Album Name: The Elephant in the Room 房間裡的大象
Release Date: November 2019
Music Video Archive
By Jocelle Koh
With a sensitive gaze, gentle voice and a head of shoulder-length hair, newcomer Chih Siou 持修 broke through the clutter decisively in 2019 with his debut album ‘Elephant in The Room 房間裡的大象’. And upon first listen, his gender-fluid appearance was in fact not the most intriguing thing about his release. A record crammed full of delectable, conversational song-writing and a lucid mix of electronic and folk-pop, the mysterious artist uses his persona and music to brilliantly rise above titles and categories; to bring attention to the elephant in the room before reminding us of its insignificance.
A bombastic pop record that grabs your heart by its strings and pulls HARD, the artist masters the rhythm and flow of the record masterfully. Like a skilled puppeteer, he manoeuvres his sound between chill guitars, acoustic percussions and out of this world electronic beats in ways that tempt and seduce your ears. With a voice that rings true and clear, Chih Siou employs it in unimaginable ways; ebbing and flowing, breaking down to a fraction of a whisper as he holds your heart close, before magnifying exponentially in dynamism and fluidity; throwing you back into the fray. Moving outside the boundaries of genres and musical references, he creates his own sound right off the bat and establishes it with confidence and aplomb.
Kicking off the record with heart-racing first track ‘You’re No Match For Me 根本不是我的對手’, the song begins with ambient sounds combined with otherworldly, reverb-y guitar chords that take you up past the clouds on a galactic adventure. Yet in the bridge, as the guitar riffs quicken in pace against a slowing melody, things start to feel like a meteorite charging towards earth against the force of gravity, like the calm before a storm. A song about taking abuse and spite from a foe, fighting past the weariness and rising above, the bridge builds up to a chorus that is softly spoken against a sonic backdrop akin to a million stars exploding in the sky. “Talk so much/so much/so much crap/But you aren’t my equal/You can’t keep up”. A perfect track to show off Chih’s emotional dynamism, out-of-this-world soundscape whilst displaying the core principle of the album – to rise above and focus on the good.
Siou keeps the galaxy going on the second track ‘Big Person Little Kid 大人小孩’, before continuing to diversify on his third track ‘Scaredy Cat 膽小鬼’ which is decidedly darker than the previous two. Kicking off with grungy, reflective bass and Chih Siou’s voice echoing around the room as he deep dives into his psyche; espousing his vulnerability and most feared flaws. As the arrangement builds once again with a drop leading into the chorus, the enigmatic artist simply sings out; his voice clear in its aching confusion against resonant hard-hitting beats and vocal harmonies that swirl like the demons in his mind. “I don’t understand myself/Or what love counts for/My heart burned/I don’t know what’s left/But you still want to take me away”
One of my favourites on the record is Siou’s fifth track ‘I’m Thinkin’ Bout You 正想著你呢’, which is probably as sweet as the entire album gets. Starting off with infectious acoustic guitars and country-ish riffs, his words come through soft and low, but fast as if he’s trying to cram as many words as possible into this ode of infatuation. Indeed, one of the only songs with two different sets of lyrics in the verse, this song seems to come from a pretty honest place. I love the vulnerability and Chih’s vocal range and layers that come through in this song. From the husky, shy lows to the airy highs; and most of all the beautiful, clean, resonant lines that ring through in the chorus, they give me the chills like no other.
‘Flesh and Blood 血肉’ once again takes us on a walk through a more intimate conversation with Chih Siou. Here, we see a paring down of electronic elements; leaving Chih Siou’s voice to tell the story against a sparse backdrop of strings. Siou’s voice gets the job done on this vulnerable piece; once again traversing the husky lows and the resonant highs as we’ve seen him do before, but this time seems to be different. We hear a pain and a love so fierce building through him that it bangs on the walls of sound created, and pangs the heart of every listener. A song about familial love, the song starts by him singing about how they have supported him with quivering hands even in his darkest moments before ending on how Chih Siou vows to support them with the unwavering strength they have showed him in the past. “I will use hands that no longer shake to hold you/I will use hands that are healed to embrace you/Because I am your flesh and blood”
Closing the album with a last original song ‘Imma Get A New One’, the fully English track features piano chords reminiscent of A Great Big World, before shimmering fragment of ambient electronic slowly filter in during the bridge and breathe life into the dynamic chorus. With a melody full of nuance; Chih Siou goes from questioning to insomnia, to new beginnings to pushing forth despite the pain in a resounding track that completely shows off his complex yet infectious sound and keeps one coming back for more.
A record that has to be listened to in its entirety, Chih Siou is unconventional by any measure. From the structure of his songwriting, use of various genres, and the topic and style of his lyrics, the singer-songwriter is that needle in the haystack that is the Mandarin music industry. Keeping you wanting, begging for more from start to end of the record, the masterful artist still remains more or less a mystery to me even after countless listens.
But on this album he’s taught us that in vulnerability you can find strength; and that beauty lies in those grey areas. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know him any better than I did at the start of the record. What I do know is that his music reached out and made a connection that isn’t dependent on time, space, or who he is as a person. And sometimes that’s all you need, and all that life is. Those miniscule, weird connections that make you feel heard and understood; if just for a little while. That when you find these moments, all the so-called ‘elephants in the room’; those things which seem to hinder conversations or make atmospheres tense; are revealed as truly nothing more than a figment of ones’ imagination.
So stay real, keep those you love close and rise above the rest. Because not much else truly matters.
|01. You’re No Match For Me 根本不是我的對手
|02. Big Person Little Kid 大人小孩
|03. Scaredy Cat 膽小鬼
|04. Can You Stop Crying 你能不哭了嗎
|05. I’m Thinkin’ Bout You 正想著你呢
|06. Everything Could Be Simple If We Love
|07. Do You Want Me Or Not 到底你是要不要我啦
|08. Where Are You Going 你想去哪
|09. Flesh and Blood 血肉
|10. Imma Get A New One
|11. I’m Thinkin’ Bout You 正想著你呢 – Live Ver.