Life Listens: New music from Ryuichi Sakamoto, SZA, Soccer Mommy, Nicholas Teo and Shabir

Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto recorded his new music while battling cancer. PHOTO: REUTERS

In this weekly column, The Straits Times curates the most buzz-worthy music you need to know about now.

Ace Album: Ryuichi Sakamoto – 12

Acclaimed Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto’s 15th album is titled 12. PHOTO: Milan Records

Acclaimed Japanese composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto’s newest album, his 15th, serves as an audio diary of his ongoing battle with rectal cancer.

Titled 12, it comes less than a week after another tragedy – the death of his former bandmate Yukihiro Takahashi from aspiration pneumonia at the age of 70, linked to a brain tumour. Both of them were part of the highly influential Japanese electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra, which had their start in the late 1970s.

Sakamoto, 71, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. The musician, who has won an Oscar, a Bafta, a Grammy and two Golden Globes for his film scoring work, recorded the new songs between 2021 and 2022.

All the minimalist ambient and piano instrumentals were titled after the dates on which they were composed.

His first solo material since 2017 album Async, the pieces are solemn and meditative. If you listen closely, you can even hear his laboured breathing in the mix.  – Eddino Abdul Hadi

Must-See MV: Soccer Mommy – NPR Tiny Desk Concert

Remote video URL

American singer-songwriter Sophie Allison, better known by her stage name Soccer Mommy, will be one of the acts performing at The Alex Blake Charlie Sessions, the women-led music festival that will take place at the Pasir Panjang Power Station from Feb 21 to 25.

Her recent performance on online concert series Tiny Desk by American media organisation NPR Music works as a preview of what fans can expect from her upcoming set in Singapore.

The appearance is three years overdue. She was the first artiste who had to cancel her Tiny Desk gig in 2020 due to the pandemic and ended up performing from home later instead.

American indie singer-songwriter Soccer Mommy, real name Sophie Allison, is one of the acts performing at the 2023 edition of women-led music festival The Alex Blake Charlie Sessions. PHOTO: SOPHIE HUR

Her four-song set list is a concise summary of her discography and a good place for new listeners to start.

It includes stripped-down, downtempo versions of tunes from her three albums Clean (2018), Color Theory (2020) and Sometimes, Forever, which was listed as one of 2022’s best albums by publications such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

Chart Champ: SZA – Kill Bill

Kill Bill is a song by American singer-songwriter SZA from her second studio album, SOS (2022). PHOTO: TOP DAWG/RCA

American R&B star SZA’s sophomore album SOS shows no signs of slowing down – it is No. 1 on the American Billboard charts for the sixth week running. That means she joins Taylor Swift and Adele as the only female artistes whose albums have achieved the feat in the last decade.

The latest single from the album, Kill Bill, is also making a dent on the charts. It climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard singles charts, behind Swift’s Anti-Hero.

In Singapore, the track inspired by martial-arts revenge films Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004) is No. 1 on Spotify’s weekly charts and No. 3 on the Apple Music charts.

American singer-songwriter SZA joins Taylor Swift and Adele as the only women singers who had albums top the Billboard charts for six or more weeks in the last decade. PHOTO: SZA/INSTAGRAM

Despite its revenge-fantasy lyrics, the R&B-pop track is buoyed by sparkling melodies and SZA’s dreamy delivery.

The music video features SZA re-enacting violent scenes from the Kill Bill films and also stars Vivica A. Fox, one of the actresses from the Quentin Tarantino duology. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

Stream This Song: Nicholas Teo – You Are Missing From Me

Malaysian singer Nicholas Teo released the single You Are Missing From Me on Jan 19. PHOTO: SHANGHAI HEADLINE MUSIC CO

The Malaysian singer is best known for his 2005 ballad Who Will You Think Of, but it has been ages since he released new music. Thankfully, the wait is finally over, as the 41-year-old dropped this new single three days before Chinese New Year.

The retro-sounding electronic work features a heavy synthesiser beat and is a radical departure from Teo’s soft ballads of yore. Yet, its lyrics are distinctively nostalgic, looking back at past events with a tinge of regret and a desire to do things better.

One of its key lines goes: “I really want to go back to yesterday and love you again/I will be brave this time”.

While reminiscing about the past, You Are Missing From Me also seems to project a hopeful vision for the future. May 2023 bring more good music from Teo. – Benson Ang

Singapore Scene: Shabir – Gangstaa

Gangstaa, a single from the soundtrack of Tamil film Thunivu (2023), is written and sung by Singaporean singer-songwriter Shabir and is a collaboration with Indian composer Ghibran. PHOTO: ZEE MUSIC COMPANY

Home-grown singer-songwriter Shabir has scored another hit with the single Gangstaa, a collaboration with Indian composer Ghibran.

The song, which is on the soundtrack of the recently released Tamil action-heist film Thunivu, topped India’s YouTube Music Charts and went to No. 4 on the Singapore YouTube Music Charts. The lyric video on YouTube has clocked 11 million views.

A high-energy track that melds hip-hop, electronic music, Linkin Park-style nu metal and Tamil folk music, it is Shabir’s seventh collaboration with Ghibran, a prolific film composer who has worked on 50 movies.

Thunivu, which stars popular Indian actor Ajith Kumar, is slated to be released on Netflix in February. – Eddino Abdul Hadi

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