Empire of the Sun – Ice On the Dune

If you’ve been wondering what Empire of the Sun have been up to over the past three years, or if Nick Littlemore’s rumoured disappearance is for good, wonder no more. The duo is back with their second album, Ice On the Dune. Turns out, Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore had just been touring and making music individually for three years, then decided to get back into the studio to record this album.

While synth-pop — popular during the “blog haus” era from 2006 to 2008 — has taken a back seat to the more recently trendy sounds of deep house and bass, it’s good to know that Empire of the Sun haven’t lost their touch, not straying too far from that special brand of Aussie synth-pop that has been so missed.

Visually, the band has always had an inclination towards the dramatic, and this translates quite well in audio form. Ice On the Dune is as otherworldly as the album artwork and costumes they wear in music videos and on stage; more so than Walking on a Dream.

It is also more club oriented than the Walking on a Dream. First single ‘Alive’ is a euphoric summer anthem. It’s hard to not sing along to “loving every minute ’cause you make me feel so alive, alive” and feel a little bit… well, alive.

Opening track, ‘Lux’ sounds like it belongs in a film score (apparently, they’ll be writing the film score to the sequel of Dumb and Dumber), and an invitation to the listener to join them on their journey of adventure, hope, and the search for a better life in a new place, which is where the optimism in the music lies.

This album seems to tell a story chronologically from beginning to end: running away, finding a better place, then settling down with a loved one. Title track ‘Ice on the Dune’ is the one to look out for, with its sparkling synths and lyrics that resonate with anyone who’s ever wanted to run away from wherever they are, escapism seems to be a running theme in their music here.

Ice on the Dune doesn’t sound remotely abstract or inaccessible. In fact, it is a simple album in which everything comes together so well; everything one would expect from Empire of the Sun. Layers of synths, melodic guitar riffs, 4/4 drum beats, and imaginative lyrics brought to life by Luke Steele’s ethereal vocals. Perhaps the only negative is that some of the songs seem to end abruptly, but the uplifting record couldn’t have been released at a better time, and would be great company to your ears if you’re travelling this summer.


By Cindy Tan

ShiGGa Shay’s ‘LimPeh’ tops iTunes Singapore in 24 hours

The youngest hip-hop artist to have made it into the Singapore radio charts, ShiGGa Shay has done it again, topping the iTunes Singapore chart within 24 hours of the release of new track, ‘LimPeh‘.

The English-Chinese-Hokkien hybrid song, the outcome of a dare, was released yesterday by the rapper, song-writer and producer, and is also rapidly climbing the iTunes Malaysia charts.

‘LimPeh’ will be accompanied by a video in late July — a tongue-in-cheeck tribute to the groundbreaking Taiwanese gangster movie, Monga.

Watch the ‘LimPeh’ music video teaser here:

[youtube width=”450″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC5nydqwDEU[/youtube]

By Eleanor Turnbull

Air Dubai – Warning EP

Colorado has produced some exciting talent over the years, with an honour roll abundant in folk, indie and rock artists, from John Denver to The Lumineers. Out of this mixing pot has emerged hip-hop seven-piece Air Dubai, and they are challenging the status quo within the genre; their latest EP, Warning, samples from pop, soul, rock and electronic music, layering the genres in a unique style of song-writing.

Opening track ‘All Day’ runs a distinctive beat under catchy song-writing. It’s easy to picture a Californian beach party and an endless summer with this playing, its mellow backing hinting at hip-hop releases of the early 2000s. 

Meanwhile, title track ‘Warning’ features vocalist Patricia Lynn belting out the hook, the repetition of which will be stuck in your head for days — in a good way. The hook differs entirely to that on ‘Soul & Body’ which features a distinctly soul vocal over a relatively indie rock backing. Though on paper, this mix of sounds seem like it could never work, the juxtaposition gives the song — this whole EP — a whole new dimension.

