Hot Tracks

It is quite remarkable to think that Hong Kong's Karen Mok is marking the 25th anniversary of her first album - a self-titled Cantonese release - this year.

Along the way, the throaty-voiced singer has picked up the Golden Melody Award winner for Best Female Vocalist Mandarin twice - for the albums [i] (2002) and Precious (2010).

The title of her latest album suggests she will be sticking around for quite a while yet.

She works with an impressive number of big-name composers and lyricists here, from China's Li Ronghao and Hong Kong's Wyman Wong on Not To Be Continued to Hong Kong's Khalil Fong on Ultimate.

There is reflection here on mid-points, as well as beginnings and endings.

No Intermission by Taiwanese singer-songwriter Wu Bai finds her musing: "Everything about yesterday, forget it all/Days yet to come, still a mystery."

But at the same time, she seems to want to cover her bases by evoking past hits. The unabashed romanticism of I Do harks to Precious, while the retro rock of No Intermission recalls Too Little Time.

  • POP

  • HALF TIME

    Karen Mok

    Sony Music Entertainment

    3 stars

  • HIP HOP/ROCK

  • POST TRAUMATIC

    Mike Shinoda

    Warner

    3.5 stars

  • 20TH-CENTURY CLASSICS

  • SVIRIDOV

    Piano trio/ piano quintet

    Beethoven Trio Bonn et al

    CAvi-Music 8553375

    5 stars

Things are more interesting when the going is less familiar, as on opening track Let There Be Light, an atmospheric mid-tempo track by Singapore's Lee Shih Siong and Taiwan's Yao Chien, about staying the course and staying true to oneself.

Boon Chan


"They'll tell you I don't care anymore and I hope you'll know that's a lie," Linkin Park rapper Mike Shinoda belts out in Crossing A Line.

In the wake of the suicide of the rock band's frontman Chester Bennington last year, it is almost as if Shinoda is addressing fans as well as criticism about his decision to release new music as a solo artist.

Is it too soon? He has spoken openly about the power of music in dealing with the passing of his close friend and it manifests in a very personal, almost chronological journey across 16 songs. He cares so much you can feel his pain.

On album opener Place To Start, he asks: "Did somebody else define me? Can I put the past behind me?" The track ends with a series of voicemail messages of condolence and friends checking in on him.

Shinoda primes the listener that he is about to rip off the Band-Aid as he spirals through existential crises on tracks like Nothing Makes Sense Any More - "My inside's out, my left is right, my upside's down, my black is white, I hold my breath, and close my eyes, and wait for dawn, but there's no light" - and About You - "Even though it's not about you, everything is all about you."

There is still a thread of hope that runs through the album.

World's On Fire, with its driving synths, is uplifting, atmospheric and an unexpectedly pop-friendly tune amid the pall of darkness.

Bennington may be gone, but the music must go on.

Anjali Raguraman


Georgy Sviridov (1915-1998) was a very well-regarded Soviet-era composer, best known for his vocal and choral music, particularly the choral concerto Pushkin's Garland and song-cycle Russia Cast Adrift.

In this album of his chamber music, first listen to the final track, a piano trio arrangement of Romance from the 1964 movie The Snowstorm, which he scored. This "hit" melody oozes Slavic melancholy and Russian nostalgia, with sobbing gestures from the strings that are hard to mistake.

Then listen to Piano Trio In A Minor and Piano Quintet In B Minor, both composed in 1945. Most apparent is the influence of Sviridov's teacher, Dmitri Shostakovich. Acerbic wit and vitriol seem to drip from every page.

The trio is in the honoured tradition of Russian "trio elegiaques" (Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov being prime examples) and includes a passacaglia as its slow movement. The quintet is an even grittier and grimmer work, imbued with an unrelieved gloom.

Russian violinist Mikhail Ovrutsky and cellist Grigory Alumyan and South Korean pianist Jinsang Lee, who form the Beethoven Trio Bonn, give committed and moving performances. They are joined by violinist Artur Chermonov and violist Vladimir Babeshko in the quintet, in their world-premiere recording.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe