Yurei – The Problem of Grunge… (2015)

yureiThe Problem of Grunge in 2015, or How to Deal with Boredom and Other Stories, or Memoirs of My Nervous Condition, or The Navel-Gazer’s Guide to Confronting the Self, or Meditations On Life and Death in Metro Manila. That’s not the review yet, that’s just the title. Five long titles for an EP containing five short songs with one-word titles delivered at 320 kilobits per second. Possible problems with Windows: ‘file name is too long’, ‘the path is too long’. They don’t sound like Nirvana, I SWEAR! But their vocalist looks like a Japanese Kult Cobain. B

Oh, Flamingo! – Oh, Flamingo! (2015)

Oh-Flamingo-EP-English-2015-500x500They have some really nifty guitar-indie pop, with some odd, maybe not African-inspired beats (maybe) that you’d wish they have something more interesting to say. Or at least, interesting way(s) to say them. Maybe their latest, “Parara”, “Naubos Na” were attempts in trying to do that. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking because, here’s a band narrowing the gender gap among other things (i.e., they got a cute girl drummer). You thought Two Feet was that good? Idk, I liked Go F*ck Yourself better. **

Coeli – Here Today (2018)

coeli“Under a Bluer Sky” reminds me of Cynthia Alexander. But it’s not the real highlight in Coeli’s 4-track EP Here Today. It’s the nearly six-minute “Magkaibigan o Magka-ibigan”, a modern kundiman about, well, read the title again. Despite clocking at 5:50, which makes it the second longest song in the EP (the shortest is 4-minute plus btw), the song has an LSS-inducing chorus that just gets more LSS-inducing with repeated listening. A-

Munimuni – Simula (2017)

simulaSelf-proclaimed poets playing indie-folk with “deep, poetic lyrics” having people Brazilian-wax poetic over songs they themselves branded with their own genre “makata pop”. Self-limiting as promotion, niche marketing as label. What’s next – poems without words? Now that would be math-folk. Bullish or not, they have songs to show for it. And maybe you could give them a pass—these self-proclaimed poets who probably never read Bukowski—simply because they have a flutician, which is like having a DJ in the mix when your band plays nu-metal (“Bukang-Liwayway”, “Tanikala”). B+

Megumi Acorda – Unexpectedly (2018)

megumi“The sadder I get, the faster I drive”, sings Yan Yuzon on “Lost Guide”. If you don’t go by this rule, by which, I mean your speed isn’t directly proportional to your loneliness, then Megumi Acorda’s Unexpectedly might be a welcome company. At 17 minutes, this EP could be perfect for long drives for someone who has nothing to think about – on repeat (you could also add some of Megumi’s vaporwave tracks from YouTube or Soundcloud). Acorda’s ethereal voice melds with waves of guitars and echoes that you don’t have to learn every word – the songs conceal her lyrics’ sad simplicity. She’s in love in the first and unexpectedly or rather expectedly, heartbroken for the rest of the EP. In love or heartbroken, really makes no difference for the unrequited. She gives the feels, music provides the medium. Sad shoegaze music for long drives or wallpaper bedroom music that has actual songs in it. Well, I’m just happy the opening bars of “Ghost” remind of an old Crazy Horse song and that the song itself reminds of an old song I still can’t put a finger on. B+

IV of Spades – ClapClapClap! (2019)

IV_of_Spades_-_ClapClapClap!Unique leaving IVoS wasn’t probably as big as Ely Buendia ‘graduating’ from the Eraserheads. Though it also broke fans, like when Rivermaya lost Bamboo. The more accurate comparison I guess, is when Dennis split up with his brothers Jimmy and Vinggo and christened himself April Boy Regino (the other two continued as April Boys). Unlike the April Boys, IVoS didn’t even have an album yet before the split up. While Unique’s Grandma could be likened to Bamboo Manalac’s debut after he left Bamboo (No Water, No Moon: eclectic, boring), ClapClapClap! is hardly comparable to what Rivermaya had each time they were reduced to a trio (It’s Not Easy Being Green in ’99, Bagong Liwanag in ’07). The more accurate comparison would be Buhay, their first full length album with Jason Fernandez—scattershot but not without a few bright spots (“Come Inside of My heart”, “Dulo Ng Hangganan”). They may have lost the ‘old disco’ but with rehashed early 2k’s garage-funk (“Take That Man”) and new wave revival (“In My Prison”) you can still grind. All in all, the songs rise and fall with tempos, falsettos, and styles. There’s just too much here to wade through, too much to weed out. But not enough weed. B

PS. If it’s true that it was the Autotelic/December Avenue fans who started the hate bandwagon online, I would also understand.

The Strange Creatures – Stargazer (2014)

stargazerThe title track, as beautiful as Van Gogh, gets me sick of long distance calls and makes me wish time travel, teleportation and magic are all not impossible, so we could just gaze at the stars instead. So I looked on the bright side to get some retro-hope despite everything and put the first single on repeat until I got hooked on it. Like a potent pharmacological substance, it gives me natural high and I can’t help but slyly smile every time they come to the lines, “step inside of my space ship, and give me a heeaad—trip”. A-

Narda – A Postcard from (2002)

narda postLo-fi and indie don’t mean much nowadays. Bedroom recordings could sound as good as studio ones. Not when A Postcard From Narda came out in 2002. This EP sounds like it was recorded on an 8-track tape, unproduced like early Pavement, only it’s indie-pop instead of post-punk. More than the sound, they have songs, each one as perfectly imperfect as the others. If I have to pick a favorite, it would be “Kusina”, written by Wincy Ong (Patience Dear Juggernaut, San Lazaro), a vividly cinematic work of fiction. “Tanong mo ay iyong sagutin”—tonight I’ll make a playlist with “Meron Ba?”, “Suntok Sa Buwan”, and “Wag Na Wag Mong Sasabihin” in it. I’m sure it’d be awesome. A-

