Ten years strong into her career, Ball Chuang (莊鵑瑛, or 小球 to her fans), is ready to impress audiences once more with her sophomore solo record, the curiously titled Best Ear 巴斯特耳朵, the follow up to her 2017 solo debut, the generally subdued yet endearingly optimistic Towards the Stars 星之所向.
Ball rose to fame through being half of indie-pop duo katnkandix2, whose guitar driven melodies, anthemic sing-a-long choruses and often unique takes on typical song structure earned them not only nominations for Best Vocal Duo at the 21st & 24th Golden Melody Awards and the award of Best Album of 2010 by INDIEVOX respectively, but an army of devoted fans who ensured that they became the international poster child of Taiwan’s indie scene at the turn of the decade.
What exactly is the meaning of the title Best Ear? On the most superficial level, the title is a play on award-winning 2006 book Buster’s Ears by Swedish author Marie Ernestam: a bitter-sweet love story filled with love and deceit. Scratching the surface further reveals a more significant meaning, with Ball deciding to take this title and reinterpret it from her own viewpoint. She has often said about her work that she sometimes can’t tell whether she is listening to her own songs, or to her own voice. She therefore wants to use this album as an opportunity to speak to the listener, acting somewhat as a tour guide and interpreter. Life, like the novel, is an onslaught of bitter-sweet stories, deceit and lies; something that Ball is all too familiar with, and wants to help the listener navigate through via her own experiences.
Ball’s distinct tone has long set her apart from peers. Affectionately described as having a voice that feels like a hug from a stranger, her tone emits a distinct familiarity and warmth that is instantly capable of enveloping even the most hardened listener. This unique skill doesn’t limit the scope of her artistry to ballads however, neither does it limit the authenticity of when she dabbles in other genres.
Simultaneously sweet yet assertive, familiar yet refreshingly new, fascinatingly detailed and complex yet also an easy listen, on Best Ear Ball displays a level of artistry and maturity that arguably puts her miles ahead of her contemporaries. Ball successfully executes a complex concept to create a united body of work; a piece of work that despite every aspect feeling necessary, each part can be enjoyed individually
As winter arrives and the weather is getting colder, this record is a perfect chilly morning accompaniment, either wrapped up whilst outside or enjoying a warm drink observing the melancholic sky and the people walk past. Filled with strong melodies and impressive & emotive vocal performances, Ball Chuang has entrenched herself as a vital part of the contemporary Mandopop landscape.
1. Dream Song 夢中歌
2. Freedom 續
3. Why Remember 何必記念
4. Private Attractions 私房景點
5. Jigsaw Diary 拼圖日記
6. Bored When Fun 無聊當有趣
7. Hedgehog 刺蝟
8. Best Ear 巴斯特耳朵
9. Abnormal Normal 不正常的正常
10. Answer 答案