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Marian Carmel
Photograph: Khairul Ameer/Marian Carmel

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

Cam Khalid
Written 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 bi-weekly music series. Here, we spotlight the latest and hottest tracks from Singapore's breakout singer-songwriters, veteran bands, multi-hyphenated 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 the music scene here isn't vibrant enough? We beg to differ.

RECOMMENDED: 50 best local songs to have in your music playlist and 8 local musicians that should be on your radar in 2021

Currently playing

The devil works hard but Jasmine Sokko’s manager works harder. The MTV EMA-winning singer-songwriter-producer triple threat is the first Singaporean artist to be featured on Spotify's Equal playlist cover and the New York Times Square outdoor billboard. Spotlighting Singapore on the global stage, Jasmine is back with a soft, futuristic electro-pop single Tetris, another preview of her upcoming EP which is slated for a September 2021 release. Inspired by the tile-matching video game of the same name, the single radiates with the singer’s dulcet tones, brilliant synths, and four-to-the-floor rhythm patterns.

About the song, she shares: “The song is a celebration of the eccentrics, the outliers and the mavericks who are unapologetically themselves in a society that often craves for assurance, acceptance and attention.”

Joining forces with rapper Axel Brizzy, multi-hyphenated artist Dnl. translates his wishful thinking into a buttery summer bop titled Fantasy. The single is one of the many creations in the works that are set to be rolled out later this year, and features Dnl.’s triplet flow over a euphonic combo of bass-heavy loops and shimmering synths. Axel’s solid bars push the mellow track even further by toying with pop references, rhyme patterns and speed. It mirrors the highs of euphoric fantasy. And as Dnl. puts it – it’s “a piece that would resonate with any hopeless romantic soul out there.”

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After a six-year hiatus, singer-songwriter Jaime Wong returns with a new bass-driven single which is taken off her forthcoming EP. A bold departure from the theme of her debut self-titled EP, I Swore I’d Stop Writing About You experiments with different sounds and textures (read: bass, reverb and distortion) while retaining her DNA of warm, folk-esque vocals and acoustic guitars. The break-up song doesn’t just wallow in heartbreak, but instead, accepts and sees things the way they are. It also reflects Jaime’s mental conflict of constantly writing about the same old, same old.

“It came to a point that I completely stopped writing songs just to avoid that repetition process. Eventually, I stopped thinking and decided to write whatever that came to mind. By doing this, I truly managed to stop writing about the same things over and over again, and this is reflected in the new music I will be releasing as part of the new EP.” Jaime shares.

The perfect song to waltz solo around your bedroom, Marian Carmel’s latest soulful jam touches on the complexities of relationships and heartbreaks. Complete with the singer-songwriter’s ethereal vocals, You Like The Chase juxtaposes the light, airy front with a darker, inflamed undertone. Instead of the pensive sadness that’s peppered in her previous melancholic tracks, the single reveals Marian’s playful and sarcastic side – listen out for her subtle giggles and snide comments.

As the cherry on top, Marian has also rolled out the #WhereDoIBegin challenge on TikTok, where the opening lyrics “Boy oh boy, where do I even begin?” doubles as the punchline for the skit-formatted challenge. You Like The Chase is also one of the singles leading up to her debut concept album that’s slated to be out later this year.

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There’s something special about listening to an empowering song full of hope on Pink Dot’s recent livestream. QYO’s live performance of her emotive debut single Waiting for a Change isn’t only fitting for the LGBTQ-affirming event but also pushes us to strive for the change needed to make Singapore a more inclusive nation. The local singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares that the song “symbolises the changes and challenges that people [herself included] have gone through in life, and how change is best embraced with optimism.”

What we've played

Tetris by Jasmine Sokko

The devil works hard but Jasmine Sokko’s manager works harder. The MTV EMA-winning singer-songwriter-producer triple threat is the first Singaporean artist to be featured on Spotify's Equal playlist cover and the New York Times Square outdoor billboard. Spotlighting Singapore on the global stage, Jasmine is back with a soft, futuristic electro-pop single Tetris, another preview of her upcoming EP which is slated for a September 2021 release. Inspired by the tile-matching video game of the same name, the single radiates with the singer’s dulcet tones, brilliant synths, and four-to-the-floor rhythm patterns.

About the song, she shares: “The song is a celebration of the eccentrics, the outliers and the mavericks who are unapologetically themselves in a society that often craves for assurance, acceptance and attention.”

