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Cayenne
Photograph: Cayenne

Local Vocal: fresh new music from Singapore this week

This bi-weekly music series brings you the city's freshest music export that we've got played on repeat

By Cam Khalid
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Need some local flavour to spice up your music playlists? Discover the Singapore sound from the city's freshest music exports with Local Vocal, our new music series. Here, we spotlight the latest and hottest tracks from Singapore's rising singer-songwriters, veteran bands, multihyphenated producers, and other audial ambassadors of the local music scene. Expect indie bops, pop bangers, dance anthems, hip-hop beats, R&B hits, and genre-mutating tunes that deserve more airplay. Think music scene here isn't vibrant enough? We beg to differ.

RECOMMENDED: 50 best local songs to have in your music playlist and 7 local musicians that should be on your radar in 2020

Currently playing

Drivin’ Away by Cayenne

You know Celine Autumn as the vocalist of indie trio Sobs, but do you know her as Cayenne? Taking a different route from Sobs, Celine’s new solo route under the moniker Cayenne takes inspiration from the likes of Charli XCX’s avant-pop and AG Cook’s PC music to produce a playful track that’s part dance music, part bubblegum pop, and part indie-rock. Unlike Sobs, Cayenne’s vocals are heavily autotuned, but it works given the video game aesthetics of the track and music video.

Drivin’ Away is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Feel Too Much by Jawn

There’s not much local music featuring the Irish fiddle. But Jawn’s comeback foot-stompin’ tune could easily be slotted into a folk-rock playlist full of Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and Of Monsters and Men. Packed with relatable lyrics and folk masculinity, this upbeat single makes up for the singer-songwriter’s five-year hiatus. “I wanted to write something that made both me and the people around me feel good. Call it good aftercare after all the sad stuff, taking responsibility for the feelings and turning it around to something celebratory,” he shares.

Feel Too Much is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Cry by Dominic Chin

This isn’t your average sob song. Instead, the R&B track sounds like a baby-making jam of the late 90s, and early Noughties – or something out of Nick Jonas’ discography (note those gospel-inflected arrangements). Lyrics-wise, it’s breaking social demands, telling the listeners that it’s OK to cry and that doing so isn’t less masculine. “I used the term ‘cry’ as a symbol in the song to represent all the unfair expectations that others place on us. We came into this world crying and yet somehow it has become ‘feminine’ to do so,” he points out. It’s definitely a theme that isn’t typically discussed in Singapore’s mainstream pop music, so big up to Dominic Chin in beautifully delivering it through the power of music.

Cry is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Catch & Release by Tim De Cotta

Got some Jordan Rakei, Tom Misch, or Anderson .Paak spilling through your speakers? Now, add Singapore’s multi-hyphenated artist Tim De Cotta to the mix. His new super chill single Catch & Release hops onto the soul train with the singer-songwriter’s silky smooth vocals, groovy basslines, and a drum sample that emphasises the throwback influence. It comes as part of a trilogy of singles from his upcoming Heart Matter EP, which is his latest project since his 2017 debut Heartstrings EP.

Catch & Release is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Dru Chen
Dru Chen
Photograph: The Linch Agency

Givin It Up by Dru Chen

If Dua Lipa’s sophomore album Future Nostalgia got you ‘levitating’, then rising funk-soul star Dru Chen’s new single will raise you higher. Along with Prince’s guitarist and band member Harts and Dr. Fink, Dru takes you Funkytown with this electropop jam that’s riddled with 00s pool-party electrofunk to 90s nu-disco influences. It features the self-certified music geek showing off his range of vocals from low, sultry croons to high-hitting notes. Together, it makes a funky antidote for another mundane day, especially during this pandemic.

Givin It Up is available on music streaming platforms on October 30.

What we've played

Splinter by Myrne (with Salem Ilese)

Sounds like a dream, Splinter is a collaboration between local DJ and producer Myrne, and American Tik Tok sensation Salem Ilese. "[It] started out originally as a song that Salem sent over – it was a downtempo, slow-paced song about being with someone with a bit of an abuse streak. I really liked the idea that she had, and gave the original a bit of a pop-punk lean, whilst keeping to my electronic roots,” Myrne shares with us. It doesn’t matter where you stand on the electronic spectrum, the single has an effortless blend of subgenres from electropop to chill synthwave. Topped with Salem’s delicate vocals, it surfaces as part of the new crop of melodic dream-pop that’s trending nowadays.

Splinter is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

For Life by Eve Alai and Senara

Another collaboration you won’t want to sleep on, For Life sees the reunion of local producer-songwriter Eve Alai and Sri Lankan pop darling Senara who joined forces earlier this year for dance floor filler Pills and Potion. There’s no denying that these two have magnetic musical chemistry that our boogie bone can’t resist. The duo’s second dance collaboration shines with Eve’s signature blend of deep house and nu-disco that’s complemented by Senara’s versatile vocal chops, which ebbs and flows through a range of notes.

For Life is available on Spotify

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Guilty by Abbey

Internet personality Abbey is redefining herself as a singer-songwriter with her debut original solo track Guilty. Written as part of the Shine Talent Development Programme, the emotive downtempo number amalgamates Abbey’s lush vocals with hints of R&B and producer J.Son’s trademark pop sensibilities. Together with the tension and releases in the arrangement and lyrics of intense feeling, the song manages to evoke a sense of confusion, guilt, and inner conflict that’s relatable to anyone who has experienced unrequited love.

Guilty is available on Spotify.

Song for the Underdog by Annette Lee

Multi-hyphenated girl-next-door Annette Lee recently released her second EP early this month. Titled Song For The Underdog, it's produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Jerricho Scroggins, and hit-maker Colton Price. While the EP is empowering as a whole, the other tracks are overshadowed by the title track which stands out as a pop power anthem for, well, the underdog. The pumping, synth-coated pop cliché is locked and loaded with uplifting lyrics including a chant of “I rule the world with the power inside of me” that builds in momentum before the drop, releasing the enormous energy it needs as a power track.

Song for the Underdog is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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If The World Ends Tomorrow by Qastalani

After the 2019 release of his debut EP Hope I’m Not Too Late, emerging singer-songwriter Qastalani is back with more chill vibes. This time in the form of an R&B ballad If The World Ends Tomorrow (seems like there’s a trend centred around time), which is beefier than the previously released, stripped-down tracks but still as mellow and emotive. Here, Qastalani delves deeper into his vocal range while experimenting with kick drums, snares, and hi-hats, as well as the reverb effect on the guitar. If it’s anything to go by, it’s that this up-and-comer has a few surprises up his sleeve.

If The World Ends Tomorrow is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Y Didn’t You Say So by Haneri

Together with its disco-esque cover and opening, Y Didn’t You Say So can be easily mistaken for a Doja Cat cover. While in the same direction towards boogie wonderland, Haneri’s (aka Daphne Khoo) frothy track takes a different turn – away from Doja’s raspy, quick-hitting rap flow. It’s layered with groovy basslines, funky beats, and what sounds like hiccups in the background, all coated in Haneri’s trademark doll-like, nasally vocals. Nonetheless, it’s still a party-startin’ combo of funk, pop and dance that could do with a viral Tik Tok choreo of its own.

Y Didn’t You Say So is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Sickleberry Sunsets by Wovensound

Sickleberry Sunsets is centred by a mesmerising hook that features Shak singing “It’s music to my ears” – and we couldn’t agree more. Taking a page out of Brockhampton and Tyler the Creator’s books, producer Wovensound weaves in elements of lo-fi, jazz and hip-hop to create a track that sounds like a road trip. It takes you on a sonic adventure through various sections of the song, with each artist bringing their own flavour – Ihasamic! with his punchy rap verses, Shak with his arresting, soulful vocals, Andrew Marko with his fiery bars, and Raina Sum with her haunting, minimalist bridge.

