Hot Tracks

I Really Don't Want To Fight With You opens with moody orchestral strings. Then the beat kicks in and it turns into a slice of energetic dance-pop.

Good Morning My Homesickness is a take on longing for home from the unexpected perspective of a Kaohsiung native in Taipei.

Touches such as these mean that Taiwanese singer-songwriter Nine Chen's fourth album is no by-the-numbers effort.

It does not always work though. The electro-funk of Soybean Milk goes from a conversation on how to make good music to a party-hearty chorus of "jump, jump, jump", which seems like a surefire recipe for a stomachache.

  • ASIAN POP

  • NINE

    Nine Chen

    Rock Records

    3/5 stars

But it is at least more distinctive than the familiar-sounding love songs such as the balladry of You, Him, Me and the R&B stylings of My Once Beloved.

Boon Chan


The revival of English rockers The Last Shadow Puppets sees Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner and former Rascals/Little Flames frontman Miles Kane reuniting after eight years for a sophomore effort that sticks to the formula of 1960s vintage pop.

  • BAROQUE POP

  • EVERYTHING YOU'VE COME TO EXPECT

    The Last Shadow Puppets

    Domino

    3/5 stars

The album evokes skinny-cut suits and pompadours with melodramatic tunes such as Dracula Teeth. More often than not, they stay in the same vein as original "Modfather" Paul Weller's music.

The sweeping 1960s- and 1970s-style orchestral arrangements, by Canadian composer Owen Pallett, are reminiscent of soul legends Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. The Element Of Surprise, in particular, is a disco-era work that sounds almost like a David Bowie tune.

Turner's knack for clever lyrics is apparent on the silky Miracle Aligner ("So what's the wish, he'll make it come true/Simple as a line out of a Doo Wop tune") and on the title track ("As I walk through the Chalet of the shadow of death") - a nod to Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise.

Bad Habits, with its punchy punk edge ("Bad habits/Sick puppy/ Thigh high/ Knee deep") is the only track that strays from the Puppets' sound. But, like the album title, it is everything you have come to expect from the band.

Anjali Raguraman


The 22-year-old Italian pianist Beatrice Rana shot into the limelight after winning the silver medal at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Her impressive debut concerto recording features the same concerto she played in Fort Worth, Texas: Sergei Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto.

  • CLASSICAL

  • PROKOFIEV PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2 - TCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1

    Beatrice Rana, piano

    Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

    Antonio Pappano, conductor

    Warner Classics 0825646009091

    5/5 stars

In four movements, it is gradually eclipsing the popularity of the composer's Third Piano Concerto, simply because more young pianists are now able to cope with its immense technical demands.

For example, the first movement's massive cadenza which also doubles as its development, or the second movement's motor-like scurry of semi-quavers, which never lets up for a second. Rana takes these in her stride and finishes the tempestuous finale with aplomb.

Just as brilliant is her reading of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, which in terms of visceral thrills equals that of pianist Martha Argerich's famous recordings.

Chang Tou Liang


It may not be common knowledge that Soviet-era Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) once harboured thoughts of being a virtuoso pianist. He earned an honourable mention at the 1927 Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, which came as a bitter disappointment for him.

  • HISTORICAL CLASSICS

  • SHOSTAKOVICH PLAYS SHOSTAKOVICH

    Warner Classics 0825646155019 (2CDs)

    4.5/5 stars

He turned to composition thereafter and never looked back. These recordings of Shostakovich playing his own music date mostly from 1958, when he was already a famous and established composer.

His playing is best exemplified in the two Piano Concertos (with Andre Cluytens conducting) and the Three Fantastic Dances, which shows him to be skittish, mercurial and almost improvisational, very unlike the more studied and disciplined accounts of modern-day pianists.

More sober but equally persuasive is a selection of Preludes And Fugues (Op. 87), where his clarity in voicing individual contrapuntal threads becomes paramount.

Also priceless is hearing him accompany the great Mstislav Rostropovich in the lyrical Cello Sonata In D Major. The date and venue of this rarity remain unknown, but the performance is a diamond among assorted gems.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe