The top 30 local tracks of 2017
As we’ve mentioned year after year, there’s no exact science or mathematics to determining the best local tracks of a year. But our local music scene is growing, and this was a good year for many of our homegrown artistes. Here's our annual round-up of the best local tracks that have been produced in 2017.
New bars in KL
A shoplot above a Chinese dai chow is an unlikely place to find a wine bar. But then again, Château DeCanter has an unlikely background – its owner, Scott Chor, is a will writer who turned his passion for wine into a full-time venture after gaining his Level 3 certificate from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. True to its name, Château DeCanter offers plenty of breathing space – plush leather chairs, three private rooms and an airy smoking area cater to a wide range of drinkers looking for a place to lounge about. Don’t expect to see many snap-happy Instagrammers here, however, as the lights are kept low and dim – which is a plus point, in our opinion. Unlike most wine bars, you won’t find a wine list here – the 150-plus labels available are either chosen off the rack, or personally recommended by Scott or the bar’s general manager Karthivel Chandran. Both Old and New World wines are well represented, but it’s really the selection of Old World wines that catches our eye; classic labels like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château Lafite, Château De Fonbel and JPV Le Jardin de Petit Village were among the prized labels spotted here, and prices range from about RM250 to a few thousand ringgit for a Château Lafite. The casual drinker might baulk at such prices, but wine enthusiasts will be pleased to find such wines outside the confines of pricier city bars. Not that the place neglects the casual wine drinker. In fact, they’re the ones who stand to benefit the most from its generous
Taking up a cosy corner in Mr Chew’s Chino Latino Bar is Kirin Bar, boasting an impressive inventory of beers and Asian rice wines. A part of Mr Chew’s empire, the bar gives off zen vibe with white-painted brick walls, a white marble-top bar, light coloured wooden shelves and a scattering of mini potted plants around the space – a stark contrast to the main restaurant’s opulent Manhattan loft-meets-Shanghai jazz-era aesthetics. Coupled with a buy-one-free-one happy hour promo (available on weekdays from 5-8pm), the bar is an oasis of calm where you can wait out KL’s notorious rush hour traffic with a drink. As its name suggests, Kirin Bar serves up Kirin Ichiban beer on tap alongside other bottled beers such as Heineken, Hitachino, Rogue and more. But there’s more to this place than beer; ask for their selection of Asian rice wines and liquors like Japanese saké, soju and umeshu; Chinese baijiu and shaoxing; and Malaysian tuak. The bar also concocts their own range of ‘infused brews’ (RM18-RM20) by steeping portions of their rice wines with various Asian ingredients and spices for up to four days. We liked the cucumber and water chestnut-infused junmai saké – a full-bodied, clean-tasting shot that carries the sweetness of the cucumbers and water chestnut. The range of house-infused brews changes often, so be sure to head here every now and then to see what’s new. Those who come during their happy hour period can choose from a list that includes Kirin beer, Joo Lee Chan Mizh
The Flowerpecker is the bar KL needs right now. Occupying the breezy, sunlit space above Barat Mediterranean restaurant and serving wallet-friendly drinks, this bar stands in contrast to the dimly lit and pricey ‘speakeasy bars’ that were all the rage five years ago. It’s also the city’s first vermouth-focused bar. It was conceived in consultation with Omakase + Appreciate’s Shawn Chong, and is vegan-friendly to complement the food served at The Ganga Café and Barat – meaning there’s minimal use of eggs and dairy. Plus, The Flowerpecker is one of the rare cocktail bars in KL that open during the day, encouraging you to indulge in a low-ABV cocktail before moving on to more important things. The drinks served here reflect the bar’s casual and open feel; there’s little need for fancy bar-side theatrics or glassware – don’t expect to see Chinese teapots or smoked hay to arrive at your table – and most drinks are made by simply pouring, mixing and stirring. But that doesn’t mean that the drinks lack character or complexity: one favourite is the Pranic West Side (RM25), which is made with pranic juice, a shot of The Botanist gin and topped up with soda water. The combination of cardamom, pepper, cumin and mint in the pranic juice and the gin’s 22 botanicals results in a drink that has so much going on flavour-wise, while being light enough to be served as a refreshing apéritif or digestif. As this is a vermouth-focused bar, a visit here wouldn’t be complete without trying ou
Three X Co
