20 Songs from the 2010’s (Part Deux)

Stephen Malkmus at The Forum

Better Off / Guijo St. (Makes You Wonder) – Apartel (2016)
Apartel is Ely Buendia and the gang in full soul/funk/R&B mode. If I remember correctly, Ely once said that he can’t do R&B. Maybe, RnB or contemporary R&B (i.e., South Border, Freestyle, Beyonce, Rihanna) was what he meant because here he is doing exactly that, producing good, if not be for everyone, funky music. And while I’m hoping he and Pupil gets back to making more guitar music soon (their last, Zilch, was kind of a letdown), looks like I’ll have make do with Apartel until that happens.

“Better Off” starts off with bass/horn intro not so dissimilar to the one in Redbone’s “Come And Get Your Love”, off the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. (Never heard of the movie? Never heard of Star-Lord, the legendary outlaw? Come on, man.) In short, the song is one great railroad funky, with lots of funky basslines, funky beats, and lots of falsettos – though probably not as much as those at the end of “With A Smile”. On the other hand, as someone said before, “Guijo St. (Makes You Wonder)” is something Michael Jackson would have written after listening to “With A Smile” on repeat. That’s fairly accurate, I guess.

Originally, I wasn’t going to include “Guijo St. (Makes You Wonder)” in the list – sticking to some arbitrary rules I made up, like 20 tracks, one song per artist rule. But then I remember listening to both songs on repeat. And I realized that I could still listen to these two, back-to-back, like a 7-inch double A-side, on my digital turntable, on repeat, without even tiring. Yes, they’re THAT good. And if you’d want to ask if Ely Buendia and Apartel has ever put out a song as good as those of his former band Eraserheads, it would be THESE two songs. Not that I’m trying to compare the two bands, but Eraserheads never had a song as funky as “Pateros”, which made eating balut sexy again and gave the word bagsakan whole new shades of meaning.


Hooked On A Feeling – Blue Swede (2014)
You have to give to the guy(s) who wrote this song. And appreciate the ingenuity in putting the hook and the word “hooked” in exactly the same part of the song. You may also have to recognize the ingenuity on the part of James Gunn for using this song in Guardians of the Galaxy, together with the other songs, which I otherwise won’t discover if not for the movie. Also, for the record, “We are Groot” is way way way way better than Avengers: Endgame‘s “I am Iron Man”.


Malayang Magmahal – Rivermaya (2013)
Kapag pwede na, isasama kita sa may amin / Kapag pwede na, d’un tayo, hanggang lumubog ang araw. Some say that the “ligawan” stage is more fun. And being in a serious relationship for five years doesn’t always end with wedding bells. Probably gets boring too. Which is why you’ve got to keep going back to the start – the “ligawan” stage. Just like in the “The Scientist”. You’ve got to keep going back to the time when you waited for “pwede na”.


Nikita – We Are Imaginary (2010)
Before Your Imaginary Friends (now We Are Imaginary, due to name conflict with another band who probably felt threatened by the band’s hooky indie pop songs), singer-guitarist Ahmad Tanji was in Pepsi Paloma Experiment. You read that right. That name wouldn’t sit right with woke and #MeToo people of today. What experiment? Like the one Richie, Vic and Joey did? Maybe, Tanji picked names a little too poorly. But at least, he didn’t name his band The Animated Cats, or The Red Baboons, or The Purple Chickens. Oh wait, there’s actually a band called The Purplechickens. And they’re actually pretty fucking awesome, bad name that stuck notwithstanding. But that’s for another story.

“I love her – like little girls love barbies and pink.” This song’s lyrics read like poetry. Well, because it was actually based on a poem. And it’s about a girl. And the song is so effing catchy. Listen to it a few times and the chorus, which rhymes black Fuego with patintero, will find its way into your hum matrix for sure. While some people thought the song is about Ahmad Tanji’s ex, the lyrics were actually written from a girl’s perspective. It talks about weeping over one’s diary and asks “When will we find the time to talk about poems and stars and dreams… like we used to.” Of course, fans listeners are always free to give their own interpretations meanings attachments. Me, I’m just happy to take the song’s coda with me – yes, that “I just miss you” part – wherever I go.


Bato sa Buhangin – Glaiza de Castro (2018)
Our favorite pop-rock girl aided by one-half of Ben & Ben, turns this Cinderella classic into a modern kundiman that may even rival the original. It sounds new and old at the same time. By which, I mean this new version sounds older than the one used in that FPJ x Ate Vi movie in the late ’70s. Forget about Goyo then, think about the old movie’s ending with this new song playing in the background. What’s the ending? Well, it’s one where FPJ’s character, after realizing they’re economically incompatible (she’s rich, he’s not), decided to leave for good. Then, Ate Vi’s character arrived at the station and caught him about to board the train. FPJ boarded the train but Ate Vi hesitated. Then she started to run towards him as the train started moving. The train started to revved up and Ate Vi was about to lose him. And him, her. It’s really a good ‘kilig’ ending. Except, that wasn’t from the movie Bato Sa Buhangin. That’s from another FPJ x Ate Vi movie, which I wrongly associated with the song. In the movie Bato Sa Buhangin, FPJ’s taxi driver turned bodyguard finally ends up with spoiled rich girl played by Vilma Santos. Only she’s keeping a secret: she’s terminally ill. And the movie ends with the two of them together but with the girl eventually dying while “Bato Sa Buhangin” plays in the background.


Shoop – Salt N’ Peppa (2016)
Deadpool brought me here.


Indak – Up Dharma Down (2012)
Full disclosure: Miles Davis, Coltrane, and the likes, I don’t ‘get’ them. And I never dated someone who looks like Renee Zellweger (circa 1996); never went to her house; never kissed her on the porch; never played Side B of Bitches’ Brew (because her next door neighbor, who gave me the tape, said it enhances the mood), and proceeded to go to bed and said “what the fuck is that? (the music)” just when we’re about to… Here’s another thing I’m not a huge fan of: jazz fusion. So, Up Dharma Down’s Fragmented, I wasn’t a fan of as well. In fact, Capacities is the first album of theirs I could say I really liked. They may have jettisoned the neo-soul/jazz fusion of their debut for electronica and synth-pop, but their songwriting gets better with every album. And one needs no further proof than “Indak”.


Nothing To Say – She’s Only Sixteen (2012)
Whether you agree or not, She’s Only Sixteen sounding like a cross between The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, and some forgotten ’60s band was WAY way more fun than She’s Only Sixteen sounding like a cross between older She’s Only Sixteen and later Arctic Monkeys (i.e., circa AM). “Amygdala”, “Dying To Meet You”, and the unofficially released “Nothing To Say”, this is the kind of songs they’d probably not write again, which only proves that this so-called maturity oftentimes makes people sober, fizzles out the fuzz, dries out the booze, sucks out the fun. At least, they sound more “original” now, you say. I say define original. Because I liked them better when they had nothing meaningful to say, back when they’re dying to date underage girls (roughly same age as them, I suppose), and thought they had this ‘can’t get you out of my head’ effect on girls who go to their gigs and love them.


The Pains of Being… – Chumped (2014)
We get older. Time moves faster. You stay the same. Sparse lyrics, yes. But the intertwining guitars reminds me of Built to Spill’s and Pavement’s best ever combined.


J Smoov – Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks (2014)
Tried listening to Al Green a few times, after reading much praise coming from Robert Christgau. I could still recall a few titles: “Love & Happiness”, which was used in the end credits of The Nice Guys, one of favorite movies of the 2010s and, “I’m Tired of Being Alone”, because, why not? Now “J Smoov” was said to be Stephen Malkmus trying to channel his inner Al Green. And Malkmus came up with some lines worthy of praise: I can’t afford to want you / Still I can’t avoid your play / You creep into my organization / A whistle to the wolves at bay / At this point darlin’ / I must say / That the seeds unsown gonna grow anyway / Hmm, rent a room / Get it over with. Yes, rent a room get it over with. Perfect for your will or won’t they (fuck) plot.

“J Smoov” is probably based on J Smoove, former Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith’s moniker. I’m not sure whether it means “J’s move” or “J’s moove” or “J’s smooth move”. Maybe the last one. And “J Smoov” probably means Jick’s smooth move. But I’m not really sure. What I’m sure of, is that next to Shakespeare, American basketball is one of biggest contributor of new English words. We have dropping dimes, brick, Hack-a-Shaq, Miller Time, flopping, rigged and importanter – just to name a few.

I don’t know, but the YouTube videos of the Jicks playing songs from Wig Out at Jagbags, “J Smoov” included, were somewhat lacking, disappointing. Anyways, here’s another of the band’s best songs played live on a rooftop – just like The Beatles: “Senator”.

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