BY MC GALANG AND IAN URRUTIA
When we first started New Music We Love nearly two months ago, our goal was simple: feature new music from Asian artists from anywhere in the world. It felt like an eternity ago, and the world has drastically changed since then.
As always, we hope that if you’re reading this, these songs can provide you a sliver of joy, entertainment, escape, relief—as we continue to look forward to better days.
Mixtape: NOT EVERYTHING THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD – Sica (PH)
Sica of hip-hop collective Kartell’em released his NOT EVERYTHING THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD mixtape earlier this week, which heavily features alternative hip-hop and R&B arrangements; more crisp than textured. It’s such an easy listen that you wouldn’t notice you breezed through the entire thing—its accessibility is its strongest asset. Sica and his collaborators used the mixtape format as an exercise of freewheeling ideas (or as with the case of “EITHER WAY,” lightly rework a Mac Miller original), yet ultimately arriving to a clear destination: tracks like “UNCONDITIONAL” and “REMINDER” pop through the speakers to release tension, and settle into a long, summer night.
‘Less Than Three’ – ((( O ))) The Sundrop Garden (PH)
The latest single to blossom from The Sundrop Garden is “Less Than Three,” which reminds me so much of June Marieezy’s earlier work in the first half of the 2010s: from the vocal work to production by long-time collaborator, Deeper Manila’s Justin De Guzman, who also helmed her first EP, Heavy Eyes, in 2011.
“Less Than Three” was intended to be “the one to initiate the shift in creative energies” from the ((( 1 ))) album to its follow-up. It’s an exciting, lilting neo-soul number; with a more precise rhythm structure compared to the ambient quietness of the tracks from her recent record.
‘LIFE’ – TENDRE (JP)
Japanese multi-instrumentalist Tendre’s latest single in two years, “LIFE,” urges to find purpose in isolation: to not languish in idleness. Accompanied by Satoshi Watanabe-directed video starring dancer Dr. Pay, it reminds me of Jungle’s famous choreographed solos, along with the funk- and light jazz-laden electronica groove of FKJ and hip-hop stylings of Nujabes.
Stream on Spotify
‘Better Days’ – GorDon (TW)
Taiwanese rapper GorDon released the visual for “Better Days,” off his 2019 album, Earlier This Morning. Sonically and thematically, it’s a modern incarnation of the Ice Cube classic, “It Was a Good Day.”
The music video for “Better Days” unspools those small, often fleeting moments of contentment. It’s not quite happiness in its most generous form, but a sense of knowing things are where and how they meant to be—some moments you capture not thinking much of it at the time, but ones that end up mattering more in the long run.
Stream on Spotify
‘厭世臉’ – SOPHY 王嘉儀 (HK)
Singer-songwriter and producer Sophy Wong’s 殘 album was released late last year, so while this entry is not technically new, I thought “厭世臉” was worth including. I came across her new music video for another song in the album, but I selected the aforementioned track for a couple of reasons. “厭世臉,” which translates to “Weariness,” is every bit morose and defeated, ruminating on “How dangerous sorrow is / Fear swallows the weak.”
While it’s understandable to grasp for anything that offers hope and comfort, acknowledging the realities that we’re living in right now, allowing ourselves to talk about our fears does help.
‘ห่าง’ (Aloof) – YENTED (TH)
Navigating the aftermath of a breakup, the protagonist of Thai neo-soul/pop band YENTED’s music video for “ห่าง” (Aloof) struggles with coping: his room in disarray, all signs of life–wilting flowers, a dying goldfish—wasting away as did his relationship. Left alone with his thoughts, vocalist Jao sings, “I want you to understand / I never wanted us to end like this / All I want is you.” She said, “See you in 14 days,” and the TV program shows it’s been two weeks. Still, no sign of her. How long should he wait? Should he keep waiting?
Stream on Spotify
‘ใช่ว่าไม่เคย?’ – Siwanut Boonsripornchai (TH)
Self-isolation has led Siwanut Boonsripornchai’s (Summer Dress, Game of Sounds) to contemplate on the effects of limited mobility on “ใช่ว่าไม่เคย.” There is a strange uneasiness in his boredom; as if his mind, too, cannot wander. He attempts to fill his time with anything that provides some semblance of normalcy, like connecting with friends. Boonsripornchai hesitates, afraid to hear the same fear in the voice of people he cares about. He tries to shift his perspective, to accommodate hope instead. “We still breathe,” he sings, “This is a good thing / to wake up every day.”
‘Let’s Cry’ – Dept (TH)
We’re living in a consequential moment in history, faced with a profound loss of life and uncertainty, and we are allowed to mourn this time, and learn to make room for empathy and kindness—for ourselves and for others.
On “Let’s Cry,” Thai indietronica duo Dept attempts to relieve the patriarchal pressures of confronting your emotions freely and without shame, especially in men. In the accompanying video for the single, a Black Mirror–esque scenario mandates happiness, declaring “crying is a crime.” Any display of emotions is not only discouraged, but penalized. It’s a song underlined with deep sadness, and while it’s written in the context of a romantic relationship’s failures and end, its scope extends to any and all circumstances that demand and exhaust our emotional bandwidth. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to cry. Let’s cry as much as our pain requires, let’s cry.
