Definition of Indie – derives from the word ‘Independent‘ and when it’s applied to music, it means artists from independent labels or let’s just say it’s an alternative genre that doesn’t really fit the traditional pop genre, or if you guys prefer to read my version of definition – “just really damn good music“. Usually, these artists are criminally underrated and that fits the purpose of “Line’s Picks” category: to recommend underrated gems. Even though this is a Taiwanese-drama-centric blog, I’ve been wanting to blog about my strong music obsession for quite some time.
I may talk about my Korean and Japanese indie music obsession in the future but I’m sure there are many other good K-indie, J-indie blog to recommend these gems so I shall focus on Taiwanese indie music for now. I’m not sure how many of my readers are into indie-music but you may find a few gems from my recommendations.
List of Artists I’ll be covering on:
Taiwan: Frandé (法蘭黛樂團), Cheer Chen (陳綺貞)，Waa Wei (魏如萱)，Crowd Lu (盧廣仲)，Morning Call (輕晨電)，Cosmospeople (宇宙人)，Hush!，Anniedora (安妮朵拉)，Hello Nico，Space Cake (史貝絲考克)，Pia (Pia樂團)，Deserts Chang (張懸)，The Girl and The Robots (女孩與機器人),
I always run short of words to describe when I write music reviews so bear with me for my poor English command. I’m not a professional music critic so I may not able to fully identify the music genre they’re playing. I’ll try to describe their music as much as I can, but the best way to understand is listen to them!
Music Style/Genre: Soft Indie-Pop, Melancholic Music
Comments: Listening to the vocalist, Fran‘s voice makes me feel drunk in a place filled with fogs. Her voice reminds me of Faye Wong, a little bit soft, a little bit jazzy, melancholic and just so beautifully gloomy. It’s perfect to listen to her voice in a rainy day. Fran used to be a soloist under Avex Music label before she established her own band, Frandé. The band is currently under Linfair music label (William Wei is also under them). The music style she had during her solo days are much less melancholic than the ones she released for her band but I think Frande’s emotional songs are more my cup of tea. They’re definitely one of my favorite Taiwanese Indie band. Even her lyrics are simple but poetic, I’ll translate some parts of her lyrics but my translation does no justice for the lyrics.
I actually prefer the demo version over the official album version for this song, Listen to it below:
“Is there a kind of passionate arrangement or those kind of romance that makes us say and pretend to run away together? Let us return the old days where we could care less and laugh crazily. Back in those days, there’s actually nothing when we open our arms… But I felt that tomorrow or even the day after that, I could fearlessly put anything into my heart.”
輓歌 (Song of not letting go)
“I pin on the flag of love onto my chest and sing praises of the truth you talked about.
As your lover, besides withstanding pain with you, awaiting, I could only await.”
“I already stopped caring, I care no more about it since I can’t do anything about it.
Maybe for you, I’m just an embellish, a small topic to talk about during tea break.
I want to be better, want to be more important, I want to amaze you.
i want to know how should I look to be able to attract you?”
閃電 (Lighting) – BGM for The Pursuit of Happiness (愛的生存之道)
One of their “healthier”, I mean… happier songs.
我多麼想成為你的鹿 (I really want to be your deer)
Their latest demo track, I can’t wait for their new album T_T
Cheer Chen (陳綺貞)
Music Style/Genre: Soft Indie-Pop/Folk/Rock, Ocassional Bossa Nova and just a pure, innocent, sweet voice singing some really pragmatic sad music.
