Hot Tracks

The first song from the album most fans would probably have heard is the ballad Holding On, as it was used in the recent Channel 8 drama, The Queen.

Beautiful and moving, the track has been making its way up local radio charts and deservedly so.

Regrets linger over a hook that draws you in: "Can't let go of all the things I didn't say to you/So much more I want to say/How are you, can you hear me, miss you."

On their second full-length album after debut Life Experiment 101 (2010) and EP The Dazy Eyes (2012), local duo The Freshman - comprising Project Superstar alumnae Chen Diya and Carrie Yeo - deal with all manner of growing pains while remaining steadfastly optimistic.

Over strumming guitars, Some Days begins on a note of innocence lost: "When I was little, I yearned for so much/Used to hold promises so dearly". But the refrain, in English, spurs one on with "No, don't give up".



    The Freshman

    Fresh Produce Studio

    4/5 stars

Meanwhile, the singer-songwriters' effervescence finds an outlet on numbers such as Easy Does It and Sophomore's Dream, which offer perky tunes and lyrics with a sense of fun ("Eat prata with me if you can't sleep/Don't ignore my calls").

The pivotal title track in this consistently engaging album ends with a poignant plea: "The one who loves me, the one I love/Never change again."

It is followed by the beguiling Bird, which quietly contemplates the cyclical rhythm of life. And so The Freshman gently take flight.

Boon Chan

Dubbed South Korea's Adele, powerhouse vocalist Lee Hi is back with her much-awaited sophomore album, Seoulite.



    Lee Hi

    YG Entertainment

    4/5 stars

The 19-year-old played it safe with her first outing, First Love (2013), serenading listeners with an impressive vocal range that gave her the big break on singing reality TV show K-pop Star (2011).

Here, she gets experimental with hip-hop and other genres, under the creative direction of rapper Tablo.

The album is produced by HIGHGRND - a new indie sub-label of mega talent agency YG Entertainment - and is helmed by hip-hop trio Epik High's Tablo.

Upping her street cred, the 11-track album features a number of collaborations with rappers such as Dok2 in Fxxk Wit Us and boyband Winner's Mino in World Tour.

The rapid-fire rapping on the songs is given sufficient play, jazzing up the tunes and complementing her husky vocals.

Hip-hop banger Fxxk Wit Us, in particular, is a cathartic listen. On the cusp of adulthood, Lee sings in a mix of Korean and English: "They say I'm clueless/It's because you think I'm a problem/I'm just young and free."

No, she is not a problem - she is a threat to the competition.

Gwendolyn Ng

This unusual double-disc set has the immortal music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) rearranged and re-imagined by other composers - from his time and after.



    ABC Classics 481 0853 (2 CDs)

    4.5/5 stars

Listen first to Disc 2, which opens with a string sextet transcription (arranger unknown) of the famous Sinfonia Concertante For Violin & Viola In E Flat Major (K. 364). The solo parts are absorbed into and shared by the general ensemble of two violins, two violas and two cellos, but the music's essence is gloriously retained.

Slightly more problematic are the string quintet arrangements of the Clarinet Quintet (K. 581) and Horn Quartet (K. 507), in which the winds are eliminated. However, the Australia Ensemble @ University of New South Wales is still an excellent and persuasive advocate.

There is anarchic fun to be had in Edvard Grieg's piano duet amplifications of Mozart piano sonatas on Disc 1.

One pianist plays the original version over which the second pianist elaborates with added harmonies, counter-melodies and surprise cadences, all of which often alter the mood and complexion of the original.

The drawing-room pleasures of the G Major (K. 283) and C Major (K. 545) sonatas are heightened, while the dramatics of the Fantasy In C Minor (K.475) and Sonata In C Minor (K. 457) are somewhat trivialised. Purists will decry the vandalism of music, but excellent duo pianists Julie Adam and Daniel Herscovitch cannot help but have a ball of a time.

Chang Tou Liang

This year marks the birth centenary of Argentina's most important composer, Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983).



    Mariangela Vacatello, Piano

    Brilliant Classics 94736 (2CDs)

    4.5/5 stars

His legacy is not unlike that of Heitor Villa-Lobos (Brazil) and Carlos Chavez (Mexico), as he used popular vernacular melodies, folk idioms and dance rhythms in his compositions, creating a unique sound that has become representative of his land and people.

Ginastera's piano music is dominated by three piano sonatas and sets of short pieces, mostly dances and preludes.

The most performed of these is his First Piano Sonata (1952) and Three Argentinian Dances (1937) - the latter a favourite of pianist Martha Argerich's.

These are imbued with a vigorous penchant for fast rhythms, sometimes bordering on the violent, which Italian pianist Mariangela Vacatello captures trenchantly.

Also listen to his Second and Third Sonatas (1981 and 1982), which are more compact and up the volume quotient.

The Twelve American Preludes (1944) and Suite Of Creole Dances (1946) display a special sympathy for miniatures.

The works are performed in chronological order and one gets a good feel of Ginastera's unique Argentine musical nationalism.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe