Mong Thuy — Tram Nam Ben Cu

Mong Thuy who is previously unknown to me has a hell of a high pitch. The superb soprano—minus Thai Thanh’s girlish annoyances—from her voice puts Bang Kieu to shame. She brings the dramas alright, but not to the point where she’s about to jump off the Brooklyn bridge. Proof? In her Pham Duy songbook, Tram Nam Ben Cu, she performs every song with full emotional power and she’s capable of swooping up high notes in effortless control.

What impresses me the most is that she has cut an album I’ve been dying to hear. In every recording, the only instrument backing her up is a piano, something I encouraged a singer to do, but he thought it would be too boring for an entire album. Well, Mong Thuy has proved him wrong. With a prodigious pianist behind her, she paints Pham Duy’s compositions with vivid lyricisms, luminous textures, and elusive harmonies. From the clarity of execution in the accompaniment to the clarity of feeling in the voice, pure aesthetic is what being accomplished in this tight and personal setting. Furthermore, the nuanced touch from the keyboard and the light touch from her phrasing make the album perfect for rainy-day introspection.

If you’re like me, sick and tired of the current popular Vietnamese music from big productions like Thuy Nga, Asia, and Van Son whose main interest are nothing but mucho dinero, Mong Thuy’s album offers a much greater alternative. Often times I wonder to myself, am I being anal to Vietnamese singers and productions? After listening to recent releases, I thought these producers are either deaf or they just simply don’t give a fuck, but album like this has reassured me that I am not being too damn demanding.

Download: “Duong Chieu La Rung