Comments: I’m pretty sure some of you guys may have heard about her name or at least know that she’s the women who collaborated with Mayday’s Ashin for 私奔到月球 (Let’s flee to the moon), she’s a veteran low-profile singer-songwriter that has been in the music industry for almost 2 decades (and she still look so young!) and is also critically well-acclaimed in the industry, she frequently gets nominated in the Golden Music Award. She’s well known for her sweet, innocent voice and her lyrical capabilities, some of her lyrics are filled with her own unique philosophy on love and life. Truthfully, when I was younger, I couldn’t fully understand the meaning behind some of her lyrics but as I grow older, I appreciate them more as I understand them better. If you’ve watch Taiwanese old-school hit movie, Blue Gate Crossing (藍色大門) which stars Bolin Chen and Gui Lun-Mei then you may recognize her as the singer of the theme song – 小步舞曲 (Minuets), a really feel-good song. Even though some of her songs are more than 10 years old, it still feels very modern and pleasant to listen to.
You can see the very, very young version of Bolin Chen and Gui Lun-Mei in this MV, haha!
小塵埃 (Little Dusts)
A really awesome bossanova song…
太聰明 (Too Smart)
I can totally relate to her lyrics for this song, not saying that I’m too smart (HA!) but it’s a song about herself where she have too much pride and always overthinking about love so she always feel afraid to open up to the guy, thus she’s always acting “too smart” in front of him.
“The me that you always thought of being mysterious and hard to understand is in fact nothing much after you understand me. I hide my feelings by acting suddenly cold or suddenly hot at times but actually, I’m just afraid that you’ll see through my heart that loves you.”
流浪者之歌 (Wanderer’s Song /Gypsy in Memory)
The title track from her latest album, even though the English title is called “Gypsy in memory”, I prefer the literal translation of the Chinese title, “Wanderer’s Song” as this song is about the life struggles and hope of the people, thus calling those who struggle in life as the “wanderers”. Read the full translation of the lyrics HERE. This MV won the best music video of the year in Golden Music Awards 2014, it’s such a moving video.
柏拉圖式的愛情 (Platonic Love)
Another MV from her latest album, also nominated as the best music video of the year in Golden Music Awards 2014. She got 2 MVs nominated!
Peace and Revolution
Another track from her latest album, I think she’s being a little bit experimental for this song as she incorporates some Indian drumbeats and the song sounds very, very exotic. Truthfully, it took me a few listens to fall in love with this song as it’s so different from her usual style but I definitely like it!
Waa Wei (魏如萱)
Music Style/Genre: Dream Pop/Indie-Pop, Occasional Rock, Bossanova and Jazz, colorful style.
Comments: Waa Wei is definitely one of the most colorful voices in Taiwan, she’s such a chameleon, she can sing sweet cute songs and also powerful songs easily. It’s definitely difficult to categorize her into a single genre as she have tried on so many different styles. Her younger sister is Queen Wei (魏如昀), one of the top10 contestant from famous singer audition program, 超級星光大道. It definitely shows that good genes run in her family because both sisters have such beautiful voices. Her sister sings more rock music but Waa is more flexible in terms of genre. She used to be the lead vocalist of an Indie band called, Natural Q (自然捲), their songs are more to the sweet and lighthearted style, which is also a pretty similar style to Waa’s first solo album but she starts venturing out of her usual dream pop, bossanova, light style and goes for more serious and dark tones for her future albums. She’ll always try to incorporate different styles in her album and I never get bored listening to her, she’s easily my favorite Taiwanese Indie artist (I HEART WAA WEI). I went to her live gig in Singapore and her live singing sounds so good (plus she has great personality!).
Trivia: She’s in the same music label with Crowd Lu and Cheer Chen, Team Ear Music have some really great artists! I also love listening to her radio show, HitFM Oh夜DJ for every Monday to Friday at 9PM, you can listen to her radio live online too HERE. (It starts at 9PM Taiwan time)
在不確定的世界裡 (In a world filled with uncertainties)
Cheer Chen specially wrote this song for her for her latest album, the MV is just damn beautiful, I love all those butterflies and the lighting makes her look so ethereal.
捉迷藏 (Hide and Seek)
Another song from her latest album, it’s quite heavy in guitar and it’s so addictive. This song feels more pop than her other songs actually.
飛鳥 (Flying Bird)
This song feels more like Indie-rock to me, it’s from her second album if I’m not wrong..
一起去旅行 (Let’s go Travelling)
Her title track from her first solo album, as you can hear, it have a little bit of dream pop elements in it and the style is pretty different from the songs in her latest album.
買你 (Buy You)
Another track from her first solo album, the lyrics talk about her wanting to buy the sadness of her friend and this is such a cute song!
A cover of the same title song from Emily Sparks.
An emotional English song composed by Maximilian Hecker for her, she sounds so goood…
一刀兩刃 (Clean Break)
A bossanova song about separation and break up, saying that what will be yours is yours and what can’t be yours, just let it go.
Je t’aime moi non plus
A really edgy upbeat song with rock elements, her voice is so strong in this song. Can someone who understands French tell me what the title means (or is it even French)??
晚安晚安 (Good Night, Good Night)
There’s some French (I don’t understand French but it sounds like it) in her chorus and this is a very beautiful ballad. There’s still so many songs from her that I can recommend to you guys but I’ll let this song be my last song recommendation because if not I’ll be recommending too much for her.
Crowd Lu (盧廣仲)
Music Style/Genre: Indie-Pop, Acoustic, sincere songs about the various kinds of lifestyle, simple lyrics but effective.
Comments: Crowd Lu is easily the favorite Indie singer-songwriter of many Taiwanese college students. His lyrics may not be poetic but the simple descriptions about various situations in life is very effective and his vocals is very strong. He got a very clean style of singing and his voice sounds so crisp and clear, I’m a sucker for his voice. His songs are so sincere and it’s just very pleasant to listen to. I was totally impressed by his first album but his newer albums were great too. Besides being well-known for his songs, he is also well-known for his unique fashion style, he’s always wearing shorts and sporting mushroom head with thick-black-frame glasses, his 宅男 (nerdy) look have became his trademark. I went to his concert in Singapore and he sounds damnnnnnnnnn good in live and he’s so cute (personality wise I mean, HA!).
一百種生活 (100 Kinds of Life)
This is his title track from his debut album and it’s still my favorite song from him.
再見勾勾 (Bye Gou Gou)
Go Go Boy, Go Go Girl! The lyrics are stuck in my head and it’s such a fun and upbeat song.
把我踢開 (Kick me Away)
It’s a little bit different from his usual style but I still really like it.
再見了，阿法迪斯 (Good Bye, A Fa Di Si)
I fell in love with this song even more after listening his live performance.
不想去遠方 (I don’t want to go too far)
早安，晨之美 (Morning, Morning beauty!)
The MV is just so cute and funny and I love the swings element in this song.
別在我睡著的時候打電話給我 (Don’t Call Me When I’m Sleeping)
Another fun song and MV from him, talking about how his friends who are night owls keep on calling him when he’s asleep at night (He’s known to be a morning person and loves breakfast). One of the lyrics goes like this, “Don’t call me when I’m sleeping unless you want to treat me to breakfast.” HAHA!
Morning Call (輕晨電)
Music Style/Genre: Indie-Pop, Post-Rock, a little bit of light electro music, heavy on instrumental, atmospheric music
Comments: Notice anyone familiar looking from the picture (the one on the left)? YES! It’s Jasper Liu, he’s the guitarist of Morning Call. I’ll name the band members in the picture – from left to right, Jasper Liu (Guitarist), Xiao Ying (Mixing), Da Kai (Drummer), Sui Ling (Vocalist), Meng Shu (Bassist). I’ve actually known this band from a few years ago, the girls are models in the same agency with Jasper Liu and the band is now under Eelin Model agency (the only music band they have). They’ve yet to release full albums and have consequently released singles on streetvoice but I’m really digging their music style, it’s very light, atmospheric and it really fits what their band concept, “Light music to wake up to in the morning”. Sui Ling, the vocalist may not have the best singing skills or a strong voice but her voice fits their songs very well and it’s just very pleasant to listen to. Their song, “Fine” have been on my playlist for the longest time, there’s not much lyrics in it but the ambient and music instruments alone are enough for me.
