Musical tale of three cities

When I Leave Taipei is Chinese singer-songwriter Leon Zheng Xing's debut album.
When I Leave Taipei is Chinese singer-songwriter Leon Zheng Xing's debut album.PHOTO: LEON ZHENG SONGS/FACEBOOK

FOLK POP

WHEN I LEAVE TAIPEI

Leon Zheng

Hove

4 stars


The debut album from Chinese singer-songwriter Leon Zheng Xing is a tale of three cities. It traces a trajectory from Taiwan to Jiangsu province in China via tracks such as The Rain In Taipei, Hear It's Snowing In Beijing and Yangzhou Slow.

When I Leave Taipei is Chinese singer-songwriter Leon Zheng Xing's debut album.

The Yangzhou-born musician lived in Taiwan for more than three years and the record is suffused with tender longing and the ache of loss as he uproots from one city to move to another.

On Wind Blows Over Roosevelt Road (Roosevelt Road is in Taipei), he wants to shoot the breeze: "Find a friend to chat with/Talk about the city's changes."

Zheng, 26, has a voice that is gently soothing. It is without artifice or showiness and perfect for these keenly observed folk-pop songs.

He croons on Practice For Leaving, with its plaintive violin accompaniment: "Because the alcohol is full, the road is long, the night is awake/ Time to set out." There is reluctance and then acceptance of the tug and flow of time and circumstance.

The Rain In Taipei lovingly name-checks places in the city with phrases such as "101 in the rain" and "Nanjing East Road wears a mask", as though he were still holding onto them even after leaving Taiwan.

Touchingly, the album is also an aural keepsake, with sounds of the city and the natural environment finding their way here from the ambient noise at a metro station to the crashing of waves.

At the recent Golden Melody Awards, Zheng was nominated for Album of the Year, Best Album in Mandarin and Best New Artist.

That he went away empty-handed in no way reflects badly on the record.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'Musical tale of three cities'. Print Edition | Subscribe