The Spinners

Archive for the ‘Summer Albums’ Category

Sunshine Barato (Mosquitos, 2004)

In American, Bossa Nova, Electronica, Indie Pop, Romina Mislang, Summer Albums on April 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

Sunshine Barato starts slowly with the opening track “Flood”, bare guitar sounds hinting on a bouncy tune as vocalist Chris Root sings about the coming of rain. From the second stanza onwards, Mosquitos up the ante but slow down from time to time, playing various tunes that bring a great aural background for a laidback summer on the beach. Their bossa-inspired indie pop sound with snatches of electronica, rock and kiddie pop—along with John Marshall Smith’s keyboard work, Chris Root’s dissonant English-singing, and JuJu Stulbach’s dreamy girl-from-Ipanema-like ramblings—conjure images of palm trees, a wide expanse of fine white sand, and blue waters as far as the eye can reach.

Although the lyrics are forgettable, you’d want to pop the record onto your player again and again; or in this age of iPods, every time you’re looking for a good sunshiney upper, you can always press Repeat. The tempo is just right whenever you feel like dancing in your breeziest summer outfit, to the beat of “Xixizinho no Oceano” or the title track “Sunshine Barato”. Coming next is “Blue Heart”, which lets you release that crazy energy as the song hints on the band’s rock influences. “Love Remix” has a recurring opening riff, expounding on an uncertainty as Root sings about his attraction (or romance?) with Stulbach. “Shooting Stars” feels like swaying with the trees as the wind blows, as “Avocado” continues the upbeat summer mood. Raunchy pop blends with rock-inspired riffs in “Domesticada” before the tempo gradually slows down, as the summer day wears on.

The record ends with “27 Degrees”, a slow but thoughtful tune, complementing a relaxing but almost nostalgic atmosphere under the stars—a perfect ending to a great beachside summer. Summer’s over but we’re not going anywhere, the band laments upon closing, but no matter what happens, this romance with summer will last forever. We’re just waiting for the sunshine to come back again, and so am I (even if the heat, at times, is too hot for comfort). This goes so well with summer as tomato is to pasta, so while spending the long days of crazy heat, just listen to the Mosquitos’ Sunshine Barato. You’d wish summer were here sooner.

– Romina Mislang

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Holiday (Magnetic Fields, 1994)

In American, Indie Pop, Summer Albums, Thor Balanon on April 13, 2010 at 9:43 am

Chirpy, effulgent, with a love that goes on like a blister in the sun, Holiday is Stephin Merritt’s shiningest, but also one of the band’s most overlooked masterpieces. Far from the romantic-depressive mood swings of the much-lauded 69 Love Songs, Holiday is unabashedly blushing from the heat of attraction that summer brings: Under more stars than there are prostitutes in Thailand / Our hair in the air / Our lips blue from cotton candy / When we kiss it feels like a flying saucer landing. From circumnavigating desert islands to kissing in the dank libraries of London, Merritt paints a holiday that’s swashbucklingly romantic and stubbornly unforgettable. There’s foolishness in the grand gestures but what is summer but a time for foolishness, when one can always blame the sun for a lover’s blindness?

Unhappiness is treason, Merritt croons in “Strange Powers”, almost drowning in hopscotching synths. How about we follow the law this time, eh?

– Thor Balanon

Psychic Chasms (Neon Indian, 2009)

In American, Electronica, Richard Bolisay, Summer Albums on April 13, 2010 at 9:36 am

If your idea of a summer getaway is sprawling yourself on the beach, island hopping, or attending pool parties, but you don’t want to experience any of it—just an idea like I said—then Psychic Chasms is for you. Alan Palomo of Neon Indian borrows the fun of all those summer activities without letting a trickle of sweat roll down on your forehead. So refreshing an album that it quenches, that looking out of your window, glancing at the silence of midday, and wishing nothing but cool air, it feels enough as company, a perfect record for people who would rather stay home than stay out.

All useless thinking happens in summer, especially when the heat starts to turn everyone into monsters, melting wits like melting ice. The tracks in Psychic Chasms offer relief amid all of that. Absorbing the breeze of rhythms and painful distortions, they arouse the senses after your mind decides to have a breather. Listening to “Deadbeat Summer” and “Terminally Chill” is addictive—their catchiness remains despite the colorful laziness of their arrangement, touching the core of pop without a trifle of compromise. As pleasingly lazy as them are “Should have taken acid with you” and “Mind, Drips”, for reasons that they make the trippy first half sustain interest with fairly similar nuances. Repetitive the vibe may be, it’s never tiring. Hooks are everywhere, from the lyrics down to the effects that adorn each song. The beats, albeit recognizable from one another, flow fluidly and stop when they want to. Like being in a party and the spinner decides to take a leak, the magic returns when he spins the record again.

