The Spinners

Archive for the ‘Indie Rock’ Category

Beautiful Machines (Pupil, 2005)

In Alternative Rock, Dodo Dayao, Indie Rock, OPM on December 7, 2010 at 5:04 am

Ely Buendia—alt-pop harbinger, bring it on. The impossible burden of proof. Left in the lurch by the splinter, half the Eraserheads fanbase that counts as his demographic demands new adventures in hi-fi. Half craves perpetual nostalgia. Not that the Mongols were piffle, mind you. The nits—and they were merely that, nits—among those of us keen on bigger, braver, more were the ghosts, the trace elements, the match-dissolves of the ex-band. Half-adventurism, half-nostalgia in perpetuity. Granted, the pleasant vibe of flux bore gifts—coasting but songful is never a trade-off you would call bad. Still Pupil are one up on the beta mode—good. Riffs with more muscle density. Melodies that take their time but graft when they stick. And dismantled songforms that carve out arenas so the ongoing combat between noise and tune finish up in glorious stalemates—like when “She Talks To Trees” doubles back to its somnolent opening midway through and reboots, foregoing verse-chorus-verse in the ensuing run-through for gorgeous unsung turmoil. And if the Kevin Shields or Thom Yorke feel they aim for gets overthrown time and again by the Tool they can’t get out of their system—“Hypersober,WTF?—the newfound songwriting democracies sprout unexpected wings so the ghosts and match-dissolves and trace elements at least and at last—save for the ectoplasmic “Gamu-Gamo”—dissipate. Flux does resurface. Not as band demeanor, but as song demeanor. Weary nonchalance in the house—Kalimutan mo na, kalimutan mo na, kalimutan mo na—so the incessant exhortation of “False Alarm goes. But Suddenly my curses, flashes and fears fall behind owes it all to a girl, or a virgin, named “Mary” over a druggy, damaged lope. And the hit single threatening Mahahanap din kita before the cathartic swell that emboldens the promise. Emotionally, this record’s depleted, disillusioned. But hope’s in the bloodwork, as always. And sonically, this record’s energized, exhilarated. Bigger, braver, more. The sound of nothing left to prove, of stakes being raised. Ely Buendia—alt-pop harbinger, bringing it on.  Cranking it up.

Dodo Dayao

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Travelogue (Bagetsafonik, 2007)

In Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, OPM, Richard Bolisay on December 7, 2010 at 4:59 am

2007. Along Buendia, walking without any sense of direction, heartbroken or just plain sad, I stopped to look at the clouds. I had a job, I had books to read, I had movies to watch. And I just lost my love. “Halogen” played and the clouds moved apart. I was happy in my own little way, pleased with my short walks after work, content with the defective radio on my old phone. Then it began to rain. A few minutes later my socks were wet and I sent my condolences to my Chucks.

2008. At Odyssey I found a copy of Travelogue and bought it. I saw Ciudad’s new album and bought it too. First thing I did when I got home was play these records. Everyone’s asleep. I owned the living room. “Fallin’ Callin’” played, then “Action Jackson,” “Green Machine,” “Sputnik Sweetheart.” I fell in love with “Automatik” right away. I have a weakness for good Tagalog songs with charming bass riffs. I flipped through the postcards. Beautiful packaging. OPM artists often take album packaging for granted, but Bagetsafonik didn’t. Yeah, with that name, I’m sure it didn’t even cross their mind. Anyway, I must have slept with the record player on because when I woke up my sister was complaining about how costly our electric bills would be for the month.

2009. On a slow trip from Bulacan to Manila, my friend asked, “Wala bang may CD dyan?” Her car radio was broken. A geek I was, I had some. I put one on the player and pressed play. I skipped to the eighth track, “Saccharine.” Be still, and we were all still, my friends and I, pondering, wishing the silence would go on forever, unintentionally looking away from each other, thinking of different things, our lives so small, our dreams so far, our pointless prayers, and it goes on, all on a Sunday morning. I knew by then we were parting ways soon. Eventually we did.

2010. I rarely buy records. I’m always broke. I guess it’s time for me to make use of Travelogue’s postcards and write some love letters.

