Get us in your inbox

Local tracks 2016

The top 30 local tracks of 2016

Time Out KL picks the best local releases of the year

Written by
Nadia Rosli
Su Ann Ng

It’s been a good year for local music and 30 barely covers it all. Just as we mentioned last year, there is no science or mathematics to this, these are the songs that we listened to the most throughout the year.

Listen on Spotify.

The instrumental rock band Skits is a collection of self-described outcasts of bands such as Free Deserters and Citizens of Ice Cream. In a way, it sort of makes sense in their music – like taking the best bits of their former bands but minus the vocals because who needs that shit. ‘Fall From Grace’, our favourite track from their debut album sounds like an adventure – the kind where Kassim Selamat from ‘Ibu Mertuaku’ is guiding you halfway, and by that we mean he is sampled in the song. The video, featuring an undersea explorer lost at land is the first of three videos and we look forward to the rest of the series. Nadia Rosli
‘Hey Orang Kita Mocksong’ by The Venopian Solitude
The local scene's most feisty girl singer The Venopian Solitude aka Takahara Suiko hits several important milestones this year including being invited to Red Bull Music Academy and getting a role in Zara Kahan’s web series ‘Hey Orang Kita’. Being on the latter has inspired her to write ‘Hey Orang Kita Mocksong’ – a simple but heartbreaking song that starts as a confession and grows into an anthem of strength and grit. Takahara claims that for now the song is only half done but even at medium rare, we still dig it. Nadia Rosli
‘Kamu Chantek’ by Orang Malaya feat. Danye, Ninjaboy
The year 2016 has been the year that the young rapper lays low – but of course, not completely silent. It’s funny how it took Orang Malaya one album and a few collaborative EPs here and there to finally come up with a completely Malay track. Joined by Krayziesoundz’s Danye and Ninjaboy, the track is catchy and naturally a fuckboi anthem because ‘kamu chantek / macam gadis dari Los Angeles’. If you hear this on a weekend night out at TREC, don’t forget to (maybe) holla-balik. Nadia Rosli
‘Home to You’ by Rozella
Tiger Jams winner Rozella together with partner in crime Darren Ashley churned out this beautiful smooth electropop number. If you follow Ashley’s regular Monday Juice series, you’ll hear his signature sounds, and it brings out the best in Rozella’s silky vocals as well, making the track a sort of comforting homecoming song. Nadia Rosli
‘Sad Story of Michiko’ by SynthPunk

