“Sa pag-alis, ako’y magbabalik, at sana naman…”

“Nobela” by Join the Club | The circumstances behind me writing about this song aren’t exactly the best: a neighbor was blasting out the karaoke one night, and he – he was the only one singing – was singing this terribly, out loud. Shalla and I were hanging out at my place, settling in to watch an episode of Sisters’ Slam Dunk, that Korean variety series revolving around the creation of a girl group (it is educational), when we got so distracted we ended up talking about this song. She thought the band was named “Join da Club”; I was perhaps the first person to think that’s ridiculous. But then, it was a flashback. This song’s a decade old, more or less. This played a lot on the radio when I was in college – bus trips back and forth from La Salle, me listening to whatever radio station struck my fancy then. I didn’t like LS then, but they played this a lot. I’m sure NU did, too. Magic, I think so, too. Anyway, what I always liked about this song is the key change before the final chorus, how it takes the whole thing on a very sad, resigned note. It’s not a shrug. There is some resistance to it. But there’s a hovering “oh, fuck it!” over the whole thing now, and I found that fascinating. The band’s still around, but back to their underground roots. I read they’re releasing a bunch of things but haven’t really made much of a dent, arguably, outside the usual circles. It’s a shame. [NB]

“It’s so dark when you’re not around.”

“Bonfire” by Miss Li | Let’s go back to being late! This song is from last year, but then, I attribute all this to my not listening to Swedish radio (as opposed to Norwegian or Danish) often. Have to rectify that. Miss Li, aka Linda Carlsson, has been around for a while – her debut album was eleven years ago – and you’ve probably heard one of her songs on Grey’s Anatomy. So she’s that kind of singer. “Bonfire” caught my ear while travelling to a wake (yes I know), stuck in typical Manila traffic. To be honest, there’s nothing really groundbreaking about this song, but it’s a pleasant one anyway, and now that it’s our turn to have summer, it fits. [NB]

Things without words #25: Jazz bending time (we’re pretty sure of that)


“Taubenfeld” by Kuhn Fu | Let me set the scene here. I write this on a Saturday afternoon. The temperature’s a sweltering 33 degrees – knowing Manila, this will feel more like 40, especially now that summer is kicking in. My social media feeds is filled with reminders on how to beat heatstroke, apparently because the sun is closest to the equator or something, which makes me wonder why this never came up before. I’m reading Monocle – I finally got a subscription – but couldn’t really focus because of the heat. I’m also nursing a headache. All I did was drive in the morning. Today I listen to Kuhnspiracy, the new album from Groningen band Kuhn Fu. (The founder is a guy named Christian Kühn. Smart.) The band’s a fun mix of jazz, rock and all those things – but perhaps more importantly, it somehow seemed to fit the very sweltering summer heat. It’s like time was bending. Things were going back and forth and back again. Maybe my headache got worse, but I don’t blame it on the album. It was quite trippy. In the right context, it will be. The album drops this Friday. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)

Review: Salutations by Conor Oberst

Salutations by Conor OberstWell, the clue was in the title. Salutations is the partner album, more or less, to Ruminations, Conor Oberst’s moody and occasionally claustrophobic release last year. That one embraced you with a feeling of being alone that, while completely different from the rest of his oeuvre, made enough sense for you to go with it. And then, with Salutations, Conor proceeds to recontextualize the entire album: its ten tracks were rerecorded with a full band, its order mixed around, and seven new songs added. Perhaps the point is the duality: how different the same thing can be when dressed differently, presented differently, perceived differently. Perhaps the point is a clever subversion – not denial, I hope – of everything Ruminations went for, a jubilant “up yours!” achieved by taking one thing, shattering it, and putting it back together, cracks and all. Perhaps it is I who’s missing the point. But since we’re talking about perceptions here: I don’t see the point. It feels shallow, whatever the intention is, and its length tests my patience to boot. [NB]3/5

Review: In Mind by Real Estate

In Mind by Real EstateThere was some concern that Real Estate would be reeling from the departure of their guitarist Matt Mondanile, but In Mind proves them otherwise… somewhat. Essentially, the band regrouped: Martin Courteney recruited new guitarist Julian Lynch and proceeded as usual. The record is typical Real Estate: charming, enchanting, comforting, with Courteney’s sensitive lyrics mingling nicely with that tug you often hear from the 70s records the band have always taken as an inspiration. But without Matt’s space-y keyboards, it has to try a little harder to get your attention. At times it feels the record is being a little too low-key, but it does grow on you, somewhat, as it progresses. At other times you have the niggling expectation of a rather more drastic upheaval in sound – by this point things have settled and you’re into their mindset – but, well, a change in hooks aside, the band hasn’t really fundamentally changed. And yet it has. And yet it hasn’t. [NB]3/5