Fantasy by Dnl. featuring Axel Brizzy

Joining forces with rapper Axel Brizzy, multi-hyphenated artist Dnl. translates his wishful thinking into a buttery summer bop titled Fantasy. The single is one of the many creations in the works that are set to be rolled out later this year, and features Dnl.’s triplet flow over a euphonic combo of bass-heavy loops and shimmering synths. Axel’s solid bars push the mellow track even further by toying with pop references, rhyme patterns and speed. It mirrors the highs of euphoric fantasy. And as Dnl. puts it – it’s “a piece that would resonate with any hopeless romantic soul out there.”

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I Swore I’d Stop Writing About You by Jaime Wong

After a six-year hiatus, singer-songwriter Jaime Wong returns with a new bass-driven single which is taken off her forthcoming EP. A bold departure from the theme of her debut self-titled EP, I Swore I’d Stop Writing About You experiments with different sounds and textures (read: bass, reverb and distortion) while retaining her DNA of warm, folk-esque vocals and acoustic guitars. The break-up song doesn’t just wallow in heartbreak, but instead, accepts and sees things the way they are. It also reflects Jaime’s mental conflict of constantly writing about the same old, same old.

“It came to a point that I completely stopped writing songs just to avoid that repetition process. Eventually, I stopped thinking and decided to write whatever that came to mind. By doing this, I truly managed to stop writing about the same things over and over again, and this is reflected in the new music I will be releasing as part of the new EP.” Jaime shares.

You Like The Chase by Marian Carmel

The perfect song to waltz solo around your bedroom, Marian Carmel’s latest soulful jam touches on the complexities of relationships and heartbreaks. Complete with the singer-songwriter’s ethereal vocals, You Like The Chase juxtaposes the light, airy front with a darker, inflamed undertone. Instead of the pensive sadness that’s peppered in her previous melancholic tracks, the single reveals Marian’s playful and sarcastic side – listen out for her subtle giggles and snide comments.

As the cherry on top, Marian has also rolled out the #WhereDoIBegin challenge on TikTok, where the opening lyrics “Boy oh boy, where do I even begin?” doubles as the punchline for the skit-formatted challenge. You Like The Chase is also one of the singles leading up to her debut concept album that’s slated to be out later this year.

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Waiting for a Change by QYO

There’s something special about listening to an empowering song full of hope on Pink Dot’s recent livestream. QYO’s live performance of her emotive debut single Waiting for a Change isn’t only fitting for the LGBTQ-affirming event but also pushes us to strive for the change needed to make Singapore a more inclusive nation. The local singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares that the song “symbolises the changes and challenges that people [herself included] have gone through in life, and how change is best embraced with optimism.”

A summertime essential (or a relaxing beach day), Swiping Right has enough calypso vibes to activate our boogie bone. The midtempo, afrobeat-inspired tropical dance anthem sees electronic producer Eve Alai and soulful vocalist Senara serving up a refreshing combo of club euphoria and emotionally honest lyrics. Despite the infectious, endorphin-packed rhythm, the song is actually grounded by profound lyrics that touch on the difficulty of confronting one's mental and emotional health.

Together with Dinil Gonawela, Eve Alai reflects, "All three of us wrote from the heart about various mental battles and life situations we’ve faced over the years. It’s an honest account of how people have a lot that they have to work through within their own headspace.” He continues, “It’s not easy to write something memorable while maintaining its lyrical integrity.” Nonetheless, the trio manages to turn human fragility into something that’s danceable.

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Showing no signs of slowing down, Electrico celebrates its 25th anniversary with a new EP fresh off B-Sides Live at the Power Station, which treats loyal fans to live versions of songs from their first three albums. Titled Left of the Century, the new EP marks the indie pop-rock stalwarts’ first batch of fresh tunes since their 2008 studio We Satellites. And with the first single Fire In The Sky, we’re still a fan. The arena-ready epic is a slight departure from the crisp alt-pop sounds of the 2000s, but still sets our speakers ablaze with a touch of nostalgia. Maybe it’s vocalist David Tan’s charismatic drawl or the guitar-driven melody that’s giving us Kings of Leon vibes.

Of the new EP, David shares, “Our priorities have changed, and we are doing it without expectations. We want to go back to our roots, to see where we were, and are now.” Left of the Century will be released on July 16.

Misery loves company but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to sad songs. Grieve with bass-slappin’ R&B-pop singer Bitty (fka bittymacbeth) in this empowering sonic trip soundtracked by her new single Keep Me Hoping. Unlike the previous synth-pop ditty, this one sees Bitty flexing her producer muscle to seamlessly blend elements of gospel, soul, trap, future bass and pop. She wrote the song after losing the grandfather who raised her, while she was a student at Berklee College of Music, 10,000 miles away from home. 

There’s plenty of brassy baritone saxophones, fluty synths and drum machines – triggered by chair and door samples, no less – as well as Bitty’s trademark powerhouse vocals, tight harmonies and songwriting flair to keep spirits up and “keep (us) hoping” – fitting for the current stay-home period. Together with Make My Dreams Come True, which features rapper Axel Brizzy, Keep Me Hoping are part of her upcoming eponymous EP, the first since her rebrand.

