July 31, 2012

NEW VIDEO: Loonie - "Tao Lang"

Loonie isn’t exactly what you call a hiphop superstar or another nationalist messiah in the Francis Magalona mold. He’s one of the pioneering forces behind the success of Fliptop, a local underground rap battle that sets up two emcees for a match of the shrewdest insults and the most ingenious punch lines.

Late last year, he released the single “From Saudi With Love,” a desert diary anthem that pretty much sums up the sentiments of our OFWs in the Middle East. It was a chart success, peaking inside the top 20 of the Pinoy MYX countdown and garnered heavy radio airplay. But more than the commercial viability that caught the interest of the public, it’s a song that plays around with hooks and goofs; his wordplay, still as cutthroat and seething as ever, deals with dark humor and social commentary in a cautiously balanced stride. Sort of like a watered down version of Gloc 9, only funnier.

His follow-up single, the Klumcee-produced “Tao Lang” seems to keep track of the brilliant act that he is destined to be. It's a song that stings of heart-rending humanness, showing Loonie at his most vulnerable glow. Quest sings the hook on the chorus, and as usual, Loonie raps with unadulterated confidence, serenading us with tall-tale inspiration. Watch the video below and download the new track here for free.

NEW VIDEO: The Charmes - "Leave The Lights Off"

The video for The Charmes’ sing-along anthem “Leave The Lights Off” shows the band performing in a posh living room, charged with the usual rockstar oomph and charismatic appeal they wear oh-so-perfectly in their sleeves. As for the song, they’re still pulling off a bit of balancing act between garage rock revival and late ‘70s punk rock, the kind that blows the gel out of your hair and gets you jumping as high as you can. Watch it below:

July 30, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Similar Objects - OverSoulUrgy (2012)

SimilarObjects, Jorge Juan B. Wieneke V in real life, has been under the radar since 2010. Since then, he’s been tirelessly culling beats and frequencies from different spheres of sounds, weaving nothing but a fine gossamer end product. It’s quite difficult to pigeonhole Jorge’s music to one or two specific genres, though one would only need his ears and mind to surrender to his own body’s rhythms, getting attuned to a hidden, alternate environment.

Following 9 impressive releases (the last was released barely 5 months before), the prolific beat master comes up with OverSoulUrgy, an independently released 11-track effort that summons to “enter the pause that refreshes” - tuning out from all sounds but his. One common thing in his entire body of work is that there always seems to be something deeply embedded in the layers of each track (with curious and interesting titles to match) that effortlessly draws binaural attention.

“MvScrn” forewarns with hazy synths swirling lazily throughout, prepping for a viscerally-tuned experience. “WeatheredRockSunset” is a cocoon of aesthetics and warmth, justly apt for a twilight track. The beautifully laid copious sounds tinker like harps that soothe and at the same time, projects a vivid serene imagery filled of tangerines and purples. Furthermore, “@ffinitee” and “Dolphins Under Orion” both brims with pastel synths, the former rich with glitches and skipping nostalgia-imbued waves.

Broody and heavily-laden tracks set a delicate balance in the set, as you listen to “BaruKereti” and “Fantasy Feline Fem”. While Jorge seems to have mastered the melancholy game in “Sacred Door/s” and “Fractal Fanta”, he switches the notch a little in “<3worm” and “pos+/-neg”, with supple and bolder resonance. A personal favorite, “Michael’s Cloak (callonit)”, is a 297-second story of its own. It begins with a strong, yet hushed, rarefied intimacy, echoing early Daft Punk, packed with the right punches at all the right moments. The buildup towards the middle half is palpable, inevitably heeding you to groove in its captivating allure.

Suffice to say, OverSoulUrgy dazzles with sophisticated songcraft; but even more astoundingly, it embodies a lost, toxic spirit seeking for sobriety and calm. Jorge’s tracks descend into a lush, melodic fog, where an emotional struggle rages in a series of juxtaposed scenarios, as if a Sigur Ros album mixed with How To Dress Well and laced with 808s had been played out entirely in a locked basement only you have an access to. As far as a compilation record goes, OverSoulUrgy plays on with its thematically-driven presentation, woven from the same fabric. Objectively, as local IDM, glitch, and abstract music slowly circulate the scene and gain wider audience, as Jorge justly exemplified, there is indeed a lot to be said from his EPs, including this one, without necessarily uttering too many words. He did (more than) well enough to be heard.    A- 

(Cross-published in Mary Christine Galang's blog

July 29, 2012

FREE ALBUM: Twin Lobster - Ritalin Is Meth (2012)

It goes without saying that Twin Lobster’s new record Ritalin Is Meth doesn’t make for the usual run-of-the-mill outtakes and B-sides collection, as many of the tracks can freewheel on its own and pass off as batch of singles. It’s nothing short of impressive, really: from the bitter break-up ode “You Think Your Better Than Me You Bitch” to the pile-drive riffing of “Kelly Song,” everything else here displays a raw, interstellar quality that validates the band as four people who legitimately enjoy making music together. Download this awesome collection of unreleased tracks, demos, and outtakes here.

July 27, 2012

NEW TRACK: Love In Athens - "Soft Pinnacle"

Love In Athens returns with a refined version of his early demo "Soft Pinnacle." Completely enveloped by bright, synth-pop burbles and a nod to Postal Service's crisp electronic minimalism, Francis Maria Regalado accentuates melodies and textures with a bouncy hook that makes you dance life's bleakest moments away. Stream it below and download it here.

July 25, 2012

NEW TRACK: Jad Montenegro - "Ano"

Davao City is fast becoming a hotbed of fresh music discoveries, housing a vibrant music scene that’s pretty impressive in its concerted effort to maintain a tight community. Lately, we’ve been keeping our eye on Jad Montenegro, a Davao-based singer-songwriter who just recently released the underrated but truly enjoyable EP Fixed Points & Pendulums. Her first single “Ano” is an earthy, folk-pop composition that evinces wisdom beyond her years, a track  which reminds us of the work of a young Cynthia Alexander, with a little bit of Laura Marling and Kitchie Nadal thrown in the mix. Check it:

July 24, 2012

NEW TRACK: The Camerawalls - "Awit Ng Detinidong Pulitikal"

Bulacan-based indie pop outfit The Camerawalls recently collaborated with Concerned Artist of The Philippines (CAP) on a song that urges the Aquino administration to free all political prisoners, particularly artist/poet/musician/writer Ericson Acosta. Aptly titled “Awit ng mga Detenidong Pulitikal,” the track marks The Camerawalls’ very first Tagalog song, venturing on a more progressive, socially conscious theme that’s completely different from the kind of music they've done before. Listen below:

July 22, 2012

LISTEN: Walkie Talkies - "Thinking About You" (Frank Ocean Cover)

Not exactly thrilled with the idea of anyone covering Frank Ocean songs, but Walkie Talkies' breezy, light take on the R&B auteur’s single is just so damn smooth that it could probably melt everything it touches. As different as their musical styles may be, both shares affinity for knee-jerking falsetto croon that adds the right touch of yearning to a love that’s out of reach. Watch it below:

July 21, 2012

NEW TRACK: Sud - "How We Play"

Sud’s “How We Play” approaches their rollicking onslaught with immediate and tightly structured guitar-rock stomp that makes you smash windshields and dance wildly atop of your car as if nobody’s watching. It’s straightaway catchy, loose and frantic in The Stones/Velvet/Clash vein, leaning more on a traditional rock n’ roll aesthetic that picks and pulls from their folder of influences. Listen to it here:

July 19, 2012

NEW VIDEO: Bagetsafonik - "Airports"

Amid all the well-justified hype that surrounds recent releases by Encounters With A Yeti, Dong Abay and Ciudad, not a lot of people have been paying attention to Bagetsafonik’s self-titled sophomore record—a well-crafted collection of bittersweet tunes that may just end up on top of our favorite OPM albums list this year. Like Sugarfree’s Talaarawan or Cambio’s Derby Light, it’s a thematically consistent record that’s “beautiful in its ugliness to show a love that ended in terminal decay,” as we’ve pointed out in our March 11, 2012 review.

Four months after the album launch, we’re glad that Bagetsafonik has finally released the official MV for their first single “Airports.” Helmed by Jerome Albrando, its slick-looking video is one for the memory banks, featuring the band members on different tropes of accidents at home. There’s nothing really fancy and mind-puzzling about the concept, but it’s something that verges on the cute especially after seeing these guys just make fun of themselves in front of the camera, stamping their individual personality with no pretensions on the side. Watch it, folks!

