By Jocelle Koh
After seeing this Nextshark article on indie lo-fi R&B artist TRACE, I immediately knew I had to feature her on Asian Pop Weekly. The daughter of Vietnam's legendary Queen of Soul Carol Kim but herself delving into the Western music scene with her calming and intrinsic lo-fi R&B sounds; it's interesting to see how the sounds of her heritage and her current environment (now being based in LA) intermingle and make up her musical identity. Known now for her melancholy and sensitive brand of R&B, the singer-songwriter shared with us below 10 tracks that have influenced her greatly in a variety of ways at different points in her life.
1. Let It Die by Feist
Leslie Feist is one my favorite artists and I find her voice, sound and writing to epitomize the perfect combination of depth, emotion and rarity. This song is so simple and so heartbreaking. And there are THE perfect use of bells which I have a love for and want to do more in my own music. Out of many handfuls of favorites from Feist, this is a top favorite.
2. Buzzcut Season by Lorde
When Lorde came into the scene, she changed and created a new wave of pop music. I would say this is one of my favorites of hers and I especially am keen on the clever writing on this track. It’s melancholy at its best. And it’s songs like this that really push me when I think about what it is I’m writing about and how I’m writing it.
3. Honey by TRACE
To date, it’s still one of my favorite songs. And it’s the first song I wrote where the chorus came first so strongly that I had to have it in the verses too. It’s also my favorite song to perform so I think about this song a lot and how I can also feel that same with my other songs.
4. Do U Want Me by Giraffage
The way this song starts out is so random and a strong nod to like old school love jams and then the tones of the songs evolve so effortless and uniquely. I love the way Giraffage exudes an energy in his music but it feels paced and still very chill.
5. Fake Empire by The National
The piano in this song is so beautiful. And the way the song evolves into a complexity of sounds (including horns--which I’m trying to implement more and more of in my songs) is like a masterpiece.
6.Thinking Bout You by Frank Ocean
There’s a timelessness to this song that I always go back to when I create something in the studio, in my bedroom--or anywhere where I’m writing music. Frank is someone I always wonder, “would he like this song?” and this is one of my top choices from his body of work for sure. Plus the sentiments behind it are so curated yet simple.
7. Tal Uno by Barrie
A newer artist for me, I’ve been recently obsessed with this band and their renewal of pop with a kind of daydream lens. The electric guitar is something I want to introduce more and more into my songs too. Easy listening but interesting.
8. YEAH RIGHT by Joji
Who doesn’t love Joji? The way he blends genres is so incredible and sometimes my brain hurts with how he does it. He makes me feel less crazy for wanting my first full body of work to hit a multitude of genres.
9. Side Eye by TRACE
Confession, when I hear this song on playlists on Spotify, I never change it. (I usually change the song when it’s mine!) I love every inch of this song and I think it’s because of the different elements we played with on it and the instrumentation feels pretty peculiar and original (I think working with Vera for the first time) and that gave off a lot of refreshing vibes. Also, the chorus is a “down chorus” which was fun to explore and pull off and I don’t think there is any other song title of mine that depicts me as much as “Side Eye” does.
10. Starry Night by Peggy Gou
I will say, growing up I listened to a lot of disco and funk and Peggy’s music brings it all back to life. There are elements of this type of dance music I want to learn and explore more but she’s incredibly inspiring and can also just stare at her Instagram all day.
TRACE's latest single 'Make Me Laugh' is now available on all major streaming platforms. Follow her on Facebook andInstagram to keep up to date with her!
For this instalment of Choice Picks_ we've specially invited new-gen singer-songwriter June Pan to share a tailor-made Galaxy-themed playlist of her picks with us. Having just released her debut EP 'Milkomeda' which is chock-full of weird, wonderful and fantastical sounds and textures, who better to transport us to another galaxy than this quirky artist? Pan digs deep into her musical treasure trove, coming back with some words on each of her favourite songs including tracks by LINION, Astro Bunny and LSD.
But first, a few introductory words from the musical astronomer herself:
"The EP’s theme circles themes of the milky way and planets, thus is called ‘Milkomeda’. The astronomy term is used when astronomers predict the Milky Way and Andromeda are about to collide; however these two entities after crossing paths will still go back to their own routines and continue on their paths, like a short-lived but passionate bout of young love. Every song in ‘Milkomeda’ is irrigated so that it blooms into a planet of its own, from the impulsive love of ’Leap Through The Galaxy 我陪你’ to the love-filled playfulness of ‘Oh, my love’ and the EP’s title track ‘Milkomeda’.
