Our top picks this week - alternative hip-hop from P_NEDA, retro-styled pop from Lincoln Lim & Houg, and a funk influenced bop from Thaddeus Lin.
Persephone's Garden / UGLY BOYS
UGLY BOYS rapper and producer P_NEDA returns a near fully formed artist on his latest EP "Persephone’s Garden". Traces of BROCKHAMPTON and Cherry Bomb era Tyler the Creator’s influence appear throughout and are apparent on the EP’s solid singles, such as Sidekick -boasting impeccable trap beats that incorporate lounging guitar samples, tasty 808s and creative production choices, alongside a catchy hook and assured flows.
Opening track Lotus is a standout on Persephone’s Garden, showcasing P_NEDA’s versatility both as a rapper and producer. Its percussive-focused approach to beatmaking combined with scant thumping 808 bass hits makes the track hard-hitting and driving in contrast to the more sensitive and introspective nature present on most of Persephone’s Garden. The track’s percussive elements are akin to the original mix of Run The Jewel’s Panther Like a Panther, though slightly more laid back in comparison. What sounds like old-school soul vocals are sampled as well but modulated and pitched, recontextualizing them to sound like something tribal, which compliments the rest of the track. P_NEDA switches it up at the end of the track with a heartfelt and melodic outro, with gorgeous piano chords leading the way before reintroducing the percussive elements on the track in a subversive manner.
Lotus also features a killer hook (“Making all the change like a synonym/ They dont even know bout my middle name/ Focus, dont blink/ Lotus, how I'm floating”) and witty lyricism and references (“Gold plaque bronze bust/ They whoopi goldberg while we more like goldust/ Rap game Bernie Sanders - not me, but us,” or “Shit internet, how I'm b-b-b-buffering/ Like the king's speech, chop it up no st-st-st-stuttering, huh”) that keep the track engaging through and through
Despite leaning strongly on his influences, Persephone’s Garden definitely establishes P_NEDA as having his own strong voice and identity within Singaporean rap, and it’s heartening to see yet another hip-hop artist bring his own fresh and distinct sound to the table.
Listen to "Lotus" here:
- - by Isaac Yackem
Lincoln Lim & Houg
"(Feel Like) Dancing Alone - Houg Mix"
(Feel Like) Dancing Alone / Cross Ratio Entertainment
In an unexpected collaboration between singer-songwriter Lincoln Lim and trip-hop maestro Houg, (Feel Like) Dancing Alone combines the former artist’s pop sensibilities with the synth-driven groove of the latter to mixed results. Houg’s joyfully lush production stylings and tasteful embellishments are present especially so on the “Houg Mix”, serving as the B-side to the single. The original mix on the lead single itself however, sacrifices character for clarity, making for a boring and obnoxious mix of the song.
The songwriting is serviceable at best, with lines such as “roast chicken on a Sunday night is what I’m feeling like” seemingly coming out of left field rather than the carrying the quirk needed for the line to work, or any of the introspection typically associated with Lim’s previous works. Melodically, the song’s chorus (“You make the distance feel fine (Feels like just dancing)/While staying up all night…”) is just okay, toeing the fine line between an attempt to be catchy and being straight up annoying.
On the plus side lays enjoyably understated and intricate production work on the Houg Mix, with its chillwave and 80s-indebted sonic landscape shining through. Synths are tightly weaved in with its groovy 16th note hi-hatsand kick snare drum patterns, all its elements building a dynamic sense of atmosphere that ebbs and flows as the song progresses. The Houg mix particularly succeeds on the front where the original single mix seems to stumble, with its lead synths tastefully complimenting the track rather than overpowering the rest of the instrumentation in a trebly mess.Though never quite reaching the soaring heights of the tracks on his recent EP The Oscillation Scene, the production in the Houg Mix of (Feel Like) Dancing Alone is a commendable effort and testament to Houg’s mixing sensibilities.
It feels like (Feel Like) Dancing Alone suffers from an inherent stylistic clash between the two artists present, with the Lim and Houg not able to reconcile how their individual musical sensibilities (which has proved to work great on their own respective projects) may work together, leading to something that sounds half-baked and uninspired for the most part.
Listen to “(Feel Like) Dancing Alone - Houg Mix” here:
- - by Isaac Yackem
“What's This Feeling?”
I Wish It Rained Forever
Emerging singer-songwriter Thaddeus Lin released his debut EP, I Wish it Rained Forever, last Friday and it is something that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. The art of storytelling through the medium of music has been seemingly lost by the one-by-one distribution of modern singles, but Thaddeus goes against the grain and sticks to his guns by doing releasing an EP with a cohesive narrative.
Thaddeus shows his flair for creating catchy hooks and melodies, and the EP consists of genuine head-boppers. My favorite track being the final song on the record, What’s This Feeling?, being a fast, funky number. The track also utilises the “telephone vocal” effect , which continues throughout ad-libs until the end of the song. The 80s inspired sensibilities present are thoroughly enjoyable. Thaddeus also incorporates impeccable guitar tones during the solos on the track that also present on the first song of the EP, I Must Go.
With this being a debut release, Thaddeus really needs to smoothen out some of the edges or perhaps apply chamfering to them because as a whole. The EP doesn’t really flow well from the start to the end as there is an incoherent mix of four different genres its four tracks. That being said, it is impressive nonetheless that he is versatile enough to play within all these different genres.
The vocals are mixed as if he perceives himself having a more crisp timbre in the alto range, when in fact his voice is in a much lower register. That being said, the transitions to-and-fro his falsettos is excellent, as evident in I Must Go. His vocals are also mixed way too far up front. This could possibly be due to the lack of experience or equipment (monitors, iPhone earpiece, IEMs) required to get a good mix.
To sum this up, Thaddeus Lin’s debut EP, I Wish It Rained Forever, is definitely worth a listen as I feel that he is a very passionate musician with excellent pop sensibilities, albeit rough around the edges. These songs are emotive and catchy, knowing what the listener wants to hear. I’m look forward to his subsequent releases and to perhaps see him perform live after the pandemic blows over.
You can listen to "What's This Feeling?” here:
- - by Chester