Final track ‘Dance with the Devil’ is a smooth tune, and a stand-out on the EP. Its relaxed tone and simplistic yet distinctive backing complements the song’s lyrical content, producing a memorable track on many levels.

Air Dubai’s organic approach to their music is refreshing in a hip-hop environment that can often lack originality and innovation. The group’s musical credentials are evident on Warning, with such a diverse range of influences present. If the Warning EP is a hint at the future for Air Dubai, it looks pretty bright to me. Certainly one to keep an eye on.


By Eleanor Turnbull

Arctic Monkeys announce fifth album, titled ‘AM’

Arctic Monkeys have just announced details of their fifth album, titled AM, to be released this September.

The album, produced by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco and co-produced by Ross Orton, former drummer of experimental synth trio Add N to X, features guest appearances by Josh Homme, Pete Thomas and Bill Ryder-Jones – as well as the words of John Cooper Clarke on the track ‘I Wanna Be Yours‘.

The band had essentially released the first single off the album in February 2012, when ‘R U Mine‘ was released on their YouTube channel, followed by an exclusive release as part of Record Store Day as a single with b-side, ‘Electricity‘.

Second single ‘Do I Wanna Know‘ was again release via the band’s social media, this time on Facebook and sparking plenty of speculation about an album announcement.

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://youtu.be/bpOSxM0rNPM[/youtube]

The album will be available on CD, vinyl, special edition vinyl, and digitally on
September 9.

AM track-list

1. Do I Wanna Know?
2. R U Mine?
3. One For The Road
4. Arabella
5. I Want It All
6. No. 1 Party Anthem
7. Mad Sounds
8. Fireside
9. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
10. Snap Out Of It
11. Knee Socks
12. I Wanna Be Yours

By Melissa Yong

The Other Sounds: Hazy June

Of course we made a playlist for the haze. How else could we have commemorated and culturally monumentalised this historical high in our island’s haziness?

Now that things are starting to look like they’re clearing up (fingers crossed), it’s time to dance in the breathable air with some hazy tunes. Also, in the future, when your children ask what the 2013 haze was like, you can simply show them this. We’ve got you covered.

(We might have had a bit too much fun choosing the puns in this list… oh what joy you can have while staying indoors.)

1. Daughter / Smoke
2. Billy Joel /  We Didn’t Start The Fire
3. Deep Purple / Smoke On The Water
4. Crystal Castles / Suffocation
5. Kanye West / Dark Fantasy
6. Oasis / Gas Panic!
7. Maroon 5 / Harder To Breathe
8. Ty Segall / Sad Fuzz
9. Whitest Boy Alive / Burning
10. Jon Hopkins / Breathe This Air
11. Bastille / Things We Lost In The Fire
12. Actress / Hazyville
13. Tamaryn / Haze Interior
14. Air Supply / Strong, Strong Wind
15. Die Antwoord / Baby’s On Fire
16. Pink Floyd / Goodbye Blue Sky
17. Pure X / Heavy Air

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDZpcfnKQYjOoNG7zBE1tret11y4uwb2e[/youtube]

Zixin Lin

The Maine – Forever Halloween

It seems like an eternity ago that The Maine released their sugar-coated debut Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. Play that album next to their newest release, Forever Halloween and it seems impossible that this is still the same band five years later.

Somewhere along the way, The Maine realised that playing the same genre of pop rock would stagnate quickly and departed from their label. This resulted in the 13-track Pioneer, with a sound that had diverged from their commercial pop vibe. Forever Halloween takes off where Pioneer had left off, expanding on the ideas and going deeper into the trappings of the sound. The album presents a dark theme of growing up and loneliness, and really exposes the progression, both emotionally and lyrically, that the band has gone through just two years since their last release.

Like Pioneer before, the album is melancholy and reflective but that’s not to say that every single song is angsty and sombre. While the lyrics to ‘Happy’ aren’t exactly cheerful, the song contains a sweet hook that comes about through the length of the song, lightening the mood of the lyrics.

