Best & Worst 2017

Best & Worst 2017: Asian Albums

The Silent Star Stone by Guo Ding.
The Silent Star Stone by Guo Ding. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC TAIWAN

BEST

The Silent Star Stone by Guo Ding

The Hunan-born singer-songwriter deservedly broke out with his third album.

He has a mesmerising voice with a slight drawl that hints at both intimacy and attitude, one that is magnetic at the lower end of the register and equally persuasive on the higher reaches.

From Qi Mei Di (The Fog Space) to Shui Xing Ji (Mercury Records), this is lush and imaginative pop, propelled by a pulsing beat and urgency of feeling.

He might have missed out at the Golden Melody Awards despite six nominations, but the greater exposure he has received as a result makes it a win for him.

The Servile by No Party For Cao Dong

Da Feng Chui (Simon Says), which won Song of the Year at the Golden Melody Awards, is a scathing criticism of society's obsession with material goods and the need for one-upmanship.

Frontman Wu Tu sings without heat and then tears into the chorus at the end: "Cry, shout, ask your mother to buy a toy/Hurry to school and show off, child, make some friends."

The Servile is the sound of Taiwan's disenfranchised youth venting their frustrations and it has struck a chord in their homeland. But its searing honesty and seamless musicality would resonate with anyone.

Artists' Mood by Leo Wang

The Taiwanese musician's mission, as laid out on his Facebook page, is "trying to combine jazz, hip-hop, reggae and scat singing with Mandarin Chinese in a groovy way, and making his people dance".

He achieves that on his fourth so-called mixtape, a fun and irreverent grab bag of genres and influences.

Jam All Night is about the pure pleasure of making music: "I think everything will be all right/As long as we can jam all night/Use your hands to drum, use your feet to drum/Use your mouth to drum, use your body to drum."

The joy is infectious.

 

WORST

Appreciation by Alan Tam

Props to Cantopop legend Alan Tam, 67, for continuing to put out new work but, unfortunately, this disc of Mandopop duets is a misfire.

Despite rounding up collaborators such as Kit Chan, Eason Chan and Mayday, the pairings do not work. While it is true that Tam's diction has improved compared with when he started singing in Mandarin, his Cantonese accent remains discernible.

Simplicity Is Happiness packs a double whammy of accented Mandarin with the addition of Andy Lau, another singer who is better in his native Cantonese.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline 'Asian Albums'. Print Edition | Subscribe