The travel playlist of Marc Nair March 25, 2016 10:00

Nothing beats a good soundtrack on moments of your travel—moments which get permanently etched in your mind and resurfaces within the first notes of those songs. This week we approached Marc Nair who travels extensively to share with us on music, a travel playlist and his most recent trip to the Balkans.

Balkan Tourist, published in Spomenik by Marc Nair

Did you chance upon anything from the Balkans that you liked or found interesting?

I discovered rakia (a fruit brandy), and had a few swigs of a particularly potent homemade brew from a friend while we were climbing up St John's Hill in the Bay of Kotor. It was a rather 'challenging' trip downhill. 

Did the situation in “Left Luggages” really happen?

The road to Kosovo banks around villages,
opens upwards into the Balkans, a quiet
judge rising above smokestack and river.
A commotion, and the landscape screeches
to a halt. Suitcases have been lost, tumbled off
the unlit mountain somewhere after the border.

Yes, it really did, and it happened exactly as I described it. It was too dark on that mountain road to take a photo of half the bus standing around and smoking cigarettes while the other half of the bus went searching for the luggage, but I would say the exact moment the poem was born was when I looked up and saw the stars. 

You are also a member of the spoken word band Neon and Wonder – how did that come about?

I've started three or four bands over the years, and I've also worked with other musicians here and there. Neon and Wonder has existed since 2008, and I've developed a really good understanding with my band-mates. They know the cadence and rhythms of my words and are quick to devise melodies and build music around my text.

Finally, what do you think of the relationship between music and literature?

I think there is a lot of music in literature and vice-versa. But what I do is try to layer poetry with music, which could be seen as complicating the text, or at best, adding another level of meaning; perhaps something more emotive or imbuing it with a different kind of kinesis.

Marc Nair’s travel playlist

On the way to the airport: The Killers — Day & Age

On the plane: Aurora — All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend

Enroute to a new place: Twenty One Pilots — Vessel

Walking around (and getting lost): K'naan — Troubadour

Dinner music: John Mayer, Hozier

Bedtime jam: Federico Albanese — The Blue Hour

Listen to a sampler mix of songs from Marc’s list here.

Spomenik is a collection of poems and photographs from the Balkans. It is available on our webstore, Kinokuniya and MPH. Limited edition postcards featuring photos from the book are now available on our webstore—mail away!

The Playlist of Euginia Tan March 12, 2016 10:00

We’ve been working together with Euginia for a few months now but nothing prepared us for the moment during her dialogue with Bubble Gum & Death Metal when she said, “I listen to a lot of rap music”.  We were too intrigued to leave it at that and immediately got her to send us a playlist.

(From left to right: Stephanie Burt, Samantha Yap, Euginia Tan)

I joined a rap competition hosted by 98.7FM when I was 15. I wouldn't say I was particularly good-looking and fresh out of puberty then, or even camera-friendly and really good at promoting myself, I was awkward, exceedingly shy, gawky and my limbs were still scrawny, but I really, really, really loved to rap. It was called the Hollaback Crew, and we made it all the way to Finals, finishing in third place. We won about five grand at that time, ten years ago, it was the largest amount of money I held in my hand. So basically Hollaback Crew encourages young people to make music on their own, and compose the lyrics based on the beats you've made. I can't remember the exact lyrics and how we got through the auditions, qualifiers, semi-finals and even all the way to the finals, where we performed at the Singapore Indoor Stadium with The Click Five closing the act... But we were so cocky, so young, fresh and full of hope, and we did it without telling the school. When the school found out there was a huge uproar and of course this immediately labelled us as the cool kids, everybody wanted to be associated with us after that. So I am an apt example that anybody can listen to rap, music isn't limited to how you look or what you do. 

I so remember that feeling of throwing everything at stake and just going for what I really wanted to do - and that's how I am like with my poetry, creating my poetry, looking for people out there who can work with me and learn with me regardless of the consequences. And I think rap embodies all of that and more, because rap is poetry. It isn't so much about "swagger" and decadence, a life of excess or fast and empty optimism, it's about learning to understand what marginalization has done to us, how we rise above things, most importantly I think hip-hop is a mantra to me to keep on hustling with grace. Strangely I cannot write and listen to beats at the same time, because, well, writing has always been a single-minded task to me. It's something I do without any needs, or desires, and it becomes both meditation and trance-like work which is what really qualifies as productive to me. So how I write is that I take two to three hours of just getting music, beats and lyrics in my head, soaking the rhythms in, this clears my head and I can write pretty smoothly after that. 

These are some songs that have helped me write, and accompanied me growing up.

1. Feelin' It by Jay-Z (Phoniks remix)

2. Shine by Audio Push

3. The Roots (The entire Game Theory album) 

4. Revolving Doors by Gorillaz

5. Warm It Up, Kane by Big Daddy Kane
(credits to the movie soundtrack, 25th Hour) 

6. I left my wallet in El Segundo by A Tribe Called Quest

7. Sunshowers by M.I.A 

8. Gangsta Blues by A.R. Rahman
(credits to the movie soundtrack, Slumdog Millionaire)

9. Gin and Juice by Snoop Dogg

10. Warrior's Tongue by Masia One

I'd like to give a shoutout to ShiGGa Shay! I've applied to New Word Order to work with him for a poetry/rap collaboration... Please grant my wish! 

