Summer sounds

24 12 2016

I missed the fourth album by Brazilian singer Ceu when it first came out in July, but thanks to a fashion magazine’s ” best of 2016″ list (see below) I discovered it just in time to crown “Tropix” the album of ( my) Summer, with its winning formula – evident in the single above – of glacial bossa nova vocals, electronic tropical rhythms and just enough surprises to keep it out of the pleasant coffee table music that MPB can sometime slump into.

FFW>> Brazil 2016

24 12 2016

It’s been a while now since I was in Brazil and I have lost touch a bit with the rich thread of Brazilian pop culture, but luckily São Paulo fashion mag FFW has published this end-of-year music listicle of Brazilian rappers, soul singers and drag queen superstars to help get me back on track.

2016: the end of a strange year

15 12 2016

By now, 2016 has been almost universally condemned as a terrible year. It started badly enough, with the strange, talismanic passing of David Bowie but at least that tragedy was wrapped in mystery and muted (somewhat) by the beauty and brilliance of his final creative act – his perfectly stage-managed death. But then there was Prince, overdosed on painkillers in the night. And Brexit. Closer to home, the King of Thailand passed away. And in the final and most savage twist of all, Donald Trump  did the seemingly unthinkable and grasped the US presidency, transforming himself into a strange and strangely opaque human question mark, now hanging over the globe.

But for all that, it was a pretty quiet year for me. Same job, same apartment. If the world was in crisis, my world had rarely been calmer. I continued running, ate some good food and had massages, and saw some good movies (Rage, The Lobster, Train to Busan, The Wailing).  I also travelled a little: starting the year off back in the cold streets of Tokyo and jetting from there to Vietnam (twice) and the unexpected pleasures of Taichung and Shanghai. Next week I am heading back home to Australia for the New Year.

And I read. It was books that provided me with the greatest discovery of 2016 : the works of Karl Ove Knausgaard. I devoured his six-book series of autobiographical novels, one after the other, and felt transformed by them. Despite the glittered genius of Frank Ocean and his similarly immersive music, for me it was Karl Ove who ignited my imagination the most this year, making me think about writing in a new way. His was a memoir not of events, but of feelings, a  refracted world of mundane desires so acute and so honestly observed that it inspired me and made me wonder why I write – even this blog, for example, and if there is any value in it.

Next year – a little over a few weeks from now – will be tenth anniversary of this blog. Tenth! But for now, I am content to look back on the year that just passed before making too many plans for the future.


Goodbye 2016 – a playlist

15 12 2016

Album of the year…?

11 07 2016

We are barely halfway through Summer; in fact, in Hong Kong, not even – yet already there has been some great Summer music from Alicia Keys, Blood Orange (and soon, we hope, Frank Ocean). But no-one has put out a better album this Summer than Roisin Murphy with a spectacular return to form in “Take Her Up to Monto”. Not that her last album, “Hairless Toys,” was bad. It contained a handful of memorable tunes, some of which (namely “Unputdownable” and “Exploitation”) I listened to at this time last year, on a bus crossing the Mekong River of the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge.

But the new record, apparently named after a bawdy Irish folk shanty, takes me back to the nineties – its been a while since I heard a record where every song works, they are all so exciting yet so different, and they all work (well, bar one perhaps; “Nervous Sleep” doesn’t do much for me.) The songs lurch from polished jazz ballads to thumping minimal techno-esque numbers, via cod-reggae, Grace Jones voiceovers and Shiina Ringo-like orchestral flourishes, all with melodies are to die for.

Weird, well-produced, way-off-centre pop music from a master at the top of her game.