Taking over the space Mr Brooks used to occupy in Bangsar Shopping Centre is another 'speakeasy'-style cocktail bar opened by three friends, Daniel, Eugene and Wai Hung. To find the place, look for the pop-up barbershop by Othrs. Barbers on the third floor, and pull on the wall panel that's plastered with a Muhammad Ali poster. Once inside, you'll find a dimly lit and cosy space that draws inspiration from 'The Great Gatsby' – deep emerald green walls, gold accents, leather sofas and impeccable glassware all work to create a modern and romanticised version of a speakeasy joint. At the bar, you'll find a range of house cocktails created by David Hans, who won the Giffard West Cup 2017 – so it's no surprise to find that several of their signature drinks feature Giffard's liqueurs. To begin, we recommend ordering Fairy Tales (RM46), a refreshing drink made with gin, melon liqueur, green apple, lemon juice and Calpis that starts off with light and sweet melon notes, before revealing a complex and lingering sweet-sour taste. If you like your drinks strong and simple, go for the Chocolat Fashioned (RM45), a take on the Old Fashioned made with Kraken spiced rum that's complemented with gula Melaka and a dash chocolate bitters. For those who seek a balanced drink that has a little kick, opt for the Blushing Melon (RM40), one of the bar's top sellers made with Jameson whisky, wild elderflower syrup, winter melon tea, lemon juice, cucumber and rosemary. This is a drink that goes do
Latest music interviews
Indie pop's brooding perfectionists The xx will be performing their maiden show in KL this Jan 25, bringing their distinct minimalistic sound to our shores. We had a quick chat with them about making music, their 2017 album 'I See You' and more. You guys have been playing music for almost 20 years now. How different do you find yourselves then and now as a band? Do you guys still approach music making the same way?We’ve definitely changed the way we work together as a band over the years. Recently we spent more time writing together and we put less restrictions on ourselves. In the past Romy and Oliver only used to write for themselves, and we would only write things we could play live. Now we have removed those guidelines and are a bit more musically free. Being friends for so long, is making music easier as a result? Or do you find being in a band together for so long affecting any relationship negatively?I think it can go both ways – we’ve had relationships and ended relationships and grown further apart and grown back closer together than ever before as friends. Over time, we found ourselves in each other, saw one another and appreciated each other a lot more. Something we’ve learned is that our friendship is what makes this band special – ‘I See You' is a reference to that. Speaking of which, ‘I See You’ was said to be titled after something Drake said. Is this true? What’s the story?No, it actually comes from a Velvet Underground track that we love: 'I’ll Be Your Mir
Three years after releasing his first fully Malay album, Joe Flizzow is back with a brand new single. This time gunning for international success, Joe returns to rapping in English for ‘Drop’. Your last release was about three years ago. How long has this single been in the works?Actually this single came out really quick. I wrote this song two and a half months ago, and within three weeks we shot the video. We kind of fast forwarded this track for it to come out at the end of the year. You mentioned that you have other singles coming up too. Why did you choose to release ‘Drop’ first?Actually the single that’s coming out after this one was supposed to come out first. But I requested to put the handbrakes on that particular track because I wanted ‘Drop’ to come out first. I just felt like there was something telling me ‘No, Joe, you got to release this one first. You got to release this one now’. For a song to be a hit you have to look at what’s out there as well. ‘Drop’ has an old school vibe, the island vibe. If the track were to be played in the States for example, the song wouldn’t be like anything out there at the moment. I don’t know if I can write another ‘Drop’, so the timing now is perfect. You said that the song is personal to you. How come?The subject matter is personal. Although it’s not too specific, I say certain things like ‘Same day ones with a different curfew, but everybody paid their dues don’t get it confused’. I can look at my team and I can show you
‘Too hardcore for indie kids, too indie for hardcore kids!’ exclaims Smek on the band’s crossover appeal. Unlike other punk bands in the city, Killeur Calculateur have carved out an audience many bands can only dream of, with just enough street cred to be taking the stage at Rumah Api one night, and hip enough to be playing at Good Vibes Festival on another. Formed in 2006, Killeur Calculateur consist of Smek and Rafique on guitars, Zamir playing the bass and Ali Johan (better known as Alijo) on drums. They’re known for their unique sound, a smorgasbord of influences from post-punk, emo and post-hardcore. We spoke to the band about their songwriting process, changes in the scene and more. How did you guys start?Smek: Back then we were just hanging out in Asia Café Subang and thought, ‘Hey, let’s form a band’. At the time, Alijo wasn’t in the band yet. We had different band member, Rafique was on drums and Zamir was playing the bass. And later after we released our demo we played a few shows, then the other guy who played guitar left. So Alijo came in to play the drums and Rafique moved to guitar. There was a gap between your last album, ‘Book of Flags’ and your debut EP, ‘Valley of the Dead’. Why was that?S: We wanted to make a full-length album, and albums take a long time to make. We also like to take a lot of time to work on the songs. Besides, when we presented them to our producer Ham Abdullah from Seven Collar T-Shirt he reworked them again. So yes, the recording pr