So what is a ‘Galaxy feel’ to me? Simply put, it is a big or small space matched up with a short or long period of time; accompanied by all kinds of musical textures that attract people. The ten songs below that I’ll be sharing have a ‘Galaxy feel’ to me, hope everyone can appreciate it."
Sentimental SIngaporean crooner Gareth Fernandez' warm vocals and chill beats position him resolutely alongside pop greats such as Sam Smith and Lauv. With lyrics that truly come from the heart and vocals that execute perfectly the meaning within his words, Fernandez' is the perfect artist to add to your next mood playlist.
1. Gareth Fernandez - Achilles
I've always wanted to write a Gospel song and this was my chance. Writing this song wasn't easy either as I had to face some personal demons, but I'm pleased with the result. I wanted the song to be raw and meaningful, and I also knew that I wanted the Gospel chi to play a big part in it. Fun fact: the choir is actually just me singing layers upon layers in different harmonies, and pretending to be different characters.
2. Labrinth - Jealous
This song is just crazy beautiful, and it had some influence on Achilles. I love everything from the vocals to the arrangement to the mournful organ and "Disney" strings. I have it on loop just to sing along to it sometimes. Bliss.
You can tell a lot about someone by their musical taste. Indeed, after checking out James' Choice Picks_, you too will have a greater appreciation for how his music deviates from the normal influences of Mandopop artists. For Yang, being brought up on a mix of Soul, Blues, Folk and Rock has greatly influenced his sound. Keep reading to learn how all these sounds have become part of his story!
01. The Staple Singers - Will the Circle Be Unbroken
Similar to Wind in the Pines in terms of subject – the death of a loved one.
02. James Yang - Hold On
One of the songs on Lost & Found that I wrote for my grandfather. Every time I sing this song, I sing it louder than I should, in some vain hope that wherever my grandfather is, he will be able to hear or feel that I’m singing for him.
03. The Toots and Maytels - Pressure Drop
My best friend growing up was Jamaican, his family had parties and bbqs growing up, we listened to reggae, dancehall and rocksteady;
04. James Yang - 溫柔地，暴烈地
Seeing as I talked about it earlier, and that it’s my favourite song on Lost & Found;
05. Alan Lomax - Early in the mornin'
This sort of blues is the roots of Western pop music. I love this kind of music, but it also gives me a deeper understanding of how to write songs.
06. 郑钧- 灰姑娘
Just a simple, beautiful love song.
07. Led Zeppelin - When the levee breaks
This sort of rock played a lot when I was a kid. I chose this song for two reasons, first the drum track is amazing, 2nd, they used the arrangement to turn a simple country blues into a huge rock song, like we changed my simple demos in to complex songs in Lost & Found.
08. 老王樂隊 - 我還年輕 我還年輕
This song mixes lots of musical styles, including Klezmir, Gypsy jazz and HxC, Emocore elements together to create a really full and interesting song.
09. Rory Gallagher - Million Miles Away
I love the energy used to play here, and the guitar tone Gallagher gets.
This song mixes western and traditional Chinese elements together into something unique and crazy. It makes me think of the end of a film where the hero rides his motorbike into the sunset
When she's not crafting beautiful pop songs (new single 'Feeling Good out now), Asian-Australian singer-songwriter Teagan can be found studying biomed, and understands those cram feels wholly well. So who better to come up with a study-themed playlist than the chill chanteuse herself? Check out her picks below, and her description of the songs too!
"A collection of music that gets me through a long day (especially a long day of studying or working). All of these songs make you think deeper and make you feel good. But lyrically things aren’t so straight forward. Get lost in the beat and then messed up by the words."
01. Feeling Good – TEAGAN
Ironically, I wrote this song about not feeling so good. The times where you go out with your mates to convince yourself that you’re over something, before quickly realising you’re not – everyone else is having fun but you’d rather be anywhere but there. I love making upbeat music that contrasts more sombre lyrics because it’s the perfect analogy for the way so many of us deal with our problems – covering the emotion behind a happy façade.
02. Blood Bank – Bon Iver
I loved this track from the second I heard it. It’s an incredibly beautiful love song and Justin Vernon tells such a vivid story throughout it.
03. Don’t Kill My Vibe – Sigrid
Sigrid has such a good voice and this track showcases it so well. This song really does make you feel good and I’m glad she got away from the music execs that were killing her vibe.