25. ‘Sad Story of Michiko’ by SynthPunk

SynthPunk has been active on SoundCloud for the past six months at least, and as far as we can tell, the North Bornean producer is a part of the up-and-coming funk vaporwave collective Sunrise. Sonically, SynthPunk is heavy on the samples – by genre definition – and ‘Sad Story of Michiko’, despite its title, makes us happy, actually. Its twinkling future funk soundscape recalls Japanese synth pop and oil-slicked city-pop, with airy vocals sitting atop. Ng Su Ann
‘Neko’ by Analog K feat. Anamida
Analog K meets Anamida – a match made in Melodiya Recordings heaven – and the two appear to have met in the middle. The resulting track, ‘Neko’ – Japanese for ‘cat’ – is a shining display of synths. It’s a melding of happy, twinkly sounds that mask the song’s despair and disappointment, but not the stars; ‘No love, no spark, don’t want to do it again,’ Anamida steadily coos, backed by Analog K’s sure harmonies. Ng Su Ann
‘Aqua BB’ is possibly the strangest Adam Kasturi song, in the sense that this is the wild card pop song in his discography – which is not necessarily a bad thing at all. The song echoes the naiveté of a first love: ‘aku tak rasa kau biasa / jadi aku kekal denganmu’. It’s so happy it’s almost cute that by the end of the song, you’ll find yourself grinning like an idiot, and we don’t blame you. Splash! Nadia Rosli
Dugong Jr (pioneering producer, Melbourne) meets dream duo +2dB – and the result is ‘Aliens’, a ‘durian- and mangosteen-infused summer soundtrack’ released via Mad Decent’s imprint ‘Good Enuff’, no less. ‘Aliens’, fittingly, lives up to its name; it sees the union of sci-fi, speed and synths. You haven’t heard +2dB quite like this before; their vocals are chopped up in this track – it’s guttural and garbled, masked in head-swimming beat miscreants in the bass-esque, bouncy club dance style that’s so specific to Dugong Jr’s sound. Ng Su Ann
‘Get It Sudah’ by Ørumari
Jin Hackman of Raising The Bar ‘made a new Soundcloud page just so some guy called Ørumari could upload his new song’ ‘Get It Sudah’ – and if that isn’t a sizable stamp of approval, we don’t know what is. Rapper and producer Ørumari – you might know him as Edmund Anand, formerly known as Ego – is defiant here; the writing is sharp, and buried in the songs are pointed digs: ‘Rappers yang suka jaga tepi kain korang baik jual baju,’ he raps. ‘Kau masih nak jual lagu?’ If you don’t get it, sudah. Ng Su Ann
‘Baby I’m Here’ by F i 7 i feat. ZSYIA
‘Baby I’m Here’, featuring ZSYIA’s vocals – less breathy here, more come hither – is a compact confection very different from what you’ve come to expect of a HOAX Vision track. Awash in ’80s new wave and ZSYIA’s spritely singing, complete with a ‘na-na-na’ riff at the song’s midpoint, ‘Baby I’m Here’ is altogether a breezy nugget of glimmer that brings to mind dancing in dark clubs – and then the end comes too soon. Also check out F i 7 i's 'Disconinety-Six' EP, featuring future funk remixes of Old Malaya classics. Ng Su Ann
IZTRU – Hafidz Adam and Syukri Yunus – can’t resist a little bit of crackle. The duo does an astonishing amount with a little: a little chiptune, a little noise, a slinky beat. ‘vvavvasan’ has a fuzzy, lightning-in-a-bottle vibrancy; it isn’t afraid to take the listener on a lived-in lo-fi journey into a realm of raw pop minimalism. The lyrics are a gentle triumph, beautiful to behold: the conflicting ‘kebumikan perasaan’ in the first line versus ‘kendurikan perasaan’ in the second verse, and the chorus goes: ‘Satu satu saya tahu / dua dua pun serupa, rupanya’. The Jasin tag team has put out all of two songs thus far – ‘vvavvasan’ being the second – but we’re calling it: it’s good, and it’s the sort of stuff that makes you wonder what other lost gems are out there floating in the obscure pockets of the Malaysian musical firmament. Ng Su Ann
‘Air’ by Juno and Hanna