But what is more impressive is that the fillers don’t feel like fillers. “Laughing Gas” and “If I knew I’d tell you” complement the longer tracks as much as they provide hazy transitions, the same way “(AM)” and “7000 (Reprise)” set the mood for opening and closing the spill of groove, melodic even in their sparseness. So infectious the euphoria Psychic Chasms brings that the wooziness becomes oozy—sweaty palms, twitchy pelvis, and spaced-out mind as side effects—and before you know it, summer has already come and gone.

– Richard Bolisay

Mambo! (Yma Sumac, 1954)

In Exotica, Peruvian, Rex Baylon, Summer Albums on April 13, 2010 at 9:33 am

Lounge/Exotica is a long dead music genre. It’s listened too much for its kitsch factor than anything else, and yet I can’t get enough of it. The genre itself conjures up images of tiki bars, brightly colored cocktail drinks, and rattan furniture. And during this daydream fantasy I wouldn’t have anyone other than Yma Sumac (pronounced Eee-mah Soo-mack) playing in the background.

Gifted with an amazing voice and decked out in a gypsy gown, ornate headgear, and flamboyant jewelry, Yma is the queen of tiki culture. In an industry that demands conformity, she refuses to bend to other people’s rules. Divas like Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Celine Dion are pale imitators of Yma’s five-octave soprano vocal range.

Her 1954 album Mambo! is the perfect summer album because you can’t fight the urge to dance when you listen to it. The raw energy, lush orchestration, and Yma’s ethereal voice seem to exist in some parallel universe where men are dressed like Cary Grant and women look like Grace Kelly or Rita Hayworth. The inherent kitsch factor of some songs in Mambo! may turn many people off, but summer is not the time to take oneself seriously. Get up! Move! Have fun! But please don’t be boring about it.

– Rex Baylon

Sa Wakas (Sugarfree, 2003)

In Alternative Rock, Antoinette Jadaone, OPM, Summer Albums on April 13, 2010 at 9:18 am

The Master Spinner said this issue’s theme is summer, which is fine, except that the CD I’d like to review has nothing to do with summer. In the meantime, while thinking of some contrived connection with summer, in the spirit of insistence, I’ll start writing about the greatest CD I’ve ever owned, and it’s not by any Rolling Stone or Billboard artist, so hang me now, DJ.

I first heard of this band in an NU107 Pocket Concert coverage on unTV when unTV was still cool and did not have Bible verses as chargens. I was in the kitchen and I heard a familiar voice singing Hello / di na kita naiintindihan and I was completely convinced that it was Ely Buendia, or whatever name he was using that time. I rushed to our sala and did not see any Ely or Jesus. Instead, I saw an unknown band that the chargen later said as “Sugarfree” and the song was “Telepono”, and the rest, as I say, is personal purchasing history.

“Telepono” became my anthem, much like any Eraserheads song was for any UP student whose student number begins with 97- and below, or, to be more age-sensitive, any bitter long-haired youth at that time. I was in college, heartbroken as I remember, and there was Ebe Dancel singing malabo / na ba ang linya sa ating dalawa, as if he sneaked on my cellphone’s Inbox and Sent Items last night. For a while, I was getting restless listening to the first recorded version of “Telepono” (it has a ringing phone in the intro, right before Natatandan mo ba / kagabi, and inabutan na tayo / ng umaga no’n’s last note was less, for lack of a better non-musical-person-term, wavy) on my old CD player via a CD I burned myself. I was fine with that, though of course, as with any six-peso CD-R King disc, it was sure to skip once in a while, especially if I played it every day on my UP Katipunan-Ligaya-San Joaquin route home for a more dramatic jeep ride. I could almost hear my CD screaming for a new mp3 player, but there’s a cheaper, better alternative of course, and it took Sugarfree (actually, their label) two years to finally release it. And when that time came, my home-made CD and the new CD said the same thing: Sa Wakas.

Sa Wakas was the first original CD I bought using my own money from my editing pre-school ballet recitals raket. (My Mariah Carey’s Rainbow is pirated; my Parokya ni Edgars were bought using my allowance, ergo my parents’ money; and my Cutterpillow, may it rest in peace, is a cassette tape.) And what do you do with your first original CD? You play it. You play it until it skips.

