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  • Writer's pictureZim Ahmadi

Putaran Bulanan: January 2019

In Putaran Bulanan, (or Monthly Spins) we give you a collection of our favourite songs for the past month. January see the Vampire Weekend releasing new singles, Bring Me the Horizon remade themselves as evident in Medicine, changing from metalcore to synthpop. Gritty dark synthpop, but still synthpop nonetheless. A legendary indie folk artist since the 90s, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame, collaborated with Phoebe Bridgers, a purveyor of sorrowful songs with an angelic voice. They formed a band called Better Oblivion Community Center and surprise-released a record this month too! (Full review coming soon). On the Southeast Asian side, Takahara Suiko welcomed the new year with a new track under her solo moniker VIONA. Iqbal M came out with the new recorded single Jangan Cakap Saja for their debut album after years of EPs (as of the time this article was written, their album PSJKB, published by Luncai Emas, is already being sold at Iqbal M concerts). Singaporean pop artist Aisyah Aziz released a hit this month with Bila Entah. In the hip hop world, Airliftz worked with Orang Malaya for a trap banger Puppy Love. Self-made R&B extraordinaire, alextbh also goes bold about his sexuality with his new track no spaces. There's all of that and more!


Bila Entah - Aisyah Aziz


RATING: ★★★★☆

Bila Entah is Aisyah Aziz's most exciting work by far with a production and composition that stands strong by combining elements of EDM pop and some subtle jazz. There's even a very stark sassy feel reminiscent of 90s Malaysian R&B pop in Bila Entah. Aisyah Aziz's vocals is still sultry as ever, but with Hael Husaini & Ezra Kong as composers, Bila Entah sounds like its on another level of chart pop artistry. The music video is cool too, with a placeless, surreal noir aesthetic directed by Nadirah Zakariya - effectiveness in simplicity.

Kick - Greta Stanley


RATING: ★★★☆☆

The Australian singer-songwriter's new track Kick sounds like another typically velvety cut popular with independent artistes nowadays, but beneath it is a crisp, electronic foundation that gives the song a richer texture. Self-assuring but at the same time deeply sad, the vocal layering on this song elevates its already poignant message. Greta Stanley is also relatively new to the industry so excited to see more of her. Kelibat - VIONA


Takahara Suiko's solo project alter-ego, VIONA, has released <em>Kelibat</em>: a song about grappling with the past that encroaches, always  on a mission to control your future, as stated on her Bandcamp profile. Full review here

Woman - Karen O & Danger Mouse


This collaboration between Karen O & Danger Mouse has surprised me already with Lux Prima last year with their space opera cut, but now Woman just throws me out on a loop just for being familiar again. A pure rock song, where Karen O can shine on in her vocals again, but with Danger Mouse's groove still pulsing throughout the song. Woman has an empowering "fuck you" momentum that is hard to ignore. Their album coming out later this year on 15th of March!

Jangan Cakap Saja - Iqbal M.


RATING: ★★★★★

Hailing themselves as "moden rokes" (a Malay rendition of the phrase modern rockers), there is no other voice in the Malaysian music scene comparable to the raw poetry of Iqbal M; Jangan Cakap Saja is another strong testament to that. In anticipation of their first full-length album release after joining the Luncai Emas label, they released live performance favourite Jangan Cakap Saja as a single with a music video featuring a variety of prominent artists in the Malaysian independent scene. Besides the anthemic "Biar buku tebal / belum tentu handal" , there are a lot of very hard-hitting lyrics in this song where the gritty voice of lead vocalist Iqbal Othman comment on the current state of society and on people who bark more than they can bite ("Walau Internet laju/Seperti tak membantu/Tangan saja laju)). The quasi-prog rock feel to the riffs is produced pretty tightly - a good middle between rough and smooth. Review for their album PSJKB coming up soon! Exit - Foals


Foals sheds the dance-punk/math-rock sound of their past discography for a more synth-based sound in their new single Exits. The song's rhythm has an enticing groove to it, and the synth motifs makes it atmospheric. Although the guitars are soft, they come out at the right moments as the song reaches its culmination. I say it's a good change they're going through, and hopefully the other cuts in the album are as solid as this one. Maybe Exit falls slightly a bit more on the generic side of synthpop, but it's exciting to see what else they have up their sleeves with this song as the primer. Foals is releasing a two part album this year, with the first part, Everything's Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1, coming out on 8th March 2019. no space - alextbh


