Rivermaya – Free (2000)

Rivermaya.freeYears before leaking albums online became a trend, a few before online file sharing became the norm, and seven years before Radiohead sold their then new record In Rainbows thru pay-as-you-want at £ 0.00 minimum, Rivermaya self-produced and gave away their fifth album, aptly titled Free, not just online, not just digitally, but also in CD format, given to loyal fans thru mail and at their gigs. Yes, Rivermaya fucking did it first.

Free was released in “The Year Piracy Broke” and mainstream interest in local rock music reached ground zero. Again. Thus, you’d most likely learn about Free on the internet, than catch “Faithless” or “Ambulansya” on the radio—unless by radio, you mean NU107. And just in case you haven’t heard the album yet, do yourself a favor and check “Faithless” and “Ambulansya” on YouTube. The former is driven by Mark Escueta’s pounding rhythm and punctuated by Rico Blanco’s raspy, Kurt Cobain-like scream in the chorus. The latter is a piano-laden dirge about being caught in a causality loop of road accident and traffic jam (“Hindi na tayo gagalaw, hindi na tayo aabante,” Blanco sings on top of a looped ambulance siren).

Outside all the hype (or whether you consider it gimmick, commercial suicide or publicity stunt), Free is an exceptional rock record. It’s really good and by really good, I mean better than any of the first three Rivermaya albums. Imagine taking the best of late ’80s and ’90s guitar-rock (i.e., Nirvana, Pixies, Silkworm), Radiohead’s Kid A, some Chuck Palaniuk and mix them with the solid songwriting of Rico Blanco and Nathan Azarcon. That is, Rivermaya never rocked harder than with “Faithless”, “Serious Offender” and “Again” and they’ve never been as “out there” weird than in “Ambulansya” and “Steady” (Steady/ parang slowly/ na medyo relax/ pero hindi// Parang/ lumang free throw/ ni Bogs Adornado/ noong uso pa ang Afro… Ang gadget/ sarap tapakan/ ang chorus ay tubig/ delay kalangitan… Steady/ ang barbero/ may labahang bago’t/ kamay na pasmado).

Free‘s odd combination of the abrasive/aggressive and weird electronic psychedelia might have been Rivermaya’s response to the burgeoning new metal scene of the late ’90s (i.e., Greyhounds, Slapshock). Only, instead of adding a DJ to the line-up, they went deeper and turn the distortion and weirdness knobs to eleven. The result is more post-hardcore than post-grunge, more rock than hybrid metal.

Or maybe, this is just the natural progression from their last album, which alongside Teeth’s I Was A Teenage Tree and Sandwich’s Grip Stand Throw, is one of the best local guitar-rock albums of from the late ‘90s. Either way, Free contains songs that perfectly captures the raw power of late ’80s early ’90s rock in a bottle and mixed them with some of Radiohead’s early aughts electronic flavors without emulating Pixies or Nirvana or sounding like a Kid A-wannabe.


Just want to share this cool ‘baliktad’ version of “Steady”, the closing track of the album. Kudos to the uploader and whoever did this!

Rivermaya – It’s Not Easy Being Green (1999)

greenThe Rivermaya-Bamboo breakup in ’98 was such a bummer, it was a heartbreaker, that the band’s fourth LP, It’s Not Easy Being Green, features some of Rivermaya’s most personal songs—some about breakup, some about moving on. The album title itself is a reference to a specific song lamenting the state of “being green”, of being ordinary, of disappearing into the background—that without the rockstar vocalist, they’re just these three regular guys.

There’s “Shattered Like” implicitly referencing Bamboo leaving the group, the country-folk “May Kasalanan”, about being left behind, “Bagong Taon”, where Blanco compares his love life to an assortment of fireworks (baby rocket, trumpilyo, lucis), and “Never Been Better”, a song about having moved on or feigning it. All four highlight the album in varying level of cathartic phlebotomy before “Homecoming” closes the album with a teary-eyed “Lover come home, lover come home.”

But Rivermaya (this time just Mark, Nathan and Rico), bemoans “being green” much less than they embrace it. And totally embrace being green they did. As if the band said “Fuck it! We’ll just do what we want to do”, Rivermaya delivered their darnedest best with this album. Never before did a Rivermaya album sound this focused, this consistent. The songs just flow, fly and soar from start to end. Less of that faux experimental shit that littered their previous album (i.e., Atomic Bomb).

While the sad songs hit the sad notes where they need to, stompers like “Grounded Ang Girlfriend Ko”, “Nerbyoso”, and “Sorry” totally rocks. The epic “Bagong Taon”, with guitar pyrotechnics that reminds me of Radiohead’s “Creep” and Bush’s “Swallowed”, is as great as any of the best tracks from Free, Atomic Bomb or Trip.

Then, there’s “Rodeo”, a song about “a song about true love”, with Blanco’s perfectly faux cowboy twang, country-folk beat and honky keys, it’s just perfect. Most likely inspired by Beck’s Odelay (with both Beck and Odelay mentioned in the lyrics), “Rodeo” is album’s ultimate equalizer, balancing the heartbreak and sad songs, with bawdy humor and glee (What sweeter thing could happen to a boy and a girl / we gotta do it like mechanical rabbits from hell, yeah).

Is this album better than Free? Well, actually I won’t mind putting either ahead of the other. Free is more left-of-the-dial, more like In Utero than Nevermind while It’s Not Easy Being Green is more varied, more expansive. It covers more area, it’s more complete, y’know, from A to Zinc. And to these impaired ears, it’s the quintessential Rivermaya record.

Midyear Music Rundown

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Was thinking of writing about the songs I’ve been listening to for the last six months. Music recommendation of some sorts. Only that if Kanye has Late Registration, we, here at breathing like karma, have a fresh new segment called Late Recommendations. This is the portion of the site where we recommend new songs which came out maybe a year ago Continue reading “Midyear Music Rundown”

My 10 Favorite Records of the 2010’s

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You can never quarantine the past

Not intending this to be a quasi best of list. Just ten albums I liked/loved more than the others. All which came out between 2010 and last year. Maybe this is more of a personal chart, what music songs records I’ve been listening to for the last ten years. And this doesn’t even include those which were made in the ’90s and the 2Ks. Continue reading “My 10 Favorite Records of the 2010’s”

20 Songs from the 2010’s

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Night Shift – Lucy Dacus (2018)
I was reading Consequence of Sound’s best rock albums list when I found this song. I was looking for songs too good for me to have missed so I clicked on a few YouTube links. But then of course the list includes Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light, which I think is fine, but no Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks? Just saying, Mirror Traffic‘s Continue reading “20 Songs from the 2010’s”

Rico Blanco – Galactik Fiestamatik (2012)

AlbumArt_GFAt the center of Galactik Fiestamatik, is someone sweating it out on the floor. All eyes on her – she doesn’t mind. The beat isn’t catchy, it’s hardly Macarena or whatever’s the latest fad. There’s something primeval about this, this ritual – Blanco seems to be saying. And so, the songs takes a more primitive form – like a proto-EDM, if there is such a thing. More than entertainment, art, or culture, dancing as a way to survive.

Rico Blanco takes elements from synth-pop, New Order, Bjork, David Bowie (esp. the way he promoted and toured for the album) and made them into a stripped down synth-rock record. It’s just keyboards, beats (no acoustic drums, bar a couple of tracks), and Blanco’s “dry” vocals. Still, this takes a lot from the Rico Blanco we knew since his days with Rivermaya: his songwriting, his knack for catchy choruses and memorable turn of phrase (e.g., Chismis – ang pambansang marijuana / Chismis – sumampalataya).