And when I played the first track “Burnout”, I know it won’t be long till it would suffer the same fate as the home-made CD. Dang it, Ebe got me at O kay tagal din kitang / mamahalin. Then came “Hintay” (Mabilis ang ikot ng mundo / sa kakasabay / nahihilo ako), then “Fade Away” (We can’t be young forever/ but that’s what old men say), then the familiar “Mariposa” (it was already being played on NU back then), then the more “arranged” “Telepono” (though I still dig the raw, original version better). When I reached the final track “The Allan Song”, I realize I played the CD’s 12 tracks without ever pressing the Next or Fast Forward button, which is surprising from somebody who judges a song by the first two lines of the first stanza.

Since then, I listened to Sa Wakas every day, while walking from Palma Hall to Math Building, at the back of the classroom while waiting for the professor to arrive, and while on my UP Katipunan-Ligaya-San Joaquin long ride home, until it skipped. Up to now, when I hear “Telepono” on the radio, which is very rare, I pause and smile and thank the moms of those ungraceful preschoolers for enrolling their kids in that ballet class. Otherwise I wouldn’t have the greatest CD I’ve ever owned.

Or maybe I would, but only the CD-R King, home-made kind, which is okay actually, but then the DJ probably wouldn’t allow me to review that.

Unless maybe if I burned it during summer.

– Antoinette Jadaone

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

Elizabethtown OST (Various Artists, 2005)

In Edgar Allan Paule, Soundtrack, Summer Albums on April 13, 2010 at 9:02 am

Cameron Crowe always makes the best soundtracks. One might not love all his films, but one will definitely love the soundtracks. Elizabethtown the film is okay in itself, a decent romance flick with a bit of quirk (and very hot lead actors to boot), but Elizabethtown the soundtrack is something else. So much so, in fact, that the last quarter of the film is basically a visualization of the wanderlust that the music stirs. As with Claire’s (Kirsten Dunst) gift of a solitary road trip to Drew (Orlando Bloom), the music dictates the time, pace, and mood of the film. The music is the film.

The opening track, Nancy Wilson’s “60-B,” is the perfect score to going adrift: haunting, pensive, happy on one level but melancholic in the background. Best to begin your journey here, in this limbo of sorts. The rest of the album is a road trip of sound, lyric, and emotion. Helen Stellar’s “IO (This Time Around)” provides a pervasive silence with an underlying beat and an escalating rhythm. Ryan Adams’s “Come Pick Me Up” wails. I’ve had some time to think about you, says Patty Griffin’s plaintive voice, and watch the sun set like a stone. The vocal chorus of “Hard Times” is not only a collective “sigh of the weary” that nags us to pay attention to the poverty surrounding us but also a comforting unison reassuring us that in hard times, we are not alone. Jeff Finlin’s “Sugar Blue” feels like the moment when you approach the bend which brings you home, while Wheat’s “Don’t I Hold You” gives the windy atmosphere of speeding down a deserted highway. Roll down your windows while listening to this song, Claire instructs Drew, “some music needs air”.

I don’t know how to end this review; but then again, Elizabethtown the film ends with a fish. So there.

– Edgar Allan Paule

Comme si de rien n’était (Carla Bruni, 2008)

In Frances Mae Ramos, French, Pop, Summer Albums on April 13, 2010 at 7:48 am

If only for grand pretensions I find myself listening to Carla Bruni.

Two things: one, heady love affairs soundtracked by scandalous metaphors such as narcotics, a literary ploy to discourage bromides in grocery store fare such as “I’m crazy about you” or “you got me messed up”; and two, a languorous outing with the French language that would bait hopeless romantics.

Bruni’s French wording may be too much of a Gallic bramble, and I wonder how she fits all those in without drowning out the thin ambient sounds of her guitars. But to a French language learner it’s a gold mine of poetic outbursts you can randomly court bar room strangers with—that is, if you’re Carla Bruni, first lady of France, former supermodel, and chiseled cigarette-intellectual confection.

But she begs to be treated like a normal human being whose taste for love—the universal language of soaring record sales— overruns a rather intellectual background. For Bruni is no ditz, and it sounds like she doesn’t want to be Sarkozy’s lump of candy to be doled out as needed in the boudoirs of Champs-Élysées. This first lady has a voice, and if it breaks before she finishes a verse, it’s because, going by her run-on lyrics, she probably needs a pause for breath to transmit her thoughts.

That and she must have written these tomes with the dregs of a rather turbulent (at least for the paparazzi) string of affairs. If there were Mick Jaggers, philosophers, and philosophers’ sons in your relationship CV at some point, all that secondhand smoke from your past might just make you choke on the emotions you sing. She comes out all the more genuine for not sustaining her notes in this album, as if it’s an unwarranted slip of forgiving relationship errors.

Bruni’s third album, Comme si de rien n’était (As if Nothing Had Happened), flows breezily. It does not beg to be translated into a punitive reordering of sense and meaning. She has been transparent enough, hence her venture into taboos. Colombia decried having figured in the track “T’es ma came” (You are my Drug), as a source of the meth that stirs illusions, restlessness and withdrawal, the symptoms of desire surfeit. Is there really a better way to say “I want you and I could shoot you up my veins because you alter my mind”? We are thankful she offers us an alternative phrasing in a language so unforgiving and yet delicate.

Most of the tracks are a plausible banter for the trappings of love in a worldly, political setting. It’s impossible to sift through the nuances armed with elementary French, and most listeners will be content lounging and picking the personality that wades in the ditties, asserted with rhythmic guitar strums and insinuated by the stealth of xylophones and keyboards. Moreover, don’t expect her to sound jaded. For it seems most of the tracks refer to a kind of paradise exclusive only to a woman who is capable of articulating feelings as if she hounds the same Parisian haunts of existentialists. Oh well, compared to us she’s more dreamy, and maybe infinitely more lovable.

– Frances Mae Ramos

Maharlika (Kenyo, 2009)

In Alternative Rock, OPM, RM Topacio-Aplaon, Summer Albums on April 12, 2010 at 7:32 am

Maharlika, the all-original follow-up to Kenyo’s first album Radiosurfing, opens with “Filipina”, a biased yet truthful ode to the women of this country.  It is followed by a fun reggae song, “Tadhana”, and the first single, “Hanggang sa Muli”, which also has an acoustic version closing the album. Tracks are almost perfectly arranged until “Simulan na Natin” with Hi-C comes in. Its lyrics are beautifully written, but also a bit misplaced. Maharlika also has anthemic tracks like “Strong Man”, the Oasis-sounding “Someone for You”, “Alay na Alaala (Theme from the Forgotten War)” and “Kalayaan”.

Kenyo still manages to sound like OnL, the closest of which are “Meantime Girl”—because of its distinct fades, breaks, and fill-ins—and “Wish On A Star”—which I think is a perfect track for their commercially successful Moonlane Gardens.

Upset or surprise, the Del Mundo brothers sing in “Learn to Swallow” and “Simulan na Natin”, for the latter’s RnB sound seems far from Fundales’ forte.

Although Castro and Fundales are now with their own different bands, the comparison would always be inevitable. They sing songs that somehow interpret their feelings toward each other in the past. Castro’s  “Lord of the Flies” and “Changing Horses Midstream” in Pocket Guide to the Other World and Fundales’ “Learn to Swallow” are likely to be called a trash talk fight when heard one after another.

Maharlika is a little different from what Orange and Lemons did in the past. Words are less-Brit, less Morrissey, and less-Websterey profound. It is more Filipino and unpretentious. Maybe it is the true Mcoy Fundales, a Filipino writer, and someone who is so fed up of singing like Simpson and Broudie. Or maybe, he is pretending again, for him to stay in the business. I don’t know. All I can say is that Maharlika is a good buy for your mainstream-pop loving friends. Good thing to hear Fundales’ distinct voice again. The album’s cool enough to ease your hot vacation malady.

– RM Topacio-Aplaon

Skin & Bones EP (Al Lewis feat. Sarah Howells, 2009)

In Andrea Nicola, Duo, EPs, Summer Albums on April 12, 2010 at 6:55 am

Listening to this EP from yet another harmonizing duo during a hot summer day feels like a decadent treat. Cool, rich harmonies and delicate guitar-plucking make up this soothing twee-folk album.

Four parts giddy innocence and equal parts melancholia, Al Lewis and Sarah Howells’ 5-song EP is loaded with the whirlwind of emotions involved in starting and ending relationships. Each song has impeccable blending, sometimes with alternating lead vocals, which gives off that  “he said, she said” vibe. “Make a Little Room” is a personal favorite, a tender song about giving love a chance to blossom despite complications.

When it’s too hot outside and you’d rather spend the afternoon in bed, this makes for a relaxing listen: introspective and dreamy, with just the right hint of sunshine.

– Andrea Nicola