Welcome to the first installment (finally) of The Five Songs I Can’t Live Without, which says what it does on the tin: five songs someone in particular can’t live without, however they interpret that last bit. We’ll talk not just to musicians, but also to other interesting folk, granted we get our acts together. We kick off with singer-songwriter Clara Benin: a darling of the indie scene, she’s mounting two farewell (for now) concerts – she’ll take a break from music, she says – this coming Friday and Saturday, 29-30 July, at Teatrino. But before she goes on that break, we somehow managed to ask her about those five songs.
Chris Collingwood is one of the founding members of Fountains of Wayne – yes, those guys who sang about Stacy’s mother. It’s been five years since they released an album, and that band’s prospects look bleak for the moment, so for now, we have Chris, releasing a solo album under the name Look Park. That record does not have the catchy hooks of his previous band, or at least that band’s most popular work: instead we get something just as catchy, but with more focus on the melodies. The songs are definitely heartfelt, if not sentimental – but not the sickly kind. More acoustic, perhaps more wizened; the stories somehow feel more compelling with the new digs. Towards the end it feels like Chris is channeling his inner Colin Meloy, even. Not that Look Park set out to dethrone the Decemberists – but I make the comparison because it gives me that feel. A worthy addition. [NB] | 4/5
For their third album, Swedish band the Amazing doubled down on the moody, making Ambulance an interesting record… but with a few misses. The album suffers from a misplaced inconsistency, leading to a dilution of what could have been something trippy. That especially comes in the last two tracks of the record – they sound good, by the way, but after immersing yourself in monochromatic reverb, having two acoustic tracks (although still sprawling, both of them) dulls things somewhat. But don’t let sequencing decisions get in the way: Ambulance is enjoyable for the way it commits to its influences and its sound without going to extremes. You can go glittery or you can go intensely dramatic, but the Amazing manages to have a foot each in both pools, and getting really comfortable about it. [NB] | 4/5
“Himig Natin” by Juan Dela Cruz Band | And so we end another year of the Song Hits with another icon from the 1970s. Juan Dela Cruz Band’s had a stormy history back from its founding in 1968: the line-up we all know today – Wally Gonzalez, Mike Hanopol, Pepe Smith, now each legends in their own right – would not come together until around 1972. The release of their album Himig Natin the following year would catapult the band to the forefront of the burgeoning Pinoy rock scene; the obvious musical theme of this song in particular made it a rallying anthem for the entire movement. This album would bring a lot of tracks that would influence acts in the decades to come: “Kahit Anong Mangyari”, for instance, would inspire Sandwich to write “Sugod”. And it all goes full circle. The hits of the past connecting with the hits of the not-so-past – and we all fail to make the connection because… why again? [NB]
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on the blog, because I’ve mentioned it enough times to friends: Shalla and I are flying to Kuala Lumpur this November, our first trip together that’s just the two of us. (Also convenient: she finally gets to meet her friend Zaty after almost a decade of chatting. It’s absurd how I, the mere boyfriend, got to meet her first. Twice.) Last time I brought her a copy of The Neon Hour, which she reports was a suitable soundtrack for a long, impromptu night drive across Selangor’s highways. This time I plan to quintuple down and get her five CDs. That search has brought me to… well, to Satchmi, which has begun selling some CDs of local indie artists. And that’s where we begin the seventh (the seventh!) edition of the Local Outsider.
“Da Coconut Nut” by Smokey Mountain | This one’s another last-minute inclusion, as I actually planned to write about “Paraiso”. But then I rediscovered both this song, and the revolving door that was teen group Smokey Mountain. Formed by musical great Ryan Cayabyab and producer Judd Berlin, it initially had Geneva Cruz, Jeffrey Hidalgo and Tony Lambino (who, yes, performed the original “Harana”). The three left the group to pursue either a solo career or studies, and the group reformed with James Coronel, the last remaining original, and another bunch of kids: members have since included Shar Santos, Chedi Vergara and, for a blip, Anna Fegi. Across the three line-ups there have been a bunch of hits: “Kailan” from the early days, “Kahit Habang Buhay” from the second line-up… and yes, the group’s been mostly forgotten, but its members have gone on to fame (Geneva Cruz being, of course, the most popular example). Arguably Smokey Mountain’s a relic of a bygone era – you weren’t there to be famous; you were there to sing. And producers weren’t just anonymous generic hit-churners. [NB]