Narda – Suwerte (2002)

narda swrtMore upbeat this time but still sporting that lo-fi indie sound. Another four track-EP that’d make you think that they could have waited a li’l bit and made a full length album instead. Except maybe they didn’t have the funding. Which is what going indie used to mean before Bandcamp and Spotify happened. At least they sound happy. Or maybe just foolish (“Tanga”, “Suwerte”). Let me play that opening riff again. A-

Narda – Burador (2003)

narda brdrWhile they’ve always been a bit rough around the edges, the songs here neither sound like demos nor drafts. Rumour has it that the band’s drummer sold his drum set only so they could make this record. After which, they’re left with nothing but guitars and so they went acoustic and gathered themselves around the campfire (“Another Day”, “Ang Gabi”). A- 

Narda – Salaguinto’t Salagubang (2003)

narda slgntSmart Tagalog lyrics, one fan noted. That it’s easier to write songs in English may not be always true; that it’s easier to spot cheesy Tagalog lyrics is. And that’s one reason why Narda have always been a notch higher than other indie bands in the local scene who sound more British or Swedish. Time and time again, they’ve written indie-pop gems laced with memorable riffs, it also sounds good when they slap distortion on it (“Liwanag”). This more or less wraps up the songs and sounds of their three previous EPs. After “Meron Ba?” comes “Saan Na?” while “Jaywalker” recalls the vintage sound of Suwerte. A-

Juan Karlos – ‘Buwan’ (2018)

81OBJGxpHoL._SS500_Almost there but not quite. Either it makes you push replay or it leaves you wanting. I’d say it’s the latter. There’s enough anguish in Labajo’s singing but his lyrics needed work (“Halina tayo’s humiga”). Sure, he’s in love. Truly? Maybe. Madly? Yes. Deeply? Not, if you read the lyrics. And what’s with the moon? Is he going crazy? A lunatic? Is he gonna turn into a werewolf? More like he’s just plain horny.

Juan Karlos – Diwa (2020)

diwaThe refrain of “Sampaguita” sounds a bit odd the first time but it works, Gloc-9 makes it work. Gloc-9 paints a heartbreaking picture of OFW life and then somewhat ruins the song in the third verse with that ‘tragic’ ending. As if people having no choice but to work overseas isn’t tragic enough. As if unemployment and underemployment should be accepted as the norm. Don’t like it when this JK Labajo dude puts extra kinks to his singing. It pulls attention to itself and not in a good way. I’m talking about some Jeff Buckley-ish kinks here—some of them are, not all. All the ten cuts here sounds warm, live, sweaty and real, especially after listening to Unique’s self-indulgent, cold electro-psychedelia. Like Unique, JK Labajo has good pipes. Maybe Unique should take his cue from JK and get himself a backing band. In return, he could help JK fix some of his lyrics. Maybe Unique could also learn from JK how to write about things other than himself. Find himself someone/something to love, lust for or think about other than fame. B

Unique Salonga – Grandma (2018)

Grandma_by_Unique_album_artworkUnique may have drawn first blood but this is hardly a win. Too early for him to brag about ‘money in the bag’ (“M”, “Cha-ching!”), for which the IVoS gave him the dreaded slow clap. Nothing here comes close to “Mundo”, nothing remotely as catchy as “Hey Barbara”. But that’s probably the point—he wants to burn ‘old disco’ (“Ozone”), cut any association with his former band. So, this has to be different, which doesn’t mean it’s good. He’s probably slightly better with lyrics than his ex-bandmates but this is also wanting. Whatever this lacks, without Zild on his side, he overcompensates—with synths. With no Blaster to provide him the funk, he wisely slows down the tempo, goes for quiet acoustic numbers. If only he could reach the depth he’s trying to reach (IVoS’s “I Ain’t Perfect” beats his “Midnight Sky” by a few inches). Emulations abound, with Beatles being the most obvious, probably late Arctic Monkeys too. But we only make do with emulations when we can’t afford or access what’s being emulated, which is nearly impossible to be impossible when you have a data plan. I’m sure my grandmother didn’t listen to this type of thing. And you don’t have to over-analyze his lyrics to find meanings which aren’t there. He’s just turned eighteen–as in legal–is all he’s really trying to say. B

Unique Salonga – Pangalan (2020)

unpShorter and more consistent than his debut with a few hooks poking through (“Bukod-Tangi”). None of the new songs are as memorable as “Ozone” (probably still his best, though I find it a bit exploitative and insensitive when I think about the families and victims of the tragedy). And no, “Delubyo” is neither dark nor disturbing. It’s a sound collage and anyone can make such. Eight cuts, six songs—that’s just slightly more than half of what’s in his debut. That’s good if it means we get less fillers and less of Unique telling us how the IVoS management robbed him of royalties (But where’s my money / Don’t waste my time) or why he left the group. But not really. Turns out, he can’t stop singing about himself (“Bukod-Tangi”, “Pahinga”), can’t stop bragging about, can’t stop trash-talking like he’s up against you-know-who in a FlipTop battle (“Dambuhala”, “Mga Katulad Mo”). Either he’s excessively self absorbed or he’s still hurting. Maybe both. Writing songs to exorcise his own demons? Maybe. B-