We’re almost nearing the end of this list, and in honour of an awesome new 2018 let’s take a look at what we thought were the top 15 songs in Malaysia on 2017! Check out our part 1 here
Setia is on this list for the nostalgia that it brings of days when Ella was still rocking out and Gol & Gincu & 3R were the type of shows that were popular among the youth. Musically skeletal but wonderfully raw in its simplicity, Mira Mesli & Pozy Plague pair up to bring us a great track filled with bubbly goodness while serving riffs enough to headbang to. Pozy from Plague of Happiness comes in with drums to add a melodic layer to Mira Mesli’s punk sensibilities. Although Mira released two singles this year (the other being Anugerah), Setia is the track that shows the type of individual sound she can create while taking inspiration from her days with punk band, Eleventh Avenue
Pasca Sini takes us back to the sound of the early 2000s with this poignant indie ballad about farewells and the aching pangs of long distance relationships – metaphorical AND physical ones. Dichotomoy is Pasca Sini epitomizing their journey into the emo revival scene, and is honestly one of the more interesting emo punk bands musically. The solo after the second minute is pretty reckless and uplifting too, even though simple and brief. The fact that it’s followed by the lyrics “Dont worry, darling it’s okay/I’m trying to get some sleep now” gives this song another layer of poetic edginess that Pasca Sini seems to be the best at. They’re still new and have only released one EP, but we’re hoping for more from this band in the future, and Dichotomy holds that promise.
I Lost The Plot’s bright and vibrant approach to music keeps things fun and exciting in Consequences. This alternative rock band from Sungai Petani keeps the sound of the early 2000s alive, but still keeping it fresh with elated horn sections at the end that gives a sharper, cheekier edge to their sound. It has a contained sense of chaos that makes them one of the banners for “bright bubbly” emo rock which, however paradoxical, is the type of new way of looking at the genre and kicking it in its butt while smiling throughout. Consequences has within it substantial personality that is often overlooked just because they are inadvertently part of recent resurgence in pop punk in the Malay indie scene. One of the most joyous songs in our playlist, and definitely an unforgettable song this year.
Islands came out with several good tracks this here with international collaborations like Sometimes Heroes (ft. Club Douceur) and also the intergalactic serenity of Comet, but Flowers resonates the most with us, as it shows what the simplicity of the distorted riff arrangements can do to an otherwise vulnerable but to-the-point lyricism. Flowers is dreampop with no illusion of sheen, shoegazing at its most romantic.
Bedroom artist with an introspective sense of macabre, lurkgurl‘s single pierces through a 2017 full of sobering thoughts and realizations. Sariah is a wonderful treatment of shoegazing and dreampop because of its irony. A genre often associated with spacey escapism and muffled melodies, Sariah has a thorough ring to it that invites self-evaluation. This is most evident especially in the lyricism, which deviates from the dreamy nature of the genre to make something that keeps us grounded. It is a quiet serenade, but not without its heightened moments of guitar work.
Shuuna calls herself ‘Modern Nusantara’ and she captures that beautifully in her latest EP, Torsades De Pointes. This shoegazing Yuna-esque songstress has a knack for rendering the rawest of emotions with full honesty through distortions, fuzzboxes, and often repeated but succinct lyricism. Good Night‘s memorable riff rings true to the occasional grey area that she sometimes treads when it comes to the middle path between foreign influences and homey Nusantara vibes. Although other songs in the EP are sometimes more musically interesting and tells a deeper narrative, Shuuna mixes a kind of memorable electro-rock track here unlike any other. It comes complete with almost ominous synths with old-timey vocoder-infused vocals, a definitive track for those late night drives on empty highways.
Between the lines, Damsel is an electro-pop synth theme song for individualism and empowerment. Perfect for an often bleak-looking 2017. Damsel preaches the virtues of not letting your lover treat you like a mannequin, and discounting the ‘damsel in distress’ stereotype that women are expected to take up in a relationship. The self-aware, cynical and yet motivational lyricism blends in with the pop hooks sang by Eff Hakim with Faliq Mohd‘s synth and vocoder work lacing the track with such a unique brand of music. There is no one else like Pastel Lite in the scene at the moment, and they’re proving the type of rich evolution they’re capable of with Damsel. Surely, their album Balada is also a banner for the other different aspects of alternative music in Malaysia that has yet to be fully explored.