Sickleberry Sunsets is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Beautiful Monsters by J.M3

This haunting composition cleverly captures the gothic element of Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is, of course, the inspiration for this alt-electro track. It starts as a downtempo affair before propelling into something more upbeat, roping in more production elements – a reflection to show the duality of contrasting and sometimes conflicting sides of a complex individual. With the 3D animated music video by a mystery visual artist in Indonesia, Beautiful Monsters could easily be packaged as a contemporary remix of Coraline.

Beautiful Monsters is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Feeling Like… by Shye

If Alvvays and Japanese Breakfast had a baby and it sounds like a Billie Eilish-Clairo combo, it’d probably be the straightforward bouncy romp of Feeling Like… Unlike her previous releases, bedroom pop darling Shye speeds things up in this upbeat track about waking on the wrong side of the bed. But it’s just as good. It’s got everything you could want in an indie-pop tune – jangling guitars, surf-pop riffs, catchy hooks, and reverb-drenched, whisper-pop vocals. 

Feeling Like... is available on Spotify.

You Are The Song by Chasing Daylight

If danceable indie tunes à la Two Door Cinema Club and The Wombats get both of your two left feet moving, the rest of your limbs will follow with Chasing Daylight’s latest release from its two-year hiatus. The energetic, self-love anthem marks the alternative-rock outfit’s skew towards indie-pop, with all the genre’s usual suspects – bright synths, catchy guitar riffs, and a power pop-rock beat with a strong emphasis on the kicks and snares. Along with the feel-good track, the band also hopes to raise awareness on emotional and mental health, especially among the youths, by teaming up with more social service organisations. You can catch its interviews and more on its social media pages.

You Are The Song  is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Don’t Say It by Sarah X. Miracle

It’s hard not to mention how Sarah X. Miracle’s soulful colouring of her dark, smoky tone à la Sade gravitates you towards the songstress’ debut single every time you hit replay. A magnetic combo of pop-driven beats and R&B-fuelled notes girded by a Dua Lipa-esque timbre and topped with celestial falsettos, the assertive track embodies a fresh expression of female empowerment. It’s a push to confront the discomfort without ghosting – something that should be championed in the art of dating.

Don’t Say It is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Good Friend by Keat

Roll out the disco ball for the first dancefloor filler off Keat’s debut EP I Was Dumb But Now I’m Woke. The main groove is a synth-drenched composition that’s accentuated with refreshing string arpeggios – reminiscent of Abba’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! or Clean Bandit’s Rather Be, depending on where you stand on the boogie banger spectrum. Nonetheless, the electro-pop wizard, together with music producer Zionn, managed to nail the dance anthem combo that’s equally nostalgic and modern.

Good Friend is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Miss Me by Sebastian Rhodes Featuring Ysa Yaneza

Video game music has evolved from its 8-bit origin, and this glitchy yet sparkly pop bop sounds like the national anthem of a whimsical cyberworld – think Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout or Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The eclectic pairing of Australian artist Sebastian Rhodes and Filipina-Singaporean songbird Ysa Yaneza works in this PC-inspired jam that name drops exes. Name one Taylor Swift song that name drops her ex – and no, Style does not count. We’ll wait.

Miss Me is available on Spotify.

Loved Again by Vivien Yap

The new guitar-pickin’ good single by singer-songwriter, poet, and mental health advocate Vivien Yap sounds like a sonic love letter that’s signed, sealed, and delivered during a rainy lockdown day (note that raindrop sound in the second verse). The bedroom soft-pop is as intimate as it can be, ticking all the boxes including plum-sweet vocals, imagery-filled lyrics, and super lush instrumentation. It’s the perfect lullaby to soundtrack your rom-com fantasies starring your new crush or long-time boo.

Loved Again is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Long Way From Home by Toby Madox

Together with a rebrand (previously known as Miguel Antonio) and profound lyrics, the synth-heavy brainchild of Toby Madox and LA-based songwriter Vince Nantes (one of the penners behind BTS’s Black Swan) makes a great introduction to the 19-year-old pop wunderkind’s mature side, evolved from his child star days which include being the youngest performer at the F1 Singapore Grand Prix in 2014. But don’t expect an avant-garde tour de force, the fail-safe pop tune is definitely one for the mainstream play that’ll hit a home run for Gen-Z fans of Liam Payne, Lauv, and Ruel.

