Review: Hele ng Maharlika by Rice Lucido

Hele ng Maharlika by Rice LucidoIf you feel you’ve had enough of the pa-quirky/pa-hugot indie folk you often hear from the scene, you might want to listen to Rice Lucido. Okay, that sounds very much like a hard sell, and that’s not typical of me to do. But I’ll have to admit that listening to the first couple of tracks on her debut album, Hele ng Maharlika, inspired such plaudits. It’s all refreshing. The arrangements are lush. Rice’s vocals are quite expressive. It doesn’t stick to its lane. There will be excursions to something more ethnic, and then to something surprisingly more accessible. (I did compare her voice to Lolita Carbon last time; a part of me wants to include Grace Nono this time.) Admittedly the momentum doesn’t quite keep up: by the middle part things start to flag and settle. But perhaps that’s me expecting a lot of pushing across the album, but that would’ve been tiring. (Maybe the album, at 50 minutes, can be shorter?) But it picks up again at the end, with the title track tying everything up all together nicely. Hele ng Maharlika is an adventure waiting for you to get on, and considering the trajectory, I’m confident Rice will return with something even stronger than this one – and it is strong. [NB]4/5

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Review: thank u, next by Ariana Grande

thank u, next by Ariana GrandeHere I am again, confronted by the premise that I’m really just not cut out for reviewing pop records. You see, I don’t like Ariana Grande’s thank u, next. I tried, though. I tried to understand what it’s for, considering it’s released just five months after Sweetener. The two albums are intrinsically connected, not least through the continuity of narrative: the former sees a respite, apparently temporary; the latter, an outright rebirth, embracing themes of self-care and independence without being an asshole about it, as other similarly-themed albums with their “fuck you” demeanor tend to be. thank u, next definitely has its highlights: the fluttering title track, the affecting “Imagine”, the playful “NASA”. But then, perhaps it really is just me. I’ve said a few posts ago that my musical preferences are arguably too white, and so I’m not predisposed to the sounds coming from the urban sphere. To me it all sounds generic, and the middle bit of the album, as much as it has something significant to say, feels all too generic to me, trying too hard, perhaps. More credible critics seem to like it, though, but then the focus is on the narrative. That, and they’re more predisposed to understand these trends more than I do. I wanted so hard to like thank u, next, but I was irritated by the time the surprisingly throwaway “7 Rings” came on. But does it matter? This album, as much as we want it to be for us, is really for Ariana. [NB]3/5

Review: Olympic Girls by Tiny Ruins

Olympic Girls by Tiny RuinsTiny Ruins is Hollie Fullbrook, or, as time passed by, her and a few friends, but across her albums there remains one constant: her songs are affecting and beautifully crafted. Olympic Girls sees the New Zealand band move to a new label, thankfully without much change to their sound – but nonetheless it sees them in some sort of crossroads, integrating a few more elements while still keeping a sense of drama, a tinge of suspense, the listener not knowing where the songs will go. But, really, it can only go inward: Olympic Girls feels more essential, at least in understanding what Hollie is thinking, with songs informed by tragedy and upheaval, but not outwardly so. These songs, however, shimmer, but in a grounded manner, one that both is a bit certain of what lies ahead, and apprehensive of whether it really is what lies ahead. (“Holograms” is a definite spotlight, an ode of sorts to online alienation and memory.) Tiny Ruins is firing in all cylinders on this album. [NB]4/5

Review: Gallipoli by Beirut

Gallipoli by BeirutConventional wisdom says that if you’re feeling a bit stressed out, nothing beats going back to something comfortable. Well, this week has been stressful, with a big event looming (it’s actually going on, like, right now, as this goes live), so during a rare gap I’m listening to Beirut’s Gallipoli. Zach Condon has mastered the sound of the pastoral, atmospheric side of indie pop, and that’s pretty much what you should expect here. If anything this record feels more atmospheric than before: more instrumental interludes, more soaring trumpets, more little things here and there. I’m pretty sure this album literally glows like a flame. But then, this is the sound Beirut has done for years, and while it is comforting, I wasn’t quite sure if an out-and-out throwback is really what I need, or what we need in these times. I mean, now and four years ago, when Beirut last released an album – there’s a pretty stark difference, and you don’t deal with it by just escaping. It’s one thing to recall a rose-tinted past; it’s another to be stuck in it. Gallipoli feels a bit stuck in it. Whether that bothers you, well, that is the variable. [NB]3/5

Review: Weezer (The Teal Album) by Weezer

Weezer (The Teal Album) by WeezerIs The Teal Album one covers album that we really need? I don’t know. Weezer don’t really have a new audience who’ll happy discover the classics they cover. And it’s not like they bring something new to these songs – thankfully, I must add, because you can’t really alter Tears for Fears‘ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” without raising several eyebrows, mine included. But then, Weezer are a band who can afford to do almost anything they want – the fact that the squeezed this out just before the release of another album says loads. Also, this is what the Internet wanted, right? What started as a light-hearted campaign to have the band cover Toto‘s “Africa” became this album, not to mention the Internet’s wholehearted embrace of the original. But, again, is this one covers album we really need? Is that the question we should be asking? The Teal Album is all right, but it will feel like karaoke, but it might leave you wanting, especially when they fail to sing the “please turn me over” part on their take on ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky”. But the world, or at least a really loud segment of it, clearly wants this record. Weezer, professionals that they are, are happy to oblige. This, by no means, is not essential. But it’s a fun listen. At least there’s that. [NB]3/5