– Richard Bolisay

Natin99 (Eraserheads, 1999)

In Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, Julius Maraya, OPM on December 7, 2010 at 4:08 am

While Circus and Cutterpillow enjoy the recognition of being called the definitive albums of the Eraserheads, Natin99 sits silently on the corner, humbly awaiting its turn. It’s almost a concept album, having an all-Filipino repertoire lavished in classic dirty and spacey audio trip. Pardon the unavoidable Beatle reference, but Natin99 is, quite simply, the Heads’ Abbey Road. The comparison comes from the capability of the band to produce a tight album despite the growing tensions and creative differences (which we all know led to their “graduation,” so to speak) among its members.

It is interesting to observe that unlike in their previous albums, Ely is not heard until the fifth track and carrier single, “Maselang Bahaghari.” The opener “Sinturong Pangkaligtasan” misleads and catches the listener off-guard. The band’s trademark straightforward rock is heard in “Dahan Dahan,” which ironically never slows down. Buddy follows with an ear-candy, “Kahit Ano,” as it carries a seemingly J-pop/animé reference in its refrain. ”Tama Ka” is yet another gem, both sung and written by Buddy. Aside from nostalgia à la “Minsan,” the song reinforces the premise of Natin99. The bittersweet truth: the Eraserheads are never just about Ely.

“May Sumasayaw” is Raimund’s attempt at mushiness, only with messy guitar riffs that aim to mask the melancholy feel of the lyrics. “Peace It Together” is the album’s positive take on welcoming the new millennium ahead.  How come radio stations back then never picked this up? “Salamin” can be regarded as a precursor to “Hula,” like poetry trying to be senseless, or senseless trying to be poetry. “Pop Machine” brings back the rock ‘n roll as Ely indulges in his simple yet catchy guitar work. Raimund continues the noise and mush with “Kilala,” while Marcus carries “Sino sa Atin” with his simplistic sitar-like scales, meshed with Raimund’s fondness for introspection.

The album wouldn’t be complete without a pop ditty, this time in the form of “Huwag Kang Matakot.” Ely just couldn’t contain his magic for words and all the lyrical and melodic rhymes weaved in the song. “South Superhighway” catches the unguarded listener once more as Marcus screams and scrams on and off the road. I can clearly imagine how the eccentric Head blasts his car radio with this song over and over again. Strangely, I can hear “Ang Huling El Bimbo” in Ely’s “68 Dr. Sixto Antonio Ave.” It possibly lies in the details that both songs exhibit, the specificity, the mood, the free-flow of words, the abrupt stops and haunting piano parts. On the other hand, “Game! Tama Na!” feels a little awkward because it creates a “just-a-filler” feel. But then again, there’s no such thing as a perfect album. You can listen to Natin 99 from start to finish and hear interesting bits of “interviews” courtesy of Marcus, leaving the impression of Punk Zappa going mad with a tape recorder and hitchhiking his way to Baguio. Underrated, yes, but everything, in time, will be in its right place.

– Julius Maraya

Fragmented (Up Dharma Down, 2006)

In Dodo Dayao, Indie Rock, OPM on December 7, 2010 at 4:03 am

Janis phrasing like Erykah is how Armi’s voice parses for me—call it earthy, if you will, ‘cause it fits, ‘cause it’s rooted , ’cause it grows new limbs to go out on, new limbs that shorten the musical and emotional distances between pop and jazz, soul and rock, heaven and hell, agony and ecstasy. That voice, cooing over a dense and gorgeous is-it-triphop?-is-it-neosoul?-is-it-acidjazz? fugue played with an imagination beyond their years, grounding the unrequited, lovelorn repertoire—at least five of which (“Oo,” “Pag-agos,” “Malikmata,” “We Give In Sometimes,” and “Hiwaga”) are ready for the radio, diminishing track list notwithstanding and more Tagalog please. Gifting them with emotive heft. The feelings shuddering through, of course, exaggerate their weight, that’s because they’re at the age when they exaggerate everything and because it suits the melodramatic way they layer what is essentially a girl and her piano, with the sounds she hears every time she mistakes breaking up with the end of the world.

Dodo Dayao

Album (Girls, 2009)

In American, Indie Rock, Richard Bolisay on April 17, 2010 at 2:40 am

Show me the meaning of being lonely. Not the Backstreet Boys song but Girls’ debut. Meaning, loneliness that is not only shown and felt but also smelled and tasted. There’s schmaltz but there’s no kitsch, courteous or not, for Owens leaves the Orbison or Costello comparisons like he doesn’t know them, unaware of one’s heartstrings, singing like a butterfly to a dying flower. A pollination of some sort, the way “Hellhole Ratrace” kills word for word like euthanasia, the butterfly leaving with a bucketful of tears, carrying it and waking up only to realize that it’s just a hangover. Guilty roads to an endless love fits here better than in a boyband single.

