Hot Tracks

Having the word "experimental" in an album's title is a risky move. Here, it does home-grown singer-songwriter JJ Lin no favours.

Key single Bu Wei Shei Er Xie De Ge (Twilight) seems to be a statement of intent as the Chinese title literally means A Song Not Written For Anyone. As the rest of the album title suggests, this is meant to be a deeply personal record.

He sings on Twilight: "Perhaps in truly facing myself, I'll throw it all to the wind/And probe what I was afraid of facing."

Genre-wise, the lovely ballad would not be out of place on his other records. The same goes for ballads such as The Key.

It is not till You Meng Bu Nan (Adolescent), a track about pursuing one's music dreams, that the listener gets something that sounds different. Lin sings the chorus, but guest musicians Shin and Mike rap and sing the stanzas and the disparate parts manage to coalesce into a cohesive whole.

A pity, then, that the inclusion of previously released movie theme songs, instrumental numbers, non-revelatory alternate versions and even bits of chatter only serve to make the disc feel unnecessarily bloated at 18 tracks long.



    JJ Lin

    Warner Music Taiwan

    3/5 stars

Despite the proclamation, this is more of a hodge-podge collection than a truly bold venture.

Boon Chan

As one third of the now-defunct Swedish House Mafia, Wild Youth marks DJ Steve Angello's first full-length solo album since the trio went their separate ways in 2013.



    Steve Angello

    Size Records

    4/5 stars

While the Mafia were known for big, floor-filling bangers and festival anthems, Angello's 12-track solo effort is decidedly more introspective, but his range and command of the music is equally apparent.

There are not only the dark, pulsating progressive house numbers such as Revolution, but there are also the equally euphoric anthems such as indie-electronica number Wasted Love, featuring Temper Trap lead singer Dougy Mandagy.

Dance-floor hits with uncharacteristic emotional gravity permeate the album. Prisoner harks back to the synth pop of Depeche Mode in the 1980s, while vocalist Gary Go cries out the shackled refrain of "let me go".

Similarly, Children Of The Wild, with its children's choir chanting: "As children of the wild we make our choices on our own/Our path is full of fear for must be taken all alone" is an unexpectedly moving piece of dance music.

Opening track Rebel Nation shows off Angello's production chops as a one-man operation, while closing track Stay, featuring alternative rockers Saints Of Valory, is a Coldplay-type atmospheric, sweeping anthem that closes off the journey that this non-traditional EDM album takes the listener on.

Perhaps Angello was better off as a solo artist all along.

Anjali Raguraman

Jazz fans are probably the first hardcore concert bootleggers.

  • JAZZ


    Wes Montgomery featuring The Eddie Higgins Trio

    Resonance Records

    4/5 stars

As a result, recording gems keep surfacing with unexpected regularity. This fresh release is a private recording of a gig at the Indianapolis Jazz Club, co-founded by the late photojournalist Duncan Schiedt.

The quality of this 1959 live recording may not be pristine, but it is pretty darned good for a bootleg. The intimate late-night vibe, with appreciative applause from a small audience, coddles the relaxed set of just six tunes with an inviting warmth.

Montgomery fans will be especially keen to listen to this recording as 1959 ushered in the release of the guitarist's aptly named breakthrough debut album, A Dynamic New Sound. His mastery of single-note playing marks the opening number, Give Me The Simple Life. And his signature chords and octave playing are in full flight in his solo.

His mellow style is perfectly matched by pianist Eddie Higgins, whose coolly intellectual playing, with shades of Count Basie's spacey style and Erroll Garner's block chords, is balanced by a charmingly romantic sensibility. This is especially evident in Prelude To A Kiss and Ruby, My Dear, two ballads which manage that thin line between swoonsome and sugary.

Definitely an album to put on repeat mode.

Ong Sor Fern

This gave the first classical Grammy nomination for a Singaporean, conductor Darrell Ang, whose spirited leadership of the splendid New Zealand Symphony is never in question. It is a disc befitting Singapore's Jubilee celebrations.



    Symphony Humen 1839

    New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Darrell Ang

    Naxos 8.570611

    5/5 stars

Symphony Humen 1839 (2009) represents the only major joint collaboration to date for Chinese husband-and-wife composers Zhou Long and Chen Yi, who have highly successful individual careers.

It was inspired by the 1839 burning of a thousand tonnes of opium in Humen, Guangdong, a Chinese version of the Boston Tea Party and the event that sparked off the disastrous Opium Wars.

Its four movements play for 30 minutes, programmatic and almost Copland-like in its narrative. The music begins in Cantonese pomp, honouring the defiantly heroic figure of Lin Zexu and depicts its humiliating capitulation under British aggression in the slow movement. This precedes China's inexorable ascent as a world power, represented by the finale's triumphal music of the Star Wars kind. This is not only a patriotic work, but also a cathartic one.

Two shorter pieces by Zhou complete the album. The Rhyme Of Taigu (2003) is a vigorously rhythmic work that celebrates the pomp and ceremonial role of the ancient dagu, the drum also known by the Japanese as the taiko.

The Enlightened (2005) reflects on the contribution of ancient Chinese philosophies to a troubled world.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe