Local vocal band MICappella want to shake things up with their new album. They kick things off with the one-two punch of One Of These Days and Never Be Defeated, practically daring you not to groove to the rhythm and tight vocal work.
On Never Be Defeated, they are defiant: "Why should I be the same, following the designated direction." And so they have upended the conventional idea of a cappella groups as cover acts and, inspired by the likes of Pentatonix, come up with an album of original material to follow up on their debut disc, Here We Go (2013).
There is a good mix of material here, mostly in Mandarin with three English tracks and a variety of genres from love ballads to energetic pick-me-ups.
Hunger Games, taking its cue from the popular books and movies, zeroes in on the competitive nature of the world we live in and adds a gothic spin with its vocal arrangement.
Cross Ratio Entertainment
On the most choral track, the gospel-tinged Hello Again, six voices harmonise in a touching ballad about living well for the sake of those who have left us.
The lone cover here, of JJ Lin's gorgeous ballad If Only, is not needed - the original material stands well enough on its own.
The versatile pop-rock band CNBlue let their inner rockers take a backseat in their sixth EP Blueming, which is a play on their name CNBlue and the word blooming.
Released in the midst of spring in April, the fresh-faced quartet serve up leisurely tunes befitting the time of the year.
The romantic lead track You're So Fine evokes a carefree feel with its breezy tune backed by bright brass sounds. Vocalist Jung Yong Hwa's self-penned lyrics delivered with his dulcet vocals are designed to melt the hearts of female fans. He wrote the melody too.
Jung launches into the opening verse: "Once my friends meet you/They tell me I'm a lucky man/ Perfect chemistry, even when we're busy/Your cute selfies melt me, girl".
Listening to the rest of the album is akin to enjoying the cool spring breeze. The mellow tunes are soothing, but don't leave an impression.
What is missing is CNBlue's signature sound in hits such as I'm A Loner and Can't Stop. The addictive songs boast foot-tapping hooks and melodies incorporating electrifying rock and light-hearted pop.
Hopefully, the talented tunemakers inject their dazzling shades of blue into their next album.
Every once in a while, a male crooner will pop up in the hopes of achieving the sort of success that Harry Connick Jr and Jamie Cullum did with the mainstream.
SWING THAT MUSIC!
Danny Bacher/Whaling City Sound
New Jersey-born Danny Bacher is the latest. His debut album offers appealingly loose-limbed swinging fun. The programme pays tribute to jazz's three great Louises - Armstrong, Jordan and Prima.
Unlike Armstrong and Prima's raspy voices, Bacher's is a smooth tenor and he does not deliver in the shouty, jump blues style of Jordan but harks more to the silky crooning style of Frank Sinatra. His snappy saxophone solos, his easy scatting and his love of comic songs are evidently influenced by Jordan's early rock 'n' roll rhythms and Armstrong and Prima's old-school comic stylings.
He throws down the gauntlet with his opening track, I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song), arguably Prima's best known tune from Disney's The Jungle Book. Bacher turns this potential cheese bomb into a surprisingly stylish showcase for his stellar swing ensemble, throws in a seriously fun overdubbed scat duet with himself and has fun rhyming the lines "And when I eat bananas, won't peel them with my feet/'Cos I'll become a man-cub and learn some etiquette".
From his dreamy delivery of A Sunday Kind Of Love to the sweet sparkle of Dream A Little Dream Of Me, he has got the combination of cool attitude and hot swing. I am looking forward to his second album.
Ong Sor Fern
Some live concerts are destined for posterity. This album, drawn from two vocal recitals by American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and conductor-pianist Sir Antonio Pappano which opened Wigmore Hall's 2014-2015 season in London, has the makings of a classic.
JOYCE & TONY LIVE AT WIGMORE HALL
Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano; Antonio Pappano, piano
Warner Classics 0825646107896 (2CDs)
Its contents cleverly reflect the combined cultural heritage of both singer and pianist. The first disc is devoted to Italian songs, opening with Haydn's cantata Arianna A Naxos, which at 20 minutes resembles an extended concert aria. It is a passionate lament on forsaken love.
The melting lyricism of bel canto comes in Rossini's Belta Crudele, contrasted with the vertiginous tarantella of La Danza. Songs by Santoliquido and De Curtis also display her astonishing vocal range.
The second disc includes 14 numbers from the Great American Songbook, including Stephen Foster's Beautiful Dreamer, Harold Arlen's Over The Rainbow and the works of Jerome Kern, William Bolcom, Richard Rodgers and Irving Berlin.
Performed with an outsized personality and pizzazz, this is simply irresistible listening.
Chang Tou Liang