In 2009, Christian rock artist Nathaniel Tan released his debut EP Glory of the Cross to his fans in his home country of Singapore. After a fairly good reaction to the EP, Tan began work on a full-length album. His latest release, a twelve-track album called Living The Dream that Tan hopes will help resurrect the Singapore music scene, will be released on October 21, 2011.
You get a glimpse of Tan's overall style in the opening track, "Taking You In." It's radio friendly, yet decently written, pop rock in the vein of Daughtry or the Goo Goo Dolls. The sound doesn't change much throughout the album, though I don't really feel like it needs to. Tan has found the sound he's comfortable playing and has gone for it. Sometimes this isn't a good thing to do, but in this case, it's a perfect fit for him, as it seems that he realizes his limitations and doesn't try to exceed them. Keeping these boundaries has led Tan to another album that stands out a little more than most other independent rock bands. It's not the best sound in the rock world, but Tan does it well enough that it's not disappointing to listen to. I do like that he uses it to put his heart on display. He pours out his thoughts and emotions, and is even hopeful in the midst of otherwise sad songs, like "I'm Gonna Say," where he portrays a father and son trying to mend their relationship. One cool thing is that you can also get personal meanings out of this song. It also sounds like Nathaniel is singing to a love that he lost. He shows his heartbreak, and his attempt to figure out what he did wrong, but he also makes sure to ask God about everything as well. It's both sad and somewhat hopeful. The final track (of the original tracks, that is), is one with Tan struggling with God, but then finding himself again, and finding that all of who he is is in God. With each song, the music always fits the respective message. It makes for good music choice, and relatable lyrics.
Living the Dream is pretty solid throughout, but it's not without its flaws. Perhaps the biggest flaw is in the production. It's an independent album, so the production work is bound to reflect that in some way. And in comparison to many independent artists, Tan's is good. But there are lots of times where the music feels a little empty. Some parts (i.e., the transition from the bridge into the final chorus of "You Take My Breath Away") would've benefitted greatly from some louder and more edgy guitars. It felt a little light, when that portion of the song could've been heavier. This leads to another issue of the album: it has some tendencies to be on the boring side. It's a good album, but where the album lacks production, it tends to make me lose interest. Along with a larger focus on production, I think Tan's future albums could also benefit from him just making an effort to spice up the music a little bit.
Tan's radio rock style is a popular one, and with some tune-ups, he could garner a larger fanbase. If he focused on the recommendations made here, and the general public got ahold of his music, I think they would like what they were hearing. For now, if you like radio rock, order a copy of Living the Dream and support an artist who I firmly believe will keep getting better. Living the Dream isn't the best rock album you'll hear this year, but with some work, Tan could become a household name in the Christian music world.- Review date: 9/13/11, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
Nathaniel Tan: I'm actually quite glad that all the instrumentation isn't my doing! I had a band in with me in the studio. You'll find me on guitars in this album though. The recording process of this album has been pretty different from the last one, Glory of the Cross, where I pretty much did all except the drums. I had an awesome team of musicians who did an incredible job of getting the sounds I had envisioned for this album.
Nathaniel: I started playing the guitar when I was 14, bass when I was 16 and then later picked up the piano just over a year back. So...I've been a musician for pretty much 14 years! Wow that's pretty long.... I've just realized that it's half of my life. I'm 28 this year.
Nathaniel: The sound that I have is a little like a kind of salad that we've got here in Singapore. It's called "Rojak" (pronounced "Rowe" - "Jak"). Its a toss-up kinda salad with interesting ingredients. We use this term here to say that it's a mashup of quite a few awesome tastes! I should send you the recipe one day for you to try it out! Okay... Bands that inspire my sound include the following: Building 429 for their guitar/keys/arrangement, Sanctus Real for their vocal style/guitars/drums, Alter Bridge for the amazing guitar solos in the arrangements, Daughtry for some of the arrangements as well.
Nathaniel: I can totally share the story behind "Taking You In." There's a reason why it's the opening track. Last year around this time (September 2010) I went through a really tough time. I would come home exhausted and depressed because things at home weren't the way I wanted and things at work were far worse. I was so low, blaming myself for the situation as well. I remember crying one night asking God where He was in all of this, and if He was in all of this, why I had to go through it if He was able to get me out of it.
Nathaniel: The goals of my music are to encourage, inspire and empower people.
Nathaniel: Haha :) This is kind of a funny question to me. I'm not sure if many people know, but English is our primary medium of communication in Singapore. We're way out in the far east, but English is the language. We've got four official languages here in Singapore and it's Malay, Mandarin (Chinese), Tamil and English. With these four languages, you can come to expect that we've got four distinctive groups of people that make up who we are.
Nathaniel: I actually hope to do so in the future :) I don't seem to have the gift of tongues just yet!
Nathaniel: I'm now entering the book of Nehemiah, but what I've learned in the book of Ezra is that when we put God first and stand up for His cause, He won't let us down. The exiled Jews who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon had to put up with a lot, but they pulled through because they put God first. Returning to their homeland without walls, they chose to first build up the temple of God. They put themselves on the line and God was their strength. Literally saying "I'm weak and God, You're strong, so I'm laying all to You."
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