04. Nights – Frank Ocean
The guitar in this track is so slick and is produced brilliantly. Frank Ocean’s artistry inspires me to ensure that everything I do musically has purpose and meaning behind it.
05. Drew Barrymore – SZA
If I’m not jamming to The Weekend then I’ve got this song on. Every time I listen to the hook, it’s stuck in my head for days. I love SZA’s ability to tell a story in 4 minutes or less.
06. It’s Okay – TEAGAN
I wrote this song as a reminder to not feel guilty about getting rid of bad people from your life. Keeping people like that around is only a favour to them whilst you suffer for it. I hope it convinces you to get rid of people like that too.
07. Lemons – Woodlock
The first band I ever became obsessed with as a teenager. These guys are local Melbourne buskers and this is an absolute tune. I’ve seen them live way too many times to count and every time has been so worth it.
08. Ribs – Lorde
This song makes me feel nostalgic about things I didn’t even know I was nostalgic about. I hope Lorde makes new music soon – she will always be on my playlist.
09. Keep Your Head Up – Ben Howard
You cannot listen to this track and not feel motivated. Ben Howard made up the bulk of the music I listened to growing up (alongside Jack Johnson) and I still regret that I missed his show in Melbourne. Please come back soon, Ben.
10. Waves – Stolen Jars
The perfect song to drive home to. I hope these guys get all the recognition they deserve because everything they make is amazing and makes me feel so happy.
Check out 'Feeling Good', now available on all major streaming platforms such as Apple music, Spotify and KKBOX. Follow Teagan on her Instagram, Twitter or website for more information.
Coming from a background so wildly eclectic, it's intriguing how new artist Takkin's music instead comes from a middleground so warm and accepting. Check out his playlist picks, and of course his new single 'Stay Together', available now both in English and Mandarin on all major streaming platforms. With his debut single, Takkin explores how music has been his levelling ground in his first exploration:
"Regardless of what is going on in my life, happening around me and to me, music has and continues to be a constant. If I’m a gnarled, weathered tree on a cliffside, music is the roots that prevent me from cascading into the sea. It’s my place of solace and reflection. When I can’t concretely pinpoint what I’m feeling or experiencing, it helps me work through those emotions, expose them, and express them. "
With picks by friends who have inspired him (Mantis Hands) and other musical aspirations (Daniel Caesar, Sabrina Claudio), Takkin's picks reveal the first piece of the puzzle. Learn more about his music by heading back over to our news article on him!
01. Takkin - Stay Together (Eng & Chin)
It’s a love letter from one person to another, an extension of the hand. There is hope. It is soaring, mournful, and meditative. This song is the best representation of the world in which Takkin operates, where my music lives and breathes.
02. James Blake - Into The Red
This song captures the essence of love. It’s expansive and fantastical, all the while grounded in a concrete, historical phenomenon: the Gold Rush. Seeing him live at Terminal 5 (twice!) remains one of my fondest music memories.
03. Mantis Hands - Palace
Mantis Hands is partly responsible for Takkin’s birth. Over the years, I’ve collaborated with him on a plethora of projects: animation, voice-over, but never music. This song makes me feel like I’m in the Matrix, drinking a neon blue cocktail from a martini glass. Always cool, always pulsing, digitized thought.
04. Daniel Caesar - Get You (feat. Kali Uchi)
The song is deeply sexual, playful and catchy as hell! I see rays of sunlight through half-closed blinds over a half-made bed. The opening with the church organs, the bass and drum kit kicking in on the verse, fantastic.
05. Sabrina Claudio - Belong To You
Sabrina makes you feel like she’s singing to you and nobody else, that it’s just you and her in close quarters. She’s ethereal, her voice just above a whisper, that echoes deep in the halls of your mind. All mundane words sound extraterrestrial.
06. Mac Ayres - Slow Down
This song has such a gentle groove. Mac’s voice glides so lightly on top, like whipped cream on a milkshake. He’s another vocalist with complete control and confidence, capitalizing on the soft, muted tones of his voice.
07. Maggie Rogers - The Knife
Such smart song writing coupled with the funkiest bass line I’ve heard in a long time. I instantly want to get up and dance from that snare and hi-hat! Which instrument is the knife? It changes with every relisten.
08. Active Child - Darling
Simple, pastel colors, fragile; sitting on a gondola with a loved one, or holding a newborn in a nursery. The only thing that matters is the one with you.