Electro-dreampop sibling duo Juno and Hanna’s ‘Air’, taken off their first EP of the same name, sounds just as the song title suggests: Like air and with plenty of room to breathe. ‘Air’ is their most famous song which might mislead everyone into thinking that they’re a completely sombre duo, but they are not (at least not all the time). So if you have the chance, listen to the whole beautifully-crafted six-song EP. Nadia Rosli
‘Crashed Satellite’ by Home Court
A brief introduction: Home Court is DaeRiff is Dae Kim and Yang Ariff (a The Bat Cave affiliated act and member of the now-defunct KLG Sqwad). It appears the duo is KL’s latest producer/rapper dream team; Dae Kim, the KL-based Korean beatmaker, debuts his union with Yang Ariff with a blend of skeletal synths, finding his counterpart and a common ground in the rapper’s loose rhymes, allowing Yang Ariff just enough space to flex his flow muscles. ‘Crashed Satellite’ comes across like chatter: freestyle, a stream-of-consciousness narration, laced with melody magic courtesy of Dae Kim. Ng Su Ann
‘7 O’clock’ by Kyogg
Kyogg is compelling. That is to say, Kyogg – made up of Fahmi and Kimal – isn’t easy to listen to, exactly; the melody is sometimes meandering, now slowed down, then sped up. Its conflicting time signatures, its unexpected starts and stops – really, ‘7 O’clock’ is frenzied psychedelic rock, purposefully punishing, but has an immediacy that grabs you, retains you, sucks you in as you attempt in vain to peel back its polyrhythmic layers. ‘You’re still young, that’s your fault / I’m old / I know that you’re tired of loving love’, they sing, with the bleary-eyed, world-weary conviction of two people still in their youth. Ng Su Ann
For all of his formula tweaks, OJ Law always gets back to basics, to a signature sound: making warm – but wistful – indie-pop, making art out of his uncertainties, but with the lightest touch. A year after he put out his fourth album ‘Let’s Be Adult’ – perhaps Malaysia’s first great modern indie-pop work – OJ Law has released his latest single ‘After All'. It’s very pretty, to say the least, following in the lush, textured electronic footsteps of ‘Let’s Be Adult’ – and then there’s the wide-eyed wonder and winning melancholy of the lyrics: ‘After all this time / after all the years / after everything / I still want you I still love you I still need you’. Even after all this time, after all the years, OJ Law is still our favourite tongue-tied introvert. Ng Su Ann
‘I like to break myself,’ she begins to sing, softly, ‘You probably didn’t know that’. The singer-songwriter works through several devastating themes on her latest single: love and loneliness; her exasperation, displayed front and centre; a pretty pedicure hiding her pain, like a too-wide smile stretched over sad lips. There’s a lot going on sonically; it’s a song that’s carefully, painstakingly crafted. The beats build up in the background: it grows into a full groove – the bass thumps, the synths twirl – but stutters and segues, and the last minute of the song sounds like a lullaby for the self. ‘It’s time to come clean that what we want is less than what we need.’ Ng Su Ann
‘Places To Go’ by Yuna
The Malaysian-made singer-songwriter splits her time between Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles, but she needs ‘another place to go’, ‘a place to call home’. ‘Places to Go’ (produced by DJ Premier) marks a move away from her signature acoustic, indie-pop and R&B sound to funkytown and hip hop territory. ‘I feel like work is overbearing me / … / Everyone is making hits / I just want to take a break from everything that I’ve been’, she sings on ‘Places to Go’ in her lilting, yearning vocals. ‘How tiring work is,’ she continues. Celebrities, they’re just like us. Ng Su Ann
‘Kemudi’ by Pitahati
Pitahati’s ‘Selamat Datang Ke Panggung Suara’ is full of gems but one that sticks to us the most is this simple two-and-a-half minute track. The word ‘kemudi’ means to navigate. In this case, we kemudi our ears to a smooth-sailing journey through nostalgia as shown in the music video by Emir Nazren – a beautiful compilation of Malaysian film classics such as ‘Kami’, ‘Sikit Punya Gila’ and ‘Wira Angkasa’. Nadia Rosli
'Naga' by Lust

