Cutting an album is hard work, no doubt. So we have to forgive our dear Malaysian indie bands if they opt to find satisfaction purely from gigging, as opposed to committing their songs to audio. After all, what is music if it can’t be performed before an audience…?

Pffft. Our history is littered with acts that have soared on wings of hype, only to dive bomb into obscurity without having recorded any evidence of their existence. Which is why for 2011, these five artists have automatically advanced five steps on the board of artistic cred, purely based on their decision to release albums or EPs this year. So don’t let us down, chaps. Instead, roll the dice, zoom pass “Go” and collect your button badges. We salute you.

Diandra Arjunaidi

Do we really need another Malaysian acoustic guitar-wielding songstress? Oh heck, why not. Nineteen-year-old redhead Diandra Arjunaidi has proven to be a worthy addition to the Yuna/Zee Avi/Liyana Fizi collective—she’s certainly got the most elaborate stage name, and marries familiar percussive jazz stylings with a decidedly scarcer dash of melodic pop elegance. Facebook tells us that recording for her EP began last December (it also tells us that she’s opening for Secondhand Serenade’s KL show on 11 Janaury, but that’s far less intriguing), and the bossa inflected single ‘Happy’ is likely to be among the chosen cuts. Maybe someone should tell Jack Johnson to turn his YouTube back on…

They Will Kill Us All

Three vocalists in two years—most upstart bands would dissipate beneath such internal tumult, except that the veteran members of They Will Kill Us All had already weathered plenty of storms long before their formation in 2005. That’s not to say that last year’s setback of separating from second vocalist Sharon Chong (founding singer Hafizul Azim parted ways with the band in July 2009) wasn’t exasperating, as it meant that they couldn’t carry out any further promotional activities for debut EP Secret Episodes. Instead, TWKUA hibernated for much of the first half of the year, and re-emerged in August as slimmer, sleeker quartet, with guitarist Edwin Raj now on mic duties. First single ‘Great Glass City’ unveils Edwin’s Bloc Party-inflected twang amidst a trademark swirl of post punk guitars, and the band revealed in an interview with BFM that 15 songs had already been written. A pretty chunky crucible from which to forge a sophomore effort, no? We say keep on thrusting, lads. Someone’s gotta save us from emo.

Kyoto Protocol

Just two years old, and already owners of that cursed “Malaysia’s buzz band” label. What will it take to reroute Kyoto Protocol from that overpopulated road of hipster doom and onto far more enduring tracks of musical longevity? An album, for starters. Thankfully, the five-piece act has been diligently translating all that Baybeats/Rock The World/Global Battle of the Bands renown into old fashioned studio time, laying down tunes for an upcoming EP due for release in the first quarter of 2011. It will contain five to eight tracks, including live faves ‘Pussycat’ and ‘Never Know’ which have already benchmarked the band as “unclassifiable” (eek, yet another dastardly tag to trim). Sceptics are aplenty, and in reality only the release of the actual physical document, and dollops of sweaty gigging to follow, will prevent this lot from becoming another passing mention in those future conversations of “hey you remember that band, what’s their name again…?”.

Ferns

Back in 2006, the Ferns doused us with a delightful spray of indie pop via their debut On Botany. Like their leafy namesake, the quintet delivered an enchanting tome of tunes that wiggled away from the predominant angst of our indie ecosystem, towards broader pastures where childhood memories could be fully realised. Five years later, and another dose of Peter and Jane merriment has finally appeared on the horizon. The band’s second album is tentatively titled Fairweather Friends, and includes live staple ‘Dismay’. Other tunes paraded at gigs suggest that this album will feature a smidgen more rhythmic thrust to accompany the dainty coos and twinkly synths. Our watering cans are ready for a refill.

Pop Shuvit

The giants of Southeast Asian rap rock are far from kickflipping into retirement anytime soon. The quintet’s fifth album The Cherry Blossom Love Affair is set for a mid-2011 release, and the few sneak peeks available online suggest that some kind of epic narrative is in store. the album trailer—yeah, apparently you gotta have an album trailer these days—adopts a fairytale aura which hints at some kind of storytelling framework, while another YouTube video indicates the new album will feature menacing strings at some point. Whoa… violins and cellos in a concept album from a rap rock band? Start wetting those pants, y’all.

By Chris Chew

Author

Azzief believes in nothing and it isn't even his nothing. He also tries to write about international music, record collecting, and other such stuff over on his blog Try and Be Grateful.