Best Music of 2019

Asia’s 50 Best Albums of 2019: 31-50

Our collection of the year’s finest albums assembles jagged Mandarin rap, iconic K-pop whack, zealous rock, passionate Indonesian serenade and buoyant rhetoric. Check in every Friday as Music Press Asia count down to No 1.

Music Press Asia Best Albums in Asia 2019.

Music Press Asia Best Albums in Asia 2019.

Leo Ku – We

With over 35 albums under his belt, Leo Ku has brazed a vibrant singing career at the height of Mando- and Canto-pop in the 80s and 90s. This live recording is a poignant representation of a generation of genre that can no longer be attached to the rising tide of what is consider popular today – given the global attention that K-pop has amassed. This album lauds a bygone era so distinctive of its time, to a certain extent that arrival of its extinction may proof too late for further appreciation.

Bohan Phoenix – The Prince

Dubbed China’s most uncmpromising indie rapper, Bohan Phoenix began his artistic career with an identity crisis. And when hip hop was banned at state, under China rule, he dug deeper into his art, detailing the surpression that continues to resist even under social and peer pressure. He draws strength from Two Commas (American Dream) that openly confessed the struggle of an immigrant; verbal bullying and being stereotyped endured and gives way to a poignant lesson that we can all learn when identity is in question.

Read more: Asia’s Best Music Albums 2019: 21-30

Ohashi Trio – Thunderbird

Thunderbird hints at the suave we saw in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” just because of its smooth baseline that has sublimely merged with its smooth jazzy piano progression in the background, while tackling rock’s adversity as a songwriter. Its gracious performance is kind to its ballad-like openings, easy to the ear, with generous progressions of meditative scores.

Whal & Dolph – Par-k

A bright future ahead of this soulful, folk and psychedelic Thai duo. It’s time to wrap in your warmest blanket on a rainy day, best with hot chocolate. Let their youthful imagination slide you into an innocent slumber of pink unicorns and smug bluesy contemplation.

Faizal Tahir – Rojak

Literally mean a jumbled mix, Tahir’s inner reggae explores the new millenium with a pinch of salt in Ragaman. Just before you could launch into an embryonic state of reggae trance, hold your breath, as the pop ballads teased a post introduction towards more palpable, wistful tracks and forgotten lyrics – mindless even, some may say. Nevertheless, it takes one to be genuinely audacious about a blemished album.

Hoang Thuy Linh – Hoang

Vietnam has caught on with the rest of the world with the release of Hoang’s hip hop album. Blending folk elements, the album indulges in pure modernity while incorporating cultural artistry characteristically distinctive only of Vietnam. The sultry outpour of Hoang’s voice balances well with the contemporary ruptures required in pop and hip hop. Nothing less than a gem of an album.

Hilcrhyme – Hilcrhyme

Until 2017, TOC and DJ Katsu seemed to have it all figured out. With its hit single Shunkatshuutou topping the R&B chart, what else can go wrong? The narrative has since changed to a one-man show and its latest album is no short of a miracle. Listening between the lines, Hilcrhyme laments the separation in melodious hum dee dum, a faddish pattern that raps its existence into theme songs that continues to secure firm licensing in the manga department. Kitsch to say, it is possibly a match made in heaven.

Xiao Bing – “Mortal” Live Tour Deluxe Edition

Caught between sky-high mortality and down-to-earthness, Xiao Bing may just be the guy you’d fall in love with. Exuding an almost perpetual volatility in character, he is a burgeoning star who gets mixed into an urban drama that plays out intensely, and outwardly. It’s adventurous and packed not just with hooks, but beautifully crafted sonic details. A live record that sounded alive with possibility.

Over October – Press Play

Sunshine seem to rests forevermore over the bosom of Over October. There’s no rush in this debut album as it is everything you want in a great relationship. It is unruffled by life’s dilemma, paints an evergreen hill climb, and while some journeys may still end in the dumps, there is glittering junctures where hope resides. Perfect for your first coffee of day and lazying about over the weekend.

Okamoto’s – Boy

Playful and energetic, Boy is possibly summer’s most alluring fantasy; a season agitated only with pure nothingness and foolish rambling. It muses on the nature of costless recreation – a diversion of sort without romanticising them. It’s a body of work that’s comforting and being-in-the-moment towards enlightenment. Challenging nonetheless and full of ambivalence.

