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.
Welcome to the first installment (finally) of The Five Songs I Can’t Live Without, which says what it does on the tin: five songs someone in particular can’t live without, however they interpret that last bit. We’ll talk not just to musicians, but also to other interesting folk, granted we get our acts together. We kick off with singer-songwriter Clara Benin: a darling of the indie scene, she’s mounting two farewell (for now) concerts – she’ll take a break from music, she says – this coming Friday and Saturday, 29-30 July, at Teatrino. But before she goes on that break, we somehow managed to ask her about those five songs.
On this month’s The Local Outsider we rely more on Soundcloud. It’s wrecking havoc on my formatting, but, well, there you go. We had a(n un)surprisingly good response to the first installment last month, which is good because it proves local music is still doing well (albeit in limited places only), but scary because I now have the urge to live up to whatever it is I have to live up to. So, three more songs from the local front, then: a good mix of genres, all leaning towards new, because February has been pretty hell-ish we tried so hard to make some time.
For the second time this week, an EP that’s just too short to realize its potential. But what we have heard of Riverchild, the debut EP from Clara Benin, is interesting. She knows her strengths, and have deployed them in a canny way over five tracks. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the record is how it builds up: starting slow and relaxed with opener “December”, and staying in that lane until the last minute or so of the title track, where some nifty production transforms Clara’s warm coo into a different tool in her arsenal. By the time the final track, “I’ve Been Looking All Over The Place For You”, comes in, the diesel engine has warmed up, so to speak, and is ready to go… but three minutes later, it’s over. Such a tease, Clara. But that’s a tantalizing tease, indeed. Here’s hoping a full-length record isn’t so far away. [NB] | 4/5
“Easy” by Clara Benin | After two McDonald’s ads surprisingly aimed at the hipster demographic, we think we finally know who’s been singing. You know, the girl who coos “hooray for today” – ugh, that slogan, so cheery – on the radio, and now, the girl cooing as you see friends eat that huge container of French fries? (Maybe the singer on the BFF fries ad is different. I’m not sure.) A tip from @terribletootsie off Twitter (I still don’t have her name, so that’ll do) led me to Clara Benin, purveyor of “coffee shop music” (according to her Facebook page), Switchfoot coverer (on YouTube), and the Clara on this Side A song. (Her dad, Joey Benin – who composed this song for the 1999 Metropop Song Festival – was the band’s bassist.) So, unless we’re all very wrong, I can finally put to rest that question I had in my head: “that girl sounds familiar.” Turns out, not really, in my case, but then again, I don’t really go around on YouTube listening to covers. (Update: it is her on the breakfast ad, but not on the BFF fries ad. She apparently sang for this ad too, from last year, which I cannot remember at all, perhaps because Xian Lim is there.) [NB]