From the eclectic, pop-paced electro of Pastel Lite to the atmospheric alt-rock of Toko Kilat – we’ve got a whole lot to give with these five tracks on our playlist from these wonderful talents!
Balada (Album) – Pastel Lite
GENRE: EXPERIMENTAL/ELECTRO POP
Pastel Lite is always known for its minima electrol buzz that reverberates through their first EP, Etcetera. Standouts like Assassin and Gold were manifestations of lead singer, Eff Hakim’s, femme fatale alter-ego out to destroy inferior men or simply lament their existence. With a full-length studio album, she has a wider range to express not just more lyrical diversity, but a fuller sound, enforced and strengthened by the Faliq’s virtuoso of catchy electronic experimentation. There is definitely so much more richness to the album that you won’t be too far off labelling them as dream pop, as they insert a larger collection of their influences to the mix, rather than merely sounding like a sanitized Crystal Castles or Phantogram as evident in their first album. Damsel is a great benchmark & introduction for the rest of the album with its anthemic electronic effects. A lot of personality can be immediately detected too with Faliq using the vocoder in Baby in between the subtle bass tones and the reverb monologue in People
There are more pop sentiments in this album, as the band doesn’t shy away from catchy percussive and layered melodies. Aneh is a great example of that as it starts off with that familiar opening reminiscent of mid-2000’s indie pop like Imagine Dragons. Although, it still teases on the corny but the audio ambience more than makes up for it coupled with Eff’s singing. Another borderline corny track of which its intent might have been satirical, with the lyrics “Do they really like me?” chanted repeatedly is Idolized is another point in the album that left us a lot for wanting.
However the rest of the album has a magnificent sheen to it. Into Flames sounds ominous with combustible soaring guitars and is definitely a highlight of the album. It’s significantly the most seductive and alluring track of the record. Our favourite track by far is the stadium-rock-worthy, Zenith. The high point at the end of the album is a coup de grace that drives us to put this album on repeat, and that tiny distortion circling back to the first track is gritty and enigmatic, as if the cassette reels are being rewound again.
Other notable mentions include the dreamy swirls of Caramel, and the bass spiraling into the end of Trust It (Dreams) is super hypnotic. Speaking of hypnotism, there is also definitely more attempt at atmosphere-creation, that each song is not just a love declamation or a rant in melody, but a world-building endeavour. Honestly, that sitar in Sunny was so unexpected and refreshing we almost wept.
Pastel Lite has come a long way musically for us, and although it’s much cleaner sound might repel some fans of their initial minimalism, there is so much artistry in this record it speaks to the future of Malaysian music. In a scene filled with rock bands, hip hop & R&B, Pastel Lite stands out with ever-brightening colours.
Body Language (feat. SonaOne) – Tabitha Nauser
GENRE: R&B/DANCE POP
2009 Singaporean Idol winner Tabitha Nauser has been slowly building up reputation as the sensual R&B in her country, and this year she’s taking the next with two singles. Bulletproof was a decent dance track that relatively went unnoticed if YouTube VEVO views are any indicator, but Body Language comes back with a furious. Her collaboration with our very own, SonaOne , is a superb dance hit, with EDM-leaning choruses and a conclusion that is filled with delicious electronic fuzziness. Despite it’s plus points it is still very generic and top 40, but definitely standing out more than Bulletproof. Especially with SonaOne, who gels in nicely with bars and sense of humour (“Speaking with your booty I ain’t talking flatulence”), this catchy piece is a competent addition to Tabitha’s still relatively sparse discography.
Nahas – Toko Kilat
GENRE: ALTERNATIVE ROCK
Another Singaporean-Malaysian collaboration this week, this supergroup consisting of people like Irfan Iskandar from Bittersweet & The Times to Edwin Raj combine their forces with members from indie band, Moods, Wan Hussin & Khairil Shah. Last year, Toko Kilat gave us Pemacu Api which is hard-hitting, bass driven and overall a solid alternative rock track reminiscent of Interpol and further elevated by soaring vocals. Their second single Nahas falls more on the noir side, giving off sombre vibes but still sticking true to their familiar riffs. There’s also something very heart-rending about the line “Hati ini kecewa” and the way it was sung. Songs like Nahas just makes us look forward to a more extensive collection from this band, that bring their own fresh take to that timeless nostalgia of post-punk revivalism.
Setia – Mira Mesli & Pozy Plague
GENRE: PUNK ROCK
Setia is one of those tracks that make you miss the days when Ella was still doing rock songs and Gol & Gincu & 3R were the type of shows that were popular among the youth. Musically skeletal but wonderfully raw in its simplicity, Mira Mesli & Pozy Plague pair up to bring us a great track filled with bubbly goodness while serving riffs enough to headbang to.
Maybe In Time – The Last One Awake
GENRE: AMBIENCE, TRIP FOLK
The Last One Awake has always been known for their flowery folk sounds, that is rustic with a good amount of pop sentimentality. But now Christian Palencia is moving towards a more minimalistic sound with the Midnight Spring series, starting with this single Maybe In Time. At times, the vacuous nature of the sound does not give off anything special or interesting, but there is definitely a poetic nuance to the entire lyricism. It’s almost as if Christian is writing about people’s cynicism towards him, with lines like “Maybe in time, I’d be someone you’d like“. Or it could just be a romantic song revolving around a desperate need to be loved by a person viz-a-viz a fanbase. Whatever it is, the stripped down nature of this song really reflects that acutely, and opens the door to whatever more that The Last One Awake can provide for us in the future with their new sound.
To keep up with all the songs we’ve reviewed this year, follow our playlist on Spotify!