It is always exciting to pick up an album by local musician Tanya Chua 蔡健雅. For one, you always know that it is of an exceptional quality. She has come a long way since her debut more than 15 years ago, and on her latest effort, Aphasia 失語者, she decides to leave her comfort zone to explore a different soundscape, an electro one to be specific.
Aphasia opens with “異類的同類/Strange Species”, and gives a glimpse of the electro sound (arrangement) that she seeks to explore on this new album. The arrangement by Michael Pfirrmann and 安棟 brings out this “mystery” about humans (I guess), that we have several layers to us, and the real one is hidden from others (and possibly ourselves too).
The title track, “Aphasia/ 失語者”, the second single off the album, is one of my favourite tracks of the album, not only musically, but lyrically as well. Xiao Han uses aphasia as an analogy to describe how we are unable to express ourselves through language in the context of a relationship.
On “菲林/Film”, which is also the Chinese theme song for the movie, “Before We Go” staring Chris Evans and Alice Eve, she sings of the heart as film recording the best moments.
One of the lighter and more upbeat moment on the album is provided for by “先生有事嗎?/Can I Help You Sir?”, where she tackles haters (or just people) who post about celebrities (on social media) to seek attention, hiding behind the veil of such devices. On the second last track of the album, she sings about the beauty of females on “一克拉/ One Carat”, with the music arrangement trying to bring out the a rather sophisticated “sparkle” effect.
Even as she explores a new sound, it is still very much Tanya. Well she did compose all the melodies, and also serves as a producer of the album, while Xiao Han 小寒 wrote all the lyrics. There are some interesting lyrics, such as on the title track “Aphasia/ 失語者” and “活著是最好的死亡/Best Way To Die”. While the latter might seem a bit more morbid from the title, it supposedly speaks about loving and living life to the fullest, since we are all born to die, as Lana Del Ray puts it.
Aphasia is definitely one of Tanya’s best work to date, and I am excited to see how these songs translate to live performances.