Music review: Taiwanese indie pop fave Crowd Lu is back and still optimistic

Taiwanese singer- songwriter Crowd Lu.
Taiwanese singer- songwriter Crowd Lu.PHOTO: ROCK RECORDS

From the effusion of exclamation marks in the title of his latest album, you can already feel the excitement of Taiwanese singer- songwriter Crowd Lu in returning to the music scene after his military service stint.

What A Folk!!!!!! proves that Lu has plenty to sing about even after leaving the fertile campus ground that had inspired so much of his early work, especially the excellent 2008 debut 100 Ways Of Living.

He is still crooning about chasing after one's dreams albeit tempered by a reality check. In One-and-a- half Ping (one ping is 3.3 sq m), which refers to the size of the tiny room he had once lived in in Taipei, he sings: "Can I rent some more strength/Lick my wounds/As I continue to make way."

The optimism of old is not entirely missing, as he scats joyously on the opening number, Happy Chakra, and breezes his way through Summer Song.

  • ASIAN POP

  • WHAT A FOLK!!!!!!
    By Crowd Lu
    Team Ear Music

    4 out of 5 stars

On this record, his path seems to have opened up musically and in terms of subject matter.

With its refrain of "look, look", the Minnan track Little Phone (1) is a gentle reminder to tear one's gaze away from one's phone and to notice the world around one instead. After all, as he points out: "A handphone is not your lover."

Little Phone (2), an acoustic punk number, takes it up a notch, opening with the exhortation: "Stop looking at your phone!"

Wedding Ring, which was co-written with singer-songwriter Cheer Chen, suggests greater emotional maturity on Lu's part. Rather than a happily-ever-after ballad, it is instead about the fraught meeting between a man and his now-married ex.

Lu's concerns go beyond the personal to embrace the wider world.

Sleeping Here Today touches on homelessness and it comes from a place of care and compassion. He paints a poignant picture and also offers warm encouragement: "If you are happy that you are living, live life with intent/It's the best homework in life."

His positivity can almost seem like rose-tinted optimism, but there is no denying that there is an innocence about him that is genuine and touching. He muses with gratitude on Kind Glasses: "Kind glasses can help you/Discover the beauty of this world."

We could all do with glasses like these.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'Through rose-tinted kind glasses'. Print Edition | Subscribe