July 18, 2012

FREE BEAT TAPE: Eyedress - Nature Trips (2012)

Prolific, all-around musician/producer Eyedress (Idris Vicuna) has dropped his deliriously trippy and psychedelic beat tape, Nature Trips just yesterday to give us a foretaste of what’s in stored for his upcoming solo debut under the Number Line Records banner. In the constantly shifting world of IDM where trends seem to expire before you’ve finished drinking your second bottle of beer, Eyedress' Nature Trips offers an earthy package that fits both esoteric dancefloor and mood-time, countryside driving—soundscapes, that when perceived abstractly, unravel a world where you don’t have to end up worrying much about anything at all. Cop this amazing beat tape here.

Below is "Babe Slayer," the first single off Nature Trips. Listen to it and tell us what you think.

July 16, 2012

NEW VIDEO: Paranoid City - "Here We Are Here We Go"

The video for Paranoid City’s “Here We Are Here We Go” pairs the synth-poppers’ enormously catchy single with split-screen videos of footages, band performances, and cameos from semi-celebs and indie rock personalities. Robert Lyren directs this punchy tribute to night prods and skates. Watch it:

July 15, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Dong Abay - Rebulto (2012)

Image courtesy of splintr.com
It’s hard to ignore the career-defining impact of Dong Abay’s Flipino, an album which earned the folk-punk rebel every kind of deranged praises known to mankind. The Robin Rivera-produced opus finds Dong Abay piecing a sharp, satirical observation with hawk-eyed storytelling detail that offers a commentary on Philippine society and the stereotypes representative of its very fiber. None of his contemporaries have shown a musical renaissance enamored with natural grace and indelible pop sensibilities that go beyond creative and commercial push, one that reveals a man unafraid to speak what he believes in regardless of what other people might think.

Now two decades in his prime, Dong Abay’s presence still captivates; the wickedly sewn ideas patched in his work have managed to preserve the political sophistication and maturity of his debut album Flipino with sonic experiments that took a 180 degree turn from the guitar-handed, folk rock musings he’s known for.

Backed with skittering synthwork and subtle electronic flourishes that strike in between the dated futurism of Kraftwerk and the cognitive-social poetic readings of Joey Ayala, he teams up with studio producer Shinji Tanaka and esteemed musicians Raymond Marasigan and Buddy Zabala on a concept album that pays tribute to Jose Rizal. Straight and simple, Dong thought of how in a fictional account, the beloved historical figure would rise one day from its Luneta monument stillness and start giving a piece of his mind on the country’s current social, cultural and political landscape.

Fittingly titled Rebulto, Dong Abay takes his cue from where Jose Rizal’s renowned essay The Philippines, A Century Hence leaves off, presenting both a critique and homage on the National hero’s vision of the country after 100 years. “Matuto tayong magka-kalayaan,” he repeats in as many times as he could on the near end of “Rizal Day.” He does it with a mantra-like grind that questions how we Filipinos have lived a life of liberty clothed in neo-colonialism and globalization, compromising our unique indigenous culture to keep up with the pacing of modernity. It’s in this fulcrum that he lays the foundation of Rebulto as red-printed afterthoughts pondering on the real essence of freedom.

Tinted with nuanced sarcasm, Dong approaches “Bagumbayan” with a scarring emotional delivery that evokes Johnny Cash in “Hurt” or Bob Dylan in “Desolation Row”, painting an idealist picture of liberation amidst modern, dark times. “Ang katotohanan, napakasaya ko… Wala nang katulad ni Padre Damaso,” he croons as if he’s held in torture, with nothing to grab but a ballad of lies and wasted hopes. “Pangarap natin na pagkakapantay-pantay… Kaysarap kamtin, kalayaan,” he continues. This time, no amount of sugar-coated words can hide the brittleness crackled in his singing; it’s nothing but a sound of an optimist’s wrenching lament waiting for a glint of morning light to penetrate the deepest of the tunnel.

