted the grassroots strategy with her tunes, choosing instead to self-release her EPs instead of signing on to a record label. Experiments EP, her second after the excellent Introduction EP (you can download the latter for free off her website), is a thumping, synth-pop packed record that's fun, catchy and energetic.

Honourable Mentions:
Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know
Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest
Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
Austra - Feel It Break
Cults - Cults
Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Friday, 18 November 2011

Daily Randomness

Video roundup for the week:

Florence + The Machine: "No Light, No Light"

"No Light, No Light" is easily one of the best tracks on Florence Welch's second album, Ceremonials. Now it has this stunning, epic and haunting video to boot. I get the chills just watching it.

Feist: "How Come You Never Go There"

Leslie Feist gets hair extensions and steps into the forest in this oddly enchanting video for "How Come You Never Go There", the first single taken off her fourth studio album, Metals.

CSS: "City Grrrl" ft. Ssion

Taken off La LiberaciĆ³n, "City Grrrl" sees Lovefoxxx prancing round town and going through a dizzying array of outfits.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Little Boots: "Shake"

Sorry for the intermittent updates as I've been overworking myself lately, but I absolutely had to share this new song from Little Boots. Produced by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco fame, "Shake" is the lead single from Victoria Hesketh's as-yet-untitled new album. This booming, thumping house-pop number sure is a great contender for anthem of the year. We ain't seeing any sophomore slump here.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Daily Randomness

A look at what's happening right now:

Interesting finds in the inbox.

Here's one that's bound to make your heart ache.

Canadian singer-songwriter Drew Smith's "Love Teeth" is a story of love and loss. The animated video, a gorgeous accompaniment to the song, was created by one of his former ESL students. His new album The Secret Languages will be released in 2012. Definitely one to look out for.

Mancunians City Reign are releasing their EP Numbers For Street Names on November 21. The lead single "Making Plans" has a whole lot of old video footage and a sweet, grungy sound.

The kids finally have an official video to their name! "Drum In Your Chest", from mysterious London boy-girl duo BIGKids is wacky yet addictive.

There's something about Christine Leakey's sound that reminds me of 1920s Shanghai. She will be releasing Tapping Trees in a Trinket Box of Treasure in January 2012, an album that took 14 years in the making.

Years ago, the self-taught guitarist suffered an injury that left her unable to play and put a spanner in the works. Despite the unfortunate incident, she managed to bounce back. Here's "Lovely", a song with a snazzy old vibe.

Hailing from Romania, The Mono Jacks are a four-piece band whose sound brings to mind Interpol, Editors and The White Lies. "Woman" is the first single off their forthcoming record Fortunes, which is out in December.

Snow & Voices “Maybe Finland” from Lauri Kranz on Vimeo.

Snow & Voices also have a new video for "Maybe Finland". Director Shannyn Sossamon talks about her inspiration below:
I love Lauri’s voice. When she asked me to make the video for Maybe Finland, I was happy to do it. Ravi Dhar, a friend and cameraman, had been wanting to have fun with slow motion on his Canon - which was actually perfect for Lauri’s voice and the songs atmosphere. We made it one late night at Ravi's house where Lauri was a trooper, having to dance for hours and hours without a clear end in sight. Here it is. Enjoy the video!
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