I've struggled for a long time in writing this review, so much so that I almost gave up. Reviews of Tanya's music have always been the hardest for me to write; I have always felt that there is so much depth, both in terms of mechanics and emotions to every piece of work that I still struggle to do it justice in just one body of words. But with the release of her "Aphasia" experimental album, I struggled even more. I listened over and over and over and over until I couldn't take it anymore, and tried this routine several times over, letting myself fall into the music and trying to absorb it as much as I could. But still nothing. Until I realised that for the most part, my struggle with trying to review this album lay in the fact that it was an experimental album by nature, and that I therefore was unable to categorise it, unlike many other albums I had reviewed in the past. So naturally, this thought led me to the conclusion that Tanya's album's meaning lay in the lack of need to categorise it in terms of genre or any specific musical theory terms. But now even more than ever, I was at loss about what to write. However, I chose to push on, persevering as I strongly believed (and still do) that Tanya's album, like a textbook would teach me something of value. And the further I delved in this direction, the more the pieces of the puzzle started to come together.
With a mix of experimental tools such as sampled beats and ephemeral vocal backing a as the foundation of her album's musical theme, Tanya has with this new album changed the rules of the game completely, operating on a higher playing field than I could easily put words to. So I just decided to go into this album review as is, or as a saying in Chinese goes, "凭感觉”which means go with your gut. And what my gut is telling me is that I feel something from this album; emotions which are dark, introverted yet familiar. I do not feel an overwhelming passion for this album's theme, but that I believe is part of the beauty of it. "Aphasia" is a term referring to people who have no voice; what Tanya wished to convey through this album was a reflection of the modern day urban citizen, walking through streets filled with people, yet losing a sense of interaction which makes us human. Each song in the album is like a part of us as silent beings, bringing to light the complex and subtle mix of emotions that we like to bunch together and refer to as normality. If you're like me, I'm sure you feel it too. A large dose of 'I don't give a damn', a thimbleful of anxiety for the future, and always, that yearning for love amongst more than a handful of dysfunctional relationships.
Yen-J’s fifth album “Thanksgiving” is exactly what its been packaged to be. Although reminiscent of his past albums, there’s something different about this one. Wrapped in a simple package designed with a bottle of water on the front and first aid symbols, band aids and the like adorning it, this album is everything its cut up to be (pun intended)-a first aid kit for emotional boo-boos. Returning from a two year long hiatus, Yen-J is back and ready to share what he’s learned in the past two years both emotionally and artistically with listeners everywhere.
And impressively, I have to say the concept has certainly reached me loud and clear. Before I had even watched a couple of his interviews to understand fully the concept of this album, I had already understood it only after a couple of listens. The first time I listened to it, from the moment it started till the moment the tenth track finished, I didn’t do anything except listen. For those of you who know me, I’m a workaholic who is usually thinking about multiple things at once and trying to handle them all at the same time. My album review time consists of my drives from point A to B and usually while I’m multitasking on other things. But not this time. For some reason, the moment his music began playing, it was like every single muscle in my body had released all their tension, and I let out an audible sigh of relief. After the first listen, I have to say that Yen-J fulfilled exactly what he said he was going to do, to provide his refreshing yet comforting sound that would nourish listener’s ears and minds; much like the cleansing power of water and the healing capabilities of band aids. At the same time, the album is much like his diary, charting down some of the emotional highs and lows of his two-year soul search. As an avid Yen-J fan, this album has led me to deduce with 90% certainty that he has broken up with yet another girlfriend, and has led me to extrapolate with 100% delusional conviction that I now have a chance with the creative wunderkind. (YES!)
But let’s compose ourselves for a moment and get back to the music. In describing the album I’d have to say that its sound is same and at the same time, somehow different. All Yen-J’s signature elements are in the mix, including his crowd-pleasing ballads such as “一直給Thanksgiving” , “垃圾桶Rubbish Bin” , “You are my everything你是我的全部” and “過往The past”, his Jazz influence coming into play with “沒有不可能的事Nothing is impossible” and also a bit of his penchant for hip hop and Chinese traditional sounds thrown into the mix with “輕輕Lightly”. Yen-J has always been a creative individual who has dealt with much of his music in a truly organic way which I really appreciate. From the melody to the lyrics to the arrangement, nothing sounds like its been forced out of an industrialised pump or edited to within an inch of its life.