“Par Que” with its carefree vibe and solid pop hooks, serves as a throwback to Dong Abay’s penchant for fragile humanism. Meant to be a narrative arc pitched when Rizal’s finally given a second chance at life, it’s a finger snapping ode that speaks fondly of life, that such thing is never really over because it hasn’t really began to begin with. “May mga araw din pala ako, katunayan akin ang araw na ito,” essays Dong Abay in his best impression of Jose Rizal rising from the grave. He witnesses the beauty of sunset and watches the people around the park with fervent adoration. He observes. He smiles. He strips off his hero’s vest to experience a life after a century’s worth of resilience. Right there and then, he’s ready to embrace independence the way he smelled and envisioned it in his dreams.

But we all know, things will never be the same again. And it might take a lifetime for us to realize what Rizal has fought for in death's namesake.  A- 

July 13, 2012

FREE ALBUM: K▼L▲M†††B▲R▲NG - K▲B▲B▲L▲GH▲N (2012)

Filipino witchtronic producer K▼L▲M†††B▲R▲NG has recently dropped an 8-track album that explores disconnected, ghostly soundscapes and slow-dragging beats often associated to music acts such as oOoOO and White Ring. Aptly titled K▲B▲B▲L▲GH▲N, the new record under Cult Shit Records reflects the internet age’s growing fetishism on occult imageries and typographic elements, skewing and splicing music in indecipherable codes spoken only by the language of the esoteric. If you dig sample-heavy, ethereal stuff then this might work for you. Cop it here for free.

Below is “Opalus,” the first song off his upcoming album, The Last ▲. Stream it and tell us what you think.

July 11, 2012

MID-YEAR REPORT: Top 5 OPM EPs of 2012 so far...

While most music insiders don’t consider an Extended Play (EP) format as a legit body of work, we strongly feel the need to recognize its importance in the same weight as how a full length album operates. After all, how in the world is a 5-track record any different than, let’s say an album made of 12 songs? It’s just the number, dear. Quality trumps quantity in all aspects.

To celebrate the music of the past six months, we’ve ranked the top 5 OPM EPs that left an indelible mark in our hearts and minds. There has been a deluge of accomplished and brilliant local EPs rounding up this early, from Pedicab’s banging disco-punk shorties to Goodbye Yesterday Hello Today’s tech-industrio stompers. And man, we couldn’t stop counting even if we’ve only set the limit to 5.

5. Goodbye Yesterday, Hello Today - GYHT
Released on June 15, 2012

Packaged in earcandy maelstrom, GYHT combines stunted rock arrangements with dystopian electro sounds, dishing out the perfect film score for your modern doomsday romance. The Knife, Skrillex, Garbage and Nine Inch Nails can be heard all over their sonic muster, but as you listen to it all again, they seemed to create an insistent pulse of their own. Groovy, a bit goth industrial, daring, it’s the musical equivalent of a nightmare you can fall in love and dance to.
4. Earthmover – First Sighting
Released on March 15, 2012

“Earthmover’s willingness to showcase technical fluency without being overbearing in its approach warrants some attention. Flipping between noise and near-harmony, epic builds and curves—they have weird ways in coming up with sonic patterns that make listener expectations fed in full. And while there are moments of awkward transitions and pointless fillers, sometimes a result of grappling with identity, they still play the entire thing like sound board of daydreaming, letting their music do most of the talking. That makes the imperfectness in First Sighting seemed like a positive quality, and keeps our attention guarded from unwanted wandering.” Read our full review here.
3. RomCom – It’s Tight Like A Prom Night
Released on May 1, 2012

There’s a reason why it’s effortless to lump RomCom in with the rest of the pack trying to relive the glory days of the 90s. Their debut EP It’s Tight Like A Prom Night plays like some sort of a dainty homage to an era where slum books, dated chick flicks and cassette tapes have thrived and made waves in our collective consciousness. Catchy and unashamedly girlish guitar-rock tunes drip in here with candy-dot honesty that recalls Moonpools and Caterpillars or Fatal Posporos—only that instead of embracing watermark quirks, they opt to write confessional heartaches in a diary pinned with pictures of Moffatts and Freddie Prince Jr.
2. Outerhope – No End In Sight
Released on May 22, 2012

“Fresh from a successful stint at the major indie pop fests in the United States, Outerhope welcomes the mid-year salvo with an introverted, schoolgirl pop record that bubbles into the world of nostalgia-gaze daydreaming, childhood memories and rainy day chirp. Their third release, No End In Sight is a creative leap from their previous releases, dosing their twee-as-fuck sound with the stylish trumps of Rainway Children and the synth-pop flourishes of ‘80s bands such as EBTG, Prefab Sprout and China Crisis. Their playground has gotten a little bit wider, yielding more ideas from behind some impenetrable screen of idiosyncrasy. But despite being awash in textures and atmospheric swirls, synthesizers and layers of electronic drums, No End In Sight still sounds undeniably and distinctly Outerhope—lazy, softened, childlike, and whimsical—qualities that seemed to reject the whole notion of cool being tough, erotic and masculine.” Read our full review here.
1. Pedicab – Kaya Mong Mag Sando
Released on April 17, 2012

“On their latest 6-track EP Kaya Mo Mag Sando, Pedicab proves to their detractors that they’re still a galvanizing force in both the indie and mainstream music markets, busting shiny, disco-inflected punk tunes so mightily that we’re now embarrassed to be the wallflower that doesn’t know how to dance. This is more of a cousin to the band’s debut album Tugish Takish than a real follow-up to Shinji Ilabas Mo Na Ang Helicopter, with Sando bringing nonstop fun and escapism and accomplishing the feat where every songs (except for the filler title-track) want to be as tight as the singles. On first few listens, they’ve instantly dragged me to their delightful, four-on-the-floor anthems about drunkenness, summer heat and annoying insects the same way my friends or uncles would have remarked LOL-worthy innuendos in one of those beer-flooded nights. Suddenly, it feels like the 90s again, where everybody doesn’t even care about indie cred.” Read our full review here.

July 10, 2012


Aside from the usual song-and-dance numbers in some of his old films, not everyone knows that The King of Comedy has once dabbled into the world of music, teaming up with the equally funny and iconic Panchito on novelty tunes that deal with familial issues, basketball games, and gossiping. In 2007, Alpha Music released The Best of Dolphy and Panchito, a retrospective on the immortal works of the comedy tandem during their heydays. Brimming with impeccable comedic timing and satirical charm, the compilation record is a solid proof of how the duo understood Filipino humor and sensibility by the street code; throwing back-to-back punchlines that never aged in the course of time.

One of the tracks in the album (“Family Planning”) was actually a Filipino version of Toots and Maytals’ “Monkey Man”—a reggae/ska staple popularized by seminal cult band, The Specials. Dolphy and Panchito retained the perpetual ‘ayayayayayay’ hook while converting the lyrics into a cool but real-as-slap lesson on birth control.

Just like Yoyoy Villame, these two also made it a point to unintentionally inject social commentary in ways that don’t blade the skin, spoofing popularly old tunes that imbibe the wisdom of the old. They also sang about the hardships experienced by our countrymen; but instead of bathing in its misery, Dolphy and Panchito capitalized on humor and sometimes, insult-mongering to poke fun at our inner slums, leaving us a trail of learning to ponder on from time to time. 

Aside from the Dolphy and Panchito outing, Dolphy recently teamed up with Zsa Zsa Padilla, Zia Quizon, and friends to release his very first solo album, Handog Ni Pidol: A Lifetime of Music and Laughter. While the attempt at recording was seen by many as an instant cash-in to his bigger-than-life showbiz legacy, it was an album made to showcase The Comedy King’s love for music. Esteemed Entertainment columnist Baby A. Gil writes, “Dolphy, the singer is not likely to win singing contests anymore. But the Rat Pack swagger and cool approach to material so characteristic of the man remain. These coupled with the well-chosen songs make the CD a great treat. Here is the music he likes and that we can all associate with his career.” 

 As a music icon, Dolphy is an underrated talent whose contributions in the music scene still remain unrecognized. But his comedic style, “funny in a Chaplin-esque way” as once described by Jose Javier Reyes, lingers in the sonic stamps of music icons, from TVJ to Parokya Ni Edgar, from the witty limericks of Michael V to the double entendre of pedestrian novelty acts. His influence jumps from one generation to another, trying to make the most out of what’s branded as Filipino humor.

July 9, 2012

NEW TRACK: Maude - "Eve"

Seemingly out of nowhere, Indie rock foursome Maude joins the ranks of buzzbands enjoying word-of-the-mouth praises from peers and local music enthusiasts. Armi Millare of Up Dharma Down branded them “the band everyone should watch out for” and Terno Recordings head honcho Toti Dalmacion has recently welcomed these guys to its roster of talents which include Radioactive Sago Project, Sleepwalk Circus, Encounters With A Yeti, Musical O, The Charmes and Hidden Nikki.

Here’s a tease of what to expect from the band: a carefree, sunshiney pop track called “Eve.” It’s unerringly solid stuff made of tropical sheen, echoing the widescreen hooks of Teenage Fanclub, Lemonheads, and The Shins. Stream it here.

July 8, 2012

NEW VIDEO: J-Hoon - "You & Me"

J-Hoon Balbuena (Kjwan, Kapatid) recently assembled a bunch of talented collaborators from the Philippines and the rest of Asia for his solo project, Noodles—an eclectic electro-hop record that was launched at B-Side just last week. The first single off the debut LP is the Nights Of Rizal-produced “You & Me,” an atmospheric, R&B-patched track already making rounds in the internet with a nice visual complement that features J-Hoon himself and a pretty model. Consider yourself baited and watch this fantastic video below.

July 7, 2012

FREE ALBUM: Techiyaki - Our Own Little World

On Techiyaki’s latest record Our Own Little World, Cavite-based Patrick Sta. Maria incorporates an infectious approach to electronic music and drum n’ bass with teetering restraint that you’d rarely hear among the new crop of local EDM artists. There’s nothing really groundbreaking and life-affirming on OOLW, but what’s contextually exciting here is the way he fleshes out the individuality of songs with signs of a pro, making sure not to repeat the tricks and ideas hauled from one track to another.

Download the album here and stream “Yosi, Alak, Pornograpiya” below to give you a taste of what Techiyaki’s sonic collage is all about:

July 6, 2012

NEW TRACK: Eyedress - "Teen Spirits"

It’s amazing how Idris Vicuna a.k.a Eyedress shows dedication in topping himself release after release, pushing the envelope of bedroom pop music to wide-reaching songcraft and appeal. His latest track “Teen Spirits” surprisingly sounds more polished and confident than his earlier materials. Here, he ventures into a sugary crunched, psych-gaze abstraction that touches on hooks and pop perfection, as opposed to harvesting sonic food from left field experiments alone. But like any other songs penned by Idris, it’s yet another heartbreaking stuff entrenched in warm haze, with lines like “Your eyes make me feel like a stranger, your touch is so temporary” ready to soundtrack the cult of the pained anytime soon. Download this underrated gem here.


July 5, 2012

NEW VIDEO: Dong Abay - "Par Que"

Dong Abay’s sophomore album Rebulto is a low-key, electronic-tinged record that pays tribute to Jose Rizal. It marks a departure from the folk-punk commentary of Flipino and taps on a fictional account that re-imagines the National Hero coming back to life.

“Par Que,” one of the stand-out tracks in the new album, was given a simple yet warm video treatment showing Dong Abay in various spots within the Luneta Park. Dong sings, serenades, and captures our hearts like Jose Rizal would in his charismatic demeanor, pulling off an arresting visual that connects to our Filipino being. Watch it:

July 4, 2012

NEW VIDEO: Alessandra De Rossi - "Make It Better"

On the video of “Make It Better,” actress-turned-singer Alessandra De Rossi tackles the role of a svelte coastal nomad searching for love and freedom in the most far-flung of places, in the underwater world and afterglow seaside. Keith Sicat directs this breathtaking clip and adds an atmosphere of ethereal melancholy that recalls Madonna’s “Frozen”—only tamer and less gothic. Watch it and indulge.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Charmes - The Charmes (2012)

The Charmes’ self-titled LP wraps up a modern day version of garage rock with airtight austerity, its sheer energy apparent and solid right from the opening buzzsaw guitars of “You Gotta Be Kidding Me” to the angsty demeanor of “Plastic Scissors.” If this were early 2000s, it could have been gobbled up into a hypestorm, where they might be placed as top shelf guys responsible for the sudden resurgence of rock music filtered in fun, traditional style: stripped off synths and looping samples, no reverb-laden effects, zero laptop tricks. Just pure, dirty riffing monsters about to herald the second coming of Stones, Stooges and Velvet Underground.

Apparently, it’s not how things were leashed in perspective. Garage rock revival went passĂ©. The Strokes devolved from being dubbed as “saviors of rock n’ roll” to becoming self-confessed floptards having a hard time recreating the success that was Is This It. The Libertines, The Hives, and other “The” bands ghosted to oblivion, leaving us for ‘duh’ sake, a one-hit album that’s better left off the shelf than revisited. The Charmes, a Manila-based band signed to Toti Dalmacion’s Terno Recordings label, debuts their new record with an output resembling the aforementioned bands’ music, eager to prove that scruffy, garage rock revival didn’t die without a fight. Their sonic direction still remains shamelessly aware of its influence: late ‘70s garage/punk, melodic hooks, angular guitar riffs, post-punk stomps. And the production employed in the self-titled album is stripped raw, conveying a less-is-more aesthetic with a tantalizing promise of even better things to come. All praises said, The Charmes comes up with an Arctic Monkeys-meets-The Strokes kind of kitchen-sink blend that you don’t feel sorry to have existed this late.

Assembling a pocketful of accessible guitar rock tunes from a starry-eyed lover’s perspective, The Charmes reaches through our hearts with a preceding aura of earnestness and vulnerability, one that must have sprung from personal foibles and experiences. “In This Hotel” and “Turn You On,” both standouts in their own right, testify to their songwriting strengths and undeniable flair for songs that mend your heart and break it afterwards. “Will my heart ever learn? You make it torn apart like any other heart,” cries Brian Josef on “It’s Your Heart I Don’t Trust.” It’s deliberate and honest that it felt like an anthem you’d put your shoes on and sing to. “Love On the Other End” fuels heartbreak, disillusionment, frustration, and scathing wit with a jump-in-the-air pounding that resonates within the story’s big picture. It’s their ambition for incisive, heart-cutting lyrics that actually makes these songs more addictive, with each repeated play a joy that’s priceless.

Unfortunately, some songs (“Worth A Mile,” “New Day,” “Forget Me Not” to name a few) don’t quite live up to the expectations set by the stand out tracks. Either it drags down on occasion because it does sound like a rehashed version of their other songs or its inimitable appeal causes a slight lull in the consistency of the record. On a form like this, however imperfect, The Charmes still hit most of the targeted bullets at its full range, with the flaws covered up completely by the band’s youthful enthusiasm and indelible songcraft. Had they taken the time to iron out these minor concerns this could have been an exceptional record. Well, most things in life aren’t perfect. Why bother?   B 

July 3, 2012

PINNED: Lampara

Photo courtesy of Carlo Reyes
We can’t begin to describe how glad we are to finally hear the new album from Manila-based band Lampara. And we’re not saying all of this just to keep you all hot excited. It’s surprisingly a keeper record that professes the band’s love for 80s pop sensibilities and new wave ‘dos, all tied up with modern rock swag built for arenas. Like bolt coming out from nowhere, we got the chance to interview the post-punk bandits about the recording process that went through their four-years-in-the-making CD, their follow-up single to the catchy and quite enjoyable “Pepe Le Pew,” and the decision to launch the album in the same date as fellow indie heavyweights, Ciudad and J-Hoon.

Q: Three important local albums will be launched on June 7, Saturday: Ciudad’s fourth album, J-Hoon Balbuena’s Noodle, and of course, your self-titled debut album. If you’re going to work on a sales pitch aimed to attract music enthusiasts to go to your launch, how are you going to approach it? I mean you’re battling it out with fellow indie heavyweights.
Well, in terms of having hardcore fans, we're definitely at a disadvantage. Ciudad and J-Hoon have been in the industry while we were still in highschool! But if people want to experience an event where a relatively new band gives light to the forgotten 80's new wave/synth-pop genre, then they are definitely in for a treat. Plus, we made preparations so that this album launch would not sound just like our regular gigs. So if any music enthusiasts want to listen to something new, discover new music that their friends have probably never heard of, then Cafe Saguijo on July 7 is the place to be!

