Thanks to a Golden Melody Award win for Best New Artist in June, Taiwanese Eli Hsieh's debut album Progress Reports - released on Dec 31 last year - has been getting more attention, including from this reviewer. And deservedly so.
The work is intimate and ambitious. Conceptually, it was inspired by American writer Daniel Keyes' sci-fi short story Flowers For Algernon, comprising progress reports by the protagonist Charlie, as his low IQ is boosted through surgery. But the experiment is ultimately a failure.
The singer-songwriter's pellucid voice evokes an unvarnished portrait of a young man's emotional world. In a life that can be filled with uncertainty and diminished expectations, there are moments of grace and light.
The opening track Roam finds him contemplating: "What have I lost, what have I found/I don't want that much right now." Worry Song finds him fretting about the state we are in: "The whole world, the dark world/But I'm still living in these times/So I can only sing."
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There are no grandiose dreams, only modest ambitions to hold on to. On the guitar ballad Light, he wants to shine bright - but not like the sun: "I only wish to be a lamp for you/Press the switch when you need me."
BOOK IT /ELI HSIEH: PROGRESS REPORTS
WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: Feb 11, 7.30pm
ADMISSION: $30 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
Just when you have him pegged as a sensitive troubadour, Hsieh surprises you with the rock-tinged You Found Me that harks back to early Maroon 5, a splash of electronica on Still Alive and then, for good measure, a dose of rap on You Found Me.
He might be a mercurial millennial, but there is no doubting the power of his songs. He performs in Singapore on Feb 11 as part of the Huayi Chinese Festival of Arts. For those who watched him sing as a 13-year-old on the singing contest One Million Star in 2007, this would be a chance to see how far he has progressed.