Though it opens with the seductively dark “Amats” (the video for which features #1 Crush Megan Young) and the digitized ways of breaking up and moving on “Burado,” Galactik Fiestamatik is hardly one would call “uneasy listening”. After two “difficult” numbers, Blanco makes it clear that, no, he’s not trying to make his own Kid A or The Lemon of Pink. But that is not to say the rest are all radio-friendly stuff. Hardly. Though I don’t know what’s considered radio-friendly nowadays, much less what’s keeping the radio DJ’s busy. I’d say Blanco has a handful here for the faithful. Songs one wouldn’t get from, say, AM, FM or internet radio.

In “Lipat Bahay,” easily the best cut off the album, Blanco catalogs an assortment of ephemera, relics and soon-to-be garbage found in his apartment. And he puts them in neat carton boxes of sing-along verses and basic chord patterns. There are pop culture relics (Star Wars bedsheet, “family computer” cartridges), semi-obscure stuff (Dominique Wilkins poster), and antiquities (typewriter, encyclopedia), some or most of them, alien to today’s kids.

While “Lipat Bahay” is full of “things” – tangible stuff that can be packed and sealed in a box – the song is really about the intangible things attached to them. The Circus CD signed by the Eraserheads isn’t just about the physical disc, but the band and their music as well, the memories he had with them. And while some of the stuff tells more about fandom (i.e., a Dominique Wilkins poster for the avid basketball fan, Return of the Jedi bedsheet for the Star Wars fan, the Circus CD, for the Eheads fan), “Lipat-Bahay” is really about memories, events, experiences he had in that apartment signified by those things sealed inside the box.

The time he lived in it, the tears he shed in the bedroom, the dust on the floor, his friends’ and family’s laughter that echoed through the walls, the way the light reflects on the ceiling on a quiet night – he’s gonna miss all of them. And he wants to bring them all. If only he could.

Hindi ko yata kayang iwanan ka.


Featured image from this website.

Rivermaya Albums Ranked From Worst To Best

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Rivermaya never got rejected by record labels because their songs weren’t “pop enough.” They never experienced selling tickets only so they could play in Club Dredd. If there’s anything naysayers had to say about Rivermaya, it’s that they were manufactured (they were the brainchild of Chito Roño and Liza Nakpil), they never toiled the underground Continue reading “Rivermaya Albums Ranked From Worst To Best”

Rivermaya – RiverMaya (1994)

Rivermaya.rivermayaAside from the hits (e.g., 214), Rivermaya, with this debut, gave what fans couldn’t get from the Eraserheads: a pop-rock band with considerable skills and rockstars look and feel. (Though that’s not something they couldn’t get with either After Image or Alamid.) This idea of THE perfect band and the band’s five-hit-string that parallels that of Eheads’ Ultra (214, Bring Me Down, Ulan, Awit Ng Kabataan, 20 Million), make RiverMaya a popular choice among fans when asked about the band’s best album.

They got a rockstar vocalist with an angel’s voice and range, a kick-ass bassist, a geeky songwriter on keyboards, and a drummer who’s last name recalls the same province where the Heads’ drummer hails from. And the deciding factor it seems—since the Eraserheads sucked live and Wency Cornejo’s rock antics only reminded you of Mel Tiangco—was the addition of a virtuoso guitarist, the incidental fifth member whose contributions, including iconic guitar solos in “214” and “Awit Ng Kabataan” were never incidental. That is, later and first defector Perf de Castro puts the “original” in the “original Rivermaya”—at least according to those fans who endlessly clamor for their reunion in the comment sections.

They looked perfect together, the perfect band, partly because they were (rumored to be) factory assembled, handpicked by Chito Rono and Liza Nakpil, and partly because they weren’t, meaning they were a real band, even though they hardly toiled the underground together like the ‘Heads, After Image and other Club Dredd alums.

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And the album itself? It’s hard to underrate an album that houses those aforementioned hits, but compared with Trip and other debut albums at the time (Teeth, Album Na Walang Pamagat, Ultraelectromagneticpop), RiverMaya is more like a dozen different things coming at you than a knockout punch. Outside of Bamboo’s voice and irresistible charisma, the band’s signature sound is that they don’t have one. RiverMaya is split between a band album and a really good bar band (i.e., “Gravity” is well-played but says next to nothing when compared with “Shake Yer Head”), split between blues, new wave, probably grunge, among other things.

But the band gelled really well, played really well. And the production’s really good (better than Rico Blanco’s uneven work on Trip). Which gave the songs a pinch of flow, even when the genres they take inspiration from don’t seem to mix well (i.e., imagine mixing New Wave and Razorback in one album). And that also makes it easier to let the album grow on you even if the riffs are just OK (“Revolution”) and the boogie somewhat generic (“Halik Sa Araw”), even if the lyrics, outside of the radio hits, are kind of cliche (“Revolution”, “Ground”, “Gravity”) if not downright cheesy (Daanin mo na lang sa konting rock n’ roll! Eww). Which is to say, the passable tracks are passable, because they’re interspersed with the hits—after “Revolution” comes “Bring Me Down”, after “Ground”, “20 Million” and so on.


Band photo taken from this blog which has some really amazing postcards from both Eraserheads and Rivermaya.

High & Dry: My Top 5 Radiohead LPs

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“Hey, here’s the new Radiohead album”, a friend offered few months ago. I put it on, listened. So this is how they sound now. Interesting, I thought. But theirs is not the kind of music that I need. At least for now. Some people find meaning in lyrics that reflects the despairing things happening around the world. I already had enough of that—not from music, but from other things. Continue reading “High & Dry: My Top 5 Radiohead LPs”

Rico Blanco – Your Universe (2008)

AlbumArt_YUBefore we were re-introduced to the now solo Rico Blanco, the story went like this: the then-Rivermaya frontman went MIA; his former band, reduced to a trio, released the brilliant Bagong Liwanag, then staged an overblown TV search for a frontman, a new member. Meanwhile, some speculated Rico Blanco formed a new band and he’s called it Blanco.

Then came the signal fire: the five-minute plus “Yugto”, an anthemic folk-rocker replete with strings, tribal beats and horns; chorus that echoes Joey Ayala at Ang Bagong Lumad’s “Lumiyab Ka” and bridge that alludes to the Battle of Jericho. In short, it’s big, gigantic. A song one could easily put alongside the Eraserheads’ “Ang Huling El Bimbo”, “Center Of the Sun” from Wolfgang’s Acoustica, and Rivermaya’s “Alab Ng Puso” from Live & Acoustic or their live rendition of “You’ll Be Safe Here”, at the 2006 MTV Asia Awards in Thailand. We’re talking about epic numbers here.

After the ballsy first single, comes Your Universe, Rico Blanco’s first solo album. Contrary to what some fans have expected (myself included), Your Universe isn’t Magkabilaan with electric guitars, or something along the lines of Rivermaya’s punchier, darker oeuvre. Rivermaya’s version of “Ilog” and “Padayon” could have been the perfect jumping-off point for Blanco to get on full folk-rock mode; instead, the other nine songs in the album has Blanco exploring different avenues, revisiting past excursions while also charting new territories.

Your Universe marks a new chapter for Rico Blanco, but it also signifies the end, the closing of another. It neatly sums up Blanco’s past works, as both singer and main songwriter of Rivermaya, while also introducing his first solo output.

“Your Universe”, the second single, is like a 180-degree turn from the first. It’s a comely ballad that favors acoustic guitars and string orchestration over drums and distortion, and reveals Blanco’s singer-songwriter side (think Aqualung, circa Strange and Beautiful). “Your Universe”, together with “Restless” and “Start Again”, sound like the logical progression from “Balisong” and “Sunday Driving” (off Between the Stars and Waves) and hint at what the next Rivermaya songs might be like, had Blanco stayed with the band.

