Loyal music blog readers, I apologize for being inactive for so long. As many of you know, I am currently studying abroad in Beijing. Though this has distracted me from my BurgerBlog duties, it has also offered me new opportunities: an “in” to contemporary Chinese popular music.
After many hand gestures and broken sentences in Chinese and English, the clerk working the music stand showed me her favorite band, Fairyland in Reality (hereon out, F.I.R.). Though the band is Taiwanese (arguably Chinese, but we won’t get into that), it gives a good insight into what a popular indie band in China sounds like.
I will be the first to admit: this album is dated. “FIR’s Album” was FIR’s debut, which was released in 2004; their most recent and fourth album, Let’s Smile, was released this past Christmas. It is important to acknowledge that being a half-decade old, this acts as a representation of interests six years ago, and perhaps not now.
Unlike traditional Western rock songs, FIR is highly orchestral; the piano and violins guide the band as opposed to a plugged-in guitar, bass, and heavy drums. An Evanescenceish operatic woman’s voice crows over the variety of genres that FIR presents.
The poppier songs, like “Flame” and “Your Smile” are appealing as they encroach the familiar. The clear Western influences, like post-grunge guitar licks and flashy synths, take away from the flair of the album, but for those interested in popular Western alternative, these are the songs for. Disclaimer: “Flame” will get stuck in your head, regardless of if you understand the lyrics or not.
The ballads are a bit painful and formulaic; they start with quiet piano and then burst into harmonies, strings, and synths. Think Disney.
Check out “Revolution” for something pretty different. “Revolution” sounds like it could have been featured in a modern version of Phantom of the Opera, whereas many of the other songs are just fillers.
Though I don’t feel well qualified enough to rate this album yet, after the release of FIR’s Album, FIR was named “Best New Mandarin Artist” by the Golden Melody Awards.