Listening to K-pop duo Akdong Musician's new album is like digging into a box of assorted chocolates. You never know what flavours await.
The Lee siblings are brother Chan Hyuk, 20, and sister Soo Hyun, 17, and their refreshing repertoire includes quirky songs about eating instant noodles, etiquette and body movement.
The indie-pop outfit's second album, Winter, continues to surprise with eight catchy tunes and idiosyncratic lyrics, all penned in Korean by the talented older brother.
The cheery melody of Song Reality is a contrast to its lyrics about the realities of life- an encounter with an unfriendly bus driver, living on a tight budget and relationship woes.
In the amusing opening verse, they ask out loud: "Wallet, can I take a taxi?/When I get off, I make sure my transit card beeps." Adding a touch of realism, the beep tone is like the sound of a transport card reader.
In another standout track, the siblings tackle name-calling haters to the light-hearted rhythm of Play Ugly.
They sing: "You teased me for a long time/Calling me ugly/Now I don't even get hurt/Actually, the scars won't heal."
In the chorus, they retort: "You must be mistaken right now/Actu-ally, I'm good-looking but I was playing ugly/I'm talking about my hidden self."
The album's slower tunes showcase Soo Hyun's crystal-clear vocals. On the evocative ballad Will Last Forever, she serenades listeners with a message of hope - to hold on to their dreams in the face of challenges.
Pianist Cedar Walton is one of the stalwarts of hard bop and Keystone Korner is the San Francisco club that has hosted many a jazz legend.
CHARMED CIRCLE - LIVE AT THE KEYSTONE KORNER
The two names together will be enough to get jazz fans excited. This 1979 live recording of Walton, however, is a pleasant jaunt and not a must-have. Accompanied by a quartet, he delivers solid musicmaking.
But the 1970s was also his period for funk fusion and this album contains a couple of lengthy tracks which, though less egregious than the worst exemplars of the genre, nonetheless go on for longer than is necessary. Some Steve Turre fans might want to take note of his presence in this recording.
There are a couple of standards that are delivered with enough tenderness and warmth to make this worth a spin. For All We Know gets a sweetly lyrical introduction from Walton's thoughtful reading and he quotes mischievously from It Ain't Necessarily So in his jaunty take on I Didn't Know What Time It Was.
This is one for hardcore completist fans of Walton.
Ong Sor Fern
Long before Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto Series, there existed a run of LP releases in the 1960s and 1970s by the budget American label Vox, mostly featuring the underrated American pianist Michael Ponti in virtuosic Romantic-era piano concertos most people have never heard of.
ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTOS
Brilliant Classics 95300 (40 CDs)
These and their like have now been reissued by the super-budget Dutch label Brilliant Classics in this 40-disc box-set. Unfortunately, it presents the 108 concertante works for piano and orchestra by 73 composers in the most haphazard manner possible, so listening to these in a chronological sequence is next to impossible.
The composers range from Giovanni Platti (1692-1763) to Samuel Barber (1910-1981), whose works were united by a Romantic sensibility, even if they did not live within the era occupied by most Romantic composers. There are none of the popular warhorse concertos by Chopin, Liszt, Brahms or Rachmaninov, but highlighted are "unknowns" such as Czerny, Ries, Kalkbrenner, Thalberg, Litolff, D'Albert, Stavenhagen, Bronsart, Rheinberger, Raff, Reinecke, Reger and others.
Most of the performances were the only ones available at the time of release. Ponti and pianists such as Gabriel Tacchino (in SaintSaens), Peter Frankl (Schumann's Introduction & Allegro), Rudolf Firkusny (Dvorak), Roland Keller (Weber) and Abbey Simon (Chopin's shorter works), however, remain excellent in their given repertoire.
Although this selection provides many hours of enjoyable listening, it is best sampled as a parlour game of Guess The Composer played with music-loving friends on a lazy holiday weekend.
Chang Tou Liang