Lead singer, John O’Callaghan shines on this album, his voice carrying the record through with more certainty than it has done on their previous releases. Whether it’s energetic on ‘Love & Drugs’, or stripped down to a guitar on ‘Birthday in Los Angeles’, O’Callaghan vocals breathe the soul into the album. “There’s no good time for bad news/These four words don’t come easy/”I don’t love you”,” O’Callaghan confesses on ‘These Four Words’, as his voice takes on a raw edge that completely guts the listener.

Forever Halloween is The Maine laid bare and honest. It’s a story of five individuals who have grown up and found themselves, no costumes or masks. Forever Halloween represents the album that every artist strives for — the one where both band and fans can agree that it is their best work.


By Izzan Haziq

The ‘Singapore sound’: Parfum… or deodorant?

Any lover of music dreams of the utopic ideal of a vibrant and authentic local music scene.

An environment within which local musicians can thrive and mature, with both top-down and bottom-up support. One where you can witness at arm’s length the growth of home-grown artists, with a good degree of interactivity and accessibility. One where you can have multiple avenues of experiencing live music without too many financial or logistical restrictions. Spend three years in the music mecca of the United Kingdom, and the comparative paucity of the music scene here is even more apparent.

The recent arrival and growing popularity of festivals like Laneway and Spring Wave in Singapore are indicative of changing habits in music consumption. Increasingly, we are starting to crave more dynamic ways of experiencing music: models we are gleaning from the music scenes abroad. So, what is still lacking and what are we working towards? How do we achieve that elusive milieu of vibrancy, authenticity, and well, awesomeness?

For starters, it’s difficult to replicate the much more established scenes overseas, which are economically and artistically quite different: venues and gigs are diverse, flexible and aplenty, and creativity is mostly allowed to flourish freely and unrestrained by media controls. In the UK, in particular, the thriving music scene is a stream you can easily hop into. Gigs are affordable (mostly under SGD30), artists are accessible, and multiple pockets of independent cultural genesis points (e.g. Rough Trade) exist for you to tap into or join in the conversation.

“It is difficult to take pride in something so young; much less something whose identity we’re still struggling to define.”

Here, limited venues, ticketing monopoly and a slew of other logistical reasons make it really quite expensive to watch an international act. And, as with most art, when music is made elite in any way, it is barred from achieving that essence, that magic – that smell of ‘teen spirit’, perhaps.

It’s arguably one of the reasons why music appreciation here is still comparably perceived as a hobby in two extremes: either the self-indulgent parfum of the elite or the mid-pubescent Impulse deodorant of sweaty youth.

Logistical barriers are one thing; the legitimacy of music-going as a valuable hobby and pastime, for anyone and everyone, can only precipitate when enough interest in the local scene has developed amongst the majority of Singaporeans. It’s not entirely our fault: building this interest and consequently pride in local music is something that has to happen with the maturation and accumulation of music history. It is difficult to take pride in something so young; much less something whose identity we’re still struggling to define.

This might be somewhat idealistic, but the authentic cultivation of cultural heritage has to begin from the ground and under: in independent record stores, underground music venues, back-alley gigs, in bedrooms around a record player, around people who love the difference between an mp3 and a CD and the difference between a CD and a vinyl. These cultural loci are sparse in Singapore as of now; but who’s to say it won’t mushroom in the next few years?

“… as with most art, when music is made elite in any way, it is barred from achieving that essence, that magic…”

Increasingly, the nascent renaissance of artistically-confident musicians as well as performances in free or smaller venues tell us that there’s something growing in the corners of the island – and it’s a heartening sign. Yes, the onus still lies on local artists to up their ante and compete on an equal platform with other music offerings from all over the world in order for us to take notice. And yes, Singaporean culture is so complex, so layered, that it is certainly a Herculean task to begin building a definitive ‘core’ of our music culture. But we’re hoping that very soon, we can proudly tell our friends overseas what ‘the Singapore sound’ means, without resorting to clichés and meaningless words.