– Richard Bolisay

Swimming (French Kicks, 2008)

In American, Ayn Marie Dimaya, Indie Rock, Summer Albums on April 13, 2010 at 9:14 am

Like a splash of cold water in a world over-populated by auto-tune, this album is refreshingly organic. Self-produced and mostly recorded live (or at least, recorded to feel live), New York band French Kicks took a risky step to create a new sound, not wholly original yet still unmistakably theirs. Let them carry you away with addicting hand-claps and their signature lilting—if somewhat mumbled—melodies and their seemingly endlessly constructed rhythms that give the sensation of aimlessly drifting afloat on water. Of course, the downside of aimless drifting is that you probably won’t remember anything concrete (with perhaps the exception of one hell of a catchy chorus: why tell me why, I don’t know) But still, this is perfect listening for lazy days by the swimming pool or even those days spent wishing you were languidly lying beside a pool.

– Ayn Marie Dimaya

♪ Breakneck Speed (Tokyo Police Club, 2010) ♪

In Canadian, Indie Rock, Richard Bolisay, Track Reviews on April 11, 2010 at 8:46 am

Arguably the best lyrics of the past decade come from “Your English is Good”—Oh, give us your vote / Give us your vote / If you know what’s good for you—and if only political jingles were like this, our votes can never be too hard to give.

Tokyo Police Club are back with their second album, Champ, to be released this June, and on their website they are giving away its first single “Breakneck Speed”. Just the thought of them back with another record, two years after the underrated but awesomely crafted Elephant Shell, is enough to excite, but with the look and sound of “Breakneck Speed”—longer than any of their previous songs (clocking in at 3:45), additional verses armed with a rather layered instrumentation—there seem to be other unknown things to look forward to. With this early treat, fans already have something to wet themselves with: the youthful ambiguity, the wistful beats, the pretty loneliness of remembering—running, forest fires underneath your bed—and that fall into a netherland of possibilities.

It’s good to be back, it’s good to be back, Dave Monks sings. And it really is, it really is. Can’t wait.

– Richard Bolisay

Download “Breakneck Speed”

The Master Spinner Spins: Transference (Spoon, 2010)

In Alternative Rock, American, Indie Rock, The Master Spinner Spins on February 4, 2010 at 6:57 am

If there is one trait that Spoon excel at, it is the non-exceptional quality of their albums; which, if paradox may be allowed, what actually makes them exceptional, and what makes their songs live up to numerous listenings. When one listens to their early records, the freshness of the beats and the catchiness of the hooks are still there, their trademark touch never lost. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, in particular, is a tough act to follow, but Transference, the band’s seventh album in fifteen years, continues the uniquely spartan intensity that Spoon are known for, again not exceptional, but never and not even a bit disappointing at all.

Come to think of it, same things can be said to any of Spoon’s records; and same things can be argued as well. The rawness is impossible not to notice, how, without flagging itself, it owns every track, how it strips and reveals the wisdom of its words (I grew up in a supermarket / It was there they told me / If they can’t find me they won’t leave / Without me now or ever), how simple the compositions seem yet pounding with energy, and how the manliness of Britt Daniel’s voice delivers the songs from soothing to sexy. When Spoon are laid-back (“Goodnight Laura”, “What Makes Your Money”, “Out Go The Lights”) they are gently laid-back; and when they are upbeat (“Written in Reverse”, “Is Love Forever?”) they really up the beat, without any trouble.

Transference seems to tweak the style of the band a little, if one is to nitpick, considering the abrupt end of “The Mystery Zone” and the rough and almost alienating transitions between the tracks. The uneven quality seems like an experiment, and though it tends to stick out, it doesn’t really hurt the album that much. In fact, what becomes obvious is that Spoon are trying to be intimate through their lyrics, through the emotional tug of their songs, like a drug in a syringe injected to achieve a quick and invasive effect.  The easy favorite “Got Nuffin” laments And I got nothing to lose but / Darkness and shadows / Got nothing to lose but / Bitterness and patterns, the last line replaced in its repetition with emptiness and hang-ups and loneliness and patterns. Its words smack of homesickness but the rhythms engage to the point of eliminating all the ennui it wears, maintaining a levelheaded sadness that comforts all throughout. Daniel is up to some snarling in the first single “Written in Reverse”, but it’s the kind of snarl that is lovely to hear, the snarl that makes the track exciting to listen to, like testing how far the aaaahhhhs can go for Daniel’s gal to hear it.

