After listening to Sacred Hearts Club, the third album from Foster the People, I start wondering if Mark Foster has run out of ideas. Now, don’t get me wrong – this does not suggest stasis. The album sees the band change direction a bit, towards the sort of pop that gets mindless listens but fails to really work its way through you – you know, like his earlier work. Those were simple songs, but somehow they worked harder than they should, and tracks like “Pumped Up Kicks” (from their debut) and “Coming of Age” (from its follow-up) feel satisfying. None of the tracks in Sacred Hearts Club do. It plods on. It’s hazy. It’s forgettable. It’s worrying in the sense that this seems to be the direction they want to be. It’s like, I don’t know, Maroon 5 going pop – it made sense but then it ruins their brand entirely. Sure, it was replaced by a different brand, and it worked, but nothing remains the same. I’m not sure Foster the People is ready for such a gear shift. Mark Foster is no Adam Levine. And their music had this charm that could not be easily suplemented, or supplanted, by poppier production. Nope, this is a worrying misstep. [NB] | 2/5
I’ve always had some difficulty with Lana Del Rey. Across her albums, with some really minor tweaks, she’s stuck to the same sound – and while that was enchanting at the beginning, it got a bit tiresome towards the end. I could not slot Honeymoon into any of my segues, although I may have been too harsh with my review of that record. Lust for Life, her latest, mostly sticks with the formula, but with a few quite significant exceptions. One, the entry of collaborators. Two, especially in the second half, a surprisingly embrace of Americana – her work with Stevie Nicks and Sean Lennon actually work for how expand without intruding. Three, a less introspective approach to songwriting – Lust for Life utilizes Lana’s insistence on nostalgia to comment on the current state of affairs, which at least feels more substantial than Honeymoon. (The album art, 50s schlock verging on The Sound of Music memories, suggests as much.) But, ultimately, Lana will have to really move the needle forward. I have the urge to say “too little too late” on this record. Now it’s all clicked into place? It should have a long time ago, when she still had the attention of more people. [NB] | 3/5
I wasn’t watching the first season of Pinoy Dream Academy, that ABS-CBN reality show that gave us Yeng Constantino. That meant I never quite heard of Davey Langit until a few years later, when he was steadily building a reputation as a songwriter with shrewd decisions and a keen ear. The opening track to his new album, Biyaheng Langit, felt like a long-delayed statement of intent. “Can I call him the Filipino Ed Sheeran?” was my first thought. But this is more of the “Sing”-era Sheeran than the “A Team”-era one – a good sense of pop preventing his songs from sinking into shlock. The album remains enjoyable even if you’ve heard a good chunk of the songs here before – I heard “Selfie Song” a few years ago; it was a different time them – but at the end I was hoping Davey had other tricks up his sleeve. Perhaps it’s a problem of sequencing. The album’s middle bit sagged; is there such a thing as too many songs about love? He does them well, but it felt like a cage stopping him from flying. “Idjay”, a potted biography, worked because it was not about the same old. “Bata”, same thing – the themes may be familiar but the implementation is interesting. That’s the quality that redeems the album: even “Huling Awit ng Pag-Ibig”, which has love song written all over it, works because Davey knows when to change things up sonically. (Or, again, sequencing: it’s a piano-driven ballad after a string of upbeat songs.) If anything, that keen ear will keep you hanging on. [NB] | 4/5
“Gusto Ko Ng Baboy” by Radioactive Sago Project | Should I be writing about this song? Just as I opened the “new post” button, I had that thought. Yes, Radioactive Sago Project was always political, but deftly so, and were acerbic to boot. But should I be writing about this song? What will people accuse me of by writing about this song? Lourd de Veyra is a relatively progressive person, after all, and you know how supposedly evil progressives are with their yellow leanings (like how did those two became a tandem?) But before he became a constant presence on a television network that could never achieve its ambition, he spent more time fronting this weird jazz fusion band with lots of spoken word interludes and no fear of talking about things. “Gusto Ko Ng Baboy” is definitely about politics, sure – it was wrapped around the absurd premise of wanting a pet pig, sure, but still. It’s not just the last verse. “Lahat ng tao, mahilig sa baboy” sounds like an indictment enough of all of us. But no, we have to be better than the rest of them. It applies still, now, in 2017. Perhaps more than ever. But maybe that’s why I should not be writing about this song. But, well, fuck it. On the surface, it’s a funny song – an one opening salvo in a particular breed of alternative comedy. And now, well, this. [NB]
To prove that I am, once again, cramming this month’s Local Outsider, I would like to point out the fact that it’s raining outside, classes in many places are suspended, and I have this feeling all the songs here align with the rain somewhat. Again, it’s weird, because I have listed down this month’s acts a few weeks ago. (Okay, so I was not cramming; just the writing, not the listening. This is a hard non-job.) So, for those days when we’re feeling delicate and yet still have to go out to work – unless you really can’t – here’s a bunch of songs for these rainy days ahead. Or otherwise. I’m sure there are other applications for this.