Review: Sunny Summer by GFriend

Sunny Summer by GFriendHere I am thinking, “maybe GFriend have realized their last three comebacks have been… sad.” Nothing wrong with that – I actually liked that direction they took, although the minis, like most of K-pop, have been inconsistent – but then, here they are with Sunny Summer, which from the name alone suggest something sunny, something, er, summer-y. They did call this a “summer mini-album” and the five tracks are upbeat, bouncy, but with the GFriend character we’ve expected in their earlier stuff – the “Me Gustas Tu” template is all over the record. That also means this is an inconsequential record, but that is not a criticism. This is a summer record. K-pop loves the dance-y stuff at this time of the year. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting this, though, because the trend seemed to go towards something more sublime (see Lovelyz’s summer single “Wag-zak”) or something hotter (see APink and Mamamoo‘s latest releases). This is a throwback to the old times, to when summer songs were feel-good anthems rather than out-and-out bids for pop chart domination. (I know Twice are doing this too, but they’re in that awkward stage of rediscovery… thankfully, because they have to.) Now here I am thinking, “is the next album going to be really sad?” [NB]3/5

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Review: Love Monster by Amy Shark

Love Monster by Amy SharkI’ve heard Amy Shark’s singles before sitting down to listen to Love Monster and I actually quite enjoyed them. This one, though, is more difficult. Perhaps it’s because it’s long: at just over three quarters of an hour it gets tiring, hearing that she can do better but is actually trapped in the sonic parameters she was given. Her songs are piercing; the storytelling manages to be both personal and visceral. But all that is tempered down by the insistence to sound glitchy and gloomy and… dare I say… a bit like Lorde, but from across the ditch? But not with the weirdness that comes built in with her vocals. Amy Shark doesn’t do that. Her voice is different, yes, but it’s comfortable, easy to settle in. The result is an album that can feel like a mismatch of elements, and overall feels like something you should love more than you do. But then, take the songs one by one and listen to them alongside others – Amy is beguiling there. Some decisions on the album could have been better, but they’re hardly her fault. The album’s lead producer, Dann Hume, worked alongside Lisa Mitchell, so why the choices on this one? [NB]3/5

Review: Red Moon by Mamamoo

Red Moon by MamamooHas Mamamoo gone too hot? The transformation isn’t really a surprise. Red Moon is designed to be a continuation of the template they set with Yellow Flower: a more mature sound and image, highlighting the individual charms (to use K-pop parlance) of its four members. When that album came out I felt that they’ve succeeded, at the expense of making them feel like “hazy figures from a distance” – a bit dramatic, but then, I am a fan. That makes me a bit more frustrated for Red Moon. Sure, a part of it is whiplash from the “Egotistic” music video, which is really the same as “Starry Night” but with the visuals and concept turned up to 11 – it felt like a pastiche. Remove that, and the song is all right: serviceable, not exactly memorable. The rest of the album is the same, with the exception of “Sky Sky”, which sees the group actually take the innocent, pure route taken by the likes of APink and GFriend – and which somehow works, thanks to Wheein being really versatile vocally. On the other hand, “Sleep in the Car” – a live fan favorite – appears in the mini seemingly to walk back on the whole inaccessible criticism I made, as if I have enough sway. But the result is your typically inconsistent K-pop album, which is a shame, because its predecessor wasn’t. Or maybe the whole individual charms thing has been overwhelming. [NB]3/5

“…maginoo, pero medyo bastos.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Ang Tipo Kong Lalaki” by DJ Alvaro | I’ll be honest: I have a slightly different memory of this song. When I listened to this again this went a different direction and I thought, “was this always how the song went?” But then, I think I remember this song from a TV ad. Was it for beer? I can’t recall. They put the pangasinan-born DJ Alvaro in the novelty category, but then, despite the innuendo (again, not that much) her songs were really sincere with her tongue in her cheek. I mean, listen to “Papa Ka Ba?” – you don’t exactly cringe like you do with, say, “Otso-Otso”, but you have to admire the wordplay. You have to admire the street, er, swag that are in her songs. She flew under the radar, in hindsight, and the novelty tag diminished what actually are smartly written, and catchy songs. The hook of “Ang Tipo Kong Lalaki”, the wordplay of “Papa Ka Ba?”, and the sheer catchiness of this song. Bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-booooobs. [NB]

“Maalala mo sanang may nagmamahal sa’yo.”

Great Philippine Song Hits“Ulan” by Cueshé | Looking back, Cueshé was the band many loved to hate, for some reason. Was it because they’re cheesy? Their hits during the mid-2000s – “Ulan”, “Stay”, “Sorry” – were cheesy, but in hindsight, this country did produce a lot of these pop-rock ballads, and they’re not always the kind you don’t ever want to be associated with. Was it because former vocalist Jay Justiniani looked too pretty for the part? That hairstyle was cool then, though – this was when we were all fresh off Meteor Garden. But then people pointed out that “Stay” essentially ripped off Silverchair and boom, a reason for the cool kids to really drill down their dislike: plagiarists! I’ve always wondered what happened to Cueshé, one of the many from Cebu who made it big nationally during the alternative wave in the middle of the last decade. Their rock may have had an expiration date, but listening back today, at least to their bigger hits, I can’t deny how anthemic they were. I see their name in bars across the metro, sporadically, but they haven’t had the profile they had back then. Were we too mean? [NB]