Hot Tracks

Album cover of The Chaos After You by Taiwanese singer-songwriter Eric Chou.
Album cover of The Chaos After You by Taiwanese singer-songwriter Eric Chou. PHOTO: SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT

POP

THE CHAOS AFTER YOU

Eric Chou

Sony Music Entertainment

3.5 stars

When Taiwanese singer-songwriter Eric Chou made his debut in 2014, his looks were often compared with South Korean actor Kim Soo Hyun of fantasy romance My Love From The Star (2013).

Perhaps the comparisons have led him to look to K-pop for inspiration on his third album.

Somewhat surprisingly, the songs work.

The first time I heard Without Her, I couldn't quite tell if I was listening to K-pop or Mandopop. That is not a bad thing. The album does not sound like a lazy rip-off but an intriguing amalgam of slick electropop - complete with modulated voice effects - with Mandarin lyrics. It also helps that Chou has a good ear for melody.

Another standout track here is Get Out Of My Head (Yi Sui Pin). Chou, who lived in Boston in his teens, sounds like a smooth R&B operator on the English chorus: "Say why, why you gotta be so rude, when all I do is for you."

That is not to say that the singer has abandoned his trademark forte of lush ballads.

His tender, dulcet tones are showcased on the title track, in which he asks plaintively: "Two people in love, what wrong have we done."

Even the obligatory duet, The Way You Make Me Feel (Nian Nian), with actress Tiffany Hsu, isn't half-bad, thanks to a breezy chorus.

It is good to see Chou going beyond simply giving fans more of what they want and venturing into a more urban and contemporary sound.

Boon Chan


JAZZ

THE SUBJECT TONIGHT IS LOVE

Kate McGarry, Keith Ganz and Gary Versace

Binxtown Records

4 stars

If you are looking for the perfect soundtrack for an intimate evening with a partner, this is it.

American singer Kate McGarry blends a quirkily indie spirit with a jazz musician's keen ear and her latest album is clear demonstration of that winning combination.

Her sunny voice skims lightly through folksy tunes and soars confidently when the occasion demands.

The conceit of this album is love songs capturing the different moods and aspects of the emotion, bookended by brief recitations from the writings of 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz.

Accompanied by her husband, guitarist Keith Ganz, and pianist Gary Versace, McGarry's voice is the sterling star of the show, set off beautifully by the smart, elegant arrangements.

The programme is an eclectic mix of originals and standards. Some tracks are an intriguing mash-up of both, such as Climb Down, a dreamily bluesy McGarry-penned tune that segues easily into an Irish reel, Whiskey You're The Devil.

Other standout tracks are What A Difference A Day Makes, which gets positively dancey, thanks to a samba-inflected arrangement, and thoughtful takes on Secret Love and My Funny Valentine that rescue both from cheesy muzak territory.

For the brainy music fans out there who like a good dose of intellect with their romance, this album is just the thing.

Ong Sor Fern


HISTORICAL CLASSICS

EILEEN JOYCE

Complete Studio Recordings

Decca Eloquence 482 6291 (10 CDs)

5 stars

Eileen Joyce (1908 to 1991), Britain's glamour lady of the piano from the 1930s to 1950s, came from humble origins. She was born in Tasmania, Australia, and spent her childhood years in Perth. She received formal musical studies in Leipzig, Germany, and later in London, where she made her breakthrough.

At her prime, she was known to play three or four piano concertos - each in a different outfit - within a single concert. She, however, retired abruptly in 1960 from career burnout.

Her studio recordings date from 1933 to 1958 and originally appeared on the Parlophone, Columbia, Decca, HMV and Saga labels. Now reissued by Universal Music Australia, these show her at her brilliant best.

She had a large concerto repertoire, but recorded only a few, including those by Grieg, Mendelssohn (No. 1), Tchaikovsky (No. 2), Rachmaninoff (No. 2, she was the pianist on the soundtrack for the 1945 movie, Brief Encounter), John Ireland and Shostakovich (No. 1).

Her mercurial yet sensitive playing comes from a bygone age and this box-set is a priceless listen.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe