All album recommendations can be found here.

WOW album cover copy

 

Some words from the head producer, Corey Tam:

“Past-Present” is the culmination of a year’s worth of writing, recording and producing music for International Christian School’s Worship on the Word (W.O.W.) and Audiotech classes in 2017-18. In W.O.W., students drew inspiration from a variety of sources including Praise and Worship, Love, Life’s Disappointments, Personal Hardships, and Nostalgic Memories to name a few. The songs were then mixed and produced by the Audiotech class in the second semester, applying studio production techniques to polish the recordings and complete the songs.

This 11-track album is written, recorded, performed, and produced by ICS students, along with producer Corey Tam.

Written entirely by high-schoolers, Past-Present encapsulates the thoughts, experiences, memories, and feelings that these students face in their everyday life – from heartbreak (Treasure, Take Your Bow), nostalgic memories (In The End, Take Me Back), and hope for the future (Love Lane).

This album was written by 11 individuals, and genres span from indie rock (Shadow of Your Wings) to garage punk (Wonderland), and synth-pop (Love Lane) to eastern experimental music (Deception).

Overall, this album was very well mixed and produced. How 11 high-school students managed to create such masterpieces lyrically and musically is beyond fathom. Let’s hope the 2018-2019 WOW class can carry on, or even surpass the level of songwriting and production portrayed by this year’s class.

The album releases June 9th on Spotify, iTunes, and more. The album is available on Bandcamp for streaming and download (name your price).

Stream the album here on Spotify.

Track by track:

The album opens with “Shadow of Your Wings“, a crisp, refreshing indie-rock piece written and performed by Mu-Yin Chang and Sheryl So. The beginning half of the song features an infectious guitar hook, backed by a spacey synth that carries the track, and fronted by dream pop-influenced vocals by the two vocalists, while the latter half is a slower, spaced-out, synth-heavy psychedelic instrumental section.

Might I dare add that this first track is the most well produced out of all the songs – the delicate balance and space between the two vocals, along with the guitar with a perfect tone adds so much to this song. This is by far my favorite song off Past-Present. The only complaint that I have with this is that this song is too short!

“Keep me as the apple of your eye
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

Shadow of Your Wings

Next up is “Wonderland” by Elliott Wan and Valerie Yuen. This track starts deceptively: with only mellow vocals and keyboard, before diving head-first into a punk rock piece with crunched up, distorted guitars and an infectious hook.

“Hey boy, open your eyes, this is reality
Are you mad, or are you drowning in Wonderland
Hey girl, don’t you fall into the rabbit’s trap
You know it’s over so why bother, move on.”

Wonderland

Indie-folk pop influenced “Take Your Bow” written and performed by Annette Ho is up next – you can really hear the producers’ influences in this track with the use of folk-ish strumming and rhythmic patterns. And that bass line during the chorus.  (This especially reminds me of Snow Angel, a song by Tam’s band, The Gatling Gun Revival).

“My baby boy, my baby girl, please stay
Right by my side and take your bow.”

Take Your Bow

The fourth track, “It Started With Rain“, is a piano-fronted track written and performed by Mikayla Simons and Evelyn Wong. Tracking in at 5 minutes and 15 seconds, this track is the longest song off Past-Present. With its swirling synths and soothing strings, the track sort of reminds me of a more mellow Keane. This track also provides a break from the previous three fast and upbeat songs with its’ dreamy ballad-like structure and production.

The bridge introduces an even dreamier duet between with the vocalists, with all instruments stripped back – not long before everything comes back in with the final, grand chorus.

“The way you’re hurting
The way we used to laugh
About the tiniest things
You were the only one I need

The way we’re fading
The way we say goodbye
The spark between us is gone
What am I supposed to do?
I wouldn’t know.”

It Started With Rain

Acoustic ballad “Take Me Back” is the fifth track on Past-Present. It is written and performed by duo Mikayla Simons and Nathan So. This combination provides and interesting dynamic between the two vocalists, as they sing about their long for the past.

“There was once a time when I was young
Mom and daddy taught me how things were done
All the do’s and don’ts, the please’s and thank you’s
The memories all begin to fade away.”

Take Me Back

Deception“, written and performed by Alex Mak, is up next. This one is a bit of an oddball. This track sort of reminds me of ‘I Belong To You’ by Muse – especially the usage of eastern chord progressions and haunting choirs, with the combination of indie rock influences.

I think I could categorize this as ‘experimental Arabic pop’, or maybe ‘new wave reggae.’ How about ‘eastern indie rock’? Not sure about this one to be honest. One thing’s for certain: this track certainly has character; which is quite important. This song is set apart from all the other tracks, which are all written and performed with a ‘pop mentality’.

“The Lord will arise
The Lord will protect
The poor will fall
The needy will groan.”

Deception

Hip-hop/rap track “In The End” is written and performed by Nathan So and Julian Chan – both of which dropped a verse (or two) in this track. Lyrically, this song speaks about the two writer’s past and their struggles growing up.

“Still a kid, didn’t want to grow up
I was fine drinking out of my kiddie cup
14 years later, to where I am now
I was asking God, “Where art thou!”
Thunder crashed, lightning screamed
Even my left hand turned to smithereens
I felt my tears go down my dirty cheeks
Forming rivers down these rusty peaks.”

In The End

Honestly, this next track, “Love Lane” is so cute! This is a track I could totally see being in a 8-bit, adorable indie video game; its swirling synths and light-weight vocals give it a synthpop/dreampop vibe that, for some reason I really adore.

“Talking in the dark we’ve been up so late
Waiting to be with you somehow someday
Back then there’s a world where we belong
To you, I sing this love song.”

Love Lane

Treasure“, the ninth track out of eleven in this album, is a collaborative effort between Elliott Wan and Valerie Yuen. Written and performed by both, this song is an upbeat, acoustic piece that seem to cover up the melancholic and nostalgic lyrics.

“It’s falling apart
Our tethered hearts
No glue can fix our broken strings of love
Is it too late to cry, won’t you say your goodbyes.”

Treasure

The second to last track, “Blue“, was written by Theodore Ching and performed by Elliott Wan. With the heavy distortion on the guitar and bass, this track takes influence from heavy metal and post-hardcore – it is perhaps one of the instrumentally-heavier tracks on this album, tied with Wonderland.

“I’m blue, undoubtedly
There’s nothing else I can be
Is this a dream? Oh, how can it be
Oh why can’t I be free?”

Blue

Oh My Lord” is the final track on Past-Present. Written and performed by Isabella Conceicao, this song features only her vocals and layered piano, which gives this piece a spacey, tripped-out ambiance – quite appropriate for an album closer.

“I’ll be here here, until it’s time
To be with you my Jesus Christ
Through the struggles I will obey
And because of you I’ll be okay.”

Oh My Lord

 

Tracklisting of Past-Present

  1. Shadow of Your Wings
  2. Wonderland
  3. Take Your Bow
  4. It Started With Rain
  5. Take Me Back
  6. Deception
  7. In The End
  8. Love Lane
  9. Treasure
  10. Blue
  11. Oh My Lord

 

Written by Elliott Wan, June 6th

 

Wolf_Alice_-_My_Love_Is_Cool

I’m totally hooked on this 11-track debut effort by London-based 4-piece alt rock band, Wolf Alice. Wolf Alice are Ellie Roswell (vocals, guitar), Joel Amey (drums), Joff Oddie (guitars), and Theo Ellis (bass).

My Love Is Cool was released in the summer of 2015, and quickly rose to number 2 on the UK albums chart.

The album was considered alternative rock and indie rock by many critics, and had influences from 90/00s shoegaze and grunge.

The album spawned tracks as ‘Bros,’ ‘Your Loves Whore,’ and ‘You’re a Germ,’ all of which received more than 4 million plays on Spotify.

Listen to the album here on Spotify!

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This 13-track LP, released in September 1st, 2017, was created and dedicated as a soundtrack to the game Life is Strange: Before the Storm, which is the prequel to the critically acclaimed Life is Strange. This album utilizes reverse delay, eerie reverb that provides the base for this sorrowful, mellow soundtrack – which reflects the characters’ inner conflicts and struggles that occur in Before the Storm.

The lead single, ‘Burn It Down’, provides a good preview of what the whole album sounds like. In addition to the ghastly vocals that lead singer Elena Tonra provides, melodic synths with dreamy guitars also dictate the song’s timbre and feel.

Listen to Burn It Down on YouTube and Spotify.

 

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“Sudden Feeling” is the first full-length effort by the musical project Halfnoise, created by Paramore drummer Zac Farro. It was released in September 9, 2016. This album features bright synths, tight drums, as well as 80’s guitar hooks – all blended together to create a colorful, light, and rich tone that resembles Tame Impala’s Currents, and other new-wave and psychedelic rock acts.

