CD reviews: Noel Cabangon, Fifth Harmony

Posted at 03/02/2014 12:38 PM | Updated as of 03/02/2014 3:07 PM

Noel Cabangon
"Acoustic Noel"

Who needs another acoustic make-over of popular tunes? Fans of Sir Noel Cabangon, for one, and those who need a break from over-produced remake of other people’s songs.

The album cover shows Cabangon armed with an acoustic guitar in a dimly-lit spare room. This apparently bare setting on surface is offset by the richness with which the musician reprises the music of The Eraserheads, Rivermaya and Asin, among others, on the CD inside.

The almost lo-fi production puts emphasis on the emotive content of the songs covered. Arguably, Noel Cabangon’s Everyman voice lays out the yearning in Aiza Sequerra’s “Pagdating Ng Panahon” and the penance in Rizal Underground’s “Bilanggo.” Even Jim Paredes’ “Tuyo Na’ng Damdamin” gets a new lease as one of the best songs to quietly mend a broken heart.

However, Cabangon’s folk rock remake of Asin’s “Itanong Mo Sa Mga Bata”, with weeping slide guitars, adds nothing to the original. On the other hand, the same treatment of The Eraserheads’ “Huwag Mo Nang Itanong” sounds right on the money expressing the blah sentiments of pent-up young love.

Cabangon’s latest record may be one of the few OPM albums that will see the light of day during the first quarter of 2014. Give yourself a break and local music too. Get this album and rage against the dying light.

*****

Various Artists
"EDM Anthem 2014"

EDM or electronic dance music is basically a collaboration between ‘80s synth-pop and ‘90s techno to saturate the senses on a night out in clubs. Block rocking beats, climbing electronic riffs and pounding rhythms stimulate a state of drugless euphoria for ravers anywhere.

Then icons Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Nikki Minaj put the pop in EDM taking electro-dance on the radio and to a mainstream audience. Prominent EDM acts up the ante deflating the music’s dancefloor aggression with sweet sticky vocals and producing anthems that rock stadiums as they inspire enthusiastic sing-alongs.

"EDM Anthems 2014" is a two-sided manifesto of pop-friendly dance music and hard driving electronica. Disc 1 starts with a 1-2-3 pile-up of smash hits in David Guetta’s “Titanium” (Alesso remix), Icona Pop’s “I Love It (Tiesto remix)” and Alesso Vs OneRepublic’s “If I Lose Myself.” Swedish House Mafia, Cash Cash and Afrojack are also on the same side. Penultimate track is an earful of Avicii messing with Lenny Kravitz!

The second disc is spare on vocal support but strong on subtleties of the electro-pop lexicon. Reggae rears its gnarled head in “Booyah,” old school ‘70s disco kicks off “Animals” and “Project T” bears the legacy of Paul van Dyk’s “Angel.” “Bring It Back” has obvious sonic debts to the Hues Corporation’s “Rock The Boat.” Sounds like the rave culture never ended.

*****

Fifth Harmony
"Better Together"

On their debut EP, these "X Factor US" finalists are pushing the right buttons in an effort to reach a wide audience. They nail the close harmonies expected of a girl group then intertwine their lovely voices on a dance number (“I Don’t Wanna Dance”), a soulful ballad (“Who Are You?”) and a wannabe indie rocker (“Leave My Heart Out Of This”). The hit single “Miss Movin’ On” is a bit out of place though, in its predictable neo-R&B tempo and unsurprising diva turn for the token lead vocalist.

"Better Together" is a short but charming introduction. It bodes well for the future of a bunch of pretty faces who are barely out of their teens.