09. Denzel Curry - Bulls on Parade (triple j Like A Version)
This song is definitely an outlier from the others but I can’t stop listening to it.
It’s pure, raucous adrenaline and an incredible live performance.
Listen to Takkin's new single 'Stay Together', now out on all major streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud. Follow Takkin on all his social medias (Facebook, Instagram) to stay tuned for his upcoming regular releases!
Listen on Spotify
Titled 'Celeste's summer playlist for an afternoon tea', Singaporean singer-songwriter Celeste Syn's put together a quirkily curated playlist of afternoon delights to take your mind off the heat, whisking you away to her weird and wonderful musical world. Despite being signed under Mandopop extraordinaire Jay Chou's record label JVR Music, Syn is anything but your expected C-pop fare. Her stream-of-consciousness style of lyricism; combined with melodies filled with childish petulance and moments of sparkling clarity build an intrigue around her musical influences and collaborative partners; all of which is laid out in this very playlist. Is Syn's music your cup of tea? You'll just have to listen to find out.
01. Celeste Syn 冼佩瑾 - Little Dark Cave 龜兔賽跑
A song about running away to a little dark cave, escaping from the sun and all other matters you don’t wish to talk about. This too shall pass - just give it time. For now, stay cool and keep listening.
02. Aurora - Winter Bird
When the temperatures soar, the bird in me does the same, to an imaginary winter. Aurora tells the story so vividly, I can see her frozen tears.
03. Lara Veronin 梁心頤 - Comfortable Cage 舒適的牢籠
I’ve never quite told my good friend, how I love the way she penned the following to my tune - 在舒適的牢籠裡過表面的自由. Notice how she sings “籠裡” like “lonely”? Also, I wonder what true freedom feels like.
04. Celeste Syn 冼佩瑾 - Throw You In The River 把你丟進淡水河裡
The original intent was to throw my old MacBook into Danshui River (full story another time), as that wasn’t too environmentally friendly, we threw a misbehaving ex instead. Watch the music video on YouTube, it’s unconventional - don’t try it at home though.
05. PEW, Shelby Wang, Meiting 啊飄，王曉敏，黃美婷 - Onions 青蔥
It has an introduction that makes me smile. I like anything to do with retro or food, so when they come together it’s a definite yes; extra scallions please!
06. Agnes Obel - Brother Sparrow
My kind of midday dance. Perfect with tea. I find the footsteps rather enchanting; one that I go back to quite often. Can’t explain why.
07. Celeste Syn 冼佩瑾 - Alice Hates You
Now doze off to a singing doll, rocking chair, crackling fire and that unfinished pot of tea...if you dare.
08. Mando Diao - Ochrasy
A slow one from Swedish rock band, Mando Diao. Ochrasy is an escape from the deteriorating world - it’s a name/place they made up. I like to play pretend.
09. StellaVee - Friend Says 朋友說
I usually add a pop rock number near the end of my playlist to quicken the pace before heading off to work. I like the blend of sweetness and slight nonchalance in this one, for that bit of character; very much like StellaVee, in real life.
10. Ruth Kueo 魏妙如 - Be You
Being myself encompasses discovering who I am and what I am created to be. Otherwise, I’m just being a less than ideal version of myself, holding on to what I want to be, in the eyes of my own impaired judgment. In this song, “每個靈魂有的獨特” serves as a good reminder for me.
11. Hillsong Young & Free - This Is Living
I feel brand new and fresh every time I hear this. It’s like waking up to the smell of morning dew. This is living now, finally.
Celeste will be listening and chatting with fans on the KKBOX app on the 26th of March 2019 at 9pm. Be sure to log in and listen along! Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, and check out her debut album 'Why' on all major streaming platforms.
LISTEN HERE ON SPOTIFY & KKBOX
Malaysian-Australian beatmaker and singer-songwriter May Lyn celebrates her unapologetic femininity and her story in our latest instalment of Choice Picks_. Empowering, vivacious, and bringing with her the robust roots of the Australian music scene and her Asian heritage, this playlist is one for all the women out there. Be it broken relationships, dreams that seem too far out of your reach, or a day that hasn’t gone your way, May Lyn’s got your back with her sugar-and-spice musical stylings. Check out what she has to say about this tastefully curated set of tracks below.
1. May Lyn- Froot Loop
This is the most fun I’ve had writing a track. My key takeaway from creating Froot Loop is to always remember there is a silver lining no matter how shitty your situation might be. It’s quite a different sound compared to my previous stuff and it reveals the fun, spunky side, the May who’s giggly and fun to be around when she lets go and has a laugh.
2. Bibi Bourelly - Ego
I love the edgy rasp in Bibi’s voice and how badass and unapologetic she is in this song. She’s also an inspiration to me because she’s a songwriter who’s behind some big names like Rihanna. That’s where I’d like to be as a producer and songwriter someday.
3. Little Dragon - Paris
I’ve been a fan of Little Dragon forever. Their music has had a big influence on how I produce my beats. I finally got the chance to see them live at laneway in 2015 and I think Yukimi was pregnant (or it could’ve just been her outfit lol) either way I remember thinking to myself “damn that’s one boss lady rocking the stage!”
4. Yaeji - Drink I’m Sippin’ On
Yaeji is just so cool. This beat is sick and her soft sweet voice on this song is like a lullaby. I don’t know what she’s saying in Korean but massive respect cause this song makes me feel like I’m at a low key party where there’s no judgements or bad vibes, nobody’s trying to be cool, everyone’s just chill and being themselves.
5. May Lyn - Like A Woman
I wrote this track as an anthem celebrating my womanhood. It’s about embracing and owning who you are, trusting your intuition and chasing your dreams :)
6. Alextbh - Walls
Alextbh has risen above and made it against all odds, being a queer Malaysian musician. A true rarity! Big ups to him for being such an empowering figure in Malaysia, his story and music are such an inspiration and this track is full of raw emotion, it hits me hard in the feels.
7. Apollo - Make You Go
Apollo is a regular in the Brisbane hip hop scene and hugely slept on. He’s part of a crew called River City Kids. I played a show with them in West End last year and man, they’re like the Bris version of Brockhampton. It’s so refreshing to see so much ambition, drive and youthful energy radiate from a group of people! I’m a sucker for a good ol’ RnB love song and Apollos voice is tasty smooth like honey on butter.
8. RINI - Stranger Tings
I found RINI’s album on Spotify recently. This is my fave track off the album, it’s so relatable. I like to see the good in people but dating and relationship-wise that has not worked out so well for me. I’ve invested way too much time sticking around with emotionally unavailable losers who have left me hanging and after lots of disappointment and heartbreak, learning to be the one to call it quits has been a hard lesson I’ve had to learn over the years.
9. Night Palms - JigglyPuff
I honestly don’t think I’d be in the music scene if it weren’t for Night Palms. We go way back. The brains behind Brisbane’s Beat Sessions, he created a special space for us beatmakers to come out of hiding and share our music with likeminded peeps. The friends I made in the early days of the beat sessions was a turning point for me as a producer. The outro piano piece in this track gets me every time. I can just picture Berry in his dimly lit apartment stoned af grooving and prodding those keys haha.
May Lyn's latest EP Froot Loop/ Like A Woman is out now on all major streaming platforms. Check it out and get your girlpower on! May will also be part of the lineup for Curiocity supported by Tourism Queensland and Brisbane Powerhouse along with Austen, Lalka, and Feels taking place March 31.
Listen Here On Spotify & KKBOX
At times intense, and at others laidback; the vein of commonality that runs through Charlie Lim’s works has always been his eloquent writing style, and that thoughtful broodiness which critics (and teenage girls) adore about him. Check out some of his favourite songs in this exclusive APW playlist!
Note from Charlie
Here are a list of tunes from a few of my favourite artists...some of them I’m very honoured to know and can call my friends. I’ll chuck in that Least of You tune as well, and Zero-Sum (which Yeo produced). Enjoy!
02. The Comments–Yeo
03. Last Yearn–Kllo
04. Least Of You – Charlie Lim
06. Art Pure II – Tim De Cotta, Mediocre Haircut Crew
07. 你就是 – Khalil Fong
08. Better–Sam Rui
09. Zero-Sum–Charlie Lim
10. Sun – The Steve McQueens
Listen on SPOTify & Kkbox
For this episode of Choice Picks, we have a VERY special playlist for all the queens out there. Take it all in, because this International Womens' Day playlist (for short: WOMANdopop) is just for you!
Sweet, Sassy, Subliminal, Skeptical... women have brought so much depth, emotion and meaning to many of our favourite contemporary Mandopop tracks. Old and new; from A-mei to Jolin Tsai, from Ann Bai to Sue, we've got it ALL. Send this playlist to an important woman in your life and let's prepare to get EMPOWERED, Mandopop stylez.
The latest choice picks_