This is going to be a weird review, because my comments won’t really be about the music Johnoy Danao makes. We all know what he does best: songs that ooze sincerity and pack nice turns of phrase – the non-cheesy kind of kilig, if we’re going to be pedestrian about it. On Troubador Tales, Chapter 1 – his first release with OC Records – he continues the template, but this time adds more layers to it, layers of the fading, scratchy kind. (Vocal group Baihana pops up on two tracks, which does wonders.) It’s the good kind of rusty old, the sort of thing we liked from Ryan Adams until those allegations surfaced. (Can we still make that comparison?) However, this release is definitely just part one of perhaps three or four; after these three tracks, I imagine there will be more, with a full album getting a physical release soon. Not a complaint: it’s nice to hear new material from him after a few years away. But just as I was being wrapped in a warm blanket at the end of “Ang Panata”, surprise key change included, it’s over. It’s like having the rug pulled from under your feet. I was in the middle of the build-up, and there’s nothing more? Well, I want more. [NB] | 4/5
Here we are again – the end of the year, or at least the end of our year here on earthings!, as we take that long holiday break to recharge, or whatever passes for that these days. And it’s been a busy year, or perhaps because we found ourselves juggling a lot of things on many fronts – lots of changes off screen, and a bunch of new features on screen. But I digress. Here we are again – the end of our year on the blog, which means I trot out my ten favorite songs of the year – not a definitive list by all means; just a reflection of what I’ve liked, considering that I seem to have listened to less new music and more K-pop these past few months. So, here’s the list, arranged alphabetically as always. [NB]
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.
Sometimes, all you need to succeed as an artist is the ability to sound sincere. Johnoy Danao has seemingly mastered that art, with a recipe that never changes and yet never stays the same with every outing. In Salubungan all that remains: frank yet sweet lyrics, a delivery laden with gravitas, and some masterful plucking. You may have to wait a while for it to kick in, though: “Right Time”, his previously released collaboration with Clara Benin, is a surprisingly somber start to a record that has a spring in its step, a jubilant mood, despite the more measured sentiments of the album’s first half. (“Two to Tango” and “Walang Hanggan” close the album off in soaring style, before a solo, less somber version of “Right Time”.) It’s like Johnoy was hiding behind the bushes and goes, “surprise!” and then does what he does best. [NB] | 4/5
“Pare Ko” by Johnoy Danao | I was a bit surprised to see yet another Eraserheads tribute album, just years after Jam 88.3’s buzzy compilation. Turns out it’s for the upcoming ABS-CBN movie The Reunion – interesting premise, been-there-down-that storyline, and I’m only basing this on the trailer I saw last night. Anyway, I heard Johnoy Danao’s version of “Pare Ko” on Love Radio last week, and thought it’s quite nice. Johnoy hasn’t done wrong in the few times I heard him, and this is yet another example: that quintessential Eraserheads anthem turned into a campfire song without losing its melancholic bite. It’s quite refreshing. And, dare I say, better than Sponge Cola’s cover of the same song on that Jam 88.3 compilation.