Review: Grandma by Unique

Grandma by UniqueWhen former IV of Spades vocalist Unique Salonga announced his first solo concert, on the back of just one single, many were skeptical. “What’s he going to do?” Nobody doubts his abilities, but why a major concert, so soon? Two weeks later, a whole album drops from the middle of nowhere, and the reaction was one of stunned awe. “It’s such a good album,” the general consensus went. You might even think they’re calling him the next Messiah or something. The reaction felt similar to when Harry Styles dropped his solo debut, although in that case his rock star tendencies were somewhat tucked away underneath One Direction’s pop sheen; IV of Spades always had that quality. With Grandma, Unique now feels liberated to tap his inner Paul McCartney, the result being languid, slightly idiosyncratic, ultimately sly pop-rock that can get to you. Can, because, let’s be honest, this album is not the second coming. It feels a bit random sometimes. But there are shades of where he can go next: “Ozone (Itulak Ang Pinto)” is a surprisingly funky groover set in the catastrophic fire that enveloped Ozone disco in 1996, while “Goodnight Prayer” sees him ruminate his mortality without really pushing it. The hope now is that the goodwill this album has provided him won’t be wasted. Some of the stuff on this record were tucked away while Unique was still with IV of Spades. Now he’s truly free, what can he still do? [NB] | 4/5

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Review: Vacation by Outerhope

Vacation by OuterhopeNot that I’m expecting a completely carefree album from Outerhope, but this one is called Vacation, and the tracklist suggests places to go to and adventures to be had. Instead we get a really intense rumination on beginnings and endings, on that’s all drenched, Cocteau Twins-like, with hazy uncertainty. And it’s beautiful, even if all throughout you feel that inevitable sort of pain, the hesitation in pushing through knowing this is the last few moments you’ll ever have, the acknowledgment that you have to make the most of these moments. As the album progresses the themes move, from more modern takes on shoegaze and psychedelic, to somewhere by the final third, a bit of 80s groove, a final nod of nostalgia – this is where we were, this is where we are, this is where we’re headed. I’m afraid I cannot really give justice to this record in words. Outerhope smartly steps back when the inevitable begins to creep in – plug your own meanings here, but let’s do this, one last time – and by the album closer “Boarding Area”, a short burst reminiscent of found sound and buzz, I feel pretty overwhelmed. This isn’t escapism, but an outright confrontation. And what a beautiful job they have done. [NB]5/5

Review: Coup de Grace by Miles Kane

Coup de Grace by Miles KaneFrankly, even if it shouldn’t be, it’s quite difficult reviewing a Miles Kane album. On the one hand, it is a fun listen. That’s Coup de Grace on the surface: a quick-blitz romp through every jam and style, with a swagger that Miles is known to deliver. Or at least it feels like swagger, because you know where the influences are and you know he’s really aping it the best way he could – convincingly, somewhat, but you feel it’s really just an act and you want to go beyond that. That’s where the other hand comes in: a Miles Kane album ultimately feels empty. It’s fun to listen to, but there’s little you take away with it afterwards. Pop in the record, and it’s a fun thing. Pop it out, and you’ve forgotten the lot. But then, should we demand so much? Can’t we have a record that whisks us, throughout its duration, to a different vibe, a different world? Does every record have to linger with us in the long run? Or maybe it’s because this is the very template Miles did in his last record, only with a different collaborator (this time it’s Jamie T)? Or is it because this record also runs a good half-hour, and you really just want more? I really don’t know. But Coup de Grace is fun while it lasts. [NB]3/5

Review: Summer Magic by Red Velvet

Summer Magic by Red VelvetYes, I know, I know. If you’ve been following this blog – first off, thank you, and yes, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Red Velvet, which really shouldn’t be the case, but for the past couple of years I have been more frustrated with their output. “Power Up”, their new single, is boring verging on unbearable. Should I still review Summer Magic? I had a really low rank for their last summer record – I did not review it because I couldn’t bother writing a review. But then I also remember that summer records are more hit-and-miss than most K-pop records, with its tendency to be inconsistent. It also helps that Summer Magic thankfully continues, a bit, from the positive direction the group has taken since the release of Perfect Velvet (and its repackage The Perfect Red Velvet, home of cool-kid favorite “Bad Boy”, the English version of which appears here). There’s a better sense of direction, and even the potential tonal misfit that is “Hot the Drum” makes sense later on. It’s a fun record, but man, I really wish they chose a different single instead. Maybe “Mr. E”? I know my feedback means nothing, and the cool kids will still like this group no matter what, but that sounds much better. [NB]3/5

Review: Stomachine by Stomachine

Stomachine by StomachineDisclaimer: Stomachine is one of those local bands that was bound to pass me by. I’ve heard of them, but I’m not immersed enough in this scene to even have a chance to be intimate with them. When I read the ABS-CBN News review of their newly-released eponymous debut – the one where the record was called “one of the best OPM albums of the year” – I thought, it could be good, but could I get into it? You know local indie – there’s a lot of good stuff but sometimes it’s sold in a way that makes you think only those in the know, only those who can understand the references and the inspirations, can ever make sense of the record. It’s a shame, because Stomachine have some really good tunes, and it should not be difficult for anyone outside of the sphere to get into. There’s the delicious song craft; there’s the equally delicious interplay between vocalists Tricky Asperin and Ean Aguila (him of Ang Bandang Shirley) which propel things even further. Perhaps it says something that these songs are ten years old – they are potent no matter when. Ultimately, you don’t really have to be in the know to appreciate Stomachine. Perhaps you will have to find it – it’s exclusively online – and then give it some time. It’s worth it. [NB]4/5