Over the past year, every Singaporean has been bombarded with every aspect of SG50 nostalgia and crapola that is supposed to inspire patriotism, in the name of the nation’s 50th birthday. So I suppose it is my national duty to list all my favourite Singaporean stuff as well, before we are all swept once again by the maelstrom of election fever.
While there is definitely great Singaporean music throughout the decades, as I am in my thirties, most of the Singaporean music that I do like seems to originate from the 90s. The Observatory is probably the most avant garde Singaporean band still in existence currently. Before Leslie Low went down that rabbit hole, he was in the much beloved Humpback Oak, a band that redefined folk rock with adolescent Singaporean pathos. Ghostfather is widely considered to be Humpback Oak’s magnum opus, so all Singaporeans should consider it their national duty to procure a copy of the album, by any means necessary.
Apart from Humpback Oak, the 90s were also well defined by a string of semi-successful good bands, as evident by the Sugarflies’ indie pop, Force Vomit’s cheeky surf punk and plainsunset’s brand of emotionally-charged punk pop. Amazing, plainsunset is still gigging to this day.
In terms of more recent great local music, the B-Quartet’s art rock impresses. Tomorrow is Our Permanent Address is definitely one of the best releases in the past decade. It’s just a pity the band is on some form of permanent hiatus. The Obedient Wives Club is another band that is noteworthy for their engaging dream-pop sound. For something more mainstream, perhaps Shiggay Shay is worth checking out, just on the strength that he raps in hokkien sometimes, and seems to capture perfectly the zeitgeist of millennia Singapore.
The art scene in Singapore would not be what it is today without the support of that old stalwart – The Substation. Sure, there are nicer and bigger venues these days, but the Substation still retains its unique quirks. From staging local indie gigs, to hosting post-punk obscurities such as Envy and screening art house gems like the recent Heaven Knows What, the Substation manages to scrape by and survive, despite its less than mainstream leanings.
Other venues I like: the National Museum for its wide open space in the middle of a busy district and the Projector for its screening of cult classics and arthouse movies. Where else can you find an extended run of Ken Kwek’s Unlucky Plaza?
Home Club deserves a posthumous mention. If not for Home Club, I would never have the chance to catch such niche bands as Handsome Furs, Emmy the Great and Tricot, and at such low prices too. Other things that have bitten the dust: Mosaic Music Festival, BigO and Chris Ho’s Eight Miles High on Rediffusion. Without them, we probably would not have Laneway, Camp Symmetry and Lush FM today. And for that, we should be thankful.