The minstrel piano opening, the steady breakdown into sensual R&B, the echoing drums – Dark Chocolate was a track that we held onto memory every since January last year. We wanted what other track could be sexier, more inventive, and really nothing else beats this song in the local scene when it comes to that. In an interview with Poskod, she’s cited people like Bjork and Imogan Heap as her major production influences, but really, the greatest thing about this song is how it balances the popular sounds of top 40s with unconventional touches in its arrangement .This singer-songwriter, EDM-soul chimera (probably yet another fruitless attempt of a reviewer trying to place her into a genre) has been distinct in her sound and vocals since her eponymous EP, Froya, all the way to her most recent single before the one above, Rosie. Dark Chocolate is another testimony to the consistency of Froya. The song starts off with old-timey vocals with a jazzy milieu apropos a classy pub, but later on breaks into this (almost) ominous drum, bass and synth – taking us to the moon and bringing us back down to gritty, heavy, reality in the span of four minutes. The moment you hear that, you understand almost immediately why this sweet track and its noir undertones is called Dark Chocolate.
Part of the twin-track EP by Alextbh is his most unabashed plea for love and romance. Songs like Mornings are open declarations of desire, and seem to follow the same trajectory he’s taken recently, with happier songs like Like That and You. The wonderful thing about this EP is the story it tells, from expressing his fears of loneliness while asking for his lover to stay in Mornings to finally falling into an apparently steadier serenade in Lead the Way (although still tinged with some semblance of fear) (“but tomorrow is another day and I don’t know if you would stay”). The growth is definitely there, and the submission that Alex espouses in Lead the Way reflects how many of us would feel when we’re immersing ourselves in his tracks. Mornings takes the cake with some of the most candid, and under-embellished song Alex has ever written this year. It’s also the wonderful little things in the track that adds so much emotional nuance, like the sighs before every chorus which absolutely nails that feeling of quiet desperation. We’ve put this in our list as a tribute to everyone who’s having a hard time to let go or to cope with loneliness. Let your new year be as resilient and soulful as the breakdown that happens at the end of Mornings.
Noh Salleh continues his poetic prowess for professing love with Sarawak. Whether it’s love for the daughter of a Yakuza family, girls with flowers in between their ears, or Kuala Lumpur (as the lead singer of Hujan), Noh Salleh’s deep vocals and flowery verses consistently hits the mark when it comes to invoking romantic longings for fictional people and real places. Sarawak just joins the long line of Noh Salleh’s catalogue of serenades, making people feel proud for Bumi Kenyalang, even for those who’ve yet to go there. Sarawak is not Noh’s first love song for the state, having made the song Miri, his hometown. With Miri being approximately a decade old, it is interesting to see how much has changed from Noh’s first tribute to the place of his childhood ’til now. Sarawak has the capability to not just take you to the state in your mind, but also take you to another era, more divine.
One of the catchiest tracks from their debut, Rest Now, Jaggfuzzbeats packs a consistent punch throughout the album with their dreamy, harmonious, and beautiful cacophony but Talk To You speaks to the best of what this band has to offer. Although there are so many strong tracks on this album, with the holy trinity streak being ‘Hours’, ‘Damncouldurban’ and ‘Talk To You’, it’s this song in particular that seems to scream stadium rock potential for such a unique garage rock band. It’s the one that whole crowds would sing, with guitar licks that stick you til the end. The band has a sweet irony to their sound, with the lethargic vocals of lead singer Azrul Zainal backed by urgent riffs and drumming by Omar Aiman. All of this leads to an amazing pay-off at the end, when the mood soars through unforgettable choruses belted out by Azrul, like an entire alternative rock journey with a flair for dramatism that you rarely see in local rock bands nowadays. The duo have cited influences like Kings of Leon, but truly Talk To You is an example of how they’ve taken those influences and really came off as their own musical tour de force of the indie world.
Yes. We know. It’s just a demo track. But demo track or not, it’s a song that we couldn’t get out of our heads last year. Sendiket Jongkong Emas has yet to even release a proper single, yet this psychedelic Nusantara track holds a special castle in our hearts for the simple reason that it’s beautiful on all accounts. Illustrating loving dream-like atmospheres through lo-fi souds, Sendiket Jongkong Emas‘s have decorated most of our moments of melancholy this year, as the dreamy, psychedelic guitar breaks through so many barriers of Malaysian experimental shoegazing and indie. What’s more, so much attention is paid to the poetry of the lyrics, even if it is artistically muffled by low fidelities. As the singer declares “Kau buat ku terbuta” with such passion and gusto, the strength of the simple words seep through the cloud of fuzzy guitars. And if you think that’s all there is to this demo, Getaran keeps giving more and more, as the song also breaks down into a sort of funky, danceable rhythm right after the brilliant solo after the fourth minute. It’s pretty great that it transitions into a new feeling altogether – from a hopeless romantic plea of love, to a cheeky and playful summary (“Dapatkah kau rasakan?”). Sendiket Jongkong Emas (or SaJE) packs so much into a song, and kept it coherent, romantic, and without trepidation, experimental. They sorta symbolize what we might hope for Malaysian bands in the future looking to explore a side of the art that is less conventional, in the pursuit of something new.
