New albums by Lala Hsu, Myles Kennedy and more

The cover for Taiwanese singer-songwriter Lala Hsu's fifth album is a sombre black-and-white photo of her and it is a reflection of the mood on the album.
The cover for Taiwanese singer-songwriter Lala Hsu's fifth album is a sombre black-and-white photo of her and it is a reflection of the mood on the album.PHOTO: ASIAMUSE ENTERTAINMENT

POP

THE INNER ME

Lala Hsu

AsiaMuse Entertainment

3.5 stars

The cover for Taiwanese singer-songwriter Lala Hsu's fifth album is a sombre black-and-white photo of her.

It is a reflection of the mood here - more mature and introspective - but it is far from mere black-and-white as she also gives listeners nuanced shades of grey.

On the ballad, The Gray, she paints a picture of two people mixing together to become one couple: "If we could use colours to describe/I could only become the grey me after loving you."

The pace picks up and the mood lightens on dance tracks such as Just Dance and The Patient.

The latter song wryly uses illness as a metaphor for a lothario's fickle ways: "You're clearly a sick man, sick man/But you only want nurses, not doctors/Sick man, sick man/Only want attention, refusing to be treated".

Also included is You Made My Day (Who loves my wackiness/ Who loves my lazy attitude), the theme song of her concert tour last year that was named one of 2016's top 10 songs by the Association of Music Workers in Taiwan.

And what do we learn about Hsu?

On the title track, for which she wrote the music and lyrics, she admits: "Please don't worry/Anyway, I've always been slow on the uptake".

With her disarming honesty and sensitive singing, she is certainly no colourless popster.

Boon Chan


ROCK

YEAR OF THE TIGER

Myles Kennedy

Napalm Records

3.5 stars

On the eponymous opening track, Myles Kennedy announces: "In the year of the tiger, I'm gonna stake my claim."

It is a battle cry as much as it is a break from his past projects. Better known for his stints as lead vocalists of Alter Bridge and Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash's backing band, Kennedy has emerged on his own for the first time and is looking to make his mark.

Thankfully, he has not abandoned his rock roots, but on this record, he veers more into country music and Americana, with a heavy folk and bluegrass influence.

Instead of frontman bravado, he has also gone for introspection, with deeply personal lyrics centred on the death of his father in 1974, which is also the year of the tiger in the Chinese Zodiac calendar.

"Drawn to the light, but now the light is dead and gone. If there is a God, why did he take my father's soul," he sings on Devil On The Wall, over an upbeat, jaunty country tune.

At the same time, the album feels like a cathartic exercise for Kennedy, one where there is still hope at the end. Love Can Only Heal, for instance, has all the drama and a guitar solo befitting a power ballad.

On album closer One Fine Day, he sings: "This long lament, this bitter end, let it go, let it go, let it go."

There are times when it feels like he is deliberately attempting to rein in his vocal range, but when he lets it rip, it is glorious, especially on tracks such as The Great Beyond.

Anjali Raguraman


CLASSICAL

AND I'LL SING ONCE MORE

Singapore Symphony Children's Choir

Wong Lai Foon (conductor)

5 stars

Singapore Symphony Group This recording was conceived in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir. The choir was formed in 2007 and made its debut in the Singapore premiere of Mahler's Third Symphony.

It is a short disc, but amply displays the choir's versatility under one of its founder conductors, Wong Lai Foon.

There are popular items such as Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus (arranged by Briant Trant), Richard Rodgers' The Sound Of Music (arranged by Charles Smith), Joe Hisaishi's Kimi Wo Nosete (Carrying You, arranged by Yu Fukuzawa) and John Rutter's It Was A Lover And His Lass. The 52-member choir sings with purity, innocence and good discipline.

The longest item is Bob Chilcott's A Little Jazz Mass, which positively swings through its five liturgical movements. Elegant support is provided by pianist Gabriel Hoe and principal musicians of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, including bassist Guennadi Mouzyka and Mark Suter on drums.

There are also two Singaporean works - Lee Chin Sin's lovely A Child's Voice and Chen Zhangyi's slightly modernistic Water. The choir's mastery of the latter's idiom and subtle dissonances suggests it can handle Benjamin Britten's choral scores next.

A pleasant listening experience, so more of the same, please.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe