Introducing a topically poignant album, loaded with the inequalities and injustices that have swamped this past year or so, Tu Pham accesses the issues of the moment in a notably creative, strikingly up-front manner.
Agenda blends stylish and emotive soundscape design with breaking news fragments to kick things off, the intro overloading the listener from the outset with talk of all that caused turmoil and tragedy in recent months.
Following this, Gaudy sees things veer towards the musicality of the project more intensely, featuring a reggae-style beat and a quickly engaging melody, a gentle voice yet emotive and natural in its dealing with these equally contemplative, intelligently framed and captivating lyrics.
It’s not rap, but a long-form melodic outpouring that holds attention and begs for you to follow the lyrics along intently. Great songwriting and composition allows the concept to slowly but surely connect, and the sound is decidedly unique and recognisable in its electro-pop, world-music fusion aura.
Offering twenty original tracks in total, Agenda is a heavy project, but it blends this skilfully with a certain lightness of presentation. Even intense and fast-paced, passionate tracks like Onus On Us, with a clear rap delivery, pour through with a sort of dreamlike, cinematic embrace. It’s hypnotic, and the structure allows room for plenty of change – keeping things moving, holding tight to your interest and attention.
Production-wise there are some distinctly retro choices made throughout this playlist, however the clarity and intimate presentation of the voice and the ideas fuse well with this to create something effectively contemporary and boldly relevant. There’s also value in the arrangement, considering the switch from high-octane to calm and colourful as Here There On Fire progresses into a melodically satisfying Wellspring.
The songwriting is eclectic, creative, while the mindset is clearly swamped with the struggles of the moment – underlining a considerate and compassionate artist, unwilling to ignore the pain and suffering of society in the name of escapism; instead, combining the two, and allowing for a powerful sense of connection.
Other highlights include the reflective and rhythmically involving So Divided, an industrially heavy and haunting Police State, a gentle and choir-like, environmentally conscious Save Our Seas, and a hopeful, nineties RnB-esque Good Things Come. A classically dance-ready, multi-layered and anthem-like Respect My Hustle also brings things to a bright and energising finish.