Optimism, hustle and proving haters wrong is the mood we all wanted to hold on to last year in the face of all the mess. When Airliftz dropped his Bagel EP, he was already reasonably well-known amongst the rap circle through his song Gwalos, joining the ranks of other ‘hype-beast’ trappers, but with Bagel Airlifitz finds his own footing and identity. Appreciate is the best example of that, as he raps about how far he’s come and the things he has to be thankful for, carrying that good vibe of hope and humility in a song so catchy and sing-able that it was just all over 2017 for us. The production quality the song hones is a great musical craftsmanship from Singaporean producer GROSSE. The simple keys that play as the intro forefronted by Airliftz’s anecdote about his mother gets you riled up for that build up that all concludes with that hook. The autotuned harmonization, the singing parts where Airliftz sings “I promise that I’ll never go” – all of what makes Appreciate such a wholesome piece of flow and hooks. Airliftz might not be an out-of-this-world poet, and his bars are not at its most ‘fire’ in this song, but truly Appreciate shows that rap doesn’t need to be complicated to have soul.
“Basically you’re submitting yourself to social media like you’re submitting yourself to god”, said Smek of Killeur Calculateur perfectly summarizing the topic for Tayang Sulit. For such a scathing commentary on social media worship, and the humdrum of modern society, Tayang Sulit is suitably, no-holds-barred, abrasive. Killeur Calculateur has always relished in their own mold of punk poetry, evident in Tayang Sulit through cutthroat“Persetankan dewamu/Penganut panca dusta/Berzikir khabar angin/Kufur akal“. When the disillusioned and disenchanted look for an angry anthem to signify their dissatisfaction to the status quo, Tayang Sulit should have been the entrance song. This track was also featured in their split EP, Arus, with Indonesian band Vague and is coupled wonderfully with the more spirited and quasi-motivational track, Suara Air. That coherence translates into the bigger picture of all things Malaysian, as Tayang Sulit taps into what we feel is the subconscious anti-establishment fervour of the Malaysian youth, with a memorably militant opening guitar riff to boot.
How can anyone in Malaysia ever discount the phenomenon that was Masdo? Four nice-looking chaps donning suits, Ali Sariah, Putuceri, Asmawi and Ambobzeela traversed all of the Peninsula with their revitalized brand of ‘pop yeh yeh’, selling out venues, and getting a whole new generation of people who weren’t lucky enough to live through adolescence in the early 2000s into indie music after they hear Ali croon Bunga for the first time. There’s a very acute symbolism to the fact that Masdo is the band bringing life to a whole new clan of fans, since they consist of people who were in other bands that did start playing in the early 2000s, such as Ali from The Lipstick, Putuceri from Pop Konspiracy and Am from Hujan. The past coming back to rebrand itself into the new, is what Masdo is all about, utilizing nostalgia for a bygone age most of their fans did not even get to feel. Kecundang is the song that upholds that emotion to a whole new level, as it keeps the risque nature of most songs from that era and giving it that sweet, icing-on-the-top tinge that seals Masdo’s probable appearance in the playlist of so many people trying to get their crush to notice them. The reason why Kecundang is so distinctly odd, is that underneath all the Fab Four pop rock cliches and romantic words, is a song that rarely circulated the airwaves but impacted the lives of so many people who started greasing up their hair, wear floral batik shirts, and polished their shoes to go to a concert that takes them back in time.
There are so many other great tracks from their latest album Selamat Tinggal Pujaan, and we had a hard time choosing between this song, the slightly somber musical milieu of Ratu Hati or cheeky Miss Flower Learns To Twist. At the end of the day it’s this song that gets the most chants at concerts, the most moments where Ali would hone the mic to the crowd for the fans, called Pak Maons and Geng Bentara Guru, to sing along to. Say what you want about their genre and their style. A band that openly admits to have been inspired by The Last Shadow Puppet, The Pinholes and Changcuters of course does not win the award for originality. But the spirit of Kecundang is an impactful one, and a spirit that is just almost impossible to ignore.
Check out our part 1 here. What’s your top songs of 2017?