(By David Chen)
Self-titled/Debut Original Album (舒米恩首張創作專輯)
This brilliant debut album from 32-year-old Taitung native Suming (舒米恩) bridges the gap between mainstream pop and indie rock music in Taiwan. But it’s not just the playful and infectious tunes combining Aboriginal folk, indie rock, bossa nova and electronica that leave an impression — Suming conveys a genuine sense of pride, optimism and soul in this work, and in the end that’s what listeners will remember most.
Boyz & Girl
Boyz & Girl
Boyz & Girl pries into a noirish dreamworld with this noisy, fantastic debut. Led by the “girl,” guitarist and vocalist Ban Ban (斑斑), aka Bambam Lin (林以樂), the four-piece group revels in loud guitars, reverb noise and post-punk songcraft. Ban Ban’s squeaky, high-pitched voice sounds more eerie than cute, and the gauzy layers of distortion and icy noise build an emotional core that is both disturbing and alluring.
I Am Confused!
“We are cooler than your mother,” sings 22-year-old vocalist Ariel Zheng (鄭思齊) on her electro-rock band’s disco-rocking debut release. There is a punk edge to this sassy girl-power group, which slips in some commentary about pop culture and the influence of the West on songs like Culture Supervisor and P.O.D., a hilarious rant on sleazy male foreigners who hang out in Taipei nightclubs. At the end of the day, though, Go Chic’s songs are designed to do one thing: get your body moving. And they do just that.
Loh Tsui Kweh Commune (濁水溪公社)
Loh Tsui Kweh Commune 20 Years Project
The sound of this album — 1980s electronica — is a far cry from the extreme guitar noise and obscenities that marked the early, classic releases from Loh Tsui Kweh Commune (濁水溪公社), commonly known as LTK. Bandleader Ko Ren-chien (柯仁堅) sounds like he has hijacked an unsuspecting karaoke party and is loving it. But that cheesiness is offset by genuine nostalgia: the Duran Duran and Depeche Mode-inspired synth rock is top notch.
Year After Year (年年)
The Bearbabes (熊寶貝樂團) are Taiwan’s answer to honest-to-goodness American Midwestern alterative rock. Feel-good choruses, power pop verve, and the honey-smooth voice of female lead singer and bassist “Cookie” are just a few reasons to listen to this album. The band shifts moods without flinching — later tracks flirt with psychedelic rock and tap into dreamy indie rock soundscapes.
And the runners-up are ...
The White Eyes (白目樂隊)
Kiss Your Eyes
Avant Garden Records
One of the best garage rock bands in Taiwan has finally put out its debut album, a retro-punk romp led by female singer Gao Xiao-gao (高小糕). Fans won’t be disappointed.
Demo II (Demo 乙)
White Wabbit Records
Windmill plays modern indie rock sung in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese). This well-received EP begs for a full-length follow-up.
Mirror of Retribution (十殿)
Taiwan’s best metal band conjures up a spirit underworld during the time of the 228 Massacre on its first major label release.
Soft Lipa (蛋堡) and Jabberloop
Taiwan’s best rap is often rhymed in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) or Hakka. But jazzy hip-hop artist Soft Lipa (蛋堡) pulls it off very well in Mandarin, and his clever rhymes swing.