Notable Tracks:

Know the Feeling: YouTube/Spotify

Sudden Feeling: YouTube/Spotify

 

GatlingGunRevival_CD
The self-titled debut full-length album, released November 27, 2013 by The Gatling Gun Revival

 

The album starts off with ‘The Darkest Shades of Gray’, an upbeat and cheerful piece reminiscent of 90’s Oasis combined with a synth/organ that would sound fitting in a 80’s sitcom. ‘Solomon’s War’ was next up on the track listing. This is one of my favorite songs from this album, as it makes excellent use of a slide guitar, as well as utilizing strings to provide a peaceful and tranquil effect to the song. ‘The Gift of Regret’ has guitar-work definitely comparable to Arctic Monkeys, especially the song “Fluorescent Adolescent”, released 6 years prior to Gatling Gun Revival. As the song progresses, it speeds up, and finally ends with layered vocals by the bands’ vocalist and guitarist, Corey Tam.

‘Cauldron of Doubt’ is the fourth track on Gatling Gun Revival, and it utilizes harmonicas, strings, and other instruments to craft a lovely acoustic-folk piece. ‘Snow Angel’, fifth on the tracklist, emphasizes guitars more-so than other songs on this album, as well as a electronic drum machine from the first chorus. This song also marks a departure form their usual folk style into a more pop style, as heard evidently in the chorus and last part of the song, where Tam utilizes a pop vocals style. ‘At The End of The World’ starts off lush and green, with harmonicas, guitars, and ukuleles fighting for your attention above the rhythm section. The upbeat and happy ukulele riff repeated many times over was crafted by Erik Piece, the bands’ rhythm guitarist. Tam shares the role of vocals with Sherin Siew, whom was featured in ‘Solomon’s War’ as well.

The album’s seventh track, ‘Byzantine Hearts’, makes use of an acoustic riff – which was repeated until the halfway mark where the song explodes into an alt-rock piece which places focus on a slide overdriven guitar. The song then returns to the original chord progression for the chorus, and not long after, returns to the slide guitar solo. This song was my favourite during their 6-song live performance at Freespace HK @ Taikoo Place this past Saturday. ‘Bittersweet Nothingness’ was performed at Freespace HK as well – quite the experience to see GGR live, I’d say! This track features a blues guitar riff for the most part of the song. However, the title for this track quite contradicts the instrumentals.

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The Gatling Gun Revival live at Freespace HK at Taikoo Park. From left to right: Corey Tam, Zane Stroud, Gabe Andre. Image taken from Corey’s instagram @corey_ggr

The album’s’ final track, ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ features Heidi Mak on vocals, and starts off with a simple drum beat. A ukulele, guitar, and bass then joins in on this upbeat track. A promising guitar solo, played by Corey, was introduced in the break of the song. A choir, similar to ones you hear in gospel churches, joins the band in the latter third of the song, giving this album a remarkable ending.

Overall, this album captures the average citizen living in a crowded city’s thoughts on love, relationships, and other topics. The Gatling Gun Revival really is a diamond in the rough of over-produced, bland pop music. Their music might not be everyone, but if you enjoy some good, down-to-earth, and quality music,  be sure to check them out and take a listen on Spotify (link)! If you like it, make sure to support them by buying their album on Bandcamp (link)!

The Gatling Gun Revival consists of lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Corey Tam, percussionist and vocalist Zane Stroud, and guitarist and vocalist Erik Piece. They released one full length album back in 2013 and a single this past July.

 

 

Full link to the album on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/10cTylqKQ1LYN6VIkWDjpk

Full link to the album on Bandcamp: https://gatlinggunrevival.bandcamp.com/album/the-gatling-gun-revival

 

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Cover art for ATC’s debut album: In Our Bones

In Our Bones is the debut album for the pop-rock band Against the Current, released on May 20, 2016. The album spawned 4 singles: “Running With the Wild Things”, “Runaway”, “Wasteland”, and “Young and Relentless”. The album reached number 2 on the UK Rock and Metal charts, and 15 on the US Alternative charts.

Notable Tracks:

The lead single, “Running with the Wild”, was released on Feb 4, 2016. This song combines ATC’s early pop-punk influences with synths and arena-ready chants.

Listen here on YouTube or Spotify 

“Wasteland” is the 9th track on the album. It departs from ATC’s early pop-punk influences and dives into synth and electro-pop.

