Hot Tracks

Transition marks the debut of home-grown band Quis, formed in 2008 as a Japanese pop-rock band to take part in a local contest.

The closer, For This Time, is a nod to the quintet's roots as the English track features some lyrics in Japanese.

While the band are still firmly ensconced in the pop-rock milieu, their songs here are mostly in Mandarin.

Overcome is an energising opener propelled by electric guitars and drums: "I've seen the brilliant rainbow after the rain/I've overcome the nightmare of hurt and despair, about to wake."

Vocalist Samuel Tan has an emotive and versatile voice that gives the material a lift. But he might want to cut back on the drawling - which tends to pop up on the faster-paced numbers - as it comes across as an unnecessary affectation.

Boon Chan

  • ASIAN POP

  • TRANSITION

    Quis

    Self-released

    3/5 stars


Sia openly admitted that her seventh album features rejected songs that she wrote for pop megastars Beyonce, Katy Perry and Rihanna. While that admission makes it fun to guess why each star rebuffed each song, it is less useful for fans to appreciate Sia as an artist.

  • POP

  • THIS IS ACTING

    Sia

    RCA

    2/5 stars

Besides, with that sort of clientele, the album predictably sounds more pop than any of her six previous albums. Alive, meant for Adele's record-breaking 2015 album 25, is almost too manic-sounding to be a measured, soulful Adele number ("I'm still breathing/I'm alive").

Cheap Thrills, with its "hit the dancefloor" refrain and Caribbean-tinged "Baby, I don't need dollar bills to have fun tonight", sounds like something an old avatar of the ever-evolving Rihanna would have recorded. It was probably a good idea that the edgy Barbadian singer dropped the run-of-the-mill track.

Even among the mediocre pop songs, there are clear duds, including Sweet Design, apparently a "part two" of Sisqo's The Thong Song, even sampling the chorus. It's embarrassing, even for Sia.

The only track written for herself, One Million Bullets, sounds authentically Sia, reminiscent of one of her gripping pop numbers, Chandelier, with its huge chorus proclaiming "How many would you take? Cause I'd take one million bullets babe".

What's clear is that Sia is a prolific songwriter, handling pop music like a master and churning out tunes like a fast- food chain. But there is little soul in the music and, like the album title suggests, this is all just play-acting for the singer.

Anjali Raguraman


British pianist James Brawn takes a break from his Beethoven sonata odyssey to bring this recital, a chronological survey of piano music from the Baroque era to the 20th century.

  • CLASSICAL

  • THE TIME TRAVELLER AND HIS MUSE

    James Brawn, Piano

    MSR Classics 1502 (2 CDs)

    4.5/5 stars

It is filled with short pieces that students typically play in graded examinations and piano competitions.

For concert pianists, these form the bulk of post-recital encores (among them some Horowitz favourites), after-dinner mints which satisfy and delight.

He starts with a pair of Scarlatti Sonatas and a handful of Bach Preludes without the fugues, before proceeding to popular classical-era fare, including Mozart's Turkish Rondo and Beethoven's Fur Elise.

The Romantic era figures prominently, with the best tracks being the selections from Chopin Etudes and Rachmaninov Preludes, which are polished and capture the spirit of the times.

The modern age is represented by only two tracks, Prokofiev's coruscating Toccata and I Got Rhythm from The Gershwin Songbook.

Brawn plays sensitively and with exemplary taste and he is beautifully recorded.

There is nothing to dislike in any of the performances. One wishes all young pianists could follow his example.

Chang Tou Liang


This re-issue of 1980s recordings by the Boston Pops Orchestra under film composer and conductor John Williams was prompted by the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It amply displays the debt that science-fiction movie music owes to classical music, particular works from the early 20th century.

  • CROSSOVER CLASSICS

  • JOHN WILLIAMS CONDUCTS MUSIC FROM STAR WARS

    Boston Pops Orchestra

    Decca 478 9244 (2CDs)

    4.5/5 stars

The first disc is devoted wholly to music by Williams, including favourite tracks from Episodes 4 to 6: A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return Of The Jedi (1983), and more music from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) and E.T. The Extra- Terrestrial (1982).

Where would such music be without Wagner, Richard Strauss, Mahler, Gustav Holst, Prokofiev and Korngold, whose compositional styles were appropriated and re-imagined by Williams?

The second disc begins with the opening of Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, which will always be associated with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The familiar strains from Alien (1979), Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979), The Twilight Zone (1983) and Star Trek, both the television (Alexander Courage) and film (Jerry Goldsmith) themes have also been included.

The main events are the seven movements of The Planets by Englishman Holst.

The performances by the summertime occupation of the Boston Symphony are excellent, which might hopefully spur celluloid fans to pay closer attention to what riches the classics can offer.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe