[ALBUM REVIEW] Yoga Lin — Sell Like Hot Cakes

While sell like hot cakes — an archaic-sounding phrase for a “millennial” such as I (Seriously, though. What even is a “hot cake”?) — sounds to be an overly assertive projection, Yoga Lin‘s album is a far cry away from ostentation.

Perhaps more fitting to encompass his album is the Chinese title. It’s simply a statement — 今日营业中 (jīn rì yíng yè zhōng), or “in business today”. Yoga Lin is simply back doing his business in the industry.

Well, granted, more interesting business than usual.


Filled with jars upon jars of strange goods, the business in play seems to be an authentic home-owned shop. But what’s in stock for us to see? Or, more appropriately, for us to hear?

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TRACKLIST:

01. Let the world destroy | 让世界毁灭

02. Spoiled Innocence | 天真有邪

03. Worse Comes to Worst | 坏与跟坏

04. Unshakeable Rascals | 热血无赖

05. Courage to Remember You | 我已经敢想你

06. Tiny Part of You | 一点点

07. Fly | 飞

08. I Dream You Dream Of Me | 我梦见你梦见我

09. Still Open After 10 p.m.

10. The Daylight Of the Moon | 白昼之月

11. Beloved | 宠儿

12. Do Not Forget You | 勿忘你

13. Off, Do Not Disturb


Infused with the electronic guitar, opening track “Let the world destroy” is yet another statement — that Yoga Lin intends to start things anew. While the first sounds of the entire album represent the dramatic rise of the sun, his airy vocals first maneuver past the  quiet, muted calm before the storm, before he sings with great conviction:

Just let the world be destroyed

Just let everything burn to ashes, end all absurdities today

Just let me be destroyed

It’s alright if I’m disabled — it’s only that I’ve returned to the start

Arranged to support the structure of a power ballad, “Let the world destroy”, an adventurous and futuristic-sounding track, conveys the clear message of rebirth — his dynamic opening and return after completing military service.

If the opening track was assertive, “Spoiled Innocence” directly addresses the emotional pain during such a transition to greater maturity. The phrase “天真无邪” (tiān zhēn wú xié) is the epitome of innocence — 《天真邪》(有, meaning “to have”, as opposed to 无, meaning “to lack”), then, refers to the gray area in-between complete innocence and the tainted.

Though ballads have always been Yoga’s forte, “Spoiled Innocence” reveals his inner change. His unique, airy voice, though seemingly unchanged, hints at deeper emotion as he laments:

Did you know the cruelest thing you’ve done to me

Is cruelly turn me into a man overnight?

The innocence of throwing caution to the wind

Instantaneously becomes the scars through the whole journey

I reminisce my stupidity

A true tear-jerker, the concept of maturity, loss of innocence or otherwise, and the human psyche proves to be a recurring theme within the album.


Take “Worse comes to worst” as an example. Yoga’s first Cantonese track is a rather pleasant surprise — a polished, subtle track, yes, but with Cantonese lyrics by Wyman Wong, it’s bound to go deeper than what’s presented. Much is left to the imagination as Yoga sings:

No matter how miserable, [A] good mindset

If I had known beforehand of the worst, the worse would be tolerable

A slightly muted, solemn tone is created with the quiet and melancholy individual notes of the jazz guitar. Accentuated with a soft beat, the soft strings that accompany in the chorus create a polished overlay to the subtly layered track. Near the latter part of the song, a mini jazz interlude featuring uplifting wind instruments bridges to the ultimate conclusion of the track.

In stark contrast with the polished, layered subtlety of “Worse comes to worst” is its Mandarin rendition — Track #12, “Do Not Forget You”.

Instead of the jazz guitar, 《勿忘你》, a more personalized and sentimental song, features simple acoustic piano chords. While the accumulating beat remains similar, even Yoga’s own voice sounds less polished in the more raw-sounding track.

Rather awkwardly included, however, is the same jazz interlude that so fitted the polished “Worse comes to worst” like a glove.

The lyrics of “Do Not Forget You” are written in the rather rarely used second person — a message to both Yoga himself (although he didn’t pen the lyrics) and the listener to never forget our original selves and aspirations.

