There is a parable in Christian belief about a sower, sowing his seeds in preparation for a harvest. Some seeds fall by the roadside, only to be gobbled up by birds. Some grow on hard ground, and fail to take root. Others grow in the midst of thorns, showing potential only to get stunted by the thorns. The religious context talks about faith, but here in this context of music, I find it particularly fitting to appropriate this analogy to describe potential – the potential within every musician, every artist who tries their way along the long and rocky road. Putting The Steve McQueens in this parable, this album would be like the seed that fell on the good ground; it spells the way for better things to come.
The Steve McQueens are a jazz funk band (self-described as ‘neo-vintage soul’ but my ignorance of musical jargon once again gets in my way of understanding what a genre called ‘neo-vintage soul’ would sound like.) For a time, when I was learning the trade at Beep Studios, I’d more than occasionally hear a lovely sound emanating from the studio before I even stepped in, one that I would instinctively recognise as belonging to The Steve McQueens. And in little conversations with the members, especially singer Eugenia Yip and keyboardist Joshua Wan, I came to sense a certain whimsicality, passion, and ambition from their collective personality. That I first mention whimsical is important – they are serious (and seriously good) about their craft, but do not take themselves too seriously at the same time. It is this temperance that has been transmuted to their sophomore album, ‘Einstein Moments.’
What an offering it is. The first track ‘Walls’ already hits you like that first spray from a bottle of fresh perfume – within the first few bars of Eugenia’s crooning voice you realise that The Steve McQueens has already achieved what bands in the local scene have struggled to do – sound uniquely different. Their interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Tell Me Something Good’ is an energetic one, something which is matched by the frenetic rhythms of the following track ‘Dreaming’. Compared to their debut offering, ‘Culmination Of The Social Misfit,’ ‘Einstein Moments’ presents itself as a more developed sound, as if five musical compasses decided to align themselves in the same direction. The result is truly a fresh divergence in the scene. You can hear the nuances that only experienced musicians can give, in the snaking saxaphone solos of Fabian Lim or Joshua Wan’s vigorous keyboard lines, tempered with the youthful ardor of Eugenia’s vocals, Aaron Lee’s drumming, and Jase Ng’s bass lines. It’s jazz, but with a really contemporary and relatable twist to it that doesn’t stray towards the mainstream loci of jazz-pop.
I think I realised what Neo-Vintage Soul sounds like now – it sounds like a good ground to be on.