While a compilation of cover songs is not an earth-shattering concept by any stretch of the imagination, a good one does have the power to bridge the gap between eras and connect/re-connect generations of artists as well as listeners. Conceived in 2009 by the Thai media conglomerate GMM Grammy to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Play Project gave rock-leaning artists a chance to cover their favourite tunes in their own playful style. Its first edition saw the likes of Bodyslam, Potato, Clash and Paradox reinterpreting a range of Thai pop classics including Bird Thongchai's Sia Dai, Mai Charoenpura's Sia Jai Dai Yin Mai and Nantida Kaewbuasai's Lakorn Chaak Sud Tai.
Fast-forward nine years and we're finally treated to its long-awaited follow-up, Play 2 Project. Containing a whopping 18 tracks, the collection can largely be divided into two subsets: a straight-up rock rework and a wildly playful interpretation which, in the context of this particular compilation, successfully hits the brief.
In the first camp, we've got pop-rockers KLEAR kicking things off with a lurching glam-rock cover of Tata Young's Sak Ka Nid, followed by Sweet Mullet's screamo rendition of Chin Chinawut's ribald dance jam Keun Nee Yaak Dai Kii Krang, and a couple of rock ballads (Big Ass's take on Briohny's Ya Glub Pai, 25 Hours' on Sua Thanapol's Du Ngo Ngo, Palapol's on Tong Pakkaramai's Tan Khao Gun Mai, and Potato's on Bird Thongchai's Duay Rak Lae Pook Pan).
The compilation's more imaginative covers, however, go to Yes'sir Days and rapper Dajim's nu-metal spin on Tem Wuttisit's Kor Por and Paradox's goofy treatment of X3 Super Gang's L.O.V.E.. Alt-rock trio Instinct, meanwhile, turn Paper Jam's anthemic slow-burner Mai Rak Dee into a fun pop-punk number. These come as a nice surprise and should appease those looking to hear something a little more drastic rather than just paint-by-numbers rock covers.
The verdict: After a while, most covers start to bleed into one another and they become predictable. Otherwise, approach Play 2 Project with caution as it tends to induce severe bouts of nostalgia.
Listen to this: Kor Por, Duay Rak Lae Pook Pan, L.O.V.E., Mai Rak Dee
Apichat Pakwan / Leh Dub
Having been spearheaded by homegrown acts like Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, Khun Narin and Rasmee Isan Soul, the molam renaissance is still going strong as it continues to find audiences far beyond Thailand. Some of those audiences include Monaural Mini Plug, a Japanese phin collective who recently dropped their bombastic debut Samurai Mekhong Activity, and Olivier Schreuder, a Dutch producer/composer leading the charge of "esantronics" -- a fusion of molam, hip-hop, dub and electronica under a Thai/Dutch ensemble called Apichat Pakwan. Along with vocalist Wimonmat Kangjantha, kaen player Pummisakseri Sasida and percussionist Angkanang Pimwankum, Schreuder offers up a dub reinterpretation of Leh Srika Sang Nahk, a Thai send-off lament traditionally sung by women whose husbands are about to enter monkhood. Compared to its A-side counterpart, Leh Dub introduces another level of negative space layered with haunting elements of trip-hop. Despite all that, Wimonmat's reverb-drenched vocals remain -- as a proper leh should -- a focal point here, making this another solid molam hybrid and the most innovative one at that.
Joji (Feat. Clams Casino) / Can't Get Over You
Who would have thought that the former YouTube star who'd assumed the rather unsavoury personas of Filthy Frank and Pink Guy would one day morph into a respectable R&B artist? Yes, we're talking about Joji and his ascending pop career, a result of his 2017 debut In Tongues EP. Here, the Japanese-Australian singer joins forces with influential beatmaker Clams Casino on his latest cut, Can't Get Over You. "Don't know you/ Why would I fall in love with you/ I don't have no social cues/ I'm all for you," he sings over the cloud-rap beats that bounce just a little harder than his usual fare. "But I won't be no fun/ If I can't have you no one can," he adds with a sinister wink.
THE GREED / I Don't Have Anything
After leaving their mark with a self-titled debut last year, underground Bangkok-based punk rockers THE GREED return with Defy The System, a six-track EP featuring some of the most vital punk offerings we've heard of late. The highlight, though, is the closer I Don't Have Anything, which finds the Japanese-Thai quartet breaking out of their brisk, sub-2-minute length. With more time on their hands, they're able to flesh out their songcraft by giving the plus-4-minute song a slow, stretched-out intro. Then, out of the blue, vocalist Coga lets rip his trademark anguished wail, sending it straight into ferocious punk pandemonium.
Poomjit / Drama Addict
"Open up a smartphone/ Looking at the touchscreen/ Conflicts await on the timeline," sings Poomjit frontman Puttiyos "Put" Phalajivin in the opening verse of their new single Drama Addict. The mid-tempo track, whose title is taken from the eponymous Facebook page specialised in dishing out the hottest drama, doubles as yet another poignant social commentary from the rock four-piece. "You think, therefore you exist … When you post, you exist/ When you tweet, you exist," Put muses, waxing existential like the true philosopher he's always been.
Anderson .Paak (Feat Kendrick Lamar) / Tints
Anderson .Paak reconnects with Kendrick Lamar on Tints, the third taste from his third solo outing, Oxnard. Built around a synth-funk backdrop, the breezy track details the artist's need to "get some fresh air" and go for a joyride in total privacy ("I can't be ridin' round and round that open strip/ I need tints, I need my windows tinted"). Coming in hot in the second verse is guest rapper Lamar, who also demands some space: "Bitch, I'm Kendrick Lamar, respect me from afar." Right, guys, message received loud and clear.