Listen to the playlist here.
(While we wait for Spotify to upload Gangsta Blues by A.R. Rahman, we've replaced it with Never Learn by ShiGGa Shay)


Eugnia’s latest book, Phedra, is available for purchase on our website (free shipping!), Kinokuniya and Booktique. 

The Playlist of Eric Tinsay Valles April 03, 2015 23:02

Here’s April’s playlist, courtesy of poet Eric Tinsay Valles. This month’s tunes are inspired by childhood dreams of being a rock star—sifted from the writer’s eclectic collection of music from all genres—and we can quite imagine him listening to these to dampen the occasional, overwhelming roar of everyday life.

I dreamt of being a rock star when I was a music-loving, tone-deaf teenager. Though academia snuffed out that dream, music still fills up a big part of my day. Music livens up my reading ofemail, keeps me from dozing off while marking student essays and, occasionally,inspires me to adopt a certain rhythm for new poetry. I try to weave musicalelements into my writing. Putting a cap on the number of tunes on a recommended playlist is tough. Being hemmed in by a massive wall of sound while puttering about the house or switching off from nine-to-five work is the best staycation ever.

I thrive on variety, so I have an eclectic music taste ranging from achy-breaky blues to alternative rock, golden oldies, progressive rock, and even remixed club music. I am drawn to a driving beat, an infectious chorus or clever lyrics. Listening to light rock music especially releases feel-good chemicals without untoward side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Here’s my chill-out weekend playlist of light rock classics:

1. I Would Die for U and the Purple Rain soundtrack, Prince 

2. Dreams and the entire Rumours album, Fleetwood Mac 

3. Norwegian Wood, The Beatles  

4. The Great Gig in the Sky, Pink Floyd 

5. I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man and the rest of Sign ‘o’ the Times, Prince 

6. With or Without You, U2

7. Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder 

8. Human Nature, Michael Jackson

9. Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan 

10. In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel

11. Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell

12. Make You Feel My Love, Adele or Bob Dylan

Eric’s books, After the Fall: dirges among ruins and A World in Transit are available for purchase at all good bookstores, and via our website. 

The Playlist of Ethosbooks March 19, 2015 11:05

picture credit: Diana Rahim (verkur)

The Ethos Team Spring Playlist

We’ve gathered song suggestions for spring from our own team that signify fresh flowers, new beginnings, and our brand new website, enjoy!

1. Last Day of Winter by Vector Lovers 

I love listening to the quiet mystery of water, loosening its wintry hardness and dissolving into warm streams of morning sunlight. - KG

2. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles 

Because lyrics. Because The Beatles. - Suning

3. The Universe by Gregory Alan Isakov 

This song, like nature, sometimes engulfs me in this weird bubble of hauntingly beautiful music, and I never want to get out. - Jen

4. Rain by Dustin O'Halloran 

It used to rain a lot during Spring when I was studying in Melbourne, Australia. So I associate Spring with Rain… but I love this piece because it feels/sounds so Spring-like. - Ade

5. Touch the Sky from Brave OST

The song makes me feel like escaping into the world of Brave, or Scotland, or any place with rolling hills and sprawling meadows and mists. So refreshing! - Winnie

6. Country Gardens by Percy Grainger, performed by Hastings College Wind Ensemble 

I’m throwing in a classical twist to the list. Hope it’s bearable to the ears! - Yanping

7. She Looks So Perfect cover by Ed Sheeran

The track which reminds me of spring is ironically sang originally by a band called Six Seconds of Summer. I guess I chose this track because I associate spring with young love. - Teresa

8. Follow the Light by Travis

Simple, uplifting - with a touch of melancholy. In the last days of a long hard winter, I imagine this is what Spring would be singing softly to me in my sleep. - Sera

The Playlist of Gwee Li Sui February 13, 2015 16:23

Nothing screams love like pairing good music with good books; this time, instead of asking our authors for book recommendations, we seek curated playlists—the very songs that belong in their heads the same way their favourite verses do. This month, we get gweek to tell us of the few songs that occasionally interrupts his silent life. 


Except for a ceaseless ringing in one ear, my world is relatively silent. This task of coming up with a playlist is therefore unnatural to me. But, whenever I do have music, it isn’t something just rolling in the background. I sit up to listen, engage my whole being in it, perhaps much more than when I read.

This may be why I can’t – and don’t – listen too much. Middling music bores me to tears. Bad music exhausts me, and both are everywhere nowadays. Worse, I seem to like too many old songs, which leave me with even less to say to you. So, without further ado, here’s my personal romantic playlist. Happy Valentine’s Day!

1. Nature Boy, Nat King Cole

2. Stardust, Hoagy Carmichael

3. Caramel, Suzanne Vega 

4. It’s Only a Paper Moon, Ella Fitzgerald

5. Jacqueline Among Her Flowers, Kelvin Tan

6. Suzanne, Leonard Cohen

7. I Loves You, Porgy, Nina Simone

8. As Time Goes By, Frank Sinatra

Gwee’s books, Telltale and Fear No Poetry are available for purchase on our website and in all good bookstores.