JUICE’s Mid-Year Recap of The Best Local Releases to Get Us Through Our Lockdown Blues

collage by JUICE designer, Safa

While we’re not allowed to go mosh-pitting and flirt with cute strangers at gigs during lockdown, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some great music while we’re sitting at home.

In fact, local artists have been putting out catchy tunes and cinematic visuals despite the stay-at-home order. Extracting from feelings of loneliness and juxtaposing it with some groovy-disco tracks, our picks are as nuanced as our emotions during this lockdown.

To ail the loneliness and yearning for the outside world, these tracks can become your new anthem until we’re allowed to step out again.

So plug in your speakers and turn on your xaxau lights because we’re going to recommend our favourite local releases of 2021… so far!

Ameera’s picks

Budak Nakal Hujung Simpang, ‘Labu’

Kicking off our list is the latest release from Budak Nakal Hujung Simpang titled, ‘Labu’.

The vibe of the song makes you feel like you just entered a cushy new speakeasy in town and you’re ready to chat it up with some patrons over cocktails.

The brilliant sax intro is followed by raspy vocals before crescendoing into an assemblage of guitar, drums, synths and cello. The video accurately portrays the band’s well-known charisma on stage which is palpable even through the screen.

While the song itself is catchy, the lyrics astutely reflects the current era of monopolisation of politics where, according to the band, the government is akin to the pumpkin seen in the cover, which was designed by Lizzie Zany.

Budak Nakal Hujung Simpang : Ramai tapi 'halimunan' - Utusan Digital
source: Utusan

The lyrics, “Terjun lah kau si labu, terjun. Hanyutlah kau mengikut arus. Manis lidah labuku, manis. Jangan sampai nampak bercabang. Karam dan hilang!” is greatly poetic and it essentially pleads for the pumpkin to jump into harsh waters and float with the tides alongside the rest of us.

The words of the pumpkin may sound sweet at first, especially to an untrained ear, but as soon as the people start to hear the truth that is being veiled, the pumpkin will sink and disappear. Interpret that as you will, folks!

Late Night Frequency, ‘Fun Lust Love’

Now that you’ve caught your breath after that rather deep analysis into the lyrics of ‘Labu’, take a chill pill with Late Night Frequency’s ‘Fun Lust Love’.

The title is exactly what the song is about and exactly the vibe it exudes. Its disco guitars and synths makes it a track you can dance to while the lyrics are telling you to let go of the things that make you sad and just enjoy the ride.

Even the music video portrays a couple frolicking in a wide, empty space before going on dates to a cafe, riding on carousels and even moon walking… Yeah, it gets pretty trippy towards the end but I’m not complaining!

Reminiscent of Tame Impala’s brilliant album The Slow Rush, this track is our very own version of ‘One More Hour’.

Capt’n Trips and The Kid, ‘Jack Smack’

When I first introduced the team to Capt’n Trips and The Kid, I remember my editors telling me they were a group of pretty boys. Despite that, it still didn’t detract from the groovy new sound of their unreleased album, which we managed to squeeze out of them in the form of JUICE’s Home Jams video segment.

Performing ‘HMN Emotion’, ‘Gaia Lovely Woman’ and the already released, ‘Jack Smack’, the band’s palpable energy and undeniable skills on their respective instruments proved their love for the neo-psychedelic genre.

If you’re a fan of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, you’d definitely enjoy Capt’n Trips and The Kid… Even their name is a mouthful similar to their Western counterpart.

‘Jack Smack’ has a guitar riff opening that will get you off that butt-imprinted couch and on your feet to dance and groove to. A mostly instrumental track with complex layers, this song is a testament to their unique sound and production quality.

Charmaine’s picks

IMZZZ, ‘Bees’

Imzzz might be an artist that’s under the radar for now but the tracks that he produces are one of a kind. Every song made by him automatically makes you feel like you’re running through a serene meadow accompanied by a feeling of wholesomeness and warmth in your heart.

Listening to ‘Bees’ had me shook because I could not believe that this was a Malaysian artist in the first place as it reminded me of Rex Orange County. All the more reasons that this talented son of a gun should get his shot in the limelight soon!

The beat and vibe of this song is truly calming and the lyrics fit perfectly well as it expresses being free just like bees and exploring the great unknown with someone that you’re comfortable with.

If you’re a fan of indie music and have been on the search for new artists to listen, I guarantee you, you would not regret listening to ‘Bees’.

Airliftz, ‘Lonely’ 

Emerging rapper and producer, Airliftz has been in the music game for a while now with songs that would automatically turn heads. His latest single, ‘Lonely’ personally had me listening to it every time I wake up as the lyrics are not just catchy but also it makes me feel like I have butterflies in my stomach.

Especially this part: “Don’t want to be alone, can I knock ya door? I can go get dinner and we can get down to love, and yeah I haven’t said, but you know imma say it, you’re looking so beautiful.”

Simple but really effective on my serotonins. Needless to say, the beat of this song is something you would bop to no matter where played. This is definitely a great tune to get you through the day.

It may be titled ‘Lonely’ but listening to it made me feel loved.

Safa’s picks

Lil Asian Thiccie, ‘Lie 2 U’

Being an artist of back-to-back bangers, Lil Asian Thiccie still manages to surprise us again with her latest single ‘Lie 2 U’, which transcends into an exciting electronic pop era. 

Complete with robotic backing vocals, a catchy chorus, and heavy, bass synths, this song is confirmed to awaken the hyperpop princess in everyone. It’s nostalgic and reminiscent of pop radio hits I used to listen to religiously as a kid – totally Y2K.

Bending genres, Lil Asian Thiccie still includes her raps amidst all the electronic pop on the track, which I feel is my favourite part of the song thanks to her lyricism and the way she switches up her flows so well. If you’re not already dancing within the first minute, what are you doing?

Dubai Tax Fare, ‘Love Me’

Bedroom pop fans, I present to you a new gem to add to your sad hours playlists. Dubai Tax Fare’s latest single titled ‘Love Me’ tells of their take on the challenges of modern relationships, all the while being a 100% groovy track. 

Their lead singer Nisha’s vocals sultrily sing about entangled relationships, uncertainty, and the doubt that is cast in your mind when falling for someone new. They note Hujan as one of their biggest inspirations, and I do sense the nostalgia within their music, at times reminding me of 2006 indie band, Estrella.

Needless to say, I’ll be counting the days ’til I can shout my lungs out and dance to ‘Love Me’ at their next post-lockdown gig!

Quinny’s picks

NYK, ‘On Me’

NYK is no stranger to the Malaysian music scene, especially after this sick music video release! ‘On Me’ was released in April this year and the graphic concept behind it can only be described as visually hypnotising.

The catchy beats paired with the lyrics quickly captures a listener’s attention and coincides with NYK’s usual forte for captivating us with his vocals, making it almost impossible not to bop with.

The music video starts out with him in a sort of mental institution, with his medicated behaviour being monitored with tons of cameras from all angles pointing at him. Talk about being under the spotlight!

Never failing to disappoint, this is definitely playlist worthy and a great track to jam to.

Khai Zhen & yowha, ‘Deserve’

If you’re more of a slow beats, lo-fi kinda listener, this track is definitely for you.

Khai Zhen is an upcoming local music producer who makes all his tracks with his own equipment from the comfort of his bedroom. He’s always got new tracks coming out so be sure to look out for them!

The vocals from the track are in collaboration with @yow.ha, a Jakarta based artist. The lyrics depict the story of someone who is guilt-ridden over the mistakes made in a past relationship, and is convinced they deserve all the pain while wishfully thinking of mending things. Tale as old as time, we’ve all been there.

Don’t hesitate to add this to your collection if your go-to genre is alternative R&B/pop! Guaranteed chill vibes.

Ben’s picks

Azmyl Yunor, ‘Penghasut Blues’

Oh no! This list is dominated by zoomers whom an oldhead can’t relate to! That’s okay, good music transcends trends, much like how local folk-rocker Azmyl Yunor has stood the test of time playing blazing guitar and wailing harmonica coupled with honest lyrics about the state of the nation and the great cultural divide of Malaysia. It’s not party music unless the party’s a protest.

His latest MV for single ‘Penghasut Blues’ is a reminder to all kleptocrats – you can run but you can’t hide. Taken off his recent album John Bangi Blues, the opening track is a return to his rock ‘n’ roll roots – stripping down to a 3-piece with his band the Truly Asia. Someone pass this to Jibby, please!

Tingtong Ketz, ‘Papa Jahat’

Waving the LGBTQ+ flag high and proudly in conservative Malaysia is indie rock band Tingtong Ketz. The band’s so indie that apart from throwing their own live shows, recording themselves and managing their own merch and fanbase, frontwoman Shika, who’s also an accomplished artist, made the animated music video for their latest track.

Although they’re often pigeonholed as an LGBT band, Tingtong Ketz’s material stretches past the struggle for equality, entering into weirder areas like on this catchy and oddly-sexual surf number.

The MV for ‘Papa Jahat’ off their latest album Misi Destinasi somehow reminds me of a certain Abah who likes the rotan. Maybe I’m reading too deep into the cute and dark animation or maybe it’s just one hell of a way to end this list. Bai.

For more of JUICE’s curated playlists, you can check out our Spotify here.