Stream on Spotify
‘อย่าไปไหนเลย | AntiVirus’ – Anatomy Rabbit (TH)
Bangkok-based ‘vintage pop’ duo Anatomy Rabbit released a quasi-pandemic PSA (directed by Supatkid Tawinkarn) on “how to avoid [contracting] the virus”—including proper and regular handwashing, mask-wearing, and coughing etiquette—with “Antivirus,” perhaps the most endearing of them all. It opens with, “Very worried, you know? If not necessary, do not go anywhere,” and turns to “Just do not want her to be close to anyone / Don’t want her to hold anyone’s hand / Afraid that her heart would change,” which is both timely in its implications, and professing insecure and anxious feelings of losing the person they like to someone else.
Stream on Spotify
‘Podcast’ – mamakiss (TH)
The pandemic has seen a surge in podcasts everywhere and on their latest single off their new Brunch Time EP, Bangkok city pop band mamakiss draw the parallels between the traditional podcast format and the way we communicate. Lead vocalist Fiat sings, “Hello / What are you doing / Can you talk / No matter how many times… you still don’t respond / Just like a podcast / Communicat[ing] on one side”—and then he continues to think-sing aloud. It’s hilarious and aggressively relatable. Just like podcasts, we need a preponderance of humor (and hope they remain intact throughout) during these times, preferably as charming as mamakiss’.
Stream on Spotify
‘Shuwatch!’ – Xinlisupreme (JP)
Xinlisupreme is probably one of the most recognized Japanese cult acts in Western music media. The recluse icon’s definitive opus, Tomorrow Never Comes landed on Pitchfork’s top 50 best shoegaze albums of all time, with writer Mark Richardson praising the record for “exploring what lurks behind the wall of static” and embracing “dark-leather, Suicide-style rhythmic relentlessness.”
It’s good to have him back with the release of his latest single “Shuwatch!” Expanding the distinct sonic palette with new wave, electronic and dance pop influences, Xinlisupreme shares more musical DNA with Rina Sawayama and Grimes rather than his old actual self. While it showcases his fondness for kitchen-sink experiments and avant-garde tendencies, Yasumi Okano’s oddball bop summons his version of the future with an attempt to grapple with pop accessibility. If anything, it’s a refreshing, bold move that sees the revered musical great opening up to countless possibilities. He never ceases to innovate and defy expectations.
‘Virgil’ – Alex Zhang Hungtai, Tseng Kuo Hung (US/TW)
You might think of this strange pairing as manna sent from heaven: Alex Zhang Hungtai of psychedelic rock experimentalist Dirty Beaches and Tseng Kuo Hung of soulful pop outfit, Sunset Rollercoaster, in the same project. The collaboration produced a stellar EP last month called LONGONE, which taps into “the collective unconscious of exiled people arriving on a new land and projecting the inner turmoil and violence onto the native population.” It sounds like a plot from a dystopian TV series, with the music inhabiting shape-shifting character studies and open-ended explorations into the unknown. The opener track “Virgil” is ten minutes long, moving at a glacial pace on its first few runs before evolving into a cinematic score that turns avant-garde, ambient, and post-rock sentiments into a riveting journey. On their review of the track, Taiwan Beats singled out the deep cut for its astounding sonic ambition, describing its expansive treatment with immersive details: “It’s life, humanity itself, being reborn into a strange new realm, where the heart beats anew within the confines of an unfamiliar psychic shell.” Do yourself a favor and listen to this idiosyncratic opus on repeat. It’s worth the long wait.
‘P.S.’ – Bearwear (JP)
Nuanced craftsmanship should come as no surprise with this melodic, guitar-driven anthem that draws inspiration from midwest emo and early 2000s indie rock. On “P.S,” the self-titled track off Bearwear’s latest visual EP, the Japanese band shows a strong sense of melodic instinct. Without sounding adrift, the indie duo dives into dreamier arrangements that favor introspective moments instead of pop immediacy, while giving listeners a reason to appreciate the intricacies of the guitar parts and its hushed, atmospheric soundscapes. Overall, “P.S.” is nothing short of compelling, and leaves a sense of anticipation as to where their music will head next.
‘Sally’ – Juicebox (PH)
“Sally” feels audaciously small in scope, but takes up more space as soon as it settles with dignified resignation. For listeners who prefer their brand of mope devoid of massive dramatic gestures and arena-sized captivity, this is definitely your jam: a prom anthem that revels in restraint, and is much more equipped to settle comfortably with tasteful but delicate instrumentation. “That’s who we are,” Enzo Hermosa admits defeat, his words resonating deeply as the band examines loneliness and disconnect through the lens of young love. It’s probably the best track on the Juicebox’s latest EP, Drive, which is out now on streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music.
‘Two Sides’ – Gentle Bones and Charlie Lim (SG)
Two of Singapore’s most celebrated singer-songwriters have come together to recreate late ‘90s and early 2000s boyband pop template with an introspective ballad that is “about living in that strange tension of trying to be empathetic and not completely giving up on a person, even though you’ve been wronged or hurt by them.” Gentle Bones and Charlie Lim’s “Two Sides” spins tales of heartbreak and compassion with an innate drive toward instantly appealing melodies—a gift that both Singapore-based musicians have fully fleshed out in their previous releases. It definitely sounds at home with adult contemporary radio, given its spare and economical arrangements, delicate harmonies, and somber chords. While there’s nothing about it that breaks new ground, the collaboration explores maudlin sentiments with restraint and mastery of the pop form. If cheesiness can be this good, then I’m totally fine listening to it all day long.