PUBLISHED December 31st, 2020 05:00 am | UPDATED January 11th, 2021 09:45 am
In the last decade – and despite the pandemic – Singapore’s music scene has been thriving. We’ve seen the likes of The Sam Willows, THELIONCITYBOY, Nathan Hartono, and MYRNE rise to mainstream recognition, but there’s been many making strides in the independent scene too. Here, we showcase some of Singapore’s best underground and independent acts, ranging from bedroom pop to ambient music to emo to hip hop. Hopefully you’ll end up with a more interesting Spotify Wrapped next year!
Known for their sweaty, energetic live performances and sentimental lyricism, Xingfoo&Roy put out their first record in 2015 and haven’t looked back since. This three-piece outfit makes emo (sometimes post-rock) music for screaming, dancing and crying along to. Their music has carried them far over the last five years; it saw them return from a second Japan tour at the end of 2019. If you’ve listened to their music and decided you can’t get enough, don’t worry. They’ve started recording a new album projected to release in 2021.
Mediocre Haircut Crew
This hip-hop trio has plenty to say and the beats to say it to. Made of omarKENOBI, mickeyLEANO, and daniKIDDO – all prolific artists in their own rights – the group was named for their sub-par hairstyles when they met in school (which they have, thankfully, outgrown). They haven’t outgrown rapping though – if anything, their songs have only gotten stronger, better-written and more anthemic.
Kin Leonn’s Facebook profile describes himself as an “ambient boy from Singapore”, which fits perfectly. Singapore-born and London-based, this composer and producer had his start as a founding member of electronic act midst. In midst and as a solo artist, his music focuses on organic compositions and textural audio, creating huge soundscapes and ambient bliss. He released his debut album Commune in 2019 to great acclaim – go give it a listen.
This guy is your favourite local rapper’s favourite new act. He might perform in an honest-to-god, full-body green spandex suit, but you should still take him seriously. Sean Lim, stage name BGourd (yes, like bittergourd), is a boom-bap rapper with the smoothest flows and a killer sense of humour. His latest release, an EP produced by the very talented Fauxe, is music to drive to with the windows down and the volume up high.
Cosmic Child are Singapore’s shoegaze darlings, with music highlighting haunting vocals, lush soundscapes created with layers of instrumentals, and loud, fuzzy guitars. Their newest project, Blue, is an earnest expression of a group of Singaporeans trying to navigate young adulthood, pairing thoughtful musicality with noticeable introspection. One of Asia’s most promising indie rock acts.
This three-piece is almost criminally pop-punk, because sometimes music can be that simple. Their influence from 2000s emo music is clear, and we don’t doubt their music will, in turn, influence new artists. Expect shouty vocals, intricate math-rock guitar riffs and punchy melodies from Forests. Their lyrics tend to be endearingly vulnerable and projected through gang vocals and surprising, anthemic melodies.
Terrible People has been active since 2016, not just making their own music but organising shows and supporting the local scene. They even formed their own label, Tired Records, to help lighten the administrative load for up-and-coming bands. Their latest album, Like Clean Air, dances on the line between classic emo and pop-punk. Gang vocals and elaborate riffs dominate some of their songs, while others are populated with catchy hooks.
Yeule is by far one of the biggest indie acts to come out of Singapore, and definitely one of our most unique. She started doing underground, independently-run shows at age fifteen, and now almost eight years later, has gained recognition for her distinctive style. She’s been described as making cyberpop, synth-pop, post-pop and ambient pop music, but what characterises her music are glitchy synths, distant, dreamy vocals and a sense of detachment from reality.
Only 17 years old, Singapore’s baby-faced pop princess writes, produces and performs all her own music. Shye-Anne Brown, better known by her stage name Shye, makes music that circles around the genre of pop, but is never quite really pop. Her music ranges from electro-pop, to folk pop, to almost R&B. The flexibility of creating her own music all on her own lets her experiment and cross genres, and it’s all the better for it.
This instrumental rock four-piece focuses on complex melodies, odd time signatures, ambient soundscapes and nostalgic emotion, drawing from the hallmarks of math rock and progressive rock. Their October 2020 release, Patterns, showcases complex layers of melody and harmony, with impressively emotional narratives considering there are barely any lyrics.
Subsonic Eye’s 2017 debut album Strawberry Feels was one of the year’s bestselling dream pop albums on Bandcamp, and they’ve only gotten better. Having played alongside bands like Beach Fossils and Yuck while touring extensively across Asia, their newest album Nature of Things (releasing in January 2021) is an application of what Subsonic Eye has learned across the years. They’ve evolved from heavy fuzz days and started exploring rawer tonality, confessional intimacy and themes of claustrophobia in a rapidly changing world.