“Basta’t kamay mo ang hawak, okay na ako.”

“Okay Na Ako” by Kim Chiu | I heard this song while doing errands, and this was my train of thought. “Is this a cover of ‘Telepono’?” “No, it isn’t. But hey, it’s nice.” “Who sang this?” “Maybe a reality show contestant. It’s simple enough.” That sounds damning, but to me, it isn’t. I just guessed it is from a reality show contestant – you know how ABS-CBN always makes its Pinoy Big Brother breakouts release an album to capitalize on their supposed fame. I was right – but, as it turns out, it’s one of the originals. Catch is, I really don’t like Kim Chiu. I watched her season (the first teen season, as it happens) and always found her terribly insincere, and that never rubbed off me all these years later, no matter what she’s done since. But then, she’s the actress and I’m just, supposedly, a hater with a blog. That’s what they’d say anyway. But regardless, this is a nice song. Simple, heartfelt, no frills. I just wish I didn’t know it was Kim Chiu. [NB]

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Review: There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light by Stars

There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light by StarsAcross their discography Stars have mastered the art of the big song – not necessarily bombastic, but big; everything tied up nicely, and niftily at that. The approaches may have been different – No One Is Lost, their last record, went the disco route – but that was the template. That makes There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light a striking affair: it sounds more quiet, more hesitant, more tentative. Nope, this is not a bad thing. It’s actually an interesting progression for the Canadian group: after albums of relative up comes one that’s thematically unsure about its place, and yet manages to be confident about it. It’s partly down to the decision to enlist Peter Katis – best known for his long-running relationship with the National – as sole producer. Now, a band normally known for its exuberance sounds more muted, more grown-up (not that they aren’t before), allowing for Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell’s voices to play better. Their interplay, after all, has always been the thread that held Stars’ many approaches together – and it’s smart that it was kept, if not enhanced. There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light is quite… smart that way. [NB]4/5

Review: Lotta Sea Lice by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile

Lotta Sea Lice by Courtney Barnett and Kurt VileEarly into Lotta Sea Lice – an unexpected collaboration between Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – I found myself going back to another relatively recent collaboration album, that of Adam Green and Binki Shapiro. There was a comfort in that record, although perhaps it’s partly down to the decision to mine some polished version of lush 60s folk pop. I’ll admit that realization happened during a moment when the two singers – he, incredibly laid back; she, incredibly detailed – had some harmonies going on. “Wow, this is something.” It’s an unlikely record, yet it’s an incredibly enjoyable one. Both played up to each other’s strengths and actually delivered a collaboration record where it’s not two people putting things together and hoping something sticks. It’s like they have been working together for decades, like their music have influenced each other all this time. Listen to how effortless they cover each other’s songs (I barely recognized Kurt’s take on Courtney’s “Out of the Woodwork”, from A Sea of Split Peas – it languished nicely) or songs from others (there’s an inevitable sweetness to Courtney’s take on “Fear Is Like A Forest”, from her wife Jen Cloher). But the best part is when they take each other’s sensibilities and just meld, even if it’s a song about writing songs. In its sweet, meandering pace, Lotta Sea Lice is a thrill. [NB]4/5

Review: Colors by Beck

Colors by BeckBeck is done reinventing himself; his career has run long enough that it seems he has explored every sound he can explore. His sense of adventurousness now lies in how he easily oscillates from one mode to another, between albums, although in recent releases it hasn’t felt as crafty, rather feeling a bit perfunctory. That’s not to say Morning Phase was bad; that’s also not to say that his latest, Colors, is. The albums have their moments, but both are bogged down by a certain monotony. The former manages to mask it nicely; the latter, not so. Perhaps it’s because it’s Beck’s most overtly pop record in a while, every track shimmering and glittering and drenched in an explosion of, well, colors. The downside is, you get tracks that you feel have been explored before, with songs reminiscent of everyone from Weezer to Foster the People. It’s all up, no down, and while that isn’t a bad thing by itself, across the record you feel Beck could’ve done something more. Could he have, though? Perhaps he wanted something that didn’t really require a lot of introspection? [NB]3/5

Review: Masseduction by St. Vincent

Masseduction by St. VincentSt. Vincent’s been known for being – well, sometimes – brutally honest in her songs, but I wasn’t really prepared for Masseduction. Perhaps it’s because, in her past albums, the singer we otherwise know as Annie Clark has remained a bit of a mystery, with her shifting styles the best way to represent her. But then she found herself in the spotlight thanks to her relationship with actress Cara Delevigne. That didn’t last long, but the unfolding of that story has lent a different context to the honest of this new album. Hooky, with a keener sense of pop than her previous records (and that’s considering how her previous album fared), Masseduction glitters – but that quickly gives way to what I think is a gloomier, perhaps grimmer, outlook than what she did before. You no longer notice how actually addicting the songs are, and instead pay attention to how it all captured a tumultuous year in her life, evoking an emptiness we all attempt to deny – ending with “Smoking Section”, a closer that doesn’t so much screams as wonders, “what now?” A strong album, this. It should be easy to answer that last question soon. [NB]4/5