10. 'Naga' by Lust

The hotly-tipped Lust, of which Orang is one-fourth, spent the better part of the first quarter of the year busying themselves with the release of ‘chingichanga’, which has the courage of all its five tracks’ convinction, and then some. ‘Naga’ gets noisy; its bold, frenetic beats are chirpy and powerfully plangent – and very, very fun. Ng Su Ann

'Apa Lagi Kita Mau' by A-Kid feat. K-Main and Klash

9. 'Apa Lagi Kita Mau' by A-Kid feat. K-Main and Klash

Rap rages against racism, sort of, in A-Kid’s ‘Apa Lagi Kita Mau’ featuring Klash and K-Main. Many artists have been politicising their music in popular culture – Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ – and to ease into the exploration of what really makes Malaysia, A-Kid and co. contribute to the conversation via candid, tongue-in-cheek humour. Ng Su Ann

'Kuala Lumpur' by Bayangan

8. 'Kuala Lumpur' by Bayangan

‘Kuala Lumpur’ strikes a nerve; it’s relentlessly immediate to KLites, us who are plagued by the sort of problems other cities (dare we say it, countries) have, but that we have so much more of. ‘Kuala Lumpur’ is a love letter of sorts to the city; an ode, a plea to ‘terus bercahaya’, even as the city – and the song – steadily swells towards severity. Ng Su Ann

7. 'Pemacu Api' by Toko Kilat

‘Pemacu Api’, mastered by Frank Arkwright of Abbey Road Studios, whose discography reads like a who’s who of music greats (Joy Division, Morrissey, The Smiths), is shot through with seething urgency – a sonic landscape stricken with fire, thunder, lightning. Apt, as there’s no camouflaging Toko Kilat’s commitment to the rock’n’roll cause. Ng Su Ann

'Try' by Ali Aiman

6. 'Try' by Ali Aiman

The atmospheric, slow-burning beauty ‘Try’ is reminiscent of Ali Aiman’s debut with ‘Breathe’ in 2014, but as claps wriggled atop minimalist lines and restrained keys, it sounds like the producer/ musician has souped up his bedroom studio in the two years since. ‘Try’ is triumphant. Ng Su Ann

5. 'Lonely Boogie' by lurkgurl

‘I do the lonely boogie in my bedroom / I do the tragic tango’, she sings on ‘Lonely Boogie’, a self-portrait of a wallflower who likes her safe spaces. Above all, ‘Lonely Boogie’ is a meditation on the art of being alone. lurkgurl’s EP is the heir apparent to Karen O’s ‘Crush Songs’: the chord changes are delicate and the vocals are wispy, warranting repeated listens. Ng Su Ann

'Fake Friends' by Emir Hermono

4. 'Fake Friends' by Emir Hermono

Emir Hermono sings ‘tell me more about your fake friends’ – but he doesn’t really want to know about your fake friends, he just needs to know ‘if you know it’s 3am and you’re alone’. The track is laced with dripping derision about the yawning emptiness of having ‘posts full of likes’ in the digital age, which is, well, #relatable. Ng Su Ann

'stoop so low' by alextbh

3. 'stoop so low' by alextbh

alextbh has something to say, ie alextbh is having a pop at the shallowness, the superficiality of same-sex relationships, and these lines are straight-up savage: ‘You switch boys like you switch lanes’, ‘I hate the sex’, ‘I’ll admit that you played me, but I’m wide awake and I’m over it’. If anything, ‘stoop so low’ is proof that alextbh has the goods – the pitter-patter of percussions, the thumping synths – and that he’ll deliver. Ng Su Ann

'Oh Dewiku' by Ramayan
Photo: Alef Syazwan

2. 'Oh Dewiku' by Ramayan

There’s an honesty, a humbleness to the song: ‘Oh dewiku, berikan ku masa ’tuk lihat bagaimana telah ku mengguriskan hatimu’ seems less playful and something of more profound proportions in the hands of Pi’e and co. Sculpted from the gentle strums of guitar leads, intertwined to lysergic, kaleidoscopic effect, Ramayan’s ‘Oh Dewiku’ is a reminder that rock is alive and well. Ng Su Ann

'R U Down With It' by Orang

1. 'R U Down With It' by Orang

Two people bickering over where to vacation – ‘We can talk about seeing what you want to / we can talk about going where you want to’ – are two people finding the feelings beneath the fight. Mystery outlier-pop man Orang’s ‘R U Down With It’ is bright, guilelessly beautiful, and feels a lot like the future. On a sidenote, Botanic Records will be releasing limited edition cassette tapes for Orang's 'Everyone' EPNg Su Ann

Listen on Spotify

#throwback to 2015

    You may also like
    You may also like