Q: Why did it take you two years to release an album?
It actually took us longer than that. This current lineup has been together since 2009 and releasing a record was always our top priority. But all the members of the band were caught up with corporate duties that it was very difficult to squeeze recording sessions in between deadlines and overtimes. The songs were ready to be recorded. It just so happened that there were bigger responsibilities to handle. There was a time last year when we were all very anxious to finish the record because everybody was starting to get real busy and finding time to finish it was becoming burdensome. After two long years, it's definitely a monkey of our backs. We're ecstatic that the record is finally here and ready to be released. We can finally move on and start on our next record.

Photo courtesy of Carlo Reyes
Q: On initial listens, your new record sounds like a love letter to 80s post-punk and synth-pop. Is there a conscious effort to capture the feel of that era or it just came out naturally?
In a way, yes! When we started the band back in 2005, the whole emo/pop-punk phase was in full swing. Every other band was either emo or playing some incarnation of punk music. We wanted to sound very different but at the same time, enjoyable and accessible. All of us, despite of the differences in musical backgrounds and influences, enjoyed listening to those 80's new wave pop songs. So when it was time to write our own songs, we all kind of gravitated towards that kind of music. We started channelling more The Cure, New Order, and Bloc Party in our songs while retaining our individual tastes in rock music. We made sure to bring a new approach to the genres we love, 80's new wave/synth pop included. It was refreshing because it set our band apart from our contemporaries back then, and it was also made us accessible to both young and old audiences. Probably when we were starting out, there was a conscious effort to sound like those lost 80's new wave/ synth-pop bands, but right now, it just comes off naturally.

Q: So there’s one track penned in Tagalog and it does sound different from the rest of the songs in the album. What inspired you to record the song “Kalapati?”
"Kalapati" was actually the very first song we wrote. There's a funny story behind that song: Our vocalist, drummer, and guitar player were stuck in traffic on their way to rehearsal when they started listening to Wolfgang. When they got to the studio, they took the whole experience of that soundtrip to our songwriting session. So instead of coming up with a well thought of first song, we ended up with a fun, metal sounding one. The earlier version of that song was more hard rocking with more screaming. At that time, I guess we just wanted to get that "writing our first song experience" out of the way which is why we rolled with the punches and just had fun with it. When we managed to write more songs, we decided to tweak "Kalapati" to sound like our other songs so we'll have a more consistent set list. "Kalapati" is an evidence of our "identity crisis" back then, when we were still finding our sound as a band. I don't think we'll write another song like that. Unless one of us gets stuck in traffic again with another metal band on the radio.

Photo courtesy of Carlo Reyes
Q: How does it feel like working with producer Joey Santos? Lately, everything he touches seemed to turn into gold. (e.g. The Strangeness, Top Junk etc.)
It was great! Working with Joey and the Love One Another Studios crew was actually refreshing because they understood the sound we wanted to achieve. This being our first record, we wanted someone who will listen to our songs objectively and tell us what we need to work on. Joey made sure that the identity of the songs would be preserved (in the tracking, mixing, mastering aspect) but at the same time, he did make sure that we make the necessary adjustments to improve the consistency of the different parts of the song. He "proof-read" our songs so that it would be more presentable. He saw those nuances that we overlooked. We couldn't ask for better mentors for our first record than those guys in Love One Another Studios.

Q: Any new indie/mainstream acts in the Philippines you’d like to jam and work with in the near future?
Bagetsafonik, Sheila and the Insects, Up Dharma Down to name a few. YOSHA, so we'll get schooled on how to properly play our instruments. And probably an all girl band who can give a much needed new perspective in our songwriting sessions. And to also find out if our overly cheesy love songs work with the ladies. (LOL!)

Q: Any plans of releasing the follow-up single to “Pepe Le Pew” anytime soon?
YES! The next single is Bursting Fete. We're releasing it VERY soon. Hopefully, it gets more air time than Pepe Le Pew.

Lampara will be launching their self-titled album this June 7, Saturday at Café Saguijo featuring guest performances by Techy Romantics, The Pin-Ups, Encounters With A Yeti, The Oemons and more. Come celebrate with them for a night of fun and great music. Like their Facebook page here for more details.


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