Text Alfonso Gomez
THEIR OWN WORLD
The quality of YouTube stars are about the same as that of reality show’s — except you have a tonne more Ukulele-wielding girls singing twee covers of their favourite pop songs than the same type off The Voice. As scathing as that sounds, the internet is still the most democratic among the public’s arsenal of zeitgeist-determining tools. The ratio of genuine talent and rote quirky indie singer-songwriter is severely disproportionate, but yet someone like Zee Avi wouldn’t have been ‘discovered’ by the Simon Powells (and Adam Levines now, we guess?) of the industry. The same goes to sibling band The Impatient Sisters.
For a music act whose popularity was first garnered on the internet, to be as talented as the sisters – Soraya, Nazeera, and Kina – is rare. Most similar acts would go on to join the rather unindustrious route of being signed to a label and dictated by ‘industry’ professionals (read: charlatans), only to then be left forgotten in the annex of could-haves and what-nots. Unfortunately for these pros and fortunately for the band, eldest sister Soraya has an auteurist approach to their output – she doesn’t have time for your sh!t. Since the last we wrote of them two years ago, the band had been approached by wizened experts – commercial and independent, producers and scenemakers – who offered sagely advices often unasked, to which the band had declined their industry wisdom defiantly. They are allowed to help the band’s journey (and they did), but the sisters decide their own direction.
This band ethos couldn’t be clearer than the very moment we held The Impatient Sisters’ debut LP. Self-styled as a storybook of some kind (the tracklisting is called content for one), one cursory look at the liner notes revealed that even the art is done by Soraya and friends (Shannon Chan and Nathalia Lim). A more thorough examination revealed that with the exception of one track, the entirety of the album was surprisingly self-produced. And listening to the smartly packaged collection revealed that their DIY method was a smart move, the album sounds great, mostly – to make a soundbite statement about it, at least.
Those who religiously follow the band’s career would immediately be familiar with the tracklist – these are songs you’ve seen them performed time and time again, recently and even as far back as during their YouTube days. The same songs you’ve fallen in love with and wondered how they’d translate on record. The answer to that turns out to be exactly as how they are live – especially when the band is backed by a full band and then some (à la Kina’s Boston farewell).
This imbues the album with the same intimacy you’d get from watching their shows; there is preciousness to their pop-friendly folk tunes that can be gleaned live. It feels private regardless of the size of the show. Think the emotionality of the end scene of Yasmin Ahmad’s Talentime (especially end track ‘Oh Kawan’). Listening to the Icarus-like tale of chasing oblivion of ‘Forever I Know’ and cutesy lovelorn fable of ‘The Ark’ on record is akin to having lullabies sung to you personally.
However, there is a drawback to having recorded an album that facsimiles your live incarnation. While with the exception of Ershad’s exceptional cello work, the string arrangements, piano, keys, bass, and percussions (some provided by Jeremy Larson, whose production and instrumentation can be heard on Eisley’s albums) aren’t always part of the band’s regular live setup, it still feels a bit of a missed opportunity that some extra studio magic wasn’t added to what listeners are already expecting. It’s odd having to write that – critics often time complain that bands sound better on record than live instead – but try listening to the AG Coco-produced ‘Comets and Stars’ and not think of the sisters’ performance on The Wknd Sessions. Even the glockenspiel sounds cheap, and not in the endearing way it’s supposed to. Considering AG Coco’s pop acumen, it’s disappointing that a studio version of the track didn’t add anything at all to the original.
It’s tempting to delve deeper into the subject of production – side note: not taking anything away from the engineering, the album’s sound is crisp, but music production isn’t just sound quality – but critiquing can feel like a critic’s obligation rather than their immediate reaction. Let’s not distract from the accomplishment of the band’s first release. A debut works two ways, they either impress thoroughly and be followed up by a disappointing sophomore, or are just good enough to suggest that the next offering would be even better. We believe The Impatient Sisters fall into the latter category.
LISTEN TO: ‘The Ark’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Eisley
RATING: 3 ½
3. Comets and Stars
5. Far Away
6. Forever I Know
7. The Ark
8. Red and Blue
9. Hey There Young Sailor
10. Sleep Song
11. Oh Kawan