Listen here on YouTube or Spotify

It’s a crying shame I missed Against The Current live in Hong Kong during their In Our Bones headline tour in 2015…

I may have just found my new favorite band: Against the Current.

Chrissy Costanza (vocals), Dan Gow (guitars), and Will Ferri (drums) are an American pop-rock band originating from New York.

Combining 00’s raw pop-punk and pop elements in addition to Costanza’s strong voice on their 2015 EP, Gravity, Against the Current found moderate success in the US charts – reaching 36 in the US Rock charts and 4 in the US Heatseekers Charts.

It is hard to pin an exact musical genre to the EP. Lead singer Chrissy Costanza has stated that on their EP, Gravity, each song has a different type of genre, such as the song “Gravity” being more pop, “Fireproof” being more rock, and “Talk” being more pop-punk.

Listen to Gravity here: YouTube / Spotify

Listen to Talk here: YouTube / Spotify

Listen to Gravity (EP) here: Spotify

 

Helena – My Chemical Romance:

“What’s the worst thing I can say, things are better if I stay, so long and goodnight, so long and goodnight…”

Gerard Way’s eerie vocals starts the song off, with the distorted guitar, bass, and drums coming in soon after. With a stadium-ready chorus and hook, Helena is a song that will definitely get your blood pumping and head bobbing.

This song is off their second studio album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. The song spans genres of punk rock, emo, and hints of gothic rock. NME described the song as “[spawning] a hybrid that ensured black clothes and eyeliner became, once again, teenage rebellion’s default setting.”

Listen here on YouTube: here

Listen here on Spotify: here

 

Rose-Colored Boy – Paramore:

“Rose-colored boy, I hear you making all that noise, about the world you want to see, and oh, I’m so annoyed, ’cause I just killed off what was left of the optimist in me…”

Behind this upbeat and bouncy piece is lyrics that reflect Hayley’s dark and intimate thoughts about her relations with others (especially Jeremy Davis, Paramore’s former bassist)…

‘Rose-Colored Boy’ is off Paramore’s latest album, After Laughter. This song, with its choppy sampling and bright synth tones, is considered synth-pop and pop rock. Like the rest of the album, the song also contains hints of influence from new wave music from the 80s.

Listen here on YouTube: here

Listen here on Spotify: here

 

The Black Parade – My Chemical Romance:

This album contains the average emo’s essential and favorite songs…

The Black Parade is the third studio album of American rock band My Chemical Romance. It was released on October 24, 2006, and was critically acclaimed by many critics at the time. MCR combines their signature ‘screamo’ sound with crunchy, distorted 70’s rock guitars, producing a record that will ‘carry on’ in all the scene kid’s hearts…

Notable Songs:

Welcome to the Black Parade: Spotify / YouTube

Famous Last Words: Spotify / YouTube

I Don’t Love You: Spotify / YouTube

 

Foo Fighters’ 9th album is a 48-minute rock monstrosity which is a must-listen given its musical professionalism in combining hard rock riffs, edged vocals, and smooth harmonic and psychedelic elements.

 

Foo Fighters are an American rock band formed in 1995 consisting of Dave Grohl on lead vocals and guitar, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear on rhythm guitar, Nate Mendel on bass, Taylor Hawkins on percussion, and Rami Jaffee on keyboards. Released just 3 days ago, Concrete and Gold are their 9th studio album. They seemed to borrow psychedelic elements from Pink Floyd on tracks such as “Concrete and Gold” and “Sunday Rain”. Hard and progressive rock influences can be heard on tracks such as “Run” and “The Sky is a Neighborhood”.

Listen to the full album here on Spotify.

Notable Tracks:

Run: Spotify / YouTube

La Dee Da: Spotify / YouTube (not released yet)

Concrete and Gold: Spotify / YouTube (not released yet)

Influenced by early Muse, White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age and more, the album was a major success by combining the traditional rock and roll sound with modern blues riffage.

Royal Blood is a self-titled debut album from the band, Royal Blood. They are a two-piece band from Brighton, UK, consisting of Mike Kerr on vocals and bass, and Ben Thatcher on drums. The usage of octave and distortion pedals on Kerr’s bass makes the band sound like there is 3 or 4 people playing in it – this is what sets them apart with other current rock bands.

Listen to the whole album here on Spotify…

Notable Tracks:

Out of the Black: Spotify / YouTube (nsfw)

Little Monster: Spotify / YouTube 

Careless: Spotify / YouTube

Better Strangers: Spotify / YouTube