Joanna Wang – Galaxy Crisis: The Strangest Midnight Broadcast

joannawanggalaxycrisisRelease Date 16 March 2013
Label: Sony/Summer Breeze Music Production

  1. Galaxy Prologue
  2. Coins [MV]
  3. Pressure’s On Me (Space Station Theme)
  4. The Antagonist
  5. Evil Nerd Theme
  6. Picnicktown
  7. Remote Control
  8. Meteor One (Inside The Man Of A Wrestling Fanatic
  9. Enlightenment [MV]
  10. Frolicktown
  11. You And Me [MV]
  12. The Rabbit Chase/Garden Party On Mars
  13. An Audience With The King
  14. Galaxy Crisis
  15. Chitterchat (TV Theme)
  16. The Chicken Circus (Crash Detour into the Chip Galaxy)

It’s official: I’d never know what I’m missing if it wasn’t for Amy’s attention to what is sure to interest me. A video-game-inspired album with a voice reminiscent of Mari Wilson? Yeah, that’s definitely an addition to the “Things That Will Always Make Me Happy” list.

Joanna Wang’s latest album is a bit of nerdy fun mixed with a 1960s mod-style vocal. When I first heard her voice I was actually rather shocked. Who is this Taiwanese pixie with a voice that really doesn’t belong to her? It was so jarring I went on a hunt similar to the pheasant hunts of old. Add to that her music video for lead single You And Me, a literal level in an old-school Atari game, and you’ve got me hook, line, and sinking battleship.

But take away the nostalgic hysteria of her music videos and the wonky visual style of Yoshaw, and the only thing you’ve got is the music and the voice. It’s obvious vocally Joanna Wang is a contradiction: a woman with the flair for a more acoustic “indie” sound but with a voice that reveals an adoration for singers like Doris Day and Nancy Sinatra. It’s lovely and unexpected. It also shows a deep knowledge of music history — no doubt compliments of father Wang Chi-ping, a renowned producer in the music industry. As such the disparate sound of classic 80s and early 90s video games with her voice is a welcome bit of nuance for anyone annoyed with the current pop music landscape.

As it is, the music itself is fascinating. Clearly, Wang’s love of video games sort of overtook her sense of reality. Taking the tinny Yamaha keyboard midis of Castlevania and Tetris, Wang builds each song like a world in her favorite games. It’s innovative, incredibly creative. However, after a while the sound becomes a bit too much and, sadly, one-note. This is, essentially, the soundtrack to a video game and sets itself up as such with the first track, Galaxy Prologue. And while it’s not something that’s really being done in pop music — at least, not on this scale — it becomes overkill about half-way through the album. The use of live band instrumentation saves it from being too monotonous (Remote Control, Galaxy Crisis), but, again, the overarching theme dictates composition.

So that leaves the lyrical content, which is straightforward and not exactly more than what’s on the surface. The words are simple enough to wrap around the syncopated rhythms of the music, as such there’s nothing exceptionally complex about them. Though the imagery in some of the songs is actually quite beautiful and fun (as in Coins, The Antagonist, and An Audience With The King), the lyrics mostly lend themselves to the music and oftentimes is overpowered by it. If the music wasn’t so heavy-handed it would’ve allowed listeners to engage with the songs more completely, but as it is, the music does become overbearing.

The heaviness of the video game theme may be a bit too much at times, but there’s no denying Galaxy Crisis is a genuinely fascinating album. It’s creative, nuanced, and truly unique. It fits in a very particular niche. However, at the end of the day, it’s a great bit of fun and certainly allowed Joanna Wang to use her voice and imagination to create something that no one has quite heard before.

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 

Standout Songs: Coins, Remote Control, You And Me, Galaxy Crisis, Chitterchat (TV Theme)

You can listen to the album on Xiami and Spotify. You can buy the album at YesAsia and iTunes.

Camiele

As unexpected as my path was to loving all things weird, more unexpected is my ability to get attention for writing about the stuff.

15 Responses

  1. ghost says:

    I think I heard her dream project is to make a musical in the style of a danny elfman horror broadway type of musical. Or something like that. Her background is as varied as you can get.

  2. amy says:

    She’s a blond yakuza wife. xD Her Facebook photo captioning, not my words. You should really try to listen to her 2011 album, The Adventures of Bernie the Schoolboy. I know she totally abhors her previous albums (her 2008 and the 2009 double album), but they’re really not awful. She’s spoken against them with a passion, so I guess that comes when the label pushes for something they want. I like her song The Best Mistake I’ve Ever Made from the first album, and the double album is fine if she got to release one of the albums she really wanted.

    I like the singles in here, but I agree that the album becomes a little too tiring. I’m glad you like Joanna, she’s got a fine voice, and she loves experimenting with music, so I’m game with her.

    • Camiele says:

      @amy, I do. I absolutely adore her voice. It’s too bad the music and experimentation overpowered that and got a bit overkill after a while. But I love her voice so much and the singles are really well balanced out. There are a couple artists like that who really hate their first albums, even when those albums are the ones that I think are the most interesting (don’t know if that’s the case with Joanna, but there ya go).

      She seems like so much fun, though. So I’m looking forward to more of her stuff in the future.

      • amy says:

        @Camiele, she is very active on Facebook, posting photos and her midnight ramblings. She was recently in Finland for a songwriting workshop, and she seemed to have enjoyed it. Hopefully we’ll see what she comes up with it.

        I think you will absolutelutely love the Bernie the Schoolboy album. You shold def. give it a listen.

  3. ana says:

    i want to buy the album but it is not avalaible yet in my country, indonesia. I hope the album will be available in the music store in jakarta, indonesia

    • amy says:

      @ana, that seems a bit difficult. Your best bet would be to buy the album on YesAsia, if you want the physical version. Is it not available through the iTunes store?

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