It’s pretty defeatist to compare the status quo here, to music scenes elsewhere that have certainly taken time to build. On our parts, we can begin to head in the right direction by having a wee bit more faith in local talent. Sure, it’s going to take a while before we find that teen spirit, that je ne sais quoi. But till then, take a hearty whiff of them armpits and claim ownership over the layers of complexity.

By Zixin Lin

Washed Out releases new single ‘Don’t Give Up’ and album details

Georgia-based producer and songwriter Ernest Greene, AKA Washed Out has announced today the first official single from his forthcoming new album, Paracosm, ‘Don’t Give Up’, both due for release on 12 August 2013.

On the romantic, elevating ‘Don’t Give Up’, Greene takes the hypnotic, genre-bending production style of the highly influential producer’s past releases and shapes it into the most affecting and immediate Washed Out pop moment to date.

Recorded with co-producer Ben Allen in Greene’s native Georgia over the last year, Paracosm follows the highly acclaimed debut Within and Without and represents both an appropriate continuation and impressive development of the unique sound Greene originated and brought to prominence – over fifty different analogue and often obscure instruments, including the Mellotron, Chamberlin, Novatron, and Optigan.

This newly bolstered, even richer and more finely crafted sound suits the conceptual intent of Paracosm in which Greene explores the album’s namesake phenomenon – the idea of people creating detailed imaginary worlds within which to retreat. The concept has been used to describe fantasy lands like Tolkien’s Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, and it’s at the heart of the 2004 documentary In The Realms Of The Unreal about outsider artist Henry Darger.

The summer record that will see the winter through, Paracosm sees Greene pushing the boundaries of his own imagination, inviting powerful sensations of dreaming, escape and discovery in the listener in turn.

Paracosm track-list:

1. Entrance
2. It All Feels Right
3. Don’t Give Up
4. Weightless
5. All I Know
6. Great Escape
7. Paracosm
8. Falling Back
9. All Over Now

Watch ‘Don’t Give Up’ here:

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://youtu.be/8lYbBROpZ6o[/youtube]

By Melissa Yong

Symmetry Festival 2013: The rumours and the facts

Rumours that Singapore will play host to another music festival later this year have been confirmed, with a comment from Symmetry Entertainment today that they will indeed be announcing more details of an indie music festival to be held in Singapore this November.

Fans have engaged enthusiastically in the thrilling speculative discussion online as far back as May, with the promoters — who have brought in acts including Starslinger, Carl Barat, and most recently, The Drums — baiting fans on Facebook with vague but nonetheless suggestive updates like, “KEEP NOV 2 FREE”, followed by a post about a week later revealing, “we have so many exciting acts for nov 2nd we’re EXPLODING with joy”.

Symmetry Festival 2013: The rumours and the facts

Symmetry Entertainment founder Tim Kek revealed exclusively to Other Sounds, “We definitely have exciting acts who will be making their first trip to Singapore, bands who I believe many Singaporeans have been waiting a long time to see.”

The festival’s early November date coincides — very conveniently — with Australia’s annual Harvest Festival, which has seen The Flaming Lips, Beck, Sigur Ros, and The National headline its first and second editions; and have so far confirmed lo-fi folk band Neutral Milk Hotel for this year’s line-up.

And, according to organizer AJ Maddah’s well-known and frequently updated Twitter feedShe & Him and Bon Iver are also strong contenders for the bill.

Based on Symmetry’s consistent output of Facebook posts consisting of music videos and updates — sometimes as simple as just “☮” — and their not-so-subtle hints like their “EXPLODING” joy (as seen in their Facebook update above), another two other contenders for the festival are post-rock instrumentalists Explosions In The Sky, and English indie rock band Peace.

The bands’ appearances would be Singapore firsts, consistent with Kek’s comment that we have waited “a long time to see [them]”; with the latter being especially anticipated for the many post-rock-hungry fans of Singapore. 

More details will emerge in the coming weeks, and Kek assures, “Be patient, all will be revealed soon.”

By Melissa Yong