It’s very post-rock, the guitar sounds so good.
宇宙中心看見 (Seeing from the center of Universe)
I’m so in love with the electronic opening of this song, it makes me feel like I’m in a Cosmo trance.
無聲之詩 (Soundless Poetry)
One of their latest single, it feels like dream pop to me, very atmospheric.
法國片 (French Movies)
The drum beat and the bass sounds great, one of my favorite songs from them besides Fine.
一切都沉睡了 (Everything Falls Asleep)
One of their latest single and I’ve been playing this song on constant repeat.
Cosmos People (宇宙人)
Music Style/Genre: Funk groovy music, Indie-Pop, a little bit of jazz and bossanova at times, very, very fun rhythmic music!
Comments: I only start noticing them after their song was featured as the theme song of Taiwanese drama, Love, Now (真愛趁現在) and I just regret that I haven’t met them sooner. Even though their album sounds good, they’re even better live because there’s just so much energy from the vocalist, Xiao Yu (小玉). When I went to their live gig last year, I had so much fun because many of their songs have very strong rhythms and they’re so danceable. It’s been a few years since they released their last album but they have been going on music tours around the world, in USA, in Japan and many other countries. They’re currentlyunder Bin Music label (相信音樂) which also houses singer-song writer Yan-J, Bella Ding, Jia Jia and Mayday. I was a bit surprised to know that they’re from Bin music as I didn’t know Bin music label release artists with such an indie style. They’ve recently released a special packaged album for the Japanese audience and been getting pretty good responses from the Japanese music lovers. Xiao Yu’s voice sounds a little bit similar to Crowd Lu, they both have very clean style of singing and their voice are both very crisp and raw but their music style is entirely different and I love them both in different ways.
一起去跑步 (Let’s go running together)
Probably one of their most famous song as it’s the theme song of Love, Now and I really like the rhythm of this song. It’s an uplifting song about let’s run and sweat to forget the troubles, instead of crying over them.
神秘河流 (Mysterious River Current)
This is personally my favorite song from them, there’s a lot of groovy and funk elements in this song. I’ve lost count of how many times I played this song, I love the beat to it and the lyrics are very creative. They use various metaphors to describe the woman they like. LOVE THIS SONG!
“Your hair is like a black color mysterious river current,
you’re difficult to grasp when you turn your back to me.
Your eyes are like a novel book that I can’t unwrap,
the sensational title is stirring me.
Your hands are like angel’s hands wrapping on my face,
but from time to time, you’re like a devil when you try to explore down.
Your body is a part that I can’t take away,
in the end you still left after we’ve exchanged our souls.”
想把你拍成一部電影 (I want to film you into a movie)
I’m just melting like an ice cream for Xiao Yu’s smooth voice in this Bossanova song. This is one of the BGM in Love, Now. The lyrics describe how the woman he love is so beautiful that he wants to film her into a movie.
夜來夜想 (Night Comes, Night Wants)
There’s a lot of word play and puns in this song, Ye Lai Ye Xiang (夜來夜想) is the pronunciation of the chinese title, it sounds similar to Yue Lai Yue Xiang (越來越香) which means “more and more fragrant”, which also have an underlying meaning that as night comes, the woman becomes more fragrant. This is such a funky music!
浪費一整天 (Waste the whole day)
Jazzy and smooth! Perfect song for a lazy afternoon. The song talks about how he wakes up with the girl he loves beside him in the morning and he wants to do nothing and just waste time with her the whole day as it’s very romantic.
A Mandarin remake of the theme song of an old school Japanese drama, Love Generation, Apple’s Magic. The title is in Japanese because they’re releasing this special track for their special repackaged album for the Japanese audience. I’m definitely in love with this remake, it makes the original song sounds so modern as they add a lot of funk elements and rhythmic beats to it.
Music Style/Genre: Indie-Rock, Acoustic, warm voice and lyrics that grips your heart.
Comments: This band gained recognition through Street Voice project (a Taiwanese indie music website) for their song 波西米亞 (Bohemia). The vocalist, Hush has such a warm voice with a tinge of huskiness in it. The lyrics he write are just so beautifully gripping and uplifting, he talks about various kinds of lifestyle and love. He sings the song as if he’s talking to the listeners and his song can be so moving at times. There’s a lot of sincerity in his work. I LOVE HIM!
I love how warm is this song. The lyric is like the vocalist writing a letter to a friend far away, asking how is his life.
“I want to ask how are you?
Are you still working hard?
Have the crowd in the big city dispersed your direction?
I’m still the same, still like a Bohemian,
can’t stop wandering and there’s also nothing for me to be busy about.”
空中的戀人 (Lovers in the sky)
This MV display the various kinds of love, including LGBT, there’s even some text graphics forming a rainbow (which is one of the symbol for LGBT). It fits to what the song is trying to express, every kind of love is beautiful.
藍綠藻的夢 (A dream about blue-green algae)
There’s something dreamy about the lyrics, as if he’s telling us a story about his strange dream. Personally, this is my favorite song from the band, I just love the atmosphere of this song.
“You dream of that strange scene again.
Your world have become grey.
When you’re angry, you’ll see red.
When you’re sad, you’ll feel blue immediately.
Close your eyes and feel the sky.
Is it sad or happy?”
過來人 (A person with experience)
The lyrics T_T…. I’ve translated the whole lyric since there’s not much to it anyway.
“Pingtung is the name of my hometown,
the people over there lead simple lives.
My family, I really miss them, just thinking of them makes me happy.
Taipei, the place I currently reside in,
the people over here sacrifice too much time.
However, is it really worth it? Do you also wonder about it?
How about you? Where are you now?
Are you counting on the days or living the days everyday?
As for me, you can’t really consider me as a person with a lot of experience,
it’s just that I have more scars from the failures.”
Music Style/Genre: Indie-pop, Acoustic, Bossanova, sweet and earnest music
Comments: The vocalist, Annie has such a clean and sweet voice. Their songs also talks about the various sceneries of life like Hush! and Crowd Lu but they have their own unique style. I can’t remember when I stumbled upon them but I remember that 有點脆弱 (A little bit frail) was the song that led me to search more stuffs from them. Their songs are very easy to listen so I think people will like them easily.
This MV is just so moving, I’m weak towards love stories between the older people because it’s so beautiful. This is my favorite song from them, Annie’s voice sounds perfect for this song.
有點脆弱 (A little bit frail)
A very soothing bossanova song from them.
聰明的寂寞 (Smart loneliness)
I really like the unique editing and scene transitions in this MV, they just use one single location to film all kinds of story, it feels like a play.
Music Style/Genre: Indie-rock, dark, intense and dramatic music with a lot of edge.
Comments: There’s a very raw and rugged feeling when I’m listening to Hello nico’s vocalist voice. I love the intensity of their songs, it’s so powerful and dramatic. They’re pretty new to the indie scene as they’ve only released one mini album a few months ago but I think I’m already in a deep pit of addiction to their songs.
“Rain, I’m a heavy rain that drops onto your side but ruined your clothes instead.
I just want to play with you, stay by your side and admire your radiance.”
“Flower, please listen to me.
Unintentionally, I stepped on your clothes and ruined it.
Flower, please forgive me.
Unintentionally, I made you feel so hurt.”
My favorite song from them, the beat adds a lot of tension to the song and the vocal is so intense and powerful for this song.
Space Cake (史貝絲考克)
Music Style/Genre: Funky, groovy music, smooth and rhythmic, modern and feel-good music.
