After a solid string of single releases, Singapore singer-songwriter Jean Tan finally releases her anticipated 5-song EP Blooms, available on 20 November 2020 on all major digital streaming platforms via Leeway. This EP includes singles released this year, such as “Serenade” and “Oak Cherry Wine”, as well as two new renditions of old songs as fitting bookends, “Everything I Love” and “All Things New (Blooms)”.
Although she has dabbled in folktronica and darker instrumentation in her previous Hideaway EP, Blooms brings Jean’s vocals centerstage, showcasing both sensibility and range of expression. A contemporary homage to the folk/vocal jazz/blues genre, Blooms is reminiscent of artistes such as Lianne La Havas, Norah Jones and the like. Jean’s voice is sweet with a touch of smoke, complimenting the bluesy guitar lines and soft pulse of the electric piano peppered throughout the tracklist.
The opening track, “Everything I Love”, prefaces the EP wonderfully with its sheer lightness. It reads more like a poem than a song, and it’s no wonder why since it is a lyric collaboration with prolific local poet Felix Cheong. With its simple acoustic instrumentation, the track feels like family and proves that one doesn’t really need very much to find joy.
And then we have the closing track “All Things New (Blooms)”. On first listen, it sounds like a sad soliloquy; but on closer examination, it is as the title suggests – a sliver of newness after a period of stasis, a near-perfect reflection of the times we live in. Although inspired by Sylvia Plath’s poem “Tulips”, the floral imagery does not seek to despair as it did in the original text but instead, reminds us that the withering is a sign of a bed of blooms to come. Seasons come and go, and the presence of winter gives spring its meaning.
In fact, that is just what is so special about this collection of songs. Taken in context of Jean’s last EP Hideaway, which was written in a 7-year period of battling illness, Blooms rings in resounding assurance that for every time of darkness and death, follows a time of light and rebirth. It maps the passage from dawn to dusk, starting with a fresh morning awakening in “Everything I Love”; charts us through the noonday sun and its open sky in “Fly”, and brings us on a drowsy, love-soaked song and dance in “Oak Cherry Wine”. By the time we arrive at “All Things New (Blooms)”, we are drifting off into the promise of another day, and another, and another. At the cello swells in wondrous countermelody at the end, we are left with the all-important message: that people heal, systems are restored, and life resumes as it always was. Only through the winter of Hideaway can we taste the spring of Blooms.
Listening to the Blooms EP from start to finish reminds one of Jean’s best-performing singles yet – “Colours” – written for the 2015 Southeast Asian Games. Just the same, listening to these songs fills our mind’s eye with colour, but not the electric kind. This time, the shades are a little more muted, unfiltered, and matured, aging well with the years. It is slightly bitter, but we like it better.