“Say Forever”, on the other hand, was probably written after Blanco revisited the ’80s, for his last outing with Rivermaya; only this time, it’s more “Tupperware Party” than Joey Ayala. The cheesy keyboard lines, the angular guitars, the dance-y beats, and the friggin’ saxophone(!) at the break will get you all New Wave-y all over again.

While generally considered as a collaborative effort, with Blanco enlisting a number of well-known musicians and friends (Nathan Azarcon, Buddy Zabala, Sago‘s Pards Tupaz, among others), the songs on Your Universe range from something as grand as “Yugto”, the song with the most number of guest musicians, to something as minimal as “Para Di Ka Mawala”. In between, we got “Ayuz”, another full band set-up, highlighted by a festive horn section and a music video featuring Rico Blanco doing his best Fred Astaire impressions.

There’s also “Antukin”, in which Blanco played all instruments, including drums. Aside from doing a terrific job behind the skins, there’s also a splendid piano solo, which he probably threw in just for fun—a playful throwback to his earlier days with Rivermaya. (The Southeast Asia version of the album available on Spotify features a different mix of “Antukin”, in which the said piano part is replaced by a guitar solo.)

If there are any weak points here, that would Blanco’s forays into electronic rock. “Outta This” and closer “Metropolis”, aren’t in any way bad, but would probably sound better in a more coherent-sounding record than here.

While his former record label put out a number of best-of compilations from Rivermaya over the years (Rivermaya: Greatest Hits (2006), Silver Series (2008), 18 Greatest Hits (2010))—an increasingly redundant way of re-introducing the band to old and younger audiences—Rico Blanco had another thing in mind. With Your Universe, what he offers is a mix-tape, a compilation of his best and latest, not necessarily hits. It is like a “greatest hits”—only there’s not a single old song in it.

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Live gig photo from roxnebres.deviantart.com.

Have you ever wished you were a 90’s kid? FYI, the 2000’s was awesome too!

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“We grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever.”

                                                             – Lariat (Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, 2014)

Everyone wants to be a 90’s kid these days. Everyone wants to relive those times when “Pare Ko” hits the top of the charts; when “Alapaap”, “Banal Na Aso” and “Laklak” almost got banned; when Rivermaya premiered their music video for “Elesi”; and when the boys of Parokya Ni Edgar debuted on national TV, wearing skirts and dusters. Continue reading “Have you ever wished you were a 90’s kid? FYI, the 2000’s was awesome too!”

Baby I’m-A Want You

Screenshot_2016-08-11-16-48-26Not All Songs with the Word Baby Are Wussy

The word baby, like love, is one of the most frequently abused words in popular music. From Peter Frampton’s 1975 single “Baby I Love Your Way”, to the annoyingly ubiquitous Big Mountain cover of the same in the mid-90’s, to Ed Sheeran’s 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud”, there have been countless times the word appeared in songs’ lyrics and titles. Needless to say, the word has been used and abused by singers and songwriters, especially in the pop and R&B genre. So that when someone posted a question on the internet, asking about songs that have the word baby in the lyrics, someone answered that it’s probably easier to list down songs that don’t contain that word.

Overusing the word in songs surely cheapens its meaning and intended impact. The good news is, creativity knows no boundaries. Yes, there are countless forgettable songs with the word baby in them, but there are also songs that made use of the word in ways more imaginative than just rehashing same old variations of “baby, I love you”.