Airliftz is an internet sensation. The 19-year-old rapper has gained thousands of views on YouTube and has gotten similar numbers on Twitter with the freestyles he posts. In any case, Airliftz embodies everything about music these days – if you’re good on the internet, most likely you’ll make it IRL too. Ahead of his show at Good Vibes Festival, we spoke to the rapper about his foray into rap, his latest EP ‘BAGEL’ and more. You go by Airliftz now. But your rap name used to be Phaze right?Before Phaze, I was Lil Mooks because I was chubby and short, so they called me Lil Mooks. And I thought ‘Fuck that shit’, I have to change it to a more mature name like Phaze, because ‘phase’ means levels and it’s also a double entendre for ‘face’. So with the name, it’s kind of a statement about how I want to go on different levels with my face. Then I realised a lot of rappers were using that name, so I decided to go with Airliftz which is based on Aliff – my real name. How did you get into rap music?It all started back when I was a kid. I mean, I was rapping back then but I grew up listening to hip hop. I was really influenced by my brothers – I was busy listening to rap from their era like Too Phat, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and all that. Hip hop has been inside me ever since I was a kid. Do you remember the first rap song you listened to?[Starts rapping Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s ‘Change the World’] Bone Thugs’ ‘Change the World’. I remember my brother played it on the radio on cassette, an
Zamaera? Where have I heard her name before? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Zamaera is the latest rap sensation to come out of the city. Her debut single, ‘Helly Kelly’, blew up online and has amassed a whopping 70,000 views on YouTube since coming out in March. And recently, she just released her latest single, ‘Wanita’. I feel like I’ve heard her name somewhere else too. You’re probably remembering an NTV7 advertisement for one of their story-telling competitions a while ago (she was just a kid then). But more Zamaera than likely her name rings a bell because she has been featured in other artists’ songs. For example, she lent her sultry vocals on SonaOne’s song ‘I Don’t Want To Die Alone’ and Joe Flizzow’s ‘Aku Tak Kenal Mu’. So she’s with Kartel records? Not exactly. She first got on board with Kartel when she was 17 (she’s 22 now) and recorded some songs with them. But according to Zamaera, when she was with them she wasn’t a 100 percent focused on music yet, what with studies and an exchange programme in Germany taking up much of her time. Right now, she’s an independent artist who’s fully focused and ready to take the music industry by storm. So her song, ‘Helly Kelly’. Tell me more about it. ‘Helly Kelly’ is Zamaera’s grand entrance into the rap scene. After dabbling in R&B, Zamaera defied expectations by dropping a solid, hard-hitting rap song. But it’s more than just a rap number; ‘Helly Kelly’ reads more like a mission statement with Zamaera asserting
‘We're a cult!’ says Naufal Anwa, one of the co-founders of HOAX Vision. If you’ve ever been to any of their shows, you’d start thinking that was true too. At their last show in July 2016, ‘#HOAX 005’ at TREC’s Arte Bar, bouncers were forced to turn people away at the door because the place had reached capacity. Upstairs at Arte Bar, everyone was sweating profusely from the collective body heat of several hundred people packed onto a small dance floor. Despite all that, everyone was dancing and singing along whenever a HOAX artist took the mic. Many of them at the time didn’t have radio hits, only songs on the internet. But somehow, everyone knew the all the words to their songs. Maybe they are a cult. From the beginning HOAX Vision was founded by two friends, Farhan Fauzi and Naufal Anwa. While both young and rebellious, they aren’t exactly leading the rapstar lifestyle you’d expect. Farhan, 21, who raps under the moniker Bastard, is currently in Berlin, doing a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Naufal, 22, is a regular name in the KL DJ circuit and is currently finishing his degree in Economics at the International Islamic University Malaysia. They forged a friendship through Twitter two years before starting HOAX. Apart from bonding over sneakers and streetwear, Farhan caught Naufal’s attention with his rants and observations about the Malaysian music scene. ‘I was really loud on Twitter and talked a lot of shit there. I had a lot of bitterness about how thi
KL's best music and nightlife
The best karaoke joints in KL
KL is a karaoke paradise (geddit?), but how good is their sound system, the food, and most importantly, the variety of Queen songs we can sing endlessly to? We rank the city’s best in our list. If you need ideas on the best karaoke-friendly songs to sing, see our list of the 50 best karaoke songs.
The best clubs for dancing in KL
Looking for a fun night out dancing? Check out the best clubs, rooftop party decks and underground DJ dens to bust out those slick moves without shame. If you prefer to sing and dance in a private room (with only your friends as an audience), see our list of the best karaoke joints in town, and be sure to sing along to our 50 best karaoke songs.