Long Way From Home is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Next to You by Estelle Fly

TGIF – so bust a move or two to Estelle Fly’s latest dancefloor grinder. Produced by J.Son and Evanturetime, it’s an exhilarating concoction of infectious beats, catchy lyrics and a solid groove, all topped with bits of K-Pop. There’s no denying that together with the electro-pop singer-dancer, the producers have nailed a failsafe formula for the mainstream. And it’s not always a bad thing. While it sounds like another one of those cliche pop chart-toppers a la Ariana Grande and Zara Larrson, Next to You is undoubtedly a feel-good track for that Friday feeling of freedom.

Next to You is available on Spotify.

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Amazing by Yung Raja, Alyph and Trifect

With a rhythmic introduction – think steel drums of the Caribbean – and what sounds like water, the airy track starts off with an amazing reminiscent of the beach, poolside, or “vacay”. The track is a synthesis of hip-hop and bossa nova influences, and while intrepid, it is strikingly uplifting. Aside from Yung Raja’s fire bars, producers Alyph (one-half of SleeQ) and Trifect helped beef out the track by adding the magnetic backdrop of booming bass, cheery synths, and loping beat. It’s definitely one to welcome the weekend with.

Amazing is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

My Type by brb.

If Amazing is the daiquiri, My Type is the pina colada. Another summery track – and more steel drums – the R&B trio’s latest single is a sweet, breezy love song packed with tropical beats and dreamy vocals. It’s groovy, infectious, and easy-on-the-ears – altogether a signature brand of the brb. sound. Unlike the somber songs from their debut album Relationsh*t, My Type takes a more jovial turn. The first single off the trio’s upcoming sophomore EP, it also doubles as a preview for the 2021 release, so expect a more cheerful approach.

My Type is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Omelette Du Hommage by Cinnamon Persimmon

Swap the mainstream for the alternative with this Baybeats alumni. Besides the clever wordplay, Omelette Du Hommage is a carnivalesque track that makes an ace introduction to the emerging five-piece indie outfit and its eclectic sound – a chaotic-good mix of funk, math, and psychedelia. The alluring ruckus off the group’s debut EP Bird’s Eye features slices of dark tones and euphoric vibes amidst notes of 90s nostalgia. If this power-packed tune is only the starter, then we’re hungry for the mains.

Omelette Du Hommage is available on Spotify.

Alone by Dominic Chin

Take a breather with this slow jam that sees the crooner reveal his struggles with anxiety. The intimate track is laced with whispery vocals accompanied by a minimalist, electro-pop beat that somewhat emits a sense of melancholy. There’s also a hint of desperation in the singer-songwriter’s hushed cries, “Dear don't let me go, let me go tonight.” While it’s quite forlorn, the song’s not exactly a killjoy either. Think of it as a comforting reminder that it’s okay to feel out of sorts when you’re going through life’s darkest moments.

Alone is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Discover the Singapore sound

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Ken Loh
Photo: Ken Loh

Busking 101: Singapore's busking scene

Music

Find yourself stopping in your tracks to listen to an acoustic rendition of Oasis’ Wonderwall along Orchard Road? You’re not alone. Singapore's home to plenty of street musicians who turn public spaces into their stage – with special permits, of course.

Opening doors for street performers in the city, the Busking Scheme was introduced in 1997 to champion talented individuals and give carte blanche to express themselves and interact with the audience in a public setting. To be able to do so, have to apply early and prep up for the audition in advance. You'll then be notified within four to five weeks from the date of the audition. Once you've received the Busking Card, you're free to flex your musical chops within a validity period at designated busking locations including Orchard Road, Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Marina Bay.

But contrary to popular belief, buskers aren’t just performing for your loose change. We chat to some of the city's talented street performers to get to know what goes on behind the covers and mash-ups. Who knows? One of them might be a viral video away from becoming the next Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber.

RECOMMENDED: EDM 101: An introduction to Singapore's electronic dance music scene and 6 local musicians that should be on your radar in 2019

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