Below is a list of songs that use the word baby, but not in a way most songwriters have used them. This list will not include songs that go along lines of Bon Jovi’s “Always” or Guns & Roses’ “Patience”. So, songs like Pearl Jam’s “Last Kiss”, a straight-ahead cover of an old 1961 non-hit that eventually became the Pearl Jam’s highest charting single; 3 Doors Down’s maudlin and watered-down post grunge ballad “Here Without You”; and Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby”, which is actually fine, will not be included. And definitely not “Thinking Out Loud” – because even at its best, Mr.Nice Guy’s song sounds like a low-rent version of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love”.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-26-14“Can’t Lose You”, F4

That one song that has a chorus that sticks to your head like glue – even if you don’t understand the lyrics except for the words, my and baby. Forget about what they’re actually singing in it. In the years before Google Translate and smartphones – good looks, hair mousse, catchy chorus and the lines “Oh baby, baby, baby/my baby, baby” were enough to make a hit as big as this Mandopop meteorite.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-16-59-02 “…Baby One More Time”, Britney Spears/Travis

Britney Spears’ 1999 hit made the cut mainly for Travis’ sort of impromptu and knowing cover version of it. On second thought, the original gets half a point for having the words hit me and baby in the same line – undeniably, an artistic achievement in teen pop music. Some people mistook it for S&M, some, misogyny. Turns out the guys behind the hit only meant “call me”. So, despite all the suggestive dance routines in a school girl outfit, it’s actually quite harmless. But Travis’ version is hilarious, and probably the best version there is. Like the audience in that concert, I had good laugh the first few times I heard it.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-29-01“Tender”, Blur

Before Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, and [insert recent cool indie band here], there was Blur. And before Blur, there were Faces, The Kinks, and well, The Beatles. “Beetlebum” and “Song2” may be their most recognizable songs, especially in the US, but the band is way much more than the noise-guitar band that they were in 1997; as can be heard on their previous singles like “The Universal” and “Girls and Boys”, and on this first single off their 1999 album 13. “Tender” was a departure from the sound of Blur (the album that houses “Beetlebum” and “Song2”), and features both Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon on vocals (with Coxon singing the “oh my baby”-part) backed by the London Community Gospel Choir. With all the aggression that dominated rock in the late nineties, this break-up tune with the line “Love is the greatest thing (that we had)” was like a beacon of hope shining across the dark Nu Metal-infested landscape.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-03-07“Antukin”, Rico Blanco

There’s a very thin line between clever and lame and Rico Blanco probably crossed it more than once on one of the best tracks off his debut Your Universe. This is one of those where he played all the instruments (and he was splendid on drums!) And whether the lines “Gumawa na lang tayo ng paraan/Gumawa na lang tayo ng (baby)” is clever or not, this remains as one of his all-time bests – a hopeful love song that acknowledges his keyboard-man role in Rivermaya and pays homage to his namesake thru its Tag-lish lyrics and one off-color joke.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-09-02“Radiation Vibe”, Fountains of Wayne

You probably knew them for “Stacy’s Mom”, a.k.a. the MILF song, which is also their most popular hit. The music video for which, pays homage to Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Outside of the said song, Fountains of Wayne is hardly the type of band that thrives on peddling sophomoric jokes, as one might assume based on that song. Most of their songs tell stories (i.e., Leave the Biker, Hackensack (yes, the one covered by Katy Perry)), but Fountain of Wayne’s first single “Radiation Vibe” is lyrically ambiguous. And that’s probably the reason it was a minor hit, despite the ear-worm melodies and knockout musicianship. The lines “Baby, baby, baby/Come on, what’s wrong?” aren’t really the most ingenious part of this song – it’s the melody with which Chris Collingwood sing those lines. It’s the way the song transitioned from the seemingly bottled up verses then burst into the chorus like an exploding bottle of soda. Sounds exactly like the kind of vibe the song is referring to.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-18-28-03“Kaliwete”, Eraserheads

Here’s another song that pays tribute to the one and only Rico J. Puno. The inspiration for the song came one time the Eraserheads did a show with him. The lines “Mag-ayos lang daw ng upo”, according to them, came from one of Rico’s joke that night. Whether the joke was about sitting in general or specifically about sitting on the toilet, we don’t know. What I know is that the word baby is uttered somewhere in this song. And I didn’t catch it until about…a few months ago? Sticker Happy came out in 1997 and I’ve been listening to this song sporadically for almost twenty years. (Damn, I really need to quit on loud music now and go visit an ENT specialist before I totally lose my ears.)

