Albums of the week: Gentle Bones takes a daring departure from his past work

Joel Tan’s flighty voice works with his fragile croonings in Geniuses & Thieves.
Joel Tan’s flighty voice works with his fragile croonings in Geniuses & Thieves.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN
Beth Yap’s songs in her debut album, Beauty For Ashes, show a lot of heart.
Beth Yap’s songs in her debut album, Beauty For Ashes, show a lot of heart. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

Joel Tan, better known as Gentle Bones, goes for immersive electronica in his sophomore EP while Beth Yap's debut album is a melting pot of jazz, funk, soul and a cappella

There has been a spate of releases by home-grown music acts in the past month and, from those, two young singer-songwriters, both 22, stand out.

Joel Tan, better known as Gentle Bones, released his sophomore five-track EP last Friday and performs a two-night show at the Esplanade Concert Hall this Friday and Saturday.

Beth Yap, who makes music under the nom de plume bittymacbeth, launched her debut album last week with a rousing show at the Esplanade Recital Studio.

Tan's new material is a brave departure from his earlier work on his self-titled 2014 debut EP, eschewing soaring, anthemic folk-pop for moody and immersive electronica.

The title track is a dramatic slice of electro R&B, with a yearning verse that builds up to a drop courtesy of a prominent sample from American electropop duo Made In Heights' Wildflowers.

His flighty voice might take a while to get used to, but the fragile croonings work in the context of the songs' wistful melodies and lush arrangements, courtesy of producers Flightsch, Josh Wei and Yves Rothman.

  • POP/ELECTRONICA

  • GENIUSES & THIEVES

    Gentle Bones

    Universal Music Singapore

    4.5/5 stars

Tan's penchant for hooks comes through as well. Shifting Over shines with a lilting chorus, anchored by resonant beats and shifting tempos while Run Tell Daddy dips and soars with its layered synths and cavernous backing vocals.

On Liar, he duets with newcomer Linying, trading dulcet verses and harmonising over a rich, dreamy soundscape.

While his tunes bask in lush melancholy, Yap's melting pot of jazz, funk, soul and a cappella is stirred with refined songcraft and impressive chops.

The singer, bass player and songwriter might be a new name in the scene, but the list of seasoned collaborators on the release - from The Sam Willows' Benjamin Kheng to Young Artist Award recipient Ruth Ling - shows how much faith the local music fraternity have in this bright young wunderkind.

While songs such as anti-bullying funk-pop rabble-rouser Haters Gon' Hate and reggae-tinged ode to the environment Vandal Miss Joaquim have lyrics which are a little on the nose, tunes such as Comfortable offer a deeper take on life as a youth in Singapore.

  • FUNK/SOUL/POP

  • BEAUTY FOR ASHES

    bittymacbeth

    Self-released

    3.5/5 stars

Over intricate chord changes and a sinuous bass line, she mulls over her upbringing and wonders if a less sheltered life would make her a better person.

A cappella stunner Reign Of Love (Bane Of Love) playfully overlaps layers of vocals in various octaves while Blank has Kheng and prolific singer-musician Tim De Cotta layer simultaneous spoken word missives over Yap's singing on loop.

Like many of the other songs, the title track is driven by a nifty groove and earworm-inducing hooks. And while the overall production could do with a little more grit, there is no denying that these are tunes made with a lot of heart.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Young and bright'. Print Edition | Subscribe