Trang – Tinh Giac Khi Ong Troi Dang Ngu
Dubbed Vietnam’s Rihanna, Trang’s rise to fame as a songwriter swelled during Hanoi’s rising acceptance for the indie music scene. A sultry record that gathers the depth of passions without contempt for them, Tinh Giac Khi Ong Troi Dang Ngu (Wakes Up When He Is Sleeping) divulge into the ruinous showdown of past loves, questioning her worthiness, and acknowledging the endings that bring forth peace. It’s a heartening path towards self discovery, challenging nonetheless, abound with uncertainty and baffling disorientation.

This rapper-producer duo from the Philippines yearns the tenderness of the heart with soulful fragility, but one that’s gouged by what has come from a relationship before it. Good Kid$ proved that two is more than enough: to cut a brilliant EP that shows tenacity and strength of its style.

Shirley Kwan – Psychoacoustics

The slow, meditative timelessness echoes the album’s subject of affection; subsequent calm after the storm, anguished Dela. The reworked artistry of a newer version of her most spectacular hits continue to marvel, something no other artist could replicate. These are moments when Kwan is at her finest. Pure agelessness of the 80s Cantopop.

MC Hong – Channel 8

The best work yet from the South Korea hip hop artists – he was already one of the most technically accomplished actors in the country, but expands and popularises his craft here with sanguine and stirring songs. On “Temparature”, he goes in as hard as a passionate Alesso over an electric dance beat. Channel 8 is a gathering of friendships over his years in entertainment; a selfless indulgent into the best and smoothest R&B.

Samuel Seo – The Misfit

There’s a musicality to his delivery merging jazz and hip hop that suggests a man considering one side of the brawl, then the other – but ultimately there is little equivocation as he thrives in the 90s R&B with an attitude not many can impersonate. Ordinary Kids is a harmonious conception that flutters intimately with melodious execution. A bona fide album that expresses societal tensions, and surprisingly, upheld indubitable reiterations of what truly matters to him, all the while grooving to the old soul of the West Coast.

Sunwoo Jung-A – Serenade

Sunwoo fully leans in to her best ballad troubadour mode on her post Barberettes period, spinning endlessly captivating yarns of estranged hopes and affectionate lovers. Her sheer zest for life in these smooth, ultra-quotable self-fulfilling tracks as well as the classic-pop hooks – magnifies the fervor of her latest record.

小春 Kenzy – Sha Kuan [What’s Crackin]

The quick-witted, unequivocal voice of Taiwanese rapper Kenzy captures the raw fundamentals of his cultural upbringing, and his creative output are as atmospheric as ever here. He resembles a stern-eyes emoji at various points, embedding the truth from his own vantage point. The EP consists of strong tracks that maturely traverse beyond the boundaries of solemnity and burlesque

Salammusik – Live On Tour 2019

There’s always something raw about a live recording. Reggae is magnified here with Salammusik’s ardent rendition for life’s devotion and blessing of their land. The recording maintains the band’s mission of national regeneration that embraces Malaysia, a blessed land and cultural neighbour. It’s a love affair for the loping rhythms in Di Tanah Kita, of reflection and devotion in Berkah and the declarations of joy and defiance
of Lupakan Semalam: an unsparing emotional blasts of brass reggae style.

Chai – Punk

Imagine listening to a highly pressurised keetle boiling as this is our very first impression of Chai, the Japanese quartet who has devoted their second album to earnest, maximalist pop favouring a feminist message. Directly translated from Japanese “Pink butt cheeks are my appeal/Twinkle, jewels, pearls, princess, twilight!” Jammed with layers of competing synth lines and slightly distorted vocals and drums, you now have “I’m Me”, a rush of youthful pop from Chai, a disco-punk band who yearn to tear away the stereotypical charm and cuteness portrayed in Japan. Spectacularly over the top, the album is cheerfully overloaded leaving little room for any down moments.

Dongyang Gozupa – Surface

This experimental rock band creates intense and dimensional music made for the Orient. The traditional Korean zither’s electrifying simulation of “Wave”, is a beautiful interpretation without words. While the intensity glows through “Now And Then”, Gozupa’s understanding of its inherent masculine tone, and way with influencing vigor, means their domestic influence was never temporary. In its truest sense, Kitaro in the making.

Read more: Asia’s Best Music Albums 2019: 21-30

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