When one thinks of the so many reasons to love Singapore, pop music probably doesn’t come first to mind – especially as compared to, say, the scenes in Seoul or Tokyo.
But everything about artful songstress Linying seems to suggest she’s poised to even capture imaginations out here in the West – having already won praise from the likes of Billboard and NPR. She first caught attention as a featured vocalist on dance tracks by KRONO and Felix Jaehn; but now signed to Nettwerk, she has delivered a wistful but sultry new single, “Tall Order,” that we hope is a harbinger of more to come.
Indeed, with its gorgeously lush sonics, melancholy mood and Linying’s soulful, longing vocals, it distinctly recalls the likes of Pet Shop Boys and The Blue Nile. Lyrically, it’s a poignant meditation on self-doubt and motivation.
“‘Tall Order’ was me realizing that about myself,” she explains. “I wondered if I was struggling with the menial things, because it was all I’d been tasked with; that maybe if I was given a higher purpose, taller of an order, I’d be able to prove myself better. But of course, that’s just an excuse – I’m just throwing a tantrum.”
The accompanying video, which she co-directed with Tan Yan Long, was filmed at Singapore’s sexy Hotel Vagabond – and is shot full of poignant metaphor.
“With this video,” Linying says, “I tried to put into a visual language what it feels like to be deeply dissatisfied with yourself. All the nights out spent avoiding addressing the issue, obsessing over the plates at a party and throwing a fit just because one thing doesn’t go your way. At some point you just start seeing yourself acting like a child.”
As BlackBook is wont to do, we also asked her to take us around to her favorite spots in Singapore.
Linying’s Singapore Faves
The Projector only started becoming a part of my life four years ago, but it’s already my favorite place to catch arthouse films that the big distributors don’t screen. It’s also been around since my parents’ time in the 70s, when it was called the Golden Theatre, and it was where they used to go on movie dates. They’ve obviously since renamed it and retained most of the interiors to exploit its rustic, hipster appeal, that goes hand-in-hand with its Instagram potential – but I’m a sucker for it, I think it’s cute. Plus they have a great selection of movies and pretty badass salted-egg fries.
Right next to The Projector is a building called Golden Mile Complex, which is also known as a sort of Thai enclave. I find it such an interesting spot because it’s an old mall that seems to have somehow escaped the wave of modernization that has hit everywhere outside of it. It’s a strange mix of Thai eateries, shops selling knick-knacks, and sleazy karaoke bars – where hostesses in fluffy occasion dresses hold their skirts up and stride down in monster heels, chatting wryly in a language I don’t understand, probably laughing at a desperate male clientele. It’s also where the best mookata (i.e. Thai barbecue) in the country can be found. No question.
I pretty much grew up in Serangoon Gardens. It’s largely residential and void of tall buildings, which is a rare sight in Singapore; and it’s full of little shops, ice cream parlors, and some of the best supper spots. RK Eating House is a popular, no-frills, 24-hour mamak – the term for an Indian Muslim eatery – and has some really great fried chicken and prata (kind of a savoury, doughy, crispy pancake eaten with curry. I don’t know how to explain it, just try it). Another place I love is La Petite Boutique, which is a French-owned charcuterie, boulangerie and fromagerie all in one. Every time I feel like I need a treat, I pop over and buy myself an indulgent wedge of truffle brie and some rosé. Also notable is Oblong ice cream.
I know this is sounding a bit too much like a food guide, so I’m including Peace Centre as one of my favorite spots, because it’s where I bought my first midi keyboard and condenser mic – it’s got a special place in my heart. There’s a bunch of music gear and guitar shops scattered all over the first two floors, City Music is one of the best. There’s also a great Escape Room randomly situated in a corner.
There’s nowhere like Mustafa…ask any Singaporean. I don’t even really know how to begin to explain it, because it’s sort of a department store, but the departments tend to be rather fluid, to say the least; think, footwear section with shoes stuffed to the brim in shelves next to the toothpaste section, and counterfeit perfumes near electronics. Toys, jewelry, kitchen appliances, gardening tools can all be found here – Mustafa has everything.
The Ann Siang Hill area is a scenic shophouse stretch built around sloping, winding roads and is the best place to explore Singapore in a day. Great eateries: The Coconut Club for delicious nasi lemak, The Apiary for freshly-made artisanal ice cream in local, seasonal flavors, Tong Heng for the best egg tarts in town. Also fun bars: Spiffy Dapper, my favorite rustic ‘20s-vibe cocktail bar, Parelum Wine Bistro, a cozy bar with a vending machine dispensing wine! And even great bookstores, like Littered with Books and Woods in the Books. I prefer being there at night to avoid the scorching sun (no air-conditioning).
The Esplanade will always be a special place to me, because it’s where I did my very first gigs starting out. It’s one of Singapore’s biggest arts venues and has played an essential role in the careers of many Singaporean musicians who, before then, didn’t have many other places to play that had high quality light and sound systems. The stages are also of an international standard. They bring in a big variety of artists – everything from opera to shoegaze to Mongolian throat-singing. You name it.