Review: Hele ng Maharlika by Rice Lucido

Hele ng Maharlika by Rice LucidoIf you feel you’ve had enough of the pa-quirky/pa-hugot indie folk you often hear from the scene, you might want to listen to Rice Lucido. Okay, that sounds very much like a hard sell, and that’s not typical of me to do. But I’ll have to admit that listening to the first couple of tracks on her debut album, Hele ng Maharlika, inspired such plaudits. It’s all refreshing. The arrangements are lush. Rice’s vocals are quite expressive. It doesn’t stick to its lane. There will be excursions to something more ethnic, and then to something surprisingly more accessible. (I did compare her voice to Lolita Carbon last time; a part of me wants to include Grace Nono this time.) Admittedly the momentum doesn’t quite keep up: by the middle part things start to flag and settle. But perhaps that’s me expecting a lot of pushing across the album, but that would’ve been tiring. (Maybe the album, at 50 minutes, can be shorter?) But it picks up again at the end, with the title track tying everything up all together nicely. Hele ng Maharlika is an adventure waiting for you to get on, and considering the trajectory, I’m confident Rice will return with something even stronger than this one – and it is strong. [NB]4/5

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Review: thank u, next by Ariana Grande

thank u, next by Ariana GrandeHere I am again, confronted by the premise that I’m really just not cut out for reviewing pop records. You see, I don’t like Ariana Grande’s thank u, next. I tried, though. I tried to understand what it’s for, considering it’s released just five months after Sweetener. The two albums are intrinsically connected, not least through the continuity of narrative: the former sees a respite, apparently temporary; the latter, an outright rebirth, embracing themes of self-care and independence without being an asshole about it, as other similarly-themed albums with their “fuck you” demeanor tend to be. thank u, next definitely has its highlights: the fluttering title track, the affecting “Imagine”, the playful “NASA”. But then, perhaps it really is just me. I’ve said a few posts ago that my musical preferences are arguably too white, and so I’m not predisposed to the sounds coming from the urban sphere. To me it all sounds generic, and the middle bit of the album, as much as it has something significant to say, feels all too generic to me, trying too hard, perhaps. More credible critics seem to like it, though, but then the focus is on the narrative. That, and they’re more predisposed to understand these trends more than I do. I wanted so hard to like thank u, next, but I was irritated by the time the surprisingly throwaway “7 Rings” came on. But does it matter? This album, as much as we want it to be for us, is really for Ariana. [NB]3/5

“…and no one can save me from drowning in you.”

“Torrential River” by Jylda | We’re writing about Jylda again. The London-based (via Berlin) singer-songwriter also known as Gianna Gehlhar has been featured on this blog a couple of years back, and now she’s preparing to release a new EP, Twitch, sometime in the northern hemisphere’s spring. “Torrential River” is the first track off it, and while it still has that cold, mysterious feel we got from “The Body” a couple of sun cycles back, this one feels just a little poppier, dare I say a little sunnier? I don’t trust myself with these terms anymore. But it’s still as enchanting as you’d expect – or not, if you haven’t listened to her the first time. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)

“외모만 보고 내가 날라리 같대요. So what?”

“Dalla Dalla” by Itzy | K-pop followers know that popularity in the scene is almost always down to luck: that explains all the “you’re sleeping on…” comments on YouTube from desperate fans. Still, you’ll have to admit anything the Big Three agencies debut gets a bit more attention. So, say hello to Itzy, the new girl group from JYP Entertainment, aka the guys who brought us Twice (and miss A and the Wonder Girls previously). Originally this is where we’d ponder about whether Jeon Somi, Produce 101 first placer whose career virtually stalled – and who since moved to a YG sublabel for a debut later this year – would’ve fit this concept. Instead, we’re coming in here after Blackpink made their American television debut, which makes us more sure Itzy is also aiming for that sound… kind of. I’d call them a Blackpink-ed Twice. Shalla’s got a better description: they’re a bit like CLC, that girl group that also has a big label backing them (Cube, in this case) but can’t quite break through in both their original configuration and their HyunA-ed up girl crush one. See, it is all down to luck. And perhaps personal preference, too. Have I said I like the debut from Cherry Bullet? Have I also said it’s seeing IZ*ONE’s Chaeyoung’s sister here takes some getting used to? [NB]

“Where you go, I’ll follow, no matter how far.”

“Best Part” by H.E.R. featuring Daniel Caesar | See, I am terribly behind on things. When I first heard this song, I honestly thought this was an old track. Shalla introduced me to it, in a conversation about a completely different song together: “Written in the Stars”, a collaboration between John Legend and Red Velvet‘s Wendy. (No pizza?) The latter (which was released just last October) reminded her of the former (which was released a whole year prior). Not that we’re saying it’s a rip-off; it just reminds us of things. And then it turns out it’s a new song, with recent Manila visitor Daniel Caesar collaborating. It even won a Grammy yesterday. And, it also turns out, H.E.R. – aka Gabi Wilson – is part-Filipino. Not that I’m a #PinoyPride person; you just expect people to be all over it. [NB]