Rachel Liang (梁文音)
Poems of Love (愛的詩篇)
Rachel Liang’s (梁文音) release of Poems of Love last month marked a relative high point in the slew of albums that have come out of the first two seasons of CTV’s One Million Star (超級星光大道) pop idol “reality” show. The series has generated a number of success stories already, and although Liang’s album has been slow in coming, it has certainly been worth the wait for her fans. Compared to other recent albums from One Million Star alumni, Poems of Love (愛的詩篇) is remarkably free of gimmicks and bombast, and relies solidly on Liang’s strong, expressive voice.
The songs are very firmly placed within the mainstream of the Mando-pop ballad, and all the conventional musical tropes are present and correct. The album is far from innovative, but there are some decent songs, the most successful being the playful Peppermint and Nail Scissors (薄荷與指甲剪), which is cute, trivial and a good deal more evocative than the more strenuous romantic lyricism that characterizes most of the other tracks.
The predominant mood of sweet sorrow is enlivened by You Can Now Stop Loving You (可以不愛了), a narrative ballad of young love, which has just a hint of snarkiness to give the otherwise sugar-sweet lyrics a little depth. There is also The Most Joyous Thing (最幸褔的事), which has a catchy chorus and just the right degree of technical difficulty to show off Liang’s vocal command without any ostentatious display.
Sadly, little musical reference is made to Liang’s Puyuma (卑南族) heritage, making it impossible to assess her potential as the next Samingad (紀曉君). This is disappointing to anyone who noticed Liang’s moving performance of Song of the Wonder (流浪記) in One Million Star. The raw emotions of loss and alienation in that song brought out the depth of her vocal expressiveness in a way that is only very occasionally evident in this album.— Ian Bartholomew
When Orangegrass’ lead singer and guitarist Klark Chung (鍾體學) told the Taipei Times in a recent interview that he liked rain, he wasn’t kidding. He and his band named their first full-length album Cumulonimbus (積雨雲), a meteorological term for the puffy clouds that cause heavy rainstorms. Nearly every song is filled with the “wet” sounds of reverb-drenched guitar distortion and a wide palette of snare drum smacks and cymbal crashes.
Orangegrass is sometimes described as a post-rock band with a singer, which works as a description for those in a hurry. The album has a distinct atmosphere built on a large collection of electric guitar tones, yet each song avoids over-abstraction and has a clear form. Chung’s guitar pours out drifting sheets of sound that range from quiet rumbles to screeching howls, but in the end the noises serve the music, particularly on songs like Tumbler Gold Fish (杯子金魚).
The vocals are delivered with a combination of dreamy detachment and youthful verve. When the music gets loud in Goodbye My Friends, Chung sings softly but assertively, and he occasionally breaks into emo-tinged sneers on tunes such as And Go and Exercise (習題).
Chung says he tends to come up with the structure and sonic idea for a song before writing his lyrics, which often gravitate towards loneliness and youth. The album decidedly sets its overall tone by beginning and ending with the sounds of children in a playground. In the first track, the band enters the picture with a barrage of pent-up, angst-ridden rock sounds, while on the final track the guitar sound is acoustic and resolves with a sad but hopeful sentiment.