“O Pag-Ibig” by Bailey May and Ylona Garcia | At this rate I am expecting negative feedback now that I’m writing (again) about the more mainstream side of local pop music. And, to be honest, this song isn’t that great: the chorus is quite repetitive and there’s this weird low voice creeping up to, I guess, man up Bailey’s higher tones. (It’s not exactly necessary.) I chanced upon this song while channel surfing over the weekend. I don’t watch Myx because of their need to put lyrics on the screen – I’m just against it, especially if it’s that obtrusive. But the moment I caught this song I thought it’s a nice summer-y tune with a sentiment that, while familiar, is laid out in a way that’s slightly different than the rest. Also, Ylona’s voice is so striking. [NB]
The album’s title says it all: Chapters, the fourth album from Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna, is a turn of the page, an attempt to try something new. After years of focusing squarely on the winsome sort of indie-folk that has endeared her to the flat white crowd, she shifts gears, pursuing a more R&B-grounded sound, the sort that muddles the 90s with the now. Well, that was inevitable: her voiced suited that, and her songs after the release of her international breakthrough Nocturnal suggested such a direction. It does take some getting used to, but that’s down to how versatile Yuna turns out to be. Genre change aside, there will be a point when you notice its her – although you will have to strain if you mix it with similar songs from other artists – and the result is an interesting pop record that rewards repeat listens. [NB] | 4/5
For the most part it’s an interesting question: if you’ve long been identified by a particular body of work, and you strike out on your own, what do you exactly do? Britpop luminaries have long grappled with this question, to mixed results. Suede‘s Brett Anderson went the orchestral route, and later the pastoral one, on his solo efforts before he regrouped his band. Noel Gallagher, on the other hand, stuck with his sweeping anthems – the trademark of his most memorable songs with Oasis. Richard Ashcroft has done many things – he hasn’t swung wildly from the template he set as the frontman of the Verve, but he did provide different flavors, from electronic to organic, in his solo efforts. These People, however, sees him definitely return to the sound that made him famous, going as far as recruiting familiar faces – in this case, the co-producer and string arranger of that band’s most iconic album, Urban Hymns. The results can be good – “This Is How It Feels” is comfortable; “Black Lines” is poignant – but listening to the record feels like he’s just trying to do “Unfinished Symphony” ten times. After four attempts or so – all hovering at the five-minute mark – it gets uninteresting, and nothing quite saves it from a black hole of past glories. [NB] | 2/5
Ariana Grande seems more comfortable on her third album, Dangerous Woman. Sure, for a while it seemed she can pull her songs off relatively effortlessly, what with that voice of hers that defies her age, but with this record she seemed to really know what she’s doing – what she wants to say, how she intends to say it, the works. With a solid statement running throughout – the whole “I am my own woman” thing her contemporaries have long latched on – plus an easy skip through genres, with a keen ear on hooks, of course, Dangerous Woman is mostly consistent and quite efficient. Sure, it’s a pop record, meaning it wouldn’t necessarily hold my attention (it’s a personal thing, this) but there some particularly inspired turns: “Greedy”, for instance, is a soul anthem that you’d be surprised to hear from Ariana. But then again, she has that voice. [NB] | 4/5
We’re back to regular programming on the Local Outsider, after last month’s election-themed thing. Call it us being inevitably caught up in the crazy state of affairs. Anyway, we all know there’s a lot of local acts to get to – and in the four past columns I realize I have meant to add one act or another, only to forget about it. Weird, that, because those acts are the inevitables, so to speak: the acts that, if you’re just new to the local indie scene (like I always will be), will always be mentioned. Or so I believe. These acts always seem to get mentioned. This column is me doing some housekeeping, my bit of spring cleaning… unless I forget a few more names, and I spend the next few columns doing some more catch-up.