Comments: Latest addition to my favorite Taiwanese indie band list. They also play funky, groovy music like Cosmospeople but the vocalist smooth voice create a modern feel and his voice really fits funk music. I stumbled upon them while browsing through Streetvoice website, looking for new artists and their songs immediately caught my attention. So far, they only have released 1 mini album.
強韌的蟑螂人 (Tough Cockroach Man)
The title “cockroach man” is eye-catching that I became curious about it. I was expecting it to be a humorous song but the groove is so smooth and modern that it caught me by surprise and the lyrics create an interesting dynamic to the song. LOVE IT!
“Although I’m just a cockcroach, I’m tougher than humans.
Even when I face hardships, even if I encounter rats, I won’t back down.
Although I’m just a cockcroach, I’m tougher than humans.
Even when I face hardships, even if I encounter rats, I won’t give up.”
莫名其妙 (Ridiculous for no reason)
“Bla Bla bla bla” I love how the vocalist express his annoyance at a ridiculous person, haha! It’s really fun to listen to this song.
妳說 (You said)
給我妳的電話 (Give me your phone number)
His voice is soooo smooth.
Music Style/Genre: Indie-pop/Folk, cute and sweet, feminine and easy-to-listen to.
Comments: Their songs are cute, sweet and easy to listen. They’ve been around for a few years but I only got into them through their latest album. Their first album had more cute and sweet songs and their latest album have more mature stuffs (I mean less fluff) and I like both styles.
Sweet, Sexy Lover
Soo sweet that I’m gonna get cavaties.
生活不就是這樣 (Isn’t life like that?)
Their title track from their latest album, I really like this song. (Sadly, the one I can get from youtube is quite low quality…)
壞脾氣 (Bad Temper)
Love the beat to this one.
A very cute song about insomnia as she can’t sleep at night.
沿途 (The route)
An emotional ballad from them, my favorite song from their latest album.
Deserts Chang (張懸)
Music Style/Genre: Indie-pop/rock, alternative, mellow acoustic, distinct husky vocals.
Comments: Deserts Chang has a distinct husky voice s. Among many Taiwanese indie female artists, I think Deserts Chang and Cheer Chen are the ones with more public recognition (and Waa Wei is slowly climbing her way up there.). She also write poetic lyrics and sometimes she also touches society topics. Her last album release was in the year 2012 so I’m hoping that she’ll release some new stuffs, I’m starting to miss her already.
My favorite song from her. The lyric resonates with me, it talks about losing a loved one and the world became blurry for her but among all the sceneries she’ve seen, she still likes him the most. Check out the full lyric translations HERE.
I’m in love with this song, I love the chorus! The MV also includes LGBT couples.
A feel-good Indie-rock song from her.
兩者 (Two People)
Taiwanese actress, Janine Chang is the lead of this MV.
玫瑰色的你 (Rose Colored)
The MV is pretty disturbing as it’s so dark but the lyrics actually have positive meanings. Check out the full lyric translations HERE.
The Girl and The Robots (女孩與機器人)
Music Style/Genre: Atmospheric electro-pop, relaxing lovely vocals with a lot of synth, very refreshing in the Taiwanese music scene.
Comments: A 100% electro-pop group is rare and refreshing in Taiwanese music industry, even in the indie scene, some artists try to dabble in electro-pop a bit but I think none of them are as complete as TGnTR (The Girl and The Robots). The vocalist, Riin’s voice may not be the strongest but she adds a sweet touch to the electro music they play.
單人探戈 (Solo Tango)
I love this song so much, it’s so smooth.
超過 (Crossed the line)
Relaxing electro music, I love the low tempo of this song and the vocalist, Riin is so pretty!!
The title track of their first album and back then, it was really refreshing to see an Electro-pop group in the Taiwanese music scene.
My favorite song from their debut album, it’s just so mellow and I love the soft electro beats in the background.
兩吋半舞曲 (Two and the half inches of Dance Music)
Another song from their debut album, love it!
Love the beats to this song. I feel like I’m running out of words to describe songs as this is my last recommendation, haha!