Monday, March 30

Thai Pop: August Band, Lula, scrubb

Standing at the corner of the iconic DJ Siam in Siam Square, I judged a record by its cover. Much like life, music is also like a box of chocolates (though I'm always hoping to have a sampling of the bittersweet kind). So I chose a couple of Thai pop albums based purely on packaging design---I had only two standards, quirky and clean---and as soon as I got back to Manila, I did the old Rolling Stone perception versus reality thing in my busy head.

August, "Radiodrome"

Perception: I'm quite familiar with the band but not their music outside The Love of Siam OST (which I was very lucky to still get a copy of). So. Adorkable tweens on the cover, a gazillion of them. The geekyness of the toys had me at hello. Someone looks like he's having too much fun with a nekkid mannequin. Also, a giant bison head. These kids are nuts. Yay! I'm expecting circus music with a flourish of marching band stomping. Inside flap design though is more normal. Love the coat of arms against pink. Or maybe I just love pink. There's also a wall of black and white photos of the children at work. Serious and sane. Pchy Hiranyawongkul is still cute. Where's Mario Maurer? I've been duped!
Reality: It's actually a pretty good album. I'm digging the retro, vibe of the horn section that swings and sways in disco inferno on the fast tracks and subtly melancholic on the ballads, almost Bacarachian. First single "Sunshine" (track 8) is undeniably one of the happiest tunes I've ever heard with rise and dips in the verses that catapult the clap-along chorus to soaring heights. "Radio" cleverly blends an RnB groove with 70s dance floor lite riff. The acoustic romps are more straightforward pop songs but are equally melodic and contagious. Having 5 vocalists, August keeps the singing textured and nuanced. I don't know if the CD represents the technical musicality of the band; the live performances I've seen are a little sloppy. Still, August is a young band, literally, and they have quite enough time to catch up and match the brilliant production of Radiorome.

Lula, "Urban Lullabies"

Perception: Delicate inks, a splash of pastel watercolors. Rainbows and flying fishes. Where are the unicorns? It's got quite a nice cover. Nice really describes it. It's clean and very girly; it's just how I imagined my bedroom would look like when I was 10 years old. The inside flap shows more fine inks: a birdcage (maybe for the flying fish?), a piano and guitar. It's all very, err, nice. I'm guessing Jewel singing about unicorns and castles (but the latter I would never find out because I don't speak Thai).

Reality: Wow. I love her voice. Lula sounds just like Frente's Angie Hart, high and delicate with a pleasant echoing ring when she reaches the high notes. And it's folksy bossanova! Her album sounds like it was released by Minty Fresh, an independent outfit that has an ear for twee pop. Urban Lullabies is perfect for driving, which I played yesterday on the way back to the city. It has a consistently relaxed lilt like toes tiptoeing on a piano. She also occasionally dips into jazz, which proves to be the perfect counterpoint to the light guitar strumming, the saxophone adding a sonorous depth to the mostly airy arrangement.

scrubb, "Chood Lek"
scrubb's myspace site

Perception: Me and adorkable guys, we're tight like this (crosses fingers). I love the "green" packaging---clean lines, a little techno---and the urban indie look of band. The CD flaps fold out to...a pop-up cut out of the two members at the center while the side flaps can be tucked under the bottom flap and voila: the Swiss Alps! I was telling myself that even if the music seriously sucked and sounded like cows yodeling, it would still be worth it.

Reality: Chood Lek is a Best of compilation from Thawachpol "Muey" Wongboonsiri and Torpong "Ball" Chantabuppha's previous three albums. The faint hooks reminds me of Kings of Convenience with a more Britpop influence (more The Las than Coldplay) in the anthemic choruses. Their lastfm page says that they will be touring with QFlure (Gun Lae Gun, Radio Edit, LoS OST) in Australia and I'm not not surprised at the international acclaim of the band. Most of their songs are slow burners, bittersweet (yes!) melodies with an infectious center and there's a tenderness to it that is telling me learn Thai, now.

1 comment:

Kevin (Ket) said...

I own the August Band album. Do you think it's slightly disappointing that the band has so many members, yet they seem to make very sparing use of the horns section? A lot of the fact they have such a unique sound, in my opinion, comes from the fact they do have one, where most bands don't. Their first album, Thanx, didn't use them at all. Even in the case of Radio, which you cited as one of your favorites, I sometimes think it sounds like it's not genuine.

On an unrelated note, do you know if Thai having nicknames is a cultural thing? Or something more of convenience? I used to think a name like Witwisit Hirayanwongkul would be hard to remember, only to find it's actually one of the more simplistic names. In comparison,for example Ungsumalynn Sirapatsakmetha is downright nightmarish compared to her nickname "Pattie".

(on another less unrelated note, this one involving music, I found a cheap copy of the Departures soundtrack on the internet, the one that you recommended, so I think I'll look into buying it soon)