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-12-47“Superstar”, Carpenters/Sonic Youth

Whether it’s the 1971 Carpenters version or Sonic Youth’s fuzzed up tribute to the former, one can never go wrong with this classic. Written and first recorded in 1969 (by a bunch of musicians who were so in loved with themselves that they had to write a song about a groupie longing for someone who’s really good with guitars – someone like Eric Clapton), Richard Carpenter took the song and turned it into what is now the most popular version of it. One might think that this made use of the common “baby, I love you” line and does not belong in the list. But it’s not a cutesy boy-who-plays-guitar-meets-girl kind of story. More like rockstar-meets-groupie-had-one-night-stand-and-then-goodbye. Of course, I don’t hear it that way. What I hear is just a good schmaltzy song – a bit naïve, romantic and sweet. And that’s the kind of magic only Karen Carpenter could make. The same magic Sonic Youth destroyed and reconstructed in the 1994 version.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-34-06“Stereo”, Pavement

The most sentimental song on the list, Pavement’s “Stereo” is actually the long lost answer to the previous song – the Carpenters classic. “Hey, listen to me! I’m on the stereo! Stereo-oh!” is definitely about a guitarist addressing someone who’s listening on the radio (i.e., the groupie). And on the next line, Stephen Malkmus appropriated Karen Carpenter’s “Baby, baby, baby…” line, before shouting “Give me malaria! Hysteria!”

Wait, that didn’t sound right.

Okay, maybe this isn’t really the answer to “Superstar”, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the greatest slacker songs ever—not to mention having the balls to make fun of Geddy Lee’s impossibly high register. Which isn’t really surprising given that they once dissed both The Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots before, in one of their songs. Which only proves that, Pavement is ultimately, definitely, and absolutely rad.

Rico Blanco – Dating Gawi (2015)

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This isn’t just fantasy superband come true. This is the superband that supersedes all other superbands in recent memory – Bamboo, Franco, Audioslave, Atoms for Peace, and even the Oktaves. I mean, c’mon, this is Rivermaya’s main man and one-half of the Eraserheads – two godhead bands from the 90’s – in one album.

Okay, maybe not really a superband, but Rico Blanco’s third studio output, is a superb band album. An album that thrives on back-to-basics approach and recalls updates the sounds from Blanco’s former band (i.e., Trip, Free, Tuloy Ang Ligaya) and the more straightforward side of Your Universe (i.e., Antukin, Ayuz). Blanco will never make another It’s Not Easy Being Green or Free, but what we have here, is almost as good as those. Much like Joss Whedon’s superhero ensemble few years back, this one benefits from its bandleader/captain’s singular vision, the bang-up production, each member’s contribution and whatever is the equivalent of a well-balanced script. This is the sound of four distinct personalities contrasting and complementing each other; four guys hammering it on, delivering the goods.

Side A opens with “Parang Wala Na”, an upbeat new wave-y number about the slow death of a relationship, slows down a bit on “Sorry Naman”, then closes with “Videoke Queen” – the splendid first single about videoke singing that’s also perfect for, uhm, videoke singing. (The last time Rico Blanco went meta, he name-checks Odelay in a song that’s apparently inspired by Beck.) Side B continues the fading romance on “Wag Mong Aminin”, then fastforwards to the aftermath on “Umuwi Ka Na”, in which the beautiful arpeggiated guitars remind me of Radiohead, circa In Rainbows. Then, Blanco and Co. get all cranked up, distortion and all on the final track, where Blanco shares one painful truth about love – Hindi mo kayang umibig/ kung ayaw mong masaktan/ mag-chess ka na lang.

All in all, this is Rico Blanco and Co. bringing back the old and familiar – the alternative pop the Eraserheads and Rivermaya pioneered in the 90’s – with a new spin. It’s all killers, no fillers – an album for the Spotify generation, full of radio friendly unit shifters. One of the best of the year.