Probably alextbh's most organic cut yet (Palm trees pun notwithstanding), no space features a funky bassline and guitar riffs that gets you dancing. In fact, I love that the riffs sorta speaks to you, like those really in-your-face Prince refrain. There's a bold & festive air to the track, as Alex celebrates the liberation of sexual expression . There's just been a whole array of singles after singles now and all of them has been hitting the mark, but no space shows that alextbh's association with his R&B sound is wide. No way is this artist confined to the limits of sadboi EDM tropes anymore - there's just no space for cliches.

Harmony Hall - Vampire Weekend


After 6 years of waiting, the indie outfit famous for incorporating African beats, bright pop antics and Paul Simon-esque melodies into theit tracks is back with two new singles. Harmony Hall is the standout amongst the two, with a joyful piano refrain that reminds me of George Michael's Freedom. The melancholic guitar riffs puts you in this very warm place under the sun, but don't be fooled, Harmony Hall is a biting commentary on echo chambers and communal mentalities. The wonderful darkness in the lyrics contrasts the upbeat sound (I don't wanna live like this / I don't wanna die). Ezra Koening interpolates the same words he used in a song from his previous album, Finger Back, but I believe Harmony Hall does the line way more justice. Manusia - W/SH


W/SH brings spirited vocals into a DIY, lo-fi sound. The vulnerability in the track Manusia is poignant and alluring, with lyrics pointing to his feeble mortality while pleading to someone to give him a chance. In spite of the dreamy, bedroom pop core of the song - a sound immensely popular in the Southeast Asian indie scene right now with Phum Viphurit as an example - Manusia is far from contrived, with segments of atmosphere such as the guitar solos and the lilting pianos that gives the track nuance. All produced from the comforts of his home, W/SH has been playing drums for emo punk band from Kedah, Malaysia, but is now breaking it out on his own since his first song Tertanya-tanya released late last year. Based upon the past two tracks so far, we're excited to see more.

Peachy - love-SADKiD w/ Garrett & Paper Latte


love-SADKid was a sweet discovery on Soundcloud. A rap artist with smooth vibes, his collaboration with Garrett & Paper Latte ensures both a soulful feel and some really cheeky & adorable verses in reference to the Super Mario franchise ( Stuck inside a castle but don’t need me, love/ Second to your first, I’m like Luigi, love, wait/ At least he had a mansion). This track kept me warm on rainy January days.

Pun Boleh - SonaOne & Alif


RATING: ★★★☆☆

After releasing Obvious together last year, SonaOne & Alif proves yet again that their chemistry is impeccable. Pun Boleh deviates slightly from the pop rap sound and further into the direction of trap. and although it doesn't have as interesting of a production as Obvious, there's a lot of solid flows in Pun Boleh that keeps you hooked. The references and wordplay in this song are hilarious & witty (" Ay straight jalan terus macam BB-8" or "Now i keep it frozen macam let it go chills"). The braggadocio feels tongue-in-cheek and not aloof, and even the music video features some really cool rapper cameos. Not a revolutionary track in anyway, but seeing Alif and SonaOne together again in production and writing remains cool as heck.

Juice - Lizzo


It's only January, and I feel like I've already found one of the most memorable pop anthems of 2019 with Lizzo's Juice. Empowering in the way Meghan Trainor wish she was, Lizzo's song celebrates self-love with an incomparable level of sass. The production on this song is funky 'til the highest of heavens, and even the part of the chorus where Lizzo sings "Ya ya hee" is so alluring & addictive. There is so much energy in this track, Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars has got to be shaking in their studios trying to up the ante. Seventeen - Sharon Van Etten


With one of the strongest voices of the burgeoning singer-songwriter scene right now, Sharon Van Etten's Seventeen comes off as a deeply personal letter to her younger self. There's this steadily ascending passion in the singing and also the production that inevitably carries you through all of the emotions in this song. When Van Etten shouts "You're crumbling up just to see / Afraid that you'll be just like me" I feel that in my bones. Comparisons are lazy and often inaccurate, but I get now why people from New Jersey hold her to such a high esteem as a local by calling her the "new Bruce Springsteen". It's the raw beauty of storytelling and performance that makes Seventeen special. Bang My Drum - Angel Du$t


