New offerings from Men Envy Children, singer-songwriter Kevin Mathews and more

They were not jesting when they named their album Everything.

Over a foundation of melodic melancholic pop, Men Envy Children throw in a little bit of rock and a little bit of rap.

This record marks the debut of a quartet which feature female vocalist Mify, previously of girl group Roomie, with Vince and Hanz on guitars and Kai on drums and they are clearly keen to show what they are capable of.

Happily, they also tackle more than the perennial subject of love in their lyrics.

  • ASIAN POP

    EVERYTHING

    Men Envy Children

    Sony Music Entertainment

    Taiwan

    3.5/5 STARS

One of the stronger tracks is My Dear Baby, a mid-tempo number lamenting the "dangerous, invasive, shattered" world a child has been born into.

When they do address love, the slow burn of This Is Not The Love I'm Looking For is a good way to go. It showcases Mify's emotive pipes as she expresses longing, helplessness and regret over the course of this emotional roller- coaster ride.

On the closing track Goodbye, she sings: "This is not the end/But the start of the next destiny."

For a new band, the best thing would be getting to release a next album. It is a prize that Men Envy Children have earned.

Boon Chan


  • POWER POP

    PRESENT SENSE

    Kevin Mathews

    Kamco Music

    3.5/5 STARS

This is home-grown singer-songwriter Kevin Mathews' most current body of work, but certain tracks hark back to the best of the veteran's past tunes through various acts, most notably his wry socio-political observations on life in Singapore.

Like previous gems such as The Watchmen's The High Cost Of Living (1993) and I Love Singapore (1994), his latest and third solo release in three years takes on local issues. Behind its deceptively mellow and pop-ish mood, Misery City ("we're No. 1, not having fun") puts the spotlight on common grouses, from "FT bankers" who "come and take the piss" to the haze which is "so thick I can't see my iPhone".

Under Happy is a chunky new- wave number with chewy guitars and a catchy chorus that references Singapore workers' low score on the Workplace Happiness Index.

Elsewhere, there are ruminations on love, loss and longing on tracks such as I Walked Away ("Something needs to happen, I'm not sure what/Because in these times of madness, I need a little luck").

On Magic, he brings out his inner Elvis Costello, both in voice and spirit. Nothing Else sees him returning to his folksy beginnings.

Two instrumentals stand out - Driven To Fear and Hearts Ablaze.

With help from backing band The Groovy People, Mathews has crafted a solid collection of fetching tunes.

Eddino Abdul Hadi


  • HIP HOP

    FETTY WAP

    Fetty Wap

    RGF Productions/ 300 Entertainment/ Atlantic Records

    3/5 STARS

There is something mesmerising about Trap Queen, the debut single from rapper Fetty Wap. Like most rap songs today, the American, whose real name is Willie Maxwell, goes on about the things he loves: cars, drugs, cash. And not to forget the most important one, his girlfriend, the Trap Queen (which means a witty, street- smart woman).

As soon as the first notes of that catchy, balladish intro come on and Fetty Wap croons, "I'm like 'hey, what's up, hello/Seen yo pretty a** soon as you came in that door'", you are caught in that trap of an insanely good song. Mesh those pinball machine background beats with his sing-song flow and that is how you get a winner.

The 24-year-old proved he is not a one-hit wonder, following up with 679 and My Way. All three songs were concurrently in the Hot 100's top 11 slots - a feat previously achieved only by The Beatles.

His money-making formula is not being a lyrical genius. The eponymous album is hook-driven, so credit should really go to the producers for creating such a fun product.

But then again, after listening to 17 songs (20 on the deluxe version), you might find yourself checking the playlist to see that it did not loop Trap Queen repeatedly.

Fetty Wap may have found his comfort zone with his first hit, but he needs to find range or risk being trapped.

Natasha Ann Zachariah


  • CLASSICAL

    FANTASY TRIOS

    Dimension

    Piano Trio

    Champs Hill 060

    5/5 STARS

In 1907, a philanthropist and amateur musician named Walter Cobbett held a competition for new compositions in the piano trio genre based on the subject of a one-movement "phantasie". The first prize of £50 was awarded to Frank Bridge (1879-1941).

His work, in C minor, encompassed high passion and languidity, with a central section of scherzo- like playfulness. His style was influenced by the likes of Brahms, Faure and Richard Strauss.

Coming in second was John Ireland (1879-1962), whose work in A minor was more sanguine with a most serene conclusion - it was rewarded £10.

Performing these in this highly rewarding album are the trio of violinist Rafal Zambrzycki- Payne, cellist Thomas Carroll and pianist Anthony Hewitt. Their vivid advocacy is second to none. The recorded sound is excellent, hence essential listening for chamber music aficionados.

The longest work is Eduard Steuermann's highly idiomatic piano trio arrangement of Schoenberg's String Sextet entitled Verklarte Nacht (Transfigured Night), portraying the anguished emotions of an estranged couple on a midnight walk. The work ends peaceably and with a reaffirmation of love.

The filler is brief, but no less fine: Josef Suk's Elegie deserves more than an occasional airing.

Chang Tou Liang


  • CROSSOVER CLASSICS

    THE CHOPIN PROJECT

    Olafur Arnalds & Alice Sara Ott

    Mercury Classics

    0028948114863

    1/5 STARS

Purists, look away as yet another crossover project attempts to breathe new life into classics.

Polish composer Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) is the victim here as Icelandic composer and multimedia artist Olafur Arnalds deconstructs his music with the help of a somewhat misguided GermanJapanese pianist Alice Sara Ott and an Icelandic string quartet.

Five of nine tracks in this 46- minute-long album are Arnalds' meditations on short motifs and harmonic sequences to be found in Chopin's pieces. All these are slow and dreamy, including Verses and Written In Stone, based on a recurrent accompanying pattern in the third movement of Chopin's Third Sonata.

Ott plays the original version of the Largo, the Raindrop Prelude, the posthumous C-sharp-minor Nocturne and exasperatingly truncated versions of the G-minor and C-minor Nocturnes. But what is gained for some of these to be accompanied by deliberately added background sounds?

Arnald's Eyes Shut/Nocturne In C Minor and Letters Of A Traveller (based on Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2) hint at Chopin's genius, but fail to deliver on his end.

All of this is atmospheric aural wallpaper, which might please New Agers, but does nothing for one's understanding or enjoyment of the real Chopin.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe