By Jocelle Koh
Multi-disciplinary Asian-Australian singer-songwriter Yeo returns for his first release of 2019, coming up with R&B infused track 'Restless'; written especially for all the (Asian) insomniacs out there.
Incorporating his unique sense of dark humour in his trademark lyrical style, the adept musician touches on the topic of racism in a way that doesn't point fingers, yet hits the nail square on the head.
Referring to a nuanced situation in racial politics; namely the ignorance of westerners and the regret of us as people of colour who fail to respond in a constructive way (or at all, because we're too shocked), no one pulls off a musical clapback better than Yeo.
The feeling of restlessness that one gets while tossing and turning in bed at night; a head too full of ideas that wedges you in that limbo of physical tiredness and mental agility is one that I am all too familiar with; and Yeo does brilliantly in infusing that unique palette of colours into this track.
Choosing to go with a groovy R&B vibe that starts off strong with grungy keys, soulful guitar licks and some trumpets for good measure, the song hits its stride early on and has us grooving on throughout the entirety of the track.
Starting his vocals off low, Yeo's unique vocals and lyrics have us hooked from the first sentence, filled with vivid imagery "I smell the blood of white feelings/deep in the crease of my hand".
The amazing songwriter continues the verse in this low register, gradually moving upwards, kind of like those whispers of thought that come and go as you first lay down to rest; inviting you to pull at those loose threads.
And pull at them this song does; with the melody and lyrics becoming increasingly frenetic and frequent; with gospel-like backing vocals egging your brain into overdrive before pushing into first gear in the full-on funky chorus.
I especially love the lyrics in the second chorus "I need to practice my words/I need to work a lot on my timing too" , as Yeo goes down the thought rabbithole, too far to avoid the clutches of insomnia; rehearsing the should-have, could-have, would-haves of his previous interactions of the day.
But my favourite part is probably the gospel-like bridge, where the singer endearingly sings "I promise I still believe In/A future I'll never see" and then transitions into improvisations; with backing vocals by the likes of musical greats Mojo Juju and Dru Chen adding to the vibrant frenzy of sound.
Ironically, this is probably not a song I would listen to at night, because it's just too much of a masterpiece. The song is not just about being restless, it can also very well make you restless; with all its relentless detailing, overactive funkiness and thought-provoking nature.
Well done Yeo, and I kind of hope his insomnia doesn't go away, because I am loving the moody vibes of all his latest works.
RESTLESS SINGLE LAUNCH
March 30 – OAF Gallery – Sydney with HVNCOQ + Rainbow Chan (DJ)
April 5 – Boney – Melbourne with HVNCOQ + Jade Zoe
Tickets via snackswithyeo.com
The last time I spoke with Diana Wang, she was releasing her first official forage into R&B 'Home' late last year.
In the later part of this year, she broke the Mandopop internet when it was announced that she had joined Khalil Fong's new record label 'FU MUSIC' as their first artist.
I should have known when Khalil praised Wang's songwriting skills when we quizzed him about his album 'JTW-Journey To The West' during our interview last year!
Her second full album 'Poem'; a play on the 「詩」word that appears in her Chinese name as well as a word that recurs in the album's first single '一步成詩' is said to showcase the transition of Diana to her image as a talented composer as well as vocalist.
Like Khalil, Wang's strong Eastern background (she comes from three generations of Peking/Kun Opera performers) as well as her Westernised upbringing; Diana seems to be the perfect fit for FU MUSIC, and has worked closely with the creative team to create her unique blend of East-meets-West R&B.
To Diana, music should not be differentiated by culture, language or time, but is something that exists as naturally as a heartbeat or breath. Thus, she picked up a pen and began turning her thoughts into music through her love for R&B.
During the production of 'Poem', Diana and Khalil were fully present in the decision making process every step of the way, working not only with long-time collaborators Derrick Sepnio and Fergus Chow from the JTW album, but also with famed Hong Kong lyricists Zhou Yao-Hui and C-Jun, as well as Singaporean lyricist Xiao Han and Taiwan's Cui Wei Kai and Jie Nuo Mi.
Wang also had the pleasure of dueting and collaborating with various artists outside of the usual fare including the weird and wacky Joanna Wang, Singaporean R&B crooner Charlie Lim, and even her own mother Wang Lei!
Through this album, and using her culture and roots as a means for finding her identity, Diana wants audiences to witness her process of metamorphosis. Going back to the love of R&B she had as a little girl and using that as a starting point for her reinvention of herself as an artist, Wang's new album is bound to be poetry in motion, recording her thoughts on lifestyle, love and human perspectives.
Diana Wang's new album 'Poem' is now out and can be found in all the usual places. Click on this link to take you there: https://dianawang.lnk.to/poem
Singaporean singer-songwriter Charlie Lim wins "Best Music Video" for 'I only tell the truth' at NY's Winter Film Awards
Prolific Singaporean singer-songwriter Charlie Lim has long been praised for his midas touch when it comes to his musical exploits; confidently pushing out his own melancholic brand of R&B, electronic pop, post-rock and everything else in between.
But the known perfectionist has once again brought pride to the little red dot by winning "Best Music Video" for his single "I only tell the truth" at New York's Winter Film Awards.
The stunning video also made it as a finalist in the Silver Sound Showdown in Brooklyn, and was part of the official selection for the ReelHeart Film Festival in Toronto.
Filmed in the sparse outback of Australia on a decommissioned 747, the video captured a complex mix of emotions which Charlie describes as "ultimately about loneliness, fear, and tragedy, but it's also about persistence, courage, and healing" in a previous interview with Bandwagon SG.
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Felipe P. Soares from New York, the video is a collection of stunning cinematography cut together with precision, creating a truly timeless and otherworldly atmosphere.
Just as Charlie ventures into the untouched wilderness of the Australian outback, he is also one of few Singaporean acts who have had the chance to venture out onto the global music stage. The win for him is hopefully significant in the international attention it may bring not only to his wonderful works, but also to other prolific and talented acts Singapore has to offer.
By Jocelle Koh
It was a cool evening as I hurried to Tan Quee Lan street to check out the homecoming stop of SG MUSO’s exhibition Singapore: Inside Out featuring some of the nation’s notable artists and creative types. My friend, an architect by trade strolled lazily through the maze of art instalments in admiration, iPhone at the ready while I scurried ahead with just one aim on my mind: Charlie Lim.
As most readers may be well aware, my expertise clearly lies within music of the Chinese persuasion, so what’s the big deal about this Charlie Lim? The singer-songwriter initially caught my attention with his physical semblance to Hong Kong muso Khalil Fong (Note: VERY much my type), but managed to retain it with his eclectic yet seamless fusion of electro-pop, R&B, soul and rock. But it was in fact his poetic and beautiful lyrics that dealt the final blow, winning me over completely. Intrigued also by his Singaporean-Australian background, seeing him perform live for the first time was definitely on my to-do list for my end-of-year trip back to Singapore.
And Lim certainly did not disappoint. Accompanied by a band of four, he breezed his way through a six-piece set during which he maintained a remarkable equilibrium between technical consistency and musical showmanship that few can master. Between songs, Charlie took the time to interact with the audience, throwing out fast, awkward quips and anecdotes about nothing much in particular which usually tailed off into an undecipherable mumble. Frankly, he doesn’t seem one for small talk, but his efforts certainly endeared him to the audience nonetheless. Though not much of a sweet talker, his vocals and body language albeit subtly yet strongly command the presence of the venue, rendering it that much more intimate.
Kicking off the set with “Pedestal”, a funky and jazz-influenced piece from his debut EP, the performance was off to a festive start. With vocals pumped full of Adam Levine-style masculine sass and band improvs that were hard-hitting and full of bite, the song certainly created a groove that just kept going, leaving audiences on a high long after the song had finished. After somewhat entertaining the crowd with the exploits of his absent band members, Lim jumped into one of the tracks from his latest album Time/Space, “Conspiracy”, which featured his electronically-altered vocals against the backdrop of a rock arrangement, blending the grounded, fast-paced feeling of rock with an ethereal quality in a way that explores the dichotomies of time and space in a simple yet clever way.
His third song, a jazz-soul piece called “What can I do” saw Charlie’s versatile vocals taking the lead, unleashing a more soulful, passionate and spontaneous side to the slight singer that I didn’t know he had. Transforming in an instant from sensitive soft crooner to rough-throated powerhouse, Lim proved to audiences that he was as much a talented and charismatic vocalist as he was a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. Nicknamed “The Airplane Song”, Charlie went on to perform his first single from his latest Time/Space album “I only tell the truth”, transitioning smoothly back into his cool and collected image. A little pitchy on the high notes at the beginning, I wasn’t too fussed given the amazing crescendo Charlie had pulled off in the previous song. He soon got back into the rhythm of things, backed by an abstract, electronic-themed arrangement that created points of revelation amidst a reflective, timeless yet almost tangible atmosphere.
Nearing the end of his set, Lim performed crowd favourite “Bitter”, a tune with a folky, John Mayer-esque melody, and an arrangement with elements of Jazz, experimental electronica and rock. I especially loved the abrupt slowing down of tempos within the second half of the song which eked emotions out of every single note; entertaining indulgence by seemingly slowing down time. Lim ended the set on a personal favourite of mine, a single from his latest album called “Knots”, bringing his performance to an even more perfect closure. One of the more rock-influenced tracks on his album, its no surprise to those who know me why this was one of my favourites. With a rhythm that never lets up and Charlie’s throaty vocals that are absolutely to die for, what’s not to love?
One of the most important things that I look out for when critiquing any performance is confidence. Not merely how confident the performer is, but how much confidence the audience has in their ability to pull off a successful performance. Music at its core is a form of entertainment, a way for audiences to seek pleasure and relaxation. If the audience feels nervous for the performer, and anticipate their mistakes then in my opinion the performer has failed at their task. With the advent of recording technology, it is now rare to see performers who truly instill confidence in me. However, Charlie Lim is certainly one of the rare few. Cool, calm and collected, Lim radiates a kind of introverted confidence that stems from an unwavering focus and dedication to his music. And that’s enough to keep me coming back for more.
Charlie Lim-I only tell the truth (Music Video)
Charlie Lim will be guesting at Lenka’s Singapore show on the 1st of December. Check out his Facebook for upcoming events and updates. His latest album “Time/Space” is now available on iTunes, Bandcamp and Spotify.
SG Muso's Singapore: Inside Out Live Showcase is on in Singapore now until the 6th of December. Go to their Facebook for more information.
Click "Read More" to see photos from the performance!