Stepping away from OPM for a bit, we want to share with you some fresh music from our neighboring country, Taiwan.
Presented by Taiwan Beats
This list of Taiwan’s best albums of 2019 is meant to cover the spectrum of different genres and styles coming out of the country’s eclectic and varied music world over the past year. Ranging from pop, electronic, R&B, and rock, Taiwanese artists have something to offer listeners with a variety of tastes.
Fool and Idiot 傻子與白痴 – Till 5:10 a.m.
After a few years of releasing singles to well-deserved fanfare, Taiwan’s indie rock outfit Fool and Idiot put out their anticipated debut album in August. ‘Till 5:10 a.m.’ borrows elements of synth-pop, alternative rock, and psychedelic dreamwave, entangling them into a web of digestible 80’s inspired tunes. With this formula, the band has managed to convey the sense of a waking dream that questions the boundaries between dreams and reality.
The brooding mood set forth by the album carries through from the more upbeat songs to the closing track. Making appearances at a handful of festivals in Asia and a few sold-out dates on their Taiwan tour is proof positive that the band will keep the momentum going after the success of their debut album.
Stand out tracks include ‘Morpheus (夜長夢少)‘ and ‘5:10 a.m‘.
Jolin Tsai – Ugly Beauty
The title track itself speaks to the duality of being a pop star celebrity living up to expectations and the reality of self-doubt that comes with being an artist and a real person. Clean production and mass appeal make for a record that hits critical and popular notes. Released on Sony Music Taiwan, ‘Ugly Beauty’ pushes some boundaries and samples experimental styles to make it distinctly modern, with hints of trap, hip-hop, and EDM.
This is the singer’s 14th album since 1999. So if you like what you hear, there is more to discover in her discography. Tsai takes the cake for self-reflective songs that don’t seem forced or superficial, tackling issues of gender identity and modern romance. Vocal range, topical songwriting, and variety in production style gives an authenticity that outlines the pop image. These make the record listenable and relevant in a world of disposable pop music running rampant on radio and online music platforms.
Stand out tracks include ‘Ugly Beauty‘ and ‘Life Sucks‘.
9m88 – Beyond Mediocrity
As a debut album, ‘Beyond Mediocrity’ really paves the way for 9m88’s already bustling music career. Mastered at Stones Throw Records in LA and boasting an impressive collection of producers and collaborators, the songs abound with creative innovation, while still having throwback appeal. Soul, city-pop, and R&B infused with jazz and hip-hop give listeners a fresh but familiar sound. 9m88’s songwriting and strong vocal abilities shape the record’s ebb and flow. In general, it has a maturity that most might not expect from a singer’s debut release.
Truth be told, 9m88 has been making music for years after studying jazz in New York City, and she brought out all the stops for ‘Beyond Mediocrity’. Her acclaim as a musician was established before this year and it will only continue to grow if this album is any indication of what the future holds.
Stand out tracks include ‘Aim High‘ and ‘Love Rain‘.
Elephant Gym – Underwater
Technically released at the end of 2018, Elephant Gym’s ‘Underwater’ didn’t make it to Spotify until 2019, and this was a huge year for the instrumental funky jam band keeping the groove alive and well. The trio from Kaohsiung is bassist KT Chang, guitarist Tell Chang, and drummer Chia-Chin Tu.
As brother and sister, KT and Tell learned classical music from their mother. Likewise, Chia-Chin also began playing music as a classical percussionist. They use this background to create stunning soundscapes, melodic riffs, and, driving rhythms that feel similar to bands like BadBadNotGood and STS9. Overall, each song has multiple layers that add up to create a compelling album with lots of replay value. Math rock elements blend into a spectrum of sounds with distinct personality.
For their second album, each band member got a turn taking the lead in composition and production of the songs. This album launched them into the international spotlight with a world tour and a performance on Audiotree.
Stand out tracks include ‘Half‘ and ‘Walk‘.
Farragol – VACUUM
The output of music in 2019 from vaporwave producer Farragol was huge. While refining the style of production listeners have come to expect from the enigmatic artist over the past couple of years, smooth, down tempo, laid back vibes and jazzy samples abound on ‘VACUUM’. With a total of 14 tracks, it feels like the most complete work so far from the young artist. Moreover, it is the best example of just how consistent he is as a producer.
The majority of songs on ‘VACUUM’ are a little longer than previous releases from Farragol, which leaves more room for variation compared to the stinted beat loop style on other albums and EPs. Even with the rising popularity of lo-fi hip-hop, predecessor genre vaporwave still has a place in the conversation. Moreover, simple and romantic vocal samples along with funky synths epitomize vaporwave while keeping a fresh take with every track.
In true hipster fashion, most of Farragol’s music has been released on cassette tape. However, you can also find the expansive discography and collaborative releases on Bandcamp.
Stand out tracks include ‘You mean so much to me‘ and ‘Better Days Will Come‘.
What do you think of these 5 hot albums from these talented Taiwanese artists? How would you describe their music in comparison with OPM? Let us know your thoughts by sharing through the comments below! Or just simply hit us up on our Facebook or Twitter account, @udouph.
Words Penned By Evan Vitkovski