In case you’ve been living under a rock (not likely) or are just not really into what I do (more likely), then here’s a recap: tomorrow Shalla and I fly to Kuala Lumpur for a holiday, and to say hello to our friend there, Zaty. They have been friends for years, but they have never met in person. I, on the other hand, have – twice, actually, in my last two visits to the country. In both those visits we have assembled care packages, which have included some typical Philippine souvenirs, her favorite polvoron, and since last year, a CD from a local artist. (That one was this one.) This time I decided to double down, and then some: I’m sending her six CDs. I only hope she has the time to listen to them. Now, on the final installment of the Local Outsider for 2016, I’ll do something different: I’ll talk about those six CDs, and why I picked them. Here’s hoping nobody gets angry at me.
Getting these CDs are tricky. I don’t have an unlimited budget, of course, so I ended up getting what was available when I was ready to buy. This meant a bunch of missed opportunities. I should have grabbed Anj Florendo‘s Undress when it was still in stock at Satchmi. I should have grabbed Shadow Moses‘ Expansion Pack at the Bandwagon Music Market. I should have written about Banna Harbera earlier – one of their EPs would have made a good addition to the package. Finally, yes, the very first thing both Shalla and I wanted to include on the package is Reese Lansangan’s Arigato, Internet! We were not sure if there are any physical copies available. All those caveats aside, the list – and some terrible attempts at flatlays.
The no-brainer, provided we got our hands on it: Human Eyes by Clara Benin | I actually asked Clara about this during the email exchange that led to this. She said it’s at Satchmi, but it wasn’t the first time I checked; the second time, it was. I bought two copies. This was a good opportunity to buy myself local albums, really – and knowing me and my long-documented complaints about record stores stocking less albums of interest to me, this was fun. Getting Human Eyes was an easy decision: here’s a buzzy singer-songwriter (albeit one on semi-hiatus) that many people I know seem to love. That, and the story of me finding out about her through a McDonald’s ad (because I am still terrible at this) made for an interesting explanation.
The opportunity that stared us at the face: Salubungan by Johnoy Danao | I mean, we already were at the Bandwagon Music Market, and Johnoy himself was selling his records there, so why not? I was admittedly initially hesitant because his songs are mostly in Filipino and I was afraid Zaty would miss the whole point. But Shalla thought I might as well buy a second copy, so Zaty’s getting one – and an autographed copy at that. I should not have feared. Language barrier aside, there’s something universal about Johnoy’s music – and, as someone who spends a fair amount of time listening to radio in a language other than English or Filipino, there’s something alluring about a language you do not understand. Or I’m being too romantic. Plus point: she’s getting a signed copy.
The opportunity that we actually missed the first time: Oh, Flamingo! by Oh, Flamingo! | Because I was shooting B.P. Valenzuela and never got to buy a copy of Oh, Flamingo!’s EP directly from Oh, Flamingo! That felt sucky. I had bolstered enough courage to talk to their bassist, Billie, and managed to arrange an impromptu sale (their CDs were in the car), and the next thing I know, they had already left. Thankfully, the CDs were also available at Satchmi the third time I dropped by, so I took it. Well, two copies, because I liked their live set a lot and now pretty much count as a convert. Or something. To paraphrase what I said before: it’s a modern take on surf music, the irresistible energy even pulling me, a guy who is, in theory, too old for all this. To be honest, assembling this package made me feel old. And I’m just 27.
The record I got because, well, why not?: Logiclub X1 by Logiclub | Logiclub is not an artist, but a collective of them, and some of their members, I’ve written about on the blog: Ninno‘s part of it, CRWN‘s part of it, B.P.’s part of it. Chances are you’ve come across some of their members, too: Somedaydream’s part of it, Curtismith’s part of it, John Pope’s part of it – and Roberto Seña of She’s Only Sixteen is part of it too, under the monicker St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It’s a pretty good starting point if you’re looking to explore the bleep-y side of Philippine indie, and the guys are often out and about (I think they wrapped up a couple of gigs in Bacolod recently) rather than staying in bubbles like most indie acts here often do. I bought this record for three reasons: the good recommendations (hi Camille), the fact that I already gave Zaty The Neon Hour last year, and the fact that it was the last copy at Satchmi that the day I bought Oh, Flamingo!
The record that was on my list the day I reviewed it: Cell-O-Phane by the Buildings | The hardest part of, um, curating this care package is really figuring out what Zaty likes. I sent her a CD the first time because of a conversation we had about Malaysian indie artists, and how they’re hard to find on Kuala Lumpur’s radio stations. (That led to me writing about these guys. But I digress.) What does she like? Shalla, who’s known her for eight years, figures she likes singer-songwriters, but she liked The Neon Hour too, so that was a surprise. How about good indie bands? This one’s one of them. When I reviewed Cell-O-Phane a few months back I knew I had to get Zaty a copy. I just felt she would like it. It’s crunchy, astute noise pop that gets better the longer you’re with it. At least that’s my experience – I also bought myself a copy. (Side note: the Buildings’ vocalist, Mariah Reodica, has a side project with the Itchyworms’ Jazz Nicholas. It’s blissful.)
The girlfriend’s recommendation, because she knows her better: The Apparition by Urbandub | Okay, perhaps this is a no-brainer, too. The first time I sent local CDs to an unsuspecting foreigner, Urbandub was also on the list: legendary status, good songs, and in English, too. Unfortunately the Astrovision I was at only had The Apparition on file – not that it’s a bad album, but it’s one I’m not as familiar with as, say, Embrace or Under Southern Lights, their biggest successes. But it still captures the sound that endeared Urbandub to legions of fans lost and adrift in their individual situations, the power that lifted them from niche Cebu concern to national treasures. That, and Shalla said I should get them. I trust her on this one. They’ve talked for eight years. They know each other more. After eight years, tomorrow, they will finally meet in person – and I have six more CDs I could only hope she has time to listen to. [NB]