Angel Du$t has been releasing a slew of very catchy tracks lately, but Bang My Drum takes the cake for being so innocent, wholesome and just plain fun. All about letting your feelings out, Bang My Drum. Angel Du$t sends me back to the late 90s when you had those really melodic rock bands like Third Eye Blind, Everclear or Fountains of Wayne. The frontman of the band was actually part of a hardcore group called Trapped Under Ice, but decided to spawn more side projects of his own and one of them is Angel Du$t. You can sorta send the hardcore tinge in the vocals. Just when you thought the pop punk hook was enough to get you going, they throw in a sax solo. God, this song is great. Jawbreaker - Injury Reserve (ft. Rico Nasty & Pro Teens)


There's so much going on in the world of hip hop around the world, especially among those trying to innovate the sound. Injury Reserve is probably one of those that fell under your radar, but if you're lucky enough to know the hip hop trio, you know that they've been releasing cuts with unique flows or beats, but still managing to hit hard with their message and poetry. Jawbreaker's creaking beats is minimal, but serves as a haunting platform for a song about the moral perversions found in hype culture and the fashion industry; how materialism tend to obfuscate the truth. ( 'Cause we all know someone/Who blown their whole rent on some Off-White). Rico Nasty shines in this song as she raps about the stupid expectations placed upon how you're supposed to dress like based on your skin colour ( You know that you are a black girl, right?/ Your hairs 'sposed to be sowed in, not spiked up)

Onkel - Makthaverskan


Makthaverskan is a post-punk band from Sweden and their new track Onkel showcases your classic dream pop chord progressions and reverbs. It has all the familiar sweetness of a good twee/shoegazing track. The highlight of the track is really Maja Milner's vocals, that sounds like a love letter from another time. Alone - Slayyyter


The soul of Britney Spears found Slayyyter's body in her track Alone. That being said, the song is not just derivative, as Slayyyter puts the framework of 2000s pop onto a production that's bordering on industrial or harsh noise pop. Slayyyter might just revitalise a new sound for pop music in the coming years, so I'm excited to see more of her work. Nihilist Blues - Bring Me the Horizon (ft. Grimes)


When metalcore band released Bring Me the Horizon released their single Medicine last year, a lot of their fans were disappointed. I, too, joined the bandwagon, having been first introduced to Bring Me the Horizon to the delicious screamo of Chelsea Smile. But after listening to Nihilist Blues, I started to appreciate the effort they put in experimenting with a new sound. The electronic approach that they're taking isn't some bland Chainsmokers production, there's a lot of aggression and darkness to it. Grimes involvement in this project makes it very sleek too, she adds a whole other sheen to it. It doesn't feel like Bring Me the Horizon is selling out, it really feels like they're experimenting and exploring other artistic facets. That's what makes Nihilist Blues exciting. Of course there are bands that pull of this electronic sound better, and may be there should be more room for BMTH to pay tribute to their metalcore roots, but honestly none of those criteria make this particular track bad. Moderation - Florence + The Machine


Florence + The Machine have been working hard lately, having just released High As Hope last year and now already releasing singles. Honestly, Florence Welch never disappoints with her vocals and soulful performances, and moderation is just another addition to her impressive singing repertoire. It's good, but honestly there is I think a kind of hackneyed quality to the sound. Florence + The Machine have gone through impressive sonic experimentations before, but Moderation is just a middle-of-the-road in comparison to her other singles. Not for me, but I'm sure it'll lift some spirits. Uncomfortably Numb - American Football ft. Hayley Williams


I was super excited when I saw Hayley Williams of Paramore's name next to emo legends American Football, and Uncomfortably Numb did not turn out disappointing. The little rendition of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb chorus is just right, and the subject matter the song explores is profound. The lyrics speak of the frustration one feels when one realises they're not as empathetic as they can be, or as sensitive about emotions. The line " I'll make new friends in the ambulance" is still ringing in my ears. Hayley's voice, whether as backing harmony or by herself is beautiful, as she acts as the person trying to bring her partner out of their state. Also, maybe it's just this song, but I'm starting to thin that Mike Kinsella sounds a lot like Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie.

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