Do not forget you

Once had a heart full of kindness for the world

The you you once were

Has never left far

[It’s] just in your heart

Despite the heartfelt lyrics, there’s just something slightly off — something about the perhaps repetitive lyrics fail to flow well with the solemn melody. Although I understand “Do Not Forget You” better, the Cantonese track “Worse comes to worse” ultimately has the more effective sound.


“Unshakeable Rascals” is an unprecedented (by Yoga Lin himself, anyway) pop rock track that begins:

Falling down in heaven and standing up in hell

Woah~

The song has an undeniable Mayday vibe to it, but otherwise I was rather unimpressed. Sure, it was upbeat rock, but amid all the electric guitars and drums a rather mellow, typical melody. Perhaps if they went full-on rock I would enjoy it more.

Overall, not a great new sound for Yoga Lin — and as typical of a fast-paced song combined with hardcore instrumentals is the loss of his unique voice.

But if you like Mayday, you should probably still give it a try. Don’t be fooled by the thumbnail — it’s seriously one crazy ass MV.


In contrast with the upbeat (yet tbh uninteresting) pop rock track is the laid-back, soft jazz of “Courage to Remember You” — something akin to the soothing music of a pub or livehouse.

As typical of jazz, the melody is a simple yet immediately likeable one. Layered with the jazz piano and smooth drums, Yoga’s own vocals prove their penchant for the genre.

The song is simply a statement — that he has the courage to remember his past pains. It’s such a beautiful yet simplistic track.

With lyrics penned by Sodagreen‘s lead singer Wu Tsing-fong, “Tiny Part of You” is yet another sorrowful Yoga Lin song. The self-composed track, like much of the album, retains elements of the layered and polished jazz sound.

“Fly” appears to a lighthearted, accoustic track, but its lyrics speak of the fear of loneliness. The entire track is simply backed by the guitar and Yoga Lin’s voice is never accompanied by backup singers, nor is there any obvious sound mixing. The tiny flaws within the track, however, contribute to the ultimate rawness and authenticity of the song.

Similarly, the unpolished yet raw “I Dream You Dream Of Me” contains a lighthearted and simplistic arrangement of the simple guitar and piano.

“Still Open After 10 p.m.” enforces that this album is about being back in business. Oh, I nearly forgot. (To be honest, I rarely ever care for the interludes in albums.)


Don’t be fooled by the melancholy piano chords that commence the track — “The Daylight of the Moon” actually goes full-on rock.

Yoga’s vocals go especially free in the track as he basically yodels the chorus (and like, I NEVER use that word when describing pop music), making one wonder if he’s trying to go for country or traditional Chinese opera. But it’s actually a pop rock track as he sings of longing for the moonlight during the day. It’s a rather inspirational track — ultimately about believing in oneself.

“Beloved” begins with soft violin strings — perhaps with the style of the Romantic Period — but transitions to the simple piano as Yoga sings of a beautiful love as he realizes that something’s changed.

The concluding track, “Off, Do Not Disturb” feels like a spontaneous addition. It almost seems as if Yoga Lin woke up in the middle of the night, went to the piano, and did a performance of the song right there and then.

If you’ve listened to JJ Lin‘s “From M.E. To Myself”, which features the 3D binaural recording of daily life (so proud of my bias ♥), this sounds familiar.

Similar to the tracks off of JJ’s album, “Off, Do Not Disturb” captures the various sounds — the water running, a few strums of the guitar here and there, etc. But the entire experience basically felt like a straight line — with no sense of space within the track, and the quality of that of a regular audio recording.

It’s still a great track — it’s just that I learned to appreciate JJ’s experimental work more. (Frick, I’m a biased fangirl.)


OVERALL THOUGHTS

A stellar combination of electric rock, jazz, and ballads as Yoga Lin makes his re-entry into the music industry. It’s incredibly polished at times, while completely raw during others.

Recommended Tracks: “Let the world destroy”, “Spoiled Innocence”, “Worse comes to worst”, “Courage to Remember You”, “The Daylight of the Moon”

OVERALL RATING: 8.2/10

— moon148

 

 

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