With iTunes Radio not bothering anyone (at all), Apple had to find itself a new place in a post-downloading world. So it bought the guys that make those expensive Beats headphones, and with it their streaming service. They hired a bunch of people. They talked to a bunch more people. And then they announced their new answer: a streaming service, Apple Music, which does pretty much everything that Spotify and Deezer and Tidal already do, only it’s more cuddled up with your iPhone. But then, interestingly, to convince people to use that service, they also decided to launch a radio station.
“Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko” by VST & Co. | I remember this bit from an Eat Bulaga segment. A contestant was asked a question about this song, and she, in her 20s, didn’t get it right. “Matanda na kasi sila,” she answered, not aware that Vic Sotto, one of the show’s hosts, sang that song. (He wasn’t the original vocalist, but considering the involvement of the Sottos in the band, his entry was inevitable.) She backpedaled; he took it humorously. Yes, VST & Co.’s songs were of their time – definitely patterned after the Bee Gees, but with a particular brand of machismo best exemplified by Spanky Rigor’s bass – but it is also enduring, a reminder of the good times, regardless if it’s one of their many songs about dancing, or their ballads (“Ipagpatawad Mo” could easily be in this list). It also helps that the band’s members were really big musical talents of the 1970s – Homer Flores arranged the group’s distinct sound, and Joey de Leon’s songwriting always had this shrewd sense of pop. As the story goes, this song was on regular rotation at New York’s famed Studio 54, and Diana Ross was really into it. Oh, what could have been. (Thanks to Sudoy for the suggestion.) [NB]
The easiest way to describe Ian Penn is “lazy Sunday listening”. But that’s doing him a disservice. Yes, his debut EP, Wild Abandon, has a simple formula: folksy melodies and Ian’s gentle voice, cooing about, well, what folk singers usually coo about. The mix, however, is surprisingly compelling. Ian has this earnest sound that I can’t totally compare to Jake Bugg when he’s in acoustic mode: it’s tender without being frilly, authoritative without being hard. In tracks like “Miss April” and “Cold Mountain”, he’s singing for you, but at the same time he’s not completely letting you in, him insisting he’s not vulnerable when you can see some cracks. It’s pretty compelling – and it takes what you can easily describe as “lazy Sunday listening” into something that can slot in elsewhere effortlessly. [NB] | 4/5
It’s been a while since we heard from Julianne, but now she’s back, on a full-name basis – call her Julianne Tarroja – and with a new album in tow. Ashes to Beauty presents Julianne with a refreshing clear-eyed maturity, the sort you don’t force. It is worth the wait. Aside from single “Ikaw Lang”, a driving, catchy song on a sturdy, reliable relationship, all of the songs on the record are laid back, highlighting her guitar playing, often accompanied by a jazzy undertone that doesn’t really feel sleepy. Nothing lost, then, from the stuff she released years ago, during the heyday of acoustic music in the country. But then there’s her distinctive voice – that’s both the vocals and the perspective, that maturity that defines Ashes to Beauty, a record that will likely fly under your radar, but should make you feel good without being sappy. [NB] | 4/5
“Annie Batungbakal” by Hotdog | “Ang cliché, [pero] si Annie mismo naging ‘icon’ na.” That was Claud’s explanation for picking this song into the list, and I disagree; it’s no cliché. Iconic, perhaps. I know I’ve been throwing that term around, but it is. This song, along most of Hotdog’s other hits, pretty much defined Manila’s disco culture in the 70s – and also defined what would be called the Manila Sound of the time, centered towards every stage of a dance floor’s life. (I would’ve put in “Bongga Ka ‘Day” solely for the names it drops – a veritable pop history, if any.) Again, the songs of Dennis and Rene Garcia and gang perfectly captured the Filipino mindset of the time, and proves how universal it is – the whole love shebang, going out, having fun… not much has changed, yes? Well, yes. And no. [NB]