The instrumental on the second-minute-and-a-half of “I Saw the Light” seems to mark a transition—something to set the first six tracks from the five last—but then, it may be something done out of the usual. Whatever the reason is, or even if there is none really, it does not concern any glaring difference among the songs in the sequence. After the instrumental, which somewhere in the middle is recorded with something that sounds like a burp, “Trouble Comes Running” follows. It is a low-key track whose directness of words is as evocative as the riff that accompanies them. It’s a standout in a non-standout way—oh yes, the Spoon paradox again—something like a breeze during summer, the wind that flips one’s cap while walking home from school, earphones on as Daniel sings, Slaves are on the horses / Princes walk the ground like they’re slaves. The song goes well with some head banging and a bit of lonesome footwork.

Remaining faithful to their beats, Spoon are still the above average band high school rockers can be fond of. Even their loyal followers since Kill The Moonlight will also have a lot to cherish in Transference. And the above average band they are, Spoon continue to keep pushing that space between above and average, dissolving the second word till all that’s left to do is stay on the first.

– The Master Spinner

Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-drums (Moonface, 2010)

In Canadian, EPs, Folk, Indie Rock, Richard Bolisay on February 4, 2010 at 6:35 am

Dean Martin swings as he sings, When marimba rhythms start to play, dance with me, make me sway.

In Spencer Krug’s new project, the marimba sounds like being played in a wide open forest, where the folk are dancing, jubilating, and praising to the beat of the indefatigable storyteller’s musings on Cassiopeia, being a chameleon, hanging around with bitches, and venturing into a dreamland where he weaves dreams and swims “where the waves have come alive”.

“Marimba and Shit-Drums” is twenty minutes and sixteen seconds of Krug indulgence and being in Krugland, which for a fan like myself, considering his output in the last few years that peaked in Dragonslayer, is a feast to relish. It is a coda that opens to many things, to many folds of long-distance runners reaching Krug on a cliff by the sea, with his marimba and shit-drums and tell-tale music, the trees as his audience, as well as visiting birds and squirrels, the silence that stops by to listen to his retelling of his dreams, the dreammorphing quality of things punctuated by Krug’s pauses and going back to his previous stanzas, like a rolling sphere out to collect some mushrooms.

In one of his dreams (presented beautifully on Moonface’s site), Krug tells:

I am on a mountaintop. I know that I am the only one on the mountain, & even the surrounding mountains —I am completely alone. It is dusk & everything is growing dark quickly. There is a yard cut into the side of the mountain where two houses stand beside each other, one small & one large, but beyond them there are no houses or yards, just deep woods. The sense—or the knowing—is strong in the dream: I am totally alone. I KNOW this. It is not a hunch. I am the only one in the mountains & the rest of the world is far, far below, & the wilderness feels close & connected to me—life giving & terrifying at the same time.

He sings this there, on the mountaintop, but he is not alone. We are there. And even if he sings all night, no one would bother to leave. We’ll light a bonfire if needed. Krug sings like a disappeared bandit telling his rebirth in the forest, or a hunter who, by some magic, turns into a deer at midnight. That’s why he decides to settle in the woods. And we discover he can talk to animals and they share with him their stories, which he puts in every song he writes. And we listen. We listen like it’s a hymn that heals, a hymn that comforts, a hymn that purges. For even a track this epic is begging for a repeat.

– Richard Bolisay

♪ Chasing Vapor Trails (His Turn To Cry) (Syd Straw feat. Marc Ribot, 1989) ♪

In Alternative Rock, Ambient, Dodo Dayao, Indie Rock on February 1, 2010 at 3:50 am

What a web you weave, was I easy to deceive? I gave you ten second chances, you gave me nine alibis. . . Where did Syd Straw, erstwhile Golden Palominos chanteuse and no-hit wonder, go from here, I wonder? But here she was, slow-dancing with tears in her eyes while Ribot’s serpentine guitar ever so gently weeps. I listen to her duet with Michael Stipe, “Future 40’s (String of Pearls)”, almost as much as I listen to this, but the ache her warble gains always wins me over and makes this weepy quasi-country ballad go down a lot better in a winter of discontent that has long dissolved past regret into an opaque melancholy.

– Dodo Dayao