Listening to Queen Suitcase’s (皇后皮箱) first full-length album is like listening to an American top 40 radio station circa 1967. There’s plenty of twangy guitar, beating tambourines, and whirling Hammond organ to capture the distinctive sound of the era, but for me the most impressive feature is that every song sounds like a hit.
The album, which can be streamed on Spotify, is called 超時空歌女的快活. In English it means ‘The Joy of the Singer who Transcends Time and Space’, which I take to be a declaration of lead singer Kala’s (卡菈) pleasure in singing the kind of music that was popular 50 years ago in another part of the world.
The range of styles that are included on the album is quite diverse. Naturally, rock & roll and R&B are the most prominent, but there are also elements of garage, surf, swing, blues, Motown, even boogie-woogie and doo-wop. Basically, if it was a popular genre in the mid 60s to early 70s, you can hear it to some degree on this album.
The album starts with a classic sixties-style rock & roll song called Bang!, which conjures up images of black and white footage and go-go dancers, and it ends with a gentler more melodic acoustic track, Dreamer, somewhat in the style of John Lennon in the late Beatles period.
Some of the highlights in between include:
- an absolutely classic Motown song, Maybe it’s the way it will be, which is the equal of any of the hits recorded by the Supremes.
- the lounge-ish Wild, wild east, whose trippy organ sound is reminiscent of the Doors.
- some British Invasion-style R&B, with It’s all right and Hard to believe
- a foray into psychedelic rock with some sitar on Like I said (which is actually a new recording of a song from an earlier EP)
Without a doubt, my favorite track is Hold me tight – a driving R&B song with a euphoric chorus that I’ve played over and over without getting tired of it in the least. I don’t know why no advertisers have picked it up yet. It’s such a catchy tune, it could sell any product.
After listening to the album a few times (something you are sure to do), you begin to develop a deep appreciation for the great job the producers did in precisely nailing all those distinctive 60s and 70s sounds. The achievement is especially impressive when you consider not just range of instruments and backing vocals, but also the fact that no two songs have quite the same style.
My only criticism is that Queen Suitcase are like a great cover band. They have the talent to be able to faithfully reproduce a wide range of songs, but at the end of the day, that diversity prevents the emergence of a truly characteristic sound of their own. Hopefully, they can find a bit more musical focus on their next album.