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The taste of her first previous single Doorbell left us wanting more, and now Matilde G is back to satisfy our sweet tooth with her new summer dance anthem Milk N’ Honey. The Italian-born, Singapore-based 16-year-old pop wunderkind summarises her wanderlust fantasies in the bass-heavy, synth-fronted track with the help of world-renowned producers Caesar and Loui who have previously worked with mega hitmakers such as BTA, Super Junior, Monsta X, and more. The cheeky number also sees Matilde G singing about the itch of wanting to live her life without the limits of growing up. Teenagers, eh?

Soul sensation Gareth Fernandez is back with another heart-wrenching ballad Could Have Been Us. The rich, gospel-style single soars with sublime arrangements and emotionally resonant songwriting. The inspiration is clear here – it oozes the Sam Smith, John Legend and Adele factor. But it’s not just Gareth who’s putting his cards on the table – indie darling Linying joins him in songwriting and lends her hauntingly delicate vocals to the tender piano-led number. Produced with Shaykhandbake, Could Have Been Us revisits heartbreaks one last time before the final goodbye.

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An absolute bop, lullaby’s latest single features a euphonious blend of acoustic elements and unique bass production that adds a refreshing new layer to his signature emotional pop and R&B soundscape. Gone too long is part of the Indonesian-American-raised, Singapore-based singer-songwriter’s upcoming album, which is slated for release at the end of this year. Together with producer Nathaniel Clay, lullaboy spills his personal experience of being in a long-distance relationship, and the main message of hope and trust. The song makes a good company for lonely nights and quiet contemplations.

If you’ve got a soft spot for old-school pop-rock of the 90s and early 2000s (think Green Day), get Shanghai-born, Singapore-based band Girls Like Mystery on your playlist. Another You & Me Song is the third single off the five-piece outfit’s new album Sitting in a Room Surrounded by Strangers. Full of throwback nostalgia, the love song nails the pop-punk formula with Billy Corgan-esque nasally pitch, cheesy lyrics, and loud and distorted electric guitars.

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We had the pleasure of having this sweet young artist as our March 2019 cover star, and like proud parents, we’re ecstatic to see him taking on the airwaves at the forefront of the next wave of local pop. 

Recently signed to Universal Music Singapore, YAØ drops his euphonious self-produced single I Can’t Sleep as a reintroduction under the record label. Previously, the singer-songwriter and producer dished out party starters injected with slick R&B and hip-hop sounds of the now along with funk-infused Japanese pop of the 1980s – think Wish U The Best, RHCF, and Love & City Lights. But I Can’t Sleep doesn’t particularly fit the mould. Taking down a notch, the soothing, soulful ode to everyday anxiety acts as a form of necessary self-care for sleepless souls. Together with the subtle shuffling drum ‘n’ bass heartbeat, the single is pretty therapeutic to listen to, especially with headphones on, if you ask us.

I Can’t Sleep is a first look into his upcoming album Broke Pop Kids, and is also accompanied by a nighttime visual diary complete with dizzying camerawork directed by Jasper Tan of Vadbibes. Read our interview with YAØ here.

While singles like Broke and Name Drop have put a spring in our step early this year, it’s songs like Beyond and Revert that make us instant fans of Krysta Joy. Held together by a specially tuned classical guitar, Revert radiates a refreshing sound that’s coined as a “progressive bedroom sound”. No surprise that one of Singapore's most sought-after producers, Fauxe, had a hand in the electronic-yet organic production of this lite pop track.

Layered with Krysta’s soulful vocals, the earthy tones offer a sort of intimate comfort and honest conversation between singer and listener. It’s a song about the “fear of going back to what feels like square one,” as Krysta puts it. The lyrics deals with the moments of vulnerability – something we’ve all experienced before, making it super relatable especially during these strange times.

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Formerly known as bittymacbeth, the bass-slappin’ R&B-pop singer is back with a fun, tongue-in-cheek bop and a shorter moniker, Bitty. Dreaming on what it’s like to have unlimited cash, Make My Dreams Come True has a hint of sad truth behind it – money makes the world go round, especially if you want to make it big. The happy-yet-sad, synth-pop number also features her signature bass hooks, the super smooth flows of rapper Axel Brizzy and additional production by Jason Gelchen.

Splashing her dollar, dollar bills in technicolour, Bitty is paired with Axel in the single’s equally fun music video. The duo shows their buoyancy side while engaging in “lavish” activities like having fancy cakes and swimming in money at familiar locations like Marina Bay and Tampines.

Local musicians to keep on your radar

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