Running Lines

Running Lines
A musician reviews his favourite Singapore bands

By Rupak George | 24 April 2016

As an independent musician here, the wide range of genres and talented bands that exist in this country constantly and happily surprises me. Here is a selection of five of my favourite bands whose music I feel fortunate to have experienced both live and recorded as an album. 

World Class Rockstars

Artist: The Sets Band
Album: Base
Genre: Indie Blues Music

I first heard The Sets at a Baybeats audition in 2011 and fell in love with them instantly. Catchy vocals, groovy bass lines and master level guitar solos dominated their set. I’m a huge fan of the band’s songwriting talent because they’ve developed a mature sound that seems to exceed their age. I adore their debut album “Base” which I still listen to occasionally because I enjoy how the music flows effortlessly from one piece to the next. Being a guitarist myself, I love hearing lead guitarist Marcus play due to his excellent phrasing, wonderful tonal choices and spatial selection. An interesting fact to learn was that this album was recorded in a bedroom and I greatly value its high production quality. Some songs to look out for include Peter Pan, Rainbow Cave and Rebound. Base is a great testament to the evolution of independent music. I can’t wait to hear their next album. 

Get their album here

A Magical Piece of Art

Album: Mannequins
Genre: Indie Rock(ish)

“You come to know all you need to know the day you were born”

                                                               – These Hands, MONSTER CAT

Every now and again I am fortunate enough to hear what I have come to label as “deep” music. Its music that can communicate with your soul and feelings. Mannequins contains touching lyrics complemented with powerful music and top quality production, guaranteed to give the discerning ear goosebumps. Expect a high frequency of psychedelic musical melodies composed by the layering of multiple instrument and vocal harmonies. Killer rock grooves from the song “Mannequins” take you to a euphoric high while the mix of male and female vocals in “The Courier” beckons you into a trance. All the components of this album were creatively crafted, including the artwork, and in my opinion, the music gets progressively better from the first song to the last. It’s a magical piece of art. 

Get the album here

Masters of Time

Artist: TAJ
Album: The Astral Journey
Genre: Psychedelic Instrumental Music

The use of silence is one of the most powerful ways of communicating through music, and TAJ has an extraordinary capability to manipulate silence in music. When it comes to technical musical skill, the music made by this super trio counts as one of the most innovative and original in Singapore. Their music is able to touch your subconscious thanks to a combination of wicked grooves with an expert control of dynamics. The best part is that all of their music is in some weird timing and mixes so many different musical styles together that at the end of a song you can’t label them with any musical genre adequately other than “really good music.” They have this wonderful technique of playing in separate timings but sounding perfectly harmonious. My biggest wish for the musical masters from TAJ is that I get more chances to hear their music live and in albums. The Astral Journey is a badass album with plenty of musical variety. Lookout for the sick wah wah piano solo “Old Town Mofo” and an addictive post rock vibration from “7db.”

Get the album here

Slick beats and mesmerising vocals

Artist: .Gif
Album: Soma
Genre: Chillout

I’ve been a fan of .gif’s lead singer Weish as a musical force since I saw her over 5 years ago doing a solo gig making complex melodic layers with her voice, a loop machine and a ukulele. Rediscovering her again as .GIF playing at Getai Electronica last year sent a shockwave through my being. I walked into the performance of “Juvenile” and I was instantly taken into a goosebumpy zone where I was captivated by every detail of the vocal intonations and smooth beats that formed a hypnotic vibration. Weish took the song to a superhuman level and left my soul pierced. Soma is an album that I’d compare to an old maplewood guitar from the 1960s where the sound only gets better with age. The first listen is good. Second is great. Then, if you start to peel the onion and peer deeper into the poetic nature of the lyrical layers, it transports you to a whole new realm of imagination and feelings. 

Get the album here

Go Fly This Kite

Artist: Jonathan Meur
Album: How to Build a Kite
Genre: Folk Pop

A marvellous musical experience is what you can expect when you watch Jonathan Meur live and listen to his album How to Build a Kite. His lyrical ability is very enjoyable as he has crafted his own technique of repeating words in a musically rhythmic way complemented with fantastic facial expressions. It's a pleasantly fulfilling experience to watch him live thanks to his amazing arrangements which involve soothing strings, duets, uplifting melodies, easy going grooves, explanations of song meanings and interactive banter soaked with positive vibrations.

Get his album here