Here is Part 3 of the Indie Music Series! Emily is honestly the person that got me into Indie music more than I ever have before, and one of the best sources out there for someone who is just getting into the less popular side of Asian music. I hope you enjoy reading her take on Indie music this year…which may not all be from this year!
In many ways, 2013 is a special year for me. The first entire year when I’m away from home, the year I started my Tumblr and officially lost my life to Korea, the year I started to take the music I listen to more seriously. In terms of music, I’d say this was the year I officially lost hope in pop and learnt to embrace what has become the ubiquitous presence of electronic musical elements today. My foray into ‘indie’ music started with korean indie (eternal gratitude to my beloved sister for introducing me to this wonderful world!).Since then, I’ve dipped my toes into some parts of Taiwan and Mainland China, a teeny bit of Japan and over the summer, swaths of Singapore, my hometown. More than music or dramas though, I met some amazing peeps over the Internet and that’s been the best part of this entire thing. Thank you Shweta for trusting me with this space. So to commemorate this wonderful year, here’s a list of the top albums that defined my 2013 in music. They’re not necessarily released this year, but they certainly made this 2013 my 2013.
9. SaltNPaper – SaltNPaper (2013)
This is the album in which I officially concede defeat and accept that Koreans are just crazily talented AND gorgeous people. Who knew MYK could sing? Who knew he could do RnB-ballads so well? SaltNPaper is MYK’s debut under this pseudonym, and it’s a classic American pop-rock album, with added subtlety and melancholy thrown in. The album flows seamlessly from beginning to end. It’s perfect chill music, for those lazy afternoons and late late nights.
Recommended Tracks: Hats, Field Day, After the Wreckage
Perhaps more known as Dawn, the vocalist of kindie duo Bluedawn, Han Hee Jung’s fourth individual album marked a clear departure from the acoustic-centred music of her previous individual and Bluedawn albums. I love Bluedawn, and was very sad to find out that they’ve disbanded since 2007. This album came at just the right time to fill in some Bluedawn withdrawals, and to my surprise, the music in the album is very different, an interesting mix of quirky, electronic and acoustic elements. The songs really grow on you, and make you want to dance in this idgaf way. And despite the unusual arrangements, Dawn’s voice always remains at the centre of the music. It’s great because Bluedawn’s music tends to be more about the ambiance, so I never really took note of her voice until now.
Recommended Tracks: 나는 너를 본다, 날마다 타인, 바다가 (Feat. 김보미 from Jambinai)
I discovered Utopia while I was bored to my wits on a plane ride and decided to channel surf at random. It was the best discovery I’ve ever made by accident. Utopia’s music reminds me of the feeling when you’re underwater and you stay completely still, without breathing, until you no longer feel the water around you and it’s like you’re floating. Not trippy, but very out of this world. Vocalist and leader Olivia Oh does folk songs individually, so this is a surprising change. I’m definitely looking forward to what they do next.
Recommended Tracks: 最遥远的距离是自己离开自己，天使尘，浮光掠影
I adore Deserts not just because of her music, but also because she is such a cool and awesome person. Deserts is well known for her no-nonsense-I-say-what-I-want attitude, which makes her live performances particularly endearing, because she just has so much personality. Deserts has been a big name in chinese music for many years now, her song “Baby” is one of those that every Chinese-speaking person has at least heard before, even if they don’t know who sung it. But I still think she’s ‘indie’ because the bulk of her music is under-appreciated, because she’s not so known outside of the Chinese community, and because she’s the kind of artist who goes like F-you to the entertainment industry.
Recommended Tracks: 玫瑰色的你, 如何, 艳火
There are some bands that have a special place in my heart, and will eternally love. Nell is one of them. Escaping Gravity follows last year’s Holding onto Gravity as their 2nd EP in the Gravity trilogy, and continues with Nell’s trademark sound. I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be the chords they use, because though Escaping Gravity gravitates much more towards the electronic, it still retains a distinctly recognizable Nell sound. I wasn’t immediately taken by the electronic arrangements, especially for the mediocre title track. Also, I loved their previous full album, Slip Away (2012), which took a more minimalistic direction. Nevertheless, Escaping Gravity had Haven, as epic as Nell gets. Listening to the 6 tracks in order, as Shweta analyzed in her wonderful Seoulbeats album review, the EP charts the gradual mental breakdown of Nell, culminating in the suicidal Haven. Nell’s depressing, but I love them because of that.
Recommended Tracks: Haven, Boy X
Kim Yoon Ah is a goddess and Jaurim is that band that’s loved by everyone old and young, mainstream or not. Goodbye, Grief combines Jaurim’s knack for great melodies and edgy playfulness seamlessly. Icarus is catchy and classic; Twenty-Five, Twenty One is gorgeous without being sappy, and Anna (my favorite) is epicly emphatic. I’ve been listening to this ever since October.
Recommended Tracks: Anna, Twenty Five Twenty One, Icarus
I’m not sure what about this album spoke to me so much, but I’m head over heels in love with it. Perhaps it’s that sense of independence and disillusionment that emerges from their bleak sound and lyrics, or perhaps it’s just Fran’s enigmatic, captivating voice, but every track is great and I’ve just been looping this since I heard it a few weeks back. It’s not the most emotionally consuming music like Nell, but it gets under your skin and stays there.
Recommended Tracks: 二十一, 只是啊, 心事, 特别
I’ve always known Sandy as one of those mega-superstar singers that my mum listens to, one who sings well, but has sappy ballad songs. Imagine my surprise to: one, find that she’s still going strong, and two, find that her album is modern, explosive and absolutely fantastic. Title song “Gaia” for example, is an electrifying mix of synth, Sandy’s power vocals put together in complex, overlapping layers. My favorite track is 柿子 Persimmon, a gorgeous, dark melody that starts off innocuously with a elegant piano accompaniment, then growing in intensity as first the orchestra then the electronic beats come in. If you see the MV,you see Sandy engulfed in a thunderous storm in the middle of a freezing ice land. It’s incredibly dystopian (aka just my thing).
Recommended Tracks: 柿子，盖亚，无言歌
It’s funny that a hip-hop/rap album ends up my No. 1 this year, when I rarely listen to the genre. I guess it goes to show how great Vasco is. Exodus blew me away with its intensity and emotion, and it’s made with the perfect combination of passionate rap, emphatic melodies and intricate arrangements. This is the kind of music people should call “anthems”. I’ll stop here before I break into swears because it’s that good.
Recommended Tracks: All We Go To Hell (ft. Swings) , Grey (Ft. Kuan), Hero (ft. Crybaby)
P.S. Looking back, it seems like this year was the year of female vocalists/artists, funny because I generally prefer male voices but whoots anyway!
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